Why you need an honest broker in music & culture

I know how difficult it is to find trustworthy guidance in matters of music and culture. I’m a writer and a musician, but I’m also a fan at heart, and always looking for a great new album, or a book that will expand my horizons, or a way of figuring out what’s happening in our fast-changing popular culture. It’s always been hard to cut through the noise and get this kind of guidance, but in recent years it’s become almost impossible.

Newspapers have downsized their music and culture coverage to the point of near extinction. There once were full-time jazz writers at every major newspaper in the United States, but I doubt there’s even one left now.  And the same is true of other categories of culture. Book reviews, concert reviews, and full-length culture features ought to be put on the endangered species list. And the few articles that get published have often been squeezed and downsized and sometimes dumbed-down too.

But even more, there’s a crisis of confidence. Sometimes I’m a little bit suspicious that reviewers have some other priority than building the reader’s trust and offering honest guidance. Maybe it’s more important for them to please an editor, or they’re writing to impress other critics, or make friends with musicians, or get tenure, or—well, who knows what they’re trying to do? But after getting guided to disappointing albums, books or films too many times, I’ve become far less trusting of the system. You probably have too.

So I made a vow to be the Honest Broker. I’m even adopting it as my official title. And though it seems like the most humble nickname imaginable—what could be more lowly than a mere broker in the grand world of music and culture?—it’s a role I take seriously.

If you stay with me on this journey, I will share many things you won’t find elsewhere. I’ll even tell you the strange story of how I became the Honest Broker. By taking on this mantle, I’m committing to serve as a knowledgeable and trustworthy guide in matters of music and culture. And you can have confidence that I’ve done my homework, uncovering the true and legitimate while penetrating through the fog and phoniness.

Over the years, I’ve been blessed with the best readers. Many of them are musicians or writers themselves, or passionate and knowledgeable devotees to arts and culture. I am inviting their active participation in this endeavor. My hope is that this will be more than just a newsletter, but a genuine community of people who care deeply about such matters. And I also hope to bring others on board, individuals who may not be familiar with my books, but will want to join with us in this project of cultural consciousness-raising and mind expansion.

So this is where I am setting up shop, and (as an obliging broker) I think I know what will interest my clientele. I invite you to be one of them.

What will be covered?

The Honest Broker will offer in-depth coverage of music, books, and culture—with a mix of longform essays, reviews, commentary, links, observations, and amusements. The perspective is both historical and up-to-date.

Many are familiar with my music writing and my recommendations of the best albums of the month and year (all styles, all genres). That will now be part of the coverage of The Honest Broker, but with much richer detail. And I also have some other exciting things under wraps that will be shared here for the first time.

My promise is that readers will have regular access to valuable insights and information from the cultural sphere, and not just a rehash of what you can find elsewhere.

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A trustworthy guide to music, books, arts, media & culture by Ted Gioia


Ted Gioia is author of The Honest Broker on Substack (https://www.honest-broker.com)—a frank and opinionated guide to music, books, media, and culture. He is author of 12 books, and previously served on the faculty at Stanford.