Letter to the Readers

Dear readers, I hope everyone has been able to resume their day to day activities without being blown completely off course by the torrid weather conditions. For those of you not based in the Atlanta area, we had some snow and many county offices were crippled this past week. I’m originally from Chicago, but I guess they haven’t figured out the secret of salt on snow down here.  But I digress…I want to communicate a new agenda to you for this year.

These past few weeks I’ve been thinking about what music journalism means to me and how this tiny blog fits in the midst of the massive blogosphere and music publications industry. The conclusion I’ve reached is simple – the music industry is like an aquarium, it’s a big tank full of all kinds of fishy personalities swimming and lurking about. The stereotypical image of record labels and label executives is that they are the sharks and the artists are the minnows. In reality, many artists are also sharks and predator fish that swim near the bottom of the tank. The labels are bigger sharks, but they closely resemble dim-witted schools of fish that cluster together at the sight of danger. In this underwater scenario, music journalists deserve a place too. The music journalists are the bottom feeders that suck the algae off the tank, their sole purpose is to digest the shit produced within the tank and regurgitate it so another unsuspecting bottom feeder creature can suck it up.

Music journalism is a touchy thing to me. Most music journalists do not play instruments, they don’t perform music, they do not have a knowledge of music theory or a formal background in musicology, yet they are responsible for dictating what’s hot and what’s not in pop culture news and media. These people have often failed at their own trade and are nowhere being masters of journalism. I see grammatical errors in album reviews that would make a halfway competent copy editor want to jump off a building without a second thought. All of this is both strangely peculiar and entertaining to me.

I started Shot From Guns with the intent of writing from the musician’s perspective. I’ve been in four bands, I played music half my life and I’m not some fat, balding middle aged man trying to tell you what’s cool. I could care less about what’s cool; I care about what connects with people. And a cheesy gimmick plus a $10,000 pr campaign won’t cut it.

For 2011, I want to focus on showcasing interesting and eclectic events being held by local artists. I feel that by showcasing these events in the featured shows of the week posts and show calendar, I can help artists a bit more by getting people out to their shows and the places where it really matters. In addition, I will continue to interview people who I feel are trendsetters and paving their own paths. I’m very proud of the interviews I’ve conducted so far, if you do a search in the search engine, you will see great interviews from people like John Balzary of Baroness, Robin Guthrie, Gavin Frederick of Stickfigure Records, and one of my idols Munehiro Narita of the band High Rise. That interview was conducted in Japanese and English so that was interesting to say the least. But there are many more interviews on this site.

I may not always be able to update this site, but when I do I promise I will include content that I feel is noteworthy and exceptional, content that will challenge you and hopefully things that will motivate you to get out your house and get involved in a few local events. Take care.

Sincerely, Taylor A. Northern


5 responses to “Letter to the Readers

  1. Taylor, It’s odd that I’ve been thinking about the role of a music journalist lately, as well. However, I come to a different conclusion. First, there is a clear distinction between music journalists and bloggers. In trying to decipher what that is, I’ve considered all the interaction I’ve had with bloggers and editors of music publications. What I’ve concluded is that music journalists and bloggers both write about what they like. A very subjective, preference-based approach to take. This is where the difference between journalists and bloggers comes into play. I think the music journalist has an obligation to cover music beyond what they like, in order to present what’s relevant at the time and also to explore what’s actually out there. They hold a responsibility to stay objective and in tune. Bloggers, on the other hand, have their own platform in order to share what they like with others, and therefore, don’t necessarily have to uphold to the same objective tenants that a journalist SHOULD (but rarely does). In that sense, the analogy you use can be morphed a bit to consider the music industry as a large aquarium, where the journalists and bloggers stand outside the glass and comment on what’s inside. The journalist should be paying attention to everything inside the aquarium, while the blogger might stand in front of his favorite school of fish.

    In terms of music journalists not playing instruments, I have to ask you how you can possibly know whether they do or not, or whether they have a background in music at all. It seems to be an assumption on your part to say that “most” do not have musical knowledge. But, let’s explore it. Does a film critic need to make films to criticize one? Does a person who reads books need to write books to know if one is written well? I would say no. Does it help a music writer to have a musical background? Maybe. Speaking personally, I had formal music training most of my life, playing the piano and the cello in orchestras. Does it help me write about music? Maybe a little bit. But, what really makes it possible for a person to be a music writer (blogger or journalist) is a passion for music and an ability to write. I don’t think having formal music training is actually a necessity. There is also the flip side to consider; just because a person can play an instrument doesn’t necessarily mean that person is qualified to be writing about music. When it comes to writing, it’s about the passion, the capability, and the motivation to keep an eye on all the fish in the musical sea, or at least the favorites.
    Just wanted to share my thoughts and maybe get a conversation going on this topic. I look forward to your 2011 content.

  2. Nadia, I think you’re close, but here’s what the real difference between a blogger and a “journalist” is. You’re characterization of bloggers is fairly accurate, but not journalists. This is correct:

    “I think the music journalist has an obligation to cover music beyond what they like,”

    but the additional obligations that journalists have is to help their publication make money. They write articles on artists who are popular to bring in readership. They write articles about artists that advertise on their publication so they continue bringing in ad revenue. They write articles with an intention of getting picked up at a better paying publication. There are no “objective” music journalists, because there isn’t a truly way to objectively calculate art. Other than record sales numbers and ticket sales numbers, there isn’t really anything to objectively report on even if a music journalist wanted to be objective, which they don’t. With hard news, there is much more empirically verifiable data to reference, so a facade of objectively can be more easily achieved, but “music journalism” is a joke, and objectively in it is as abundant as dinosaurs living on the Earth right now. Maybe there’s one hiding under the Lock Ness, but I doubt it.

  3. Also, the last two “Objectively”s should be “Objectivity”. Whoops, silly blogger.

  4. @ Nadia, no, I do not have statistics on how many music journalists have a formal background in music theory and I will admit, that was a pretentious statement lol. However, so many music journalists take this high-falutin and elitist attitude when criticizing music, it makes me wonder what makes THEM qualified to make such grand assertions?

  5. @ Davy, “With hard news, there is much more empirically verifiable data to reference, so a facade of objectively can be more easily achieved, but “music journalism” is a joke.”

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. Music journalism is not like reporting the daily news or politics, there’s no hard data to draw upon. It’s just like “their opinion man.” Their opinion coupled with the duty to adhere to company policy and recognize the need to double readership, no matter what the costs.

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