Press Bitching

Layoffs, buyouts, consolidations: These were the trends last year in our business. I know mid-career talents who lost newspaper sinecures and rising freelancers who lost key income when clients cut freelance budgets. When foreign bureaus are being shuttered, do you think the stock-rewarded execs who run publishing care about the quality of their arts coverage? Why hire or commission when you can buy syndicated articles much more cheaply? Better find a way to make those blogs turn a profit, kids.

Rob Tannenbaum

Up until very recently I was employed by the Philadelphia Inquirer as a music critic. To make a long drama short, I'm no longer there. In what I feel is a misguided attempt to charm Internet readers, Knight-Ridder is now asking reporters to provide all sorts of multimedia "extras"—in this "new" world, covering a concert might mean phoning in first impressions while it's going on, then generating brief six-graf updates for the web, and then sitting down to write, on deadline, a review. That's backwards. Seems to me the strategy should be to get the story first and then worry about bells and whistles. This is why I'm not in management.

Tom Moon
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Because I cut pay rates during the web editor job I held in 2005, I'm now paid half as much for the column I resumed upon returning to freelance. I feel like Back to the Future meddler Marty McFly as he watches himself disappear from a picture that hasn't been taken yet.

Nick Catucci
Brooklyn, New York

Lots of big changes for me in 2005. I moved to Chicago. I started my first real job, if asking indie rock bands if their new album is "heavier" than their old ones and fact-checking tour dates counts as a "real job."

Amy Phillips
Chicago, Illinois

At some point in the next couple years labels will stop sending advance CDs and begin to insist that we (heh! older) critics download our music like, supposedly, everybody else already does. This will drive some of my colleagues from the business simply because the ability to see promos is the only way they make a living wage.

Grant Alden
Morehead, Kentucky

I'm hurrying to write this at home, because I had breaking music news to edit today at work, and I still have music news to write tonight. The most disturbing thing from 2005 (besides "the world," etc.) is the quickly-spreading idea that music news is breaking news. When did it get so important to know who was on tour or a tracklist a couple hours before other people did?

Jessica Suarez
Brooklyn, New York

When are critics going to realize they've become press bitches who traded responsibility for ADD and "I was first!" cred?

Nick Sylvester

The new challenge for rockcrits: sitting in a label conference room and reviewing an album in real time through headphones. They should give you a bluebook.

Bud Scoppa
Studio City, California

I may not actually be qualified to vote in this thing anymore because I quit writing for the paper last yr. Still scrawling at I dig the democracy of the blogosphere, although I hate the f*ckin' blogspam. Journalism is one of the most debased professions on this planet. That's why I now work in advertising. Hahahahahaha.

Ken Shimamoto
Fort Worth, Texas

I just turned 26 and already feel like a grizzled grandpa clumsily fumbling with a bunch of newfangled rules. Will I still have a job if I don't start updating a blog every day? I don't ever seem to have time to update this stupid blog, so am I spending too much time playing music, hanging out with my girlfriend, and generally having a life? Why do I feel compelled to organize my iTunes by genre? Why did I spend 10 minutes uploading this CD when I'll only listen to it once? Should I know where to hear this song since Pitchfork only says it's on "mixtapes"? Why did I buy this mixtape for $5, when everyone else just downloads them? Damn kids. Stay off my lawn.

Chris Weingarten
Brooklyn, New York

I started a blog this year. It's been a pretty good experience, though I must say I hardly ever write about music. I find music-critic blogs, even by my friends, to be quite ego-promotional and argumentative in a way that's always made me uncomfortable – that "hipper than thou" way. Instead, I take as my model the world of women's blogs – thinking people's personal explorations of big and small questions from the inside out. Also, I like to post recipes. Unlike opinions about the latest indie release, they have a tangible use.

Ann Powers
Seattle, Washington

My year-end best of lists these days are based on how I think consumers actually use popular music. Singles normally come to us via serendipitous accident: through car radios, random in-store or nightclub play, bar jukeboxes, or a friend's mixtape. So to appeal to the ear and compete against environmental distractions, singles have to have tremendous psychic energy, and a certain intrinsic awareness of both the fragility and the resilience of the human heart. Something about a single—the lyrics, the rhythms, the chord changes; ideally, all the above—has to be clever, ironic, or brutally intuitive enough to command my momentary admiration. Albums are quite different. I require that albums of any genre be skillfully crafted enough to teach me something new or remind of things I should not have forgotten.

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