Being a Music Writer Made Me Hate Music
I saw the ad on Craigslist and thought what the hell. Another blog I’d written for just folded and between work, and trying to learn French, I knew I needed the kick in the balls to keep writing. So I applied.
It was the same old song and dance, a tune I knew well. "Oh, we’re just some small-time blog, we can’t afford to pay you, but we can get you into shows for free, and you can build your portfolio. Oh yeah, here’s a list of requirements you must concede to." The requirements consisted of word counts and a commitment to posts per week.
Well, Christ man, I could use the samples, I think. "Sure, I’ll do it," I reply. Who wouldn’t? If all I had to do was write a couple short posts per week and the payoff would be getting in to see all my favorite bands, what’s stopping me?
I started in January, but the only real time to be in Montréal is the summer. Bands know this. They manage to give the city a wide berth from October to May, only venturing as close as Toronto and New York. Touring bands surely share information like tramps traveling the rails in the Depression; you have to look out for one another.
"Shit, stay the fuck out of Montréal in the winter, man, froze my goddamned balls off, and a gang of crusty punks stole all our equipment."
‘That’s nothing, last fall in Pittsburg seven vicious hobos with a chip on their shoulder "made love to" our guitar player, there was nothing we could do; he’ll never be the same.’
So they stay away till the thaw.
The press releases started coming in though. Bland photos of postpubescent boys, their hair askew in the breeze, an edgy graphic T-shirt from their friends’ street-wear line and something from a thrift shop. The backdrop is always either a city street or a country home, cold concrete or pastoral fields.
The language press releases adopt to describe the bands' musical, philosophical, and geographical leanings are better left to baroque poets. Music is a goddamned feeling and nothing else, which is tough to write about, I know, but if I stream the new record and nothing happens, it doesn’t matter if Shakespeare wrote the fucking press release, you still left me dead inside.
The snow melted and bands started coming. I got excited again. Skirting around the issue of paying to enter, I learned, was a lot easier then I had thought. All I had to do was email PR types and feed them a convincing line about my abilities and intentions. It was like tricking someone to sleep with you for the first time; a few "I love you"s go a long way.
But the shows didn’t make it any better. Instead of standing at the back with a beer enjoying myself, I now had to push and shove my way through a tightly packed crowd of greasy humans unwilling to move, just to get a picture. You have to have pictures, without them you’re another fucking hack.
I’d turned something I loved into a regular job, and nobody likes those. It had become no different then when I was paid to scrape the boogers off the walls of a post-office bathroom, except back then the janitorial company I was employed by supplied a mask, industrial cleanser, and as many nitrile gloves as I saw fit.
I’ll always have the local classical station, Dr, Octagon, and the back catalogue of Sunn O)) to get me through the tough times, but as far as new music is concerned, it’s ruined.
And for an added punchline, read the ehow.com guide to how to become a music critic. Five easy steps to fucking up the joy of being a fan!
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