Why Lists and “Exclusive” Content are Killing Music Journalism
On Wednesday night (9-17) at Fenway Park in Boston, independent music god and vinyl barron Jack White went on a tirade against Rolling Stone magazine. It wasn’t the first time the pale-faced White Striper has twisted off on the periodical. After Rolling Stone ran a cover story about him in mid June where they allegedly overblew his hatred for rock duo The Black Keys, Jack called called the magazine a “tabloid” from the Bonnaroo Festival stage during his headlining set. This certainly isn’t the first time Rolling Stone has been criticized for making a mountain out of a mole hill by a music artist. In 2009, Toby Keith went on a rant after they posted a supposedly fictitious story by actor Ethan Hawke saying that Toby Keith had chewed out Kris Kristofferson.
Jack White’s Fenway tirade took on an exceptional length and vehemence though. After taking jabs at The Foo Fighters and others for what seemed to be an argument for authenticity, Jack White said it was, “…something for rollingstone.com for tomorrow… make sure they get at least a million mouse clicks!” Jack then starting listing off lists that he characterized as ones people may see on the magazine’s website, pausing between each so the band could vamp.
15 outfits that will blow your mind that Taylor Swift wore this month, rollingstone.com!
10 reasons that rollingstone.com didn’t cover the Newport Folk Festival for 50 years straight!
12 reasons Rolling Stone won’t put a black and white cover on the cover of their magazine unless you’re dead!
Did you also know that Jan Wenner also owns Us Magazine? The tabloid capitol of magazines?
Keeping Paparazzi alive for more than 20 years, US Magazine by Jan Wenner!
Jack White’s criticisms of Rolling Stone, The Foo Fighters, and The Black Keys would probably be taken with a little more weight if they didn’t feel like they were so rooted in spite. But Jack raises a very important topic in how music journalism has evolved over the last few years, especially as print magazines have been forced to move into a more robust online presence, and what this means for the way music is covered moving forward.
No matter what Jack White and others might imply, the truth is Rolling Stone doesn’t represent even near the worst in music entertainment coverage these days. What’s so heartbreaking about what Rolling Stone has become is that it used to be on the cutting edge of in-depth and thought-provoking music reporting. Journalists and critics like Chet Flippo, Lester Bangs, Cameron Crowe, and Hunter S. Thompson helped set the standard of what music journalism was during Rolling Stone‘s formative years, and they became pop cultural figures on their own. Now like so many other online portals, Rolling Stone has to concern itself with how much traffic it draws to its website to stay financially afloat and relevant in the entertainment marketplace. Who are some of the famous Rolling Stone music reporters of today? Can you name any Rolling Stone music journalists? Is there any famous music journalists of our generation?
Rolling Stone recently opened a country music subsidiary located on Music Row—the first genre-specific portal for the legendary outlet. Like many sites, there’s a focus on lists. When sites like BuzzFeed, Upworthy, and other viral portals began to make massive inroads into the old guard monopoly of America’s journalistic space through list-based viral content, it began to affect the entire journalism landscape, including music. In April of 2013, Saving Country Music posted an article called “7 Men Who Could Immediately Make Country Music Better,” and of course, the post blew up. Though all of these artists had been featured individually on the site before, because it was a list, it was a received significantly better by the public. So then Saving Country Music posted “9 Women Who Could Immediately Make Country Music Better,” and that blew up too. Not to credit Saving Country Music for being the first in the music realm to post these type of lists, but at that time lists of this nature were not really seen in country music.
Then you began to see similar lists in larger periodicals, some with almost the same exact artists Saving Country Music featured, and the same type of style. PolicyMic for example ran a list called The 9 Real Country Stars of Our Generation in April of 2014. After Saving Country Music ran a list called “The Lessons Viewers Are Learning from ABC’s ‘Nashville‘” in October of 2013, PolicyMic ran a list called, “ABC’s Nashville Is Actually Saving Country Music.” Huh. I could have become spiteful like Jack White and call out PolicyMic. After all, by naming Saving Country Music in the title of their list they’re pretty much leaving the fingerprints on where the inspiration came from. Or I could be happy that these artists are receiving greater coverage and look at it as being for the greater good.
