How music journalism stays afloat in today’s media landscape
Journalism has been the channel through which humanity communicates all kinds of information and events. It basically consists of the collection, preparation and distribution of news in a printed format; with the passing of time, the advancements of technology and communications, the formats have adapted and evolved (although slowly) from print into digital and the news is now accessible in real-time.
But how has music journalism dealt with this matter? Since the very beginning, music has had to deal with a highly competitive media world which relegates it into the entertainment section of most printed newspapers. Music has always had to self-advertise in order to escalate itself within the market.
Of course, huge companies and big artists seem to have no trouble with promoting themselves in the mainstream media; nowadays, with the increasing growth of social media and mass communication methods, musicians have an easier job advertising their endeavours.
Blogging is now popular amongst journalists, both formal or informal; the new digital era has even opened up opportunities for freelancers and creative writers. This is why music now has a major exposure that doesn’t rely solely on big companies or record deals.
Blogs and websites such as No Majesty offer all kinds of updates from the music industry: you can find artist reviews and music profiles, rankings, news and a wide variety of content that’s just one click away. It’s just like a magazine, but you don’t have to go out and buy it.
Most of the tools music journalism has to offer are taken from the British model. The writing is rigorous, educated and profound. A well-positioned musical critic has to also be a musician and a journalist in order to portray real meaning within their writing. Music journalism should also be educational as well as entertaining, and not seek objectivity, since the writer should be able to write an authentic and solid critique based on knowledge.
That’s what it’s all about: to talk about the culture that promotes musical appreciation. Being able to make a good critique helps artists to grow and educates people about what they’re consuming as listeners.
“Music journalism consists of people who do not know how to write by interviewing people who cannot speak for people who cannot read.” – Frank Zappa
As in many other professions capable of transforming under or even being eliminated by technological evolution, nobody has a specific long-term response on how journalism will prosper, or at least survive in the future. To be fair, there is a good reason for this dilemma: the answer doesn’t exist. But it’s really not something to be worried about. How will long-term journalism be saved? The simple answer is that it cannot exist, and that’s due to technology.
To seize the fate of music journalism, we need to step back and take a broader look at the state of journalism in general. To gain general control over where journalism began to fall in recent decades, we’re going to get even geekier in an even geekier field. Moore’s law was all about smaller transistors getting manufactured as technology advances more and more rapidly.
The increasingly smaller transistors are excellent for technology companies because it means they can continue to manufacture products for us to buy. But for journalism, the dizzying pace of technological change has left it speechless, with layoffs and acquisitions diminishing the group of magazines and publications that we consume. However, make no mistake, written/virtual journalistic work is and remains a product. The problem is that we don’t recognise how to get our work delivered effectively to consumers in the same way that technology companies do at a time when writing has evolved from printing to the web to mobile and social media. To be fair, even mobile companies are facing a saturation problem with consumers.
Because technology keeps changing at a faster pace, the way that any type of journalism changes to keep pace now has a fast expiration date attached. Think of the giants of technology that once seemed to take over the world and instead sank into a growing pile of virtual waste: AOL, Yahoo, MySpace, Excite, Geocities, Vine, Second Life… and the list goes on.
What this means for writers/editors is that today’s technological solution is not the technological solution of tomorrow. Publishers and owners adapted to the advances of technology too slowly and cautiously. This can be a generational thing too, since baby boomers are not as adept at picking up technology as fast as their millennial children.
These same tech-friendly millennials will surely have some answers, but in general, we need to work on faster solutions and we also need constant new answers as the field of technology continues to change. For journalism to remain in the game in a virtual age, some things have to happen:
- The publications have to be braver in adapting to faster technology;
- They also have to experiment more with technology;
- We need to constantly change/adapt – which is another reason why millennials will probably be better equipped to deal with these problems.
Journalism is living in turmoil and despair: so many brands are crazy to try new ways to stay afloat.
You can try to ignore the idea that good music journalism can be found on social networks, but the fact is that it’s happening now on Facebook and Twitter, with Instagram not far behind. Snapchat is now moving forward with great publications, obtaining exclusive material. And if the writers see part of their work as expert curation, there’s no reason why Pinterest could not be another space to participate and enlighten.
But we must think beyond social networks because the whole idea of technology is change. Developing applications? Of course. Creating multimedia articles with videos? Sure. More active participation with readers? To be safe. Develop a technology that nobody is talking about? If required.
Throughout all these technological innovations, some constants of the old school will remain in place so that they can do quality work and attract readers. You will always need good ideas, useful perspectives, a strong voice/tone, an interesting point of view, valuable questions and thoughtful answers, no matter where the technology takes us.
So, will all that save music journalism? Perhaps. At least it’s a start.
The editorial unit