[Diatribe] On The Atlanta Music Scene 2012

I’ve been content to simply share music and keep my commentary minimal on this blog these days because I really haven’t had much to say. I’ve preferred for the music, and not myself, to be the focus on this blog. But now I have a little something I want to talk about, so brace yourself for a long read.

Gabe Vodicka over at Creative Loafing was nice enough to interview me for a piece in their annual music issue titled “The heart of Hate City: In search of Atlanta’s enigmatic underground.” Vodicka talks to various people around the city’s scene, and there are a few quotes from myself included in the article. While I totally understand that there was limited space to include what I said (I’m impressed I got as much inclusion in the piece as I did), I wanted to use a blog post to clarify and expound upon what I was saying, since this is my own platform to do just that.

The main thrust of the interview was a discussion of the fragmentary nature of the Atlanta music scene, and right after I was interviewed and I thought about the subject a little more, I sent a followup email, from which many of my quotes were taken. Here’s the full email I wrote:

Really, I think the fragmentary nature of the local music scene is a good thing overall. I think of it more as vibrance, diversity, and depth. There’s so much going on that one narrative can’t capture it. And that should be the narrative, that we have it all. We’re the music mecca for a budget; we’re the poor man’s Brooklyn. That should be the narrative because it’s a lot more compelling to sell this city as a place where everyone came from some place else to make it here, to sell us as a place where anyone can come and find a niche in the scene, rather than trying to say we are one sort of thing, one style, one moment in history, one regional attitude that will be irrelevant a fad later. It should also be the narrative because it’s actually the truth. We’re not just a hip-hop town. We’re not just the place where Deerhunter and the Black Lips are from. We’re not just some random redneck city in the south. But that’s what people outside this city think of us as. To me, the problems with our scene aren’t internal, they’re external. The problem isn’t that our scene is fragmented, the problem is that no one outside our city knows that. If that’s even really that big a problem at all.

Anyway, Vodicka’s piece was an earnest attempt to look into the city and make sense of it. After interviewing various people in different orbits around Atlanta’s music universe, Vodicka comes to the following conclusions:

There will likely always be fierce competition and widespread incoherency between the sects that make up the city’s musical fiber. It’s what fans the flames of creativity. For the ever-contradictory city of Atlanta, the term “Hate City” is a way of admitting ownership of its faults while it also categorically rejects them. People — like the filmmaker Place — wear the name as a badge while they vehemently deny its truth. Perhaps it ultimately should be taken, like much of what this mystifying metropolis does and says, with a grain of salt.
Still, the search for our creative core yields one takeaway: Atlanta is passionate as hell…In the end, Hate City misconstrues, misbehaves, even disagrees for the very same reason it creates.

For the most part, I agree. While I don’t feel the term “Hate City” quite captures Atlanta’s essence, it was a cute theme. I won’t hate on that.

Instead, I thought I’d write my own piece digging into the “enigmas” of this “mystifying metropolis.”

Something that was evident from Vodicka’s piece is that everyone has a different opinion about the ATL scene. It’s hard to get at what the scene actually is with only value judgements and wishes. So instead, I want to start off with some empirical data. I’ve come to believe that demographic shifts unique to Atlanta play a major role in how the city’s local music scene has evolved.

Atlanta had the third largest population growth of any US city through the ‘00s.

According to the US Census, Atlanta was one of only three US cities that grew by over a million people from 2000 to 2010, the others being Dallas and Houston. Thus, Atlanta has had a huge influx of people from other places. And what’s even more interesting about Atlanta’s large intake of outsiders is that, of the top 14 fastest growing US cities over the last decade, Atlanta was the only one that had a net loss in employment numbers over that time period. That suggestions something is attracting people to Atlanta, and it’s not just about economics.

Atlanta is one of the most wired cities in the US.

Atlanta consistently ranks at or near the top of Forbes’ annual Most Wired Cities list. Atlanta was #1 in 2007 and 2008, and #2 in 2009 and 2010. So, in addition to our city being influenced by outsiders coming here to live, we are also influenced by the Internet more than almost any US city.

This demographic combination makes Atlanta a city that is at the mercy of national and global trends more so than anywhere else. And in addition to our city being more susceptible to outside forces, Atlanta also has less of an identity than almost any other US city, which exacerbates that susceptibility. This city’s early history was literally burned to the ground. We went from “the city too busy to hate” to “hate city” in the blink of an eye. Other cities with large population increases, such as Dallas and Houston, they already have hardened identities that make them less malleable to outside influences. Thus…

Atlanta is the city that best reflects global trends and shifts.

And that conclusion can also be backed up by objective data. Just recently, there was a study released showing that Atlanta adopted musical trends faster than any other city. Even beyond the sphere of music, Atlanta is ever on the edge of national and global demographic shifts. From gentrification to black flight to white flight, our city reflects trends more than almost anywhere.

What makes Atlanta unique, then, is not simply a single adjective. What makes Atlanta unique is the aggregate of various different factors. Our identity isn’t static, it’s dynamic. And that’s what makes us a truly unique city. Atlanta is the perfect conduit for global culture, and right now that culture is an Internet of factions and fractures. If you really want to know Atlanta’s identity, it’s this:

Atlanta is the paradigm of a globalizing world.

For better or for worse.

As we become more connected through technology, the world is fundamentally changing. Instead of being limited to interacting with only our local communities, we can now interact with people based on common interests instead, no matter where we live. This has created a fragmentation of small enclaves based around mutual interests. And that is exactly what has been happening in Atlanta’s music scene. We’re more concerned with exploring our individuality than interacting with a community formed around a single, local identity. Everyone in this scene has widely different aesthetics from one another, and so our identity has become one of a kaleidoscope.

One thing I took away from CL’s entire music issue is there sure seems to be a lot of discontent from people involved in the local scene. And I don’t think that that discontent is a misrepresentation. There is discontent. I hear complaints from locals all the time. But, I don’t think this stems from some uniquely Atlantan identity of hate. I think it stems from something rooted far beyond the perimeter.

With respect to art, and, more specifically, music, one global trend that has resulted from technological advances is that the barriers to entry in creating and distributing art have fallen away. Anyone can be an artist, and almost everyone is trying to be. And, due to the factors I discussed above, this trend toward a participatory culture has been magnified here in Atlanta. There are about a hundred thousand kids roaming East Atlanta, every one trying out to be a rich and famous rock star. And, obviously, most of those kids are going to be disappointed. I wish every musician in the city could be a billionaire celebrity, but it’s not realistically possible. It’s simple economics. There is too much supply and not enough demand.

What’s wholly at the root of the discontent is money.

The problem of making money as a musician is not one limited to Atlanta, but again, the problem becomes hyperactive here. And this is where I feel I have to parse another issue: is money falling away from art necessarily a bad thing?

I’ve been reading all of these recent articles about how piracy is so detrimental and how digital is killing music, and what’s stood out to me is how all of it is framed in terms of economics. Statistics about record sales are tossed around, and there are calculations about whether touring or vinyl or streaming services or commercials or exposure or whatever can bridge the monetary gap between what a musician is losing in sales by piracy. But is making money really the most important thing about music?

