I’m Todd L. Burns, and welcome to Music Journalism Insider, a newsletter about music journalism. I highlight some of the best stuff I hear, read, and watch every week; publish news about the industry; and interview writers, scholars, and editors about their work. My goal is to share knowledge, celebrate great work, and expand the idea of what music journalism is—and where it happens. Questions, comments, concerns? You can reach me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today in the newsletter: Interviews with Trilloquy podcast executive producer Garrett McQueen; freelance writer Aliya Chaudhry; and Francesco Fusaro, an Italian NTS Radio resident DJ, music producer, and musicologist. Plus! Three new music documentary reviews, some music journalism trivia, and more! But first…
Garrett McQueen is the engine behind the podcast Trilloquy, which “help[s] bring light to the issues of today while simultaneously challenging and deconstructing the aural definitions of ‘classical’ music.” It’s an exciting listen each week. In this excerpt from our interview, Garrett further explains what the podcast is all about.
One of my favorite things about working at my first radio station (WUOT) was giving artist interviews. I think audiences are used to seeing musicians as ONLY musicians and not people, so TRILLOQUY was born, in part, from my desire to share more of the perspectives of musicians from a non-music-based perspective, but rather one that centers conversation. Understanding and seeing the impact of podcasting from outside of classical music (mainly from Joe Budden), I decided to start TRILLOQUY in conjunction with American Public Media to help them reach new audiences. I couldn’t be as “trill” as I wanted to be under the APM umbrella, so after going independent my team has been dedicated to being the most unapologetically honest (trill) and un-stuffy media collaborative in the “classical” music industry. The overall goal is to help people imagine an arts ecosystem that includes the classic(al) music of all cultures, and not just those of western Europe.
What rating did Pitchfork give the 1997 album It Means Everything from Save Ferris? The answer is at the bottom of the newsletter.
Aliya Chaudhry is a freelance writer for a variety of outlets (Billboard, Kerrang!, and Vice among them). Recently, she explored the role of TikTok in the resurgence of pop punk for Consequence. In this excerpt from our interview, Aliya offers a tip for music journalists just starting out.
The most important thing by far for me has been to network. I’ve gotten writing opportunities through that. It sounds like this awful, careerist thing but honestly I’ve made friends that way, I’ve also gotten a chance to speak to people I grew up reading, which is amazing. And it’s another opportunity to talk about music with someone who also cares about music, which is always a good time. (And if you’re reading this and you’re thinking that talking to me could be useful, feel free to shoot me an email!)
Also, an additional tip is to follow your interests and research those interests deeply, even if they feel niche. It may not seem like it, but hopefully that expertise will prove helpful down the line and it’s good to have areas you specialize in. You never know when the social media app of the moment is going to make your favorite band go viral!
From Aliya Chaudhry:
I’ve been really upset about what’s happening in Palestine—ethnic cleansing, state-sanctioned violence and settler colonialism at the hands of Israel. No one should be forced out of their own homes, and have to endure these kinds of attacks. There are lots of ways you can support Palestine, including amplifying the voices of organizers and those who are affected. You can donate to the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund and Medical Aid for Palestinians to support Palestinians.
Stuff You Gotta Watch celebrates music journalism in video form. This week’s column is a special edition by Jesse Locke, in which he looks at three films that screened at the recent DOXA Documentary Film Festival.
I Am A Cliché presents Marianne Elliott-Said as a human being, not the disposable pop star described in her lyrics as Poly Styrene. This deeply moving documentary looks beyond the late X-Ray Spex frontwoman’s fame into a personal life fraught with mental health struggles and resilience. Narrated by director/daughter Celeste Bell with excerpts from Elliott-Said’s teenage diary, the film offers an intimate glimpse into her life after punk.
Fanny have always rocked on their own terms. Whether writing pro-choice anthems in 1970 or using mini pads to dampen their drums in 2017, the first all-woman band signed to a multi-album major label contract has broken ground for decades. Battling racism, sexism, and homophobia, the group founded by Filipino American sisters June and Jean Millington finally receives a fitting tribute in Bobbi Jo Hart’s joyful documentary, Fanny: The Right To Rock.
The Space Lady has earned fans worldwide with her dreamy Casio covers and winged, blinking helmet. Yet before she achieved cult fame, Susan Dietrich survived 30 years of homelessness by busking in her signature astral godmother style. Sophia Feuer’s short film Space Lady captures the now 71-year-old musician in an artful 16mm montage.
Francesco Fusaro is an Italian NTS Radio resident DJ, music producer, and musicologist currently based in the north of Italy. His most recent project is editing Sonic Traces: From Italy: “a multi-layered, multimedia approach to the open question of ‘Italian Identity’ in sound and music” for Norient. In this excerpt from our interview, Francesco explains what he’d like to see more and less of in music journalism.
I would love music journalism to ask deeper questions in the field of aesthetics, philosophy, sociology, and politics. We are not asking enough such questions like “What kind of music are we making now, and what should we try and pass down to future generations?” or “Why is this music significant for the moments we live in now, and how will it be seen in the future?”, “What is culturally relevant now, and why?”, etc. Also, diversity and inclusion still seem a bit of a sore point for music journalism, which is still very Western-centric (and more specifically, Anglo-American centric), very male, and very white. There is still a lot of work to be done in that sense.
What would you like to see less of in music journalism right now?
I am very tired of music journalism’s obsession with tech and distribution. Rather than asking more philosophical, sociological, political and anthropological questions, it seems like the most important things to be discussed right now are how we distribute music, and pay artists. I appreciate these are important topics, but they have taken some much of the real estate in music journalism, I am now really tired of it all. Imagine if we were now similarly obsessed with how Beethoven and Mozart were getting paid? Or the business models of the troubadours in 11th Century France? Luckily, we are more interested in the cultural significance of their music, and their legacy in the present time.
Last week’s email was titled “The Skanaissance.” Multiple people wrote in to let me know that it should have been titled “The Renaisskance.” (One even called it a “Reel Big Miss.”) I regret the error.
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The record received a 9.5 rating, and the review started with the line: “If you’re lucky, really lucky in life, you might be able to occasionally catch sight of a band that has reached their perfect groove.” Do you have a fun question you’d like to see included in Trivia Time? Hit reply and let me know.
Thanks for reading! Full disclosure: My day job is at uDiscover Music, a branded content online magazine owned by Universal Music. This newsletter is not affiliated or sponsored in any way by Universal, and any links that relate to the work of my department will be clearly marked. Feel free to reach out to me via email at email@example.com. On Twitter, it’s @JournalismMusic. Until next time…