Or so Christopher Weingarten (high profile music critic, writes for Rolling Stone, et al) would have us believe.
The dude says some interesting things, so check out the video. There's also this response.
Ah, what the hell, let's go for the hat trick. Exhibit no. 3 is the following statement from Arnold Schoenberg, as quoted by Alex Ross in The Rest is Noise:
Art is from the outset naturally not for the people. But one wants to force it to be. Everyone is supposed to have their say. For the new bliss consists of the right to speak: free speech! Oh God!
Oh God, indeed! Interesting juxtapositions.
Of course, that Schoenberg statement won't be relevant in the context of this post if you haven't actually checked out the Weingarten video. Never fear! For those of you with no time to watch, here are some excerpts, along with my (probably unhelpful but definitely not snarky) commentary:
"And then around 2004, 2005, everyone got a music blog [...] and guys like me got scared, and editors got scared, because people were doing our job for free."
(Aside: Yes! 2004, baby! Hard to believe I've been doing this blog for almost five years, or that my first post was so, well, unceremonious.)
"Music writers and editors became a filter for trends on blogs. [...] Magazines and websites don't discover bands, they just report on trends. The blogger hive mind does the filtering and the critic reported on it."
The observation here seems to be that the epicenter of the critical community has shifted somewhat, from the "official" publications, to the blogs. Of course, from the perspective of the artist, that's not a huge difference, in that there are still critical gatekeepers -- they are just farther down the food chain. (And with that metaphor I don't mean to suggest that the music blogs are inferior. Though some of them may be.)
"You don't need a critic to tell you if something is good; you can listen to it."
Hasn't it been ever so?
"All a music review does now is reinforce the opinion that somebody already has."
By which I think he means that there is a bit of a herd mentality going on in music blog-land, and that the traditional publications have to follow that herd, because that's what people want to read. Also: that there is very little reasoned advocacy going on in music writing as a whole.
"One of the unfortunate side-effects of the lack of critic culture is that people are getting more stratified and separated in their listening habits. [...] It's harder to get exposed to things that aren't in your comfort zone. [...] that dude John [...] was up here saying that Twitter makes it easy to find stuff that pertains to you, and he thinks that's awesome. That's the fucking problem. [...] I can always learn about stuff that's important to me, that's easy. I want to learn about stuff that isn't important to me. I want to be exposed to things. Crowd sourcing killed punk rock, hands down. Crowd sourcing kills art. [...] It's bullshit. You want to know why? Cuz crowds have terrible taste. [...] it's all this music that rises to the middle. [...] It's not the music that's the best, it's the music that the most people can stand [...] if you let the people decide, then nothing truly adventurous ever gets out."
This is the money quote, of course. (See Schoenberg, above.)
Holy cow, the question of genre stratification continually vexes me. I guess it's because, the older the Industrial Jazz Group gets, the more we seem to evolve into some kind of weird, idiosyncratic, syncretic-eclectic monster. Which is a little harder to sell to an audience that likes its genres stratified. (Not saying I think Weingarten is necessarily right. But he may be. Anyway.)
"No one said why these bands were great. [...] and that's what we're missing in a world without critics: the because. #musicmonday is another example: it's just [a list of] artist names and song titles. Lots of who, but no why."
Okay, fair enough. This is the complaint of most college writing instructors, too -- it's the distinction between asserting something and making an argument for it.
Of course (and now I'm going off on a tangent): lately, even those pieces of music writing that are argument-based seem to me to be reducible to a two-step process. First, establish (or choose) a set of criteria. Next, examine how well a given work matches up to that criteria. Which seems to me to be both 1. easy to do, and 2. not very interesting. I wish more critics would apply the "why" question to the selection of the criteria itself.
But I'll have to develop that idea in another post.