I’ve struggled for about a year now over what to do with T-Sides. I started T-Sides at a time when music writing and journalism were changing. Not to say that they aren’t still changing, or aren’t always changing, but my decade or so pursuing a journalism career has been stretched across a serious shift in journalism.
We probably should’ve expected the internet to be a bigger game changer, but I clearly wasn’t the only one who just kind of didn’t consider it. When I studied up for my BA in Print Journalism, that first word says it all – Print Journalism. There was one class in Online Journalism, and it was offered once a year at 8am. By the time I realized I should be taking an Online Journalism class, I was in my senior year, interning at Rolling Stone, commuting from Long Island to Manhattan a couple days a week, and not remotely interested in taking an 8am class. Instead, I made this blog, inspired by other music blogs, and hoping that my internship at Rolling Stone would be something worth writing home about — more like the MTV show (which they filmed a year later, and I did indeed audition for), and less like the actuality (making media packets, standing in the hallway counting how many times someone was wearing sunglasses on the cover, transcribing long interviews, etc.).
When I graduated, I found out that I had been sorely prepared for the Journalism world, whether it be in print or online. Never mind my plethora of internships (Rolling Stone, Res, Resonance, the Grammys/NARAS), never mind my Dean’s List and Communication Honors Society, never mind my Senior Editor status at the campus newspaper, never mind anything I had done up until that point. The old print guard would only look at you if you had the right connections (I didn’t), and the new online guard was still getting its bearings, un(der)paid and struggling, mostly just talking shit about the old print guard instead of embracing the internet’s lack of limitations. (I spent a lot of days during my internship at Rolling Stone on Gawker, reading about everything going on behind the scenes at Wenner Media – which is why I was flummoxed for a long time whenever people talked about “good writers” on Gawker, because how would you have known? They just spent their time spewing hate on print media and Julia Allison instead of learning from the lessons of the people they were dumping on, like someone who talks about how they hate their ex so much that you know they’d get back together with them if only given the chance.)
So, I took work in marketing, because it was the first job I was offered and I found myself with a rent to pay and a guilt complex over asking for help from family. It felt like a betrayal of myself somehow, sidestepping around my dream. I told myself it was temporary, and T-Sides became the perfect platform to remind myself who I was and what I wanted to do. To be fair to that marketing job, it also introduced me to other writers, many of whom I still talk to, and many of whom helped me get some writing gigs, so it wasn’t all bad. I would listen to albums at work and occasionally jot off notes during lunch or slow periods. I would take my laptop to the office and then, instead of going home, I would go to the cafe two subway stops away because it was open late, and I would stay for as long as it took until I hammered out everything I needed to. I was often there until close (midnight), and my dinner would have been a scone and a pot of tea (or two). It got hard to maintain, though. Despite pouring every minute of my spare time into this, it felt like it wasn’t bringing me any closer to getting the jobs I wanted. Even networking was a total bust somehow. People I knew from other jobs or internships didn’t want to help me or couldn’t, because as journalism was shifting and changing, people were losing jobs or changing jobs, and instead of treating me like a comrade, many of them treated me like the competition. Which I suppose is fair and unsurprising, though no less sad.
Nothing feels pettier than watching journalists fight with each other, particularly in music journalism. Someone would jump up and say they deserved to be paid more than someone else, and the only result was me wanting to pay someone to dump a bucket of ice on their ego. If your most popular idea stems from the thought that your opinion is more valuable than anyone else’s, then you’re as detrimental to journalism as the people you cite for ruining it. Writing is about an exchange of ideas, and if you spend more of your time promoting your ideas than developing them, then how good can they possibly be? Yes, some writers are “better” than others, but in the world of opinions, we are all entitled. Some might be more informed, some might be more subjective, but to tell someone they aren’t allowed to have an opinion is not only unfair but untrue. Writers calling out who’s “better” and who’s not “allowed” to have an opinion or be a writer is spiteful and tiring, and for a couple years, it seemed to go on forever. (Sometimes it feels like it still is.) Many of the people who did this were pointing fingers specifically at people like me, because I was young, because I wasn’t being paid to do it full-time, because I had started a blog, because I didn’t have a PhD in Music History, or whatever else reason they’d concocted to dismiss me or anyone like me.
I’ve chewed on these frustrations in my head for a couple of years now, and some have dissolved where others have remained, but one thing never changed. However tumultuous the scene is, writing will always be in my nature. And while I continue to work through a career in it, T-Sides is still the one place where I am the one who gives my work its weight. Nice though it can be, I don’t have to have a throng of people telling me I’m allowed to do this. I’ve done it before, and I’m doing it again. (That said, if you happen to be one in a throng of people telling me I’m allowed to do this, or even just one, not in a throng, please feel free to do that, too.)
For a long time now, I’ve talked about restructuring T-Sides. The way I see it, there is not yet an outlet that accurately depicts the actual cultural experience. The way that mediums merge, cultures also merge, and it is far too easy to separate them. Sometimes they come separated, and that’s convenient. Other times, they blend together, but we still feel the need to divide them. I can only talk about this idea on a higher level because I haven’t executed it yet, but hopefully it will become self-explanatory as the pieces emerge. T-Sides will be undergoing this restructuring, and a redesign, over the next month or so. We will re-emerge, much like Jean Grey to Phoenix. Stronger, more powerful, and perhaps a little more out of control.
The Beatles, “Getting Better” (download)
Fiona Apple, “Better Version of Me” (download)
Frightened Rabbit, “I Feel Better” (download)