Reef Younis questions the worth of himself and all music journos.



I’m going to just lay this out on the line from the outset: what are we doing here? I don’t mean us, us, as in some grand existential question, I mean the panda-eyed, shell-backed, keyboard-clawed hacks who spend most of their lives stuck to sweatbox venue floors, wildly fending in smoke and strobe lights, living in the hope that tinnitus won’t get them until much, much later on. The bolshie ne’er-do-wells who slave and slur, pouring gushing fanboy (and girl) adulation on bands they love and venomous scorn on those they love to hate. Seriously, think about it.

We don’t live in a world where there are gatekeepers of information anymore; where what was written by ink-stained hands and nicotine stained fingers is gospel. And, before you say anything, this isn’t some doe-eyed ramble about how great it was that Melody Maker evolved from a few pages of sheet music, it’s more a case of morbid self-deprecation and the growing realisation that music writers, as an increasingly deformed species (if the previous description is correct), are probably, increasingly redundant in the grand scheme of things.

But perhaps redundant isn’t the word. Perhaps the role and, ahem, responsibility, has just changed. There’s been plenty of time to acclimatise to the digital age, and if bands have been empowered to the extent they can bypass record labels, doesn’t that mean that our beloved hacks are merely the literary thugs holding the door open instead of dangling the keys?

In a world of blogs, social media and digital distribution, anyone and everyone can have an informed opinion, but where the music press, and indeed its writers, thrived on the access, exclusivity and adulation, these barriers have long been removed since the advent of sending albums and promos electronically whizzing through the air.

You could say, considerably less grandly, they’ve become facilitators and elevated aggregators of music largely already exposed, absorbed and criticised by the masses. Or janitors, if you will, keeping a close eye on the rowdy, over saturation of blog roll that threatens to clog up the regulated (ish) system.

The rise of the blog should arguably have sounded the death knell, giving sovereign opinion to the majority but, in many respects, far from undermining the gravitas of music journalism, it has heightened the need for an informed voice of authority and validation.

A music writer’s classic objective has always been straightforward in that it’s a basic conveyance of opinion, regardless of how constructive, obnoxious or comical it might be. But with the majority of publications pandering and peddling the same content and towing the same cover lines, the need for differentiation and necessity of capturing readers’ imagination and trust has increasingly become more difficult.

And with that blanket attitude, in a world where blog machines give fans an interactive, immediate forum and directly pander to the simple notion of “why read when you can listen?” we’re (yes, me) reduced to watching Almost Famous and reading back issues of the NME, smug in the knowledge that everyone’s a critic. Some just happen to be better at it.

By Reef Younis


Originally published in issue 21 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. September 2010

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