Can't Stop the Music

The 'Voice' invents rock criticism

In 1985 I became a parent and relinquished the editorship to a talented series of successors who know why I'm not name-checking them—they experienced firsthand the space cutbacks that have continued for 20 years (and hey, now pay rates are dipping too!). Many claim our section lost authority around the time I left, and they're right. This had nothing to do with editing. It was structural. The professionalization and expansion of music coverage, together with the DIY-ization and expansion of music production, topped off by the online DIY-ization of music coverage, have rendered authority, which in any aesthetic matter is provisional at best, an utter chimera, no matter how many 100 best this-es and 50 top thats music media sell ads with. Our own contribution to the form, the Pazz & Jop Critics' Poll (which, speaking of expansion, has mushroomed from 24 voters to 793 in 30 years), retains more cred than most—assuming you don't care that it undervalues black music even when OutKast have something out. I do, but that doesn't mean we've rectified the problem.

Robert Christgau (left) with longtime 'Voice'  contributor Geoffrey Stokes
photo: Fred W. McDarrah
Robert Christgau (left) with longtime 'Voice' contributor Geoffrey Stokes

This is not a great time in alternative rock or alternativejournalism—mainstream pop or mainstream journalism either. I never assume my job is secure and certainly don't now, which is one reason I work so hard at it. But the main reason is that I love music, and never forget how fortunate I am to have earned my living as a rock critic. Most of my fellow Voice music writers earn less than I do unless they have other employment, which many do—no other critical field supports so many inspired moonlighters. They too love music, and treasure the rare freedom this paper affords them even at 200 measly words. I thank every one of them for caring.

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