Is There a Future for Music Journalists and Critics in the Digital Age?

A report by Adriana Mageros

xii: Link to shorthand multimedia story

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xvi: Soundcloud File

With digital journalism growing in popularity, there is much speculation regarding the need for traditional print music journalists and critics in modern society. This topic is newsworthy because with global communication advancements like the internet, there has been a momentous change in the music industry, affecting not only the industry’s artists but their journalists and critics as well. Moreover, this issue does not only involve music professionals and enthusiasts, but the general public as many people identify themselves with music, making this topic relevant for multitudes of people. Many online organisations discuss the fact that digital journalism, such as online blogging, has flourished in the last decade which has affected professional journalists such as the traditional print music journalist or critic. Furthermore, with a plethora of free music available online, there is speculation regarding the need for music journalists or critics in the future. However, there are other discussions suggesting that online music blogging is simply another avenue for music enthusiasts to learn about music, suggesting that bloggers cannot replace the role of a traditional music journalist. Along with data analysis, this report will outline these key issues around the future of music journalism and whether there is a need for music journalists or critics in the digital age.

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Video xiii: Have you ever heard of a music journalist or critic? 

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Spot the music magazine…

Store: Rankin’s On The Mall Newsagency, Queen Street Mall, Brisbane City

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Spot the music magazine…

Store: Supanews, Westfield Garden City Shopping Centre, Mt Gravatt, Brisbane

Blogging Vs Print

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There are many ways online music blogging has affected the traditional print music journalist or critic. From blogs to social networking sites, the internet essentially allows almost anyone to become an expert in any field. Thus, users can post information such as reviews or critiques online even if they are not a professional in that field. This notion questions the need for traditional print music journalists in today’s digital age. Laura Nineham, author of specialty music website, Drowned in Sound, in July 2009 said that in this day in age, the internet allows anyone to publish their opinions and call themselves a critic. “All you need is a laptop and a WordPress account”i.  Nineham raises the argument that one of the main issues regarding music criticism is how the internet allows anyone to post a review and label themselves as a critici. This freedom created by the internet questions the level of art needed to be a professional music journalisti. With this notion in mind, creative-blog website, Clear Minded Creative, released a dissertation by Steven A. Kearney in August 2010, questioning whether the professional music journalist could vanish in the digital ageii. “Where does the music journalist stop and the music blogger begin?”ii  With the internet, anyone can post a review and label themselves a professional music journalist.

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i.  http://drownedinsound.com/in_depth/4137372-music-criticism-in-web-2-0, accessed 7 May, 2014

ii. http://clearmindedcreative.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Could-the-Professional-Music-Journalist-Vanish.pdf, accessed 7 May, 2014

 

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Spot the music magazine…

Store: News Xpress, Myer Centre, Brisbane City

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Spot the music magazine…

Store: Supanews Xpress, Westfield Garden City Shopping Centre, Mt Gravatt, Brisbane

Can music bloggers replace the expertise of a professional music journalist or critic?

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Despite online journalism increasing in popularity, there is further discussion surrounding the notion that music bloggers cannot replace the role or expertise of a traditional music journalist or critic. Scot Hacker, author of online music organisation, Stuck Between Stations, in 2011 wrote a review about the key arguments raised in UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism panel discussion about the future of music journalismiii. Hacker believes that music consumers read about music for many reasons from entertainment to recommendationsiii. Hacker explains that online music previewing sites like Pandora.comiv simply provide another avenue for musical discovery. “Music lovers love Pandora because it provides another avenue to discovery, not because it replaces the ‘role’ of the music journalist”iii. Hacker also acknowledges that blogs can offer an alternative option to the music worldiii.  Music blogs can simply be another way music enthusiasts can immerse themselves in music without eliminating the job of a traditional music journalist. However, with online blogging flourishing this also affects the circulation and readership of magazines.

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iii. http://stuckbetweenstations.org/2011/02/02/the-future-of-music-journalism/, accessed 7 May. 2014

iv. http://www.pandora.com/, accessed 12 May, 2014

 

Rolling Stone Magazine Data

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American music magazine, Rolling Stonev, is an example of a specialty music publication which has decreased in readership over the past 12 months. Roy Morgan Research records Australian magazine readership statistics from March 2013 to March 2014 and an extract from this data suggests that Rolling Stone has decreased in its readership over the past yearvi. This data illustrates Rolling Stone has had a 6.9 per cent decrease in readership (+14 years) from March 2013 to March 2014vi. It also shows Rolling Stone magazine attracting 262,000 readers in March 2013 decreasing to 244,000 in March 2014, which is a loss of 18,000 readers in the past yearvi. This is a percentage decrease from 1.4 per cent in March 2014 to 1.3 per cent in March 2014, a loss of 0.1 per centvi. If this data is representative of the wider Australian music magazine readership trend, music magazines may slowly be decreasing in readership.

