Hard to be a saint in the city

I hadn’t really thought about how our social media environment might affect music and art criticism until I read this Eleanor Halls Interview

Where do you see music journalism headed?

I think we need to have honest conversations about the role of music journalism and whether much of it still has any value. I worry that music journalism—interviews and reviews—is becoming PR to some musicians. Most journalists are freelance and don’t have the support of editors or publishers, and reply on publicists for talent access so they can get work. It’s no wonder they often feel too intimidated by an artist and their team to write what they really think.

There’s always been a bargain between critics and artists regarding access and cooperation. It’s only natural that an artist would share insights with a sympathetic journalist and not one who has little enthusiasm for the style or approach of the artist. Personal relationships have always played a big role in what we read as criticism and commentary.

While some nasty letters from fans may have been the price for a critic to pay for publishing a negative take on something, I can see how the amplification of opinion in social media makes the pressure way more real. But without a publication behind the writer, freelance writers are much more dependent on these relationships for access to artists, creating a competition to curry favor with creators and their fans.

I think its true that the tone of discussion across the internet tends to be more promotional than print publications ever were. Editorial independence is lost. I don’t think its even a real bias, necessarily, but a function of writers choosing to write about what they like. It’s often just another symptom of our fragmentation. Sites team up with companies for synergy.

I like the idea of these personal blogs being islands of authenticity. I try to be positive in general, but that’s a personal bias. We’re all in this together, so my aim has to be to inform and teach a bit so we all do a bit better.

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