SOMEBODY HAD TO SAY IT

From Yoga Records:

[Here is] “Music Is Math,” a talk by Chris Weingarten. Sums up in ten entertaining minutes the harsh story of what the blogosphere did to music criticism and by extension, music itself. For some reason this isn’t getting a lot of reposts.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: | 26 Comments

About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2022: I publish a weeklyish email newsletter called LANDLINE = https://jaybabcock.substack.com Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca., where I practiced with Buddhist teacher Ruth Denison and was involved in various pro-ecology and social justice activist activities.

26 thoughts on “SOMEBODY HAD TO SAY IT

  1. This guy is a douche. Corporate music journalism is dead. He’s complaining that it’s rotting corpse smells bad and mistaking that for online music culture. MTV.com and RollingStone.com? What the fuck does that even have to do with online music culture?

    This guy should try reading some of the music blogs that aren’t run by successful companies or big dying corporations. And if he thinks big corporate music journalism is so bad, why does he work writing it? Why doesn’t he get off the corporate money tit and go write a great music blog himself?

    Also, who gives a shit about negative reviews? Calling “emperor’s new clothes” on a band some people like may make a music critic feel good, but it has nothing to do with people discovering new music online. If you don’t like something popular go blog about something better.

  2. “Hey everybody, look at me! I’m cool because I use a lot of swear words.” Whatever.

    I’m completely uninterested in watching someone set up the hype machine as a straw man for hipster superiority and insider posturing.

  3. While I wouldn’t want to put it as strongly or as insultingly, Greg does make a valid point. It is worth considering that this guy is coming at the topic as someone who has a vested interest in keeping the old way of doing things around as long as possible.

    But I really enjoyed the talk, and think it was worthwhile hearing it. I’d be interested to hear more about what he thinks about this stuff.

  4. While I agree the hive mind is dangerous and blandifying so are all of the publications this guy writes for. Perhaps if mainstream magazines hadn’t sucked all the fun out of rock writing first the blogosphere wouldn’t find it necessary to finish the job. PS: Does he really mean indie rock or does he mean corporate ‘indie rock’. Still, it’s a lousy culture now, agreed.

  5. I totally understand where he is coming from but I think the whole point of music writing is to write about the music you love. Music writing has never been journalism, even in proper publications. Journalism is objective (or at least as objective as possible) whereas music writing is comprised of how much the writer likes or dislikes this artist and often misguided “insights” into the artist’s life.

    Plus, most of the magazines he cited are only okay publications (by the way, the Village Voice was born out of early zine culture, which many professional writers hated back in the day). Sure, blogs have very little critical content and its a mistake to consider most of them as proper music writing, but I feel like this guy is just bitching because he isn’t making as much money as he feels he should.

    People who care about music should read everything they can about the music. That means they should read blogs, newspapers, fan pages, zines, watch music oriented programs and pick up other magazines in addition to Paste, Spin, Rolling Stone, etc. Signal to Noise, for example, has a really great issue out right now.

    Yes, the new BSS is not really good. But that’s not because some asshole writer said it, its because its true. But if the masses like it, they should like it. I’m far more content living in a world where stupid people like what they like because of mindless blogs as opposed to paid writers—although, I find that lack of ability to discern for oneself to be horrific.

  6. You mean the same Village Voice that was co-founded by that plucky, amateur ‘zine writer Norman Mailer?

    I find your lack of ability to research disturbing.

  7. My lack of research? I know who Norman Mailer is… Perhaps I misspoke, The Village Voice was an “alternative” tabloid centered around politics and arts, written for Greenwich Villagers. Yes, Mailer was a professional writer prior to The Voice’s publication (although his career was just getting started at the time), but that does not change the fact that other journalistic publications detested it. Greg Shaw was a professional writer as well, but he wrote for zines (yes, I know he wrote zines first which is different).

    My point in citing the Village Voice was to say that a lot of good has come out of the alternative to the mainstream press in despite of the naysayers, including blogs.

    But thank you for pointing out my mistake.

  8. He touches on some very true points however, isn’t Chris Weingarten the guy that ran 1000times yes? Isn’t this the man that focused on quantity over quality? Isn’t this the writer who is on an endless streak of self promotion?

    He’s spot on with most of the points made here, shame he’s such a hypocrite – critics should at least be honest with themselves.

  9. I think this comes down to a form of sensationalism. It’s true that Weingarten needs a large dose of self-awareness, but this piece needs to be seen for what it is: a high quality “spin” on the way his job is being restructured.

