Bringing Music Television Back: Talking With Amrit Singh

08/28/2013 4:00 AM |

Photo by Bek Andersen

Amrit Singh has spent eight years as executive editor of indie-rock and pop culture blog, Stereogum, helping to guide the site’s rise from humble LiveJournal beginnings to one of the most influential music spaces on the web. He just left the site to become the music and culture editor and featured host on Revolt TV, the ambitious new cable music channel created by P. Diddy. As the network prepares for an October debut, we talked to Amrit about his his old job, his new job, and how the lessons he learned online might help them bring music television back to cultural relevance.

So, it’s been a big couple of weeks for you.
Yeah, it’s been kind of insane. But the last year has been crazy, the last eight years
have been crazy. The last day was obviously such a bittersweet thing, to leave something that I had so closely been identified with. Stereogum gave me a voice and a platform. [Site founder] Scott Lapatine was like family, and everyone who passed through editorially was like family.

Is there a moment that seems bigger than the rest? Something where you couldn’t believe who you were talking to, our where you were? 
There were milestone markers. At the end, there were things that would have blown me away when I first started. There were always moments where I’d just write about a band because they sent me a MySpace link or I met them out at a show, and that’d be the point where they’d start getting record company offers. Those moments meant more to me than standing with a laptop behind Bjork and Dave Longstreth while they were DJing. Though those sort of things were amazing in their own way, too.

Stereogum, as part of Spin Media, has an office place and it has a more traditional media/journalistic feel. It’s been formalized. But when we were starting off, and for my first six years there, there was no physical office culture to speak of. So, the actual act of blogging was very sort of isolated, especially during the day hours. One of the reasons that I had such an appetite and stamina for seeing shows just bouncing around Brooklyn and the Lower East side as I have for so many years, is because it was the only time I would see human beings. You discover a band and you write about them and then you press publish, and you’re just on to the next one within ten minutes. And it goes on. But you never forget about those new bands that you’ve written about. It really hits home when one of those artists comes back around.

When we first put together our first Stereogum tribute album, for the OK Computer anniversary, we had blog stars of the time. We had Vampire Weekend, and that was right after I made them a “Band to Watch.” Pitchfork’s first post about Vampire Weekend was of their “Exit Music” cover for the Stereogum compilation. So, that was sort of like, wow, we actually have some clout. We can get bands that we really like to do something that’s cool like this, and it also felt like we were making an actual contribution to the culture, it wasn’t just us sitting back and passing commentary.

As the “Music and Culture Editor” at Revolt, can you give us an idea of what your job entails?
Music and Culture Editor encompasses the things I’ve been doing on Stereogum for years: identifying new talent, following breaking stories, following up on existing news stories, speaking to everyone from a Bandcamp upstart to an iconic legend. I’m going to be one of the people anchoring the news component of the station. There’s going to be actual programming and shows that I’ll be a part of as well.

I’ve been interested in television for a long time, but my vision for it was never in line with a network’s vision for what music television should be. VH1 has had success with medium-to-good jokes about pop culture, putting a band in frame or cutting to a video, getting a talking head to just talk about that, and calling it music television. There’s an essential core to our music culture that’s left on the table.

We can speak in a way that honors these artists, that’s revealing in a way, that can be both directly about the work and about the lifestyle and the culture as well as the work itself. Amazingly that’s exactly what Revolt wants to do. They want to not just be like MTV in the 90s. They want something that hasn’t been done before. Which is what ESPN has been to sports, which CNN has been to news. That, we haven’t seen yet. We haven’t seen live, real time Situation Room-type journalism about music on a 24-hour cable network that’s going to be in millions of homes.