Recently, I reached out multiple times to an artist to get their input/feedback on an article I’ve written here on MusicScribe. These requests have been ignored. I believe, based on previous interaction with this artist, that this is due to their disdain for anything blog-related (although, it’s entirely possible that they just hate my guts; without a response, it’s hard to tell). I get that they are not obligated to respond to anything I write, but in the interest of fairness, my reason for reaching out in the first place was to provide a fair analysis, not a critique.
But why are artists so against the idea that blogs can be a legitimate news source?
Over the last decade, blogs in general have gone from personal little online journals to major sources of news and information. Quite a few people actually make a living at it (although, we here at MusicScribe still hold on to our “day jobs”). And while some blogs still have a personal agenda, others (us included) try to present a fair, open-minded perspective when it comes to news and even our editorials. I personally try to research as much as I can before I write a commentary, as I do not wish to present misinformation. Sometimes that research includes reaching out to artists directly for input and/or feedback.
Now, just like everything else in southern gospel music that represents change, there is a resistance to blogs. Ten years ago, this would be understandable, as blogs were still a relatively new medium, and rather than attempting to be objective, many posts (and even more comments/responses) were highly opinionated, and often were not flattering towards SG artists. The main culprit, of course, was Doug Harrison’s site, A Very Fine Line, which drew the ire of many a gospel artist in its time (sometimes, rightfully so, but more often than not because the posts and comments lifted the veil on the SG industry that very few were wanting lifted). Some artists handled the site fairly well, while others minced no words about how they felt about it.
That was then, however, and this is now. Harrison retired from posting on AVFL four years ago (November 17th, 2013, to be exact). The bitter taste of his site, however, still lingers with a few artists, and that has carried over to other sites, as well, to the point that ALL blogs are now viewed as “bad,” including MusicScribe.
Part of this, I believe, is due to the fact that artists do not control what is being posted on sites such as ours. With publications such as the Singing News, which is driven heavily by artist advertising, it is in the publication’s best interest to make sure the artists who have advertising investments are not upset by what is published, lest they lose that advertising revenue. Is this unbiased reporting? Of course not, but the SN doesn’t claim to be unbiased, and the artists know this.
MusicScribe, however, is not beholden to a publisher or advertiser. Our site owner, David Bruce Murray, allows for a few ad’s which we have selected for our site, but we do NOT solicit advertising from artists, which means we do not run the risk of losing money if an artist is unhappy with something we publish, and to DBM’s credit, there have only been a handful of posts that I can think of over the last decade that he has rejected from posting. That doesn’t mean that we all post whatever we want to post, mind you. We still try to adhere to a certain level of integrity. In fact, I’d venture to say that we hold ourselves to a higher standard BECAUSE we are not beholden to advertising revenue. Sure, we could post every piece of gossip or unverified bit of “news,” but at the end of the day, we all are SG fans, and it is our desire to BETTER the genre with our writing, not harm it.
In fact, most of what I personally write is not written to be mean-spirited (despite what some may think); it’s written to bring attention to something that I believe could hurt the industry as a whole. Subpar products, outdated business models, and tunnel-visioned mindsets are only going to hamper the genre’s growth, and part of my goal with my writing is to make artists aware of these potential setbacks, and (dare I say it) encourage them to improve and grow themselves. Sometimes this means presenting the information that artists don’t like.
Still, there are those who do not see it this way. Some artists believe that if they cannot control what is being written, then it’s not worth reading. They have worked hard to maintain a certain image and/or public persona, and anything that challenges that is a threat. With that mindset, blogs will never be viewed as “legitimate,” because they can’t be controlled. On top of that, a few artists take ANY criticism, constructive or otherwise, as a personal attack.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; any critique I offer is prefaced by respect for an artist; the fact that they are willing to put their hearts and talent out there for the public, not matter the outcome, has earned my respect for being willing to do so.
This is also not to say that editorials in gospel music are anything new. JD Sumner’s column in the Singing News used to rub people the wrong way quite often, but because he was a legend in the industry (as well as held a controlling interest in a lot of the industry at some point or another), he could get away with it. People are much more open to taking less than flattering critiques if it’s from someone in a position of power. DBM has posted photos of other editorials from over the years in the SN, and almost all of them are from other artists or industry professionals. In other words, if you’re IN the industry, you can comment ON the industry. If you’re not inside that bubble, however, then your editorials, opinions, critiques, etc., are not valid (or at least not AS valid).
Personally, I feel this is a more dangerous mindset to have; if an industry is so inward-focused that any outside opinions are immediately invalidated simply by virtue of not being from your inner circle, then you are essentially operating in a vacuum. It is to an artist’s benefit to at least LISTEN to what those outside the industry have to say, especially those who are so passionate about it – even if it’s not what you want to hear.
Will sites such as MusicScribe ever be viewed as “acceptable” in the gospel music industry? Maybe some day, but probably not until some of the current established artists (who may or may not have been burned by older sites) are no longer in charge.
FYI – We will leave comments open on this post as long as they remain civil. Play nice, people….