By Erin Christie
TW: This article contains language and dialog regarding instances of sexual misconduct, assault, rape, and other atrocities. Please be wary when reading, or avoid reading if this content might be harmful to you.
For healing resources (including a sexual assault resource guide, the national domestic violence and sexual assault hotlines, and more) compiled by the Instagram page, Lured_By_Burger_Records, head here.
As a twenty-one recent college graduate with the whole world in front of me, waiting with arms crossed as opposed to open, the thought of the future is daunting. Almost indefinitely, I’ve been questioning whether or not I’m confident about the choices I’ve made and the future I see for myself as an aspiring music journalist. My doubts have mostly stemmed from pondering my talent (or lack thereof) in this field, the competitiveness of the industry and the possibility that I might have a difficult time finding work post-grad, the financial instability that I might find in pursuing a creative career path, and the usual worries my parents and superiors have instilled in me from the very start.
Aside from those run of the mill factors in my future-related stress, however, I’ve felt small tinges of conflict (especially during the entirety of last year), thinking about what the title of this piece describes. How can I comfortably enter a career within an industry that truly and honestly horrifies me?
Ever since watching Cameron Crowe’s iconic film, Almost Famous, I saw myself in the young journalist-turned-roadie that the film describes. I wanted to be and to do what he did — to see myself in the company of the musicians I looked up to; to be able to document behind-the-scenes tour shenanigans; to see how the music scene works on a basic level and be able to take my love for writing and mesh it with my experiences. Last summer, however, with facing the startling reality that there is a power imbalance within the industry and that sexual misconduct runs rampant in the scene that I love so dearly, I found myself questioning just how much I want to be part of it, after all, especially with the knowledge that many abusers that had been outed during that time had been the subject of my writing or behind my camera lens.
For example, my first in-person interview was with The Frights back during the fall of my freshman year of college. I was so stoked, having been able to sit in the tiny green room at The Sinclair in Boston with them and my dear friend (who I was assisting on the interview with). Now, with allegations made against Mikey Carnevale having been brought to light, that memory is tainted. But, more than that, that coverage is regrettable, as I would never want to give someone like him a journalistic leg to stand on, knowing what I know now. Similarly, one of my very first concert photography ventures saw me shooting a set for The Buttertones — who also recently gained a handful of allegations against them — at the Middle East Upstairs in Boston (which also has a history of abuse). Again, this experience no longer has any kind of positive association, but one of utter distaste.
As everything was coming out last summer, I found myself at a strange, horrendous crossroads where the true colors of a handful of musicians I supported and wholeheartedly loved had been uncovered. At the time, it was a confusing feeling, reckoning with the fact that I felt two-timed and stabbed in the back as a supporter of these people, and simultaneously sick at the fact that my support might’ve unknowingly contributed to the hurt those artists had caused. It made me question just how much I can trust anyone I support in the musical sphere, knowing just how quickly my beliefs can be spun around, and just how easily someone can put up a front for the sake of musical success while hurting people behind the scenes (ahem, SWMRS).
With all of these instances and feelings in mind, of course I wanted to quit. I no longer felt inspired to do what I loved, as it felt wrong to love such a thing. But, at the same, I began to think about my career within a broader scope; to think about the position I’m in with the platform I have in the music industry.
As a journalist in general, one’s primary vocation is to meet the needs of the people — to serve as a lens through which the public can view and understand the innermost layers of our world, and the injustices that are often buried underneath the surface, which is an obligation that isn’t limited to the type of journalism you might catch on late-night news or on a talk show. Music journalists — and even music reviewers like Anthony Fantano and publications like Pitchfork (yikes) — serve a similar role: they’re gatekeepers for “what’s cool” and help show music fans what they should be paying attention to. Additionally, in uplifting artists that they support and care about, this can in turn, help said artists float to the top of the barrel, which makes them a massively important resource for growing artists, too.
Being a music journalist comes with a lot of power, in that sense, which can of course be daunting, especially noting the horrors that the industry often keeps under wraps. It’s also difficult to feel passionate about one’s work when those horrors seem to be so unavoidable. Even so, here’s where I urge you to snap out of it, if you’re considering quitting, like I was.
Giving up now and letting one’s platform as a music journalist go to waste would be a huge wasted opportunity! Sure, it might be scary to continue on due to one’s disgust with the commonality of abuse (trust me, I feel it, too), but, in recognizing that disgust, one can channel it into their craft. With the power to provide a platform, one also has the ability to just as easily take that platform away, and that can be part of one’s journalistic mission going forward. We, journalists, have the ability to turn this shit around.
Within the last year, I’ve felt sick knowing that I accidentally uplifted artists that tore down others, and even fans, deliberately; that I have contributed to an industry that so often chews non-men up and spits them out. But, in feeling this way, I’m also empowered to be part of the process of instilling necessary change. Via writing, and via encouraging dialogue regarding the industry’s gross misuse of power against vulnerable populations, I aim to make my music journalism platform a tool through which I can call specific artists, labels, managers, crew members, etc out on their bullshit publically, in addition to writing about what I love. Like I stated earlier, audiences look at music journalists to learn “what’s cool” and what they should be supporting, and with this mentality in mind, music journalism might be able to encourage said audiences to look more critically at who and what they support, too. Then, not only can I keep doing what I love and feel good about doing it, but I can also do good through my work.
I’m hopeful that via my role as a journalist, I might be able to make sure that abusers and otherwise horrible people can never survive in the music industry again. We, music journalists and music publications, must make an effort to encourage healing and promote a no-tolerance policy on sexual misconduct moving forward, to an even stricter degree. Moving into a new year, this is a necessity.
Disclaimer: First and foremost — before making the decision to pursue this work or not — make sure to take care of yourself over one’s “journalistic obligation.” If leaving the industry behind is the most healthy and beneficial thing for you to do in order to encourage your own personal healing, you should absolutely do that. Please do what’s best for you, as your wellbeing should always come first. You can still be part of the change this industry needs in different ways.