Almost two years into writing this music review blog all on my own, I reckon it’s time for a state of the union and some thoughts on the shapes of things these days.
It’s been interesting to be sure; there was never any doubt that I’d have lots of thoughts, but I had no idea that each post would just flow out of me the way it does. If I’m enthused, spitting out a thousand words of copy is no problem. Fortunately, my day job as an editor of books serves me in pretty good stead, and though I occasionally am a bit lax in my proofing, I think the posts are pretty classy grammar-wise.
I’ve enjoyed informing people of classics they’ve missed, genres they might not be familiar with, and introducing new artists. Especially the latter.
At first I didn’t expect much readership; then when the stats started “booming”, as WordPress puts it, I started maybe expecting too much. Now I fall somewhere in between.
– It’s astonishing how much music is out there. How many people are making musical recordings. How many of those recordings, especially in the ambient sphere, are actually competent. Not so much for the rock stuff. It’s easier to fake electronic music. My acquaintance Neal Gardner mused publicly that there may be more ambient musicians than there are ambient music consumers now, and he may be correct. That’s why it’s crucial that there be sites like this one, where reviewers are willing to take on the task of separating the wheat from the chaff. A good review can be key for an “emerging” act to maybe get a little traction, for what it’s worth. Mind you, I am one of those acts, and I can barely get a review, even from my fellow bloggers. It’s too crowded a field now. Not to mention the fact that almost no one, but no one, seems to be willing to put money down for music any more, which is sad.
– It’s so crowded that I had to close off submissions for the summer, because I felt lousy. My original intent was to communicate personally with each person who emailed me (except for spammy PR emails), but that went by the wayside once the online music world got wind of my blog and I started to get inundated. It’s flattering, but also saddening that now I’m one of those jerks who never responds and probably never even listens to some of the music. This is counter to every intent I had in starting this blog, indeed, every fibre of my being. Hence, I need to catch up and get a better system going, which I will.
– Then there’s the third side of this, the first side being reviewing new, underexposed artists and the second being writing big pieces about albums or genres that I’ve enjoyed for years. The third side is reviewing new albums by artists I admire but who are actually “successful”, meaning they get reviewed by big media, can tour as headliners and sell out decent-sized venues, etc.
This has been less satisfying, and perhaps it’s the area where I started to expect too much. If a band is getting reviewed in major papers and on major sites, it’s possibly too much to expect that the band members, their labels or representatives will be interested in my content, no matter now good it might be or how fine the insights. They probably never even take notice of it. Nonetheless, it’s disappointing to me when I write a high-quality piece that probably actually helps move a few units, I inform the band’s representatives and not even a lousy retweet or Facebook share ensues. (with notable exceptions; thanks IQ and Oysterband, to name two!) There’s only so many times or ways I can try to let them know about these reviews without feeling sort of icky.
This may be a site that doesn’t have a dedicated url yet and is a mere “blog”, but as traditional media shrinks and dies, blogs like this will increasingly be the lifeblood of whatever music “industry” comes out of this time of change, and more prominent acts would do well to remember that.
I mention all this because it nags at the back of my mind (as it must for most independent music writers) that successful musicians or their representatives might assume a blogger like me who gets in contact with them is attempting some sort of star-fucking. Let me assure you all that ultimately, while you are very talented and should be recognized as such, your music could have been composed by your hundred-year-old grandma for all I care. My only interest is in the music itself, not the personalities behind it. I don’t want to exchange bon mots with celebrities or be praised by them. I just want ever-increasing readership, which is how someone like me gets a sense of accomplishment from blogging. Writing the posts is fun, but you want them read, right? Just like a musician wants his tunes heard. And reviewed by as many organs as possible, no doubt.
In my own musical life I’ve met plenty of famous people; when opening for Alice Cooper, my band had its audience with the man at the end of the tour, and I was pleased to shake his hand. He seemed very nice. But I would have been equally happy with not meeting him at all, despite my fondness for “Hello Hooray”.
Anyway, in the end I probably can’t get them Facebook shares simply because these materially more successful types never even see my posts. That’s cool. In all areas of life there are haves and have-nots, and more power to you if you’re in a position where individual reviews are no longer that significant to you. All of this rumination is coming because I’m pondering the future of my blog; despite the fact that doing two posts a week can be a bit of a slog (when you’re writing ones this long!), I am not shutting down. I may, however, start to return more to a focus on archival posts and on posts on “unknown” new artists. They are invariably grateful and do their utmost to promote the writing I have done. I feel like we’re a team, and I’ve met a lot of great musicians online, as well as other writers and label people, through writing this blog.
Anyway, so I will be catching up on my listening through the summer and hopefully generating lots more reviews that benefit your careers. Remember to spread the word about blogs like this one and others such as Ambient Exotica, Headphonaught, Foreign Accents, Stationary Travels, etc. They’re all doing good work.
Very relevant stuff Allister, a particularly salient point being that there are now as many musicicans as listeners.
I’ve said this before, but it’s very easy in my view to create something that could be termed ambient music. The harder part lies in the time, experience and application needed to create something ‘sustainable’.
Indeed. Easy to make a synth pad drone and sound pretty, but making something with soul – not so easy.
read it, and I agree with everything, haha
-matt from foreign accents
I reckoned you might!
It certainly would be more inspiring if some of the artists you mention (or rather refrain from mentioning) remembered where they came from and paid their own success forward a bit more. At least your blog will serve your own karma well anyway! I like the new look (the old was good too).
Ta! Some of them do. Some of them don’t. It’s still reasonably fulfilling.
‘Hello Hurray’ is a brilliant song. Also, great state of the union. It’s been a real pleasure hearing your music and reading your blog! Keep up the great work.
Thank you, Neal. You are one of the cyber music world’s true top geezers, as they say.