There is so much discontent among professionals, but if you look at how all these global trends affect people who simply want to enjoy listening to music, things have never been better. Any night of the week, I can find a great concert to go to. Any record I want is only a click away. There are so many local bands I enjoy that I don’t even have enough time to blog about all of them. From my own perspective, this time period in music and this place here in this city are amazingly awesome.

And it’s not only positive purely from the audience’s perspective. It’s also positive for the innovation of art itself. Technological advances have given musical artists mind blowing tools. There are infinitely more possibilities today in how you can create music than only a couple decades ago. There’s so much sound to explore right now, and there’s no shortage of explorers. And with a much larger pool of artists making music, you are of course going to have way more bad art, but also, the quality of the cream of the crop is much higher than when you draw from a small pool. More people are experimenting with music and stumbling across more innovations than any time in history. And a lot of that innovation is taking place right here in Atlanta.

If you look at what’s happening, it’s all pretty great… as long as you don’t take money into account.

That’s not to say that I don’t want musicians to make lots of money. I do. That would be wonderful. But throughout history, the music industry has never been fair and just. Unless you have a rich daddy or know the right people, you’re up against terrible odds. Before musicians were obscured by too much information, they were hidden away with no access at all to share their music beyond their location. Now, a resourceful artist has as much chance as anyone to reach a wide audience, which is to say, very little chance at all.

So, here’s my message to those musicians in this town who are complaining and are most concerned with making money. Number one, going into music to make money is like having an investment strategy that is comprised of only scratch-off lottery tickets. And number two, you’re living in the wrong city if you expect your location to benefit you in making money from music. If all you want is to be a rich and famous rockstar, move out of Atlanta.

And I don’t mean that in a “love it or leave it” sort of way. I don’t fault people for leaving. Almost none of us are from here, so why do we have to all end up here? If we’re the embodiment of globalization, why would we want to stay in one place forever? The fact is, no one outside of Atlanta cares about our local independent scene, and there is no institution within it that can pluck you from obscurity and propel you to stardom. The audience here has too diverse a tastes to all get hypnotized by one band. And the various major media outlets around here really have no interest in helping out an artist that isn’t already popular or on the rise. The AJC has never and will never support the underground. Stomp and Stammer is just a cornucopia of asshole bullshit. Paste (formerly a) Magazine will only get behind you if you’re particularly folksy, dad-rockish, or radio friendly. And then Creative Loafing, the most influential local institution, is just trying to find the strongest wind to put their sails behind. That’s why they twice put Justin Beiber on the cover and tried to pass him off as an Atlanta musician. That’s why they followed up their music issue by putting the Zac Brown Band on the cover. They’re just trying to attract interest, and I don’t blame them. In another industry that is having trouble making money right now, they’re getting passed around to different parent corporations. They’re just trying to keep getting paid. But the reality is, if you aren’t already successful, CL isn’t going to get behind you in a meaningful way unless you give them a more compelling reason than their own job security. And really, as wonderful as it is to get mentioned in a paper that’s in front of every bar in the city, an endorsement from them doesn’t necessarily guarantee success. Over the course of 2011, as far as I can tell, they only bestowed one cover story to a local independent band, and that band doesn’t even exist any more. Conversely, the most recent meteoric rise from a Georgia musician came from Washed Out, who did so without any help from a local scene or institution. I was listening to his first record for months before I even knew he was from Georgia.

Even if we had some major media outlet so perfect that no one could criticize it, or if we had a large local population that would all just mindlessly like one local style of music, no one outside of Atlanta would care about it anyway. Local factors have become mostly irrelevant in achieving success in the music business these days. Where you’re from really doesn’t matter anymore. There are exceptions. If you’re making obnoxiously simplistic pop rap, local institutions in Atlanta might help you make money. Being in Brooklyn might help you get a Pitchfork review. Being in LA or Nashville might help you book a gig as a hired gun if you’re good enough. Maybe if you go to some really obscure, foreign location and make music for a while you can use that as a story to generate interest in you. But if you’re looking for something in this town, or just about any other town for that matter, to help you beyond what you can do for yourself, you’re going to be disappointed and discontent.

On the other hand, If you’re looking for a place where you can explore art, where you can find an audience that is receptive to anything done well, where there’s a deep pool of other artists to collaborate with and learn from and be challenged by, where there’s tons of passion about music and art, there might not be a better place than 2012 in Atlanta.

This place here in this city, and this time period in the history of music, it may not necessarily benefit your own personal agenda and finances, and it may not be exactly what you want it to be, but it’s still pretty fucking cool.

[Diatribe] “The Music Bubble Has Popped…” by Brock Scott of Little Tybee

Note from the Editor: Yesterday, David Lowery (of Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven) released a piece that was a reaction to a post by an intern named Emily White on NPR’s Blog. This has opened up a big discussion about music and piracy on the intertwitterfaceweb. I noticed today that Brock Scott of Atlanta’s Little Tybee posted a rant on this subject on his Facebook page, and I appreciated his perspective, so I wanted to reprint it here. I might have my own rant on the subject in the near future, but I’d love to hear thoughts from other local artists.

The music bubble has popped, and everyone is living in this world of entitlement. Historically, music has always been a tough environment for the artists. Even the virtuosos, savants and brilliant composers died young and poor. The music model of the last century was not developed to behoove the artists but rather uses them as vessels for corporate gain. If these entities maintained the power of the last 60 years, the world would be more in tune with Vonnegut’s 2081.

Obviously this isn’t the first time the industry has changed. The sheet music business was demolished by the development of the phonograph, the phonograph by the radio, etc… Why should we care about this cycle? This evolution has absolutely nothing to do with the artists. The industry is always changing and it’s up to the artists to figure out how to capitalize in this market.

I’ve released 6 albums in my musical career and have ventured on many national and international tours with moderate success. People come to our shows because they’ve heard our music on a blog, or they were given the album by a friend or maybe they pirated it off the internet. It honestly doesn’t matter much to me; I’m just glad we live in an age where something I create can reach so many people. Piracy and virality is better than the best PR campaign money could buy.

I think it would be bad for us to adopt a Metallica mentality on this issue (it certainly didn’t help their fan-base). Music is the passion of my life, but sometimes you have to look at it for what it is. If you’re good enough and worth the support, you will find a way. Be creative.

BTW. Here is our album , Building a Bomb:
Spread it around and maybe a publicist will hear it and place it in a TV ad.$$$

[Diatribe] Sufjan Shenanigans

Photo by Marzuki Stevens

Sufjan Stevens’ label, Ashmatic Kitty, laid out an interesting plea by email this week to their artist’s mailing list. The email is in regards to the upcoming release of The Age of Adz (pronounced odds), the first full length LP from Stevens in almost 5 years.

Here’s an excerpt:

“We have it on good authority that Amazon will be selling The Age of Adz for a very low price on release date, not unlike they did with Arcade Fire’s recent (and really terrific) The Suburbs. We’re not 100% sure Amazon will do this, but mostly sure.

