So You Wanna Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star

And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds 
Are immune to your consultations 
They’re quite aware of what they’re goin’ through 
The acquisition of Tumblr by Yahoo! is now complete, which has set off another round of analysis about the past, the future, praising and questioning the move by both sides, investor returns, and other sundry items.
All those I’m sure will be interesting, but I think they will miss a bigger point. Self-expression is an unbelievably empowering feeling. Internet services that allow for forms of self-expression have fundamentally changed how media, how content, is produced, marketed and distributed, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the services themselves. That’s majorly important. Their impact is greater than the specific outcome – financial or otherwise – of any one of those Internet services.
I always wanted to be a musician, a rock star. But I can’t really play guitar. Then I wanted to be in the music business, but then I learned that I didn’t. Instead, my fantasy, ultimately, was and is to be a music writer.

I’ve read many many music books (the best: Positively 4th Street, Chronicles Volume One, Please Kill Me, Our Band Could Be Your Life, The Trouser Press Record Guide, Beneath the Underdog, Miles, Rock of Ages, Lipstick Traces, Just Kids) and magazines (such as Spin, Uncut, Mojo, The Big Takeover, Forced Exposure, Backstreets).

The reality is, I’m not a great writer, at least not in the sense of what a professional writer is (or I believe should be). That’s alright, I was never trained as such and never really learned to write well. Not sure I even aspire to that. I leave that to my partner and friends.

However, self-expressive services, like Tumblr, aren’t concerned with notions, objective or otherwise, of quality. They don’t make a value judgement about whether I am a good writer or not. They are a canvas. To create, with freedom. They implicitly say, do it yourself. They are about, first and foremost, self-empowerment.

I believe that rarely in history have we had places that allow us to express ourselves, who we are, at mass, to the world, with little rules other than as we might create to govern ourselves. Requiring no permission. Until recently, and via the Internet.

On May 25, 2007, I posted a photo on my Tumblr site. A few months later, on February 16, 2008, I first posted a song (New York Groove, Ace Frehley). Pretty much every day since then I have posted some song, some thought, some music related randomalia. 4,837 times. I even once wrote an open letter” to a hero journalist of mine, Jann Wenner, about Tumblr and Rolling Stone.

Without thinking about it or even trying; without any plan; and clearly without anyone judging me (quite the opposite: with quite a bit of encouragement from people I only know through their pseudonyms), I know now that I realized my fantasy. I became a writer. Sure, no classic definition of music writer would ever list this experience there, and my writing usually sucks, and I’ll never make a living from it, and god knows only a few people even ever notice it. But it’s there, and no one’s permission was needed for me to play out a small scale alternate reality fantasy, in my own little way.

Presciently, Thoreau told us to “beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.”

Empowering new people to do things is fundamentally important. Empowering new people to have the option to themselves be creators is as important. This completely changes the way we access, or perceive, media, because individuals have the power, the ability, to be in control.

That gives us all the opportunity to be rock stars, on a large or small stage, but a stage of our own, with no permission required.

So, regardless of the armchair analysis that will occur, at least today I am going to try not to forget that, while I may never really get to be that music writer I dreamed of, no one can stop me from writing about music. Even if it’s in a small, but my own, way.