Friday, December 2, 2022

Webring vol. 1 Ric Leichtung of AdHoc

Webring is a semi-regular series with different people who operate independent media.

This month I am talking to Ric Leichtung of AdHoc, an events promoter and zine based out of Brooklyn. Ric is an old friend of mine and we met when I impersonated them on Facebook while living at Market Hotel.

JMC: What defines AdHoc in terms of the people who work on it?
RL: I get questions like this a lot, and it never gets easier to answer. I think it’s just hard to articulate over text, and defining something ends up putting it in a box, which is the last thing I want to do with AdHoc and the work we do.

JMC: How do you describe what you do?
RL: We initially chose to express ourselves as a publication focusing on artists that weren’t getting the attention they deserved. We felt it was important to intellectualize music with longform music journalism because the things we were interested in were getting overlooked, not taken seriously. Over time we realized that writing about folks shouldn’t be the moment we stop helping, which gave way to promoting events and contributing to the local and touring creative economies. 

JMC: Do you think the idea of daily music writing and album reviews is out of date?
RL: I think there’s been a TikTokification of media that has changed the way people consume things.  People have unprecedented access to content, and it makes sense that there’s a move away from longform journalism. I think more good is done by embracing the way things change than fight against them. Ten to fifteen years ago it was really about the popularization of Spotify, but it has proven itself to be an inferior platform for discovery. I’d still like to think music crit is alive, it just comes in bite-sized video form.

JMC: How do you find new things you are interested in?
RL: TikTok.

JMC: When you say you find TikTok to find things you like, what does that look like? Do you use TikTok in a specific way, or do you find these things through scrolling?
RL: I put effort into training my algorithm to show me more things I might be interested in. I use it as a search engine for anything I’m interested in.

JMC: Whose a good music crit follow? I have been having a hard time finding a good one on TikTok.
RL: I was thinking usage of crit would come back to bite me... I suppose I meant music discovery, because I care more about that than what someone who asserts themselves as qualified to wax intellectual about whether or not something is good. But for discovery I have a lot of overlap with Derrick Gee. There also aren’t specific resources I rely on either; it’s really just a nebulous algorithm. I’m really looking for people who are like, “Wow I discovered this thing and let me tell you all about why I think it interests me”. 

JMC: Do you think there is a reason people dislike TikTok beyond “things are changing in a way I'm not prepared for?”
RL: I think it’s because they don’t understand how the platform has evolved. Many think it’s still all about karaoke and dances when there’s so much more. That and they haven’t trained their algorithm, which really shows they haven’t given the platform a chance.

JMC: Before you said you think people spend too much time fighting change. If someone asked you to make some form of independent media from scratch in 2023 how would you do it? Like what, should 22-years-olds who move to NY and have big ideas about “magazines” get started.
RL: Well I think part of the tough thing to accept is that the written word isn’t the accessible preferred medium for consumption; it’s video. Articles, features, etc, will spread quicker if they’re translated into a TikTok or YouTube format, which his a tough for some folks to swallow. To me if feels like the biggest generational difference between Millennials and Zoomers is being comfortable on camera and accepting their own digital footprint. There is something shitty about forcing yourself to put yourself on the internet to be heard. I definitely empathize with folks who don’t want to do that. Not too different from artists who excuse themselves from participating in Spotify or streaming services!

I guess it comes down to what these 22-year-olds are really trying to do. If it’s to put a spotlight on things they care about that need attention then using mediums that cater to that will be the way. A major issue with leaning into a TikTok though is that the folks who own the content aren’t truly in control of it. This is why so many people are fascinated by the idea of decentralized Internet and Web3. There’s no perfect way to do things, to be honest. There’s barely even a good way.

JMC: To be clear though, while there is no perfect way you are to a degree acknowledging that things are getting worst, correct?
RL: Mmm, worse how?

JMC: Well, you said that the way things are changing does alienate a lot of people who would much rather have their ideas speak for themselves.
RL: I don’t think that the format hurts the ideas. I think it makes them more accessible. It’s easier to get kids to learn something with an educational video than making them read a dry text book. I can see how some intellectual nuance is traded off, but I think there’s tremendous perks to spreading your message via social platforms rather than a website, and the big one is discourse. Continuing to focus on TikTok for the sake of doing so: you have comments in videos, users have the ability to stitch videos to react to them, people can duet them and comment on things in real time. That’s amazing! 

JMC: I guess what I’m confused by is if you think it is better or worse? Obviously it isn’t a unipolar situation where all things or more good or more bad.
RL: I try not to think of it as better or worse, just different. But if I’m forcing myself to pick, I’d say it’s better because ideas and information spread more easily than text would. This is why the one of the toughest current issues we have is fighting misinformation. 

JMC: What have you been reading and listening to lately?
RL: DeForrest Brown Jr. is one of my favorite music journalists to read, so I picked up his latest book "Assembling A Black Counter Culture" which looks at the history of techno from a sociopolitical lens. Nabil Ayers' autobiography "My Life in the Sunshine" is also on my list. 

Asa-Chang & Junray's "Hana" was a big deal for me when I was 15, and it recently got a 20th anniversary remix record that I haven't been able to put down. Asa-Chang is an amazing percussionist and on the song plays tabla, which is an extremely difficult instrument to master. He inspired me to explore tabla virtuosos like Anindo Chatterjee, Zakir Hussain, and Yogesh Samsi. The variety of sounds these guys are able to get out of a pair of hand drums is incredible.

JMC: Who is someone's whose taste you trust a lot?
RL: I trust Emilie Friedlander's perspective on the state of media, I read her Substack and listen to her podcast The Culture Journalist every week. I trust The Read on all things pop culture, which is a podcast I listen to religiously that also has a Patreon and Discord community. Max Alper (@la_meme_young) has a really unique ear and is excellent at finding TikTok with really unique, sonically interesting things happening in them.