The latter is what I chose to do, but ever since this experience and seeing so many lists being used as a traffic crutch by so many other periodicals, I began to sour on the idea of lists in general as time went on. Saving Country Music has virtually abandoned the list format aside from when it really works to convey a thought or present a group of artists, like in end-of-year “Best Of” lists or Saving Country Music’s popular “10 Badass Moments” lists that highlight past greats of country music. In fact in August of last year, Saving Country Music published an article called 10 Reasons why Lists Suck. Of course, nobody read it. As time has gone on, even the lists Saving Country Music has posted have generally underperformed, probably because the demographics the site has fostered prefer their information in a more in-depth form.
But on other music outlets, lists have thrived, especially lists that go out of their way to highlight lesser-known artists like SCM’s “7 Men” and “9 Women” lists did. This seems to be where the music list works most ideal. For example ahead of Americana Fest this week, Rolling Stone Country posted a list of the 26 Must-See Acts. For a lot of these artists, it’s a big deal to see their name in Rolling Stone, and so they’re more than happy to post and repost links to the list on the respective social networks, and next thing you know the post becomes quite lucrative for Rolling Stone in regards to clicks.
Other outlets have latched onto the idea of covering independent artists in list form too, and discovered how lucrative it can be to creating traffic. LA Weekly ran a list called 10 Country Artists You Should Be Listening To in late June, highlighting some big acts like Eric Church, but mostly smaller artists like Caitlin Rose and Sturgill Simpson: two favorites of this list phenomenon. Tiered on three separate pages to get triple the clicks from the same reader, LA Weekly‘s list worked so well, they posted a second one, 10 More Country Artists You Need to Listen To in mid July. As can be seen on the articles, these lists were shared on Facebook 9,000 and 3,700 times respectively. That’s not bad traffic for any online outlet. Why so many shares? Because many of the small bands who were highlighted in these articles were so flattered that they took to Facebook to share this distinction, honored to be highlighted by LA Weekly, sometimes giving Facebook money to “boost” the post on their “like” pages so more Facebook followers would see it.
But the question is, what exactly is this “exposure” doing for these bands in this list format? Is there actually a measurable amount of music discovery happening from these lists, or is it more about established fan bases propping up lists by coming to a website to to have their opinions reaffirmed about the bands they already know about? Wouldn’t an individual, more in-depth profile of each band be better serving to both the public and the band if they’re truly artists “you should be listening to”?
One of the bands highlighted in one of the LA Weekly lists is a band that I happen to work with quite intimately. Though the article says that they included a photo “Courtesy of the Band,” no such permission was asked for, and none was granted. Even more troubling, the photo doesn’t actually represent who is in the band presently, nor who was in the band in its original form, nor who has been in the band for the last few years. In other words, little or no research was done, at least for that particular band in the article. It also didn’t result in any material benefit to the band. No new Facebook “likes.” No new booking inquiries or other opportunities. Though artists may be flattered to see their names in print, sometimes the results are negligible, especially when the exposure is so succinct, and the reach mostly just to the already-established fans of the respective bands. So then, what good are these lists? Are the bands really being exposed to new fans, or are outlets simply baiting rabid independent and underground fan bases just to drive up clicks to their websites?
Making this practice worse is the fact that some online content writers are paid by the amount of clicks they generate to a given article. Using independent and underground bands in your lists is beneficial because the grassroots nature of their fan bases. Florida Georgia Line’s publicity camp may not pay attention to a spot in a blog on LA Weekly for example, because they have bigger fish to fry. But an underground band will, and broadcast it out on their social network feverishly.
While exposure for any band is great, a list really doesn’t equate to a professional review or interview of an artist, or a feature that really compels a reader to look deeper into their music.
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Another trend plaguing music journalism today is the “exclusive” premier of content. Taking the form of song premiers, video premiers, and album premiers, this “exclusive” content has virtually replaced traditional album reviews and other artist features in many outlets. Instead of opinion and in-depth insight, readers are served with quick press release snippets followed by a SoundCloud player. And once again the question is, who is really benefiting from this exclusive content the most? Is it the artist, or the online outlet?