We have mixed feelings about discounted pricing. Like we said, we love getting good music into the hands of good people, and when a price is low, more people buy. A low price will introduce a lot of people to Sufjan’s music and to this wonderful album. For that, we’re grateful.

But we also feel like the work that our artists produce is worth more than a cost of a latte. We value the skill, love, and time they’ve put into making their records. And we feel that our work too, in promotion and distribution, is also valuable and worthwhile.

That’s why we personally feel that physical products like EPs should sell for around $7 and full-length CDs for around $10-12 We think digital EPs should sell for around $5 and full-length digital albums for something like $8.”

All of this strikes me as very odd, considering that they obviously had to sign a deal with Amazon to distribute the album digitally. The rant even states that they can see how many new fans this can help bring to the table, and their comment about The Suburbs clearly shows that they are making an attempt to mirror the success of the Arcade Fire’s latest effort. That album went number one in its inception, largely due to the Amazon week one price tag of $3.99 and highly discounted first week rates from other digital outlets. Digital downloads accounted for 62% of that album’s first week.

The NY Times did some digging recently, and it turns out that Amazon usually takes a loss by buying the albums at the wholesale price of around $7 from the record companies in an attempt to gain more ground in the digital download arena. That’s only ONE dollar less than what they state in their article is how much they would like for people to spend on a download. If you wanna make that much for an album download, why don’t you just make $8 your wholesale price?

All of these facts make me a little bit irritated by this rant from Asthmatic Kitty. If you don’t want your album available for digital download at Amazon, I’m sure you could have not signed that dotted line! I understand how you are just a little indie label but groveling for my money after YOU make all kinds of business deals to move your company forward is just plain ridiculous.

The internet is going to continue making it difficult, and labels are going to have to think outside of the box to find solid ground for a long time to come. But if an artist creates good music, people will buy the album, come to shows, and buy merchandise. I still believe that most music lovers find their way to help their favorite artists to continue moving things forward.

The Age of Adz is available on October 12th and seems to deliberately expand his sound into a more electronic and synth driven realm. Also, if you haven’t gotten his All Delighted People EP it serves as a great precursor to the upcoming album.

Sufjan Stevens’ Bandcamp

[Diatribe] The State Of Music Journalism & The Fallacy Of The Cost Of Free

Who is this “Davey Minor” kid anyway?

My previous diatribe, a response to Paste Magazine’s demise, elicited many different reactions and started a bit of a conversation on music journalism, so I thought I would follow it up with something more in-depth on the topic. I only had about an hour to put that piece together at the time, so I want to expound and better explain my points, as well as communicate how I feel about music journalism on the whole. Since Creative Loafing bestowed one of their rare non-advertising print spots to rebut my piece, I’ll start off addressing that first and go from there. My number one fan at CL, Chad Radford, declared that my “arguments are deeply flawed”, but I’d say at worst they lacked clarity. Let me break it down for you.

So of course what has gotten all of the grampas up in arms is my purposefully cavalier and prodding statement, “Old people shouldn’t be in charge of covering music for kids.” What I was getting at was more about mindset than physical age, but I do believe that getting older is a significant handicap in understanding current music trends. Most people tend to solidify around an aesthetic at about college age and the musical styles they enjoy becomes part of that person’s identity. They develop a sense of what they believe to be good and bad music, and after a certain point that doesn’t fundamentally change very often. But the history of music is in a constant flux. Some style comes along, gains popularity, and then another style is birthed as a reaction and repudiation of the current fashion. It’s a never-ending oscillation between trend and counter-trend. The problem is that once someone identifies their personality with a particular trend, it’s difficult for that person to overcome their bias. Abstractly, the way that it usually manifests itself is in a belief that older music is better, which I would argue is virtually never objectively true, and anyone who claims as such is a victim to their own subjective preferences. People, and especially music journalists, tend to believe that the music they enjoy is better than what everyone else listens to, and it’s difficult for anyone to see things outside of that lens.

That’s not to say that it is impossible to overcome this limitation. I did state that there are exceptions, and Radford’s response to my piece name drops a few that I actually had in mind when I myself stated there are exceptions. But in terms of understanding what’s happening right now, even those particular journalists hardly grip the musical climate as well as the prominent new media folks. Let’s take Jim DeRogatis for example. I like him and I read him on occasion because he has an interesting perspective, but when it comes to assessing new music, he is as out of touch as any other print journalist. For example, here’s Hipster Runoff lambasting DeRogatis for being a “bitter, old music critic.” I get such a kick out of how much Animal Collective mystifies and enrages old-school journalists. But to the point here, I would be surprised if more than a tiny sliver of DeRogatis’ audience is young kids looking for new music suggestions. So his audience is old, which is fine, and totally compatible with my statement. I didn’t say that old people shouldn’t be covering music, they just shouldn’t be in charge of targeting and connecting with a young audience when a business is at stake because it’s more difficult for them to do so. With regards to Paste, if you don’t think they were attempting to target younger readers, go read their press kit.

The correlation between growing old and being out of touch is probably bolstered by biology and how the human brain develops over time, but I would postulate that it is mostly psychological. As fun as it is to joke around about old people, the central idea I’m trying convey isn’t really about age, it’s about hubris.

Print-era music journalists are their own worst enemy.

One of the starkest differences between bloggers and people who claim to be music journalists is in terms of tone. Journalists smother every word they write with a sense of authority. They act as though they own a monopoly on knowledge. They painstakingly assemble their own resumes inside reviews to justify their declarations. They are eager to explain to us just how important they are. They’re the experts, they know best, and we would all be lost without them.

Once bloggers came on the scene and began competing against established journalists, most journalists didn’t take bloggers seriously. Journalists believed there was some intrinsic value to what they did that separated them from the amateurs. Then once new media started kicking their asses, instead of simply working harder and doing better work, journalists started concentrating on communicating how much better they were. They looked for excuses instead of looking to improve. They wanted to ride their previous achievements rather than compete on a level playing field.

A great example of a journalist in denial is Chunklet’s Henry Owings. About a year ago, he cried on the shoulder of the LA Times about the state of music journalism:

“My biggest gripe with online journos is their false sense of importance when they’re oftentimes just regurgitating press releases and tour dates. Of course, that mindless mentality is what many labels love. Me? I just find there to be a negligible amount of talent in what passes as a blogger in this modern age. What ever happened to attitude? What ever happened to opinions? What happened to pissing off advertisers? What happened to alienating readers? What happened to having fun? Sadly, I believe that the new boss is the same as the old boss. I just wish and pray somebody would be out there stirring things up instead of following the herd of mindless sheep. But then again, when you have publicists that just needle you all day to write about their clients, it makes a blogger’s job easy.”

This is hilarious to me because I could make that exact claim, word for word, about print journalism.

Now look, I can understand that it would suck to have a cushy job where you could just go through the motions and get paid to write about music, and then all of a sudden there are thousands of kids popping up giving you real competition. But that’s the situation you find yourself in, so instead of complaining, you should be demonstrating why you’re the professional and they’re not.

