Today’s my last day as music editor at comcast.net. It’s a weird feeling to be wrapping up what has been a pretty amazing 10-year journey at the periphery of the music industry.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was never a great music critic.When I first started scribbling about songs back in ’99, I strove hard to connect the music I heard into some social phenomena. Square peg meet round hole. I now realize that most of the music I wrote about never attempted to connect in any way to the events of the last ten years, save for a track or two about New York post‑9/11 or New Orleans post-Katrina. When I look back on the earliest writing I did for Pitchfork and Stylus, I’m tortured by my prose and lack of style.
It wasn’t until I started working with the now infamous Chris Weingarten that I really blossomed as a critic. Chris picked me up off the music critic scrap heap, having been freshly fired from Decibel Magazine, to work on this new site called Paper Thin Walls. There I finally connected with the critical community in the way I’d always hoped: a snarky outsider who simply didn’t understand why so many critics and bloggers all fawned over the same bands at once. Chris helped me discover my voice and he did something no editor I’d worked with before him had done: he would edit my pieces with my input, often in real-time. It was amazing to work with him on that project, doomed though it was. Most of my best work was lost when the Paper Thin Walls servers crashed. Shame, really.
While working there I met my friend Tom Mallon, a former CMJ colleague of Chris’ and the music editor at comcast.net. He and I often chipped in on the blurby, Twitter-on-steroids news items for Paper Thin Walls. It was a lot of fun. Little did I know it was also an audition for my current job, identifying newsworthy items and then finding the right hook to get people to check them out. I have no idea how many people followed our links, but it sure as hell was a lot of fun.
Then the unexpected happened. While I was applying for a job on craigslist, Tom reached out to ask if I was still looking for work. I was. He told me to get him my resume. The rest is history. I started here at Comcast in April 2007, came on full-time in September of that year and have been running things ever since.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the things I was able to do here that I probably couldn’t–or wouldn’t–have done anywhere else:
The list isn’t as long as I’d like it to be, but something I learned during my tenure here was that the passion I had for music keeps shrinking to ever-more insular communities. It may be hard to believe now, but there once was a world outside of Tumblr where people discussed the music they liked and shared it with each other. It’s sad to see that go, but I feel like it slipped through our fingers, at least for those of us old enough to remember the music industry at it’s peak.
I know far too many critics who watched helplessly as our stories about bands were replaced by stories about the devices that played their music and then just the apps on those devices. The point at which every innovation was hailed as the next great thing was the moment I grew tired of writing about music. I’m sure I’m not alone in that.
Which brings me back to Weingarten. I’ve been promising to interview him for far too long and I hope that happens sooner rather than later. It may be impolitic to say it, but people get far too caught up in his persona to realize that his schtick isn’t simply “personal branding.” He’s been an inspiration to me as he’s carved out a niche for himself, saying unpopular things at a time when people tune criticism out altogether. If he’s really the last rock critic standing, we should be grateful. It could be a lot worse.
Will I completely disengage from music now that I’m moving on? Probably not, but I will say that unsubscribing from the PR circuit, as well as the music blogs that keep them alive has been very freeing. In the past week I’ve found myself trawling YouTube for stuff I’ve been curious about. I’m thinking about wiping my iPhone, too, and just loading it with Echo and the Bunnymen and Marble Sheep bootlegs. It’s really refreshing. Take my word for it.
I’m forever grateful to Bryan Mickle’s discerning taste for reintroducing me to The The.