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Starting at the End of Something

I have always wanted to spend my time researching and writing about music; conducting incredible interviews, investigating emerging artists, it all sounded so grand. However, I'm a bit of a late bloomer in this regard. I suppose the hustle culture of independent journalism didn't spark the fire in my heart after I completed college, journalism degree in-hand. (I wonder if that makes me less "real" since I essentially, almost immediately, "sold-out") I just couldn't muscle it: the grinding, the gig work, the non-support (financially) of many publications. I hung up my little newsboy cap, fresh from the store, and moved on with my life.


I suppose I never stopped being a journalist. It's such an ill-defined, often over-used term. I mean, I've always been a storyteller. I've always sought deeper truth within experience. I've always worked to share all that I discover and learn, often regarding music, with absolutely anyone who would listen or feign the slightest interest (or simply let me speak uninterrupted for too long). There are so many ways that, upon reflection, my inner-music journalist seeps into my daily life. And yet, it took me too many years to finally let it out. I'm late.


Music blogging is, to me, the purest form of music journalism. I think that independent journalists, free from label pressure, social media engineering, and the new payola of influencer marketing, are able to craft and curate the important relationships between readers, listeners and artists; and it's been going away. What's tough to see is that, in our near-constant access to many artists online, with their label-mandated social media campaigns and endless content generation, we lose a true connection. Perhaps there has been an album in your life, pre-"these times," with which you formed an incredible connection. I think the kids these days (myself included) call these a No Skip Album. What was your first No Skip Album? The one where you were on the edge of your seat, hanging onto every note and every word? I'll give two incredibly different answers for myself: Pink Floyd's The Wall and Lady Gaga's Born This Way (both below). I could tell you the exact time and place in my life where I first listened to these with perfect accuracy. Both of them were consumed all the way through, no breaks at all. I felt like I was experiencing something greater than music. I was connecting to something above the sounds I was hearing. That's the true connection and it's what so many musicians seek to create with their music.




The role of music journalism, on a large scale, has now been reduced to critique and promotion. Critique has always existed as a crucial foil to any art. But now it's simply rating systems and review videos, where journalists no longer position themselves on the same side as the artist. Critique should elevate the artist while providing feedback and space that assist their creation. Yet, in our modern world, this type of journalism just doesn't pay the bills. The promotion side of things is a bit worse. The U.S. maintains broadcasting laws that prevent labels from taking financial payments to promote and play songs on the radio. However, these laws don't go much further (in fact, arguably, they are some of the only laws in the U.S. that come close to touching the journalism piece of the First Amendment). Nowadays, we exist in a space (a cyberspace) divorced from reality, where the lines between truth and promotion are blurred. It's not clear what is content and what is art; what is paid promotion and what is journalism; and what is genuine fans loving a new song and what is a social media influencer entering a lucrative partnership with a celebrity musician.


It all, pardon the expression, sucks big time. Many artists actively releasing music right now, even those signed directly to major labels, agree with what I'm writing. But, we exist where and when we exist. To borrow a borrowed quote, "You think you just fell out of a coconut tree?' You exist in the context of all in which you live and what came before you." Artists know that they did not just fall from a coconut tree. They have hustled, sacrificed, and fought for their art. They understand that the musical context in which they exist is now a game to be played and a cycle that can't be broken so easily. But, this is why I believe that I am not in fact late to music journalism, I am actually early.


If you look very carefully, into music communities around you, you will see the beginning of the end. As music fans, we are slowly starting to see that this does in fact suck big time (I know, I'm a near-poet with my writing sometimes). We are hitting a critical point in the music industry and it brings me so much joy that fans are moving to reject the game, the content, the posts; and are seeking a deeper, a truer connection with music once again. I'm sure that what I'm feeling is being felt ten-fold by musicians and artists. I can't wait to be a part of the future of music, even if I'm late.


-Jackson


 

Thank you so much for reading my first post! Even if it was a short rant about the state of "these times." I just proofread it and realized that I said "true connection" several times throughout. I wonder if my writing brain is demanding that I make everyone listen to the Andrea True Connection, the musical project from adult-film-actress-turned-disco-star Andrea True that, in 1976, brought the world the smash hit "More, More, More."





Bananarama's cover is really good too...






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