Many people think that life as a music journalist is all fun and games. Sure they get to interview musicians and get paid to go to concerts, but there is — unseen by most — a host of traps, which lie in wait for the unsuspecting scribe to fall into. These traps come in many forms; some are as easy to spot as a serpent selling apples, others are not as obvious and can ensnare people despite their rectitude. Regardless of the form the traps take, they can inflict a range of physical and psychological traumas. So before you decide to run out and join the ranks of music journalists, just remember that OC Weekly tried to warn you with the following list of reasons why being a music journalist is a hazardous job.
1. Crushed / Kicked / Bulldozed in photo pit — The first one is rather obvious. Again, some aspects of this job can be a double-edged sword. While it may be cool to get to go right up in front of the stage at a concert to get those primo pics of the band, the band might be one of those which incites rowdiness. Yeah, the journalist may seem safe inside the little barrier (free from all the shoving and crushing that the folks up against the barrier get to experience), but when those body surfing punks wash up on the other side of the barrier, who do you think they land on? Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if it were only the waifish punk rock girls who got pulled into the pit (because they were being crushed), but more oft than not, it’s a thrashing drunk who weighs 200 lbs and is adorned with spiked metal studs and steel-toed combat boots.
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2. Attacked by psycho fans whose feathers have been ruffled — As the wise Spider-Man used to say, “With great power comes great responsibility.” For every musical artist who has overcome the various obstacles and risen above the masses to stand out in some way, there is a swarm of music reporters waiting to push their glasses further up onto the bridges of their noses, assume an air of authority and give their opinions to the public. In many cases, these individuals are flakes and hacks, who neither understand the purpose of critical analysis nor possess the writing chops to adequately convey such analysis. That being said, for every flippant or snide remark that a reviewer makes about a musician, there is usually at least a handful of readers who are willing to commit the time and energy to attacking the reporter through a range of mild to psycho rants and threads (usually delivered through Twitter, Facebook, or even e-mail).
3. Accosted by security — This one is a bit of an anomaly and it speaks to an event which recently happened to the Weekly’s Music Editor, Nate Jackson, in Downtown Disney. It falls under the category of inexplicable occurrences because...well, in a nutshell, here’s the breakdown: at various concert venues, journalists are given access to backstage areas, VIP areas, etc. The extent of this really depends on the venue and the gig. Usually, if a journalist (or even a patron) goes into the wrong area, they are politely told to return to the non-VIP area. Sometimes, however, an escalation of tensions can occur. In this most recent case, the journalist was not only ejected from the venue, but he (and his photographer) were given a police escort off of the grounds. While no physical or psychological harm was incurred during this particular event, there are plenty of cases in recorded history wherein journalists have been battered by the police while trying to do their jobs.
4. Domestic tensions — Many jobs cause tension on the domestic front. People who work hard trying to support their families often come home to the tune of: “You don’t spend enough time with the family.” Music journalism, while not exactly a full-time office job, can provide a number of equally disruptive scenarios. These include but are not limited to: getting a single free pass to see the significant other’s favorite band; being immersed in a crowd of young, scantily-clad partiers; coming home in the wee hours of the morning; and having to spend the rest of the night writing the review. Furthermore, in the best of all possible worlds, professional integrity insures that the carousing and philandering that frequently go hand in hand with party atmospheres do not cost music journalists their objectivity, but even if they do manage to fortify themselves against the various temptations inherent in their work environments, the test of their partner’s Trust is another issue.
5. Miscellaneous Collateral Damage — Depending upon the nature of the show, various sundries may be at risk. Sometimes this includes clothing (which might be stained by various fluids during a Gwar show, for example); other times it might be a camera (many singers enjoy impersonating water fountains and baptizing their audiences, which works wonders on professional cameras). Then again, it might be something much more personal, like the ability to hear. Seasoned or insightful music journalists know that loud music can cause permanent hearing damage. Earplugs definitely help, but given the proximity to the speakers, the volume of the music, and the tremendous level of bass that is frequently bumped, impairment may still result. And that is with hearing protection. Music journalists who are younger or who embrace a punk mentality often go au naturale and ignore the lessons about hearing loss that they should have learned from Neil Young, Pete Townshend, Ozzy Osbourne, etc.