Wednesday, May 7, 2008

[I think I'm gonna be sick] Willamette Week

So the Willamette Week posted their Best New Band of 2008 thingy.

oh gawd.

The 400 people asked to vote for the BEST NEW BAND in Portland were "selected by our diligent team of local music scientist"... So does that mean they consider themselves disciples of the scientific method? They think themselves accurate? Or are they just going to share the blame with every booker, PR dude, and Label in town?

In the era of Web 2.0 they couldn't just post a poll on their blog or website asking the ACTUAL MUSIC GOERS OF PORTLAND OREGON?!?!??! What a huge disappointment to be told who the best band in Portland is by the industry instead of the fans. It's not like they don't have the technology.

Anyway, congratulations to The Builders and the Butchers. I'm sure they deserve the the honor if they got the most votes from the chosen 400.

"Despite its name, Best New Band isn't really about rankings; it's about recognition - a chance to give props to the artist who've knocked the socks off local music fans*" -- Amy Mccullough

How awesome would it be if the Willamette Week had turned the decision over to the people who PAY go to shows and BUY THE CD's...

Because I am depressed here's a cute picture from Ape Shapes last show Summer 2007

* label heads, venue owners, bookers, PR people, etc.


amy said...

buck up camper!

Ste. Goldie said...

Amy? Amy who? If you happen to be Amy M. from The WW then -- Building an online reputation means using your real name (especially if you are an editor for a newspaper)...

Anyway thank you, but it's going to take a lot more than bucking up for me to BUCK the artificial system of approval in this town. OR NEED of approval in this town. I wish everyone could be spared from the desire for approval (and a record deal...).


Which ever Amy you are THANK YOU for stopping by...

Ste. Goldie

dannyspkrspkr said...

So it goes with music journalism. It sucks, but it's pretty much the way it goes wherever you go...

Ste. Goldie said...

Danny! What do you mean? Please tell me? In the era of the internet/WEbg 2.0 doesn't it seem queer for a newspaper to ask the "elite" instead of the people? PS -- I am gonna totally check out your blog...

tbone said...

fuck buck

Ste. Goldie said...

I have a friend named Amy M... she lives in Colorado and she's the bomb...

Tony said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ste. Goldie said...

Tony --
1. Thank you for your comment. I love compiling lists. I love reading lists. I would love to see what weirdo, house party playing, back woods, underbelly music there is in this town. What if there were bands that EVEN Ben didn't know about that say 10 or 20 people all put on the list... Too meager? To obscure? Well that's the sub culture of what is "happening" right now in Portland.

2. The best bands of 2008 can be decided by industry insiders. Obviously it was. But as you pointed out they missed some of the insiders (Ben Meyercord for one). For the record I would like to say most people who vote on internet polls aren't random people off the street. The WW could have posted widgets EVERYWHERE directing people to vote. I would consider my vote valuable even though I don't go to hundreds of shows every year.

3. Right now I am reading about how media companies manufacture controversy to increase readership (sales).

4. Right now I am realizing that newspapers are scrambling like mad to maintain their authority. What better way to do that than to ask people who CLEARLY know better then them (you the other chosen participants) to compile a list of bands? The only better way would have been for them to get some balls and actually just open it up. OPEN IT WIDE UP... But they where probably afraid that they would lose credibility and authority. Or it didn't even occur to them (the WW).

6. How about next year they just say "Who do you love?"

7. calling any band "the best" is just plain stupid anyway. It's what Rolling Stones does every frickin' week.... puhleeeeeze!

Michael said...

1) You know, by the standards of insiderishness set by Willamette Week's poll, you're way in there.

2) This blog here offers criticism, no?

2a) You're missing some points.

Amber Dawn said...

