Monday, June 12, 2006

blogs vs. crits

There's an interesting post about a polemic that's breaking out between conventional music critics and bloggers that has potential to become as big as greasers versus socs over at the always entertaining and informative music industry blog, coolfer. The whole debate seems to have been brought on by a NYTimes review of a recent Tapes N' Tapes show by former SPIN matron, Sia Michel, which certain bloggers took to be dismissive of their collective endeavors. While I think there might be some bloggers out there overly sensitive to criticism, it would be hard to hear complaints of an undeveloped live identity on the part of tn't from someone who presided over a cover issue of SPIN featuring Fall Out Boy.

Another common assertion of conventional music critics is that blogs spread uncritical hype as much if not more than they democratize music criticism. To this complaint, I have to object. First, a good number of the most high-profile blogs out there are maintained by seasoned industry professionals interested in creating an outlet for their criticism that isn't incumbered by concerns that might make it difficult to cover some of these lesser known acts in the higher profile magazines, such as what cover will sell copies (see Fall Out Boy above). It's not as if these blogs are run by a bunch of ritalin addled kids, buzzing from one band to the next indiscriminately. Second, and related to the back end of the first, a good number of the biggest blogs are very consistent and unwavering in their support for the bands whom they choose to champion, much as conventional critics are. Quite the contrary to the suggestions of uncriticial hyping, Gorilla vs. Bear, which I bring in here only because it's mentioned explicitly in the Coolfer article, has been a staunch supporter of bands like Midlake, Beirut, Cold War Kids, The Theater Fire, and Undeniable Records. I might add that, GVB does a very good job of supporting the local talent in his home city and state, which I find to be another admirable quality in his work. Finally, I think print outlets are just as susceptible to hype-mongering as any other, I mean c'mon, Wolfmother is all over every damn magazine out there, and I've yet to see (i hope it continues) much attention given to them in the blogs, right?

Coolfer seems to think that the conventional journalists have been fairly restrained in their criticism of the blogs up until now, but I can't entirely agree, I think it's been pretty chippy for a while now, and that the critics are really quite concerned about the bloggers cutting in on their turf. I mean, no less than Jim De Rogatis and Greg Kot took time out from praising the Flaming Lips and Wilco to do an interview in which they bashed the quality and caliber of the writers/writing at online outlets like Pitchfork, and this was a good 3 months ago.

As a smallish, independent publicist that deals, primarily, with smaller, lower-profile artists, I've got my complaints with all of the parties concerned: bloggers, online websites, and print. I will say, however, that the much maligned Pitchfork, along with a good number blogs, have generally been much more willing to take a chance on a record that they might not have heard of before, and those chances they've taken have seriously helped some of the bands I've worked with make a real go at it. This isn't to say that print media hasn't taken chances on my artists, they have, nor that they don't have some extremely viable reasons as to why it's difficult for them to cover our peeps, but only to suggest that there shouldn't be so many folks hating on bloggers for writing about bands that they're into, which, by and large is still what I believe most of them do. Hell, I'll take Midlake over Wolfmother any day of the week, and you can quote me on that!


Glenn said...

Great Fall Out Boy reset!

bulb said...

What about print critics who also blog??!!??

Most famously these three perhaps:

Michaelangelos Matos (
Simon Reynolds (
Douglas Wolk (

Team Clermont Lucas said...

I think Jon addressed that in there, Bulb.

bulb said...

Well, yes tcl, there's the one sentence about "seasoned industry professionals" using blogs as an alternative space to pursue less "commercially' viable interests.

I guess I should have stated my point explicitly, which is that this kind of setting up of dueling media is bogus. Because for one thing, there are good, bad, and indifferent practicioners of music criticism, both in print and in the blogosphere (I will avodi the temptation to endlessly bodyslam the Palo Altan musicwhore from hell, Gina Arnold, here!). And the admired and loathed Pitchfork as a model site is basicaly a random hit or miss affair, as are to a somewhat lesser extent Stylus, Popmatters, and even the beloved Dusted, to mention the four online music zines I look at daily.

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