Music is magical. It’s one of the few mediums where you can relive the feeling of hearing something for the first time in repetition. It will always repay you if you allow yourself to be overtaken by melodies, rhythm, and the shared stories of instrumentals and lyricism. For me, it was my late grandmother’s love for the piano and Gospel music. Then, it grew from my uncle’s vast CD collection full of R&B and classic hip-hop. Soon, I would make my own discoveries by watching MTV, where Nirvana’s “Smell Like Teen Spirit” video opened me up to a wealth of rock music. There were the nights I would listen to the radio and hear dance music like Daft Punk and The Prodigy. I was an explorer on a conquest for treasures, and in its purest form, music never stopped rewarding me.

Contrary to popular belief, almost every music journalist begins their love affair with this form of art in a lot of the same ways. The same love they call upon in a profession that often doesn’t love them back the same way. The love helps them power through the often painstaking task of transcribing an interview to refine it and tell a cohesive story based on the current state of the artist. There’s also a giddiness of returning from a live show and telling the world from your vantage point how it went. I attribute those processes to an artist with a blank canvas and a brush full of vibrant colors (in this instance, a Google Doc and keyboard will suffice).

When different segments of art flow into one another, it’s a thing of beauty. Sometimes, it can get messy and sometimes adversarial, but ultimately, it’s all for the greater good. That’s why publications like Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Spin, Okay Player, Vibe, and many independent publications are vital to this musical space. They are comprised of people who plug into their craft of criticism, original reporting, photography, live reviews, news, etc. It’s an even more vital resource as it’s been attacked. We live in a digitized world where TikTok and algorithms reign, replacing the mode of going into a record store and listening to an album. These tools might be fine for those who can use them to their advantage. However, it leaves much to be desired regarding the original goal of music discovery. This is where music journalism has continually filled the void and adjusted to the whims and pitfalls of those who don’t understand it. Passionate people behind these pieces and reporting still preserve in times of dwindling access, jobs, pay, and resources to make their jobs as complete as possible.

Negative reviews happen, and in the case of Pitchfork’s reputation, they have handed out a few. It’s given an unfair view of what such entails, as you can learn something from a fine-crafted critique that’s not filled to the brim with praise.  Music and journalism, in general, shouldn’t be in lock step with PR or kowtow to make everything popular. I could listen to a Green Day album and find reasons to love it, and someone else could dislike the same record. It doesn’t mean that person loves music any less than I do; instead, it’s courageous to state constructively why it didn’t resonate with them. I don’t know what the future of music journalism will look like. In the immediate future, it seems bleak. There’s the road of hollowing out these classic sites and magazines only to provide the reader and artists who benefit them a failed experience. Few up-and-comers get the notoriety they deserve and then have to rely on a 30-second clip in a digital sea with no shortage of water. Readers lose out on new acts they could catch in a small venue like New York’s Bowery Ballroom before the push for bigger arenas. The pipeline is crushed.

On the other hand, music journalism will be only afforded to those who can take the financial hit. That leaves out a variety of talented and hungry journalists from various backgrounds who could provide this occupation the diversity it deserves (and still needs to get better at). Music journalism thrives when more voices are amplified, not when the mic is only passed to people in the front row. No matter where you stand on what you think Pitchfork embodies, the sudden cannibalization of their outlet is alarming. Not only does music lose when we lose voices to tell its stories we can’t always see or understand, but journalism also loses when it’s quantified into simplistic thinking. The journalist you read is a fan at heart. They’ve been the kid at the front row at a sold-out show screaming and still keep that north star bright even as the darkness of capitalism tries to engulf it. With so much we’ve had to change and drudge through already, we cannot lose this space.