One problem with the exclusive content model is many times the outlets used are completely misappropriated for the artists being featured. Of course mainstream artists and labels have their pick of the litter when it comes to where they may want to premier their content, and have research and demographic data to know where the perfect place is for the premier. But independent artists, labels, and publicists almost seem to be happy to find any willing dance partner, as long as the website can boast lots of traffic. And for the website, it’s easy content. Maybe supply a paragraph or two of bio information regurgitated from a press release and call it good. This is much less labor intensive than conducting an interview or writing an in depth review, and the artist and label will point everyone to the “exclusive” premier to drive up the website’s traffic.
Websites use traffic statistics to lure independent artist to releasing their exclusive content with them, but many times it is not the right place for the artist. For example, Esquire has begun to do these exclusive premiers for country artists. But who is going to Esquire to discover independent country music? I’m sure Esquire‘s website gets tons of traffic, but a country artist might be better served going with a more genre appropriate outlet, even if it receives less traffic. Though Paste is a great supporter of the independent arts, they are another frequent exclusive premier partner misappropriated for independent country performers. And since many of these outlets do not know these bands, little to no love is put into whatever written content accompanies the premier.
The main ethical question about exclusive premiers is if it is truly a journalistic vehicle, or if it is an advertisement. One independent label owner I know recently did a premier for one of their artists on the music website No Depression, which allows users post their own content. No Depression actually took the post down, citing that it was advertising, not journalistic content. Many times the outlets that artists and labels partner with to premier content present a conflict of interest. This grey area between what is advertising and what is journalism makes it difficult for readers to navigate through content and figure out if a website is recommending the music, or simply advertising it.
Without a doubt, streaming albums, songs, and videos can be a great tool to spread the word about a new album release. But it should simply be just one tool in a more diverse music journalism landscape that also offers objective opinion and traditional media coverage to help music consumers cull through content in an ever more crowded media landscape. If exclusive premiers are simply replacing the true journalistic coverage artists deserve instead of providing an additional new tool in the digital age, then are artists and fans truly being better served?
Music journalism is sitting on the brink of simply becoming a promotional arm of the music industry, and it appears to be just as bad in the independent music world as it is in the mainstream. With all the challenges facing music of all styles, including how to monetize it in the streaming age, how to navigate through the breadth of choices, and how to recapture the magic that music once meant to people, true music journalism is not becoming obsolete, it is more important that ever.
Music consumers are feeling undeserved by snippets of bio info and quick song streams in lists and exclusive premiers. Like the “slow food” movement, they want to take a little bit more time to savor their musical experiences, to learn the stories behind their favorite songs and artists, to delve into the passion that inspired their favorite albums, and walk away from the experience not just enjoying the music, but feeling more fulfilled and understanding.
As everything is speeding up and becoming more concise in the world, music shouldn’t get swept up in the rat race, it should be the respite from it, as all art is meant to be. And it’s up to music journalists, websites, and periodicals to help bring this wisdom back into the music consciousness, and to fans to engage with this more in depth content before it disappears.
September 19, 2014 @ 10:41 am
And just to clarify, I’m not saying that all lists, all “exclusive” content, and all outlets that use these format commonly are bad. I’m simply questioning if they should be making up the majority of music journalism coverage in lieu of truly thought-provoking and in depth coverage.
September 21, 2014 @ 9:56 pm
No they shouldn’t but people have ADD and when you has kitty videos in the sidebar are you going read an actual article or watch the kitty video. List are easy to consume. They say little while looking like they’ve said a whole lot.
September 19, 2014 @ 11:01 am
I’m still waiting to see a list of what Jack White thinks he invented to wear he feels he has the right to say anyone else is ripping him off.
