Notes on the Biz (What's Left of It)

On metal, genre-based critical bias, layoffs, industry hysteria, and the Loudness Wars

Chris Neal
Nashville, TN

2009 will be greeted with two gigantic empty spaces in the East Village: that weird, wonderful collector's emporium Love Saves the Day on 7th and Second—immortalized in the 1985 Madonna star vehicle Desperately Seeking Susan—and Mondo Kim's on St. Mark's. The closing of Kim's spikes a particularly deep hole in my heart, as it was the first record shop I frequented in New York City when I began driving down here with my friends from the Hudson Valley. I even remember my purchase upon my maiden visit: Company Flow's Funcrusher Plus on vinyl. It's a very, very sad thing to see these places that helped define NYC for me disappearing without a shred of resistance or upheaval. These are truly dark days for Manhattan, and the reason why I only come into the city when I absolutely have to.

Ronald Hart
West Caldwell, NJ

Rationally or not, I am constantly worried about being laid off. 

David Marchese
New York, NY

My days of making a living by writing about music are probably over, unless and until I get some traction on a book project I'm shopping. I write regularly for regional sections of The Washington Post, and we know how well newspapers are doing these days. For now, I have a lovely paying hobby that I do because I can't bear the thought of stopping, and every day that the postman comes to my door with a puffy envelope is like Christmas.

Marianne Meyer
Reston, VA

Truman defeats dewy motherfuckers!

Rob Harvilla
Brooklyn, NY

R.I.P. Paper Thin Walls. Not so much because I'm forced to bid adieu to yet another repository of sparkling crit wit and talent, or because another stream of steady work's gone dry, but because now my excuse to pummel Whiney with babbling e-mails all day when I'm supposed to be working is no more.

Ray Cummings
Selinsgrove, PA

Until September 1, I worked for Paper Thin Walls, which shut down after a couple of really fun, great years. People asked why we shut down, or—more often—how we didn't shut down sooner. I guess it basically came down to this: 1) We paid writers a fair rate; 2) We had no advertising; 3) We had no sponsors; and 4) We had no subscription fees for content. We did have a well-funded company behind us. But by not having ads (or even space for ads, or even a business model), I think we were no different from other music websites—we were just a little more explicit in our not-for-profit-making. Now, I am freelancing full-time, which is also fun and great in a really different way. One nice benefit of freelancing is that you can't get laid off. One awful benefit is that all of your other music-writer friends can and have been laid off. And then your friends become (at least for a minute) your competition for what little work is out there. But I try to help friends out with leads and whatever else, and they help me, too. I'm hoping things get better this year.

Jessica Suarez
Brooklyn, NY

It's been unavoidable that writing about the year in music has focused almost entirely on the business end, ever since the industry started its whiny, hand-wringing tradition eight years ago, causing panic with dire predictions of the Death of the Album and criminalizing their best customers (those who download a lot of music also tend to buy a lot of music). Let's set the record straight: Albums, like movies and books, aren't going anywhere. Movies have survived cable TV, VCRs, video stores, DVRs, Netflix, and Bit Torrents. Books have survived used bookstores, libraries, and the Kindle. Formats come and go, profits ebb and flow, and retailers open and close. It's the nature of business. Get the fuck over it.

Anthony Van Dorston
Chicago, IL

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