The Austin Music Blogger Awards: My Prerogative

musicThe Austin Music Blogger Awards is this Thursday, and it’s arriving with a little controversy via This Post by music icon, Gerard Cosloy.  Reflecting upon my options, I wasn’t sure what to do.  I was even advised to leave it alone because he’s the guy that put out the Pavement records.  But, I’m from Austin, and I’ve been part of this music scene far longer than Gerard has lived here, so I feel its best if I take a few moments of my day to explain my perspective on the events…and perhaps even respond to a bunch of Mr. Cosloy’s points. 

First, I think it’s best to discuss the point of the Austin Music Blogger Awards.  For me, I jumped at the chance to be part of this because it represented an idea of the community of Austin music lovers joining together to provide something for the fans of Austin music.  I respect what all these people do, and I know that there aren’t many people working as hard to uncover the great music of our fair city.  That being said, it is also an opportunity for us all to work together for the greater good.  I wrote about the need for the Austin music community to unite last year, but Gerard didn’t read it because apparently he doesn’t value the voice of the people that venture out five times a week to catch local acts play (which is sad because our current feature interview is with Sweet Talk, one of his bands). Personally, I know that in being the first year things are not going to be perfect; there are going to be errors and people left out.  For that, I’m sorry, but improvements can always be made; it’s best to be constructive rather than belittle the cause.

I see this event as the Golden Globes to the Austin Music Awards, who would obviously be the Oscars.  We wanted something a little bit on the smaller scale, more independent, something that represented the underbelly of what’s going on musically in Austin.  Of course, that means inevitable downside that people and venues were going to be left out, feelings could get hurt, etc, but maybe that encourages us all to be better, therefore improving an already robust music scene. And in the end, it’s taught me how much I still have to listen to, in regards to Austin music.

Names were tossed around in the initial ballots that I hadn’t listened to, for whatever reason, and now I have.  I’ve been opened to new acts and new people, that I hadn’t before; I’ve grown.  Isn’t that what we should all strive for, constantly aiming to improve ourselves? It’s for this reason that I tried to involve Gerard, and other label representatives in the voting process.  The labels, be it 12XU or Modern Outsider or Punctum, all work hard to give a voice to Austin musicians, and thus have a right, and almost an obligation to be involved in the voting process. Should one decline, that’s respected; that’s a personal choice.  But, to criticize the event after you declined to be involved seems, frankly, childish and counterproductive.

While I respect the work of Mr. Cosloy, I find his comments damaging to the greater Austin community, which he clearly seems indifferent towards. Yes, Beerland is a great venue.  I hit up shows there at least twice a month, and the staff/crowd has always been accommodating.  Now, is it the best venue in town?  I’m not so sure.  The sound isn’t always on point, and it seems, that supported by Mr. Cosloy, the venue has an entitlement towards being its own special club.  It also has the tendency to only feature one genre of music, and that in and of itself is great, but not something that ultimately warrants a Best Venue nod.

Honestly, I can forgive the Beerland comment, as I do value the venue and its place in the Austin scene.  What I can’t forgive are his condescending comments towards the other artists involved, like Jess Williamson and American Sharks.  Some would think that because Gerard has put out Pavement, and other acts that are well-regarded, that he has the right to his voice, and so he does, but to do it in a demeaning manner indicates a man dying to save his image; it’s about him, it’s not about Austin and the music scene.  And therein lies his faults; he’s apparently not concerned with the whole music scene, just those acts and venues he’s interested in.  How does that benefit Austin? How does that show the diversity of what’s musically going on in this town?  It doesn’t.  If anything, it’s an elitist myopic attitude that sets Austin back, trying to make it some secret club that only those in the know are able to participate in because the rest of us have “no fucking idea what’s going on.” Sorry guys, but that’s bullshit, and to let that attitude go unchecked only empowers this man to continue promoting that attitude throughout the city.

