Thursday, October 12, 2006

Said the Spider to the Fly

Chris from Gorilla vs. Bear addressed Rolling Stone's recent graph/article that pokes fun at "how the geeks who control the music blogosphere destroy the bands they love." Claiming that Chris's raves about the Cold War Kids' show at the Gypsy Tea Room in June was the high point of their career, Chris responded:
Does anyone else think that mainstream publications are starting to give blogs way too much credit (and by extension, way too much blame) by overestimating the impact that the blogosphere has on a band's career?

Here's what I wonder: how come bloggers are treated like they live in a land far, far away from the where "traditional" and "regular" critics live in? I've discussed this topic before on this blog (which celebrates two years today), but once again, some more ideas have come into my head.

When I read this graph, I feel like bloggers are being pissed on for doing something that critics in print publications do all the time (and have done ever since the publications started). The scenario often begins with a band with potential that wows some people who are thought of as tastemakers. Those tastemakers tell other people they know (tastemaker or not) and they are wowed too. When this sharing of wow becomes something that feels like it's an annoyance to those that aren't wowed, a backlash begins.

I've seen print publications declare plenty of praise for some artist only to declare plenty of harsh criticism some time later. The swaying views are in the eye of the writer, but I don't think people realize that a number of writers with different views work at the same publication. In turn, the writer's individual views are often considered in synch with the whole publication's views. No matter if there's a disclaimer or not, this is what people tend to think. I never realized this until I started writing for a print publication.

In the case of Rolling Stone, Rob Sheffield isn't the only music critic at the magazine, but Rolling Stone gets the brunt of the blame or praise for running a piece that Sheffield wrote. The same can be said about Punk Planet. You don't often hear something along the lines of "Justin Marciniak didn't really like the Blackpool Lights record in his review for Punk Planet" as much as you hear "Punk Planet didn't like the Blackpool Lights record."

The way I see it, we're all just talking about what we like and don't like. There is very little difference in where we're expressing this, be it a blog, a magazine or a newspaper. Yet in my two years of blogging, a number of people just frown at what bloggers praise because it's from a blogger. Despite the fact that a number of us spend a lot of time on the Internet, we still act like it's suspect.

Yes, a number of bloggers have a distinct taste in underground and emerging artists. No, they don't often have the credentials like writing for a newspaper or magazine. Yes, there are plenty of people with those credentials that also blog. But for MP3 blogs like Gorilla vs. Bear, Stereogum, Brooklyn Vegan and You Ain't No Picasso, its writers don't have such. So when a number of these bloggers agree on somebody (be it Sufjan Stevens, Cold War Kids or the Knife), those that don't agree pinpoint the fact that the praise is coming from a blogger with no traditional credentials. MP3 blogs like these have reputations, but just because they are blogs does not mean they all feel the same way about particular artists. There is no bloggers union, nor is there a union filled with critics from print publications.

I won't lie that I still get annoyed whenever some critic (be it a blogger, magazine or newspaper writer) praises the hell out of some artist only to make light of the artist years later. It feels like these people always want their music fresh and can't stand the idea of leftovers. I have to catch myself and realize that I do this all the time too. As much as I love one record by one band doesn't mean I'm hotly anticipating their follow-up record. I'd like to hear the follow-up, but I don't try and get my hopes up that it will be good as the last one. I didn't have big expectations for Converge's No Heroes or Cursive's Happy Hollow, but these records are really blowing my mind right now. I have no idea about their next records though.

The debate can go on and on, but I just wish that people would realize there's a bigger picture here. I like sharing what I'm into and what I'm thinking about on my blog. There are plenty of people that could really care less about Killswitch Engage, Secret Machines, Tom Waits or post-hardcore. This blog is just me expressing what I think in a virtual portal. No, you can't touch a virtual thing like you can with a paper, magazine or a book, but this is basic communication above all else.


Robo-Pirate said...

I think its suspect when the critics found in mainstream publications universally agree. Characterizing bloggers as you do here is fairly accurate--a lot of the ones you link to come across as acolytes of the Church of Rob Gordon. I don't really think steretype of the cranky indie snob blogging about the greatest band no one's ever heard of is not unfounded. However, pissing on bloggers because they don't get checks from the magazine that routinely featured Britney Spears on the cover is bullshit, and Rob Sheffield should know better.

pimplomat said...

I'm going to suggest that what people get annoyed with and find suspect is not that some bloggers don't have journalism degrees or work for "proper" magazines, but that some bloggers write about a different band every day, quickly moving on after they've sung the praises of whatever band they liked for 24 hours.

As I've said before, in the past (and currently) magazines and zines would come out once a month, giving readers plenty of time to digest the hype a reporter may heap on a band.

Nowadays, the bloggers move too fast in a lot of people's eyes.

captain groovy said...

i've been listening to 2 bands getting the hype right now.The Hold Steady & the Decemberists.Never really listened before.Both are okay if not the greatest thing since sliced bread.I think there is a Decemberists backlash starting.Point is i notice the articles & eventually listen to the band.What anybody says later is unimportant.And yes all of us who listen to music seriously have a tendency to get irritated when bands become too popular.No good having everyone in on the fun.Plus it tends to raise ticket prices.My Morning Jacket is charging $25 for tickets at the Gypsy Tea Room.Saw them for 6 bucks 2 years ago when nobody cared.That really irritates me.By the way i think the Decemberists do a credible take on REM circa 1983.No insult intended