Drowned in Sound’s editorial series, Music Journalism R.I.P?, is a must read for anyone with an interest in music criticism. The series is now up to about 20 articles examining its thesis from every possible angle. In short, the answer ot is the question is music journalism dead, is no. Or, is it yes? Or, it depends on who you ask.
Laura Nineham, upon considering the role of the critic in Web 2.0, concludes:
Critics in the age of Web 2.0 do the hard work for us. They sift through an incredible amount of music so we don’t have to, letting us know which artists to avoid like Swine Flu and which albums are worth treating ourselves to.
In 2009 the source of critical opinion has changed but the outcome is the exact same. Swap 90s NME for 00s Pitchfork and people are still willing to buy into pretty much anything they are presented with. Both publications have of course championed some great music but isn’t it a little bit sad that with all the music now at our fingertips we still need someone else to tell us what to like?
The present day: there were now a billion illiterate bloggers telling you how INCREDIBLE Fleet Foxes were, so music journalism died…There was Oasis, a crushing, soulless, corporate beast, and you weren’t allowed, by editors, to criticise them, for years, so dissent and maverick opinions died. This set a pattern. A herd mentality replaced enjoyable argument. We lost, they won. Pity the brave soul who asks if Bon Iver (or whoever) might not actually be a tiny bit over-celebrated, if he/she wants to be commissioned again…The mediocre thrived and the talented shuffled off, or, with less dignity, and I know about this one, dumbed down in order to pay the rent.
Personally, I agree more with John Doran of The Quietus: Some magazines will die, blogs will pass, and even the most vaunted outlets may some day fall out of favor, but there will always be Rock ‘N’ Roll writers, whether they’re needed or not:
So I guess what I’m saying is; if music journalists think for themselves they’ll be fine. If they reject orthodoxy and act like they’re rock and roll writers not writers who occasionally write about rock and roll, they’ll be alright. And if they aren’t; well it doesn’t matter too much. The Quietus will end (hopefully not straight away, but hopefully before we start treading water). (I hope I don’t but) I will probably hang around for a few years lowing like a cow. Mooing on and on about how music journalism isn’t what it used to be back when Lester Bangs – a drivelling, shite spouting racist thunder cunt (who had flashes of utter, utter genius) was a god and, oh, isn’t this ska stuff good? And wasn’t Mod brill? And, oh, why can’t it still be Britpop, when music was proper?
And when I do this there will be some vicious young hack standing behind me sharpening his blade, ready to spill my useless claret all over the killing floor.
Drowned in Sound: Music Journalism R.I.P?