It’s not the cost of free, it’s the cost of not being the best at your job.

At another point in that LA Times piece above, Mr. Owings states the biggest fallacy in journalism right now, what every journalist falls back on when they get their asses handed to them:

“When presented with quality writing that costs money versus questionable writing that’s free, like most things, the masses go the path of least resistance.”

I’m so tired of professionals using this excuse. First of all, there was free content in journalism long before the Internet. Both Creative Loafing and Stomp And Stammer are free. There have been and still are plenty of free print sources. Secondly, it’s a false dichotomy. Print music journalism isn’t losing to questionable writing, it’s losing to superior writing. Of course when a ton of amateurs get access there is going to be a plethora of horrible content, but with such a large pool of people, there is also going to be much more talent rising to the top. It’s easy to go find a couple of examples of bloggers that suck, but those aren’t the bloggers that the masses are choosing. It isn’t Joe Shmoe’s little blog that gets 30 hits a month that is beating print, it’s Pitchfork. And that’s the biggest hole in this argument. If Pitchfork can make millions of dollars a year dispensing free content, you can’t blame your lack of success on the cost of free.

It’s all about quality and efficiency of content.

One thing that didn’t seem to get across in my Paste piece is I’m not speaking in absolutes. I didn’t mean all old people are uncool. There are plenty of hip oldsters, though rarely are they print music journalists. And I never declared print to be dead. The problem with print isn’t the medium, it’s the people running it. Print will survive in some form for a long time, but that doesn’t mean that hundreds of crappy magazines will survive. With other media options available, demand for print has inevitably decreased, and that demand is further hampered by the level of relevance in most print publications.

In his reaction to my Paste piece, Mr Radford attempts to reveal a paradox in my arguments by paralleling my praise for Pitchfork with me stating that “demand for long-winded, deep-digging album reviews” has diminished. But a lot of the reason that the demand has shrunk is because Pitchfork has cornered that market. Why do I need to read ten different five paragraph reviews for every album when one place does it better than everybody else? Look, I could write a novel on all of the things I don’t like about Pitchfork, but when it comes down to quality, there isn’t a single other music outlet of any sort of media that even comes close. That’s the reason they are rich and everyone else is losing business. And while Pitchfork’s long, flowery album reviews were what established them in the first place, that’s pretty much the only content area they haven’t expanded since coming into prominence. Maybe The Rad One didn’t catch on to the fact that Pitchfork’s latest endeavour is a website featuring the most succinct reviews possible. And honestly, I would love to see what fraction of people actually read all of Pitchfork’s reviews versus who just glances at the number scores and listens to the mp3s. If Pitchfork thought there was more market share to capture out there with “gratuitously in-depth record reviews,” which is their specialty, they would be expanding in that direction, but they’re not. Instead they are putting their efforts in capturing competent and relevant voices, because that’s where the only unmet demand exists.

Mr. Radford’s final stab at my arguments embodies the hubris I mentioned earlier:

“He then adds that “aggregators and torrent site’s top lists do a better job of efficiently communicating the best new music then [sic] 99% of music journalists out there.” What he fails to understand is that just because something is popular does not mean that it’s good.”

Really? You actually think I fail to understand that? You believe I think Katy Perry is good? Wow, you really got me on the one. Way to call me out.

But see, this is the excuse journalists typically fall back on when they become out of touch: If people don’t agree with them, then those people are just stupid. Journalists know best, and they don’t feel they have to prove it in any sort of measurable way. Sure, being popular does not equal being good. But the two aren’t diametrically opposed either. In the past, journalists could get away with praising whatever random, obscure thing they wanted and readers didn’t have the resources to call their bluff, or many other alternatives. But now that there are so many media choices, and previewing records is easy for anyone, journalists can no longer hide behind their title. They have to stand purely on the merits of their words, and that’s where they are losing.

If you can’t attract an audience, maybe you aren’t really a professional.

Journalists get so wrapped up in their own self-importance that they forget their purpose is much more than to simply get a check for being so cool. They claim to be providing a service to the public. If you look at this whole situation from the point of view of the end user, things are better than ever in music journalism. No matter what your taste, you can find what you’re looking for easily. I mean, Pandora is more efficient at giving a random person music suggestions they will enjoy than anyone in the history of music journalism. Between technology advancements and the more relevant voices being featured almost exclusively online, people have discovered that they don’t really need print journalists to learn about music. These journos act like if they didn’t get paid to tell us about some shitty 7″ that only forty people in the whole world care about, the Earth would spin off its axis. If we get to a point where technology and a rotating cast of amateurs can more efficiently serve the public’s music information needs than journalists, is that necessarily a bad thing?

“But there’s still a demand for writing that offers cultural context rather than knee-jerk tantrums written in your “parent’s basement.” The bottom line is that while some music blogging passes as good journalism, blogging and journalism are rarely the same. And where the extinction of print is concerned, we’ve heard the same doom and gloom about analog recording, vinyl records, and even record stores over the last decade, but they’re all still here, so don’t hold your breath.”

What Chaddy Rad “fails to understand” is that a decrease in demand is not the same thing as an absence of demand. I guess economics was left out of his journalism curriculum. Yes, there will always be a place for musical historians. But with such a vast amount of information easily accessible to anyone, how many professional art historians do we really need? There are plenty of people who are out of touch that will enjoy another out of touch voice to echo their thoughts, but beyond that, there just isn’t that much need to explain what was good in music twenty or thirty years ago. It’s easy to go to the Internet and figure that out.

One of the biggest problems for print is that they can’t measure metrics the way digital media can. Creative Loafing can dump as much trash in the front of bars and claim whatever circulation numbers they want, but that doesn’t mean their reach per article is actually that large. Beyond big headlines bumping up circulation, print can’t easily discern which sections and pieces are generating readership, at least not as easily as digital formats. It makes them less nimble to adjust to changes, which is why they are trapped with all of these out of touch voices weighing them down. But even worse for print is this attitude among the journalists that metrics aren’t important. They have this sense of entitlement, yet find it both impossible and bothersome to justify that worth in any empirical sense. I’m sure once this attitude, as well as some of the inefficiencies, get purged from print, it will see a nice resurgence down the line by recruiting more relevant and efficient contributors. While I seriously doubt the demand for print will ever return to pre-Internet levels, some print will surely survive, the institutions that adapt better than the others. Creative Loafing has certainly made an effort to adapt, bringing in fresher voices in recent time who may obviously be lacking in overall musical knowledge, but they at least demonstrate an effort to compete. I mean Spencer Sloan’s “Tracklist” series on Cribnotes is identical to the “Friday Free-Style” and “Monday Mash-Up” posts I used to do here back in ’07 and ’08. If Creative Loafing’s music department is ultimately successful in the end, it’s because they adapted, thus proving that journalism’s fate is in its own hands.

Free content is a viable business model, but sympathy for sucking isn’t.

While I do enjoy being playfully antagonistic, my intention here is not just to bash old people, print, and journalism. I didn’t invent the Internet or blogging, and I wasn’t even on the forefront of those things. I didn’t make people grow out of touch as they grow old. I’m only the messenger. I’m trying to help journalists get their heads out of their asses. I wish we could all sit around and talk about music and get mad paid and never grow old, but that’s not reality. I’m doing you journalists a favour and attempting to wake you up from this slow suicide of mediocrity where you blame your ineptitude on everything outside of yourself. Because I’m not really your competition. To me, no matter what cultural context you put it in, music journalism has always been more about cronyism, corruption, and vanity then anything else. So I have no interest in being identified as a music journalist. As a writer, I couldn’t think of anything more horrifyingly boring than having to write record reviews for the rest of my life. Sooner or later I’ll lose interest in this blog, but someone else will come along to replace me. I’m sure this massive wave of bloggers will eventually recede, but access to an audience will never be as restricted as it once was. So from now on, you’ll have to prove your worth in some sort of measurable way to be successful. And if not, you’ll go the way of Paste.

[Diatribe] Why Paste Magazine Died

I wasn’t planning on blogging this week, but I just found out that Paste Magazine, based in Decatur, has ceased its print publication, and I’m guessing there won’t be much else left after that. I hate to see this mag go, because at one time long ago it was fairly decent, but I have to say that I’m not very surprised this happened, and from my perspective, it was nobody’s fault but their own. I didn’t want to pile on them when they were struggling, because as much smack as I talk to other music journalists around here, I don’t want people to actually lose their jobs or anything. But now that Paste is done, I’m going to explain exactly why they have sucked so hard recently. I have absolutely no idea what their monetary situation was, but I’ll outline the reasons I feel Paste failed, and if other print mags happen to come across this, they might want to pay attention because they could be next.

Top 3 Reasons Why Paste Failed:

1) Old People shouldn’t be in charge of covering music for kids.

Now, I’m sort of slitting my own throat on this one as I’m not exactly getting any younger, and I’m sure people who want to make music journalism a career will hate this, but it’s true. A few months ago I received a promo email from one of Paste mag’s high-up dudes, shilling for some local band. I listened to the band, and they played the most cliche’ hard rock garbage, which no one has actually cared about for at least twenty years. I thought, if this guy that helps run Paste really believes in this band, if he is willing to spend his own time backing this particular group, just exactly how out of touch with what’s happening in music today is this guy and Paste Magazine on the whole? And that was their biggest problem; Paste had become so out of touch with the music scene it was covering. They were evaluating music based on ideals that were obsolete and anachronistic. As much as they were pioneers in a lot of different ways, they were cavemen when in came to gripping the current music climate.

Now, there are certainly logistical problems to letting kids run a mag. For instance, it is difficult to find people who possess both the knowledge of current styles and sharpened writing skills. But that’s exactly what talent scouts should be looking for, and as soon as they find them, they should be looking for the next ones to replace them. Instead, these institutions are typically run by a small handful of people, lost in their own bubble, slowly racing towards inevitable irrelevance. Sure, there are exceptions, really great music writers who have weathered plenty of eras well, but for the most part, people who are getting paid the most for music journalism by older institutions are by and large older journalists who could easily be outmatched by a kid in his pajamas in his parent’s basement.

The heart of it is this: If you are not putting an immense amount of effort in keeping up with current trends, you will be left behind.

2) Inconsistent voices will be ignored.

Even when Paste was more in tune with what was going on, they were always terrible at discerning the good from the great. Nobody could possibly count on Paste’s numerical values of reviews, because there was no cohesive rhyme or rhythm to them. It felt like there was a whole bunch of different people all tossing around opinions randomly. It may seem that in theory being democratic about the many voices inside your institution will reach an even-handed, median voice, but in practice it doesn’t work. That is one of the biggest reasons blogs have taken over, because most of the time they contain a singular voice. There are lots of music journalists who I read regularly that I rarely agree with in terms of music taste, but I can always count on them being consistent with their evaluations, and thus I can make sound assumptions based on their work. Just having a hodgepodge of opinions is beyond useless for the end user. One of Pitchfork’s biggest achievements is managing their writers and numerical grades. Even though hundreds of different people write their reviews, you can always count on Pitchfork to have a reason for their tone and number grades, whether we disagree with them or not.

The only big institutions that will survive this print-tumbling era will be the ones who develop and maintain a consistent voice.

3) Music journalism isn’t as important as it used to be.

This is another one that my many music journalist friends won’t want to hear, but you ignore it at your own peril. Before anyone with the slightest bit of resourcefulness and access to the Internet could download any record they wanted, there was a need for gatekeepers to inform the masses what was worth their dollar. But now, aggregators and torrent site’s top lists do a better job of efficiently communicating the best new music then 99% of music journalists out there. With so much music being created, and attention spans of readers diminishing, there just isn’t that much demand for long-winded, deep-digging album reviews. People want to know whether they’ll like the record or not, plain and simple. Now we may all want to harken back to a simpler time when music journalism came with it a certain amount of status and honour, but today most paid music journalists are nothing more than concealed publicists, pandering to their ever decreasing amount of ad revenue. We may all wish that people couldn’t steal music, and that everyone who wants to could stay employed, but you can’t operate a business on wishful thinking.

The economics is this: Demand is shrinking, and supply is growing exponentially. If you don’t understand this, your music mag will fail, and even if you do understand this, your mag will still probably fail.

[Diatribe] Riding The Chillwave In The Year Of Indiebore

“Chillwave is the pinnacle of the snoozification of indie music…”

Six months ago, I wrote off the chillwave hype as just a passing fad, but as this year has progressed, I’ve realized the phenomenon is much more than a anomalous blip. I don’t find the music encompassing chillwave particularly impressive, though some of it is very nice when I’m in the right mood, but in terms of discerning the current state of music, chillwave turns out to be pretty damn fascinating.

First of all, the nature of the genre is rather unique. Typically in the history of pop music, genres emerge either from a single artist inventing a new style and others copycatting, or due to various people in one geographic location or scene co-inventing an aesthetic together. With chillwave, various artists in completely different locations having no ties to one another coincidentally developed respective sounds that were similar enough to be grouped together by people observing them on the Internet. Certainly these artists have some common bonds in terms of influences, but for an entire genre to come into existence and predominance this quickly from this sort of origin is previously unheard of and it marks the beginning of a new, “post-blog” era in music.

Welcome To The Post-Blog Era

Before this music blog/Internet/Indie revolution happened, a very small handful of people decided what most people would get to hear. Label execs and old school music journalists guessed what would be in fashion and fed it to listeners who only had few options in terms of sources to discover new music. Once the Internet changed that, there was promise of more freedom for music listeners, and with the barriers to entry tumbling down in journalism, it seemed there would be endless voices and opinions to aid people in finding the music they enjoyed most. All of that came to pass, but with an ever-growing amount of voices and options out there, the problem has shifted from not enough choice to an over-abundance. Which of the five billion blogs does a random person go to for finding new music they like?

