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.