Reading – AAN Convention: Is It Worth It? Taking the pulse of print and music journalism – Music



Opening night with Dale Watson & Ray Benson (Photos by John Anderson)

Last week, hundreds of post-apocalyptic survivors – especially staff from alternative weekly newspapers from across the country – gathered in Austin for the annual convention Alternative News Media Association Conference. As the the Chroniclemusic columnist of, yours truly acted as an unofficial after-hours concierge, directing conventioneers to the honky-tonk in Mike and the Moonpies, circular pit for Time of annihilation, and part of the warehouse with Sailor Poon. For the official AAN festivities, your local host publication served as the musical equivalent of the chest.

Thursday began a collaboration between American troubadour Dale watson and Asleep at the wheel leader Ray benson To Stubb. Pairing the two most garish Telecasters in town – the first covered in silver coins and the second covered in heifer-valued leather cactus blossoms – the double baritone duo offered a glimpse of their hardware. next album “Dale & Ray”. The title song likely found Watson puzzled for lonely star beer unlike Benson still standing tall for the hemp hall.

On Friday evening, the AAN clan witnessed a Jimmie vaughan performance at that of Anton. Hours before the appearance of the longtime Texas legend and Austinite, I heard yahoos on the east coast type in his name. “He is Stevie Rayit’s the brother, isn’t it? Probably the little brother who slept on Stevie’s couch. Mike Flanigin and beat rock George rains, unleashed an hour-long set of instruments mixing blues, jazz and vintage rock, as well as a song by Bruce CanalIt was “Hey Baby” that brought the house down.

Not to be confused with the exhibition “Discover the dinosaurs” which took place in parallel with the Palmer Event Center, Austin’s first AAN since 1993 focused on another nearly extinct creature: the alternative print journalist.

“I imagine that many of you devote most of your energy and effort to staying financially afloat”, famous flibustiere Wendy davis offered in an opening speech, adding: “We are all better for your willingness to do this.”

All participants missed a major opportunity by not booking Alex jones for a speech. The paranoia peddler from his hometown, who pontificated that the Chronicle co-owner Louis Noir helps New World Order with anti-gun brainwashing, could have explained how Thursday’s shooting in Dallas is part of a The United Nations plot to overthrow America. Alas, even Jones knows there is no money in print: his Infowar magazine ceased publication over a year ago.

Round table: Is music journalism dead?

So goes the alt-weekly scene of the fallen nation Phoenixes (Boston) and Guardians abandonment of post (San Francisco). The number of local rags exploding has increased the number of AAN members from 135 to 114 since 2009. According to the deputy director of the AAN Jason Zaragoza, major market alt-weeklies have been hit hardest by stiff competition from cultural blogs. In other dark news, the Pew Journalism Research Center followed an industry-wide drop in circulation last year. The the Chronicle, still independently owned by local black pirates and Nick barbaro, has remained fairly stable, remaining the fourth most widely broadcast alt-weekly in the country.

Browsing through a pop-up library of weeklies, “Playback” noticed that most of the music sections consist largely of short reportage and concert previews. The periodical you read remains biblical in comparison, with about twice as many editorials as most others. But why waste ink when music journalism is dead?

This was the question posed during an AAN panel imagined and moderated by the Chronicle Music editor Raoul Hernandez, and debated by three generations of newspaper scribes: Michel Corcoran, Andy Langer, myself and Libby webster. Hernandez opened the discussion by shoveling dirt on the coffin of music journalism.

“Like music in the digital paradigm, the omnipresence of musical writing makes it worthless,” he said, explaining that the fall of the big labels has democratized the field for artists, but has also resulted in a so many of them that music consumers just stick to their own niche without worrying about the rest. “Plus, the digital player generation doesn’t care who the music is or the point of sale because they just consume the news site by site, tweet by tweet. The day they fired David Fricke of Rolling stone was the death of my profession. “

I have argued that music journalism is not dead; it is simply lost elite status. Just as technology has opened the doors for any wanker to become a DJ, the doors to songwriting have opened for selfless charlatans who blog without facts or critical analysis. The double stream of unfiltered music and uniform analysis only reinforces the role of the music critic.

Corcoran recalled how, growing up, he took music criticism as gospel, only later realizing that it was subjective, which informed him of his freedom from a perceived “expertise”.

“Everyone tries to be right all the time,” he said. “It’s good to be wrong sometimes, like when I wrote that Oasis‘the first two records were better than the first two Beatles records. Music journalism isn’t meant to be right. It’s supposed to open people’s minds. “

Jimmie Vaughan at Antone

Langer made an important distinction: “Music criticism may be dead. Music journalism is not.

The latter – news, long artist profiles and stories impacting the scene – will always be of value, especially in the context of the alt-weekly. This is as long as it is published in a consistent and authoritative manner by publications that invest in good writing.

“Ideally there’s some level of editors in place, writers going out to get stories, maybe even minimal fact-checking. I know that sounds crazy,” the drive continued. KGSR DJ and Squire musical columnist. “If it’s all about being the first and getting clicks, this is where music journalism is in danger.”

River boat players leader Mike wiebe, who sat on the panel after opening it up by reading their “worst touring story ever” (see our July 8 issue) agreed that the in-depth music features have the most impact for bands: ” You get those momentary swells when hip blogs mention you’ve got something new, but when there’s a really thoughtful piece written, it seems to resonate. “

Flipping through many alternative weeklies, “Playback” noticed a lack of analysis on local albums, so perhaps the established forms of review do not appeal to modern readers.

“I don’t think a lot of former music journalists are holding up,” said the Chronicle freelance writer Libby Webster, the youngest panelist. “These are often people who write because they want to hear their own voices, try to be catchy, fun, and incorporate song titles into their reviews – which I don’t think makes sense. you want to be a music author in 2016, you I really can’t mess around with that. You have to say something meaningful, thoughtful, and worth reading because people no longer have the ability to Warning.

“Taste these days is what’s important. If you constantly point people to the right music, you become a gatekeeper.”

If alternative weeklies are to be critical gatekeepers, perhaps we need to break fragile models and explore new frontiers of album reviews. Is the answer tweet-sized blurbs or track-by-track deep dives with built-in audio? Will Online Video Reviews Replace Newsprint? Do we translate reviews into emojis (100%) (fire) (clapping hands), or should we avoid objectivity and become more personal?

Perhaps the famous journalist is dead, but the relevance – as a total force – can be reclaimed. If you believe music criticism is an art and not a commodity, then you must believe in the possibility of a revolution. When that happens, it will really be something we can call “alternative media”.


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