Music to Our Ears

Saving the banter for later: Tim Westergren, founder of Pandora, and Joel Selvin of the San Francisco Chronicle.

“Don’t pee on ants,” said Joel Selvin, a veteran of pop music criticism at the San Francisco Chronicle. Only one of the four distinguished members of the Berkeley School of Journalism’s The Future of Music Journalism panel, Selvin’s opinion seemed to be shared by the other panelists, Niema Jordan, the Executive Editor of 38th Notes, Doug Brod, Editor-in-Chief of Spin magazine, and Tim Westergren, founder of Pandora radio.

Selvin’s advice, though humorous, addresses the serious matter of the role of the journalist. What Selvin is saying here is, don’t piss (figuratively) on smaller bands which are simply trying to get their music heard. However, at another point in the night, Westergren mentioned that he believed that “the days of gargantuan bands are behind us for the most part.” His statement incites an interesting complication.

Putting our fears of a world without print to rest: Niema Jordan, Executive Editor of 38th Notes, and Doug Brod, Editor-in-Chief of Spin magazine. All photos by Diana Li.

As technology increases the availability of music, fewer musicians will attain the status of “star”, and popularity will become more diffuse. Journalists will have to adapt to this new structure and decide whether an artist’s size is enough to prevent a negative critique, considering few musicians will possess a large fan base.

Although Selvin’s statement pertains to the relationship between journalist and artist, it also encapsulates the problem addressed at Wednesday’s panel. Will the increasing dominance of sites and programs using music algorithms eventually render music journalists insignificant, or worse, obsolete? As the founder of one of these internet behemoths, Tim Westergren failed to see why there must be a conflict between technology and printed journalism, calling them “wildly complementary.” Doug Brod went so far as to say that he loved Pandora.

Brod and Jordan both believed that Pandora does not provide what avid music listeners desire: the story behind the artist. Westergren quickly chimed in that they don’t intend to. Yet even though these two sides were seemingly opposing, a consensus was reached that technology and print journalism can actually benefit one another, allowing the Ray Ban clad audience to breathe a little easier.

Christina Kowalski
BARE Reporter

1 comment: