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One week ago, some great minds in music writing/blogging converged at Newtown Radio in Brooklyn. The reason was to discuss the ethics of music writing online, and the recent increase in blogger run labels. The conversation was lively, informative and above all, fun. Those taking part say it was constructive, those listening in were tweeting up a storm.
The forum was organized by Visitation Rites and Microphone Memory Emotion. Ari Stern of Underwater Peoples helped us lead the conversation, and Mark from Newtown Radio contributed immensely with his technical assistance.
Ryan Schreiber, Founder of Pitchfork Media; Sam Hockley-Smith, Editor at The FADER magazine and co-owner of Group Tightener, Michael McGregor, founder of Chocolate Bobka and The Curatorial Club, Mark Schoneveld, founder of Yvynyl and co-owner of upcoming label Trig Club and Chris Cantalini, of Gorilla Vs. Bear and Forest Family Records.
What’s the difference between a writer/journalist/critic and a blogger? Does the difference lie in the medium in which said person writes?
Is objectivity possible in blogging? Is it even desirable?
Should we think of bloggers more as “curators” than as writers?
Can and should blogs write negative reviews? Does criticism have a place in the blogosphere?
Is it ethical for a blogger to sell what they have created a demand for?
Can a blogger ethically write about something he or she is also releasing? Is transparency enough?
How important is the question of scale? Would a blogger-run label represent a conflict of interest if it ceased to operate on a limited-run basis, and became a more commercially-minded operation with wide distribution?
Does the fact that a blogger-run label boasts its own built-in pr-outlet give it a natural advantage of the traditional record label? Do blogger-run labels have the potential to transform the record industry from the inside-out?
Are blogs the new A&R?
The concept of “firsties.”
At the end of the conversation we took a few calls and tweets with questions including what we had every reason to believe was a request for Tumblr advice from Carles himself. Unfortunately we ran out of time mid-discussion. This conversation was the first of many so stay tuned.
Stream and download the whole conversation below. Newtown Radio is a DIY operation so keep that in mind while listening. And no, someone was not trying to call in via fax machine.
Enjoy a bit of intro music as we did to get you in the “zone.” The song is “Aftermath: Isle of Self” by Dolphins Into the Future.
Words by Emilie Friedlander and Georgia Kral
Tomorrow at 5 p.m. ET music bloggers and writers convene at Newtown Radio in Bushwick, Brooklyn to discuss blogger ethics and by extension, the future of music writing.
The discussion is taking place during an episode of Underwater Visitations and features Chris Cantalini of Gorilla Vs. Bear/Forest Family Records, Ryan Schreiber, founder of Pitchfork Media, Michael McGregor of Chocolate Bobka/The Curatorial Club, Mark Schoneveld of Yvynyl/Trug Club and Sam Hockley-Smith of the FADER/Group Tightener. Emilie Friedlander of Visitation Rites, myself and Ari Stern of Underwater Peoples will also join in.
We encourage you to listen and call in with questions and comments! 347-725-4163.
Below is a basic outline of the discussion put together by myself and Friedlander of Visitation Rites. Questions we want to address come after a summary of why we are talking about this.
Why we’re having this forum:
We all know that media, music and criticism will soon live primarily online. This is both exciting and daunting because the Internet is currently a free zone where anything goes and boundaries have yet to be drawn. Because we are all actively shaping the shape of music publishing, we are responsible for making it as ethical and equitable as it can possibly be.
We begin this conversation by using the subject of blogger run labels as a jumping-off point for understanding the role of the blogger and the ethics of music writing online.
It goes without saying that we aim for this to be a constructive conversation. Everyone involved is in it for love, not hate.
What is the difference between what a blogger does and what a traditional music journalist and/or critic does? How do you define what you do?
Who do you write or blog for? Readers, bands, your community/friends?
Up until very recently, blogs would write about bands and then labels would see that they had press and potentially pick them up. Its obvious that you love the music you write about and want to make it accessible to the public, but why take the next step and release it on a physical format as well?
Is it ethical to sell something that you created the demand for? Do you think you could possibly lose the trust of your audience as well as your authority as a tastemaker if people know that you stand to possibly profit (either monetarily or though social capital) off the content of your opinions? Conversely, does it strenghten your reputation?
If a print music writer starts a label, that person has an obligation to refrain from writing about the artist he/she is releasing. Example: Hockley-Smith of the FADER/Group Tightener has clearly stated that he will not cover the artists he releases. Why is it that when we switch from print to online, these rules suddenly no longer apply? Is it really just the medium?
How do you distinguish between your label and a more traditional one? Are some smaller labels you admire put at a disadvantage because as a blog, you are already getting into the game with a built in PR outlet?
Many comments from online forums at Tiny Mix Tapes, Drowned in Sound, YVYNYL, have said that if the blogger is clear about his/her affiliations with the music being written about, everything is copacetic. Is transparency enough?
Is there an ethical or unethical kind of blogger run label? What would constitute going too far?
What are some rules that maybe we can agree are necessary to ensure that ethics in online music writing are valued? Should there be rules at all?
The conversation scheduled to take place on Thursday, June 10 at 5 p.m. is loosely about blogger ethics, blogger run labels, what it means to be a critic and writing online. Guests include Chris Cantalini of Gorilla Vs. Bear/Forest Family Records, Ryan Schreiber, founder of Pitchfork Media and Michael McGregor of Chocolate Bobka/The Curatorial Club. The conversation will be led by myself and Emilie Friedlander of Visitation Rites. Ari Stern of Underwater Peoples will also lend his perspective.
The first question we will ask of everyone involved is “Why do you blog?”
I started Microphone Memory Emotion because I wanted a place to write about music. I was tired of trying to get assignments with magazines and alt-weekly’s, and I was going to enough shows, so I thought what the heck, right? I initially began blogging for ME. I wanted to write and therefore I went to the Internet, where anyone can do it.
But after a few months and after I started finding that I actually had some readers, my perspective shifted. I started writing for them, which is what I was trained to do as a journalist. We write because people need information. Period.
It is increasingly clear to me that some music bloggers write for the artists and not for the readers. This is a difficult thing to steer clear of, for me, because to draw the line between writing about something and being a fan of something or somebody is very important. I think this is a trend in music blogging, of writing for the band instead of the readers. I’ve heard from a lot of people that they blog because they want the band’s they like to get successful or to have more fans. I don’t think this is a bad thing, it’s just not why I do it.
A lot of times when I write about a band or musician they will thank me. But I am not writing about that artist for them, I am doing it for my readers. I understand why they are thanking me, i’m helping get their music out there, but they should really thank my readers.
As in all forms of media, transparency is something we must all strive for. Even bloggers, who are clearly not held to the same standards as traditional reporters/writers/critics, though I believe they should be, should disclose their relationships with those they cover. It’s only fair to the reader, to know that they can trust the person they read.
BUT, if you’re blogging not for the reader but for the band, are the same rules of engagement necessary?
These are all questions we hope to discuss in the radio conversation.
Who do you blog for? And if you’re a blog reader, why do you continue to read certain blogs? Do you trust the bloggers? Does that play into your choice to read their blog? Or is it really only about taste?