September 19, 2014 @ 11:03 am
…invented to WHERE, not wear. It’s very possible that he did actually invent some of the crap he WEARS, but that’s not what I was trying to say. 😀
September 19, 2014 @ 11:32 am
Trigger, at the risk of brown-nosing, you stand as a vanguard of true music journalism. So many of the artists I have come to know and love have reached my ears through the work you do here. Your articles are insightful and well-researched. I always come away feeling like I’ve learned something from your reviews and artist bios. Don’t get me wrong, I love the rants as much as the next fella. It’s the reviews and bios and new artist information that has made SCM the only site I visit every, single day. There are so many artists about whom I never would’ve known without your site. From Sturgill Simpson to Brandy Clark to Matt Woods to Hellbound Glory to Ags Connolly…I could go on and on…and on.
You keep doing what you do, the way you do it. You’re making a difference. You restored my faith in the genre I love so much. Thank you for all you do to promote true Country Music artists.
P.S. Ever heard of The Freight Shakers? Outlaw Honkytonk band outta California, of all places… Love to hear your thoughts on them…
September 19, 2014 @ 1:51 pm
Thanks for the kudos, I really appreciate it.
Definitely aware of The Freight Shakers. Hopefully we can get some coverage up soon.
September 19, 2014 @ 11:34 am
Great article, Trigger. I actually just finished a post yesterday that will come out next week that touches on country music journalism. It touches a little on what you point out, but it deals with a different issue I feel is plaguing country music journalism.
Lists are great for hits because I’ve seen it firsthand. It’s amazing the amount of hits a list can get that I whipped up in a half hour compared to a review which I spent much more time and thought on. It’s insulting really when it comes down to it. Other than my monthly top ten songs list, I avoid lists the rest of the time unless it’s a slow week in country music (hardly the case).
As far as exclusive content, it’s a joke. Especially exclusive streams and I now ignore any emails from people asking me to promote these because 1. I’m not a promoter and 2. I don’t support streaming as the go to option. What happened to interviews? I think that would be a better way to promote an artist and it gives the reader a better idea of who the artist really is.
September 19, 2014 @ 11:40 am
Most people do not enjoy reading anymore, and instead prefer to get their information from videos. Therefore, these magazines are forced to resort to the list style in order to attract attention.
September 19, 2014 @ 12:48 pm
I can’t stand it when I click to “read an article” and it leads me to JUST a video. Some subjects I just want to skim – I don’t want to sit and watch 10 minutes of video to get the information I could have gotten in 1 minute from an article.
Some subjects I really DO want to read in depth, but it just happens that when I come across those, not only is there no video, but they’re so poorly written that I can’t even get through them. For instance ANYTHING on Salon. If I click to read an article and it goes to Salon – I just bail. It’s like reading medicine ingredients. We really have a shortage of great writers – or even decent writers. I guess that’s why everything has gone to video…?…
But, to add to Jaimito’s brown-nosing of THIS site. While the content of this site is great – that’s NOT what got me hooked on it. Kyle’s writing is what got me hooked on it. He has the most interesting writing style I’ve seen in a long time. THAT’s what we need more of!!!
September 19, 2014 @ 12:59 pm
‘I can’t stand it when I click to ‘read an article’ and it leads me to JUST a video’
Yep this bugs me also. Many times I will be somewhere that I would rather not have the audio playing for everyone around me to hear and I also don’t care enough about the subject to listen to five or ten minutes when I would rather just skim through a transcript for what I’m interested in.
But preparing a transcript or brief summary takes time while putting up a video or link takes seconds.
September 20, 2014 @ 3:51 am
Now if we could just get him to spell it “dour” instead of “dower”.
September 19, 2014 @ 1:00 pm
Sure, a teeming mass of illiterate and semi-literate morons doesn’t want to read more than a Mt. Dew label. This country is hardly a ringing endorsement for progress.
September 19, 2014 @ 11:53 am
It’s all about the click-bait — we have a wealth of outlets where people might discover new sounds (or older sounds that somehow passed them by), but it’s like these outlets are racing to the bottom to compete for attention.
