92. Where’d all the music blogs go? with Emilie Friedlander

Emilie Friedlander of The Culture Journalist podcast
Reimagining the Internet
Reimagining the Internet
92. Where'd all the music blogs go? with Emilie Friedlander

Emilie Friedlander got her start covering Western Mass music while living in France, and made a career as a music editor at the biggest online magazines like Pitchfork and VICE. This week on Reimagining, Mike asks her: where did all the music writing go?

Emilie Frielander is cohost of The Culture Journalist with Andrea Domanick. She has edited at Altered Zones, Pitchfork, The FADER, and VICE, and founded the publications Visitation Rites and AdHoc.

Mentioned in this episode:


Mike Sugarman:
Hey everybody welcome back to Reimagining the Internet. I am your producer Mike Sugarman. I am really excited by our guest today. I’m joined by Emilie Friedlander. 

Currently Emilie Friedlander hosts a great podcast with Andrea Domanick called The Culture Journalist, and it takes a look at the technical and economic trends that underpin media and culture in the 21st century. You can subscribe to it. It’s at theculturejournalist.substack.com. It’s on Apple podcasts, everywhere you get your podcasts.

But Emilie has had an amazing and interesting career. She has worked as an editor at VICE, at The Outline, at FADER, at Pitchfork. She wrote what is one of my all-time favorite pieces about social media—this investigative report called “Beyond the Pain Matrix” for One Zero Which is about—I guess we would say—a cult that recruited people in the music industry using Facebook. And Emilie after I saw your piece published I was like wow I got some messages from the cult and they were really weird and now I understand what that was. 

But I know Emilie actually because my first job out of college was working at a publication that you had co-founded called AdHoc, where Emilie, you mentored me taught me kind of everything I know about good writing and editing and culture journalism and I’m just really glad to have you here. So Emilie welcome to the show.

Emilie Friedlander:
Oh Thank you for having me And things that really sweet introduction.

Mike Sugarman:
Sure. We don’t have to name names of who contacted me on Facebook.

Emilie Friedlander:
I have a feeling I know.

Mike Sugarman:
Yeah, yeah, there weren’t that many people that would be candidates. 

So I want to talk to you about music blogs, which uh My sense is that they were kind of at their peak from like 2005 2006 to 2015. Would you say that’s kind of right? Do you have a different timeline? 

Emilie Friedlander:
I think it depends on what you mean by a blog because I think there was like many different eras the scene that I was a part of I’d say peaked probably—it was pretty short I’d say it was like the last few years of the aughts in the first few years of the tens and then it quickly kind of… we’ll talk about what happened to it. On the other hand I saw in your notes that you shared with me before the episode—you asked me if I could remember the first music blog that I encountered and that one I’d say was actually probably Pitchfork because Pitchfork like dates back to the ‘90s—I believe like the mid-to-late-‘90s. That was a back before it was a Condé Naste publication. It was basically just a very prolific blog that Ryan Schreiber, I believe started out of his bedroom or his parents’ house or something like that. 

At the high school where I was going to school in New York City in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, one of the first writers for Pitchfork was a guy in the year above me. So that was when I first got hooked in, but I would say that I didn’t really become a music writer or become part of a scene until like the late aughts. 

Mike Sugarman:
So you started a blog called Visitation Rites I don’t know when to be totally honest, but I remember I was aware of your blog well before I was aware of you personally and I used to check out music from it. I mean tell us a bit about what Visitation Rites was. Why’d you do it? What was this scene that it was part of? 

Emilie Friedlander:
It’s so crazy because it’s been so long and internet is so unstable and unreliable like I can’t even really act I guess I don’t pay for hosting anymore, which is like unfortunate. It was so long ago. I started it. I believe in 2008. I had graduated from college—actually I went to Amherst College, right near UMass. I’m familiar with that neighborhood vibe. But I went to France—a teach English abroad program in France, in Nantes which is a small city in the west. 