With an overload of information, people have migrated towards the sources that could make sense of all of that data best, or the ones they recognize most. So in the last few years, even though a new blog is born every second, the amount of people with influence in the world of indie has coalesced into fewer and fewer hands. Power has been consolidated into three general groups: you have aggregators like Hypemachine and Elbows, you have the sites with the most comprehensive and quickest press releases, like Largehearted Boy, Brooklyn Vegan, and Pitchfork, and then you have tastemakers who have been the most successful at chasing down the zeitgeist of indie, like Hipster Runoff, Gorilla Vs Bear, and again Pitchfork. But that’s pretty much it, because if an artist isn’t doing well in those three spheres of influence, then most people won’t ever hear of them.

Looking back, the blog era didn’t end up changing music journalism as fundamentally as some thought, it more forced a changing of the guard. What is happening is a solidification and amplification of the most successful of the blog-era journalists. The trend will now shift towards conglomeration. Case and point, for a while I have thought there has been an enormous opportunity to create a viable alternative to compete with Pitchfork, if someone with the resources and understanding went out and just drafted all of the best music bloggers, putting them together on one website. It seems so simple, but it appears the only other person who thought of it was Pitchfork, who made another brilliant move in creating their potential competition themselves. Next week, Pitchfork will unveil Altered Zones, which is exactly what I just described: a central-website with a staff of hand-picked bloggers.

Back to chillwave…

It is the first example of a genre popularized by this new, post-blog regime. Hipster Runoff, Gorilla Vs Bear, and Pitchfork all but colluded in coming together and creating a successful music fashion by themselves. A musician’s career in the indie world can be made overnight by one of these three websites, and chillwave’s ascension is empirically irrefutable evidence to that effect.

But chillwave wasn’t simply an arbitrary occurrence. It isn’t a case of those with influence shoving something down everyone else’s throats. Those websites have become the primary tastemakers because they know what they are doing. As indie music has continually become more popular, these sites have backed records that they believed would have the broadest coalition of indie music fans. The music they endorse may not be mainstream in popular culture on the whole, but they rarely give their blessing to music that couldn’t at least become popular among indie fans. And chillwave appeals to so many different cross sections of indie listeners. The lo-fi kids can get into it, but so can electronic and electro peeps. It’s got that fashionable beachy vibe. It’s psychedelic, but nice and melodic, even containing a strong ’80s thread. It’s as if the genre was put together purposely to be the most commercially viable indie genre ever.

Of course, this race to the lowest common denominator is nothing new. And if chillwave is the worst of it, than indie may never die. I mean, think about what grunge morphed into six or seven years down the line. Indie music is still not as mainstream as previous major pop music movements, and it’s in the nature of indie listeners to enjoy a much wider range of styles than mainstream listeners, so there are limitations to how watered down things can get.

In addition, it’s not just a matter of indie getting too popular either. There are also fundamental changes in the way people listen to music and the way people make music that has driven us to this chillwave era.

Before everyone could steal whatever record they wanted, most people could only afford to buy so many, and they spent a lot more time with their music. These days kids are blowing through as much music as quickly as possible to find the next buzzband, and if a record doesn’t have a track that can catch someone’s attention right away, it can easily get overlooked. The successful music websites understand this and play to it, thus forcing musicians to play to it as well in order to break out from the other 5 billion musicians.

The audience is now the entertainer. Reality music has arrived.

And that’s the other side of the coin. The barrier to entry has faded away to become a musician just the same as it has to become a journalist, making chillwave the first confluence of these parallel shifts. Everyone is trying to stand out in an extremely saturated market, and that situation dictates the nature of what emerges. Any retard can download a cracked version of Ableton Live and be a chillwave-star. Talent is less a prerequisite to becoming a musician now than it ever has before. There is a dumbing down happening simultaneously in both indie music listeners and indie music makers, so the indie music journalists succeeding are simply giving people exactly what they want.

I’m not sure if that mostly accounts for how boring mainstream indie releases have become lately or not, but things have definitely gotten mundane. And that gives chillwave even more momentum: lack of competition. Chillwave is the pinnacle of the snoozification of indie music, and there aren’t many other major trends happening at the moment.

Ultimately though, I find all of these developments to be natural, not necessarily negative. Music works in cyclical ways, and when a lull in interesting sounds happens, it usually leads to something completely new breaking out. Either indie will find a way to renew itself or something different and better will come along. And as far as boring music goes, again, we could do a lot worse.

The Summer Generation

There is something more cultural than musical that helps sustain chillwave as well. With everything in the news so dramatically full of conflict, a cultural backlash of people who are apathetic to those events has emerged. Unlike the ’90′s generation, kids today just want to chill out and be happy. This generation doesn’t care about protest songs, they want something to casually listen to while they are hanging by the pool.

So in absence of popular indie trends that I prefer, I’m just going to go ahead and ride the chillwave for the rest of the summer. Hopefully by autumn there will be some more compelling national releases than the bulk of what has come out so far this year, and if not, there’s still plenty of good stuff out there if you dig deep enough, but there sure is a lot of junk to sift through as well.

Here are a couple of my fave chillwave jams, coincidentally from relatively local acts:

Toro Y Moi : “Blessa”
Washed Out : “You & I”

I touched on a lot of different subjects above, so I thought I would post of a few references that I recommend you check out to dig deeper into these topics. First, if you are clueless about the genre of chillwave, this is a piece to give you a primer, though I’m not sure I agree with all of their characterizations:

“In Defense of Chillwave” by Brandon Soderberg @ Village Voice

Carles of Hipster Runoff popularized the “chillwave” term, and here is his most recent piece discussing it and the state of indie music:

“CHILLWAVE OIL SPILL: When Natural and Man-Made Forces Collide To Form an Indie Disaster” by Carles @ Hipster Runoff

Here’s a little something further explaining the “post-blog era” with a more thorough examination of why this has happened:

“Dizzy Polari: music blogs are dead, long live music blogs!” by Matt Tyson @ Earfarm

On the subject of what the barrier to entry collapsing for musicians has done to music, Atlanta’s own Eric Guenther (From Exile) dropped a rant on Metalsucks a few months ago addressing that very subject:

“MUSIC IS DEAD.” by Eric Guenther @ Metalsucks

Finally, I want to thank Kill Your Darlings ATL for helping me edit this piece.

Diatribe Of The Day: Punk Rockers Against Paste Magazine, and Everything Else For That Matter

Being on the overlap of the dying print industry and the struggling music industry, Decatur based Paste Magazine has had to face down the same squeeze most everyone else has. First they tried a “pay what you want” subscription model as a creative solution, and then earlier this year reached a breaking point and began a donation drive to have fans pitch in to keep the publication alive in exchange for rare songs donated from musicians. But some around the city have expressed contempt for Paste and how they have dealt with their struggles, epitomized by Chunklet Magazine calling out Paste on their website.

