Remember back when everything was new and fun, before the rest of the world caught on to whatever it was you were discovering & it held a special significance to you? Do you ever get caught up in chasing that feeling, that sense of newness, of perpetual motion towards trying to find your heart in the things that really matter to you? That’s partially why I started Loudersoft, being a part of a sea change at an early stage that changed and shaped the culture we live in, long before it became about traffic metrics, ad revenues and fake snobbery brought on by the music nerddom that has been my life. I am so proud to have been there from the infancy of music blogging. But things have changed. Many of my contemporaries have become even larger-than-life at what I do here. I’ve been reflecting on things, and this is some of what I’ve come to realize as we move towards the lunar new year.
I started as a DJ at the age of ten, collected records, learned guitar, sang and played music semi-professionally for a lot of years & worked in film and television to pay the bills. During all of this, people I knew were bombarding me with new music, much of which I thought was great but feared would get needlessly overlooked by a changing music industry. I felt that I needed an outlet for talking about what I was doing & I personally thought about LiveJournaling, but then I got introduced to this music blog thing. I realized that through writing a music blog, I had a wide-open opportunity at sharing these discoveries in music that were given to me by fellow musicians and friends in the industry.
Music blogging has, for a long time, helped bridge a gap for me, but lately it hasn’t been any fun at all for me. It became just another responsibility I felt like I’ve had to fulfill that I, for whatever reason, couldn’t. The fear of writing anything became crippling to me. It’s kept me awake at night, recently, sitting in front of a blank page, listening to something I didn’t connect with waiting for words to come that were missing. For several weeks I felt like I was at the bottom of a well & the moment I’d get inspired to say something about music or how I was feeling, I’d distract myself.
Dispassionately, I willingly confess my sins of getting caught up in chasing down these discoveries, trying to be different and unique, all the while trying to fill every post that I made with the sense of joy and passion that music gave me. For a while now, other than Future Unlimited and Fast Planet (whom I feel strongly are two of the best bands making music in this or any other era), I haven’t had anything new to say about what’s coming out, and the directions modern music has taken in many ways haven’t really been for me.
I looked around at the bands & artists in the city I live in, Memphis. I have written about a few of these artists, and the ones I have given my attention to continue to do good things. There are plenty more that, while I may not personally like them or write about them, continue to do great work. But there is a grand disconnect. Some folks look to me and to you, my loyal readership, with expectations. They get upset because they think I’m bogarting you, that they know what you’re about, who you really are and what you really want. Some believe, incorrectly, that music websites/blogs are supposed to be the giving tree, that because we’re writing a publication about music we have an obligation to write about them or their project or their band. I get insane emails from people who refuse to take their crazy pills. But mostly, I get emails from people who believe in what they’re doing and love making music and love to share their music, people with good hearts and souls.
There’s also some people I have asked to share their critical reviews with my readers that, instead, took it upon themselves to start their own blogs or websites. To them I say good luck. I might be insulted if I thought that the people who did this just to spite me were any good at it, that they were doing anything except writing as a reason to cop some freebies. But let’s face it: being malicious only suits to serve their ends and never mine. I wish them all the best & hope they someday discover what it means to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
It’s difficult to find the balance between saying yes to things I don’t think are very good and saying no to some things that I do think are quite good but will not interest the people who read my website. I am curating content, but please understand: I’m not (nor are many of the others who write music blogs) merely a publicity machine who posts every song, every flyer, every show notice that is sent to them. However, it’s safe to say without those emails I would have never discovered the Future Unlimited or Fast Planet, so I’m ultimately grateful to continue receiving them. I hope you won’t take it personally when I don’t post about your particular “thing”, but if you take it personally there’s not much I can do. There is a deafening signal-to-noise ratio in music because of the sheer volume of output all around us, but there is one truism which holds. To quote the great Zora Neale Hurston, “If you haven’t got it, you can’t show it. If you have got it, you can’t hide it.”
At some point in the last year, I began to feel a strong compassion for the people I’ve met who are actual journalists that write about music every day, people who recognized at an early age that their passion was for reporting the doings of the world of music. I see now that they have it tough, that there simply aren’t many genuine critics in the modern era. I am inspired by the ones who take on the process with sincerity, yet I feel none for the many who adopt the cloak of music journalist as a fashion statement. Is music blogging a fashion statement? Surely I do not know; for me, it has only ever been about pushing out the music that I want to celebrate, and the element of fashion that exists within that desire does so independent of my intentions. I fear at times that I’m tricking you into believing that I know something about music that you don’t, that through this trick I’m able to stimulate your imagination in the way my imagination was stimulated in hearing what I loved. I have learned that being well-intentioned is rarely enough, and certainly not enough to propel successful music journalists forward. They ultimately sacrifice any sense of self in order to deliver, and that’s what keeps them impartial.
You might start to get the impression that I’m just bitching. Fair enough: I’m bitching. Half of you wish it was you that was bitching and the other half just want the free MP3’s at the bottom, I understand. Believe me.
With so many variables at play in the world of this organization, it has become very easy to get overwhelmed. There’s only one of me, but I am hopeful, you see. I haven’t completely given up on this process. I know I will get back to myself. I recognize that there’s a point at which all of us have to ask what our truest ambitions are & how we can achieve them. I put myself to a test to see if I could go several days without lazily updating any of my social media (my Twitter, my Facebook, my Instagram, my Tumblr) in the hopes that by taking a break, I’d find some new measure of meaning.
What did I do instead? Well, I’ve been wrapping out 2012. I did send a couple of Snapchats to people (because they snapchatted me and I didn’t want to be a dick), but mostly I read and focused on things other than music. I did a lot of meditation. I shaved off my beard. I did laundry. I made a lot of (gasp) phone calls to people. I made delicious vegan curries. I watched a lot of British television shows. I rode my bike, and last night I went out to parties and listened to my friends DJ’ing their fucking hearts out, putting in work at delivering and sharing soul-stirring music that crossed eras and genres. I listened to a lot of house music, afro beat, I listened to Bowie’s Station to Station and The Smiths and Massive Attack all on repeat, I wrote, and I even cruised some dating sites (to no avail, oh well).
But even now, I’m still trying to figure out what all this means. This coming year is filled with huge and promising opportunities for me and for the artists I work with. I will continue to devote my time to their ends & to giving them the attention which they have earned. But I am asking the universe for a renewal: I want this to be new again, to not be caught up in a world of worrying about metrics and click-baiting, of first posts and aggregators, of sources and exclusives and special this and streaming that, of finding some new revenue stream in order to keep the lights on that doesn’t require me to shit on all the people who I held hands with before we were all made dirty by the tide of gold-colored stones cast on top of us. Like some of you reading, I have learned too much about the desperate dozens who thrive on that life, people who at once will admonish you for your selloutitude then turn around and sell themselves out to get the exact same thing you wanted. You can fight it for a while, but some people insist on becoming the heartless, shameless self-centered pieces of shit they secretly were all along. Maybe I’m one of them, and to someone out there I probably am. In this world of mass media and social media and pads and notebooks and phones, of apps and app developers and startups and investor capital, it can be quite difficult to remain captivated by my passions, to share them with you honestly and not become a jaded bitter wreck like so many of my friends.
But I promise to continue trying. You want to fight me for it? It’s my soul and I say it matters, so let’s fight.
“Never for money / always for love”