I was really homesick. I had been involved actually in the kind of local music scene of the Amherst and Northhampton area. I was like a DJ of a DJ night in Northampton and I was really homesick for music when I was abroad in France. They had a music local music scene there, but it wasn’t like exactly the one I came up with. So to combat the homesickness. I started um blogging, like writing about music. I started writing about American bands that were coming through town. I think the first band was this group with Steve Gunn and Marcia Bassett called like GHQ or something that came through

Also, I had studied comparative literature in school and a lot of like art theory and I was like, oh maybe I can instead of like following an academic track, maybe I can use music journalism and music writing to explore similar ideas, but in a more pop cultural context. So that’s kind of how it got its start. 

Scene—what scene I was a part of? At first it was just like my tastes. It was just you know um artists that I had kind of known through being part of the Amherst and Northampton universe. Many of those moved to New York and started collaborating with other artists. I started kind of connecting with other bloggers also blogging for a couple of other places besides Visitation Rites, but there’s just like kind of this community of people who were interested in, you know, more challenging experimental music. But also how the internet could impact the career of an artist and they were all sort of simultaneously writing and then finding themselves through the ether.

And we didn’t really have social media as much then or didn’t play as big a role in writing but we would kind of communicate through literally, you know, commenting on each other’s blogs or writing pieces in response to one another. 

Mike Sugarman:
A lot of the music that we encounter online today, have these kind of like specifically internet native type names, you know, like Soundcloud rap is a really good example of it. And we’re always I think there’s a big discussion happening now about what type of music are people making to be seen on the Spotify algorithm.

What you’re describing though Is that the blog moment that Visitation rights was part of was really about like, hey there’s some interesting local scenes happening in our case and like Amherst, in Brooklyn, in France. 

But maybe I do want to hear more about like what was the thing that you were part of before Visitation Rites. What was the scene like in Amherst? What was your life like, you know involved with music at the time?

Emilie Friedlander:
Oh my god, it was such a funny mishmash of all of these different scenes of the time. I was part of a number of different overlapping scenes. I guess in Northhampton, there was a hardcore scene with a lot of people who were from Massachusetts and Boston who were down. There was a lot of UMass kids at time. There was Amherst College—I don’t know if there was much of a scene coming out of Amherst College, but it was kind of a lot of people who were into indie rock. And then there was a Northhampton noise scene—which is still there I think to a degree or there’s like a lot of people maybe don’t live there anymore, but identify as part of this world—that consisted of non-college students like adults who had kind of stayed around to be part of this world. And then college students from different Five Colleges who were maybe like, I don’t want to live on campus I want to live in Northhampton or wherever and be part of this more adult music scene. 

It was centered around the Flywheel, is the Flywheel still there? It was in Easthampton in the time. I don’t know where it is now. And there were a lot of interesting bands. I’d say that a very important data point is that Thurston Moore who is still with Kim Gordon at the time lived in Northhampton—I don’t know if he lives there anymore. But they were there. So you would like go to shows at the Flywheel and you would like look up and see this tall person next to you and like oh that’s Thurston Moore, and then also J. Mascis from Dinosaur Jr. From around there and a lot of other bands. 

And so those people are not my generation, those people are Gen X-ish, maybe, I don’t know, Great Jones boomer… I don’t know. They’re not the same generation. It’s more like these are the people who had decided to live in this place and you know inspired the younger generations of college kids and artists who kept cycling through the area.

It was it was a lot of like people hand-making tapes and CDs or even min-CDs with beautiful, colorful art. There was different also geographical scenes that would come together or people would travel from town to town like there was, like… Brattleboro, Vermont was nearby there’d probably be like people in Boston that you would go play Providence. That was when Lightning Bolt was like in Providence. 

The vibe of it overall was like—it was not like we want to become famous obviously like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. are famous, but the vibe was not the millennial mentality of like oh, I want to scale this artistic business of mine. It was more like I want to live away from New York in the country and play music for like the 15 or 20 cool people who live here and then travel from town to town and play music for the 15 or 20 cool people. It was like a very different attitude. But that was the background that sort of informed my sensibility later and was kind of always on my mind when I then became part of this more entrepreneurial millennial generation.

Mike Sugarman:
Sure. Hey, well, you might be heartened to know that um, It’s certainly different, but it’s not too different. I was talking to some undergrads from UMass a few months ago who were really excited that Lou Barlow who I think lives in Greenfield came on the radio show and did a really long interview. I know with radio station kids are like burning mix CDs for each other, do there’s still the kind of like handmade physical media. I’m told there are Noise shows in the bathrooms of the dorms. So there’s the spirit. 