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Data: Roy Morgan Research vi

Software used: Infogr.am xi

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v.   http://www.rollingstone.com/, accessed 11 May, 2014

vi.  http://www.roymorgan.com.au/industries/media/readership/magazine-readership, accessed 11 May, 2014

xi. Software used to create data visuals http://infogr.am/, accessed 11 May, 2014

Video xiv: Where do you get your music and music recommendations?

 Free Online Music Previewing 

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Furthermore, with a plethora of free music previewing available online this also questions the job description of a music journalist or critic. With many online websites such as YouTube.comvii, Pandora.comiv, Last.fmviii and MySpace.comix, allowing consumers to preview a song for free, many organisations believe this eliminates the need for music journalists or critics telling people what is classified as a ‘good song’. According to Kearney’s interview in his dissertation with Billy Hamilton, music writer and editor of The Scotsman’s Radar site, the role of a traditional music journalist has not been replaced by blogging, but by the internet and music downloading sitesii. “Who gives a toss about what someone’s opinion is if you can find out for yourself?”ii. With free online music able to be deleted form a person’s music library as quickly as it can be downloaded, a consumer does not lose any money by buying a CD if they don’t like a particular song. Hacker, explains that these online previewing websites, such as Last.fmviii also provide hyperlinks which lead the viewer to similar artists or other songs they may like based on their browsing history. Last.fm describes their site as a “music discovery service that gives you personalised recommendations based on the music you play”viii. By creating an online profile, music listeners are able to save their listening history and receive music recommendations. Users can browse the site’s music database in many ways, including searching by artist, genre or most-popular on the charts. Technologies like Last.fm are also available to users at any time. These sites and their capabilities have become a further issue affecting the role of a traditional print music journalist.

In conjunction with these technologies, consumers are able to share their music preferences with their social media ‘friends list’ causing social networking to act as a filter to find new music. With this wealth of free music information available online, it has become easier for the average person to access music knowledge and recommendations and reviews than it is to buy and search manually through a magazine. This process makes it difficult for a music journalist to keep up with consumer’s demand.

Furthermore, online author of the European Journalism Observatory, Agnija Kazuša in 2012 said that with “such an abundance of free information available online and editorial boards using news agencies more than ever”x. Kazuša makes reference to the number of print journalists having decreased, including specialty reporters such as journalists and critics who cover the arts, as a result of the increase in online informationx. Kazuša mentions that where there was once a group of staff reporters who specialised in an individual field, now a single journalist can report of many fields “thus impairing the quality of art journalism and critism” x. With a great deal of information available on the internet affecting print outlets, Anne Midgette, chief reviewer of classical music for the Washington Post said “I doubt the profession of music reviewer will exist in 15 years”x. Midgette also makes reference to the issue that because of the lack of specialist reporters, the amount of art journalism content has been cut from newspapersx.

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vii.  https://www.youtube.com/, accessed 12 May, 2014

iv.   http://www.pandora.com/, accessed 12 May, 2014

viii. http://www.last.fm/, accessed 12 May, 2014

ix.    https://myspace.com/, accessed 12 May, 2014

ii.     http://clearmindedcreative.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Could-the-Professional-Music-Journalist-Vanish.pdf, page 46, accessed 7 May, 2014

x.    http://en.ejo.ch/6698/specialist_reporting/music-journalism-interview-midgette, viewed 7 May, 2014

Visual: Is there a future for print music journalists and critics in the digital age?

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With digital music journalism growing in popularity and online music previewing attracting more music consumer traffic, the future of a traditional music journalist or critic appears to be unclear. Given that anyone with internet access has the ability to write a music review or critique without being a professional, there are fears for the role of a traditional music journalist or critic in the digital age. This leads to the issues surrounding the readership and circulation of music magazines, which was evident in the Rolling Stone example. However, there is still discussion around the issue of blogs simply being another way for music enthusiasts to enjoy music leisure. Online previewing and the creation of sites like Last.fmi is also another issue, suggesting that print journalists may not be able to keep up with reader demand as effectively as digital journalists. Upon viewing this research, it has become clear that with the range of issues these contributing factors cause, the future of a traditional print music journalist or critic seems uncertain in the digital age.

Video xv: Is there a future for music journalists and critics in the digital age?

The European Journalism Observatory and specialty music website, Stuck Between Stations, are two websites which offer alternate opinions and further information relevant to the future of music journalism.

1)  http://en.ejo.ch/6698/specialist_reporting/music-journalism-interview-midgette

2)  http://stuckbetweenstations.org/2011/02/02/the-future-of-music-journalism/

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Video and Audio Links:

xii    Multimedia story: http://app-qut.shorthand.com/export/d6c2af5747fa446a8e293a8b445390a3/index.html

xiii   Have you ever heard of a music journalist or critic? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6C7I_7EFdC8

xiv   Where do you get your music and music recommendations? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gIfCm2NB6eo

xv    Is there a future for music journalists and critics in the digital age? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKM1gadguw4

xvi  “Typing Masterpiece” https://soundcloud.com/adriana-mageros/typing-masterpiece

 

Interviewees (in order of appearance):

Diveakssh Schae

Amadee Stenzel

Josh Robertson

Lauren Archer

 

Word count: 1,508 words

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