Today, a proposal for a SXSW 2011 panel went up and caused quite a stir on the music blogger circuit.
The kids who invested hours downloading discographies and reading band bios have emerged from their parents’ “computer rooms” to become bonafide tastemakers. Armed with diverse external hard drives and an Internet savvy built on constantly prowling for more, these home office dwellers are inspiring droves of people to seek out new music. Seeing as Nickelback was last decade’s “most successful band,” and Rolling Stone Magazine extensively covers the Twilight movies, this army of blogging youths is vastly considered to be a blessing.
So far so good, right? Well, not if you’re Christopher Weingarten– the Rolling Stone/Village Voice/etc. contributor who inspired the panel in the first place, aptly named Curatorial Culture: The Case Against Christopher Weingarten. Ouch. You probably know Chris better as self-proclaimed “Last Rock Critic Standing” and the man behind 1000TimesYes, or for his absolute hatred of people like, well, probably me.
The thing is, a lot of times, we find ourselves agreeing with what Weingarten has to say. I mean, the guy is full of music opinion, awesome one-liners, but also what I sense to be a frustration with not being able to keep up– and I know the feeling. But according to the man behind the possible panel, Sawyer Jacobs, the Head of, um, Friendship at Underwater Peoples (for those of you who aren’t sure what that means, it’s just another way to say marketing if you’re a laid back kind of record label), the Curatorial Culture isn’t meant as an attack but as a conversation about a difference of opinion. “While it’s title may suggest combativeness, it is in fact a thesis infused with positivism,” Jacobs insists, “I fervently believe that personalized curating is the future of cultural criticism.”
“I don’t think the panel will be about him,” adds fellow music blogger Georgia Kral of Microphone Memory Emotion, “it will be about the power of bloggers. The people who are proposing the topic, I think, want to make the point that blogs are in fact helping musicians, rather than hurting them and they’re using Weingarten as a catalyst, because he has come out ranting against blog culture.”
I think we all agree with Weingarten’s main issue, the demise of long format criticism, but we didn’t change music journalism– music journalism changed us. We’re an internet generation with an abundance of knowledge at our fingertips that keeps evolving further into a world of 140 characters or less, but this gives us the opportunity to disagree publicly with what major record labels, magazine editors, and previous corporate tastemakers are trying to sell us.
I got a chance to catch up with the man behind the possible panel via email to talk about what a curatorial culture is and whether or not print is actually dying. Sawyer Jacobs, along with Web Ecology Project co-founder, Jon Beilin, need your help to get this panel official, so read the short interview below and vote for it over on the SXSW Panel Picker Website.
What do you mean when you say curatorial culture?
I like to consider the Internet as a big neighborhood full of galleries. Once you’ve paid to enter the town, you are free to see or build anything you’d like. Now this lawless village of bohemians has only been around for about ten years, but its already the biggest city in the World. I believe we have only just scratched the surface of this city’s cultural importance.
How do you think print and internet journalism is different? And why do you think there’s a wall between the two?
The power to curate, amplify and inspire was once something relegated to those who could create incentive for themselves. No one would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to create a magazine based purely on their love of music. Gotta get that money back! But today, since the power of international publishing is free and easy, people all over the world are investing their time and energy merely for the sake of love. That phenomenon is exciting to me.
Do you have personal beef with Chris’ views on blogging, or do you agree with some of what he says sometimes?
Not at all. I would even go so far as to say, I disagree with his assertion that the blogs are gobbling up his job. In various videos, Mr. Weingarten has said something to the effect that his days as a professional writer are numbered. Yet, everyone loves reading a well researched review. I believe there will always be a place for careful and concise journalism. Now however, anyone with Internet access can aspire to get there. Mr. Weingarten bemoans the curt style many bloggers choose to employ, yet their are also a wide array of bloggers who choose to write luridly. It should also be noted that a great deal of freelance writers aggregate their works on a personal blog. Talent never goes out of style.
Is Rolling Stone relevant? Do you think smaller mags like ‘Sup are bringing back print?
I think “smaller” is bringing everything back. Small tape labels are bringing tapes back (Wild Animal Kingdom, Curatorial Club, Mirror Universe, Moon Glyph, Night People), small vinyl labels are bringing records back… The Internet’s ability to vest in us a chance at making anything, has brought us to a time of omnipresent everything. There are so many fantastic publications coming out on paper these days, print ain’t goin’ anywhere.
Welp, you’re welcome for my “wet spitballs of non-news.”