The lists might be fun (as long as they’re not, like, 20-30 items, with each one on a different page!) and the exclusive premieres may be a good way to sample new music before buying, but if an outlet claims it’s going to offer stuff you won’t find anywhere else, I would think at least the occasional in-depth story / report / profile would be a great way to set itself apart.
September 19, 2014 @ 11:58 am
To be honest, my favorite articles on SCM are not music reviews, but rather the ones that discuss broader trends in music or connect music or the music industry with general socioeconomic conditions.
For me, music is a thoroughly right-brained experience in that the best way to approach it is to feel it, not to think about it. Reading articles, on the other hand, is very much a left-brained experience.
To put it simply, I am an analytical person who uses music as an emotional outlet.
September 19, 2014 @ 12:01 pm
Preach, Trigger. There are few things sadder than working at a magazine and getting assigned an “exclusive” premiere that’s actually just an unlisted YouTube video featuring 2 minutes of over-produced B-roll that you know is going to get sent to every other outlet five minutes after you post. In most cases, these “exclusives” are lined up by obnoxious, antiquated PR firms that want to justify their exorbitant service fees by showing that they can get well-known brands to write about their artists — even if that post gets virtually NO organic traffic from the brand.
Unfortunately, “exclusive” is still such a catchy word for old-school media types that run big brand websites, and they demand outlets have them, even if they’re almost embarrassingly low-profile or thinly veiled commercials for big label initiatives. A-list stars don’t need to give outlets exclusives anymore because they know that the pom-pom waving media will cover their artists’ social media posts anyway (Why do you think Beyonce rarely speaks to outlets and just posts cryptic Instagrams? Because she knows the news will cover it twice as much!) so “exclusives” from big stars are mostly tacky, worthless advertisements these days — and “exclusives” from small acts are mostly ignored.
Good writers come up with good essay ideas all the time. It’s just pretty much on them to write them on their own time, b/c outlets would prefer them making quick, traffic-primed easily-digestible posts. (Even if thought-out essays build invaluable brand loyalty and often score robust, long term traffic.) The media’s a messed up place. Thankful for people like you in it!
September 19, 2014 @ 12:31 pm
‘Even if thought-out essays build invaluable brand loyalty and often score robust, long term traffic’
This is a great point that is totally lost on most of these big sites (including sadly your former employer) that just crank out quick and meaningless pablum which is such short term thinking.
Just at this website alone quite regularly if you check out the ‘Recent Comments’ function you see someone commenting on some old piece that Trigger wrote two, three years ago about something and they are very rarely lists, they are the longer think pieces.
Does anybody in major media even care about the long term anymore?
September 19, 2014 @ 2:20 pm
The vast majority of the traffic that comes to Saving Country Music these days is coming to archive material. At least part of this is because from the beginning, SCM was optimized to take advantage of search engine traffic instead of social networks, but I’d like to think it’s also because the material holds up over time.
September 19, 2014 @ 2:17 pm
Grady, you’ve been on the point talking about these media issues.
September 19, 2014 @ 12:09 pm
Sadly I think long form journalism in the written word whether in print or online is beyond saving, at least for wide consumption. Our culture has degraded to a point where people are unwilling or incapable of committing to a long article on even subjects they may like. Obviously this isn’t everybody but it’s enough to make it not worth the while for a publication to put the resources into the job.
So this makes the list the fallback where for little cost and little time someone can crank out some content with a few links and they let the reader (in theory) take it from there. Because as mentioned above people and especially younger people are far more inclined to seek out audio or video than they are the written word.
If ya can’t see it or hear it then it didn’t really happen is the way of the world going forward I’m afraid.
September 19, 2014 @ 12:33 pm
One of the things that I dislike most about many SCM comments is the tendency to label all cultural trends as “degradation”.
People are still willing to watch long videos on topics they like. They just do not want to read long articles anymore. This simply represents a change in tastes relating to technological progress, not some kind of degradation.
September 19, 2014 @ 12:47 pm
Not sure I buy it that people are willing to watch long videos (whatever you mean by long). What I was referring to was that people clearly have shorter attention spans now. There have been numerous studies on how soundbites on newscasts have been greatly shortened over the years and I think that goes hand in hand with this topic where people are just not willing to commit to longer pieces of information. And this I think leads to people being lesser informed. It was in that sense that I was using the word ‘degraded’.