Now, I can completely appreciate the sentiment of harpooning other music publications, I do it all the time. In fact, I’m about to do it in this article. And I’ve even been critical of Paste on occasion myself. But this Chunklet rant is just so poorly executed and lazily put together, and that’s surprising because most of what I read from them is usually hilarious. If you’re going to throw down the gauntlet, at least do it with some style. Paste has plenty of elements ripe for satire, but very little outside of 5th grade humour is utilized here. This just reeks of nothing but vitriol jealousy.

As I’ve already admitted, Paste has plenty of imperfections, but there are far worse publications in the world. Compared to other national mags like Spin or Rolling Stone, I’d take Paste over them any day of the week. Regardless of the state of Paste currently, they were on the forefront of backing this Internet music revolution, and they were way ahead of the curve in that respect. They have backed some bands that I don’t think deserve the credit they receive, but they have also done a lot of positive things for the local scene. And right now with all of the problems the music print industry is having, they are doing their best to experiment and try different things in order to find a new paradigm of obtaining revenue. Even if the Radiohead model wasn’t extremely successful and this donation drive is only a temporary solution, they should be applauded for not just sitting on their ass waiting for the walls to crumble around them like everyone else. If the print industry is going to survive in any meaningful way, it is going to take pioneers like Paste to illuminate that path. The fact that so many people are willing to rally around Paste to keep it alive points to a widespread appreciation of the value of this magazine.

As much as the Chunklet stab seems to have gotten the most attention, they aren’t the only one attacking Paste. Stomp And Stammer’s Jeff Clark expressed his disapproval of Paste’s donation drive by saying “I hope they don’t go out of business, but if you can’t make it, you shouldn’t beg. It kind of compromises what you do.” Now this hypocrisy annoys me much more than the weak Chunklet swipe. The issues of objectivity and uncompromised music journalism is a subject that has been of great interest to me over my time as a blogger, and I’ve recently been working on a piece addressing these issues. Without going too far into this specifically, as I will hopefully post that up very soon, you would be hard pressed to convince me there isn’t a single publication in this state, let alone the entire world, that isn’t at least marginally compromised by the method in which it receives its revenue. It would seem to me that finding a way for your audience to pay the tab would compromise what you’re doing far less than the artists you are supposedly critiquing paying you off. I wonder if The Coathangers weren’t the heavily funded, PR and advertisement buying juggernauts they are if Stomp and Stammer wouldn’t have put forth this spooge-fest disguised as journalism. If that article isn’t compromised by something, the only way I can make sense of it is that it is satire and they agree with me that Scramble is the worst album to come out of Atlanta all year (seriously, at least the first record was funny, without the shtick all you have left is overconfidence and talentlessness). I wonder if that writer can even get a hard on without listening to that terrible band. But I digress.

What is really going on here is that the local garage punk community will stop at nothing to oppress any dissenting voice that doesn’t agree they are the greatest and everything else sucks. They like to purport that they are the little guys fighting against the establishment, but the reality is exactly the opposite. Now that Paste is weak, it is time for them to try and pick it off and continue monopolizing their influence. Look, I’m glad that scene has enjoyed so much success and I’ve got nothing but congratulations for everything they achieved, but the punk rockers currently dominate almost every local record label, represent nearly every band getting national attention, even have their own documentary, and have firm control over every major local publication except Paste, and now Paste needs to die?

We don’t all have to hold hands and sing “Cumbaya”, but I think there’s enough room to support a lot of different voices and opinions in this big city, and that is the only way a scene can remain healthy and vital in the long run anyways.

But, the pendulum is swinging back, and I’m not going to pronounce this garage-punk fad over yet, but it is most definitely on the down slope. Sure they will always have their crowd and the people that dig it, but just as that scene was a reaction to the mathy scene of days past, what’s happening in the city at this moment is a direct reaction to the oversaturation of shitty punk. You guys had your decade in the spotlight, you had your glory, and whining that you guys don’t have enough, like wishing Paste dead, is only going to exacerbate the growing sentiment that it is time for a changing of the guard. There is a vibrant pocket of incredible bands and enthusiastic fans that are embracing intelligent music and diversity of sound and this hi-tech age. The old guys may not be aware of it from their ivory towers, or maybe they just don’t care, but there is a serious movement going on in this town right now, and these ridiculously talented artists deserve their moment just as the punks did.

In the end though, as much as these punk journalists wish they could eliminate and drown out every other voice and be able to keep shoving Black Lips clones down everyone’s throat, they are on the losing side of history. The young kids who are the future audience of this city’s music scene don’t want to hear the same old thing over and over again. And thanks to the Internet and us pajama-clad amateurs, they have plenty of alternatives. When I started this meager blog, there were only a few others in the city, and now I can hardly even keep up with all the new local outlets. And I love it, there is so much diversity of opinion. It’s great that everybody can find a niche and a voice. We are a major metropolitan city and we should be able to support everybody doing something special. So punk rockers, you had a great run, but you don’t need to cry just because somebody else is getting some attention, and don’t be jealous just because Atlanta is also willing to support people that don’t agree with you in addition to you. I’m going to keep on reading both Chunklet and Paste, even if that is going to make Mr. Owings soil his panties, because there is enough room here for both of them.

Diatribe Of The Day: In Defense Of Nathan Williams (Wavves)

Wavves @ SXSW 2009

A few weeks ago, Wavves had a meltdown on stage at a big music festival in Spain which Pitchfork called “the most epic onstage meltdown a band of their small size could conjure”. Ever since being awarded “Best New Music” from Pitchfork earlier this year, Wavves had become the target of scorn for being over-hyped from both critics and other musicians, and this latest fiasco has helped villianize the 22 year old San Diego dude behind this project even further. Since I was digging Wavves‘ records before Pitchfork even began its lovefest, I figured I would talk down the mob a little bit and put this tabloid-esque drama in some perspective. If you don’t care about Wavves or any of this hooey, then you might want to skip this read.

First, for those of you who don’t read Pitchfork regularly, let me catch you up to speed. The Wavves backlash began culminating at SXSW this year, embodied by a band called Psychedelic Horseshit wearing “Wavves Suxx” t-shirts and then giving a novel sized interview about how much they hated Wavves and fellow lo-fi acts that you can read here. Then, a few weeks ago my twitter feed was overloaded with twats from P4K’s Ryan Schreiber detailing the Wavves meltdown as it was happening as if it was the Iranian election. I then had to read it all again in a lengthy news post. Then just as I was heading to Bonnaroo, I see P4K giving news headlines to an interview with Black Lips‘ Jared Swilley where he completely trashes the kid for his meltdown. The pile-on against Nathan Williams has been so massive, that Grizzly Bear was joking about the situation:

Click here to read the entire post…

Diatribe Of The Day: Don’t Blame The Hipsters, or Why Atlanta Pwns Omaha

Last week’s cover story for Creative Loafing was entitled Damn hipsters: Is Atlanta falling prey to its indie cachet? I’m about to quote half that article so get ready. The thesis may seem hard to get at between the product placement tie-ins and glaring contradictions, but the argument goes like this:

Other cities have had cohesive music scenes shape a large part of their identity…But Atlanta seems to lack the sense of cohesion around which a defining scene can be built…Atlanta hasn’t typically lent itself to being easily packaged and sold. The various music scenes here, like the lay of the land, are a tangled mass of inroads woven together without rhyme or reason.

