Article

Why I'm Leaving No Depression

In the summer, I met someone for coffee. I care a great deal about what this person thinks of me, so when he slid a CD across the table rather apologetically and asked me to review it on No Depression, I was shocked. I didn’t ever anticipate him asking for a favour like that, or my opinion on something.

Well here we are in November and I still haven’t written that review. To tell you the truth, it’s because assignments like that, with such big expectations attached, sometimes paralyze me. A normal record review would be fine, but I take them all seriously, and want to put as much effort as possible into making them great. Not just to be a good writer and improve my skills, but to offer artists who are desperate for coverage something meatier than your average 100-word dashed off assignment for a weekly.

That review is likely going to be the last thing I write for No Depression. There are many reasons it’s time for me to sign off, but it is, finally, time.

No Depression, as those who watch the site closely know, has gone through a series of changes recently. They are positive, for the most part. While the new model of paying columnists and feature writers has meant a site cleanup, the disappearance of community members’ foolish antics, and a more corporate model that privileges advertisements and promotional segments over discussion boards and blogs, it’s a new model of paying columnists and feature writers. A novel idea these days, to pay your content creators.

Unfortunately for me, this new model signifies a sea change in roots music, one that I’ve been watching play out over the last few years. I knew this was coming. I’ve talked about it at great length, mostly with my partner, who, like me, is part of a small music community that is getting squeezed dry, lifeless, out, by external forces that often have nothing to do with music. Anyhow, I’ve watched it. I began studying roots music around 1998, and went full-on in 2002, parlaying my interest into a master’s degree and then a PhD. I took it everywhere I could: I hosted radio programs, playing unknown roots musicians; I organized concerts; I created panels at conferences, took my friends out to shows, burned music for new friends, got press passes and interviewed singers, reviewed records, booked a venue for a year, flew across the country to volunteer at a folk festival for ten years, started a new festival, played the music at home on my own instruments, I gave talks, I published papers, I began editing a folk music journal. The list goes on. Whatever. The point is, I was dedicated. I believed in this music, and further, I believed that at the heart of it was a small group of good, like-minded people who eschewed wealth and notoriety for the opportunity to collaborate and share their music with others who felt the same way. It was a micro model for how I wanted the world to be.

Every semester, I teach my students that popular music moves in cycles, and it’s happened so often that we can now pretty accurately pinpoint what’s going to happen next. Something rises to mainstream popularity, and the thing that is least like it, usually something weird, starts bubbling underground, exciting people because it’s the opposite of what they’re forced to hear every day. It’s different, challenging, even dangerous. Think punk vs. Captain and Tennille. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” vs. “More Than Words.” The point is not the music; it’s the reaction against something that went through the commodification process, starting as an organic, community-driven, dynamic art form moving into the processes of homogenization and commercialization. This is what has happened to roots music in the last ten years. After O Brother, off it went, gathering momentum as the decade progressed, picking up musicians who shaved off the less appealing elements and smoothed it into a nice, palatable genre that, while still interesting in its engagement with other musics and diverse practitioners, can often rely on only a soaring pedal steel and a set of lyrics about intense heartbreak.

I’m going to piss a lot of people off by saying this. I know. I don’t care. I’ve spent nearly six years on ND watching you hold on to something that is slipping away, becoming exactly what you fear. My proof for this is in the number of students that turn in essays on The Lumineers, Mumford and Sons, and Ed Sheeran. None of those artists would exist if roots music hadn’t started in the ’90s as a subversive reaction against new country, and gone through the burning-off process that left pop-infused banjo dance music floating at the top.

You’ll argue with me, saying, Gillian, roots music has always existed, because it’s real American music that lies at the root of all other popular music. And I’ll say yes, sure, but punk has not vanished since the day it emerged, nor has disco, but they did slip underground and go unnoticed for a while, and also came bubbling back up as new generations resurrected them.

In short, I’m tired of roots music. I’ve thought this for a while now, and been afraid to say it because my whole fucking career is predicated on the genre. But I’m tired – and not because I lament its commercialization. I’ve got enough objective distance to know this will happen to any form of music, no matter how much I might like it. And to be honest, I don’t care if what I like is popular or not; that does not fit into my criteria for putting on a song.

