-- Happenings at the most successful music festivals in the country apparently don't count as "news" anymore.
-- Bonaroo and Coachella and their like are social events, not musical events, and therefore aren't worth a music critic's time.
-- "Instead of covering the biggest festivals reflexively, we'll cover a number of smaller festivals with purpose" is the snobbiest sentence of music "criticism" you'll read this year.
Imagine if journalists in other fields were this aloof? The Superbowl has become so successful that it is no longer special. It's not even about football, it's a social event that revolves around prop bets, TV ad campaigns, and a glitzy, jingoistic halftime show. Instead of covering the Superbowl, we'll cover a number of high school football games with a purpose. In the best interests of football, of course. We love the game more than anyone!
I guess this is what happens when almost all the other daily papers have died off. Once the competition has gone out of business and there's nobody else around to cover the real news, you get to decide for yourself what counts as newsworthy. Narrative has replaced news, you say? Whatchu gonna do about it? Compete with us?
It's not about gaining a better understanding of an artist or contextualizing a subculture, obviously a live report from a festival isn't the best way to do that. But writing about music isn't, and shouldn't be a continual search for a greater meaning to the art form. In 1995, Jarvis Cocker sang "is this the way they say the future's meant to feel? Or just twenty thousand people standing in a field?" Pulp knew that most of the time, it's the latter, no more and no less. And that's OK.
Musicians are more dependent than ever before on building a loyal fanbase that will support their art through regular touring. The steady income provided by the festival circuit is a key cog in the economic engine that lets successful acts continue to be successful and to keep making great music. It's a shame that the NYT no longer finds that compelling.