I grew up in this city, watching country bands open for punk bands and DJs open for metal bands.  It’s what I loved about the city growing up, and what I love about it now.  The diversity is great for all of us, and that’s what the Austin Music Blogger Awards are trying to represent … a look at the greater spectrum of the underground of Austin music. If we take that away and only choose to focus on one genre, everyone loses.  Austin’s not a punk rock town, or a hip-hop town, or anything in particular; it’s an amalgam of styles and people; it’s a fucking city, and one that I love.  We should be proud of the fact that there’s so many different sounds you many not realize are coming out of this city.  That’s how art works.  People create, others react, thus creating new art.  None of us have the right to look down upon other acts simply because we don’t like what they’re doing.  Yes, have your opinion, but to go about it in a manner that disregards the hard work of others in this city is unacceptable, and personally, makes me wish people with this attitude would just leave.

I know this seems long-winded, and possibly a bit scrambled, but my main point is to point out that despite its faults, which I think we’d all acknowledge, the Austin Music Blogger Awards is a chance for the bloggers and the bands to give something back to the community that supports them.  Your band or venue didn’t make the cut? I’m sorry, but take it as a challenge.  Take it as an opportunity to work harder. Don’t sit behind your computer and complain because that makes you a coward, or even a bully.  You’re no better than anyone in this town.  If we want our city to be a great one, then we have to work together, be it in the arts, food, politics or whatever.  When we start to create a divisive community, we all lose, the artists in this town especially.

So come out on Thursday to Spiderhouse Ballroom (who’ve had some sold out shows) see what all the hubbub is about.  It’s an event that will represent the whole of Austin music as seen by the people who cover it as best as they can. Maybe next year we’ll even have a special category for the Beerland Award or the Music Curmudgeon Award.  Hope Mr. Cosloy will vote for those.


  • Well said.
    Everyone has an opinion, and everyone’s counts, but those that are involved in producing art have to be okay with haters. The world is full of them, and we’ve all been dealing with bullies since playground days. Its just part of life.
    I’ve gotten to the point that I tune them out and focus on those that resonate with my opinion, and it seems have a magnetic quality. I’m almost to the point that I pity the haters, because there missing out on the love. What eves though.
    The good news is, that there’s plenty of options out there, and thanks to guys like you that seek to inform those interested.

  • It has responded.

    …quite quickly for not being insecure.

    He escalates insulting an artist to a more personal level.

    To think, all because he was asked to vote on a list of bands chosen on consensus by a diverse group of people. Oh well.

  • I have not read Gerard’s initial comments or reply yet. I read your post because of this “controversy” via a post on facebook. But i am going to hazard that gerard probably made fun of the event because as we all know
    AWARD shows are stupid and usually feature the most popular douche and douch-ette and is tantamount to the best looking in class or prom king and queen dickery we all suffered in high school. I had no idea Gerard “put out Pavement” but good for him. I respect him for his incisive writing and exquisite taste in music. People who dig and defend award shows usually worry about “draws” and sat “merch” alot.

  • That’s kind of the point about it all…it’s not even about the Awards show per se, at least to me. I think the awards show is going to be fun because it’s a bunch of great bands getting together and getting respect for something they care so passionately about. It’s not a popularity contest by any means, and the voting process was controlled, so it’s not like 1500 fans of any band get a say.

    For me, the sadder part is how adamantly Gerard is about being part of a community, which, like it or not, he is a part of. If you don’t wish to foster a music scene or community, then what are you doing here? Oh, that’s right, pilfering the talent to suit your bottom line and whims.

  • “For me, the sadder part is how adamantly Gerard is about being part of a community, which, like it or not, he is a part of. If you don’t wish to foster a music scene or community, then what are you doing here? Oh, that’s right, pilfering the talent to suit your bottom line and whims.”

    I can’t even express how completely ignorant and idiotic this statement is. Seriously, you should really be embarrassed. I personally can’t think of anyone who had done more to foster the local underground music scene here in the past half decade than Gerard, and it’s not really even close. He pours an unfathomable amount of time, money, and energy into championing the bands here that he loves, and yes that includes pointing out the failings of the local music “journalism” that largely ignores the more interesting, creative and “challenging” acts toiling right under their noses. If you want to confuse passionate connoisseurship with being “condescending” or whatever, fine, continuing thinking bands that don’t make the blogger awards nomination cut merely need to “work harder” and I will continue rolling my eyes at you, but saying that Gerard doesn’t make a huge contribution to to the local scene here is just plain wrong and to say that he is doing so to “suit his bottom line” (I assure you, it’s quite the opposite) moves into the territory of baseless slander.

