On Thursday, Feb. 12, New York Times columnist David Carr was pronounced dead after collapsing at the office. He was a reporter known for many things — his Night of the Gun memoir, engaging Twitter feed, advocacy for old-school journalism as print publications crumbled around him — including his musings on the music industry, which fell squarely under his penetrating insight into media and technology.
“In truth, U2 is on a dead run to remain relevant and avoid turning into a nostalgia act that makes buckets of money on tour but produces records people no longer care about — the Rolling Stones come to mind,” he wrote late last year about U2’s surprise iTunes release of Songs of Innocence. “Bono will tell anyone who will listen that the new album, which is written as a kind of origin story for U2, reflects the band at its best and most personal. He did not want a project that took five years to finish to then be missed by indifferent, busy ears. Thus the iTunes gambit.”
“The outbreak of free is being felt all over the economy, but music is an industry that has produced the soundtrack of contemporary American life,” he wrote about the increasing loss of music’s monetary value. “Artists are singing the blues about the crippling effects of streaming, and no one wants to be part of the day the music died.”
“It appears that Live Nation and Ticketmaster Entertainment are about to attempt a merger,” he mused in 2009. “Gee, what a great idea: Let’s take two behemoths with an overwhelming footprint in the live music business, smush them together, and see how that works out for the consumer.”
And yet, despite his unsparing eye for all that is wrong with the industry, Carr left room for hope. In an article about South by Southwest’s increasing corporatization and branding, he reminded readers that discovery and wonderment aren’t just things of the past. “As I made my way through the dark, sweaty room in front, I noticed an insistent sound and turned to see Team Spirit, a beery collection of punkish rockers having the musical time of their lives,” he wrote. “I made a mental note and when I got back to my hotel, I downloaded some of its music. Given that bands survive partly from the sales of actual physical artifacts, I may even buy a T-shirt.”
Sometimes, he’d even recommend that other suffering media industries take a cue from the music industry on how to survive in an ever-changing media landscape. “[Steve] Jobs saw music as something else — as an ancillary software business to generate sales of the iPods and iPhones,” he also wrote in 2009. “That’s not a perspective that flattered people in the music business, but it did persuade listeners to pay for their wares.”
He also inspired legions of journalists, music and otherwise, trying to find a way in the new world he was forever critiquing. Below, music writers and artists remember Carr on Twitter.
David Carr gave me hope, helped me feel I was in the right place doing the right thing. Grateful for his wisdom and spirit.
— Jon Caramanica (@joncaramanica) February 13, 2015
David Carr’s book, “The Night of the Gun,” inspired my last record. So grateful to have known the brilliant and kind news man.
— St. Vincent (@st_vincent) February 13, 2015
Tonight I will play for David Carr. Some of the most exciting/inspiring talks & dinners I have ever had were with him. I am heartbroken.
— Carrie Brownstein (@Carrie_Rachel) February 13, 2015
— WFMU (@WFMU) February 13, 2015
“the music that matters is the music that is being made RIGHT NOW” — David Carr, in the only email I ever got from him
— Marc Hogan (@MarcHogan) February 13, 2015
— Randall Roberts (@LilEdit) February 13, 2015
“We all walk this earth feeling we are frauds. The trick is to be grateful”. #David Carr His insight and eloquence will be missed
— Pancake Mountain (@pancakemountain) February 13, 2015
— TheCurrent (@TheCurrent) February 13, 2015