Music Journalism is a Circle Jerk

How can a magazine or media outlet invest ink in you when you don’t have a couple of grand for a full page ad? Maybe they’ll consider a few write ups if you buy out a quarterly full page ad block. But, are you to be taken seriously when you don’t have liquid assets? Why would they write about you or your record? Because it’s a work of art? Do you think music is about art? Do you think music being art helps it in the marketplace? What do you think art is? Do you think music journalism is about the gathering and organizing of news and potential well-crafted art to be curated for an audience? Or do you think music journalism is a vehicle for PR companies to work their hustle through? What do you think? Do you even think of any of this fuckery?

It’s not a huge plot to keep music monochrome. Nothing worthy of a OCCUPY MAGAZINES movement. It’s more of a circle jerk between friends; an advanced level of back-scratching with journalism and uncovered music being the ultimate casualties.

A portion of its prominence can be attributed to the natural resting state of any working model  greasing palms. If it works, creates cash flow, and people are still taking it for what it’s projected as; why not? Money is being exchanged in a marketplace to create visibility and mobility for a product; or in a more recognizable use of our lexicon, a label is paying for different media outlets to tell you what you have to listen to, potentially buy, and potentially share within your micro-scene and hopefully if you’re a tastemaker in your scene, share with your regional market.

They can mobilize a product or record in a lot of different ways. The most common is narrative. There’s narrative in all journalism, but it’s heavily used in music journalism. This is why you don’t think of Cobain as a shitty junky, but a tormented Icarus character who flew too close to the sun via visceral, emotive, subversive punk rock.

Again, this is not some calculated happening across the board. Everyone is working within the system set up by majors, and, within that system, there’s a lot of room for artistic grab-ass. Here’s an example of the workings of the circle jerk:

Tom Turdtoucher, the music journalist, has a new angle for the bands submitted to him by his editor. Shares and likes and reblogs inherent in the spin paid for and brought to you by a solid investment in advertising in the website, the magazine, or the monthly record club review, sponsored by REDBULL© and the label who has a distribution deal through someone like RED©.

EMO REVIVAL. YOUTH MOVEMENT. FESTIVAL CIRCUIT DARLINGS. BUZZZZZ WORD. MILLENNIALS. CROSS PLATFORM. ZING. FUCK YOU. BUY IT, NERD. YOU’RE EMPTY WITHOUT THIS CULTURAL PRICK.

Wayne Toilettier, the other music journalist, sees success of initial Turdtoucher angle. Toilettier writes a piece including bands who’s labels have advertised with his media outlet including words like:

EMO REVIVAL. YOUTH MOVEMENT. FESTIVAL CIRCUIT DARLINGS. BUZZZZZ WORD. MILLENNIALS. CROSS PLATFORM. ZING. FUCK YOU. BUY IT, NERD. YOU’RE EMPTY WITHOUT THIS CULTURAL PRICK.

Blogs read quicker into the mobility of this trend and have now picked up the cultural curation via the only successful evidence of any trickle down theory, the trickle down of media coverage. The blogs find hipper, more unknown prophets of the new genre declaration of market dominance and the piss trickles further down after a year or two or three of circulation through publishing and MTV eventually plays these bands in cut scenes on some reality show about a fourteen year old who has conceived four or five kids in a diamond bedazzled bugatti.

Full steam ahead. Another South-by-Southwest creates a fresh batch of investors and bands willing to sign anything to travel and make music.

Very simple stuff. Label invests in media. Medium tastemaker media creates narrative. Narrative creates impulse to buy. Smaller media strengthens impulse to buy. Larger media supports strong product after it’s proven itself a sound investment. We get bored. They get bored. Everybody moves on.

But there’s light at the end of the tunnel folks. It’s becoming nearly impossible to monetize music with a lack of music consumers. No money to be made equals no money exchanging hands. In turn meaning music journalism can maybe focus on the silly plight of what’s good art? what are the contributing factors of effective, good art? why haven’t we realized art created with the intent to monetize is not art but exclusively entertainment? in the past, why have I sold entertainment as art?

The last one feels a little easier to answer than the rest. We hunger for truth and resolution in our lives, even when we only have shit at the buffet table. That’s where the real wickedness of music journalism begins. Sometimes we really believe in this circle jerk and the act of jerking. We don’t care if there’s a camera in the room or if anyone makes a profit off this. We really need to jerk.

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About Charles Ray Hastings Jr.

Charles Ray Hastings Jr. is a musician, producer, and writer based in Huntsville, Alabama. The twenty-nine year old Alabama native has written, recorded, and produced over twenty-five solo and band albums and has had essays and short stories published through webzines, small press, and magazines like Before Sunrise Press, Two Dollar Radio, Flaneur, and That Lit Site.

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