  • Gerard Cosloy = Margaret Moser + 15(?) years

  • This is one of the most painfully dumb things I’ve ever read. A lot of people will certainly have a lot to say about Gerard and what he’s done for the music scene in Austin, and I’d probably concur with most of it. He’s a work horse and this town is better for him being here.

    I’m not a big fan of Austin transplants, but to launch into “I’m from Austin, and I’ve been part of this music scene far longer than Gerard has lived here…” as if that means a goddamned thing, is laughable.

    Most of the rest of this post has already been picked to its bones on a thousand Facebook posts, so I’ll let it rest other than to say that this meandering post shows how wide, but shallow your understanding of music in Austin is. I’m sure it’s been embarrassing, but…

    Take it as an opportunity to work harder. Don’t sit behind your computer and complain because that makes you a coward, or even a bully. You’re no better than anyone in this town.

  • I guess that’s the two sides of this town, which I suppose was my original intent behind all of this. This whole conversation began as why some things were left out of the nominations, then we made things personal…and I think that’s my mistake, as well as Gerard’s.

    I’m not going to try and make an excuse for myself, but most people are right, I shouldn’t diminish his contribution, and in fact, I’m grateful for it. I own a ton of the 12XU stuff, as well as the Matador stuff, I guess I just don’t like his attitude. But, he’s entitled to it. There’s just something about the whole conversation that’s made this town divisive based on what’s “underground” and what’s the goal of the bands. For me, I just want to expose people to as much music as I’m excited about, and I’d like to bridge the gap between the “us vs them” rhetoric…and this doesn’t necessarily stem from Gerard.

    The thing I love about this town is how diverse it is, and I love celebrating that. I’ll go to Beerland and watch some thrash band and then hop over to Swan Dive and catch a little pop band. What defines what is good doesn’t matter; it’s all a matter of personal tastes…I just wish there was more positivity in regards to what people are doing, rather than negativity.

    But, in part of this conversation back and forth, I’ve turned into a dick, and that’s not my style, so I’ll accept my faults. But, I’m still going to keep working to make people realize you can grab a PBR at Beerland and then go listen to some DJ at the new Cheer Ups. For me, it’s music, and it’s fun, and when I forgot that, I took on a dickish manner. I guess we all just felt slighted by something we worked hard on was being put down because we didn’t vote for Spray Paints albums (which I own both btw), and some of the bands were hurt too, so I took it upon myself to take a stand, then went further by defending myself via attacking Gerard.

    In the end. We both probably love/hate some of the same bands, and love/hate different bands; I just wish he had given the awards a little respect, or fuck, even indifference, rather than criticize. But hey, to each their own.

  • “But, I’m still going to keep working to make people realize you can grab a PBR at Beerland and then go listen to some DJ at the new Cheer Ups.”

    Just go away.

  • Nathan:

    We won’t casually pile on since the Blogger Awards occured last night…and Mr. Cosloy – and a few other folks – have already pointed out why an awards show, without transparency about the nominees and the voting, wherein record labels are voting on acts they’ve nominated – seems a little suspect.

    A very good Austin music writer once warned his colleagues about “hometown boosterism.” Music journalism without an opinion. Kid gloves criticism.

    Check out Lester Bangs and Nick Tosches…some of the best music journalism is the most critical, the most opinionated.

    Creating a story, creating publicity for a music scene at large is a noble attempt at best. But awards show are lame by nature *because* they are exclusionary. There is bound to be another, better way to generate publicity for bands, venues, bloggers, etc. in which you’d like to champion than creating an awards show. And music awards – versus film awards – have a horrible precedent: the Grammys are an embarrassment to the music industry.

    Learning to write in a public forum is really difficult, and very brave, and you’re to be commended for doing it. But you should’ve vetted your innuendos about Mr. Cosloy before walking out on such thin ice and publishing half-baked conclusions…because the water is quite cold when you fail and fall through.

