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With the success of the feature film ALMOST FAMOUS, Cameron Crowe's semi-fictional ode to rock journalism, the time is opportune to look at what is seemingly one of the best journalistic jobs in the world: the rock critic. To many, getting paid to listen to and write about rock music would be a dream job -- perhaps the next best thing to being an actual rock star. But, as this segment shows, the job is anything but cushy and glamorous.

Greg Kot, the rock critic for the CHICAGO TRIBUNE, believes that the best rock critics have no vested interest in the music industry and that his job is "to serve the readers by providing a viewpoint that comes with no strings attached,
ten great records

It's a MEDIA MATTERS Online Exclusive! Greg Kot reveals the 10 records that changed his life.
Greg Kot

and to stimulate a discussion in which rock artists are judged on artistic merit, not on the ingenuity of their marketing team."

But sticking to that creed isn't as easy as it might seem. We follow Kot working from early morning till late at night as he reviews everything from up-and-coming bands to mega-superstars and travels from small local bars to gigantic stadium venues.


Greg Kot

Many of Greg Kot's favorite musicians don't make the Top-40 stations. But on his radio show, anything goes.

As he wades through mountains of new CDs in search of the great music often overshadowed by the industry's hype machine, he elaborates on rock music as a window onto an ever-shifting American culture.

A co-worker describes Kot as "the hardest-working man in show business," and he shows no signs of relinquishing that status. Kot estimates that he goes to 225 concerts per year; he describes the live shows and more in the 330 to 340 stories he writes annually for the TRIBUNE -- not to mention his freelance assignments. As if this were not enough, he also has a radio show.
Greg Kot

On the job, hard at work.

Explains Kot, "The theatre critic always gets a seat at the end of the aisle. The art critic gets to stroll through an art gallery in a private showing. I've been punched out. I've had beer poured on my head." But he shrugs it off: "You know, it's part of the job."

We join Greg Kot as he gets caught in traffic; attends a concert in a packed stadium; hosts a once-obscure band from Mississippi whose music he has long championed; meets with the members of a band in the hours before they perform; sifts through a stack of CDs sent to his office; and more. In other words, we get a glimpse of him doing his job. For better and for worse, it is not the life of a rock star. But make no mistake about it: Greg Kot is inspired by a love for music.

How important do you think music critics can be?