I am tired, however, because I cannot continue to align myself with a community that is no longer community-minded. It has increasingly become all about the money. I could bemoan the fact that I’ve written 175 pieces for No Depression and never been paid, or that I’ve sent many pitches in since ND started paying for features and never had them answered – which, in all fairness, is difficult for an editor to handle. Most editors do not answer emails. On the other hand, the absence of that community spirit is precisely what generates these broken connections. The only way I, as an editor of another publication, can keep it going is to constantly be in contact with my authors, letting them know I appreciate their work, that I want more, that we are looking for the specific thing they are able to write about. But here we are in a world that has fetishized the “economy”, a lumbering and ineffective framework with which we cannot measure the artistic merit of any given work. Yet all we can do is offer our artistic output to a world whose only means of rewarding us is to pay for it, and the primary way to money is to get “exposure” in the form of online time and space. We’re all competing for rapidly depleting attention, in a world that valorizes an entrepreneurship that yields big cash, rather than quality works of art made by dedicated individuals. There aren’t many organizations left to support, whether financial or structural, creative work.

That’s where roots music is at, I think.

Aside from my own compulsion to move on, after 17 years in a field that encourages specialization to the point of insanity, I need a rest. This year was a big wakeup call for me health-wise. It turns out, as I slide uncontrollably towards 40, I can’t work 15-hour days, 7 days a week. It turns out I can’t stare at a computer screen and not get up for four hours at a time. It turned out I had a brain tumour, not one to worry about, but one that made me seriously reprioritize. It’s getting increasingly harder to work for the reasons I had set out, when I am burnt out. Most depressing to me is that I never minded writing for ND without pay, because I knew I was giving deserving musicians a shot at some good exposure, to an audience they might not otherwise reach. Now that has been taken away by the reformatting of the site and newsletter. There are no more review sections, places where someone unknown might be lucky enough to get a headline. Why would I write if I have no chance of capturing the attention of some readers and potential fans?

So here we are, at a moment when roots music has become big business, a place where it’s hard to get noticed unless you’re at the top, and the community spirit of it has been subsumed by intense competition, an overabundance of producers, and fractured relationships. I’ve seen this play out in many places, including ND.

I’ll continue on the things I’ve started, that mean something to me: I mean, I’ve spent enough time on my book that I can’t not release it. I found the festival I worked on to be one of the last bastions of support and love amongst a small community of musicians and fans. But other projects will have to go.

I’ve spent my whole adult life advocating for things that I think are neglected and deserving of more attention. On the one hand, that work has led to valuable connections, opportunities, and the feeling that I’ve more often than not made the right choices. On the other, it’s led to health problems, and a life in which I am stretched too thin and not doing anything of quality. My right choice now – the one that I feel will best make use of my skills and sit right with my internal ethical code – is to focus my energies on projects and issues that are in need of pressing, concentrated attention. Maybe you think I’m too negative, in which case, great. I’d love to know that optimism and energy still exists in any form of music making. And I’ll be around to check in occasionally.

So I’ll sign off with one more record review, and one final, important note: one of the best things that happened to me this year was opening my No Depression 20th anniversary edition and finally seeing what Hal Bogerd looks like. The biggest mystery in my life has been solved.

Much love to you all.

 

Sad to see you go, Gillian, although I of course disagree with some of your points -- for one, we have no more ads on this site than have ever been on ND in the past seven years. Anyone can still post reviews (and you can get to them by clicking on "reviews." We're not by any stretch of the imagination focused on corporatizing anything or covering only Mumford, etc. I doubt you've seen that Roscoe Holcomb collection covered on any other music publication's homepage lately, just to pull a name out of my pocket. But I'm not interested in debating. Sounds like you've just lost interest in the form, which is sad. Roots music -- folk, blues, trad country, and so on -- will continue whether it has an audience or not. And that's why I'm here. You pitched me a couple of stories that I just couldn't find time or space for, because our budget is limited. I would have loved to pay you for something, but it just hasn't worked thus far and I gather it just won't. That's disappointing to me because I think you have a valuable voice for this kind of music. But if your heart isn't in it, then it's probably not the right thing. I wish you the best of luck -- you and your health. Be well.

