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Wake Up Journos, You’re Dead
By Kirsty Walker
Kirsty's blog: http://feartheworst.blogspot.com
Who the fuck would want to be a music journalist? I remember a time when it actually seemed cool to be a writer for the NME or Melody Maker but then I also remember thinking Diego Forlan was a good signing. Reading the NME now is like flicking through a bunch of press releases written by an idiot who would champion the Third Reich marching band if they wore ironic t-shirts and played at the Camden Palace.
Pick any charmless shitehawk from the depths of T4 or BBC Three and you can bet that somewhere on their biog they claim to be either a writer or a DJ. Not journalist by the way, suggesting someone who reports and gives opinions, but a writer, someone with word craft and talent for persuasion. Zezi, the ridiculous rag doll presenter of Big Brother’s Little Brother, claims to be a writer. (If you’ve never heard of her, don’t google it, you’ll end up playing Russian roulette with an AK-70). She wrote for knobrags like Dazed and Confused and i-D, you know, the ones who tell you it’s alright to wear a flat cap if you’re doing it ironically, and from time to time announce a ground breaking new haircut or a magnificently over-hyped bunch of art school whoppers. Earth to journos – the emperor’s billy bollocks and you’re all twats.
The internet may be to blame for 94% of the world’s problems, but it has shown up the ‘writers’ for what they are; relatively shit. In an attempt to remain on the cutting edge of commentary and reportage a few of the broadsheets have set up huge, sprawling websites featuring hundreds of blogs. A great idea: tap into the unfettered, unedited psyche of your average Joe who might actually have a way with words, and get them to commentate; get their opinions. Unfortunately, we don’t get average Joe, we get Jim the Journo who delivers a half-arsed version of what he normally writes, and is plucked from the same old bunch of useless contributors from the paper edition.
Back in February’s Swine Phil Thornton bemoaned the lack of real music writers in a world filled with Superfans and sycophants. The journo in the pay (if not literally then, well, you know, not literally) of an artist is never going to be a writer, no matter how hard they try. They’re on the inside, betraying a coolness that should actually be a burning passion for music. They should be admiring from a distance but instead it’s all ‘my mate Pete’ and tales from the tour bus. The real music writing doesn’t come from back stage, it comes from the front row. It comes from people who have nothing to lose but respect for the band itself, and they are rarely ever seen in the pages of the music mags. Every year De Capo books collects the best in music writing from across the globe, and music magazines are under-represented to say the least. In 2006 a quarter of the selection were blog posts, in 2007 it was 30 percent and it’s bound to rise again this year as readers start to cotton on to the fact that they can get the good stuff for free, online, without the grim shadow of the artist or the advertiser being cast across the page.
Lester Bangs was sacked from Rolling Stone for being ‘disrespectful’ to musicians. Of his contemporaries style he said ; “It was grovelling obeisance to people who weren't that special, really. It's just a guy, just another person, so what?”. The reason we still talk about Bangs is precisely because he saw musicians as just people, it was the music that he showed ‘grovelling obeisance’ to, if at all. Did his style change music journalism? The evidence doesn’t suggest so. Whenever I’m asked for tips on how to ‘get into’ writing (and I was paid for it a few times, when I didn’t use the word ‘cunting’ so much) I ask why they want to write about music. Mostly the replies come back as ‘I want to meet bands’, or ‘I want to get backstage’, and that’s when they’re being honest! Surely if you want to be a music writer, all you need are ears and a pen. Not so apparently, you need an image and a contract, you need an editor and a brief. God help us all if that’s true.
Some of the best reviews I’ve ever seen have been on blogs, or on toilet doors, or shouted from the crowd for that matter. That’s multi-platform media doncha know! Until the rest of the globe catches up I suppose it’s down to the ultimate of level playing fields, the internet, to act as crèche to the rampant opinionation of the real music writers, the ones who are on the way home from the gig with an itchy typing finger while the poseurs who get paid for it are up to their oesophagus in guitarist cock. NME – you’ve got my number, it’s 0845 fuck off and die.
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