A lesser informed society no matter the topic is degraded in my opinion.
September 19, 2014 @ 1:03 pm
Hmm, I suppose there are a lot of people who would rather watch videos than read articles, and there certainly are people who would rather make 15+ minute long youtube videos than type up a review. But personally, I prefer written. Maybe I am just old fashioned or something. But at the same time I can generally read a long article / review quicker than the person can say it. I guess I’d rather just devote 10 minutes to reading something than 30 minutes to listening to a person orally speak the same content.
September 19, 2014 @ 1:12 pm
The average product of a public school isn’t capable of forming a complete sentence. Even if they were capable of reading a paragraph or two; why would they? They can just stare blankly at multiple screens, while soaking up the propaganda and stuffing their gullets with Doritos and Pepsi.
September 19, 2014 @ 2:24 pm
Is there any difference between consuming information from written words vs. from an oral and visual medium? Seems like they are just two different formats.
September 21, 2014 @ 6:37 pm
Yes, there is a difference between reading and watching a video. There are many studies on the topic. Video/TV as a medium trains people to desire information in small bites, with constantly changing images, and encourages passive reception rather than stimulating thought. Reading encourages interaction between reader and text. Video, by it’s nature, tends toward less depth. It CAN have depth and not pander (TED talks come to mind), but that is a small fraction of the medium.
September 21, 2014 @ 6:47 pm
I disagree. As someone with extensive experience both with books/articles and with video-based information, I can attest that documentaries and other detailed films and videos can stimulate thought just as much as well-written articles or books.
September 19, 2014 @ 12:54 pm
I just don’t care for Jack White’s music.
September 19, 2014 @ 12:57 pm
My thoughts on “lists” are:
I have never once read about an artist that I didn”™t already know about on one of those lists. Generally if I know about and like one of the artists (usually the one that directed me to the list) I will already know and most likely like the others, thus “10 Underground Country Acts YOU Should Be Listening To!” are in reality “10 Semi-Underground Country Acts That I Am Already Well Familiar With Anyway!”
I HATE lists that make you click individually to go through them all. I do not want to click “next” 25 times just to see a picture and read maybe 5 sentences about a singer or band. Put them all on one or two pages. At this point if I have to click to see each one, I don”™t even bother with them.
As far as exclusive thingies:
I very rarely bother with them anymore, unless it”™s a band that I am already well familiar with and fond of. I”™d much rather wait for a real review than read a press release and listen to a song from someone I know very little about.
September 19, 2014 @ 2:25 pm
“I have never once read about an artist that I didn”™t already know about on one of those lists.”
This is the inherent problem with these lists that target underground folks especially. I don’t mean any disrespect to some of the authors that have composed these lists. Some are truly trying to get the word out about these artists. But in the end it is ineffective. It simply stokes the artists’ grassroots networks and gives them false hop that they’re making inroads into greater media exposure.
September 19, 2014 @ 8:16 pm
I thought Jack White”™s “tirade” was hilariously on-point. I personally wouldn”™t characterize it as “vehement,” since I thought it was pretty clear from the audio that he was clowning around rather than going on some kind of crazy, out-of-his-mind angry rant, but he *did* rag on RollingStone.com pretty hard. Yeah, sites like Buzzfeed are much worse than Rolling Stone, but given Jack”™s aversion to social media, I wouldn”™t be surprised if he”™s not even aware of Buzzfeed.
Anyway, regarding Jack”™s alleged “diss” of the Foo Fighters: apparently at the time the audio above was recorded, Jack had just had a guitar malfunction onstage in the middle of a song (not surprising, given that he uses vintage instruments and equipment most of the time) which created an awkward pause in the live performance, presumably while Jack switched guitars.