Goldie - thanks for bringing this to light. Sure, maybe it's just "the way it goes" but nobody ever made anything better by simply putting up with "the way things are".... I listened to the Builders and the Butchers for the first time this morning while I was doing an interview at Tender Loving Empire (which should be up on here tonight.. .a little self promotion never hurt anyone right?) and they're pretty alright - but to a huge extent, no matter who's voting, naming "the best band in portland" is kind of like naming "the best restaurant in portland" - everybody and their dog is in a band in this town, and what the "best" is is all a matter of taste. Are you into old timey folk punk? Pop music? Hardcore? Experimental electronica? straight up rock? a real "best of" for music would lok more like the "cheap eats" guide or something - comprehensive, with something for every taste.

casey jarman said...

hey yo. casey from ww here.

i don't really know where to start, but i'm going to go ahead and reply to both this and the more recent post about 'web 2.0.' in this spot right here.

the fact is that we've thought about this a lot, and while (in a perfect world) the idea of a fan vote is really appealing to me, too, it's just totally impossible to pull off. and i had thought about the idea of doing an additional poll on localcut this year, one that just took a popular vote online. i think i explain pretty well why i opted not to do that later in this post (see 2).

1. ben should be a voter and if he would have hit me up for a ballot he would have gotten one.

2. plain old show-goers are muchmuchmuchmuch harder to quantify then people who work within the industry in some fashion. it's hard enough to compile a list of people who run labels and venues, etc. in town (and as we admit every year, it is never a science and it's never as comprehensive as we would like), but figuring out who the 'fans' are is a whole 'nother story. everyone is a 'local music fan,' but that often means that they're just crazy about the shins. i had the same hang-up about the poll when i began working here as a freelancer some years back, but the question is, how do you get a 'fan vote' that reveals anything remotely accurate about the portland music scene?

do you...

*run a poll on our website? ask cary clarke at pdx pop now why they don't let their festival be decided by an internet vote; that's the same reason we don't open the poll up to the online public. most bands would like to play pdx pop now just like most bands would like to be on the cover of ww. but some bands are willing to go a lot further in making those goals happen. bands rally their friends, come back every day to vote again and again, and generally go crazy finding ways to stuff the ballots. pdx pop now winds up with thousands of votes for one or two bands that no one gives a shit about except some very dedicated friends and family who revisit the site to suggest them--and every year they have to decipher who people are actually excited about and who just has way too much time on their hands. there is no way to gain meaningful results from an online poll.

* my own thought process goes "if you can't trust online fans to be honest and vote once, why not provide ballots at shows?" that's a good idea, right? no, it's a terrible fucking idea. whatever show you pick to provide ballots at will yield a hundred odd votes for whoever is playing that night. and there is clearly no way in the world to get ballots at every show in town (which is impossible), it would still be a totally discriminatory process based on crowd sizes and people voting more than once at different shows, etc.

* if you can help me come up with a fair way to poll fans that doesn't allow for ballot-stuffing, i would LOVE LOVE LOVE to do it. that's not sarcasm or cynicism at all, i just don't know how to go about it in a fair way. i think that no matter how you structure it, the results will look like my email inbox: tons of votes for persistent and press-savy bands, less votes for bands with no interest in promoting themselves.

3. as scary as words like "PR" and "booker" can seem, i think the results of this year's poll speak for themselves. many of the bands on this list (starfucker, valet, fist fite, etc.) are bands that do not have a publicity machine and/or drive for self promotion fueling them. i don't think i've ever gotten a single press release from starfucker, and the only emails i ever get about the builders and the butchers are from fans saying 'holy shit that band blew me away last night.'

4. not every fan is ben meyercord. i'd go so far as to say that very few fans are ben meyercord, and that most people have a few favorite bands that they go to see once or twice a month. from house parties to doug fir shows to roseland shows, outside of a few ecclectic music fans, the people i see again and again are artists and people involved in the local music scene. you guys, with this blog, are a part of that (but it's a new blog and we weren't there yet). but you're also musicians and people who could pretty easily be quantified as members of the community we DO poll. every year we ask for people LIKE YOU to email us and tell us why they think they should be voters. (i wish i had the time to go and seek everyone like you out, but i don't). i'd say the same for most of your commentors and most of ours over at localcut.

5. in response to "enter the blog," there's a lot of things there that i want to take personally and be hurt about but i'm resisting that temptation. i just think it's factually inaccurate and coming from a pissed-off place that i don't quite get.

