The Case for Culture: Where Should Music Rank in the News Cycle?
News is everything: whether we are just waking up or about to call it a night, we are consuming news. News consumption, of course, has changed radically since the days your old man would read the paper while in his underwear in the morning. Today one in five U.S. adults admits to getting their news from social media, according to this piece by the Pew Research Center. So, if we are shifting the way we consume news, we may also be seeing certain news and topics losing relevance or importance. How important is music news today? Let's take a look at where the category once ranked and where it may be headed.
Music news may feel like its articles, features, and columns have always been relegated to the back pages of major publications, but this is not the case. In the mid-'70s in particular, music was prominently tied to a hot topic that remains sizzling today: U.S. politics. The counterculture youth movement that flooded the streets of major U.S. cities like Detroit helped birth punk rock and the bands that would make their voices heard. Groups like Anti-Flag, Dead Kennedys, and others pushed their messages with the fuel of hard rock and in doing so gave the music a prominent spot in people's daily news cycle.
U.S. and world politics, as always, remain atop the news food chain and generally take priority over the news about science, business, sports and, of course, culture. This hierarchy leaves music as a bottom feeder, a leisure topic if you will. While major sites like Rolling Stone and NME do their fair share of heavy lifting, other publications keep it simple, covering the basics and moving right along. Once in awhile a publication will dig a bit deeper and produce a headline such as "Why Christians reject Kanye West’s ‘Jesus Is King,’ Sunday Service" and craft an interesting angle; create a conversation people want/need to have.
It should be the duty of major music magazines to go beyond the music and search for the kinds of angles that can win the battles for attention that rage on social media feeds and newsletters. As it stands music sites are copycats of one another: a major publication will put out a story and hundreds of smaller publications will simply copy it almost to the very title. Would it not be better that they found their unique angle on the story? You know, the way journalists used to do.
For the examination of culture to have a prominent place in our news cycles again, and for music to be tied to that examination, we as journalists, musicians and fans must spot the real stories behind the music. I propose we find the statistics, political angles, and missing pieces that can turn music stories into relevant items of journalism, ones that jump out the page and demand attention. It is time to plug music and its powerful influence back into the world, there is no better time than now.