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: I’ve always been fascinated by visions of the future, so I decided to ask a few folks to imagine what music journalism would look like in the year 2221. Why 200 years into the future? Because it’s so far off that everyone could really get creative with their responses. And they didn’t disappoint! One was so off-the-wall, I asked an illustrator to depict it. Enjoy!
Instead of my actual predictions for 2221 (I have my doubts that this planet/civilization will even last that long, for starters), I’m going to offer a utopian vision of music journalism 200 years in the future. Imagine that we’ve had meaningful political revolutions, or—more likely—capitalism has collapsed completely, with an untold human cost, and those remaining have begun rebuilding a better world. In this new, autonomously and communally organized world, there are no borders or nations, more like a decentralized worldwide network of cities, towns, and rural regions, with neighbors sharing responsibilities to make sure everyone in their community has what they need.
Media is primarily local and collectively owned, but anyone can access it digitally, with care given to preserve and catalog archives not just from this new world, but whatever is left from the old one. Culture journalists are more like critical historians. As nothing has monetary value and marketing is unnecessary, music is recognized as part of the connective tissue of humanity. A passion for and thoughtfulness about music are placed at the fore in any kind of music writing; music journalists chronicle artists’ work in cultural context to illuminate it not just to their immediate community but to the world at large.
Yes, it’s an absolute pipe dream, but without utopian guiding visions, how will we judge how to move forward?
Jes Skolnik is the Senior Editor of Bandcamp Daily.
For Immediate Release: Tesla JPWarner RaythexxonWalCigna Applezon CEO X Æ A-12 Musk-Bezos VI to Launch New Virtual Music Festival
Happy Monday, music journalist friends!
Hope the three of you had a good weekend. Just circling back to see if you might be interested in covering Applezonchella this year. Benevolent leader Musk-Bezos VI has spared no expense in bringing the Applezon Corp. family an impressive festival lineup. Acts include: Blink-382, Dinosaur Jr. Jr. Jr. Jr. Jr., the vocaloid software voicebank formerly known as FKA twigs, Charli CCC, the Misfits (featuring holograms of all the original members except for Glenn Danzig), and Radiohead. Performing on the Pfizer-Monster Energy Drink main stage will be headliner Saint Blue Northwest Ivy Kardashian-Knowles-West-Swift-Sheeran-Corden III.
Plus, join us at the Emo Nite afterparty, located in the Spotify-Taco Bell Minecraft LLC tent, to hear your fave two-century-old hits from your teenage years. Set your neurotransmitter implant chips to “nostalgia” (located on the Consumption menu) and sing along to emo classics by The Used and Good Charlotte with your fellow Gen ZYZers. Also, Eternal Queen Grimes, whose brain has been preserved in a jar for the last 170 years, will be astral-projecting a DJ set.
The festival will be held on server T-227879687 in the Cultural Consumption wing of Applezon’s visitor reprogramming center. [Please note: While all members of the Applezon Corp. family are welcome to attend the virtual event, their bodies must remain CerebraLinked™ to their ToilPod Bikes™ in the fulfilment mega-warehouse.] Cost of admission is an NFT of one (1) human organ of your choosing.
Let me know if you’re interested in purchasing a press pass to Applezonchella.
Applezon Corp. Public Relations Employee #655481
Dan Ozzi is the author of the upcoming book SELLOUT: The Major Label Feeding Frenzy That Swept Punk, Emo, and Hardcore (1994-2007).
The idea of predicting anything cultural in two years time makes my brain hurt a little, let alone 200. That said, if Music Journalism still exists, I expect fans will be the ones who hold all the power. Magazines and branded publications will obviously be long gone—artists will sell one-on-one interviews via pay-per-minute Cameo-esque hologram bookings, appearing in your living rooms to tell you exactly why their latest krypto-currency album is their most progressive yet. Teleportation packages and song-implantation procedures will cost extra; as a result, the wealthiest of musical stans will be the ones left to spread news of a new record across our dystopian lands, like some kind of futuristic town crier.
On a more serious note, I’m quite hopeful that virtual reality will play a big part. What would be more fun that meeting up with a musician in a digital landscape of their imagination, Ready Player One style? Or access to an infinite library of replayable gigs and important cultural moments throughout history, harvested from people’s memories as if it was your own life? By 2221, everyone could have headlined Glastonbury, won 250 Grammys, and dropped the seminal album of the summer for themselves, from the comfort of their own homes. Now that’s true bedroom pop.
Jenessa Williams is a freelance music writer, PhD researcher, and the editor of Pennycress.
