I Never Said Blogs Were Dying: A Rambling Retraction (Of Sorts)
Or MP3 Blogging Will Never Die, But You Will
Last week, I did an interview over instant messenger with music-tech-blog “legend” Eliot Van Buskirk for Evolver, which re-ran on Gizmodo and Hypebot. The second part of the chat just went up.
I didn’t realise the entire transcript was gonna run, so I just want to put a few things straight. I had done no prep for an in-depth interview (thought it would just be a few pull quotes), as it was an off-the-cuff last minute thing, so there seems to be some confusion and I have some extra thoughts that I wanted to exorcise.
Amongst some very nice reactions, I’ve really riled some of you fcukrz, so here are a few clarifications…
1. I never said MP3 blogs were/are dying. This interview was done as a reaction to my snarky replies to this tumblr post ‘Spotify, RDIO and the Slow Death of MP3 Blogging' which Anthony Volodkin, founder of The Hype Machine shared. To which I spaffed:
Bye Bye Blogs
Are Jams Killing MP3s?
When You Stream Music, You Are Killing Mega-Blog Dreams!
Everytime someone tweets a Youtube, a blogger retires…Only Carles can save us now…
I mean, everything is killing music, right? Just like P2P is killing the film industry, but it doesn’t seem to affect those ‘div-veh-dee’ types who still wander around pubs with their bags full of dodgy recordings of the latest cinema releases… yeah, Nothing is Killing Anything…
I honestly have no idea if MP3 blogs are dying or thriving (Gorilla vs Bear seems as influential as ever). I’ve not seen any stats that make it seem like blogs are in trouble, but we are certainly in a [fascinating] time of transition for “music discovery”.
2) I’m not really an MP3 blogger, when DiS started in 2000, with a love of Melody Maker in our hearts, we preceded all of that and - despite temptations - we’ve never really (d)evolved to be a pure audio/video recommendations outlet. I do believe things have changed in the ‘blogosphere’ over the past few years and the need for blogs to hear music maybe isn’t as great as it was pre-Spotify et al - as perfectly outlined in this response piece to the interview.
Is blogging in crisis? You lot probably know better than me. One observation I’ve heard repeated was ‘didn’t the volume of blog posts drop dramatically when Turntable first launched’. Maybe they did or more likely we were we just distracted and imagining it. Not that anyone is going around saying Turntable-esque sites are killing MP3 Blogs, in much the same way no-one really believed blogs would “kill” radio or club DJs or anything. Obviously the world is still flat, music exists, people will blog about it, and all that, anyway….
3. I have no stats to back up my theory that an obsession with The New has been as damaging to music as piracy (as queried here). It’s something I’d really like to research, and write a lengthier piece about.
Conceptually, however, I do feel that when most people (journos, bloggers, radio, etc) put the criteria of ‘newness’ first, we’ve wandered half-blind into a world where acts flit onto the scene for a week or two, and then sort of disappear from the blogosphere, either because they’ve released an album that has had some short-lived mainstream media attention (and maybe only sold a 1000 or so copies, so the band got dropped and the label went back to doing re-issues) or because they never got as far as releasing an album. Maybe I’ve sipped too much of the koolaid but I find it baffling that an act can top the Hype Machine chart, and then be playing to 200 (or less) people in LA and London weeks and months later. It’s also interesting to see how few genuine festival headliners have grown out of the music/blog scene since the Arctic Monkeys. Just look at Reading and Glastonbury and it seems like we’re living in a perpetual loop of those career acts who had R1 Evening Session and Mtv2-era hits. Then again, a lot of that is down to a cultural shift toward Gagas, Adeles, Drakes and Minajs.
Long-lasting repetition of support by blogs, services and individuals, is important. Cherry-picking just a few acts is really underscoring that an act is worth listening to. We tried to limit the number of Brand New Bands we cover on DiS last year, focussing on a few exceptional acts like SBTRKT, EMA and Stay+, alongside somewhat more established artists like Aidan Moffat, Low, Mogwai, Tim Hecker and Antlers… I guess I sometimes get the feeling that there is this endless sharing and although I love the enthusiasm, I do worry that this thirst for the new is diluting the overall quality of what’s being presented - not that blogs are sharing lots of rubbish but moreso acts who haven’t really developed yet, and what you end up with, is something that seems good but is maybe a bit disappointing (especially “live”, which accounts for so much of the income in the music biz these days).
The fact no-one else really knows who an unknown band is ‘cool’, or at least cooler than an act like, I dunno, dEUS, who’ve been around for a bajillion years,but aren’t really ‘worth’ a lot of blogger’s/people’s time, and without stuff happening outside of a few publications, acts like that struggle a bit, whilst new acts like Howler and Viva Brother, seem to get away with being a bit shit but hyped enough to justify slots of mainstream TV, featured in mags, newspapers and blogs. The fickle music biz is all about cycles and perception, and my perception is that this churning system is somewhat broken.
Yes, I have reservations but it’s mostly to do with a sense that a track’s posted before someone has really lived with it (or even listened to it in full!), like the amount of people who posted the Blake/Bon Iver track, within seconds of it being online, and loadsa people reblogging and ‘liking it’ within half the time the track would take to listen to. Or people reviewing In Rainbows after one or two listens, which is really what I was getting at in that interview. And in terms of New Music, boy have I regretted excitedly recommending some acts, booking them to play DiS gigs and them turning out to only have one song I liked, and being pretty dreadful live but by then it was too late.
4. Sharing (and sharing and sharing) so much stuff that it’s hard to decipher what someone genuinely loves - which is why things like This Is My Jam (my interview with the site’s co-founder will be up on DiS tomorrow) are so great at distilling recommendation, rather than all this frictionless sharing that Zuck’ seems to think is the future. If he’s right, the future is going to be truly fucking overwhelming, and I already feel like I’m drowning in recommendations, from everywhere, all the time, and the desire to keep up leads to FOMO (the fear of missing out) and it’s just one hideous circle, which seems more infinite and dizzying, rather than fizzing so much that it’s truly thrusting music into the ether and party-crashlanding in the mainstream. Not that the point of any if this is that music should be getting ‘big’ or taking over the world or any of that, it just seems that I can listen to a crapload of music and struggle to discern if the person posting it really loves it, or just felt they should post it because it’s the new James Blake or whatever. And time after time, a band is ‘relevant’ for such a short window of time, and then rarely heard of again. It’s almost like you can hear people shouting ‘NEXT! SKIP THIS LOT!’ before typing blog-post/thread/social-network-updated has even finished. Then again, I don’t get why people need to buy the new iPad on the day it comes out. Upgrade or Die?
5. Things are really exciting at the moment. I have no issue with a billion different discovery methods existing. I just wanna know when to trust someone and listen up, and take notice, and if I feel like this now, I can’t imagine what the excited sixteen year old me, desperate to get into music, would be feeling right now. Would they feel estranged from the overwhelming whirl of it all, dipping their bucket into an ocean and hoping to catch a golden goose? Would they find gold at every turn or even know where to start? And is this why there is so much great music - that to me at least - feels a little lost, when really it should be finding its place in many-more record collections (and might need year-end lists to do so) and etching its name on our must-see lists?
6. Some other stuff but this is already tl;dr.
Interview: Part 1, and Part 2.