This is the story of a music journalist. He was a pretty successful music journalist. He had an ostensibly full-time gig at a pretty mainstream outlet. The pay wasn’t great but it was enough to live on, and he was pretty thrilled he got to write about music for a living. He worked from home, mostly. No real point to an office in this day and age when your outlet’s writers are all over the country. Each day the big recording studios would mail out new and upcoming albums and singles to him. Sometimes he’d get tickets to concerts that he had to review. Sometimes he’d write more what he’d call “culture” stories that weren’t about a particular album or concert but maybe some artist had done something in the public eye or said something on twitter. He really loved pop music in all its guises and the cultures surrounding it so the whole thing was pretty sweet.
Every morning he’d go to his local cafe for breakfast. It was good to have a routine where you left the house when you work from home. One day, there was this women busking with a guitar. She had the most chilling voice he’d ever heard and her fingers moved across the guitar strings like a spider’s legs move across a web (he liked that line, he wrote it in the Notes app on his phone). He had no change on him, but he did stop and listen for a while. When he got home, the new Kanye West album was in his letterbox.
The next day, she was there again. She was playing a different song, but it was no less beautiful. It was also unlike anything he’d ever heard. This day, he’d broken a $10 note at the cafe so he threw in a $2 coin to her guitar case and went on his way. When he got home, he started his review of the Coldplay concert he’d been sent to last Saturday.
She was outside the cafe everyday from then on.The music journalist started leaving home a little bit earlier just so he could stop and listen for a time. Every day he made sure he had $2 to give her. Sometimes they made eye contact and smiled in that way you smile at someone when you recognise them as part of your daily routine.
Three months passed. He’d given her about $180 in total by this stage (not that he was counting). One day, he happened to be walking by as she was replacing a guitar string. He was saddened he wouldn’t hear her unique brand of music today, but threw in his $2 all the same. She thanked him, and said he was too kind. He said it was the least he could do. He paused, then, and told her what a unique voice she had, and asked why she was out here busking. She shrugged and said she’d gone to the big record companies and no one seemed interested in her. It was too weird. There wasn’t really a market for it. She did have these CDs she’d burnt, but never really bothered to market them. He insisted she sell one to him (she said $3, he insisted on $5).
He listened to it at home while he wrote about the upcoming Taylor Swift album. The production was rough, and it had clearly been recorded directly into a laptop’s mic, but the strength of her voice and her nimble control of the guitar was still clear. It was unlike anything the big record companies were sending him.
He decided to write a story about her. He wrote about how great her voice and guitar sounds were, how unique and utterly unlike anything he was reviewing was like. He wrote about how excited it made him. He said, explicitly, that anyone in the area should go down and listen to her and buy her CD. He didn’t see any need to mention he’d been throwing $2 her way every day for the past three months. It seemed irrelevant
Over the next few days, comments started appearing on his story. Some people agreed that she was great and they were glad they bought the CD. Others said she was alright but didn’t see what the big deal was.
Nobody ever demanded to know if he had ever given her money.
Nobody claimed this coverage of an unknown artist beyond the record label paradigm was a sure sign of a music journalism conspiracy.