Vol 2, Issue 16: Alternative Sources of Revenue Conclusion: Music Journalism

As a professional touring musician, as one may expect, I have encountered my share of “bad press”. Obviously, I’m so egotistical to believe that I’m immune to criticism. Just like any other musician, I realize that not everyone will believe that I shit gold (so to speak), BUT that’s fine with me, as I understand that these days, very rarely, can bands break generational, and cultural barriers managing to appeal to a highly diverse population. Instead, today’s music industry relies more on “niche” marketing. My bone of contention, however, lies in criticism that has no sense of validation. So when I say “bad press”, I am not merely referring to instances in which reviewers have disliked my material. Rather, I am making reference to journalistic pieces that are ill-researched, ignorant, and downright belittling to artists and/or media exposes that purport the never ending lie of “overnight success” stories; a symptom that seems to be widely affecting the world of music journalism.

My biggest concern relating to these pieces is, of course, their readership. Seeing as musical preference is highly subjective, and journalists are seen as being “experts” in their field, I, as not only a musician, but also as a music consumer, feel I am entitled to more. Between finding out that apparently I’m the drummer in my band (who knew?!) to being told that indie musicians should be grateful for illegal downloading to having the very SAME reviewer on two different occasions give my band completely contradictory critiques regarding our songwriting abilities, I’m beginning to think that, like much of the music industry, music journalism has lost any sense of self-respect and professionalism.

To me, it seems rather obvious that a big part of the problem comes from the fact that music journalists are NOT musicians, have NEVER been musicians, nor is having any musical background a prerequisite to getting hired. It’s one thing to be appointed a position of music journalism for being a decent writer, but knowing your field of so-called expertise, in my opinion, is a must. Additionally, in many cases, the writing isn’t even all that superb. Filled with grammatical mistakes, and a limited vocabulary, the average cd review that a band presently receives rarely even utilizes necessary terms from a musical lexicon. Now, I’m sure you’re wondering, well how did it even get to this point?

A major contributing factor, that will surely come as no surprise, is the internet. A vast majority of online music zines expect their writers to work pro-bono, and as one can imagine, if you’re doing something for free, likely you won’t put as much effort into it. Unfortunately the result for the reader is misinformation.

Traditional print magazines like Rolling Stone, Chart, and Alternative Press do manage to maintain higher standards, but only at the expense of being highly selective in terms of what goes to print. Because the music industry is so oversaturated, and all musicians are vying for attention, traditional high standing magazines generally can only provide exposure to well-established bands leaving a void for indie artists. This void, unfortunately for us, is being filled by anyone who has amateur website designing skills, and “thinks” that they know something about music. In fact, credence to what I’m saying is illustrated best in the example of Metal Sanaz.

Metal Sanaz is an Iranian-born “music journalist”, specializing in the genre of metal, who largely owes her recent success and notoriety to the advent of Myspace. With absolutely NO journalistic training, and her only experience relating to the industry being the fact that she is a “huge fan” (it also helps that she’s hot), she has managed to secure interviews with some of the industry’s biggest names in metal including: Gwar, Dave Navarro, Arch Enemy & Atreyu. I personally have nothing against this woman, nor do I want my comments to be interpreted as jealously or cattiness, but from a music journalism perspective, people like her are contributing to the problem; to say it bluntly, her interview skills are pathetic. For the vast majority of the video clips she has listed on her website, the conversations are dominated by the artists, and her questions lack any sense of thought-provocation or direction. Irrespective of this, her popularity continues to rage on, and in fact, she was recently selected to be a special guest co-host along with Carlos Mencia as part of an Operation Myspace Exclusive concert in Kuwait. I guess one could interpret her success as being due to her ability to bring music back to the people which is commendable, but that, I’ll leave up to you to decide. However, this is not to say that everyone’s getting it wrong. In fact, there are some music journalists out there doing more than their share, but consider this: a great deal of them were musicians themselves in another life, prior to their journalistic endeavours. Among those giving lifeblood back to the music journalism industry are Canada’s own Kevin Young and George Stroumboulopoulos, as well as former frontman of Black Flag, Henry Rollins, with whom I will be speaking in my next issue for an exclusive interview.

So what do I propose as a solution? Like those mentioned as well as myself, I think it’s not only necessary, but I feel its our duty to tell it how it actually is. Continuing with our theme of alternative sources of revenue for musicians, I think music journalism is by far the most rewarding among the other avenues we’ve been discussing. Not only can journalism jobs pay generously, but as well, it is personally fulfilling to know that you are contributing to your industry in such a meaningful way. There are tons of musicians, but few who actually stand to serve as role models and positive examples for others. Just as I have tried to offer you all that I can, both good and bad, based on my experiences and thorough research, in an effort to help you avoid making the same mistakes, I harken you to use your musical knowledge, training, and personal experiences for the better.

The biggest problem in today’s industry is NOT the prevalence of industry-related scams, NOR is it even illegal downloading, the artistic part of music and the business side of the industry have forever been natural nemeses. Rather, the issue that needs the most immediate attention is that of music education. Musicians, just as I once did, enter this industry bright-eyed, naive, and optimistic only to become dishearted and jaded individuals upon failure of commercial success. Being sensitive artists, they take it personally, not realizing that today’s industry is set up for you to fail. The rockstar is dead my dears, I’m sorry to report and the industry will never be as it once was. Success is still possible, but in very different ways, and if we, as experienced players do not pass on our knowledge to the next generations, it will only lead to the further perpetuation of this cycle.

Had I been told from the start the honest truth about what I was getting myself into, who knows, I may have decided long ago that a career change was in order. I’m not saying any of this to depress your dreams, I fully believe that each of you is capable of achieving anything to which you set your minds. I just hope that if music is really what you want, that you know exactly how the biz works. It’s been a long time since talent was the determining factor in the success of bands.

About the Author:

Rose Cora Perry is the frontwoman for Canadian hard rock band ANTI-HERO known as “The 21st Century Answer to Nirvana”, as well as the sole owner and operator of HER Records, a management company in which she offers marketing, promotion, publicity, tour booking, and artist development services.

Her band ANTI-HERO has toured extensively across North America playing notable festivals such as Warped Tour, Canadian Music Week, NorthbyNorthEast, Wakefest, and MEANYFest.Voted “Best Rock Act of the Year” by numerous industry publications, their critically acclaimed debut album, "Unpretty" is available worldwide for purchase.

Rose Cora Perry is a dedicated promoter of D.I.Y. ethics, and an avid supporter of independent musicians.For more information on Rose Cora Perry and her band's accomplishments, please visit
http://www.anti-hero.ca/ or http://www.rosecoraperry.com/