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 Everett True

notes for a three-minute thesis presentation by Everett True

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online journalism then and now

Woke up Friday morning to an email from the managing director of Street Press Australia.

“Haters got to hate.”

That’s about the level of dialogue I’ve grown to expect from communicating with random detractors in web 2.0 environments. “Haters got to hate.” And that’s if I’m lucky. More usually, it’s “fuck off, troll”.

Ah, the joys of being a popular music critic in web 2.0 environments. No one’s ever really liked popular music critics. No one’s ever really appreciated popular music critics. To musicians and music fans alike, we’re parasites – leeching a living off the back of other people’s fine artistic endeavour. To the record labels and press agents, we’re a necessary evil – there to be hoodwinked, bamboozled and menially manipulated into saying whatever it is they want us to say about their precious charges. And that was back before the advent of the Internet, back when we actually got paid for voicing our informed opinions and heady critique, back when a music critic could create and destroy careers with the flick of a typewriter button.

Back before the days of music on demand, available everywhere for free.

Back before the days of universal bloggage, and “everyone’s a critic”.

My writing name is Everett True and somewhere on my person I have a letter from an academic from the University of Washington, Seattle stating that, through my writing, I have generated millions – possibly billions – of dollars worth of revenue for the American music industry. Doesn’t that count for something?

My name is Everett True and in 1991, Entertainment Weekly called me “the man who invented grunge”.

And I apologise for that. Horrible, noisy music.

I am now a PhD student at QUT, close to entering my final seminar, and my research is directly concerned with the changing role of popular music criticism in online environments. What is the function of the popular music critic in 2012 when everywhere you turn you see constellations of user-generated reviews and aggregated star ratings and Murdoch-backed print publications shedding journalists because people have now been trained to expect everything for free? How does one establish authority among the clamour of millions of online voices all shouting LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME? What need is there for paid-for, dedicated music publications when one can turn obtain far more trustworthy and personalised recommendations from friends on social networks like Facebook?

What does authority or expert opinion matter, next to crowd sourcing?

On the Internet, depth and clarity of vision aren’t particularly at a premium: what matters is, “where did you read about it first? (LOL, WTF, HASHTAG.) In-depth articles and insightful criticism don’t generate traffic. Top 10 lists talking about Kate Kardashian’s tits generate traffic.

How does one establish cultural capital, lead and affect taste, and affect whole sections of billion-dollar industries when negative – or even constructive – criticism is now viewed on a par with that lowliest of Internet creatures, the message-board lurking troll?

I have no answers. Only questions.

Has Everett True simply out-lived his purpose? WTF.

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