Kim...Good to know you can still submit a review...I'm not interested in being paid, nor am I interested in being a columnist with something due on a regular basis, assuming that I could come up with a concept that is workable and could write well enough that you would consider publishing it in the first place...I already work 50-60 hours per week and I get paid, and that takes enough of a toll, and I'm old enough to have already discovered that  there are limits to how much you can do and stay upright...which Gillian has discovered recently...but once in a while I hear something that doesn't get coverage anywhere, just like most of the people on ND...I have a couple of artists I love who never/rarely get mentioned here that likely fit conceptually...so if I get the urge, I'll submit something...I wasn't sure, based on the reformatting, if you would even entertain that sort of thing...so thanks for mentioning that...

Yes, please do. That big black "Post" button is still for anyone to post anything about any artist, any time. As long as you're logged in :)

I've seen a couple of concerts lately that I probably should've reviewed...Chuck Cannon and Shawn Mullins were amazing...Brothers Landreth...house party with Chris Trapper...

At any rate...now I know it would get consideration...thanks!

 

above - Hal Bogerd

Well played, sir.

Most excellent guitar Hal...funny, I never worried much about what Hal looked like...nevertheless, thanks Jack!

 

I assume everyone knows that's not really Hal Bogerd but Donovan. Pretty funny though given Hals' constant Donovan ribbing.

Yep...well I think everyone knew...I had to look twice or more though...I still like the guitar...and "Season of the Witch"

 

By the way,, I'm getting set to put something in the mail...sorry about the wait...I will let you know when it actually is headed your way...

Great to hear Jim, about the approaching snail mail. I'll be looking for it...

cool...I have a photographer friend who is going to do something  special with it, but he's insanely busy at Xmas...in the meantime I am going to get you the information booklet, which is what you really want anyway...

WTF? That's not me?!?!

Not!!!  Unless you look exactly like him and stole his green gootar (that is the way Dennis Rodman pronounced "guitar" one night on a talk show I was watching)...

I had always figured if we met you you'd have on a wrestling mask anyway...

 

 

Okay, that is not me and unfortunately I can not comment on my short-lived career as a Donovan impersonator for legal reasons. 

I know several attorneys if you want your career back...and um...don't care about the cost...

Really sorry to hear this Gillian! You have a great voice as a writer and lots of experience and I loved of course that you wrote about Canadian roots music. No Depression's definitely changed, and I do miss the wild and wooly days when we just wrote about whatever the hell we felt like and fuck anyone that didn't like it! I'll step up for Kim and say that she's been great at continuing that spirit, so though No Depression isn't as crowd-sourced anymore, Kim's on point with the new editorial direction, imho. And yeah no way in hell No Depression is going corporate or reducing itself to covering boring folk-boy bands. Though honestly, I really loved Mumford & Sons when they were all into banjos. Also, yeah I'm getting really really tired of the 12/15 hour days in front of the computer. But I do get to write about music and do music pr for a living, so I can't complain. But it's a lot of work and high burnout. Take a break! Come back after the break! Keep writing! We need you!

Gillian...I always enjoyed reading your pieces, especially the ones that generated the ire of the "sausage brigade" in Nashville...sorry to hear about your health and I'd say thanks for the effort you put in over the years, most of it for free...your passion was palpable...

"Time passes, things change"...take care of yourself, sleep a little more, and live long...you will find you can be passionate and an advocate for things you believe in without killing yourself in the process...

 

Gillian, I get sick of roots music at times too.  Too much of a good thing isn't necessarily great.  In this John Hiatt is instructive: "'cause one more heartfelt steel guitar chord, girl it's gonna do me in, I need to hear some trumpet and saxophone, you know sound as sweet as sin".  Read something somewhere a while back about what to do when feeling stale or in a rut, and it stuck with me...wholesale changes aren't necessarily needed...if you normally go to rock shows, see an opera...if you normally read fiction, try a biography...if you always go to Florida in winter, try the desert...you get the idea.  And yeah, roots music has an ebb and flow to it like anything else. At the moment I wonder how many string bands singing into a single microphone we need to hear, or more correctly, do I need to hear?  Sometimes Motörhead is just what the doctor ordered.  

In all sincerity, I've read your work on ND pretty consistently, and it was frequently thought - and discussion - provoking. So I will miss it in a couple of ways, which brings me to...

...I'm not sure how I became aware of this piece, it was through an email link and I'm not sure why the link was emailed to me. In any event, I went looking through the sections listed at the top of the ND home page (stories, columns, reviews, releases, media) and unless I overlooked it, it's not found in any of those sections.  Because I had deleted the email alert I no longer had the link to this piece, so I used the search function, entered "why I'm leaving" and found this that way. But it was listed as an "article", which isn't among the current site segments one can click on, not that I can see.  Other results from that search were listed as being among "album reviews", "articles", "discussions", "interviews".  I think those were the former website compartments before the latest iteration was released.  Again, unless I overlooked something (possible), lacking an email alert to this piece, the only way I can find it is through the search function. But that would not work if I didn't know the piece I was looking for in the first place. 