*willamette week isn't a corporation, which is increasingly rare in the media business. it's an indie-owned weekly. the boss of my entire company is a few doors down, and we argue about stuff all the time (he once thought i called him retarded, which i didn't, but we call him old and out of touch on a regular basis).

*i think i respond to comments on our music blog ( and general paper site ( more than anyone ever. sometimes i don't see a comment right away, but when someone asks a question of me or a choice we made in print/online, i generally respond. amy mccullough is a bit more of a luddite (she'd admit that--and that was not her commenting on your last blog entry), but she also has a fair deal of conversation on the blog.

*media companies are not allowed to do what you just did in your blog (ask for writers to come and post on our site) without contractual agreements. there are laws about that shit.

*it's true that media companies have inherent conflicts of interest. the advertising people probably hate it when i say that one of their advertisers' venues sucks, or that a show the advertising dept. sponsored is going to be lame. but no one at this paper lets the ad people say a single word to us. amy and i are pretty lucky that way, because you're absolutely right--most companies are owned by other companies which are owned by other companies, and those grandparent companies don't want you talking shit about their products. we're just extremely lucky in that we're not. shit, mark baumgarten made a decision to cover only local music in willamette week and the bosses said ok. do you understand how crazy and unique that is?

Okay, I'm rambling, but I like you guys and wanted to be able to share this stuff with ya so you at least know where i'm coming from. so that's how i'll end my rant, with something about me.

all i've ever wanted to do with my life was write about music. i've known it since i was about 15 years old, and everything i've done in my life (from the high school paper to the journalism school college debt) was to that end. while my job isn't entirely stuff that i love (i prefer being out of the office and rocking out to doing all the in-office minutia that an editing job requires), i dedicate myself pretty completely to challenging my own musical tastes, prejudices and ideas. my writing doesn't come from a place of wanting to be a tastemaker, it comes from wanting to share the stuff that i love and wanting to share the things i learn via doing this job and meeting the huge array of musicians and community members that i do.

i agree that the role of music critics and writers in general is changing in the blog age, and it's something none of us who do this as a profession have completely figured out yet. might not matter, because 'music critic' is pretty much the most dispensable job one could have when the impending implosion of the american economy comes (maybe i should have learned a trade like my dad). but anyway, i still believe there's a role for people like me. least i hope so.

so there you are, crappy indie music! a longer blog entry than i've written on my own site for ages.

i hope you will share ideas and questions with us over at our home sometimes, too, cause that's where i get bogged down most of the time. at the end of the day, papers like ww can only stay relevant and worthwhile if people like you provide input to us. i'm really glad i saw your rants here but often times it takes an email to me (cjarman at wweek dot com) to get my attention. or amy's (amccullough at wweek dot com). we're not, i swear, big shots smoking cigars and trying to sway the future of portland's music community. we're a couple of nerds doing our dream job and writing about the stuff that we love. if you ever want advice on how to do this for a living, let me know and i'll give you my best advice (like "be in the right place at the right time and pretend you know how to write about jazz"--worked for me).

please don't tell my boss that i just spent an hour on-the-clock writing this ridiculous diatribe.

casey jarman said...

three last things (sorry, i hadn't read all the comments):

1. amy and i didn't pick the "best new band" name and you're more than welcome to treat every word in that headline as totally subjective (we do). they also aren't always "new" or always "bands," either. but it's three easy words. the thing needed a name and that's what mark baumgarten decided to call it. we can and should argue about who is the best all the time. there were about a hundred different takes within the poll on who was the best band this year, we're just compiling those picks and we are extremely transparent about the whole process. i think it's as good as any other name, but the 'best' part hangs a lot of people up, and i get that.

2. best new band was one dude's idea that the paper let him try (i'm sure they were hesitant about it). there's no boost in advertising or paper distribution that goes along with it. we lose money on the free show, from what i hear, and judging from the lack of comments on the story it probably gets read less than big news stories. but it is important to us to be able to present local bands to those who don't usually delve into the back of the book, and to be able to publicize some great shit going on musically in our town.

