The music industry is a funny one. Similar to acting, there appears to be much hype surrounding image and publicity. That music has its own Oscars is reflective of this. You don't see such shenanigans with visual artists or poets. Writers are apparently meant to be neurotic, angry and self-loathing, so people don't generally ask more than that of them. Musicians, on the other hand, are somehow meant to be sexy, stylish, distant yet engaging, talented and yet consumable. Not many other creative arts industries - apart from actors - even conceive of making a living from what they do. Musicians - and there are SO many of them now, it seems - do appear to believe a career is inevitable.
With all the hype dedicated to the music industry, I've found that everyone wants to be a part of it. I've had friends state to me that they wish to become music bloggers purely because they will get free passes to gigs; they don't seem to hear me when I tell them that I buy my tickets to 90% of the gigs I write about. They don't care about giving an honest and unbiased opinion about a band's performance; they'll do anything to get access. And that, to me, is the flipside of blogging; sure, it gives everyone the opportunity to express themselves, but it can also be a part of the problem. Fans who blog are giving assurances to their idols that anything they write will be positive; it's like unpaid PR.
When I began writing about music, I was in the throes of studying part-time for a journalism degree that I thought might pull me out of my aimless government job and throw me into the world of Hunter S. Thompson and John Pilger. I thought the music journalism experience would be a key to gain entry into the wider world of journalism. How wrong I was.
Writing for free for the many music publications that are out there can be demoralising at times. You are thrown crap music to write about and you do your best not to tear shreds off people and destroy their dreams of becoming an artist. (And yes, some people ARE that sensitive.) You constantly ask to cover gigs of musicians you really like, only to be turned down because someone closer to the editor got the gig. You get asked to write positive reviews about bad albums, yet your positive reviews about good albums don't get published because the editor has an 'issue' with that band. In some cases, editors are even personally abusive and, when you're writing for them for free, that's REALLY not on! THEY depend on the contributors, and the more editors who realise that and stop disappearing up their own arseholes with self importance, the better. You start to meet musicians at gigs who seem really friendly...until you realise many of them only speak to you because you can promote them for free. Like one guy in a local band who acted like a really good friend for a couple of years until I stopped writing for Faster Louder, when apparently, I ceased to exist. I've come across more users in this industry than I care to admit, but on the other hand, I understand their desperation: it's a nasty race with far too many competitors on the same track.
Since I began writing about music - it's been six years now - I've begun to feel that I don't LOVE music as much as I used to. I find that, after listening to so many albums, I have become desensitised to the formulas many musicians depend upon. Like a porn addict, I am now in search of more and more unusual and confronting music to get a rush. And 9/10, I am disappointed and left feeling empty and unchallenged, as a listener.
When I began writing about music, I was also a dabbler in music. I could play piano, drums, a bit of bass. I'd been in a couple of bad bands in the '80s and had never quite thrown those aspirations away. Since I've been writing about music, I've mentally turned to the other side of being a voyeur instead of participant. And this saddens me. I would rather be creating than writing about people who are creating. Does any of this make sense?
So, yes, I started writing about music because I loved it, but after six years of doing it without any kind of remuneration just because I don't like Lily Allen or Lady Gaga - watching other people make money from the writing that I and countless others do for free (and there will ALWAYS be someone out there willing to do it for free) - I've reached the point where I've thrown my dreams of writing for one of the big publications to the wind. I've watched people who've just started writing sky-rocket into the paid music journalism racket, writing for Rolling Stone, J Mag and the like, because they have the right image; funny how the image 'thing' trickles into the businesses at the edge of music as well... You begin to wonder: what am I doing wrong? why that person and not me? And it's a pointless process because you either have what people want or you don't. My music writing appears to land in the latter group.
I have decided, for the time being, to keep things simple with My Aural Fixation and to learn from the musicians who I admire not only as creators of something wonderful, but as famous people who have some integrity and substance. No more news updates or excessive tweeting; I've found Twitter, for me, to be the single biggest time waster in the history of the internet! Useful, for other reasons, but bloated offerings. I mean, how many times can something be re-tweeted before it loses its value? I will only tweet if I have written a new review, or have written something interesting about the industry. I won't be engaging as much with musicians on Twitter who, let's face it, rarely respond anyway. (Although, ironically, I will get responses from very famous people like former Duran Duran member, Andy Taylor, and Slash, but a local musician will ignore me. Funny.)
I will continue to seek out interesting music from across the globe, and let you know about it when I come across something special. But I would like to stop and think about the actual craft of writing and my love of music...I need to fall in love with music again.