 

Good post Jack...I often play jazz when I'm sick of roots music...Chet Baker or Thelonius...Art Tatum...Joe Venuti...whatever you need to do...jazz players are often as neglected as roots players...

John Hiatt is the guy...or maybe it's John Prine...and once in a whle, it's John Coltrane...

First, let me get the obvious said from the start: Gillian has been an incredible asset to the No Depression community and I'll miss not only her writing and incredible depth of knowledge, but mostly her spirit. Like myself and many, many others who've contributed extensively to the site over the past six plus years without expectation of compensation, it's been simply for the joyful experience of sharing something that we each hold close, as well as the chance to join together with like-minded people and have conversations. That version of ND is now dead and gone, and something new and unrecognizable remains. I'm not quite ready yet to stick a fork into the site, but lets just say it no longer offers the same enjoyment it used to. 

As Jack 2.0 noted, trying to find this article was an exercise and example of a poorly designed re-design; one that no doubt makes sense to the team that built it, but lacks a smooth navigational roadmap that serves of little use to current and new readers, as well as the contributor. For myself, as a currently paid columnist whose weekly articles are thrown up and pulled down within a day, I call it the 'now you see it, now you don't' strategy. Lately I've come to reframe it as the sound of 'one hand clapping'. Nobody there, nobody cares. 

But back to Jack's point for a sec: if he hadn't sent me an email last night to alert me to Gillian's goodbye, I'd never have found it. Not on the home page, not a featured story and not a community story.  I eventually found it when I happened to see another link that said 'all stories'. Most websites, as well as the old Ning version of ND, want to make it easy to find content; this one now seems to be bent on hiding it. Kim and I have discused this and she clearly presented the reasons why it is the way it is. And respectfully, I disagree that this is in any way a step forward. Maybe I just don't get the 'big picture', but the current one is blurred and out of focus. 

Since this will likely only be seen by a small circle of old friends, I'll admit that Gillian's departure is one that I have also been contemplating myself, but have put on hold for the moment. Unlike her, I'm now compensated for my words and in my experience Kim has been open, honest and fair. She is my anchor, advisor and friend,  and I have a sense of loyalty to both her and to this concept that Kyla put into motion. On the other hand, when the keys to the car were passed over to this new team, I wished them well and remarked that they shouldn't fuck it up. It seems that they've discareded that advice. 

On Gillian's point of being tired of roots music, or rather the commercializtion that places more emphasis on capturing dollars than supporting an artistic movement, I think it's really more of a case of having parallel universes. Over the years a new mechanism has been built to create a "2% economy" for a small percentage of artists that can follow a yellow brick road to success. It's the axis of AMA, SXSW, NPR, a multi-prong marketing effort with coordinated featured articles and targeted social networking, an establishment of a festival season and the expansion of an international apparatus. And for the other 98%, it's a much different world. It can grow weary and frustrating to witness from an artistic and creative perspective, so I get her feelings and her need to step back. Over the years I've often felt the need to take a break, and for me it usually takes the shape of spending months immersered in listening to and rearching older traditional music, while letting the latest and greatest pass me by. 

To close out this ramble, let me just say that I have valued and treasured my interactions with Gillian, despite times when we didn't align and agree. And although it breaks my heart that she likes Hal better than me, she has a standing invitation to join me for a HoJo fried clam dinner. My treat.

 

 

Well said Ed, and I echo your sentiment, despite the fact I am still here...like Jack, I got an email link for this somehow or I'd never have known about it.

...and by the way,  a HoJo fried clam dinner is indeed a generous offer...nicely played...

Well said, Ed.

