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When Music Journalism Goes Bad

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The advent of social media has been both a boon and a blight on the music industry. While bands have been able to easily get their message/songs out to a larger crowd now, their voice just as often lost amongst the hundreds of thousands of other voices clambering for attention. In a way, it's levelled the playing field, but given way to a sea of mediocrity which will inevitably result in complete disinterest.

When it comes to critiquing these entertainers, there's a corresponding surplus of opinions being lobbed through the ether via the world of websites, YouTube channels and blogs. As more self-appointed music critics are able to get their quickly-cobbled thoughts across to a readership/viewership that scrolls and skims more than actually reads, Frank Zappa's famous quote about music journalism becomes ever so appropriate:

"Rock journalism is people who can't write interviewing people who can't talk for people who can't read."

In theory, the idea of a free-thinking, unregulated, ongoing exchange of ideas and opinions sounds like a utopian wet dream. Unfortunately, the reality of the Internet is instead a parade of dimwits impatiently falling over themselves to recite their dick jokes, type their racist comebacks and swing their anonymous gavels of uninformed judgement for all to see. No more is this prevalent than in the world of music journalism now that any sad sap can churn out their formulaic viewpoints filled with errors and lack of practical music knowledge.

Frustration of this new online world stems from the lack of any required music journalistic curriculum vitae that other maven sectors demand. For a lot of these "writers," music didn't start before Nirvana or even Arcade Fire, so shallow is the trough from which they cull. Of course, we can't be born with music history ingrained in our psyche, but a little research would go a long way. Of course this would inevitably cut into their tweeting, texting and Game Of Thrones watching.

For example, a recent stop in our hometown of Toronto on our North American tour opening for Volbeat yielded a less-than-lukewarm review of our set by Steve St. Jean. The review was so poorly written I couldn't help but distribute it to friends and colleagues as glaring proof that music journalism has been flushed down the toilet. You'd think St. Jean would've dropped more info to feign awareness of us, a band from his hometown that have been around for 17 years, rather than a slapdash description of the audience in attendance, but such is the state of music journalism in 2013. When I got up onstage with Volbeat later that night to sing "Angelfuck" by The Misfits, it was only referred to as a "cover," twisting the knife of cluelessness even further.

I have nothing against St. Jean's opinion on our band. I've been in the game long enough to know that you can't please everyone and got used to scathing reviews a long time ago, but I do take offence at the lack of research before making his opinion public on a website and in the vaunted position of rock music pundit. If St. Jean had mentioned that we played (insert song titles here) horribly, or we were nothing but a poor man's (insert band name here), or our last album (album title here) was a dismal failure, I would've doffed my cap and uttered a humble touché, but there was nothing of the kind.

In fact, I've even reprimanded other musicians when they try and fire back at music critics, even going so far as writing a letter into Toronto weekly Now magazine to defend writer Jason Richards' review of "Atlantis: Hymns For Disco" by rapper K-os when the sensitive self-described "artist" didn't take kindly to Richards' opinion. If you put it out there publicly you should be thick-skinned enough to take it on the chin as long as the review is intelligently scrutinized and disembowelled. That one was.

On the other hand, the site Steve St. Jean writes for seems to be a long-winded pretext to procure free tickets to shows via ticket giveaways to top shelf acts. In my experience, it seems to be the latest way to get into shows -- spend a couple of hours mocking up a logo, shovel some paragraphs of nonsense on some popular band in order to satiate publicists' concerns and wait for free tickets to come barrelling in. It seems a fair barter, but these sites fail to hold their end of the bargain up when halfway through their effort it's clear they don't actually know what they're talking about.

Still, there are bona fide music journalists out there, dwindling as the years pass, whose opinions I cherish and hold dear. These are the savant writers who've earned the title of authority through their encyclopaedic recall of music history and distinguish themselves further by captivating written words. The rest, however, are just sucking air trying desperately to hold off the truth that they don't know anything past the 2012 Grammy nominees. I guess by reviewing St. Jean's review of us, I have inadvertently thrown myself into this mess too, so suddenly Oscar Wilde's quote is quite apt:

"By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community."

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