    I am inclined to agree with his fear of search “optimization,” but I still am unsure what a better alternative would be. The world wide web platform has obviously hurt Weingarten, but wouldn’t a world without blogs (Where we don’t HAVE to use The Hype Machine) take us back to a time when all of our news sources came from the top down?

    Further more, I don’t think any self-respecting indie fan would proudly announce their love of, and deference to, Pitchfork or The Hype-Machine. One is clearly an end-user collection of bands that are popular, while the other has the word “hype” in it. Of course it isn’t giving access to the newest bands no one has heard of.

    This whole piece is written to be funny, and to make a point about the problems involved with horizontally based information structures – which I thought it was, and does. I am just disappointed that he has no respect for the average reader/listener. I might visit pitchfork, but since it is covering famous bands I can recognize that it is not a site for breaking new acts. And heaven forbid I read specific music blogs that seem reliable (All Songs Considered, anyone?), or I search for a fair-handed review of a band so I can inform myself (I wonder how that new Gorillaz CD is anyways…).

    I loved this speech, its just disheartening to see how Mr. Weingarten views the common listener.

  10. as the centralized, top-down media hierarchy continues to crumble, we can expect more of the same from other former snake-oil salesmen and sycophants. glad to see so much skepticism from the arthur readers!

    this is the best time in any of our lifetimes to be a music listener. something has been very wrong for a long time and it’s only starting to turn around.

  11. there is very little right going on in music business. i hate hearing people say shit like, “bands have to…” this that and that. like anybody knows anything. nobody gives a shit for quality anyways. it seems all anybody cares about is who did what and who owns this and who’s got what. who’s the son of who etc. music writers are absolute dickheads. the bands they write for are fucking dumbasses. it has nothing to do with good music. the blogs, the magazines, the internet. none of this has anything to do with music. the music business is going to devour itself. thank god. this guy may make some good observations about things, but fuck, rolling stone? spin? fucking mtv?.. fuck all of that. go to hell and good riddance. your job fucking sucks and it was YOU who fucked us all in the first place.

  12. Pastries, etc: If you want to make straight-up declarations, I’ll see that and raise you. 1. Nothing is turning around. 2. This is the worst time in our lifetime to be a music listener. 3. Top-down ain’t crumbling (Live Nation/Ticketmaster, etc). 4. Everything is stalled or going backwards, the tech dorks have won, and we’re living in a gigantic library/mausoleum disguised as “culture.”

  13. 1: i happen to disagree – there’s a lot more passion and a lot more creators now than there were when i was a kid.

    you can argue that its messy and confusing, or that most of them just aren’t any good, but hey who gets to make that call? not us.

    regardless, his (and i assume your) argument was not that we are in stasis!

    2: you’ve probably been alive for a bit longer than me, but i don’t see how things could possibly be any worse now than they were in the 80s and 90s. mtv? good riddance, it did more harm than good. fuck it, i’ll trade one hundred michael jacksons and lady gagas for a single outfit like sublime frequencies, or an “librarian/mausoleum” like ian nagoski.

    a large part of loving music is digging backwards as well as forwards. that has never been easier. i’ve traded tapes with people on other continents, paid way too much for bootleg cds and hunted rare vinyl at record fairs but i sure don’t romanticize it!

    3: i hope you’re wrong. i’d argue that, despite their bluster, that merger isn’t exactly a sign of strength.

    as tv and radio lose their omnipresence and the value of “shelf space” continues to shrink, the christina aguileras and maroon 5s that make monopolies that live nation/ticketmaster possible will become less and less common.

    4: sounds like you’re expanding the discussion a little wider than just being a music listener in 2010. i’ll just say that i’d rather live in a library than in that awful re-education room in clockwork orange.

  14. nice diatribe. i do hope some higher purpose is intended, though. saying “this situation sucks” isn’t going to do much. still, i did laugh plenty of times.

  15. So, a year later and where are we at? Things are about the same in a lot of ways. Jay was right in that the massive institutions are not about to collapse. However, there is also a lot of really interesting stuff happening online. Curators like Holy Warbles, Ghost Capital and Awesome Tapes from Africa are blowing minds on a regular basis – if not paying anyone’s bills – while Soundcloud and Bandcamp are actually breaking acts and putting money in the pockets of individuals.

    Are things stalled or moving backwards? I think music APPRECIATION actually has progressed to some degree. Are people paying their bills? Well, that’s a more difficult question. First of all, it should be obvious that people are hurting everywhere. It’s also never been easy to make a living performing music. If the cost for it to be a little easier is to create these culture-obliterating organizations like Rolling Stone and MTV and Clearchannel and Tickermonster… then fuck it. Let the amateurs rule.

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