    Mr. Cosloy nurtures young underground artists (a.k.a. “the scene”) publically in many generous ways…*and* on the DL. You were really far, far, far off base in concern to him and his contributions.

    Several years from now, you may come to see that award shows are mostly counterproductive. Art is subjective. One person having a critical opinion about art is one thing…but a collective body posing, attempting to have an authority, attempting to tell others that some art is better than other art is another thing entirely. See Woody Allen’s quote from Annie Hall about a club that would have him as a member. See George C. Scott’s and Marlon Brando’s quotes about awards.

    I hope some of this makes sense, in the future, if not now…

  • VM…first, I want to say I appreciate the approach you took in your comment…constructive criticism is much appreciated, and when not attacking, can prove quite fruitful for all involved.

    I do, in retrospect, and possibly during the process agree with Gerard’s assessment that transparency is important, so I’ll put this out there for those that are reading…if any still are.

    We’ve all thought or talked about what a great idea this would be, as we love the town and the music, so when we decided to do this, we realized that by no means would the first year be the best it could be. Our nominee process began with the blogs creating categories…then we each got five votes for each category. Some of the votes that my catch the eye of the aggrieved parties might like to know that the ATH nods had names like Pharaohs, Quitters, OBN IIIs, and Sweet Talk. Through that process, we then took the bands/albums/songs that had three or more votes in each category and moved them to our Final Nominations. I then created a ballot that we sent out to the blogs and other journalists covering the Austin music scene, as well as radio personalities. I wanted to include local labels, as I think they’re part, including 12XU, is vital to the community. Each vote was weighted based on where it stood in the ballot process. For instance, say Black Books, a winner, got a first place vote they’d get 1 point. If they got a second place vote, they’d get .8 points. Looking back at the ballot, the one mistake I made, as I was in charge of the ballot process in its finality, is that I didn’t have a “Skip this question” option. That might have allowed Gerard to vote without compromising his belief that he shouldn’t be able to vote for his own band. A mistake, admittedly, but we’ve all learned from it, and next year changes will be made.

    I’d also like to note that due to the process, not everyone’s choices for “Best Of,” won in each category. But, that being said, that was the process we agreed to, and whether or not I loved every winner ended up being irrelevant, because it was about the group of bloggers putting their voice, however meaningless people may see it, out there.

    In reference to your idea that awards shows are counterproductive, I think everyone involved might slightly agree, to a certain extent. That’s why we wanted to have the show part go along with it. I don’t think any of us would say that our show was the end all be all to what’s great in Austin. In fact, I think the big argument has been the Beerland vs the Blogger commentary, and to be honest, I think if ventured to another part of Austin, we all might get thrown under the bus for our tastes. But, the awards show was supposed to be a celebration; it was supposed to be fun. None of us take ourselves too seriously, and I think the only thing we took seriously was the show and awards, not necessarily our tastes. I know great bands got left out, and for that I’m sorry. That’s one of the reasons I reached out to Gerard, knowing that he has a different outlook than many of us, and his vote, had he chosen to partake, would have established a less exclusionary awards. I also thought that we should have given one ballot to each store like End of an Ear, Waterloo, Trailer Space, knowing that they all do a great job with inshore performances and consignment work, but like I’ve said before, it’s a process…and being in the first year, we all accepted their would be mistakes, and even disgruntled bands. In the end, I think, to the best of our ability, we came together and put the voice of the bloggers together in a positive light, aside from my brief foray into nonsense. It’s not for everyone, but our goal was to have fun and for the event to be celebratory. Give or take a few unhappy customers, I think everyone left with a positive experience.