Visitation Rites is part of like a pretty big ecosystem at the time of other blogs and a lot of these blogs. You know, you said that you were paying for your own hosting for Visitation Rites. A lot of them were hosted on blogspot. Could you paint us a picture of what this kind of like blog ecosystem looks like? I remember it being really fertile and vast and there was tons of stuff and maybe you have some ideas about why that is because we don’t really have something like that now.

Emilie Friedlander:
Well, I think people were excited about the internet. I was very excited about the internet as something that would change the paradigm I had been describing of like, oh, you know, the coolest thing you can hope for as an independent musician is to just be kind of like part of this elite group of insiders. 

The internet made it possible you to you know, maybe have that adventurous taste, out-of-the-box taste but then also connect with not 15 people but you know hundreds of people around the world who were interested—you could find your people in a way that you couldn’t before. Finding your audience but also finding friends and finding people where you live that you could connect with in real life, etc. 

Looking at the roster of Altered Zones… We didn’t get to Altered Zones yet, but that was the blog that Pitchfork—it was the blog collective that Pitchfork eventually put together that Visitation Rites was a part of and I was like one of the two main editors of. There was 20 Jazz Funk Greats, which was out in the UK and kind of writing like very mysterious impressionistic accounts of very specific kind of band. There was Gorilla Vs. Bear, which is still around in some capacity, which was out of Austin. There was, in Brooklyn, I was friends with this guy Michael McGregor who had this blog Chocolate Babka, that was just like a friend. It would be like people you knew from around the neighborhood and some of the people you knew from the around from around the neighborhood had different blogs and you would hang out at each other’s houses and see the same shows and have musician friends, etc. 

There was an aspect of blogging that people figured out that I think was like really important at this time—very important for sparking the larger scene, which was this idea of the premiere. They’ve been like greatly de-emphasized in music media. But basically it was this idea that the blogger as taste maker would make an arrangement with an artist to be the first to write about a new song of theirs. And it kind of evolved over the years to be more like oh, you would just premiere the streaming module for this artist’s new song, but back then it was before streaming. It was this kind of interesting and productive use of file sharing technology where an artist would hand over a mp3 physical mp3 for you to make available for download on your site—basically intentionally leaking your own mp3 and set that you know, otherwise people would purchase. 

It would be like a badge of honor or something that you got to like have your music be debuted on the site and then it would also be you know there’d be cred that went to the uh blogger for you know discovering this talent or being the first to blog about this thing. And then that would sort of spark interest in the artist’s music Which would then make people more likely to purchase their album. That’s something that I mean, I guess some people still purchase albums, but that’s not how it works right now. It’s not how it works anymore. 

It was like you use the free media to drum up interest in the—use the ungated media to drive up interest in the gated media that you had to purchase. And I think that economic engine that was kind of like people wanted to buy music It was cool to buy music still that was also a holdover from the you know more Gen X version of underground music, hipster version or whatever. The fact that people were buying the music just it became more of a cottage industry where then all of a sudden you have you know record labels who crop up in these communities to support the artists, and bookers. It became an economy In a way that had like all of the different elements that you need for a music economy that I think is broken down now.

Mike Sugarman:
Yeah, so you’re describing something that I think maybe makes more sense looking back on it, but didn’t totally seem like an obvious thing at the time. You use the term cottage industry, which I think is actually a really nice way to think about what indie music gathering around the internet looked like at the time. It was like a constellation of a bunch of different kind of people doing various things in an industry. I guess you could say economic actors. Yeah. Musicians, they were putting together recordings, with labels who were you know fronting the money to like often dub tapes, press records. You did have blogs who were bringing in advertising sometimes to like help subsidize costs and pay writers. It’s kind of this like interlocking system.

There was this really amazing record label started by someone from the blog Rose Quartz who was part of the Altered Zones AdHoc sphere called 1080p, which kind of the feeling of it was wow, this was a bunch of music that this person probably became aware of by being a blogger and knowing how blogs work, He was able to really effectively distribute this really cool—at the time was like super exciting electronic and dance music that was like very like melodic and catchy but also kind of experimental.