Years back I worked for a company that chose to program it's new operations software in house. It selected a cross functional group of management and staff from various departments to guide the initial design, then act as an advisory board as the programming progressed to be sure it was covering each departments needs efficiently, and to be sure it was user friendly. The programming group eventually decided, unwisely, that it was getting too much feedback, and it eliminated that advisory board, leaving just the programming group to complete the task.  The end result was a complete fustercluck.  The program was scraped entirely and an outside system was purchased.  I'm not saying this website is anywhere near as bad as that system was, not at all, it's not.  What I am saying is that I suspect the core group that owns and runs this site stopped listening to outside feedback.  At first they seemed receptive, and to a degree responsive. In time, maybe they didn't like what they were hearing, maybe they felt people were just unwilling to try something new.  Maybe outside feedback felt unwieldy.  Maybe at a certain point they got into a bunker mentality, with group think setting in that they really did know how to build a better mousetrap despite no prior experience on anything like this scale.  I don't doubt the team's good intentions, and there's much to like here.  As I've written before, the site has become very compartmentalized and menu driven.  Maybe this model is driving more clicks, and with the clicks healthier advertising than previous iterations since Ning or as compared to the Ning days.  I don't know. But I do know that past expressions of commitment to "community" and "discussion" seem like lip service in hindsight. I prefer to think though that past expressions of support for community and discussion were sincere, just poorly executed.  Discussion has nearly ceased, it used to be vibrant.  The fun factor has almost flickered out, leaving just the educational factor, which is strong. Is content alone sufficient to sustain the site through advertising? I don't know. But I am convinced that if more people had fun interacting with the site, there'd be more clicks, more word of mouth, more participation, and maybe a better return for the ownership and staff.  I think the deletion of "recent posts" and "recent comments" was a mistake. I'm told these features were relatively little used. Value is not always quantifiable.  My sense is that these were "glue" features that helped people keep a finger on the pulse of the site and prompted more interaction than many might guess.  I hope these features are reinstated.  I still like the site, used to love it.  With all of this said, I'll end with the observation that I think the ND team absolutely nailed the magazine, it was a great first effort and I suspect a nice building block for future editions.  For that they deserve a lot of praise.  I'll gladly support future editions. Meanwhile, I hope some of that creativity can be redirected back on line.

 

As for the old and new magazines, one thing the ND website offered that the magazine could never match was the interactive nature of the website.  The ability to ask the author questions, to challenge the author, to praise the author, to trade opinions, to make wisecracks, and trading stories with other readers.  That was the magic sauce.  Content on this site is really good.  Tweak how it's organized and get discussion growing again, then I think this site would be nearer it's full potential.

Oh hell...the new magazine was everything the website isn't. Kim gets major kudos for that along with Jason Verlinde, who some of you may know as the founder and editor of Fretboard Journal. A designer named Andre Mora was also the mix and Stacy Chandler too. (Her profiles of me, Alan, Gillian and Hal were the best part, no?)

@Jack: I just want to acknowledge that your experience and observations are the best description of what could and has gone wrong. I've been in that bunker you described in another lifetime, and it's so easy to get swept up in group-think. It takes a strong and steady facilitator to keep the team on the right path, and stay open to ideas beyond the bubble. From afar I think that's what we've seen lacking. Whomever is holding the keys to this car lacks driving skills. I'll hitch a ride here from time to time but I no longer feel as if I'm a welcomed passenger. 

Ed,  I think we've all been in business situations where we missed the forest for the trees.  And been stubborn. And/or defensive.  And wrong.  Or only partly right.  And grateful, if not sheepishly, when someone brought perspective back into the discussion.  I could be completely full of crap here of course, maybe this iteration has driven site visits and clicks and all the measurements used to define success in a noticeably more positive direction.  If it has, then readership, not participation, is the focus and there's little incentive to spend limited dollars and programming manhours on discussion.  But what if renewed emphasis on discussion created even more momentum?  The rationale for the current site set up was the desire to tie discussion to  each piece of work submitted.  Going by the lack of discussion, that approach seems not to be effective, whatever the motivation.  I wish content/discussion wasn't an either/or proposition.

I don't feel unwelcome.  From time to time I've emailed Kim privately and she has always provided a thoughtful response.  A few times long ago, same with Shelley.  I think the team is doing its best to make the best possible site, I just suspect they are "navigating by some of the wrong stars" to paraphrase Tom Russell. Been there myself from time to time.

Gillian, no Billy Joel, either.

@Jack: Kim is a friend as well as my editor and, as I stated above somewhere in this thread, I remain loyal and suppotive of her. We don't always agree on things, but have always maintained a healthy and honest dialog. My comment about feeling unwelcome is not directed toward her. But it reflects the feeling I've long had about some folks who are just not interested in getting feedback and suggestions to make this a more robust place to hang out. You've been involved in those threads too, where we're asked for our suggestions and opinions and are swatted down like gnats. That might be one reason why those community discussions have bit the dust. On the flip side, there's you and a host of others who I still feel connected to and enjoy sharing whatever little there is left to share. But I like your TR description of "navigating by some of the wrong stars". I suspect you are correct. 

Ed,  I knew your comment about feeling unwelcome wasn't directed at Kim.  The actual Tom Russell lyric was "navigating by the wrong stars", I added "some of" because some changes are for the good. For instance, the ability to "follow" I'm sure was aimed at supporting the community aspect of the site and intended to help discussion, never mind the disconnect between that and having to know who you want to follow in the first place, much less how to find them.  I get that over time one may stumble into new people to follow.  In any event, I think by now we are "beating a dead horse in the mouth", to quote Larry  Bowa. I suspect the mind set is that if we lose some folks along the way, so be it, the show will still go on and new people will join in. If discussion is any barometer of success, that's a dubious premise, especially if new folks sign up and don't visit often.  But if registration of new members, unique site visits, number of pages visited, length of time on the site, whatever the metrics are for driving ad revenue, if those things aren't improving with this iteration of the site, why not revisit the old "how can make this site better?" discussion. There were plenty of well intentioned ideas in that thread.  

Quoting Larry Bowa may be better than quoting Tom Russell...Bowa may have "the best of the rest" of the baseball quotes, now that Yogi has passed...him or Steve Goodman...

 

@Jack: You should pat yourself on the back for being the only person on the entire planet today that has quoted Larry Bowa. So far. Still early. You are correct; the horse has died, no need to beat the poor thing. I've no doubt that there was/is a vision and purpose to how this site evolved since Kyla sold it to Chris, and what it will look like going forward. Input from you old folks(ok...me too) was requested, processed and was either adapted or not. At this point, long into the current journey, I've got no hard feelings but a lot of good memories. Online communities, such as this one once was, are a point in time. It came and went. There is still a lot of great writing here, and occasional comment threads of interest. Although I personally once felt invested, today it's just another site that pays me to write for them on a weekly basis. I'm appreciative, but this month is likely to be my last in that role. But as Yogi said...it ain't over till it's over.  

Yogi also said, "the future ain't what it used to be"...so there you go...

Ed, I've no hard feelings other.  Sorry to hear the Broadsides might be over soon.  Have long enjoyed reading about your record industry days and musings on music in general.  Hope it works out that they continue.  

Jim & Ed, that Bowa quote just struck me as hilarious years ago when I read it in the sports pages.  He was then managing the woeful San Diego Padres who got off to a really poor start of the season. After mixing his metaphors he went on to say that "these errors are killing us, the only way to get rid of these errors is to practice them". Yeah, Yogi had to be smiling at that one, as he must've when during a long ago Mets game when announcer Ralph Kiner described the next batter as "a rookie in his first season". Speaking of Yogi, my wife, 12 year old, baseball loving son and I were in St. Louis a couple of months ago days after Yogi passed and we stopped by his boyhood home out of respect.  He had an amazing life, what a story that is to read up on.

Was surprised to see Prog Rock Hal quoting Rush lyrics.  Next thing you know he'll be quoting ELP and Yes lyrics.

 

 

And Asia lyrics...don't forget Asia....

@Jack: I saw your email but sadly can't reply since it was forwarded. For anybody interested, my email address is easyed@therealeasyed.com

My Broadside column came into being before ND made it an official thing, and was an attempt to brand my essays. I will continue writing them and posting them here simply under the articles heading in the menu. And I won't ask or expect pay for them, although that would indeed be nice. 

My reason for leaving the 'column' format here at ND is simply because although monetary support is something they are (thankfully) committed to, the way the columns are presented is what I call 'now you see it, now you don't'. I'm featured on the site only on Thursday and with the change to the newsletters that spotlight only new releases on Fridays, I have a one in ten opportunity to get featured on a Tuesday. A non-paid article has much better chances to be seen by more people by hanging on the front page 2-3 days. Makes no sense to me, but it's how the site is choosing to run. 

My suggestions to rectify this for all the columnists have been rebuffed by the design and tech team, so I told Kim I'd commit to the end of the year. 

I began contributing here in 2009, and will continue unless they choose to throw me out the door. A few on the team might want to do just that, but until then, I'm here. For those of you who've asked, I do maintain a site of my own called therealeasyed dot com. Hope that explains it to you Jack...thanks for reaching out. 

Glad to hear your Broadsides will remain on ND one way or another!

Me too...

And a word about the ads that Gillian mentions. Since I'm now reading mostly on my iPhone, I was so frustrated with the percentage of ad space allocated to the home page after the last update,  I took screen shots and sent them to Kim. Need to give her credit as it's been fixed. Of course shortly thereafter we had to endure annoying pop-ups for buying the print edition which drove me crazy. That's over. Nevertheless to Gillian's point, the ad layout especially on mobile when you look at a story is pretty poorly executed. I can't speak to space allocated but I can tell you the design and placement ain't great. And if you are listening to tunes while reading and God forbid touch an ad by mistake, it stops your music. Annoying. 

Hi guys,

Sorry to not have responded earlier; it was only a full schedule that kept me away over the last few days. I've had a chance now to read all your comments: first of all, thank you. I will miss you too, and I'm sad that we don't have the same space to engage with each other on this side that we did before. But that's not to say I'll be totally gone; just no longer writing.

I won't get into the finer points of how the site has changed, since you've all pointed out things in a very articulate way that I too have noticed.

I fully appreciate the need for an editor to inject freshness into a publication every so often, and I understand that our new owners feel they have to bring in a larger readership, so it's not entirely fair for me to comment on the new direction or my role (or lack thereof) within it. I guess I was making a bigger point: if we are at this stage where a community site becomes a commercial site, what does that mean for roots music at large? In squashing the content into a chosen few articles that streamline viewers' experience of the site, ND is doing exactly what the internet is not supposed to do. Heralded as the space in which artists would be able to free themselves from the constaints or ignorance of the music industry and find an audience, it has now become the main space for music consumption; it was a place that was once supposedly democratic and open to all, and now we have stationed gatekeepers at every level to create the 98%/2% world that Ed alludes to, shutting out many good voices.

Oh well.

So. My issue is not so much getting paid, nor is it not having real estate on the site, aside from the fact that I cannot offer a service to roots music artists I think are deserving. It's that clearly my role in this world has changed or evaporated. In the meantime, it's important to note that the site, and you guys in particular, changed my life in very positive ways. I am still looking forward to our collective HoJo date. I'll even throw in Rush tickets to make it a full night of fun.

 

No frigging Rush.

They took a good thing and ruined it.

First: https://www.coloradocollege.edu/academics/dept/music/newsevents/billyjoe...

Seriously! I can't wait.

Second: I think the editorial direction is the editorial direction, and it's not up to me to decide whether it's good or valuable. I just see how it reflects a bigger shift, and the result is there isn't much of a place for me here anymore. Which is ok.

Third, I should say clearly that I have felt lucky to be talking with so many men (and women, but it's a male-dominated world, music criticism) here and to never have really felt mistreated the way so many women do in the field. So, thanks to all you guys. I've always liked the spirit of our debates, and the respect I felt from you; I rarely encountered the kind of sexism that occurs all too frequently in other arenas in this industry.

A two day conference about Billy Joel's music. What was second prize, a four day?

Though her mind is not for rent

Don't put her down as arrogant

Her reserve a quiet defense

Riding out the day's events

The river



What you say about her company

Is what you say about society

Catch the mist, catch the myth

Catch the mystery, catch the drift

I'd say you are first in line for the Rush tickets Hal...

Hal, that was the best comment ever.

I can almost see EasyEd's tears.

I'm good.

I didn't see this...2nd prize was a house concert but the winner didn't have a piano...so they got just the guitar songs on "Glass Houses"...solo acoustic...

That's a good thing to hear...the discussion did turn a bit testosteroney on a couple of fronts when we had that women are "tomatoes in the salad of country music" thing...not that I want to go there again, though it was fun for a minute or two...I thought that was a bit unsightly, and there were a few fairly regular contributors who disappeared after that...nevertheless, I have always thought the discussion here was pretty orderly most of the time...

Again, you will be missed, but you will no doubt find another avenue of expression...

Well,I'm a year late to this discussion and to Gillian's original post. I surely do agree with many of the sentiments expressed, but I'll admit that I do like some features of the new ND, especially the print edition. I miss Gillian though.

Kudos to Kim et al for an interesting forward progression.

R