Anyone unfortunate enough to follow the modern music “press” is sure to know already that this once-vital and freewheeling institution is well and truly dead. From once-upon-a-time titan publications to the lowest viewed WordPress blogs, a “music publication” in this day and age is nothing more than a click chasing content mill consistently churning out rushed, sloppy, 250 word pieces of newsfeed content (don’t confuse them with “articles” unless you’re a real glutton for punishment) specifically designed to fool as many screen-exhausted people as possible into clicking on them. These “publications”, or “music sites”, truly don’t give a single flying fuck if you actually read the hastily typed and unedited collection of words that an unpaid staff writer spent nine minutes cobbling together. They just want that click. Just as greed was good in the ’80s, it’s the clicks that are good now. Clicks bring ad revenue. Clicks lure potential investors. Clicks inch them above their many vessels of clickbait competition. Each and every Stereogum or Pitchfork newsfeed headline you bring your pointer finger down on gains a good 2 cents off that click due to the plethora of Bushmills and high end watch ads lurking in every corner of the screen. It doesn’t matter if you take one second to realize, “Oh wait, this content is bullshit” and immediately hit the back button. They got you. You just tossed another couple pennies into their ever-hungry coffers.
In order to hook you into making that click, this alleged “music publication” is going to have to come up with a headline that makes you want to go ahead and take the suicide plunge. One thing to keep in mind here is that when the Jonestown People’s Temple members finally drank down that healing poison and joined one another in eternal slumber it wasn’t, contrary to the cliche, actually spiked Kool-Aid that they drank. It was Flavor Aid, which is a discount, generic version of Kool-Aid. After all, why roll out the good stuff when you can hook all these suckers on the cheap? This is the same theory used by today’s “music press” when they bait you with headlines. They think you’re a sucker. It’s Flavor Aid you’re being served. And for this purpose we at Niche Appeal are “rolling” out our weekly award for Clickbait Headline Of The Week.
So who does the inaugural Clickbait Headline Of The Week go to? Why, if it isn’t the once vital and world-changing publication Rolling Stone!
Hold that applause while we trot out the award winning headline:
Pusha T, Daniel Caesar, Lil Skies and rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine, who pleaded guilty in 2015 to use of a child in a sexual performance, have been added to this year’s Made In America Festival
Hmmmmmm, now we may be reaching just a bit here, but something tells us the purpose of this headline is not to inform us that four new performers have been added to Jay Z’s Made In America Festival. It’s just a little hunch we have that maybe, just maybe, this headline wasn’t designed to be informational in any way, shape, or form. As a matter of fact, the headline might not even care about Pusha T, Daniel Caesar, or Lil Skies (sorry guys, I’m sure you’re great). If it did care about these first three artists, it would read something like, “Pusha T, rapper who just battled Drake, Daniel Caesar, some artist who does something, and Lil Skies, another guy who raps and stuff…”. But no, only the fourth and final individual listed in the headline gets an informational add-in. And this is the clickety clickbait you’ve all been waiting for. No, this headline doesn’t wish to enlighten you on the expanded festival lineup. It wants you to become instantly outraged that the fourth artist mentioned has entered a guilty plea in a sex crime case and has, in spite of this, been invited to play a major music festival. Kind of makes you itch to click on it, doesn’t it? DOESN’T IT! No, no, go ahead and click. Rolling Stone is counting on it.
Even as clickbait goes, this is an incredibly poorly executed headlined. This is about as lazy as you can get as a “journalist”. One of the first things they teach you in Intro To Journalism 101 is that the headline should directly address the issue at hand. The issue at hand here is Mr. 6ix9ine and his sex crime problem and how that problem reflects on the festival which invited him. You just don’t bury this at the halfway point of the headline and blunt its impact with a whole load of other information that nobody but the most diehard Lil Skies fans care about. But that’s the thing with clickbait. It’s lazy like a sloth on Special K. To make this headline about only 6ix9ine would be to directly challenge the notion that Jay Z invited him to perform at his big festival. It would mean taking a direct stance on something. It would would mean doing a little research on the case and giving the whole situation some thought and oversight. It would mean, gulp, reporting.
But Rolling Stone isn’t really about reporting these days, are they? This is the same publication that pulled at the very fibers of reality in the late ’60s and actually helped to morph the world into something a little more colorful and forgiving. This is the same publication that dedicated an entire, tear-stained issue to the aftermath of Altamont and what it meant for the hippie dream and was the only place where Hunter S. Thompson could publish his accounts of being chased by hallucinatory bats in the deserts outside Barstow.
Now they’re just another vampire thirsty for your clicks.
Editor’s Note: We would like to also send a message to the lawyers for Pusha T, Daniel Caesar, and Lil Skies. Take a look at that headline, will you? Read it slowly. Then think to yourself, “Does it not sound like it’s implying that all four of these artists pleaded guilty to use of a child in a sexual performance in 2015?” Whichever intern wrote this should have certainly clarified it was only Tekashi, no? But before you file your malicious slander case against this once proud limping dinosaur of a publication, just remember that this is another jaded clickbait trick, because not only are readers going to be outraged at the festival for this booking, they’re also going to be outraged at the performers themselves for appearing alongside this wayward artist in a headline and on a stage even though they most likely had no idea the guy had been added. Or, what the hell, who even cares if people think they also pleaded guilty?
After all, it’s just clicks baby.
And now for the standing ovation. Take your bow, Rolling Stone and Wenner Media. You fully deserve it.