It kind of works because there’s this—I don’t know—a set of relationships. But I think the thing that you’ve touched on and we were talking about this before the interview a bit when we were discussing the show notes Is that it really felt at the time like what it was everyone was their own little entrepreneur on the internet and that we could all kind of make our livings by having our little corner. That the internet was full of all this opportunity for us to like make our passions into careers and It was later turned to this language of brands. It would later turn to this language of like frankly search engine optimization But at the time it was an exciting thing. Why was that so appealing? 

Emilie Friedlander:
What the idea or… 

Mike Sugarman:
Yeah, yeah, yeah the idea that like everybody could be their own little, their own little… I guess I would want to say artisan. That’s a nice way to put it. But I think a lot of times it was businessperson, like independent businessperson, you know?

Emilie Friedlander:
So I later learned through my studies of the history of technology that this idea had been around for quite some time and was very central to the formation of Silicon Valley—we talked about the Californian Ideology essay. I didn’t discover that until way later at the time. I really think It was economic circumstances dovetailing with technological circumstances. 

Most of us millennials had just graduated or were about to graduate into a economic recession. I knew that I wanted to do something creative with my life. I looked around me like—I was interested in being a music journalist—and I looked around me and I was like I don’t know where I’m going to write. I can’t just go from graduating from college to like writing, you know getting paid to write for the New York Times or whatever. 

There were not a lot of jobs. The narrative was you’re not going to find a job, like don’t even really bother. Get something you can do to pay the bills and then you know follow your bliss. And it just so happened that at the time there were also these tools that were being made available that it just was so much more compelling and also just easier to be like oh, okay, I’m just going to do it myself create my own economy or work with be part of a world that is creating its own economy, then trying to follow a more traditional path that our boomer parents had you know told us we should follow.

Mike Sugarman:
But I would add that there is the context of like, you know, 2008—absolutely the financial crash, but it’s also a period of time when there is still alt-weeklies in print in most cities. It’s also a time of we see from a previous generation—frankly the Boomer and Gen X generations—rich zine cultures where those actually turn into magazines that could pay writers, right? Independent record labels that—we had Damon Krakowski on the show last year and he talks about how Galaxie 500 absolutely made enough money selling CDs that touring was like icing on the cake—enough money to be professionally Galaxie 500—not like oh we have 40 gigs and we can go on a Galaxie 500 tour whenever willing to like have less money that year. 

I think you’re right about the Californian Ideology stuff. It’s something that another prior guest on our show Fred Turner has written about beautifully in From Counterculture to Cyber Culture. Yes, I think that is something people internalize—something on the internet. But it’s also kind of the conditions that were created. It didn’t seem like there were jobs at the time and frankly It still doesn’t seem like there are jobs. It still seems like people a lot of creative professionals are just trying to figure out how to cobble stuff together and hack it like that.

Emilie Friedlander:
And also sort of like the crypto bull market era. Like when the number was going up and up—I mean it was the numbers were not as big in this world that we’re talking about—but sure the condition that the impossible ideal of the Californian Ideology at that time—It looked like it was real. 

You saw Kickstarter coming on the scene and being like hey guys like you don’t have to join a corporation to follow your dreams. You can just start your own and if you have enough fans and can drum up enough excitement you can raise the money that you need to start your own independent thing. It was this idea of niche culture being possible. 

AdHoc got its start from a Kickstarter. We named AdHoc after this kind of obscure 1970s philosophy of adhocism. And this idea of it was like—our tagline—building the world you want to see using the materials at your disposal. And what we meant by that was we’re moving away from the purism of earlier eras of independent music and being like, oh we won’t do something that is like you know selling out, to oh we’re going to like you know use all of the tools and even above ground tools that we can pull all the levers we can to make our counter cultural values possible. 

Mike Sugarman:
Okay not everyone listening—in fact a lot of people listening don’t know what AdHoc is. So I’m gonna do an explainer. I’ll let you do it because you founded the thing. So Emilie founded this publication called AdHoc along with Ric Leichtung, co-founded after Altered Zones which was run by Pitchfork was shut down by Pitchfork. Tell us about AdHoc. What was it? 

Emilie Friedlander:
Oh, yeah, that’s an important thing to point out, which is just because this was like an exciting and thriving cottage industry didn’t mean that magazines and the blogs themselves were always that lucrative. Like there were probably other aspects that were easier other uh fields that were easier to monetize. Just like now the writing component was never straightforward. 

