Looking back, Ryan Brown realizes it wasn't meant to be. He was young and inexperienced. On his first day of work he nearly crashed his friend's Vespa into the first floor of New Times (which was basically one big window, so everyone got a prime view of his near-death experience).
"It was one of the
It was a role Brown (briefly) filled in 2006 — acting as a filler while New Times was on the hunt for a new music editor. He had wriggled his way from a freelancer to a part-time staff position thanks to some serious persistence. "I just started basically harassing the editors to give me a job there," he says. "I think I really just annoyed them until they were like, 'Yeah, yeah, alright — just come in and we'll find something for you.'"
And then, before he knew it, Brown was a music writer, penning blurbs in the fledgling days of digital media. He fondly remembers unwrapping promo CDs day-after-day and getting review tickets for concerts. One time he got to chat with one of his idols, surrealist Bronx MC Kool Keith, over the phone about Keith's quest to find a live alien in Tampa Bay.
It was a fun gig. But it had its perils too, both emotional and physical.
Brown had to say no to a lot of local artists vying for coverage, which took its spiritual toll after a while, especially since he was a young musician himself. Also, one time, at a bar, he met this shady dude who told him that his job was to connect international travelers with "drugs, hookers, and illegal renting apartments."
"And I was like, dude, I've got to do a story about this guy — this is amazing!" So Brown hung out with him for a bit and picked his brain — although he never exactly told him he was a journalist. Later, he called and fussed up. "I called him a couple days later and was like, 'Hey, I kind of mislead you a little bit. I'm actually a reporter and I really want to do a story about this because it's kind of a good peak into the Miami underworld."
A pause, and, "He basically just called me back and was like, 'If you write anything about this, you won't be able to live in this town anymore."
"I probably should have
Brown's strange and weird trip in Miami journalism sadly came to an end too soon when one afternoon, succumbing to a changing media landscape and shifting budgets, Brown got the
And it wasn't the end of Brown's creative journey. After another brief writing gig at the now defunct Miami SunPost, Brown packed up and headed to Austin, Texas, where he found a different sort of musical voice. Now he finds himself on the other side of the press release.
Last September he released his first proper EP as a musician,
"I kind of wanted to invent a new genre, like goth-pop or something, but that's what ended up coming out."
Music isn't his full-time gig yet — that honor goes to graphic design — but he's not sure if he even wants it to be.
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"There's a really good book that I like called The Mansion on the Hill. It's more about the business side of music, and there's a quote in that book — I can't remember who said it — but the quote is something like, 'Music is a reason to live, not a way to make a living,' or something like that. And I kind of think that people who expect music to be a career are kind of missing the point. You get to do this. And we live in a time now where — people living in the '60s or the '70s or even the early '90s would die to be able to spread their work this fast… It's just kind of cool to be able to put stuff up and I'm really not expecting anything out of it."
And, while I had him, I couldn't resist the urge for just a bit of advice. From one former music editor to another current one (who could just as easily be canned if my boss ever finds out who exactly took that dump on the hood of his Toyota).
"I would say just have as much fun as you can... People are really going to open a lot of doors to you because they want to be written about or they hear the name New Times, so I would say really take advantage of it — be super nice to everybody — but take advantage of having that access as much as possible. Just barge your way into everything."