Don't know if you saw it or if you cared about it, but Drowned in Sound dedicated the week to articles on the death of music journalism--perhaps four days too many to cover a subject that I feel has been beaten to death. I'd be curious to know from DiS's stat-counters how popular the series was (compared to other week-long series on, say, slow-core, shoegaze, or alt-country). Personally I feel invested in only one facet of the issue. I don't care much about the ramifications of new technologies, and I don't care much that business models are crumbling; I just care about good writing.
I gather that there are, in fact, two problems at hand. The first (less interesting to me but more interesting to people trying to make a real living off of music writing) is tied to the music industry itself. As the industry dies, so goes the financial viability of all its ancillary industries. Yeah, artists don't get paid. Also, magazines fold or go online, where the advertising opportunities are fewer and less lucrative. So the writers looking for money are, to put it mildly, in a pinch.
The second problem has more to do with the quality, variety, availability, and unfiltered nature of music writing itself, now that so much of it is on the web. One of today's DiS articles, by Ringo P. Stacey, tries to differentiate between the death of "criticism" vs the death of "writing," using as a jumping off point Christopher Weingarten's recent rant (worth a watch if you haven't seen it, though I do have some problems with its content). I think that's a much more worthwhile topic to bellyache over, personally--less the authority of the critic than the pleasures of great prose. I grant that many writers need to worry about getting paid, but writers--and I mean very specifically those of you/us who consider yourselves writers--ought to put quality of output ahead of everything, regardless of platform or paycheck. This is one thing Weingarten says in his rant that I think is right on (though I still loathe Twitter). Were the general quality of music writing on the web to increase, I wonder whether or not everyone's game would raise. Other writers, musicians, fans: everyone. (I'm not trying to put myself above it: I have a tumblr and it's full of half-thoughts. It could be better. I'm also not trying to say that good writing doesn't exist--but it could exist more.)
Stacey ends his article claiming that "to date, although online critics have triumphed, the best music writing is still originating offline." He also claims that there are a lack of good editors when it comes to online writing (true!). Couple that with Ben Myers' "Day in the Life of a Music Critic," also posted as part of the DiS series: "I maintain a blog but it is worthless. Blogging isn’t writing, it’s masturbating." Clearly there's a disconnect happening here. Everyone looks to the web for music, and thus for whatever text accompanies that music, whether it be from Pitchfork or DiS or me or some other amatuer who says little more than "Atlas Sound + Panda Bear OMFGyessssss!" But the guys who consider themselves real writers aren't bringing their A-game to the web--unless they get paid for it! If they don't get paid, then they're not writing, they're masturbating. Great. But FYI the readers don't give a shit whether you got pait for what you wrote or not. They're looking for great content. So let's all think about that when on the one hand "blogs are masturbation" and "all the good writing is happening offline" while on the other "music journalism is dying" because no one reads print mags anymore. Not only that, but most readers/consumers of content are not differentiating between sites with true mastheads and sites done by dudes in their living rooms. If the reader isn't discriminating but the writer is, then the writer is in a pickle.
In the comments to Stacey's post someone complains about the glut of music--too many people can make, record, and disseminate music nowadays for people to keep up with or process. That seems tangential to the present discussion but it does give cause to bring up the parallel--anyone who wants to can write about music nowadays too. I'd actually argue that more people are reading about music today than ever before, thanks to the internet! Unfortunately many of the providers of content don't consider themselves writers, and many who do seem to consider their blog their "side thing," less important and not worthy of quality control. That could have some relation to the sentiment I often hear from the more cynical mp3 hounds out there who think writing about music has become irrelevant now that we can simply listen to anything we want. That misses a crucial point: writing about music is itself an artform. It's not mere utility.
[Related: Tom Ewing did a post today that rounded up a list of newish youngish writers out there. Some I know, others I don't. Worth exploring.]