Changing the Way We Chart Music

Beginning this week, Billboard Magazine will incorporate YouTube plays as part of the metric it uses to determine its weekly singles chart, as reported in yesterday’s New York Times.

Coming on the heels of news that the Times is putting The Boston Globe up for sale again, it’s almost too much to take in a single news week.

Indeed, the times they are a-changin’ (stopping to ponder whether a visionary like Zimmerman saw this coming). Yet I must admit, I certainly didn’t, even though with videos like “Gangnam Style” and “Somebody That I Used To Know” garnering more views than the population of most of the world’s continents, I also admit I should have.

Here’s where the nostalgia sets in: I remember vividly tuning into pop radio during my preteen years, counting down America’s Top 40 with Casey Casem, wondering if my favorite artist would claim the top spot that week, and if not, how far their song would climp or (gasp) dip. But that was a long time ago, when MTV played music and the best video games were six feet tall and weighed 300 pounds.

And so I come to the realization that MTV is dead, and so are arcades, and so goes the way we consume popular entertainment these days. I guess it’s healthy in way, in that one could potentially vie for pop stardom from their bedroom or basement, remaining (at least, for a while) free from the trappings and creative constraints of big-time record companies and their bean counting partners in crime.

And if something tangible has been lost in all of this – the spinning of a 45, the careful construction of mix tape for your best friend, or the sights and smells of a freshly opened gatefold of liner notes – something has likely been gained, even if I’m not entirely certain what that something is. Perhaps its choice.

Which reminds me of what my son chose to pull out the other evening in lieu of listening to music on his  iPod, smartphone, or, computer, or Playstation – the Motion Picture Soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever – on vinyl, no less.

At 14, I only dreamed of such a smorgasbord.

–John Ciampa

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Life in a Dying Industry

Source: imdb.com

Source: imdb.com

Most Tufts students have an eye on the future, on “what happens” after Tufts (whether or not they want to think about it!) For many communications and media studies students, this means finding a job in the media/journalism/publishing worlds, no small task as many people know. The CMS Program recently held an event for students in just this situation, “How to Land a Media Job: Tips for Seniors” (if you missed it don’t worry, you can check out the audio on the CMS Program homepage – you don’t even have to be a senior to access it!) Many of the speakers emphasized that increasing your own social media presence can be key to getting a job in some of these industries – a great excuse to start blogging on the CMS blog! (You don’t want to be left out in the cold from the digital world like Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson).

Everyone has heard at one point or another the standard cliché that the journalism/publishing worlds are “dying industries” or “dead-end careers.” For example, journalism has been described as the “fastest-dying industry in America.” The struggling publishing industry has been made light of in similar ways.

Barbara Ehrenreich, widely-known journalist, social critic, columnist, essayist and author of 21 books including the famous Nickel and Dimed, described some of the ups and downs of her own experiences in the world of journalism in her piece “Welcome to a Dying Industry, Journalism Grads.” In Ehrenreich’s view, the truth about the journalist’s calling comes down to this:

Journalists “are not part of an elite. We are part of the working class, which is exactly how journalists have seen themselves through most of American history – as working stiffs. We can be underpaid, we can be jerked around, we can be laid off arbitrarily – just like any autoworker or mechanic or hotel housekeeper or flight attendant. But there is this difference: A laid-off autoworker doesn’t go into his or her garage and assemble cars by hand. But we – journalists – we can’t stop doing what we do. As long as there is a story to be told, an injustice to be exposed, a mystery to be solved, we will find a way to do it. A recession won’t stop us. A dying industry won’t stop us. Even poverty won’t stop us because we are all on a mission here. That’s the meaning of your journalism degree. Do not consider it a certificate promising some sort of entitlement. Consider it a license to fight.”

Some, however, don’t see jobs in media/communications as necessitating quite such a degree of personal martyrdom. For some, the benefits of a career pursuing one’s true passion, whether or not it lies in a so-called “dead-end career path,” are obvious: being able to do something you love for the rest of your life. For others, the choice between well-paying work that you you hate vs. poorly/non-paid work that you love is not so black and white: there are ways to find writing/social media jobs that pay, for example opportunities in freelance blogging. A quick Google search turns up instantaneous wikiHow articles on How to Get a Social Media Job in 7 easy steps, or an infographic on How to Get a Job in Social Media in 5 Minutes (the infographic itself is a great demonstration of someone’s social media skills!)

What do you think? Is it possible to find love in a hopeless place? Are there careers out there where it is possible to combine a passion or calling for media/journalism etc. with the ability to make a comfortable living? Let us know!

Ethiopian Media 101

Editor’s note: the author is a first-year graduate student at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts. Prior to coming to Fletcher she worked for several months in Ethiopia. She was recently back to visit over winter break.

Keeping true to our word about staying plugged in to the broader “real world” of media outside of Tufts’ doors, for this week we’re going international – to Ethiopia, to be exact. We thought it’d be interesting to get a perspective on the media there, and hopefully later in the semester we’ll be getting some perspectives from more far-afield places like the Czech Republic.

The media world in Ethiopia

Source: ecadforum.com

The news in Amharic. Source: ecadforum.com

In Ethiopia, the mainstream media is highly-influenced by ETV, the government-owned television station, which broadcasts three channels and is a major source of news for the TV-owning population. ETV broadcasts nightly news in Ethiopia’s four major languages: Amharic, Tigrinya, Afan Oromo, and Somali, as well as English. In addition, the network broadcasts talk shows, question and answer shows, and other popular entertainment, in particular music videos. The Ethiopian music industry is thriving and has one of the most loyal domestic fan bases on the continent; both modern and traditional Ethiopian music is extremely popular across generations, as well as music from the “Golden Era” of Ethiopian jazz in the 60s. Virtually every region has developed its own traditional dances and musical forms, which are popular with Ethiopians across the country.

oromo

News in Oromo. Source: ecadforum.com

somali

News in Somali. Source: xaajo.com

The Ethiopian privately-owned media sector is still relatively nascent, and it is unclear exactly what role private media will play in the future. The radio and newspaper sectors are also growing. Though there are relatively few radio stations across the country, they broadcast in several of the local languages. There are a variety of print newspapers, particularly in the capital, Addis Ababa, and they can be found in Amharic, other local languages, and English.

Meles Zenawi

Source: author’s own

Another widespread form of mass media is billboards, displaying everything from advertising campaigns to government campaigns. There are currently massive billboards around the country in memory of the former Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, who passed away last fall.