Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Music Sheets

Why music magazines are failing. The article doesn't mention this, but there are far too many subgenres today for any one publication to keep them all straight. When was the last time you read a music magazine that felt like it handle on a whole scene as opposed to whatever was hot at the moment? (A: Paste or No Depression) (Slate)

One of the most important historical functions of music magazines has been precisely to speak in a semisecret language that separates in-the-know us from square them. Rolling Stone, Spin, and Vibe made their names on the backs of outsider music movements that were storming the mainstream: '60s rock counterculture, '90s alternative, and '90s hip-hop, respectively. (Blender aligned itself with a less oppositional, "poptimist" perspective.) Picture that mythical orange-haired girl walking around a nowheresville suburb in 1994 with a rolled-up Spin in her back pocket—it's not just a magazine but a badge, an amulet, a pipeline to a world far removed from her local food court. At least since the '60s, music has been more integral to youthful identity building than any other part of popular culture, and, at their most successful, music magazines have institutionalized, codified, and made themselves indispensable to that process. Teens trying to hash out (sub)cultural identities today have message boards, fan sites, and YouTube diaries to turn to, not to mention Facebook groups and musicians' MySpace pages. And that's perhaps the greatest crisis facing music magazines: They're being phased out, to a significant degree, by social-networking media, too.

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