3. if you just spent some time listening to the builders and butchers (or starfucker or loch lomond) on myspace, you haven't heard those bands. all three are incredible live bands and i hope you get a chance to check them out this saturday night.

thanks again for being thoughtful about all this, and again, sorry for rambling.

casey talks too much said...

okokok i'm really done after this.

to amber: and naming a 'best new band' is exactly like naming a best new restaurant. that's exactly how i think about it. i don't see how that's a bad thing. it's not that you're saying all other restaurants suck, it's that you're saying this is what we (or in this case the people who voted) can more or less agree on.

and there is a far wider range of styles on this list than you even hinted at with your genre tags. i encourage you to check some of these artists out.

Tony said...

Thank you for thanking me for my comment. Unfortunately, I was so delighted upon discovering the delete button that I had to whisk it away to the space of broken internet bits and bytes. This wasn't so much because of the state I was in when I wrote it, but more so, because of the state of the words as they existed after I wrote them.

I have to agree with many of Casey's comments defending the methods of the poll. However, at it's roots, there is an element of Jr. High popularity contest that seems to far distanced from music-making ability. I personally would not know how to go about fixing this either.

I am concerned, however, with how I voted. It's a tough choice to make, and after all the thinking it over I did, I think my ballot still did not reflect my tastes. I'd like to do a more detailed breakdown regarding problems I experienced in choosing bands. If I get that done soon, I'll blog it elsewhere and post a link to it here.

Nilina said...

"How awesome would it be if the Willamette Week had turned the decision over to the people who PAY go to shows and BUY THE CD's..."

well of the people I know personally who voted and the WWeeks staff I work with - actually buying CDs is really important to us. Actaully of late it seem like buying vinyl is most important.

Still, last year I was a tad bit bitter I wasn't asked to vote. Minor outrage, but that quickly passed because I just realized that it must mean that I hadn't made it clear that I was of value in/to the Portland music scene and that my opinion counts.

And everyone who feels that their opinion counts shouldn't wait for people to approach them and think of ways to go about including them. Waiting wastes time. I think this blog post is a good way of circumventing that as it is a way to be heard, only it's after the fact. But like a poll of your own here or approaching places directly on the matter of inclusion in anticipation instead of after the fact seems most productive. It's all about the anticipation.

Also "the elite" are people too. It seems ignorant to ignore that fact.

poster guy said...

shit i woulda voted, had i been asked. Maybe this was addressed above somewhere in that lengthy disclaimer, but what is the cutoff date for a "new" band? Some of those folks in the 10 are old-timers - it seems somewhat disingenuous to call some of these bands "new". Why not "small and still popular"? "Kinda indie still" "Smaller than the shins but larger than..." How about the "constantly getting better and persevering against all the fucking rain and lineup changes" band? Maybe this word "new" is all the trouble..
just wondering

stephanie said...

Nice going Goldie.
Way to call out this "best new band" business.

Maybe this contest should be more like "Most Popular Up & Comers," or "Portland Music Industry Faves" instead of "best new band."
But really - it doesn't matter what you call it. It's specific to the publication and who they choose to vote and how the votes are tallied - so there's no way to make a contest like this impartial.

The WW list is obviously (and rightfully) based on live shows. And the truth is, no matter how fantastic a band is in any genre, if the promoters and radio and press and such aren't taking note - they still have to do some work to get noticed. If a band is really making waves without promotion, these people will eventually come to check them out, er - in theory.

The big bummer is that there isn't a more diverse cross section of "scenes" represented by the voters.

Casey Jarman mentioned above that they tried to get some "other genre" voters involved that didn't want to participate...maybe you need to ask yourselves why that is, Amy & Casey?

Amber Dawn said...

casey - I guess this argument is pretty much dead but I didn't realize the article was about best NEW band - I thought it was about best PORTLAND band... .best NEW band is kind of different. I still think that if I were personally to write that article, I would try to quantify it by genre or something, but that's a whole new can of worms. I personally kind of hate "best of" anything, but that's just my personal stance as a relativist who can't pick a favorite anything. I wasn't meaning to attack anyone, and I hope it didnt' come off that way.