What happened was—as I said Pitchfork brought together this group of blogs and united them under one publication. Then eventually that became financially unsustainable. They couldn’t figure out how to monetize it, very sadly. I really wish they had like in retrospect. I really wish they had tried, stuck it out a little longer.

They closed that down. That went viral on the internet one of the only times I’ve been like really viral in my life—thanks to social media—it wouldn’t have been possible like before that. That resulted in a lot of press coverage, and we had some conversations with some different publications about, you know creating something new with them. But we ultimately ended up being like no, we’re going to do it ourselves. And so we used Kickstarter to basically take this community or parts of the original Altered Zones community of bloggers and artists, etc. and create this new publication. 

We launched with dozens of artists on this like compilation that was part of what we were offering through the Kickstarter. We raised I think $39,000 or something off of the Kickstarter, which is actually, you know hard to imagine being able to like easily do for a music publication today, even though that’s not that much money. Yeah, and then we started as a magazine quickly. We’re like I don’t know exactly how to make the magazine part work financially and then discovered that—Ric—my former partner, I’m no longer officially involved in the organization—Ric was acting as a booker. Ric had been working alongside me as an editor at Altered Zones while also booking shows at venues like 285 Kent, and we realized that we could kind of combine these two pursuits together where the shows are the way of making money and then the magazine is supported by that but then also draws attention to the shows.

And yeah, but what’s also funny is that I think originally the way that we made money was by taking some of the Kickstarter money and buying a speaker system and then renting the speaker system out to promoters who were booking shows at 285 Kent. And like I actually thought of that recently, because it’s a really good example of how often the way that you can successfully fund a media company is by doing a thing that has nothing to do with media. 

Mike Sugarman:
Wow, yeah, I think that’s absolutely true. Okay, it’s a little like I don’t know… I hate to look at this stuff purely through the lens of nostalgia of like wow, there were so people writing about music on the internet like however many years ago. It felt like there were a lot of blogs. It felt like there was an attempt to start new publications and AdHoc was one of them. I fear that when I say that just isn’t happening today, it sounds like a grumpy old man thing of like this thing that I loved disappeared. And I’ve always been waiting for someone to turn around and tell me no it’s right there. And the most I’ve really heard is like there are a lot of Substacks. And you know about those Substacks if you have a way of finding out about those Substacks.

AdHoc launched in like 2012. It’s about 11 years later. You’ve been working in this sector the entire time. Am I wrong that there aren’t really publications anymore? And if I hate to say it if I’m right, what happened? Is it that not enough people figured out you just have to buy a PA?

Emilie Friedlander:
Well Pitchfork still around.

Mike Sugarman:
Pitchfork’s around. 

Emilie Friedlander:
Yes, owned by Condé Naste. Yeah, Resident Advisor is still around for electronic music. I don’t obviously have any window into their financials, but you know, they actually landed on a business model that was about shows and having an app where people could buy tickets, which is pretty analogous to I guess parallel to what happened with AdHoc. I worked at VICE For a number of years, which is funny because VICE took over the building that 285 kent was in—I have a long and weird relationship with that building—but like they were they had Noisey. They had Thump, which I was the editor electronic music vertical and I was the editor of they had a live nation music. They had three publications at a point, as of like 2015 they had three music publications. 

And then they closed Thump, the Live Nation thing stopped happening. And then they had Noisey and then they made it so that Noisey no longer had any writers. It was still existed as a brand, but they didn’t have any music journalists anymore. And I worked at VICE up until 2021, fall of 2021, winter of 2021. And by that point it was like oh, we don’t write about music anymore, at least in America. I think maybe in the UK, like some other territories they were writing about music, but it was literally like went from joining that company to write about and edit stories about music in this building with a symbolic legacy that is very musical to like, “music we just can’t invest in it anymore.”

What happened? Oh my god, it’s so complex. Where should I begin? 

Large Web 2.0 platforms like google Facebook to a smaller extent Twitter and Instagram became the primary distribution methods for all of news, basically. Some might call it a monopsony. 