Now someone like me may read that and think, yeah, that’s pretty awesome isn’t it? Our city is too unique and diverse to get tied down to a single adjective. But, Creative Loafing sees this as a bad thing. In fact, it is the single biggest problem for the Atlanta scene to them. This isn’t the first time they have railed on this subject, and this isn’t the first time I’ve strongly disagreed. So let’s break this down:

Too often, bands from Atlanta have to find success elsewhere before getting the recognition they deserve in their own back yard. It’s a phenomenon that’s plagued Atlanta musicians for far too long.

First, over-generalizing bands leaving to go to New York as ambiguously “elsewhere” is misleading. Every single city in this country has artists leave and move to New York. That is not at all an Atlanta phenomenon. No one is leaving Atlanta and moving to Omaha to get big.

Second, maybe in the last millennium ATLiens had to dip out to get recognized, but as far as this decade goes, it is simply not true that an Atlanta band has to go elsewhere to get big. But don’t take my word for it, just ask the author of this article:

Click here to read the entire post…

Atlanta Scene Wars: Is We Fun Or Not???

Atlanta’s music scene is a very splintered, cliquish, fragmented scene. We have a major metropolitan area with a vibrant, diverse collection of artists, so this comes as no surprise to me. I mean, go ask a Brooklyn band if they have heard of *insert other random Brooklyn band* and most likely they will say no. As much as some people want Atlanta to have some monolithic sound imagining we can do some Seattle-style blowup, we don’t, and that sort of thing isn’t going to happen in the current Internet era of music.

In that context, making a documentary on the Atlanta music scene is going to be pretty much impossible to be all-inclusive. I have been documenting the Atlanta scene in writing every day for over two years now and I am still constantly surprised by obscure scene pockets and bands I discover all the time. But the new upcoming film documentary by Chris Dortch, Matthew Robison, and Bill Cody called We Fun has been the center of some controversy because it has focused on the more popular Atlanta bands like the Black Lips and Deerhunter. The other million or so bands in Atlanta and their fans have complained that the documentary has left out too many bands, especially the less accessible, less hyped ones.

One reaction to this was the making of a compilation of Atlanta artists called We No Fun, highlighting some of Atlanta’s bands that didn’t get featured in the film. This Friday and Saturday night, many of the bands that are part of the We No Fun project will be playing at the Drunken Unicorn for the release party of the compilation. Now, the people involved with the We Fun project are complaining about the We No Fun project. From the We No Fun myspace:

So tonight we were interviewed by Chad “The Rad” Radford, and kinda impromptu interviewed by the lovely Henry Owings from Chunklet. Reactions were varied from both parties, what I found the funniest was that during most of our chat Henry only wanted to talk about the name. “Why is the comp named that?” or “Is the name a reaction to the We Fun documentary?” Not a lot was even discussed about the bands, the shows, the comp itself. It seemed as though Henry was asking questions he already knew the answer to and had responses ready to go, I suppose as a journalist he should. People are gonna be biased by what they’ve created or helped to create. Chad is in the We Fun documentary and Henry had a part in making it happen financially (which I didn’t know till we we’re talking this afternoon), so of course they’re going to feel a little slighted by the name or focus on that side of things. Both Henry and Chad loved the idea of the comp but at one point Henry said, “Why don’t you change the name? It seems like you guys are all sour grapes. Aren’t you bigger than that?” The name again. The name is just that, a name. It was a funny idea to make people take another look at the way the scene have been becoming more two like 2 different scenes in the past years. People not caring about what the fuck is going on with their scene or only going to there friends shows or “dising” each other or shit talking each other. I had to ask “What if it was called Atlanta Sucks? These Bands Will Never Leave Atlanta? Would you be as interested in the comp or would it just fall by the way side” Only giggles pasted between all of us. The point of punk rock is that it is a reaction, a reaction to the way you grew up, the ways girls or boys have treated you, the scene you exist in, your social class. The reason this comp was created is to say we exist, and it’s time we all worked together again. No scene is perfect. Jesus no fucking band can ever function perfectly within itself for long periods of time. Chris and I created the idea of this comp to help the bands involved and document the scene. period. The name is a prefect example of this bullshit separationist crap. For the record (haha) the name stays and goddamnitt stop all this whining. We love Atlanta and go see the We Fun Documentary people.

So here’s the deal guys. We have a ton of talented acts in this city, and we have great bands representing just about every single genre you can imagine. The We Fun documentary may be a bit too exclusive and only focusing on the popular kids, but you can only fit so many bands into a film. As much as i have tired of the Black Lips constant attention seeking activities, if I were a filmmaker, they would be the first band I would want to tell a story about in this city. They are like the show Jackass for hipsters.

But on the flipside, the bands in the We No Fun project are just as important as the cool kids in We Fun. And the people involved with the WF documentary should stop crying about the dissent against them. It is only free publicity, so if anything you should welcome the controversy. There are a ton more bands in this city that deserve attention that aren’t involved with either one, and those should be the only people complaining right now.

So on that note, I’m announcing right now that Ohmpark is going to put together our own project called We Funner Than Both Of You, highlighting the many super talented artists that were left out of both projects. More details on how that will work coming soon, so get ready. And I hope you guys cry about it a bunch and give me some publicity. Thanks!

Anyways, the We Fun myspace recently gave us an update on how that project is going:

H’llo, WeFunsters!
It’s been a few months, but things are happening.
First, We Fun is We Finished! Yes, we’ve achieved a lean, mean 72 minute look at the city of Atlanta as we saw it from November 2007 to June of 2008.
Note the new poster (designed by multi-tasker Henry Owings). We’re looking to get these printed very soon so that you can enjoy one or two in your teenage room. Can anyone guess who that is wielding the guitar?
And soon we hope to report festival screenings. As of now, no news is good news on that front.

I can’t wait to see it. Also, make sure to get down to the Drunken Unicorn and check out the We No Fun party:

Friday, January 30th
Thy Mighty Contract
Hollow Stars
High Marks

$5 for 21+, $8 for <21, 18+

Saturday, January 31st
The Sunglasses
Brass Castle
Skin Problems

$5 for 21+, $8 for <21, 18+

Diatribe Of The Day: Atlanta’s Spectacle Arms Race

If you read this blog regularly, you know that for the most part we keep things very positive and tend to only cover stuff we like. When I do my show listings for the week, I only try to suggest shows that I genuinely would like to attend.I don’t have much interest in spending my time on music I don’t enjoy and there are plenty of other sites on the web that take pleasure in pitchforking folks. But as much as I prefer to be the cheerleader, especially for the Atlanta scene, I think it is important to sometimes contrast the good with the bad, and point out the things I don’t like. I think dissent has value, so pardon me for the haterade I’ve been drinking.

In my Corndogorama coverage, I took a jab at Judi Chicago, and they totally noticed it (OMFG, Judi Chicago reads this blog!!!) and responded with this comment:

Click here to read the entire post…

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