It’s the year 2221 and music journalism, along with the rest of the world, is on fire. Flo Rida’s “Low” has completely dissipated from the cultural consciousness, and the state of Florida is underwater. Melting glaciers have given way to infectious disease spreads, and although these spreads disproportionately target vulnerable populations largely ignored by the government, upper middle class writers dedicate Substack posts (now the primary form of media) to dissecting the way their favorite Lil Huddy song (now a revered relic) speaks to their isolation or trauma or whatever. Elon Musk is alive and well, and he rules Condé Nast with a literal iron fist, or so it’s been rumored. Grimes is also alive but we don’t write about her anymore (everyone’s just writing about Lil Huddy). She was last spotted in an auto-piloted fishing boat circling the Condé Nast headquarters, which is also underwater. Also, everything is underwater. You should recycle more.
Ashley Bardhan is a freelance journalist.
The consolidation of outlets and overwhelming multitudes of talent without staff positions are twin issues that stand in direct opposition. Two centuries after the COVID era, this issue will be problematic in memory, only. One can only expect that within two centuries, journalism at large, as a trade, will reach then exceed the tipping point at which the highly imbalanced balance of power between opportunity and labor will be unable to be swayed back in the direction of the industry of writing about music as a broad (even minimally so) employment option. As for music journalism, the idea that it would likely be the first to be impacted in terms of the industry being depleted to the point of obsolescence makes sense. The idea that one publishing arm—say, for instance, Amazon (they'll have the capital to do so)—would own the archives and future output of, let's say, Billboard, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, and SPIN, then lump them into a conglomerate, feels obvious.
As for other opinions outside of that realm, the space for legacy music outlets investing in "vanity" pieces—largely meant to drive advertising traffic to their portals—will certainly exist. But one could expect that the space will crowd the room for nuanced critique for even quicker and snappier hot takes. Could one-sentence album reviews on Viacom's Paramount+ become popular? Sure. Emoji-laden posts from MTV? Entirely likely. Calling someone who makes pithy social media posts a "journalist" certainly pales by comparison to someone who once wrote hundreds or thousands of words of well-researched and intriguingly crafted prose. Alas, this will be the case.
Most important to consider is that the consolidation of opinion is almost certain to occur at a pace similar to the shrinking of the mainstream music industry. Thus, could we see a time where 100 EDM producers rule the roost for three-to-five decade spans by making trance-styled country with one gospel-aping verse, 15-second hooks that play on repeat for one minute, followed by 16-bar trap rap bridges, and a live musical outro? Almost certainly. If this—more than the demise of outlets for words—occurs, it ultimately renders the need for diverse musical opinions null and void.
Marcus K. Dowling is a freelance journalist and cultural creative.
In the early part of the 21st century, a seismic shift in the way humans processed and thought about recorded music was developed by a drunken malcontent from the state of Massachusetts, formerly part of the long since crumbled American empire. His new streamlined system came to be known as “BTTBA?”
For decades prior, evaluators of cultural artifacts had gone to great lengths to engage with music on a critical level, placing each artist’s work in its proper historical context, evaluating and juxtaposing it against the output of their peers and predecessors through close listening, hoping to divine deeper meaning from it and thereby enhance the experience for listeners. Today the much simpler, streamlined, but no less groundbreaking equation, forged in the winter of the First Covid Era, remains all that’s left of music criticism, and its inventor’s disembodied brain floats suspended in fermented spider-whale urine in the hard to reach tunnels under the sunken city of Boston.
Petitioners with a query about the relative merits of one of the very rare new pieces of recorded music make the dangerous pilgrimage to torture the brain with a simple request. Is this, they ask, better than The Blue Album? The brain, silent now for a century, but bristling still with electrical activity like a disturbed nest of flying jellyfish, has never once responded in the affirmative.
Luke O’Neil runs Welcome to Hell World.
I’ll be back to the regular newsletter format next week, coming directly from a new newsletter provider. I’ve been assured that no one needs to do anything to receive the newsletter as usual in your inbox, but if you don’t hear anything from me by Tuesday next week, please check your Spam folder; if it's not there, please hit me up directly and I’ll look into it! See ya on the other side.
Here are three easy ways you can support the newsletter:
Forward it to a friend
Become an ongoing supporter of the newsletter (what Substack calls a “paid subscriber”)
Insider Extra - An additional e-mail from me each week, usually featuring job listings, freelance calls, and more
How To Pitch Database - Access to a database with contact information and pitching info for hundreds of publications
Reading Recommendations - Access to a resource page collecting great pieces of music journalism, sourced from great music journalists
Advice - Access to a resource page devoted to collecting advice from journalists and editors on how to excel at music journalism
Interviews - Access to the hundreds of interviews that have appeared in the newsletter, with writers and editors from Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, the Guardian, and more
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…