Hi, my name is Jody, and I'm a music writer. And no, this is not as cool as it sounds.
This isn't to say there aren't parts of the gig that I love. I've been a rock geek since I was a kid, and writing about music allows me to listen to music professionally—something I've wanted to do since I was 14. I only pay for concerts roughly six times a year and, occasionally, I'm able to get up close and personal with my musical idols.
All music writers were or are outcasts to some degree—it's kind of related to the old "those who can't do, teach" trope. In my case, it's "those who can't write music write about music." I haven't met a single music writer who wasn't at least a little insecure—and as a woman in the field, it can be especially taxing.
I haven't personally encountered much direct sexism on the job, but it definitely crops up from time to time. Mostly I just get asked "Why are you here alone?" (word to dudes: That's a TERRIBLE pick-up line. Thanks for making me feel even more self-conscious about showing up stag to social events). Guys hit on me occasionally—not a sexist act outright, but some are pretty relentless even after I tell them, notebook in hand, that I'm working right now. And on one egregious occasion, I had a former editor who wanted to reprint a story of mine in his publication say "Thanks, but I'll see what (male editor) has to say," after I politely told him that my current employers weren't interested in republishing (I'm not naming names, even though I really really want to right now).
Though there are a lot of amazing women in the industry, like most geek realms, music writing is a predominantly male world. Especially if, like me, your greatest love is most commonly the jurisdiction of the male-over-50 crowd: classic rock.
The Who, Cream And My Formative Years
My foray into a genre beloved by middle-aged men the world over began when I was 10, and I first became obsessed with The Who. This set me up for a lifetime of rock geekery—but it didn't make me a lot of friends. While all my peers were fawning over 98 Degrees, all I wanted to talk about was Tommy. I then widened my search to other bands from my parents' era: Cream, The Band, The Hollies. No one made fun of me to my face (that didn't start in earnest until 7th grade), but no one really wanted to be my friend, either. Thank God I could lick my wounds by wearing out my cassette copy of Tommy . . . which I eventually did.
Music writers my age tend to focus on the now—and even though this is the most stereotypically music-writer thing to say, the vast majority of what's out there these days bores me. Half the time when someone asks me, "Have you heard the new ________?" I haven't.
Because you know what else bores me? Being required to know everything about every band ever, as soon as it happens, and if you get a fact wrong, God help you. As Logan Melissa recently discussed in my profile of her, being a certified geek requires countless hours of study time—and as a woman, the stakes are higher. Not a lot of girl rock-geeks obsess over the old stuff. Man or woman, if you don't do your homework and can't pass the pop quiz, you're quickly classified a fake geek. To this day, I live in constant fear that someone will find damning evidence of my disinterest in collecting facts and data, and I will be blacklisted from the industry forever.
I don't want to learn shit, OK? I just want to like music.
The worst have really been other music nerds. I've blundered my way through conversations about recent rock history more than once, been slowly squeezed out of group conversations at parties, and was once given a patronizing smile when someone quizzed me on what band famously requested that brown M&Ms be removed from their candy bowls backstage, and after a long pause, I answered "I don't know." (The answer is Van Halen. Never making that mistake again.) Someone once literally told me "You're cute" after I mistook an original song for a cover of a more recent version.
But my knowing how to make an appropriate Laurel Canyon or Last Waltz reference (which I do, frequently) comes in incredibly handy. I used to get so embarrassed admitting I didn't know much about current bands, but the older I get, the harder it becomes to embarrass myself. I'm getting better at saying no, I haven't heard of so-and-so; that I don't know what band that guy was in before he was famous; and, though this could get me shunned from music writing forever, that I'm just not into Haim.
What I like is sitting back and watching music evolve, seeing one trend splinter off into five more or get absorbed by something else. And in this age in which every band is aggressively trying to assert themselves as a real artist through their music—and every other rock geek is trying to assert their geekiness through minutiae—I really appreciate musicians who don't take themselves too seriously.
Speaking of which: If anyone can find this classic-rock geek an original pressing of Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake that won't put me in the poor house, holla at yo girl.