    Perhaps the biggest disappointment is my role in the event, and how my arguments with Gerard might have caused a blemish and some disdain, due to my comments. I left everything up on our site, and in the comments, as I will not shy away from what I’ve said, right or wrong. It was said, and however it was taken, I can’t go back, and it would be cowardly to do so. I would like to retract my comment in regards to Gerard not helping the community. I know how hard that guy works to put out great records, and in fact, I own a great deal of the 12XU catalog. My comment about him not giving back and pilfering the talent was an emotional response to his attitude and perhaps, perceived condescension; it was below the belt and dick-ish. I realize that, of course, and I think that anyone who knows me knows that’s not truly how I feel. I should have handled myself better and perhaps just agreed to disagree, and let it be. But, I didn’t, and I can’t go back. I do wish people would realize that a lot of those comments were made from a point of anger due to the amount of work and effort we had all put in to make the event great. I didn’t handle it well. In the end, I think Gerard and I come from different places in regards to “the scene,” and that’s totally fine. Austin needs dissenting opinions. I know he invests a great bit of his time in his label and the bands in the community, and that’s great. I love a lot of those bands, and have friends in several of them. They’re all grateful for him, and in turn, my record collection is too. I shouldn’t have acted on emotion, because I don’t think for a minute that he’s acted against the community or in spite of it; he operates in his own world based on what he loves. He’s fostered that community and its grown to be an incredible force with Austin exporting bands that have a lot of national recognition.

    Also, as I know that this has gotten a lot of Facebook time…I’d like to also say that despite what those involved might think or how they interpret my words, I don’t have a single thing against Beerland. The only thing that I think I really said that was taken out of context was that at some points during shows I’ve attended, the sound has not been that great. But let’s face it; the sound at a lot of venues isn’t that great. The only one I can say that consistently does well, for me, has been Mohawk. It wasn’t a slight against those guys by any means, but a supposition as to why some of the other bloggers might not have chosen it on their nomination. There’s not a damn thing wrong with the venue, and I’ve seen some incredible shows there too; I love giving my money to that place, but I was simply trying to offer up a critique as to why it didn’t make the final nominations. I think the funny thing is that I’ve covered that venue the most, I think, as far as bloggers go (maybe Austinbloggylimits and Sideonetrackone are on par). I mean, the day Gerard posted his original post I had a feature with Sweet Talk, and earlier in the week had run a song for the new Ghetto Ghouls. I support a great deal of those bands, and a great deal of those shows. But, it wasn’t just my award show, it was a collective effort, so I, and we, had to accept that opinions that weren’t necessarily our own, were represented. It’s the arbitrary nature of awards show…as I think you pointed out.

    And, my “work harder” wasn’t meant to say that bands aren’t working their asses off in this city. Hell, even shitty bar bands I would never watch work hard to perfect their craft. I think the one thing I have wanted for some time is that Austin bridge the gap. I wish the bands would communicate with the blogs a bit more, not because I think we’re the best at what we do, but because if we like it, it’s free exposure, and often spreads from blog to blog. That’s 10000 people, a lot of them in Austin, getting to hear a new song or new album from a band…there’s just a lack of communication, and I’d love to close that gap, encourage the bands to send ATH and the other blogs their music or tweet us about shows so we can retweet and spread the word. I want all the bands I love to get that extra boost of publicity…it’s good for the bands, the bars and everyone involved. It’s shitty, but without those connections, a lot of people can’t hear about the great acts in Austin, so that was my only goal with the “work harder.” You have a new jam, send it to the blogs. If they love it, they’ll post it…win/win for everyone.

    In conclusion, after various emails and banter, I think the end note to this all (in my book anyways) is that Gerard and I are two very different people, though both with very similar approaches to things. He puts his money where his mouth is, putting out records by bands he loves and throwing shows for bands he loves. I do the exact same thing. Where we differ is in our approach. Gerard worries only about what he thinks is good music. That’s perfectly acceptable and applauded. I, while caring about the same thing, feel a huge responsibility to Austin, as growing up here is what fostered my love of music, so I take a different approach. But in the end, we both want the same thing; we want the bands we love to have money to put out their records and to tour their asses off and enjoy the highlights of rock n’ roll. That should be the bottom line, for both of us. The divisive nature of the conversation this past week is precisely what I wanted to stop, yet in responding and not respecting Gerard’s right to share his own opinions, as I do on our blog, I did the opposite. Sorry Austin. I make mistakes and sometimes I’m a dick.

    As far as I’m concerned, the conversation ends there. Nothing else needs to be said.

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