popular music performance raises important questions about music-making as process. these questions are addressed through dealing with a further issue: the difference between music journalism and academic discourse on music. a dialogic structure is adopted. first, in a short paper, tim quirk examines film of the who playing at the isle of wight in 1970. he shows how pete townshend's performance moves through a cycle, from incompetence to the extraordinary: paradoxically, formulaic performance prompts sincerity (and so an extraordinary performance) on the part of townshend. jason toynbee responds by arguing that quirk's writing is able to open up, as journalism, an approach to performance not available to academics. what is at stake is the foregrounding of subjectivity in the writer (quirk) and, through this, the inter-subjectivity of performer and audience. quirk's own response follows, and there is then a second round of responses which develops these issues.