But with cultural writing and music writing in particular, it’s kind of a mystery to me, but it was just like not that stuff was just did not work very well on these platforms after a while. I think that they did in the beginning like I remember like working for Visitation Rites and Altered Zones and like oh It’s we have this big premiere and like oh, we’re going to tweet about it. I know it’s so exciting. And people were using for communicating and sharing on the platforms. 

But after a while, I guess it just like it was not sensational enough, lurid enough to be like oh listen to this really great track. It just didn’t it didn’t travel in the way that other forms of information traveled. And interestingly enough, these dynamics are thought about as leading to news becoming more sensational, provocative in its approach and sure enough music writing tried to adapt, I think. Especially in the mid-2010s, starting in the mid-2010s and then especially around when like Trump took office where music writing became less about describing what you were hearing per se and became more about story, which is always important. Like I think it always it should be about story I’m not one of those people who’s like, “oh, it should just be about the way it sounds,” which is like super annoying. But the story became the lever, and maybe the political narrative or whatever became like the only exploitable lever to get people to read about stuff. So that became like that changed music journalism. 

Pitchfork obviously always had like the sort of ownership on the review that has always been their brand people go to Pitchfork because I know that there’s going to be the same number of views every day. And they’re going to see the number, like the score or whatever, that’s their thing. But for most people—you couldn’t just write about a song or review an album. It had to be an essay was about an issue that was larger than the music itself larger than the artist itself. And so that was how it adapted for a long time, but then eventually it just became—okay write that provocative essay but just have it be about like It can only be about Taylor Swift or Drake, If that makes sense.

Mike Sugarman:
Yeah, it’s so interesting because I think what you’re describing is that, basically what ended up happening is the music related things that would go viral or like takes. There was this thing—an unnamed publication—that was basically falsely claiming that no one knew that a bunch of people involved with indie rock in the mid 2000s were gay. And then it was a big secret and we can finally come around to it. 

I mean such a good example of like does anyone actually believe that? Did the editors actually believe that? Or does it just circulate? But here’s the thing that I’m not sure people listening people really understand, just to give that context: Tracks used to go viral like that. I think you’re right that was a different thing that happened on social media at one point in time. I don’t know if there’s a great explanation for why that doesn’t happen. 

Emilie Friedlander:
Spotify. I mean streaming. The conventional explanation when I ask a lot of people In the music media or former music media people why this happened? They will say, “oh well, you didn’t need to read about the music anymore because you could just listen to it.” And obviously now people would debut their music on Spotify. That’s what people—that’s the most common explanation for that.

I don’t know if I really—I mean it’s like hard for me to put myself in the position of a listener who’s not like as specialized as myself or something where I’m like I don’t want to hear something debuted on Spotify. But yeah, that’s what that’s what people say.

Mike Sugarman:
So there’s actually I think one part of this that we haven’t really talked about that might be—maybe I could like spin a theory. You can tell me how you feel about it. So you talked about premieres. Those were a great way to get hype out about an artist because the way those functioned was really similar to the other thing that a lot of blogs were known for which was sharing music for free, not necessarily authorized. 

And a lot of stuff really would pick up steam that way.  Bands would become quite popular because they had a cassette that they like press 30 copies someone uploaded that now you have, one of those people involved with producing Superbowl halftime shows. Kind of crazy to think about it. What happens around I don’t know like 2013/2014 you start to see a lot more DMCA takedown action happening and Google starts to squash a lot of blogs hosted on Blogspot. They’re targeting pirated files, which is basically any blog post that contains a link to like Mediafire or Rapidshare Mega Upload.

Around the same time um, the same labels that are pushing for that DMCA action legally are buying stakes in Spotify and I think that that’s part of the answer to that.

There was always this kind of specter of like indie music is at the mercy of what major labels decide they want to do. Piracy is a problem because major labels have decided it’s a problem. I think there are a lot of people from the indie sphere who would claim the opposite of that. I don’t think everybody, but some people would. And then those industry forces decide, hey Spotify is where we’re going to put all of our chips in.

I hate using that as like the catchall explanation because I don’t think it’s as simple as like our world is built by the most powerful corporations, but it seems to be at least some part of the question.

