Christopher R. Weingarten reviews records on Twitter under the name “1000TimesYes.” In January, he decided to make a full set of his 2009 tweet-reviews, neatly typed out on cards, available for purchase. Potential buyers had many options. For nine dollars, you’d get one postcard featuring the tweet-review of your choice, plus a personal phone call from Weingarten so that the two of you could “totally bullshit about bands.” Seventy-five dollars would buy the whole set of 1,000 tweets. For $875, you’d get the full set of tweets encased in a wooden box hand-carved by Weingarten’s father, made from “rich Virginia cherry” and “select American black walnut of gunstock quality,” among other woods.
All told, the sale brought in over eleven hundred dollars, making Weingarten one of the few people so far to have successfully monetized Twitter. Nobody bought the hand-carved box, though, an outcome he blames on his inability to persuade his father to lower his price. “My father told me about all these fantastical woods and antique hinges,” Weingarten said, remembering the dialogue between him and his father. “I said: ‘This sounds amazing.’ He said: ‘A thousand bucks.’ ‘How much is this going to cost you?’ ‘Oh, this is all stuff I have laying around the house.’ ‘Dad, you don’t really understand how DIY works.’ ”
Journalists these days are told that they have to be good at a lot of things: they have to produce for multiple platforms; they have to push their personal brand; they have to do more with less. As much as anybody else in the business, Weingarten has taken that advice to heart. When he’s not reviewing new records on Twitter—he did 1,000 tweet-reviews last year, all of them 140 characters or less—he’s writing slightly longer ones for outlets like Fuse, The Village Voice, and Rollingstone.com. He’s extremely active on the ILXOR music message board, where he goes by the name “Whiney G. Weingarten.” He wrote the cover story for the March/April issue of Revolver, a eleven-page history of hard-rock tattoos. His book about Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back was recently released by Continuum, as part of its 33 1/3 series of books about individual albums. He runs a Web site called Hipster Puppies, featuring photographs of dogs dressed in horn-rimmed glasses and hooded sweatshirts. The “bio” section of his Twitter page reads “Christopher R. Weingarten // Last Rock Critic Standing.”
“I’ve had pay cuts from places I’ve been writing for for years,” he said. “[Village Voice music critic] Richard Gehr said, ‘We’re all working now twice as hard for half as much money.’ Every year it gets harder and harder.” If professional critics are to survive in this increasingly hostile environment, they have to adapt; Weingarten is doing his best to ensure that he evolves faster than anybody else.
“This isn’t a side hustle,” he says. “This is my full-time hustle.”
Weingarten is rarely in total silence. “I try to listen to music as big a percentage of my time as humanly possible,” he says. “Sometimes, when people point me out, they say, ‘Oh, yeah, he’ll be wearing headphones.’ ” His headphones are bulky, noise-attenuating Sennheisers that cup the entire ear; nothing extraneous gets in, nothing musical gets out.
You really couldn’t mistake him for anything other than a professional critic. Part of it’s the look—headphones, music-themed apparel, thick glasses, heavy beard—as if he just stepped off the set of the movie High Fidelity. But it’s mostly the enthusiasm; the cultural excitations that can prompt blunt, rapid-fire disquisitions on the things he likes (hip-hop, the CD format, the critic Chuck Eddy) and the things he does not (Fleet Foxes, singer-songwriter music, the comedians Tim and Eric). He is the sort of person who not only brags about his world-class collection of Christmas rap music, but will forcefully argue the musical merits of certain items from that collection; the sort of person who, when attending a weekend music festival, will try to see all forty-six shows on the bill. He did this in 2008, in rural England, at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival co-curated by Mike Patton and The Melvins, an experience he calls the greatest weekend of his life. “It was very difficult. My feet were sandbags at the end,” he admits. But, on the other hand, “The Melvins are my favorite band in the world. I didn’t want to miss this day of music that they co-curated.”