Anil Prasad: Inner Views, Borderless Perspectives
AAJ: Going back to when Innerviews first was hitting the web in the '90s, you told me you received some serious criticism from established music journalists. Can you tell me about that and how you reacted and handled it?
AP: When Innerviews came out in '94 and started to pick up steam toward the late '90s, yeah, there was a lot of criticism from established music journalists who I'm not going to namepeople who were calling it a joke. They acted like it was just a fad, like this whole online music journalism thing was going to go away. They were like, "Wow. This guy is going to put out this stuff and not charge anything, and he can run stuff as long as he likes? Who does he think he is?" I did have "actual" journalistic credentials, ironically. I think, in general, that Innerviews and the other early online music magazines were probably a little bit scary for people who were wedded to the printed page, especially at the dawn of the web when it went live.
But while I had this peanut gallery of 50 and 60 year old music journalists heckling me, on the other side I had tons of artists going, "This is really cool. This is really interesting. These are really in-depth, substantial interviews. We're not sure we're going to get that level of detail or research in something that runs in some of these other things." Really, it was the artists who helped propagate Innerviews during those early days. An interesting thing to note is until around 1998, virtually all interviews for Innerviews were arranged by me contacting the artist directly and not going through managers, publicists or record labels. And that sometimes really pissed off managers, publicists and record labels [laughter]. When a major artist gave me an interview they'd be like, "You gave an interview to who? To what?" Then the interview would go up and there'd be quite a bit of positivity going, "Oh, wow. That's really good stuff."
And then around the late '90s and into the early 2000s, the site gained a lot of credibility with labels who realized, "OK. This is legitimate and this is forward-looking and this is the way things are going." And certain really important labels like ECM, Virgin Records, and even people at huge labels like Warner started awakening to the fact that coverage on Innerviews would benefit them. They started giving me interview opportunities directly through the label. A certain level of credibility kept building and building which basically eliminated the peanut gallery. Artist and audience enthusiasm are the real reasons the site ended up perpetuating, and why I kept doing it. Truthfully, those are the only opinions that ever mattered to me.
AAJ: What do you see as the future of print music journalism going forward?
AP: I think the future of major print music magazines is basically that they have no future. I used to think I was burning bridges when I said stuff like that, but now the reality is dawning on all of them. They're going to continue falling by the wayside if they do not completely reinvent the way they do things. I think there will be very little room for print music magazines going forward. There are studies pointing to the idea that the printed newspaper could largely be dead by the end of this decade. There's a website called Newspaper Death Watch chronicling the industry's demise in progress. So, if that's what they're saying about the printed newspaper, what does that mean for music publications that are a lot more niche than The Wall Street Journal? The future is not looking bright for them.
I think there could be a temporary hybrid future for the print music magazine where there's still a low circulation print counterpart to the web version. But that's not a long-term viable option. I think a lot of the energy is going toward tablet based devices like the iPad or the Galaxy Tab. And that's definitely the future of mobile-based reading, whether it's for music publications or anything else. Tony Wallace, a leading iPhone/iPad app developer and I, recently launched an iPhone/iPad Innerviews app that hit the top-20 music apps chart worldwide. So, we're pushing Innerviews forward in that way too. The other thing to consider is the demographics of it all.
Music magazines have historically been something for kids. And by kids, I mean you can take that right up to age 35. And we have generations of kids who barely even know what a physical music release is, much less a physical magazine about music. So, I think the relevance and even the names of the print magazines are going to fade significantly as people rely more and more on social media for knowledge. Who knows what's going to happen with Apple's Ping if they choose to evolve that where online purchasing is merged with actual content and artist blogs. If Ping really does get true Facebook integration, that's going to be a very, very powerful universe for information about music. Either the print magazines have to completely reexamine their approach for the new media universe or they're going to die. Simple as that.