Thursday, August 08, 2002

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT POP PAPERS: A rather fine history of the music press over at the New Republic, although being a stupid, stupid pedant I have to point out that Sounds went about ten years ago, not last year (I guess they mean Select) and Smash Hits was never a monthly, but - hey - I'm getting help with my clinging to fact problems. (As much of the content of No Rock will attest, I'd guess).
Wonderful is the recollection of David Hepworth's year-zero memo: "It is my intention to reverse the entire direction of [popular music publishing] in favor of entirely trivia...." although, to be fair, the Smash Hits of Logan, Hepworth and Ellen was trying to mark itself out in a market which had four 'serious' music weeklys, and a clutch of in-depth monthlies. I suggest that Hepworth's attempts to run counter to industry wisdom was supposed to carve ver Hits a niche, and not flood the market with sock-colour type questions.
Of the future, writer Martin Edlund suggests that the hyperlinked age doesn't need 7,000 word reviews - just the seventy to make people want to download (in short, his theory is that it takes a whole mess of newsprint to persuade someone to get the bus to the shops, buy an album, come home and try; it takes only a few words to get the same person to type a name in an MP3 search engine). This, of course, is true, but it doesn't really get to grips with what people want from a music paper - its interesting that Mojo and Uncut are doing (relatively) well, while the papers that chose to pare down reviews (NME, Melody Maker) are the ones which are feeling the earth crumbling under their feet. Edlund suggests that faced with people's access to a "celestial jukeobox", the papers can use the freedom from the need for depth to carry more reviews, casting a broader net. Well... that's one way of looking at it. But a review, surely, can do more than just have a 'buy/don't buy' element to it - when I talk about music with my friends (yes, yes I do - several, in fact) I don't go "It's quite good, it has the single on, seven out of ten"; and while there are many - too many - releases which do deserve little more than a scant nod, many more repay closer inspection. There has to be room in the market for people who want to see music as a part of culture worth more than being weighed up on a 'what's it worth' basis, surely?
BY THE WAY: Originally found the link to the article on double americano, which I've just come across thanks to... well, a chain of blogs and stuff, of course.

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