I write for several reasons: for fun, sure, but mostly due to obsession and a fear of amnesia, with a dash or two of guilt thrown in for some odd reason. One thing I don’t write for is money, which is fortunate because nobody gives me money to write things.
But they used to.
Yessir, back in the late aughts I used to write occasional articles for an online music magazine that I never once read and doesn’t exist anymore and that lead to me getting the gig to write one or two pieces a month for a free daily called 24 Hours – which I believed was (is?) owned and run by Sun Media Corp – and they actually paid me real-live money to write them. So Soundproof Magazine would set me up with someone to interview, I’d research them and write up a bunch of questions (which is way, way harder than you probably imagine it to be), call them up and do the interview, transcribe it, write up a 1,000-word article for the online magazine with a seventy-five word intro and then do a 300 word version for the daily print copy.
Then a few weeks later $5 would get deposited directly into my bank account. Yep, $5. I know it doesn’t sound like much but we’re talking 2009 dollars here. In those days $5 went somewhere. Heck, back then you could almost get a mocha latte for $5.
Like, I’m not kidding. An actual real newspaper company had the audacity to offer someone a pittance so low that you couldn’t even laughingly call it a “token” payment. If anything it was like someone leaving a 5¢ tip on a $100 meal.
And not only did I take it, I was excited to take it. I assumed it was the first step in a mini-career of being dramatically underpaid for doing an unimaginable amount of work, like playing music. Had I known that these $5 assignments would mark the pinnacle of my professional journalistic vocation I mightn’t have been so excited. But I still would have done them. Like I said off the top, I mostly write for fun anyway and it was fun interviewing people like The Constantines and Tanya Tagaq and it was especially fun seeing my little writeups in the little newspapers.
Of course I had no idea what I was doing and I probably got paid a little bit more than I deserved but I sure tried awfully hard. For example, I don’t know how you transcribe interviews but I would precariously balance a telephone receiver on the microphone of my little hand-held cassette recorder while I called my subject on the other extension, and after our conversation I would spend hours stop-rewinding the tape and two-finger pecking out the words on my desktop. I’m not overly proud of any of the “work” I submitted but at least I got Jim Cuddy on tape saying “F*ck Radiohead…”
Still got the tapes too.
This is all preamble to tell you that on June 26th, 2015 I went to the Ottawa jazz festival to see Joel Plaskett, whom I had interviewed a half-dozen years earlier. Obviously it was prudent to do some googling and a fair bit of listening in anticipation of the interview and in the process my opinion of Joel Plaskett remained unchanged. Sure, he was an amiable guy to talk to and why not? It’s fun to answer questions about yourself and that new thing you’ve been doing lately, whatever it happens to be. But really, I was never a fan of Plaskett’s band Thrush Hermit and I never cared much for his solo material either, and nothing I encountered doing the research altered this view.
Of course I kept this opinion to myself once the fingers started typing. I didn’t want to jeopardize my journalistic career (or my financial situation).
On the other hand, after interviewing someone I tended to be more interested in seeing them live (with the exception of Jim Cuddy; it will take more than a little Radiohead-bashing to get me out to a Blue Rodeo concert) so I made a point of checking out Plaskett’s jazz fest concert.
It was okay.
(Now there’s a review that’s worth five bucks.)