August 17, 2008

Music Journalism: Opportunistic Idiot-Baiting

Posted in Music tagged , , , , at 9:04 pm by Andrew McMillen

Funnily enough, days after my last post regarding my interest and participation in the grey area of writing about music, Everett True set his proverbial cat among the pigeons by describing some popular Australian acts as “musical abominations” and suggesting that this country’s music publications are too kind when discussing musicians, both established and upcoming.

While acknowledging that True’s article was little more than a thinly-veiled bit of self-congratulatory promotion – he runs a UK monthly music publication named Plan B Magazine, if you didn’t gather – the uproarious response to his words made for some thoroughly entertaining reading.

Cue, en masse:

How dare this prententious prick of a Pom have the gall to write off a couple of our most popular musical exports? These bands are popular. A lot of people like them. This means that they write good music!

As above, except with more spelling errors and angst, and less rational thought. Here’s a few examples from a discussion that appeared on news.com.au:

Who cares what this wanker says.. If you like the music you like, if you don’t you don’t it is not up to anyone else to tell us what is good and bad!!!
Posted by: Lisa 3:04am August 12, 2008

Well, this comment makes a bit of sense. But Lisa probably listens to The Presets, so her opinion is invalid.

I would suggest that the majority of reviews concerned with the arts boil down to little more than “I don’t like it”. How else can one account for critics’ wildly divergent opinions? Ah well, if you lack creativity, you’ve still got to earn a living somehow … right?
Posted by: Andrew 3:15am August 12, 2008

I like the way Andrew thinks. He’s right, to an extent: the concept of professional criticism is hilarious in itself. He has a cool name, too.

Powderfinger are a great example of an extremely talented Aussie band, who deserve as much if not more recognition here and internationally as the likes of Silverchair and co…
Posted by: James of Sydney 8:15am August 12, 2008

Lulz.

It’s True, Lol. The guy is right, particularly about the street press. The street press in trash, with no critical faculties and poor writing. Just cos it’s free doesn’t mean the writing should be lazy. “I went to the gig by XXX the crowd went off, the band sounded good. oh but I missed the support band cos i was out getting pizza” give me a break.
Posted by: Unaustralian of Australia 9:06am August 12, 2008

What a fantastically well-informed and intelligent opinion. Not generalising at all, no sir!

The discussion henceforth devolved into further idiocy. You could check it out for yourself, but I’d recommend against doing something more productive for five minutes instead. Like banging your head against the wall.

Conversely, True’s initial article yielded some intelligent and coherent responses. Monkeywenchdotnet wrote:

I don’t think positive music writing is lazy or passionless. True is attacking the Brisbane street press in particular, and as a sometime writer for one of the mags which comprises the Brisbane street press I can say with 100% authority that we do it for the love, which is a good thing because the money is crap. Oddly enough, if I’m doing something for the love I want to enjoy it, not spend all my energy complaining about aspects I dislike.

I’m not going to waste my time listening to, talking to, and writing about a band I don’t feel warm about. I don’t feel the need to prove my worth by swinging my pen around and declaring myself the arbiter of good taste by tearing down artists that I’m not interested in.

I wholly echo the above sentiments.

Do I only nominate to review bands that I find enjoyable or interesting? Absolutely. Only once have I accepted an assignment to review bands that I was less than interested in; that show resulted in an unexpectedly enjoyable experience.

The overarching theme that many seem to forget is that all discussion of music is subjective. Preference and taste vary between listeners. This isn’t going to change. Bleating to everyone within earshot that Band X or Band Y are great or shit or relevant or geniuses or ugly or brilliant or immature or talentless or irrelevant or (adjective) isn’t going to change an individual’s preference.

Sure, it’s fun to mock those who listen to The Presets, but I’m being facetious when I do so and don’t devote more than a moment’s thought to the listening choices of those around me. My listening habits have been on display since October 3, 2004. My experimentations, lamentations and guilty pleasures are all there (*cringe*). Do I listen to music that you think is shit? Most definitely. Does this concern me? Certainly not.

I don’t have time for that. It’s hilarious that others do. It’s also interesting to note that musical discussions tend to evoke strong, passionate feelings within many of us.

Within music journalism, there exists a consistent and inelastically large market in idiot-baiting. Thanks for reminding us, Everett.

(footnote – I’ve listened to The Presets quite a bit. I liked their early releases a lot, but their latest is a stinking pile of shit that I never want to hear again.)

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5 Comments

  1. Meg said,

    I find myself endlessly fascinated with the many responses to this. It’s become a compulsion. Mainly because I can’t understand the mass outrage etc.

    I think your point (and Monkeywenchdotnet’s) about people’s contributions being guided by their already-established favor – and the obvious implications of that – is absolutely logical. I don’t think it undermines True’s point at all however (I’m not sure if you were trying to do that, but .. …. whatev). It simply explains one of the ways we arrived here.

    Pleased to have found your blog, too.

  2. Stephen said,

    Thing is, underneath the vein of trolling and baiting to get response – and maybe even hits – there is a discussion that ought to be had about the chummy relationships of street press writers with local musos, or even whether there is a culture that’s, shall we say, overly supportive and indulgent of local stars and up-and-comers.

    But the mainstream press in its frenzy for a headline isn’t going to help it take palce. They’ll just take the most controversial thing “powderfinger are shit” and run that to death while they flog the masses into a frenzy of righteous anger. And they’ll rehash it six ways to Sunday if they can too, to squeeze it dry.

    But I don’t think that the street press are equipped to do it. I’ve not read a street mag that really does features. Not in the sense that you find in something like the Weekend Australian magazine. And that sort of approach is what is really needed to pull this topic apart.

    Of course, would any street press want to examine it closely? So many potential worms…

  3. Good question! I’ll ask my editor… šŸ˜€

  4. […] attendance. TrueĀ incurred the wrath of Australian mainstream music fans in August, upon which IĀ commented at the time. The event was held as a pilot for QMusic’s proposed series of music-related […]

  5. […] reminded of when Everett True made some inflammatory comments about some Australian artists back in August. With regard to the musicians you write about – do you try to steer away from outright criticism, […]


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