Amber Dawn said...

and I've seen starfucker like, a zillion times cause they're friends with my boyfriend's band, (I wrote a review of them in this blog, if I was cleverer I would link to it) I'm not closed-minded about new music... what I meant is that I think comparing an electronic pop band to an old timey folk band to a hardcore band is like comparing apples to peanut butter. I will take this opportunity to give the article another look and check some of those other bands out.

Dave Allen said...

Ah Goldie,

Web 2.0? I think you and I both know that we've sprung past 2.0, 3.0 all the way to 5.6
Anonymous posting should be a thing of the past, reserved for haters. Transparency is in. Keep it up.

dannyspkrspkr said...

Ha! The power behind the first part of your statement made your PS sound like a threat!
I'm really not trying to challenge your statement; I think it is an excellent point. However, if we stop and think about what music journalism is, it comes down to a small group of people telling a much larger group of people what they think about music. Based on this concept, having a vote of the music community to determine what they publish on any topic would be an exception rather than the rule. This article fell somewhere in the middle in that the paper chose the voting group. They could have asked the entire community, but that's not what this article was about. Here in Seattle, a paper similar to the WW had a contest for a few years in which the entire readership was asked to cast ballots to vote for the best new band in the city (some people reading this may know what I'm talking about, and why it's funny that I'm talking about it...). When the votes were tallied and the winner announced, there were STILL people who complained about the way in which the winner was chosen. Please don't misunderstand and think I'm saying people shouldn't complain. People absolutely SHOULD complain; if people don't, then the things we don't like don't change. All I'm saying is that by its very nature, a group that has a voice for stating opinions is not going to be able to please all people all of the time with those opinions or how they form them.
I'm reminded of a paper I wrote for an English class. In a few places I used the words "in my opinion". The professor told me something like "As a reader, I know that anything I read is written by a person. So I KNOW that everything you're saying is an opinion. You don't have to tell me." That's totally a paraphrase, but you get the drift. They're telling you, as a reader, the opinion of 400 people chosen by the paper regarding the which band in Portland is the best. You, as a reader, know that what their stating is an opinion. Yes, in the era of fast and loud communication, they could easily do a piece on which band the music community likes best. I would be willing to bet that they HAVE done something like that. This piece about which you are writing was not a piece about the entire music community's choice of best band, however; it was about the WW's friends' choice of best band. Whether it's one writer at the WW or 400 of his or her closest friends, how is that any different from Ben Meyercord telling people what upcoming shows are his picks for the best, or the mysterious "Academy" that selects Oscar winners? The reader gets to decide whether or not they give a crap about that opinion.
Finally, who's to say that popular opinion can be any less skewed? I think we can all agree that just because something is popular doesn't mean it's good.
When I made my "so it goes" statement, I was not dismissing your point, I was commenting on the fact that writing about music is subjective. There is no way it can be anything but. Whether it's one writer, 400 industry insiders, or an entire community, there is no science in judging art.

Nick Leyva said...

oh god, here's what cut the deepest:

"bands rally their friends, come back every day to vote again and again, and generally go crazy finding ways to stuff the ballots. pdx pop now winds up with thousands of votes for one or two bands that no one gives a shit about except some very dedicated friends and family who revisit the site to suggest them--and every year they have to decipher who people are actually excited about and who just has way too much time on their hands."


Amber Dawn said...

ok i have to admit i read the article and i enjoyed reading about the different bands once i got over my insistence that nothing can be the 'best'.

carls said...

It looks like you got a good number of responses to this blog after linking to it from the comments on -- have you been reading about how manufacturing controversy can increase readership or something?

Ste. Goldie said...

carls - yes, here's a somewhat recent article about manufacturing controversy:

I'm glad that talking about something I care passionately about is driving traffic to my blog. It is totally rad. I also found out that sometimes the only way to get someones attention is to fearlessly speak your mind.