More thoughts on music journalism

It really is an interesting debate. This guy and I exchanged a few emails. Here's what I had to say:

It's not my profession - I wish it was - but I rarely see a penny for my writing. Just a free ticket to a gig, an occasional CD.

But aren't you interested in what kind of response your music gets? Surely you do? I certainly do. My band has just released a single and we got some ace reviews - some poorly written, some very well written - but we got one really bad review. As it happens, it was very well written. And it was interesting because the journalist assumed a lot about us from our music - he thought we sounded big headed and arrogant,for one, which is hilarious because we're actually quite shy. And the bad review bugged me for days. I was furious and couldn't let go of it. What do you make of the reviews of your music?

I can understand why people are so negative about music journalism - it's often so poorly written and the observations are so unfounded. But if you read a really good piece of journalism which then makes you turn to the music - either to see whether the flaws they picked on are right, or whether it's as good as they make out - surely that's never a bad thing? If someone wrote an ace review about your music and it lead to more people having a listen, surely that's good?

My first love is folk music. Folk musicians are often dependent on music journalists and the specialist press because they won't have their records played on the radio like pop bands, for example, would. I asked two of my favourite folk musicians if they'd do an interview with me as they'd just recorded a new album and they pounced on it because it was good exposure for them. I wanted to have a chat with some ace musicians. And, needless to say, I won't get a penny for it, but I can be rewarded by the fact that maybe a couple of people who read my review will go out and get the CD, or look out for them at a folk music festival this summer.

I'm sure there are loads of really shitty music journalists. Many are often bitter failed musicians, some simply can't write, or don't have any taste. I'm sure there are some who are label execs and music industry types who don a miraculous pen name to write glowing reports about the new band that are going to rake in the millions - for him/her.

But please be assured that there are many who - like me - are just so mad about music that they feel compelled to write about it: what they like, what they don't. If it pays, then good for them. If it helps out a few musicians along the way,then great.

Rows about music journalism

I recently participated in an online discussion on 6music regarding the necessity of music journalism. And someone's a little upset that I defended it - and (lo and behold) - that I appear to be a music journalist!

Well of course I'm going to defend it! I bloody write it! And of course music journalism is biased... that's the whole point, it's an opinion! Music, and the rest of the arts, are created subjectively; are received subjectively - that's the WHOLE POINT!

However, of course, there is also well written and poorly written music journalism - and the well written stuff is a piece of art in itself. I believe that good criticism (and I mean, 'good' as in 'well constructed') only accentuates the good/bad points of the original focus - and surely that's what art, and arts criticism, is about?!

This debate has raged on forever. See Oscar Wilde's essays on the subject, or Walter Pater's The Renaissance - they express far better than I ever would!

A published poem

I met an excellent performance poet called Fergus doing Crow of Murders. He is currently writer in residence at Contact Theatre and today performed a piece entitled 'Sticks and Stones', a word-cycle based on the theme of bullying. Unfortunately I was unable to get to the theatre to see this, but Fergus has published a chapbook to accompany his piece of theatre, in which he published a new poem of mine, 'Sara.'

I'm tres chuffed! :)

As soon as I get a copy, I'll scan it in for the gallery.

And whilst we're still on the subject of Crow of Murders and poetry, we're appearing at Taurus bar in the Village on March 13th. Yay!

My gorgeous new gallery and more writing...

Check out my gorgeous gallery page, courtesy of Chris. You can see some of my cover features and what not. Gives the eye a break from all those words, at least!

And thanks to Steve for adding more reviews to my Sophie's Choice section on Triste magazine: He's a little apprehensive about the hate mail I might receive, but I'm sure any artists would know my opinion doesn't account for much...

Another review...


And thanks to everyone who came to the Air Cav single launch on Friday. It was absolutely fantastic and I still haven't recovered!!

Crow of Murders

Well, it's all over. This weekend just gone, I was one of a group of around twenty who took part in a queer poetry installation at Contact Theatre. The brainchild of Dominic Berry, each poet was required to write a poem exploring the notion of queer love (not necessarily about sexuality) and the poems were woven in to a script. Audiences could come and go as they pleased, and the whole script was performed twice back to back.

It was intense, immense and lots and lots of fun. I've made some great new friends and learnt loads from really inspirational people. There's so much talent in Manchester, it's untrue!

There's a nice write up here, with some lovely photos:

My first review for Spiral Earth...

... happens to be reviewing the new single from my most favourite band in the world - ever! And, my god, was it difficult being objective!

A rant!

When I realised I hadn’t heard anything from the editor in what seemed to be an alarmingly long time, I checked out the Rant! Magazine website to see what was happening.
But I was told the domain name had expired.
As is custom, emails also failed to make their cyber way to the editor and other Rant! cohorts which used that domain.
So I thought ‘give it a week, there might be a big overhaul, site refurbishment, something like that.’
But nothing.
I had the editor’s number – although had never used – so I sent a meek text in her general direction (London, I think)
Still nothing.
So the next rung on the ladder to discovery was an email to Rich Hanscomb, former Rant! music editor, current contributor to wonderful publications such as The Stool Pigeon and Flux, amongst others, and guitarist in Brighton’s Junkboy.
And he told me that ‘Rant is no more.’
He didn’t elaborate.
So it sounds like Rant really is dead and gone which saddens me greatly. I can honestly say I cut my rock and indie writing teeth there, and enjoyed the freedom they provided me to play with words and generally talk twaddle. Actually, I was really mean to a great deal of musicians (ahem! If they can call themselves that!) through Rant, taking the magazine title quite literally to heart. Thanks Rant.
Editor Irene – send me an email and explain yourself!

The Folk Awards 2008

Unfortunately I wasn't able to attend the evening's shenanigans, but it looked (and sounded!) fantastic. And attracted some serious media attention by all accounts - 6Music set up a noticeboard dedicated to 'Folk music - is it the future of music?'

Here are the results, though, in case you were wondering:

Folk Singer of the Year - Julie Fowlis
Best Duo - John Tams and Barry Coope
Best Group - Lau (just got their new album and love it!)
Best Original Song - Prodigal Son John Martyn
Best Trad. Track - Cold Haily Rainy Night The Imagine Village
Horizon Award - Rachel Unthank and the Winterset (whoop!)
Musician of the Year - Andy Cutting
Best Live Act - Bellowhead (well deserved!)
Lifetime Achievement - John Martyn
Good Tradition Award - Shirley Collins
Folk Club of the Year - Dartford (when will it be Banbury, hey?!)

Rachel Unthank and the Winterset

Despite 2007 belonging to this group, Rachel Unthank and the Winterset have recently had to deal with the departure of pianist and comedienne Belinda O'Hooley. It's a real shame, but I'm sure the new arrival will be fantastic.

Here was my review of their RNCM gig last year: