Stylus RIP: Another Nail In Music Journalism’s Coffin

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Getintothis marks the second great music passing of the year…


Ok, no-one really died. But it does kinda feel like it.
Though it may seem trivial to mark the passing, or closing down, or axe – whatever you wish to call it – of an internet site, the end of Stylus is a huge loss to music, listeners, writers and internet music geeks the world over.
Sure there’s a plentiful supply of sites devoted to music – but Stylus during its short five year reign (2002-2007) was genuinely a leader; one that was fiercely passionate and committed to quality, giving the reader the chance to interact and involve themselves while also being a site that you could TRUST.
Sure it may never have had the worldwide influence of Pitchfork, but where that market leader prided itself in an aloof, all-knowing sense of US indie selectiveness, Stylus was its warmer, more encompassing younger sister.
If Pitchfork was the older brother kicking you out his bedroom for pinching his Wolf Parade CD, Stylus threw open the porch and let you embrace not just the avant-rock but the pop winced at by snidey, sneering know-it-alls that dictate much internet music criticism.
In a time were print music journalism is almost redundant Stylus, along with a select bunch, offered an outlet which you could check every day for insights into music, film and beyond – heck they even let me write a piece.
Earlier this year I reminisced on the death of the tape; a fatality borne out of necessity, progress and ultimately consumerism yet the end of Stylus is a wildly different proposition, falling under none of that criteria.
While on the one hand it ceases publication on October 31 – five years since it went live – because editor Todd Burns ‘just got off the subway one day and said: ‘I don’t want to do this anymore,’ but look more closely and you realise fundamentally it died because there’s not enough people thirsty for the music game anymore – let alone music journalism.
By this I mean record shopping, taking a punt on music they’ve yet to hear, digging around for music gems, and more poignantly – reading and researching music.
Stylus was all about passion, but if you’re writing and trying to make a difference, but are ultimately left pissing in the wind, then maybe Burns’ decision becomes an easier one to understand.
I’m not saying Burns was right, but I can understand and empathise. I’ve many friends interested in music – in fact most of my social circle are music mad – but few crave a daily dose of music criticism, while even less visit their local indie record shop. They’re too busy at their computer.
In a day an age where blogging and downloading holds the keys to so much – where do we go from here?
I leave you with the final thought from one of my favourite Stylus writers Nick Southall: “Last.fm has hit sites like Stylus hard because it removes the need for criticism / reviews – it essentially cuts out the middleman of the music press by giving access to specialised peer recommendations; why trust a journalist who might be biased or swayed by free gifts when you can trust someone who likes lots of other records you like?
“Couple it with services like emusic and illegal download clients and you’ve got a fast system of finding out about bands and hearing them without having to read an article or visit a record shop; it cuts time and money from the process, but also ties people up on last.fm or facebook or wherever which cuts down time they might have spent reading. No one reads (about music) anymore, so there’s no need for (music) writers.”
Note: Stylus folds piece on New York Observer.
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