When COVID-19 hit, the opportunities available to music journalists dried up quickly, but incredibly, the music kept coming. Though there was talk at first about how the music industry would pause during the pandemic, the opposite seems to be true.
Even though the live music industry virtually disappeared overnight, it didn’t take long before you could spend an entire evening moving from one artist’s livestream to the next. It felt nothing like hopping from club to club, but the flurry of activity was a welcome distraction and a sign that you couldn’t just halt creativity. Similarly, “Bandcamp Days”—the now monthly occurrences where the digital music platform and marketplace doesn’t take their share of revenue—encouraged artists to release new music and continue their creative output, benefitting from an outpouring of audience support. Mutating from its original intent to distribute money to artists affected by the pandemic, musicians began to direct funds to causes if they weren’t in need themselves.
It’s in that same spirit that we’ve founded New Feeling. As a music journalist, it was frustrating to watch all of these great and interesting stories arise while having so few places to write about them. I think many of us feel the same way, as more and more of my peers are turning to starting their own Substacks or Tinyletters. I think we all know what we have to do: if the opportunities don’t exist, then we have to create our own.
At the same time, there’s no sense in replicating the very models that are not just failing us in this moment, but have failed us continuously for some time. The immediate slashing of budgets and restructuring of departments at the outset of the pandemic served as a reminder of how precarious our situation already was. I can’t talk about the few opportunities afforded to me since the industry was uprooted without also acknowledging that many people, especially, Black, Indigenous, and writers of colour, are not even afforded those. In trying to build something new, it’s imperative that we also course-correct and question what it is we want to take with us and what needs to be left behind.
In that sense, “renewal” makes a very fitting theme for our first issue. In Leslie Ken Chu’s profile of guitarist and songwriter Hiroki Tanaka, renewal comes in the form of life cycles and the ways in which family often reciprocate care across generations; Jesse Locke catches up with Katie Lee (aka EEJUNGMI), and learns how creativity was key to her ability to process and move on from life-changing conflict; and Daniel G. Wilson writes about how a new, diverse cohort of musicians fundamentally changes their relationship to CanRock and their place in it.
Renewal is also a good theme to introduce ourselves with. Though I’m proud of the work we’ve done to get this far, I also know that we can do better. That’s the ethos at the heart of what we’re doing. Our ability to build a new, sustainable model for what music journalism can look like hinges on our understanding of what has come before and learning from it. We won’t be successful if we don’t acknowledge that growth and change are a negotiation, whether it’s in terms of our continual striving as a co-op toward big ideas like equity and democracy, or the dialogue we’ve started today between us, the music community, and our readership. I hope you’ll be a part of that conversation.
Michael Rancic, co-founder, New Feeling