A Letter to the Saving Country Music Reader

First off I want to apologize to everyone about all the drama that has been happening in some of the comments sections of recent articles. When I started this website, I did so with a strict philosophy that everybody should have a place to voice their opinion, and that discussion and disagreement when done with respect can contribute to a healthy community. I have always encouraged criticism and dissenting viewpoints. I have also always had a strict distaste for censorship in any and all forms. So if I or anyone else posted something on the site, it was there for eternity.

This approach created one of the most vibrant, strong, and interactive online communities that could be found in ALL of music. I believe, and still believe, that the best thing about this site is the comments sections, where people discuss and argue points, and problems are solved. But as we grow, the readership has broadened and attracted people that do not appreciate or understand the core values that SCM was founded on.

I also feel the need to set the record straight that this was not happening in the comments of ALL the articles, or even a majority of the articles. For three years there were very few problems at all. It was the advent of the Shooter Jennings XXX Movement when it seemed like the drama rose to a bellicose level; not to blame XXX entirely or solely, but its launching was the big event that lead us to where we are today, which is a website that at times seems like it is filled with drama and drama only. But again, it is far from common. The article where T Junior of the Honky Tonk Hustlas went on a rampage was the latest, but have to go back over two weeks to the Izzy Cox article before you find another. There were 13 articles between the two that were just fine.

But this brings up another problem facing Saving Country Music: the fact that most readers now see the site through the filter of Facebook. On Facebook, you are more likely to see the things that are getting more attention from other people and your friends. So if you don’t come to SCM directly, but rely on links that show up in your FB feed, you are likely to only see the drama. The mild-mannered album review with 7 comments is less likely to show up than the anti-pop country rant whose 150+ comments have descended into written warfare. If you never click on the “Home” button and zoom out to ALL the SCM content, you may think that is all SCM is, and that is why I see the comments like “All the articles now are just filled with drama!” or “All you ever do is write about “whiskey, devil, cocaine” bands!” or “All you do is bash pop country!” I don’t do all of anything.

That is why I encourage people to come to the site itself, or follow me on Twitter so you can get a real-time news feed of ALL the articles, instead of Facebook deciding what you will see. We will also be launching the Newsletter this week, which will also help folks stay connected. We have also just added a news feed, so even more news can be covered on the site, and people do not need to rely on Facebook to stay connected on the music side of life, and the chat room is now available from the main page and has been updated with features, and can be utilized by anybody and everybody 24/7.

I take some responsibility too for the SCM comments sections getting out of hand. That is why, unfortunately, I have reversed my policy on comments. This is a not victory for anybody. We all lose with this. But I’d rather lose a few inflammatory comments and commenters than a site that helps promote the music we all love, and keep in check the music and industry that we don’t. I have drafted a set of comment rules that people will be expected to follow. Again, because 90% of the articles and comments are fine, most will likely never have to worry about them. But because they are set in stone, nobody can complain (though I’m sure some still will) that I am purposely suppressing people’s opinions, or other information that might reflect poorly on what I have said or on my positions, by abjectly deleting or editing comments.

As for XXX, I have not changed my stance on it, I am STILL neither for or against it, but topics like XXX, and others that have been hotbeds of drama, will likely be avoided for the most part moving forward. I hope XXX all the best, and I don’t rule out in the future working with XXX either behind the scenes, or out front. But for now, I must focus on putting my own house back in order, and my top priority is the Saving Country Music community that I spent 3 years constructing.

I hope the best for Adam Sheets of No Depression (the co-founder of XXX) but we have both agreed that he and the SCM community are like oil and water, and that it would be best for all if he avoid commenting on the site unless necessary. Opponents of XXX like Keith at Hillgrass Bluebilly and Autopsy IV at ninebullets.net have called Shooter Jennings an anchor and a burden on XXX. I could not disagree more. I have been nothing but impressed by Shooter’s leadership, his willingness to be open-minded and work with people, his accessibility, and at times his cool head and wisdom. And no, this is not because I am charmed that a semi-celebrity is on my site making comments. I also still think at the core, XXX is a good idea.

The problem for me with XXX has been execution. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and the drama surrounding XXX has put Saving Country Music through a lot of hell over the past few months. One philosophy SCM was founded on was that it is about people first, them music. Music is just the excuse, the medium to talk about the challenges of living a principled life in the modern world, and about community. Read the quote at the top of the page. Our fight is music, but those same values can be taken to food, politics, culture, whatever.

T Junior and the Honky Tonk Hustlas were (and are) touted by XXX. Their album is still at the top of the XXX page (or was when I posted this). This type of “throw the barn door wide” approach of letting anybody who wants to call themselves XXX, be XXX, cannot be the approach of Saving Country Music. I throw stones at huge record labels, mega-pop franchises, and big institutions, many of which have teams of lawyers on retainer, some of which visit SCM regularly, looking for a chink in the armor, or an excuse to discredit what we do here. We owe it to the artists we fight for to keep our nose clean, and not only to represent better music, but better people as well; to sling our mud, but always stay on the moral high ground by respecting everyone at a basic human level, and never descending into base name calling simply to vent anger.

We are only as strong as our weakest link, so the music touted here truly must be the best, and the musicians must be good people as well.

I know that I am disliked by many, and I swear I mean it when I say I don’t care. My job is to be as honest with everyone as I absolutely can when it concerns my opinion about music, and use whatever wit I might possess to help fight our fights. You don’t have to like me or even respect me, but please understand, I do not get paid to do this. I have written over 1000+ blogs now that each take on average 2 1/2 hours to write, and any money the site generates goes directly to the webmaster, because he has kids and I don’t. And before you get with your buddies on Facebook and decide who I am on a personal level, appreciate that there has never been an assumption made about me that has been right yet. Nobody knows who I am, and I like to keep it that way, because it’s not about me, it’s about the music.

And before you make any hard and fast judgements about “agendas” I have with who I cover or the direction of this site, please make yourself come up with a motive. Ask yourself “Why would someone born and raised in the South, be going out of his way to purposely avoid promoting bands from the South?” Especially when my Album of the Year for 2010 was from a man from Chattanooga, TN. My nose follows the best music. Or at least it tries to. I am not perfect, and I am far from being omniscient enough to know everything out there. And I make mistakes every day. But I try my best.

What I cover on the site has to do with what I am passionate about on any given day. It must be, because I don’t get paid to do this. And on average I spend 50-60 hours a week in one way or another on Saving Country Music, many times on things people never see. I have honestly probably spent 50-60 hours just on behind-the-scenes XXX scene control since it was announced.

Lastly I just want to give a huge thanks to all the readers. Your eyeballs on this site, and your ears listening to all the great stuff going down on SCM LIVE is what keeps me going. Some people have stuck through all the drama, some haven’t. And I hope the few that haven’t will give it another chance, and trust that we as a community can keep things more respectful, without drowning the fire and the wit and the passion that makes us all entertained and enlightened by reading what others have to say.