Monday, March 10, 2008

We treat our music press bad

Ben Myers blogs on the Guardian to ask why we're so hard on our music press. (Because much of it is very poor, probably, Ben, but do go on):

[T]he UK has the best music press in the world. For me, US music magazines such as Rolling Stone or Spin just don't compare. They may occasionally offer heftier features, but they also seem to exist more in fear of the advertising clients whose accounts keep them afloat.

UK magazines offer some of the free-spirited, funniest, most informed, unflinching, passionate and comprehensive writing around. We should remind ourselves of that from time to time.

This is simultaneously unfair to the US music magazines - if something like Clash is meant to be "unflinching" then Maximum Rock & Roll must be like a botoxed statue - and over-generous to the UK music shelf:
An established weekly like NME, or one of the weightier monthlies? The likes of Word, Q and Uncut all offer different takes on recent music, while Mojo (my personal favourite) appears to me to be the most informed and least trend-driven.

There are bright spots - The Word, Plan B, Artrocker's heart is in the right place - but to suggest that the UK outclasses a nation that offers Paste, for example, is a little curious, and it's arguable that there are very few people writing for music publications who are either allowed to, or have the talent to, produce interesting material you'd want to read regardless of whether you're interested in the bands featured, which surely is what you want from music journalism.

Ben points to the overcrowded market:
Indie music, in particular, has permeated mainstream culture to such an extent that no lifestyle, arts-based magazine, broadsheet and tabloid newspaper would be seen dead without at least some music coverage, even if it is just a 50-word review of Mark Ronson in Cosmopolitan.

To be honest, we suspect part of the problem would lay with the belief that Mark Ronson constitutes 'indie' in any meaningful sense of the word - which isn't a dig at Ben, more at the new consensus that some very, very lightweight material constitutes alternative listening. It's worrying that the NME is up against Cosmopolitan for Mark Ronson scoops - but it's probably not Cosmopolitan which is looking in the wrong place.

1 comment:

DR said...

I used to buy the NME and Melody Maker religiously, even if there was a picture of Shaun Ryder on the front, there was almost always something in there that you would be interested in, and the record reviews were almost always good. Fast forward a fair few years and the music fan seems to be presented with two choices, the callow hype of the NME (which seemed to reach it's peak with Suede and got worse as time went on, e.g. The Strokes etc, etc,) and the mausoleum offered by Mojo et al. I saw the NME awards a couple of weeks ago and it struck me that if you think Kate Nash is worth pushing (God Bless 'er) then why bother, you might as well be Smash Hits. I guess the question is whether or not I'm just being nostalgic and like remembering the 'good old days' or if there has been a genuine shift in the last couple of years into a music media that just wants to be popular. Underground bands still exist but you almost never seem to see anything crossing over into the mainstream, and what does emerge from the wonderful of 'Indie' seems to be in a pretty parlous state. I'll never buy another music magazine probably ever, the great thing about the Internet is that you don't need to, gone is the time when music was more talked / read about than actually listened to, and this should all be cause for celebration, but these magazines still seem to exert a pretty unhealthy influence on music culture. Who knows? I'm off to listen to some Libertines inspired guitar music on Radio One. Bah.

I have a blog featuring up to the minute guitar music and I have a link to your site on it, don't think that you have to do the same, but you might like it.

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