Sweetman: Music helps keep me alive

01:10, Sep 06 2012

Dominion Post music reviewer Simon Sweetman has been writing for us for more than a decade and he's copped his fair share of flak over the years. Sweetman was on live chat today answering your questions about his favourite (and least favourite) bands, gigs, and what it's like to put your opinions on the line every week.

You can see the replay of the live chat below this blog from Sweetman:

Hi, I'm Simon and I'm a music reviewer.. It's a bit like being at an AA meeting every time I'm introduced somewhere and people ask me what I do. In most cases I don't actually tell them I'm a music reviewer. I'll say writer. Because that's really the truth of it - I write. And in most of the jobs I've held and in the freelance work I provide I'm paid to write. To create copy. 

I don't actually have any shame about being (called) a music reviewer - it's just easier if I don't mention it when I first meet people. We'll get talking about music eventually (it's a pet-subject). And then we can argue and fight. It's best I give the conversation a chance, at least to begin with.

I've been writing music reviews for The Dominion Post for just over a decade. It was suggested I provide a blog-post (that's this one, right now) about the process and tell you all about what it's like listening to music for a living. But I can't do that. I've never done it for a living. I do it because it helps me to live - helps keep me alive. But I've always worked fulltime, writing is a hobby. It doesn't pay well enough for me to survive.

So I don't listen to music all day - although it sure feels like it. Because, you see, I listen to music in the spaces around a working day. I get up at six in the morning. I go to bed at three in the morning. I listen to music at night, during weekends, depends on the mood but I'll walk anywhere (everywhere) with headphones. Sneak in half an album on a lunch-break. I'll play CDs in the car. Family members and friends are subjected to awful albums and diatribes as I form my thoughts. And then the writing happens. Quickly. Often. Every night I write something about music

What qualifies me to do it? And why do I get to do it? Why me?

Those are the common questions.

Well it's very, very simple. I'm qualified to do it because I have two ears. And they work (trust me, they do). And I can write. That's really it. The other reason I get to do it - is because I want to do it. I turn up. I'm not trying to be aloof. It really is that simple. I front up and do this. I do the work. I take on board all of these albums - and attend the shows. Yes, I get to see some amazing performances and hear some truly wonderful albums. Music gives me a lot of joy and I have been very fortunate to experience so much of that from reviewing. But I also have to listen to the truly horrific music that bedroom-hopefuls attempt - unaware that they have no talent at all because their mum and dad and friends have all told them, all the time, that what they're doing is wonderful. I've attended the shows where it would have been kinder - and more entertaining - if there had been an actual death on stage, not just the metaphorical one I was "lucky" enough to witness.

People get wound up and upset by some of the things I write. I can tell you right here, right now, that I don't write negative reviews to get a bite - I write honest reviews because I care. I want to tell the truth. But I can only tell you my truth. I can't tell you that the show was wonderful if I didn't enjoy it. I can tell you (and I always will) that other people appeared to be enjoying it. But I get paid (my pocket-money) to tell you my thoughts, my opinions. If you want to take it on board that's fine. If you don't - that's also fine. The great thing about opinions is that they only exist if you're prepared to listen to them. If you don't want to take my opinion on board, in any way, then you don't have to.


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