Monday, August 18, 2008

Information Travels Faster

Something I've wondered about for the last year or so is, will music journalists who have made a career out of writing for magazines and newspapers still be relevant in the digital age? I asked this to a writer I've been reading since the mid-nineties and his answer really made me think. He said without any fear or resignation in his voice that, from here on out, more people will read his stuff online than in print. He didn't fear for his job; he just understood how people read his stuff these days.

Another writer whose work I've admired since the nineties recently wrote about this topic, and I've had some more thoughts on the topic.

I still clearly remember a time when Rolling Stone, Spin, Guitar World, and the Houston Chronicle were the main ways I read about music. When I found a copy of the Trouser Press Guide to '90s Rock, I thought I had found something extraordinary. Reading all of these entries pointed me towards even more records and bands.

But these days, how I read about music goes beyond just a few sources. It's not just reading Rolling Stone and prowling message boards. Maybe it comes from having a larger worldview, I don't know. I think it's just understanding there have always been a variety of opinions out there; the Internet just makes them even more noticeable.

As much as I trust the opinions of blog friends like Eric and Jeff, the opinions of writers I've been reading since the nineties carry as much (or even more) weight now. Even when I completely disagree with their opinions, I respect what they have to say. I'm just glad they're still writing and their material is easy to find on the Internet. The fact that most of them have made the transition to online writing is a major plus.

And not to paint all MP3 bloggers or message board posters like this, but I present the following scenario. I trust the opinion of someone who really takes some time to listen to a record or a song way more than somebody who posts a highly-dismissive/superficial comment on a message board after he or she listens to a song or half of a record only once. There's a familiarity with the writers I regularly read; not so much so with someone who hides behind a screen name.

On top of all this, my favorite writers shouldn't worry that bloggers are leveling off their opinions, taking their readers away, and making their future in writing doubtful. I'll just speak for myself here: I'm very well aware of the difficulties in making a career out of writing. I'm not betting the farm that my blogging or book-writing will turn into some sort of career. Writing is just something that I have to do. I like sharing my writing with the people that want to read my stuff. I have the drive and free time to do all this (and I love doing it), so why not?


Mark said...

Coming at this from the film critic side, positions are being eliminated at an alarming rate. Whether it's through direct cuts or passive removal (via retiring writers not being replaced), now is not the time to hope to make a living writing about movies. Have music journalists not had to worry about this yet, or have their numbers already been so reduced that it doesn't matter?

I think music and film writers will still be relevant. The larger question is will they be doing that work as a career or as an unpaid hobby they indulge on the side. Right now it doesn't look good for the pros.

Eric said...

Don't you mean "stolen bikes ride faster?" :)