By Will McGuirk
About three years ago I posted a piece on NoPop, a movement by the Toronto kat known as Lonely Vagabond. His purpose was to have people move away from the fast churn-a-round of the music industry and put the slow back into music listening. Music is not fast food. Pop is fast food. We at slowcity.ca like sloooooooooow food.
We like to spend time on our craft, its why sometimes we don’t post news or reviews until quite sometime after an event. We are slow for a reason, to be true to ourselves, our stories. LV asked me to fix some missing links on the original post but I said I would just update the piece instead. Some things are still relevant for the most part, what has changed as expected is the role of the music news industry. It has gone full tilt into Pop coverage and all is Drake while on the other side there is pretty much everyone else.
There is the one and the many. They don’t cross paths often. And for writers on music the question now is what is new, what is news. Does one pursue the many and see what is happening or does one stake out the one for the news cycle. Mostly it is the latter.
From here I will return you back to the original article and LV’s campaign of NoPop.
Music writers have to ask themselves what value does their voice add? Why write?
Writing about (and by writing we mean communicating, whether podcast, broadcast, online or inpaper) something newly discovered is not the same as reporting the news. The pursuit of news is open to manipulation by publicists who feed their clients to the media. Media feed off those clients’ fans who hopefully become readers and consumers of the products advertised in the margins. In return publicists give access to stars. Its a payola, its an addiction and an aphrodisiac. It feeds the ego of the music writer, it feeds the music writers’ brand, its feeds the industry but it does nothing to feed the music.
The @LonelyVagabond, the flaneur of the Six, has wandered Toronto streets seeking the new for many years. He is often disappointed, more often than not. The new no longer inspires.
He is urging writers to reconsider their subjects. He has coined the phrase NoPop, a catchall that includes local, fringe and classic and his aim is to focus on NoPop.
We at SlowCity agree for many reasons but mostly because his idea re-introduces the idea of time back into the equation.
Is what we write worth the death of a tree? That is the question.
It used to be the story would have to matter because of the effort that went into its delivery. But now, as I am now doing I can type and publish at the same time. There is no filter between my fingers and your eyes, your ears. I have access to stars and I have access to ears. It costs me nothing to publish. Not money, not effort, not time. Music is emailed to me. I listen. I write and publish. But I serve no one except publicists with that approach, I certainly bring nothing new to the conversation around popular music, the Kanyes and Taylor Swifts and Rhiannas and reformed 90s eras one hit wonders.
Lonely is asking that we bring time to the publishing equation; that we dig deeper for context, that we do indeed add something new to the conversation around music, our voice by way of our own ears; that we need to avoid churnalism, the easy reposting of press releases; that we don’t publish on a schedule but when something matters.
“when I have nothing to say my lips are sealed”
There needs to more consideration for the music and less for the music industry. I too am worried that my worth is measured in retweets as once I worried that music’s worth was measured in bottles of beer. I too question my value and where I fit in my scene.
I began writing about the Durham Music Scene thirty years ago. I still write about it. There’s not much going on, its in a slump (ironically it is still is) , but Durham Region music and musicians are my subjects, beyond that I am free to write about anything I wish and you are free to read or leave.
More music writers need to write about what they care about and more importantly more music media need to get off the gravy train of pop and write about music that matters. We know it when we hear it even if we can’t predict where its coming from. All of us who write about music have to become better champions of music and wean ourselves of the publicist’s access offers.
Work your street beat even if you are Pitchfork or the Rolling Stone. Go to live shows in clubs near you even if you don’t live in Portland or Brooklyn or Toronto. Hit the streets, become a voice and a champion for new music yes but also for old music, old musicians, dead musicians, small town local heroes. . . everybody’s got one. Raise their profile and put music first.