Bandmo interviews J.a. Bartlett from http://jabartlett.wordpress.com
Introduce yourself to our readers. Who are you and what is your background?
I’m J.A. Bartlett, a writer and radio DJ in Madison, Wisconsin. I’ve been in and out of the radio biz since 1979, and I’ve been a writer since I could hold a pencil. My blog, The Hits Just Keep on Comin’ (jabartlett.wordpress.com), celebrated its 8th anniversary in July 2012, which is a couple of centuries in Internet time, and I’m quite proud of that.
What relation do you have with music (past-time, passion, a business)?
I discovered Top 40 radio when I was 10 years old, and I loved what I heard, both the music and the DJs. It didn’t take long before I decided that radio was what I wanted to do with my life. So my relationship with music is that of a passionate fan, although working in radio gives that fandom another dimension. I started my blog, after about five years out of radio, because I thought that writing about the music I like might make me miss radio less. Now that I’m back in radio, I keep up with the blog because I can’t imagine giving it up.
What do you think of the current state of music?
Depends on what you mean by “music.” Nobody ever really “knew” the totality of contemporary popular music, not even in the 70s and 80s when there were fewer genres and fewer radio formats, but you could get at least halfway familiar with a lot of it. Today, there’s just too much to stay hip to. Although lots of people still depend on radio for new music discovery, the prevalence of heavily targeted formats means they’ll be exposed to new music within a relatively limited scope. I know a few people who manage to keep up across a wide variety of genres and I admire them, even as I have no idea how they have enough hours in the day.
New music is not the focus of my blog, which is about music history and the uses of music as memoir. I spend most of my time exploring back catalogs of artists I know and artists I don’t, filling in the gaps of history. There’s over 100 years’ worth of stuff back there, which is more than enough to keep me occupied. But I will say that I simply don’t understand a lot of the new stuff I am tipped to. I get a dozen e-mails a week from promoters and producers and labels, and I often don’t understand what the artists are trying to accomplish. I don’t hear the hit, in other words. Even a smash like the Goyte record (“Somebody That I Used to Know”) leaves me scratching my head. I hear a verse and half a chorus, but I don’t hear a whole song anywhere in there, let alone something that should move 10 million copies, or whatever it is. (This is the place where a lot of people expect me to say “now you damn kids get off my lawn.” I’m not sure that’s fair, but so be it.) If I hear something new that seems deeply rooted in some aspect of popular music’s history, I’ll write about it. That kind of thing doesn’t come my way very often.
Where do you think it’s heading?
As long as we live in a global marketplace, that marketplace will manufacture global stars, but they’ll continue to make the least interesting music–which they have to do to appeal to such a broad market made up of so many different kinds of people. As time goes on, more and more artists are going to be famous in smaller and smaller circles. We’re seeing that already: every genre has its superstars, but many of those people are largely unknown outside their genre.
What are your favorite websites to discover new talent, any tips for our readers?
I contribute to Popdose (popdose.com), and they do an admirable job keeping up with new releases worth listening to. I read a number of blogs whose subject matter and/or writers’ interests are similar to mine. If you have a manageable number of Facebook friends and they post music, click the links and listen. I have been turned on to some cool stuff that way. Or just set up a music blog and you’ll eventually be besieged by labels and promoters who want you to listen to their stuff.
What role will the internet play in the music industry future?
See the answer to the above question. I think the distinction between “life” and “the Internet” is almost entirely blurred–we use it so much, we’re so connected that we practically live online already. Futurist Ray Kurzweil suggests that someday, we’ll be able to upload our consciousness to the Internet and live forever. In a way, we’re doing that already, only without the immortality part. And we’re listening to music all the while.
Bandmo would like to thank J.a. Bartlett for taking the time to participate in this interview. Head to http://jabartlett.wordpress.com today.