Friday, 7 March 2014

The Vinyl Machine

Context and Methodology guest speaker, Barney Hoskyns, visited and spoke with the class about the history of rock journalism this week. Barney has visited us once before and is a fantastic speaker. He helped establish the rock journalism database, Rock's Backpages, which Bath Spa is subscribed to. People like Barney make you wish you read more. ha

March 5th, 2014

Here is a snippet from Barney's lecture on the decline of music journalism since the dawn of the digital age:

I didn't set out to be a music writer as a sort of career plan, I kind of backed into it. I'm still disentangled in it. It's still what I love to do, it's still what I'm passionate about. I think I care more about critical writing; the importance of critical writing; the importance of gate keeping; the importance of there being some sort of intelligent filter of what happens in the culture, and I see, with some sadness and sometimes some despair, a decline of that. And I suppose over the time that I've been reading and writing about popular music, I've seen how it's unfolded, how it's changed, how it's declined, I suppose. When I say decline, I'm really talking about mainstream. There's a lot of really exciting writing about pop music, about all art forms online, it's just sort of hard to find it. When I was reading the NME in the 70's, it was the only game in town, it was what everybody who rates it themselves at all read. NME was the hit list. 

I was on the today program just a couple of weeks ago, and every year music magazine circulations decline, and they wheel someone like me on to explain why this is happening. There's an obvious explanation, people aren't reading as much and kids certainly aren't reading as much these days. The way that the younger generation consumes music is multifaceted. I call it grazing. There seems to be a kind of grazing in the culture. That's what modern digital life is. You can't turn the clock back, you cant go home again. It's just different. The difference has accelerated so dramatically, the struggle for older generations is to try to get your head around the pace of change. And it's frightening. My mind isn't wired to graze, I had to learn to graze. And it makes me anxious. But it's snacking. But the younger generation is comfortable with it. They don't seem to be stressed out. It's the paradigm for them. 

You can sort of look at the history of music journalism as a way of looking at cultural change. What does it tell us about the way consumption has changed? What does it tell us about the way meaning and value have changed within popular culture? What I think I can say with some certainty, is that the value and impact is different in 2014 than how they were in 1974 when that magazine came out. It's different. Is it less? I would say its more diffused. I think that when I was a kid, my parents were still concerned when top of the pops came on. Was is healthy for our eleven, twelve year old son to be watching Mark Bolin and David Bowie on top of the pops? It wasn't. Thank God. It was wonderfully unhealthy. But it was truly counter-culture. It was something that wasn't part of the mainstream consumption. It felt slightly dangerous. Opposed to now. What it means is that pop culture is just there in the culture, not against the culture, not kicking against the culture. So, what does it mean when its not trying to overthrow the state anymore?

Check out classmate, Kirsty Folan's blog on this phenomenon at

It's important that we don't forget about rock journalism and critique/commentary because it has been such a vital part of popular music culture. "I think I care more about critical writing, the importance of critical writing, the importance of gate keeping, the importance of there being some sort of intelligent filter of what happens in the culture." There is such a vast pool of information now through the Internet, it becomes increasingly more difficult to sift through the sources and opinions to find one solid consensus. Now, anyone can start a blog and begin journaling about music and pop culture.

If pop journalism cannot survive the shift in the culture today, we are left with unfiltered, uncommented music. This idea of the gatekeeper as Barney likes to call it, is an interesting concept that I never really thought about. And it's so vital to the music world.

To be honest, I am one of the worst offenders. Even with digital comprehension embedded into my generation, I still find it difficult to listen to more music, read about music for my own personal satisfaction, and even explore the world of music I am associated with. But that's for different reasons. In an effort to change this, I am allocating more time to music research and listening every day. I know it sounds weird, but with a lack of multitasking abilities, listening to music becomes less background noise, and more of an event. RIGHT NOW, I had to turn my Spotify off in order to focus on writing. I can't read with music on or do homework, so it's hard to make it a habit in my every day life. Writing this paper is bringing a lot of these issues to the surface because IT'S SO EASY TO LISTEN TO MUSIC! IT'S SO EASY TO READ ABOUT MUSIC. There is no excuse for the silence anymore. With a Mac, an iPhone, and an iPad, I can listen wherever
and whenever. I'm making it happen!

The Rock's Backpages database is an online music journalism library at and is currently the largest database of music journalism online, featuring 22,000+ articles on thousands of artists from Elvis to Gaga.

Rock's Backpages has been voted one of the Best 25 Music Sites by the Observer, who called it "a cultural resource for students and a tool for journalists", and one of the Best 40 Music Sites by The Daily Telegraph. RBP was runner-up in Best Niche Resource category of the Library Journal's Best Databases Awards of 2011.


I got my BASCA Membership card in the mail today, which is nice.

I also am working on setting up a technical position at Corsham Court with the school. I have applied for a National Insurance number and am awaiting my application. Hopefully it doesn't take too long. Doubt I'll be getting paid for any studio work this trimester.

I finished writing a fun song with Farhan and Alex this week and am aiming for a collaboration with Bianca next week! Half Portuguese? Sounds like fun!

Can you really call this thing a record player? I swear, it should be called a vinyl machine. The class thinks I'm crazy. But I know I'm right ;)


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