Here’s a question for you: what’s the more interesting story to read about? “Man finds hat in the road, picks it up and wears it”, or, “man caught in bed with neighbors wife in his own marital bed, wearing her husbands’ hat”?
It’s obvious which one has more interest for the individual and which one caught your attention, dear reader. Whether it’s through personal affiliation to a situation, nosiness or good old-fashioned cynicism, all of the above can spark an interest in the most private or transparent of information. The same has happened in music journalism (a heavily debated practice at the best of times), with a particular burst happening in the realm of contemporary electronic music.
Of course, the hype machine is not a new concept it’s been prevalent since the introduction of newspaper media and propaganda techniques themselves. Tabloid originally referred to the size of a newspaper and it’s abbreviated content”, stated social theorist Barbara Kaufmann on the voicesofeducation website. “It has since evolved to mean a sensationalized newspaper with sometimes barely truthful content and even to include television which highlights celebrity news and scandals”. Has social media (including the throwaway, disposable feed culture that drives its 24 hour turnaround) also contributed to the heightened frequency of ‘lowest common denominator’ content and ‘news’? As dance music becomes ever- popular, are the shit-slinging battles on Facebook, sex-fuelled news bites and DJ Sneak Twitter-beefs just part and parcel of the genre’s success?
Of course, the ideas and functionality of Social Media have themselves become an intrinsic part of everyday life. From letting everyone know what you ate for breakfast, to showing off your mundane holiday snaps and finding the next ‘big thing’, Social Media has made it’s stake as a progressive and highly influential medium (look at the way Twitter has now gone public). It’s no wonder that people are often lured in (and duped) by the tabloid culture that has grown alongside social media’s torrential rise. And with all forms of tabloid style writing, there are subtle mechanisms at play that are designed to draw people towards stories.
Take for instance MEOKO’s very own recent April fools joke, regarding the planned closure and repositioning of Berghain club in Berlin. This writer, for one, was about to join the stream of comments saying “OMG, WTF”, “really? Wow, I wonder where it is” and the sharpest, most on point of them all, “You must be kidding”. At this point I came to my senses and realized that due to the web’s loosely unregulated plain (and the fact that it was actually the 1st April) that an element of mistruth may be in the story. And although this particular piece was harmless fun and a tongue in cheek example of media hype, it does reinforce that you shouldn’t always believe everything you read – even if it seems like everyone else is getting involved with their two cents worth.
The introduction of online magazines such as the now-infamous Wunderground platform have made a mark in contemporary media with blatantly fabricated stories, ranging from “Tiesto slams Resident Advisor’s Top DJs Poll “ to “‘Lump of Human Shit Declared “The Next Calvin Harris”’. As hilarious and humorous as some of these articles actually are, it points to the fact that in some ways, the freedom of the press is still alive and kicking especially if you’re utilising the right keywords and imagery to draw the ‘punters’ in. Alas, it’s not always about seemingly poking fun at the rich and famous though. It’s about using a combination of factors to dumb down content into bite sized, ‘targeted’ information, in turn raising questions about the quality of the content that we are exposed to. Maura Johnston, from US publication Village Voice stated in a recent interview: “Shareable content is not about finding new things. Shareable content is about reinforcing already held positions that you have.”
Whether you’re writing articles that are true or false, or stirring up a debate that exists or doesn’t, it seems that keyword culture, eye catching imagery and SEO search tactics have thrown music journalism (read: online journalism) back towards the tabloid culture that renowned scribes such as Lester Bangs found themselves entrenched within during the ‘70s. (His exploits, famously awkward questioning and brutally honest writing earned him a beating from rowdy Sex Pistols bassist, Sid Vicious, in the street after a particularly goading review in the NME).
In a more recent critique of dance music journalism in Holland’s DJ Broadcast, international editor Dan Cole raised the question with publications dying off and the style of online content in a constant state of fluctuation, how it will reflect on the quality of what we are reading? Or, are music enthusiasts referring more to the micro-bloggers and social media outlets of influencers to help refine their search parameters for new sounds?” It seems apparent that they are as traditional media struggles to adapt to an ever changing market but ironically, those enthusiasts are also swept away by the rumour culture that’s inevitable when engaging with social media as a constant news feed.
In an age where everyone is scraping for hits and numbers on their sites (to be the ones to ‘break’ stories first and cause a debate amongst society at large through tricky terminology), it seems that the name & shame culture that has arisen in electronic music is a driving factor in what we read. If it has something to do with naked chicks, phenomenal amounts of drugs and funny tales of misfortune, it’s going to be a statisticians dream just lie back and watch those juicy, revenue-making stats roll in. Remember Nina Kraviz taking a bath? It might not have done much to champion the role of the female DJ in contemporary music but it certainly helped the ‘red top’ magazines that waded in to bump up their daily hit count. And that’s the most important thing… right?
Fortunately, fortunately for everyone that is, it isn’t. Here at MEOKO, we’re not denouncing journalism, the role of the Internet or even human nature itself but once upon a time, you could read a solid, interesting and well-researched article, no matter its length or column inches. As with all tabloid machines, it’s begun to point towards society’s dwindling attention span in a world awash with information modern music writing’s increased focus on celebrity gossip is a mere by-product of our hyper-accelerated, socially dependent digital culture.