Emilie Friedlander:
The way that I experienced it was that people working on the grassroots level and experimenting with these technologies were providing examples that the larger publications or the larger labels were then following. I think that people were seeing how folks were using these tools and then being like oh, what can we steal from that and then also, how can we get these people to work for us? 

And that’s like another explanation of what happened with the blogosphere, which is that some people got burned out and left the industry. Some people maybe stayed in the industry but moved to another part of it like went from being a blogger to an A&R because some of them really were more A&Rs than people who fancied themselves to be writers for a living per se. 

And then what happened to me and a lot of other people I knew was we got poached. I guess we got poached by Pitchfork, you know, we got brought into something by Pitchfork later I work for FADER. Then I work for VICE. People got sort of plucked from this world by larger corporations, or they you know, they might be working at Spotify now or another company. So that’s kind of what happens.

And that’s like, you know, obviously consistent with how a lot of culture works, which is that the industry will end up absorbing, you know, whatever new culture is being produced. Like that’s just like that’s the essence of hipster culture It’s the absence of you know, what happens to all youth culture. It gets co-opted.

Mike Sugarman:
So your current project The Culture Journalist—great podcast.

Emilie Friedlander:
Thank you.

Mike Sugarman:
With Andrea Domanick. This is a podcast that’s talking abou how technology and economy affects music and culture in the 21st century, but I think there’s an implicit agenda there of trying to ask why don’t we have a cultural and music discourse at the moment in the way that we have at a lot of points in the past 70 years or so. 60, 70 years. Maybe I can just ask you that question directly. 

What would this kind of like dare I call it like criticism public sphere—what are we missing? What would be nice? You don’t even have to tell me how you think it could work. Just like what you would like to see a world.

Emilie Friedlander:
Oh my god. Well, I would like to see it just exist at all. Just music journalism that is not a widget simply a widget for the algorithm would be would be nice. I think we have something I think you see a little bit of that old spirit kind of coming back with the Substack universe. Things have become so monocultural and samey that the way to stand out is to be weird and inscrutable. So I’m enjoying that energy.

At the same time, there’s so much like more psychic weight to all of it now.  Back then it was just like oh wow I’m receiving this magazine in the mail or I’m buying at the record store. And it’s this like portal to another world and this is so cool and this is so rare. And I’ve like found something that is going to connect me with other people. 

Now it’s just like, you know, okay, I’m going to write the super weird thing but I have to think about, oh, how am I going to promote it on—how am I going give this as a gift to my readers when you know Elon Musk has throttled all of the links from a Substack so that no one will see them. Or I don’t know which platform to even go to anymore to reach people because there’s a new one every day and they’re all at war with each other and… There’s just a lot more psychic weight for me.

Mike Sugarman:
Yeah, honestly, I think you on us breaking Twitter might be a good thing as far as people not feeling like they have to make stuff that can get around on Twitter. Maybe it actually is a way out of the tabloid stuff. I don’t know.

Emilie Friedlander:
I don’t want to be entirely pessimistic and I think there’s Uh, when there is a hunger for something different than what everybody else is doing more and more people are going to You know be producing stuff and creating communities, just like we had in in a different way in the you know during the 2008 moment. Also, I don’t know like we’re now we’re the gen X older generation or we’re not gen X now we’re uh We must uh follow what the younger people are doing.

Mike Sugarman:
The young people I know are really into music There’s a reputation that like young kids get their music through TikTok and that’s absolutely true to some extent But the young kids are really into music are like really inventive. They’re into weird stuff. They’re like doing cool DIY stuff like the spirit lives. So I think counting on the kids isn’t like oh god, we have to rely on these people who are addicted to TikTok, I think it’s a lot more interesting than that.

Emilie Friedlander:
Or like they’re the ones that are like starting the scenes now We are going to be seeing people start scenes and it’s going to be interesting and there’s going to be cool stuff.

Mike Sugarman:
Exactly. Exactly. And hey, hopefully we can play some role in passing some intel and wisdom along.

Emilie Friedlander. You can find her podcast at theculturejournalist.substack.com You can read her work all over the place on the web. If you want to see Visitation Rites, Altered Zones, snd I think some of the AdHoc blog, Wayback Machine has it all, so check it out. It’s a different era. It’s really fun. Emilie. Thank you so much.

Emilie Friedlander:
Thanks for having me. Have a good one.