Saturday, October 22, 2016

Is music journalism as we know it irrelevant?

What is it with young bands these days?

There are all sorts of reasons to blow off an interview - if the interviewer in question is a jerk; if you're actually worried that the gig might fall through; or, say, if you're a punk rocker, because you were up all night makin' mischief and are too hungover or messed up to be coherent. I understand that, I really do! And if I can, I'll reschedule, with no blame/ no pain.

I can even understand it if there's a communications/ technological failure. Like, for Psych Fest III the other week, a visiting band who I had hoped to interview  were on the road, with limited cellphone service and lots else to do, and between them and me both trying to avoid paying long distance charges, me miscalculating the timezone for one call, and them doing whatever led them to blanking on the other, I don't really hold a grudge. I would still talk to them if the opportunity arose. And I was able to make the article happen anyhow, much to the benefit of a local band. So whatever.

You know what I don't get, though?

A) Band hires publicist
B) Publicist contacts me
C) I find a home for the interview, tell publicist
D) Publicist contacts band management to set up an interview
E) No one hears back from them, despite repeated attempts on my part and the publicist's part
F) I have to scramble to find another article to fill the space that has been devoted to said band, so the paper isn't left high and dry, and me without a needed paycheque.

I will not name names as to what band I'm talking about, but they're going to play Vancouver soon - a band who is:

a) touring from overseas
b) playing a venue with a controversial history and a rep for kinda disrespectful, chatty audiences
c) probably going to draw far less of a crowd than they might expect in bigger cities, because (I strongly suspect) most people here in this not-world-class-by-a-mile burg barely know them.
d) playing a show where tickets are only $15
e) and worse yet, playing a dreaded "early show," which can sometimes mean the suckiest, tiniest crowd imaginable

I don't know where the chain broke down, exactly, but if they were my band - if I were a member or a manager or whoever dropped the ball - I wouldn't snub a press request, with no reason given. By completely ignoring all my requests, all they have succeeded in doing, besides totally wasting the money they spent on the publicist, is alienate someone who was previously excited to talk to them and go to the show, at the same time causing him to have to do work finding a substitute for the article, and pretty much guaranteeing that he will waste no future energy on them. Hell, I probably won't even go to the show, after the above experience, y'know?

Maybe young bands think word of mouth via social media is all they need these days, but I think they're wrong. Call it self-important or self-serving or what-have-you, but I think what music journalists do actually DOES MATTER; I wouldn't do it otherwise. Yet I gather that this is not just me that this kind of thing is happening to, lately. It frustrates the publicist, it frustrates the journalist, and it really does raise the question of WHY BOTHER? It's not like any of us are getting rich doing this, especially with papers shrinking and no one wanting to spend money on ads.

Am I wrong? Is music journalism irrelevant in the age of social media? What do you think?

(Incidentally, a couple of people in my friends list have asked me to write about them, leading me to spend some time researching them and coming up with questions, which they've then totally ignored. Do not do that, please, folks. I'm getting paid NOTHING for a LOT of what I do, these days - maybe a guestlisting is all I get out of it, often for a show I don't make it to. If you ask me to come up with questions, or even if I am the one approaching you, out of my own enthusiasm for this - if you say you want press, and I come up with questions - then please follow through and give me SOMETHING back, so I don't feel like I've TOTALLY WASTED MY TIME).

End rant.

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