Negative press in electronic music, and music in general

This is something I’ve wanted to write about for a while.

Those closest to me know that I channel my stress through writing, and finals time combined with the events of this week have pushed me to the point where I think some of these words are necessary.

I wrote for (what I consider to be) a major electronic music publication for three years. When I first joined the team at this publication, I noticed that we never really ran negative stories. I thought this was pretty cheesy.

Anyone that really knows me, or even follows me on Twitter, knows that I have pretty harsh views regarding many artists, labels that churn out less-than-great releases, and the current state of the “live” show. My opinions are rigid, they’re abrasive, and, frankly, sometimes they’re just rude. But I like to share my thoughts with my friends and the (very few) people that respect my journalistic work.

So I began pitching negative stories. I would often email the entire team of writers with “we should rip this track” — things along those lines. At the time I thought it was what we were supposed to do; we should act like the journalists in the big leagues, like those at CNN and Fox, that constantly dig up mud.

The response from my editors, who were veterans in dance music press, was always the same: “why put out negative coverage when we can put a spotlight on the things we love?”. I fought this response on a pretty regular basis.

A few times, my pitches for negative press were approved. I had my freedom to tear down the tracks I didn’t like, the opportunity to “expose” anonymous artists, and could write about the things that were “wrong with the electronic music industry”. Those articles got more hits than any articles I ever wrote that praised the beauty of Flume’s music, or the masterful work that goes into Skrillex’s synths. For a minute, I thought this was cool.

It didn’t take long, though, for me to realize how truly lame these articles were. Here I was, sitting behind the safety of my keyboard, ripping the careers of people who were just doing what they loved. The people I was insulting worked for years, isolated in their bedrooms, going unnoticed by the world, dreaming that one day they would get a chance to be heard by the masses. And in some instances, when they got that chance, I took the liberty to tear them down.

I’m pretty lucky. The most scathing article I ever wrote, which I will not link or acknowledge, bothers me every day. I don’t just think about it often — I think about it constantly. Fortunately, my article would not have a long term impact on the career of this artist, but I often ask myself: why did I do it?

To this day, I cannot justify it to myself. There is so much good music out there, there are so many great artists to be discovered, and there are so many fans that like a wide variety of sounds — so who was I to say what was good or bad? This is something that is repeated often, but music is subjective. We live in a world where critics don’t even take five minutes to absorb a song before passing judgement. The power of the internet has connected us all, but also opened us all to major criticism.

I often think back to the days where my editors (Andrew, Dylan, Michael, Allegra) told me to just write about the positive things, and I realize how right they were. Many of the “blogs” you read on a day-to-day basis are just the result of hobbies that the writers pick up between classes, on their work lunch break, or when winding down at night. There are limited hours in the day. When you can take advantage of those hours to bring up the ones you love, why would you waste that limited resource to bring down what you personally don’t enjoy or don’t agree with? It’s hilarious when Pitchfork gives an album a ridiculously low rating, or when Anthony Fantano rips apart an album for 15 minutes. But we, as fans, take those opinions in stride, without thinking about the hundreds of hours the artist put in to that work, and the thousands — perhaps millions — of people that will only feel joy when exposed to this music. We never consider what kind of emotional impact this has on the artist. That needs to change.

In the end, electronic music is an escape. It’s an escape for the DJ, who gets to zone in on making people happy for a few hours a week. It’s an escape for the consumer, as they lose themselves in the music. Never, once, have I witnessed people miserable during a DJ set. That is what deserves coverage. That is what we should be talking about. Negative press does nothing but create more jaded, obnoxious people — and that was never the goal when I started writing about music.

Sure, people should know about Fyre Festival. People need to know when the logistics of a festival were terrible (hey, Tomorrowworld), and the public should be privy to the negative things that occur at shows — deaths, injuries, etc. But tearing down someone else’s art, whether it is a published piece or a live showing, brings no benefit to the fans (who are probably enjoying themselves far more than the writer of the critique is), and brings no benefit to the artist.

I am confident that people who publish negative press about artists believe that they are doing the public a service. But it doesn’t take long to realize that they are doing absolutely no one a service.

Remember when we found out Drake had someone writing his tracks or him? Remember how it was a big deal for, like, 3-and-a-half minutes until people realized that loving Drake for his musical output was cooler than hating him for the fact that someone wrote some of his lyrics?

I will forever continue to sprinkle my salt on my jaded friends. The people I met during my time writing in dance music media are the people with whom I feel comfortable exchanging criticisms. I keep my Twitter on private so that my ridiculous opinions are contained, and the only pieces I have written since leaving the previously mentioned publication are ones promoting artists I like.

I’d like to challenge my (ex) peers to do the same. Twitter accounts and anonymous critiques are electronic music’s tabloid media. It’s silly, it promotes nothing good, and it brings no one any benefit. It’s garbage, low-hanging fruit. It brings people in for all of the wrong reasons.

So, to anyone who thinks they’re doing a service to the public by bashing an artist, or by telling people not to listen to a song, mix, or album — just stop. Promote what you love. Don’t reflect on what you hate.

Can’t end all of this without following my own advice, so check out this new Lido remix. I think this musician has the potential to change the face of electronic music, and I think he deserves your ear for three minutes.

Peace. Love. Zwill.