Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Articles [NAJP]


Another music mag raised from the dead--a big one this time. There've been rumors for a while, summed up here. Now comes definitive news that a dead-tree version of Vibe will relaunch as a quarterly, under the direction of its former online editor. The notion that "entertainment coverage" will proceed "daily, hourly, by-minute" doesn't exactly warm the heart of somebody who believes--in fact, knows--that good criticism takes time, especially given the special fondness of the r&b sector of the biz for the "listening session" in which reviewers only get to hear new recorded music in the presence of its proprietors, often just once. But it's a lot better than what we had at the end of June.

Together with the three resuscitations I noted earlier this month, I wonder whether the death-of-the-music-mag panic was even more recession-driven than I thought. Now that the economy is seen as reviving, venture capital comes out of hiding, end of story. I hope not, because I don't believe the economy can fairly be called revived until there's a substantial increase in the number of decent-paying jobs and a revival of the industrial infrastructure--I live off the "information economy," but I still take the Marxian substructure-superstructure model seriously. Maybe that will right itself--that is, be righted by a government smart enough to know that saving the "financial markets" is only the first step to recovery. If it isn't, yet another bear market could undo us all.


By Maura on August 26, 2009 3:29 PM

Not to rain on any parades, but I'm going to hold off on feeling relief until a) I am holding an issue of the quarterly in my hand and b) I know that most if not all of the writers and photographers whose work is inside were paid.

Two reasons for this: First, it seems like Vibe's new parent company InterMedia has a lot on its plate in the very near future (apparently it's also planning on relaunching Soul Train this fall); second, the press release that was issued when the site purchase happened talks a lot about digital initiatives being the "centerpiece of the new venture." Perhaps I've worked in the dot-com world way too long, but when I hear digital-forward rhetoric about editorial businesses, the business models that come to mind involve either an over-reliance on "user-generated content" or armies of interns---which is to say, the people who provide the words and pictures are probably the last ones to see any money. (The two original team members touted in said release were on the business side of the operation, which seems worth noting.)

By peterike on September 9, 2009 8:29 AM

Apparently the music mag business is as blinkered as their fellows in the news biz, and equally clueless as to a big part of their steady decline. Yes, the internet and all that. But you never take note of a critical aspect of things: the relentless, tedious, wearying Lefist slant given to everything.

For eight years it was nearly impossible to read a piece of music criticism that didn't cough up a hairball about George W. Bush. The fact that these criticisms were for the most part spectacularly uninformed, wrong headed, cliched Lefty fantasy rants of the worst kind didn't help matters. But more than that, why do I want to be scolded when I'm reading a record review? And why do I want to have the writer's presumed moral superiority thrown in my face? Especially when that moral superiority is a product of gigantic ignorance about the world?

This is a very large part of the readership decline. You lost your right-leaning readers (they aren't all knuckle dragging trailer park hillbillies you know) years ago, and during the Bush years you alienated the vast middle, who didn't need any more of your moral castor oil forced down their throats.

Naturally, this is the last thing the Left will recognize. Well good riddance to all their propaganda outlets anyway. Let the out of work journalists now go discover how the real world works, and learn how the people that actually make things run and create the wealth that allowed such historical fancies as rock magazines and rock critics to exist never deserved the contempt that rained down on them from the Olympian heights of Mount Journalism.

Articles, Aug. 26, 2009

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