Monday, March 19, 2012

No Contest

Dear Spring for Music:

You are a great organization, and I admire the orchestral programming that has come out of your sponsorship. But....really? Finding the best arts blogger in North America? You have got to be kidding...well, okay, the $2500 prize suggests that you are not.

But you should think about this a little more. Because the more I think about it, the higher my blood pressure gets, for so many reasons.

Let's start with the idea that it is somehow possible to name the best arts blogger in North American, or even in the classical music blogosphere. I currently read or link to a rather large number of music blogs; see link list just to the right of this posting. I know of dozens more that are undoubtedly worth reading; see Alex Ross's ginormous link list. I'm going to guess that there are at least 250 classical music blogs worth reading. Multiply that by the number of good blogs on rock/pop/folk music, jazz, theater, modern dance, ballet, film, sculpture, painting, literature, and we're talking about a minimum of 2500 arts blogs worth reading.

If you think you can name one of those the best with any credibility at all, and based on just four essays written to your specifications, you're wrong. You can't.

Bloggers get credibility by posting intelligently and with some kind of consistency over a period of months or years. I've been at this for seven years; my blog postings have ranged from one sentence to almost-essay-length. I don't write on a schedule, and because I am a full-time professional writer - not in the arts - I value the freedom to write or not write, as time and energy allow. Entering your contest, and even winning it, wouldn't do much for my credibility.

And let's look at who the entrants will be competing against. Why, they could be competing against Alex Ross and Terry Teachout - because your rules do not exclude bloggers who have full-time gigs writing about the arts.

Now, I don't think either Terry or Alex will be entering. They have jobs and book contracts and little to gain by entering. $2500 is a nice chunk of change, but not next to the royalties on books that sell well....or a MacArthur Fellowship. And they're right there in NYC...and if they call you up, you'll give them comps! I mean, you're not going to refuse comps to The New Yorker's classical music writer  or the author of several arts biographies, are you? (If I just showed up in NYC, on my own dime and with no paid review lined up, would you give me comps?)

They're probably not the kinds of entrants you have in mind. You probably also don't have in mind musicologist Jonathan Bellman or John Adams. You probably have in mind people like me: yeah, I have a degree in music, yeah, I get paid for writing a small number of reviews a year for SFCV, but I'm not a full time pro. What you're doing is asking me to compete against my friends, people like Mr. CKDH at All is Yar, or Patrick at The Reverberate Hills, or Zerbinetta at Likely Impossibilities, or Brian at Out West Arts.

Really? I would not hold myself up in any circumstances as a better blogger than those four, and you know, what I really want is for all of us to have bigger readerships.

Also, I see that the essays/blog postings won't be anonymous! Are you telling me that your judges and the voters - the anonymous hordes of the internet - don't already have favorites? That there aren't thousands of opera lovers ready to vote for Parterre Box, if La Cieca chooses to enter?

And you're actually encouraging campaigns on behalf of different bloggers? HONESTLY. That is so junior high! Are you also encouraging campaigns to try to decide the best classical music critic in North America? Maybe not, because, sadly, there are so few paid full-time critic positions left. And anyway - they're pros! They don't need this!

Seriously - either you take bloggers serious as critics and writers, or you don't. Dear Spring for Music, you are sending mighty mixed signals. And I'm not gonna play.



P. S. That first round question? Seriously, why would I even want to discuss the subject, in the absolute and given the ridiculous way you frame the non-issue?


  1. Hurray Lisa! It sounds like they are getting an earful today.

  2. So far, you, me, and Patrick. Where else?

  3. Oh, wait, Elaine at Musical Assumptions.

  4. Is there a compendium of resource links for others blogging about this?

  5. Yeah, that's about right. And what Brian said too.

  6. Thanks all these links, Lisa! Could Midgette be looking down her nose at people who blog on their own rather than those who get paid for blogging?

  7. That would shock the hell out of me. She respects good writing and solid knowledge, not whether you get paid to write.


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