I follow a bunch of music writers on Tumblr because, well, I love music and I love writing. And I follow mostly female music writers (and a couple of gay male writers) because what I love most is the “female” (or “female gaze,” that is, mostly male body-desiring, to be less heteronormative about it) perspective on music. Not just because this is the perspective I (mostly) come from, but because it’s the perspective which is so often omitted from whatever is left passing for mainstream music criticism these days. And has been, with more or less ruthlessness, since I first started reading about music in the 1980s (in the “Golden Days” when Smash Hits was really fucking weird, man.)
It’s a weird thing, writing a blog post you know that none of the people it’s directed at are ever going to even see, let alone read, but that’s Tumblr and gated communities for you. I cut my teeth first on the bad old days of usenet, then on I Love Music (I won’t link it here because of what it’s become.) What was great about those places was also what became terrible about them: Anyone could participate. Anyone could join in and have a voice, whether they were the editor of the NME or some 15 year old fangirl posting from the back of the physics lab. Which meant that even crazy overgrown fangirls like me could stand up and say things like “What’s wrong with talking about ~SRS MUSIKS~ like Radiohead as if we were teenage fangirls screaming at a boyband, or talking about boybands as if they were SRS MUZIKS?”
But due to the nature of the internet, the same low price of admission that meant I got a say, despite not being a Proper Music Writer at all (though later, I got scouted off that board for my posts and made to play one in actual magazines, an experience I didn’t like much at all) meant that assholes and bullies also got to turn up and make the experience so not-fun and draining that you have to leave, again and again. And you wash up on Tumblr! Yay! Where you control the gates of your community so literally NO ONE CAN SAY ANYTHING if you post 300 posts in a row about how hott the Aphex Twin or Secret Machines or 1984 era Bernard Sumner are! All day long! And I kinda don’t do ~social justice~ or ~feminism~ on Tumblr because you know what? I DON’T HAVE TO! It’s the one place I get to just live my life and do my thing without worrying about the assholes telling me I’m not doing it right because: gender. (What a relief it is, not *having* to perform cartoon shouty feminist all day long because I can make anything that irritates me GO AWAY with the flick of an UNFOLLOW button.)
But the same gatekeeping that locks other people out, also locks you in. And in trying so hard to keep this blog separate from anything anyone on the outside would recognise, unless they knew me really well, I’ve locked myself out of those conversations about music and the female gaze and poptimism because people have already made their cliques and follow lists on Tumblr and well, if I’m not included, it’s my own fault for giving up and turning my back on the community and my friends when I walked away screaming, again and again. (Because that’s all people see, you walking away screaming, not the mob at your heels, throwing stones.)
Still. The question I want to ask, over and over again is: Why do you still want to write about music, anyway?
I AM YOUR AUDIENCE. And I can’t remember the last time I actually wanted to listen to a piece of music because I read a magazine/newspaper/blog article about it. Messageboard conversation threads, yes. Blog posts and Tumblr posts (especially the ones with a link so you can hear it while you read) fuck yes. Even fan fiction makes me want to listen to a band or a piece of music way more than any article on Pitchfork or Spin or the Guardian or the Qu!etu$ or the Village Voice ever did. I don’t even look at those publications on a regular basis, the only time I find myself on them is when the buzz or outrage surrounding some piece filters down to my bottom of the well in my gated community. And for the most part, they are meaningless. “Not even wrong.” I read better writing on Archive Of Our Own (that’s not fair, there’s some brilliant writing there.) Why are you fighting so desperately to be a part of something which is so horrible? And not even uniformly horrible, but awfully, patchily, cobbled-together-like-a-sinking-ship horrible?
I AM YOUR AUDIENCE. I love reading about music. I love talking about music. I love reading about those stories, not just the gossipy “Behind The Music” stories about the bands and their struggles to make these records, but also the stories of YOUR, the writer’s, life, and what was going on in your life when you first heard that song, and why it means so much to you. But when I read your increasingly desperate tweets and posts about the state of the music press (even worse than the music business, apparently) and how much harder it is for ever amazing writers to keep afloat, and the rising hysteria of people trying to get a foot on a ladder that is sinking faster than anyone can climb, I think the same question I have been asking for 20 years now: WHY DO YOU EVEN WANT TO DO THAT?
I know this isn’t going to get any answers. It’s unlikely to get anything more than 1 or 2 “likes” from my friends who patiently put up with my rants. But I can’t stop asking, because I don’t even know the answer myself.