By Paul AcquaroJed Gottliebs' article "Curtains fall on arts critics at newspapers" in the Columbia Journalism Review from earlier this month really got to me. Having grown up in New Jersey reading the arts and leisure section in the Star Ledger, I learned a lot about the arts, music reviews, concert listings - basically all of the things that are still important to me. So, when I read a paragraph like "critics at newspapers are dying off even faster than print journalism. Theatre critics, film reviewers, A&E editors, and arts writers of every kind have been stripped from dailies and weeklies around the country", it's deflating.
I became involved with the Free Jazz Blog six years ago. It provided a creative outlet and welcome distraction during a trying time, and introduced me to a world of music that I had only dreamed about. Through the blog, I've met creative people and have been exposed to ideas and sounds that I wouldn't have otherwise encountered.
Over the years, as Stef has pointed out, the blog has grown in terms of members and readership, and we've seen incredible developments like Martin's Freejazzblog on Air - an occasional series on public radio in Germany (SWR2), and a social media presence run by Dan and Antonio that has been key in bringing our readership to over 150,000 views a month.
However, I still find myself taken with this statement from the same article:
Blogs and niche arts websites thrive (if not economically, certainly in terms of traffic). But they can do great work, gather thousands of readers and still not plug the hole newspapers have left by pulling arts pages. Niche sites cater to niche audiences. They ghettoize content ...True. The blog solution is not perfect - it's piecemeal, it's subjective, it's driven by passion, and there is always so much more to know about - like that there are a thousand more albums a year that we can possibly get to! However, it's what we can do, with the tools that we have, with the passion that the music invokes, and the duty we feel to share it.
Anyway, so here we are, the Free Jazz Blog at 10 years and still running strong. I want to express my thanks to Stef for starting this blog and then, when the time came, opening it up to the collective, and to the collective for selflessly contributing and making it strong. I'm also grateful to all of the musicians, promoters, organizers, labels, DMG, Instant Jazz, and the readers who keep the creative music world running.
In the end, perhaps it is a niche, but regardless, it is a really important one. Simply being able to play a part in this community keeps me going when it's late, I'm tired, and we still need to post a new review for the next day. I suspect it's something similar for all of us in the collective, and for our colleagues who run concert series in their cities, neighborhoods, or even their own homes, and/or spend hours writing their thoughts and spreading the word about music and art because of their own intrinsic motivation. It's the only way it works, and it is more important than ever.
Ok, now back to work everyone!