Saturday, 18 May 2013

The state of music journalism...

A curious side effect of my picking up the centenary issue of The New Statesman on a whim a couple of weeks ago is that I find myself deeply depressed at the quality of writing in music magazines.  I suddenly find myself wondering why, if magazines of witty, well-versed, high-minded political commentary exist, where all the witty, well-versed, high-minded writing about music is?

Frank Zappa famously said that rock journalism was "people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, for people who can't read". A depressingly cynical view of the whole enterprise that I would have been loathed to agree with until now, but what struck me was how even the music rags such as Uncut or Mojo which profess to be targeted at the more intelligent reader, are not even close in the calibre of their writing to great journalism on other subjects.

I suspect this is down to the fact there's not a great amount of money to be made from writing about music these days (and how thoroughly depressing - people are more willing to pay for politics than music!). The last year has seen Blues in Britain shift to an entirely volunteer based enterprise, after the last member of paid staff departed. And, whilst I applaud the efforts of these volunteers because I definitely consider the world to better with a monthly British blues magazine than without one, I think that this enthusiastic amateurism can be sometimes be apparent in the quality of the writing in this, and other similar publications.

Then it may well be the case that my idea of good journalism, and those of your average music magazine reader are wildly disparate. If the large numbers of poorly educated, but nonetheless brilliant blues musicians from Albert King to T-Model Ford, show us anything it's that a passion for music is not dependant upon being well read, or even on being literate.  There's no reason to assume the average reader of a blues magazine isn't the kind of person who believes the Daily Express to be a high quality newspaper, and that including lengthy thoughtful pieces of the kind a political journal like the Statesman specialises in isn't exactly the kind of thing to reduce an already small readership even further.

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