Friday, 16 April 2010

Some answers to some Qs about gatekeepers, tastemakers and blogging...

My answers to some dissertation questions from Sarah Scouller

 • Whether you think music readers have shifted towards amateurs bloggers for believed 'authenticity'

I personally think it's more for the person-to-person connection, unfiltered by editors or some naïve perceived notion that advertising influences editorial (not that this conspiracy isn't justified in some circles but usually it's trading exclusive traffic-worthy content).

I also believe the main reason for any shift is partly due to the fact music critics/journalists haven't moved on to or included more succinct at-a-glance forms of writing, as bloggers are more like radio deejays, offering a couple of sentences (rather than paragraphs of descriptive theory) and then a link to hear it. Not even wants 'waffle', we get a lot of "too long, didn't read" reactions to things. People who 'read' blogs love the brevity as it means they can be lazy and not 'waste' time reading words - it's all a bit ready meal, buzz-in-a-bag. Twitter and Tumblr have taken the soundbite-bitten, overview-obsessed nature of things to logical conclusions and this ability to have a shallow glimpse, without much sense of a need for a depth of knowledge is frightening.

• Do you feel that there has been a shift in the gatekeepers of music, can anyone be a tastemaker nowadays?

Anyone CAN be anything but it doesn't mean they're any good at it, and for bloggers they are merely one gatekeeper for their small circle of followers with very similar tastes. Admittedly, some circles are more influential than other cogs. So much of what is considered 'tastemaking' is just confirmation of the blogosphere's status quo. It's rare to find a music blog run by someone outside of the current short-lived trends/micro-paradigms - which is partly why I love Hipster Runoff. There's also no real context for recommendations in terms of whether the blogger loves or just vaguely likes something and feels it's relevant, and you don't get much sense of what they don't like, which is often more revealing (especially in a 'showing your workings' kinda way). I fear a lot of stuff is just posted for some google or hype machine traffic.

• How much of an impact is blogging having upon freelance writers?

On the one-side many of our former contributors now write for and/or run most of the music media in the UK from NME's features editor to BBC's record reviews editor. I've scored a column from 'blogging' and Peter from Popjustice has done really well too but I guess this is not very different than the breeding ground of fanzines.

I'm not sure to what extent the migration to the web and therefore smaller revenues has affected freelancers but it would seem logical that it's not as good as it was in past thirty years but probably better than it ever was before that. It is now a lot easier for 'staff' at major publications to rehash content from elsewhere, rather than paying someone else to do it - especially when it comes to 'news'.

• To what extent has digital technology impacted journalism?​

One of my biggest hates is the way magazines have tried to compete with the comprehensive abundance of the web by reducing their editorial to a scattering of tiny flags in everything, rather than focussing on the value of scarcity and the resources they have to make informed filtering decisions, sticking their necks out for music worth believing in and putting it on the map, rather than trying to compete with kids in their bedrooms. The churnover of new 'buzz-worthy' bands is utterly ridiculous and is to the benefit of no-one, least of all the middle-class of acts who haven't broken through releasing their second, third or thirteenth albums.

I also think the reliance on crowd-sourcing has really damaged the media as a whole, as there's no way that data is going to do anything but mislead and direct people toward the agreeable gloop - it's as if MOR is now middle-of-the-superhighway blog-rock. We've somehow gained reactive opinions on everything but most media has lost most of the ability to research and mine for gold, creating the debate and setting the agenda.

Then there's the fact that the influential die-hard clusters of music fans no longer need media and believe they're savvy enough to explore the online world of streamable and downloadable music un-guided, yet they enevitably slide further and further down their own niche, forming ghettos and are rarely  exposed to anything that might truly challenge, excite or inspire them. The weird thing is, most media tries to cater for these sorts of people they've lost long ago, rather than focussing on providing something for the less savvy who appreciate a window in to the things which might appeal to them, with analysis and explanation. It's odd that it now seems to be ads and television series who are the gatekeepers, creating hit acts whilst the media constantly eats itself, following trends or tick box data (R1 playlist is a prime example of this), rather than their guts and minds.

Posted via email from seaninsound

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