“If you”™re the Foo Fighters, or some band like that, where you have a second guitar player playing the same parts I play so in case I make a mistake he”™s still playing it for you”¦ we [unintelliegible] do stuff like that nowadays”¦ but when you uh”¦ when you”™re up at bat at Fenway Park, it”™s just you up there, and that”™s it! [Audience cheers] And that”™s I how I play music! [More cheers]”
It seems to me that Jack was commenting on the fact that he doesn”™t have any other musicians around him doubling his parts, so if something malfunctions, the audience just has to put up with it, which is what happened at Fenway. As far as I know, the Foos are just an example of a band which has three guitarists onstage in the live setting, one of whom sometimes plays the exact same parts as Dave Grohl, as Jack described.
Also, as others online have pointed out, some popular bands also have extra musicians who play offstage or behind backdrops (not to mention pre-recorded tracks.) And supposedly, some stadium bands like U2 actually have several musicians playing behind or beneath the stage in order to bolster the sound and keep the music flowing smoothly in case anyone screws up or breaks a string. I think this is an important point which also merits discussion.
Anyway, I thought White”™s stage banter was more of a “humble brag” than an “attack” on the Foo Fighters per se, but I think he probably realized as soon as he mentioned another band by name that his comments would get posted online and run through the mill of media sensationalism, which is exactly what happened.
Today the PR firm Nasty Little Man, which represents both Jack White and the Foo Fighters released a statement saying that Jack was trying to make a “self-deprecating joke,” and that he has the “utmost respect” for the Foo Fighters, and contacted Grohl to talk today.
Anyway, I”™m just glad the hype-machine blog world we have today didn”™t exist during the prime careers of our favorite legendary country performers. I bet Johnny Cash said some pretty crazy stuff onstage during his wild days. And I know Waylon had an unfortunate tendency to go off on “rants” at times, including against some of his best friends, such as Willie Nelson.
September 19, 2014 @ 9:42 pm
Personally, I read a lot. Online. And mostly not any of the magazine .coms. I read sites such as this. Blogs. Grantland. Long form.
But I’m old. And have always been a reader. Back in my hair band youth I was reading Circus Magazine and Hit Parader religiously.
I checked out RSCountry out of curiosity. Gossip and lists. I looked at a couple of reviews. Lazy & poorly written. Done.
SCM and couple of others are where I go for real country music news and reviews. I have a couple more for rock/metal. Good reliable sites that care about the subject they cover. Not worried about clicks.
I started writing a couple of years ago on my on blog. Why? Because I had some stuff to say. What I have to say is important to ME. And apparently to some other people that read. But I don’t have a real focus or cause, I just like to write. There are a lot of people on here that have something more substantive to say than what you typically get on the mag .coms. That’s the beauty and also the curse of the time we live in right now.
September 20, 2014 @ 7:17 am
Well Trigger, you are the music journalist of our generation. At least in my mind. Wish I could have your articles in print! Or part of a good magazine.. You should do an article about the editor and show people who you are, that would be cool. Keep it up man! I’m reading this on the daily. Later dude!
September 20, 2014 @ 12:31 pm
Excellent write-up, Trigger. Keep it going. It’s working.
September 21, 2014 @ 9:53 pm
RS lists baffle and anger me. I can’t go back to them all now but I recall the greatest guitarists of all time list had TWO women and none of them were Sharon Isbin! Bu some how they had a slot for wunderkid Kurt Cobain. And they always seem to include Bob Marley because he is the only reggae artist they think their audience will know or care about.
And people tell me it is a rock magazine yet I see Miles Davis show up and Coltrane when they want to act like they know about jazz. The list of greatest vocalist had no Ella, Billie, or Sarah nor Maria Callas but Kurt Cobain made it again.
It angers me because the lists are so willy-nilly and people (especially young people) look to these lists as some kind of barometer for what they should respect and listen to of “old music” if you toss in Bob Marley and ignore Judy Mowatt WTF?! Or if you have Miles Davis where is Duke Ellington?
Their criteria is non-existent and of course almost all these lists are dominated by males when they need to discuss women they will give them their own special lists as if Ann Wilson can’t compete with Jimmy Page in guitar circles. A bloody joke.
