Those who claim to “know about these things” have been saying that both the music industry and journalism have been “transforming” these past ten years.
Depending on how you look at it — glass half empty or glass half full — this is the most exciting time in the history of music to get into writing… or on the other hand… musical journalism is the silliest waste of time you can imagine.
For example, in today’s scenario, it seems that the reporter who can make easily shareable mobile videos or a bunch of meaningless memes — ultra fast at minimal cost — has the best chance of capturing the “fickle reader” and altering — or at least swaying — public opinion.
Compare that to the old days when a serious hack had to put in long hours and lots of hard slog to create a superbly evidenced piece that was properly punctuated and wonderfully descriptive… No, those days are long-gone. Perhaps that’s a good thing…
But let’s not fool ourselves about the precious readership… these days our readers behave more like “spectators” — they don’t seem to read anything with an analytical mind, they’re often no better than onlookers:
* Nearly 40% of people bounce off a page without reading it
* People tweet links to articles they haven’t read
* People comment on stories they haven’t even glanced at
* Only half the readers manage the first 100 words
* Only a quarter of readers reach the end of any story
Perhaps these new models of dispersion and narration are democratizing. The digital landscape is a huge vox populi machine that is supposed to leave room for millions of voices — but in fact it’s simply a fully automated regurgitation system that spews out easily flushable drivel. The spectator settles in one small corner of a vast structure and he or she waits for a bunch of faceless charlatans to send out brightly coloured fragments for brief diversionary amusement.
This all means that in 2017 the music journalist works for someone else. Not a pretty thought is it? And these days it’s not even the darned editor!
Now the rock writer works for cookie monsters, pay-per-click affiliates, thousand-impression entrepreneurs and other assorted promotional marketeers and pornographers.
To add insult-to-injury — it’s the rock journalist who creates the unique written content in the first place… that’s before the work gets hijacked.
Yep, it’s totally unfair…
Who benefits from the current system? Clue: it ain’t the musicians… Democratizing? Huh?
Of course, this is frustrating for any real writers who struggle to share their story…
And in 2017 aspiring or practicing music journalists have to face three concrete facts :
1) almost nobody will read your copy
2) your story will struggle to get attention because it’s up against an array of irresistible distractions
3) Someone else, someone undeserving, will benefit from your efforts
But before we get too despondent — it’s true that the world of digital media has enough space for everyone… Yay!
Don’t worry — In 2017 you can still get your stuff published no matter how poorly written it is, or how badly researched, or how inexpertly prepared … you can even get it published if it’s highly specialized or totally crass. And that’s because somewhere — in some shadowy niche or hidden backwater — you can find a home for your words.
So, here’s how to succeed in 2017 …
These days we need to go way-beyond solid reportage and gripping story structure to get our piece in front of the right people :-
* The publication’s social team will have to share-out the story on all their networks. They might have to do this over-and-over
* The public relations team that originally handled the client will have to back the story as well. They must share & comment
(How often do publicists take their fee then sit back on their hands as if “job’s done?”)
* Musicians will have to push a story out too. They must send it to their own audiences (ask them, or rather instruct them, to share it)
* And you the writer have a duty to share your work — as widely as possible — this is obvious duh!
Finally, as a rock-writer, you have to ask yourself some serious questions if you mean to carry on…
Are you really in a position to provide privileged knowledge?
Are you really able to articulate and express yourself in an entertaining way?
Can you discuss music meaningfully?
Can you evaluate the reasons why you and others enjoy it?
Can you interpret the sounds and describe the audience’s reactions?
If you cannot do these things — then maybe it’s time to sober up and walk away…
Because musical journalism is the silliest waste of time you can imagine.
Words & Images @neilmach 2017 ©
Neil Mach is the editor of RAW RAMP MAGAZINE
Also a member of the European News Agency, Music Industry Forum, Music Industry Network and regular blogger & contributor to several sites
Any stories you’d like to share? We would love to hear your journalistic tales – tell us about yourself on twitter @rockpencon
Or submit stories to info at rockpencon dot co dot uk