Now on the other hand if you take their lists and compare them to the bazillion similar other lists you can get an idea for some sort of standard in great music and musicianship. The Beatles always rank high for a reason, for example. But RS always plays it WAY to safe.
September 22, 2014 @ 5:09 am
Top 2 reasons I hate lists:
1. Lists suck! 1=>
September 22, 2014 @ 5:10 am
2. Nested lists REALLY suck!! <=1
December 31, 2014 @ 8:05 pm
I read this site and The Guardian UK for news about Country Music. This site is great. The depth and effort put into the articles here is refreshing and informative. I like that you aren’t an elitest, in that in addition to critical reviews about new (or resurgent) artists trying to make meaningful music, you address and treat the ‘mainstream’ critically as well. I especially enjoy the various articles about the actual business of the whole deal – the labels, radio, etc. I’m pretty negative as far as hopes for a mainstream resurgence in ‘quality’. There are too many heads on the totem poles at the labels making the decisions. It’s like the old A&R man joke: “What do you think?” “I don’t know, I’m the only one that’s heard it.” But I can’t be objective, as I haven’t really liked anything on Country radio since “Rainy Day Woman” ha ha. But there were/are some great talents that have come along since Waylon’s rebellion and Willie’s much deserved ascension to Satchmo like universal status. Don Williams, Keith Whitley, John Anderson (sounded like Levon), George Strait, Dawn Sears, and many more. Merle is the Beatles of Country to me. Still, in most cases, I just didn’t like the ‘sounds’ of the records anymore, including the ‘Neo-Traditionalist Boom in the 80s. Here again, the totem pole approach, too much second guessing, too much fear or something. And when you in radio – that enemy of variety – well, entities like Clear Channel really are like Hydra in the Sgt. Fury comics of my youth (I’m 62). To over simplify, they just buy up markets and homogenize everything with robotic (or annoyingly square) remote DJs, with ever shrinking playlists that just repeat and repeat and repeat, so that the non-discerning masses of 17-24 year olds (or whatever the sampled demo is) just get used to it, then it becomes ‘their’ music. Alexis Tocqueville – the great outsider who made so many astute observations about early American culture and politics, famously said “The People get the government they deserve”. Or something like that. It seems that ‘People get the music they deserve’ also.
Or what they’ll allow. What they’re given. Popular music or popular culture in general is certainly a mirror of a society (not an original thought I know). American Music was significant early on for its vitality and individuality. Its song prophets, musicians and/or interpreters like Stephen Foster, John Philip Souza, W. C. Handy, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, the Gershwins (and the numerous other song titans of Tin Pan Alley), Jimmy Rodgers, Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie, Willy Dixon, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Elvis, the Brill Building, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, The Beatles – well they almost all came from sections of society and varying regions of America that were poor, rural or working class, recent immigrants, African Americans just a few generations removed from slavery (not that they could tell any difference), the white agricultural poor, etc. But in many cases they were marginalized by those that were ‘better off’, educated, etc. But the talent and genius of those mentioned were able to transcend the limitations of their eras, of their situations, and through the sheer appeal of their songs, their music, their unique styles, were able to bring their unique styles and individuality to people in a way that changed popular music, made waves, inspired more of the same as they became part of popular music. My head hurts. Anyway, I dig this site.
December 31, 2014 @ 8:09 pm
its ‘Willie Dixon’ I mean’t to spell. And yes I know The Beatles weren’t American. But their early records were all (or inspired by) American music.
December 31, 2014 @ 8:17 pm
Thanks for the thoughts Fieldcrow, I’m glad you found the site.
December 31, 2014 @ 11:51 pm
In my opinion, the best way to think about the world of popular music (country and otherwise) is as a bell curve. Over the years, the curve has become narrower on radio (hence the shrinking playlists with an ever increasing focus on mass-appeal songs). In a sense, this trend has been accelerated not only by radio consolidation (which actually slowed considerably after 2004), but also by fans of the “tail ends” of the musical bell curve finding refuge on the Internet (on sites such as this one) and disengaging from radio.