Ok, provocative title, got your attention. Let’s talk.
Before I launch into this mostly pointless and irrelevant tirade let me make a couple of clarifying statements, disclaimers if you like.
Firstly, I hope I’m wrong. I really do, I like music blogs.
Secondly, I probably am wrong. Though I’ve been chewing this over for a while, this article will still be a mixture of ill thought opinions and half baked ideas. No great journalistic investigation has taken place and I have limited experience, too limited for some of the statements that will follow.
Now let’s get started with me laying out my contention, which is;
Music Blogs are dying. Slowly.
SGTMT has been going for just over a year and up until the summer it was all growth, growth, growth. SHOW ME THE TRAFFIC. But then after a holiday and a brief respite in August I began to notice that our growth had plateaued, flatlined, whatever.
Now, let me state, at SGTMT we’re not driven by traffic, we post music we like, not music that will get us hits. Having said that, traffic is obviously an easy indicator to show whether or not your activities are in anyway worthwhile. Plus, I can get a bit geeky about stats so I find google analytics oddly fascinating.
At first I assumed it was just us and then I picked up on Twitter that a few other music blogs were finding traffic hard to come by. This prompted some research on the probably unreliable Site Analytics website and I discovered that not one or two but pretty much ALL the major blogs / music magazine sites I entered were all in decline. Oh.
Back to my own analytics I noticed the slow decrease of traffic from the major aggregators (Elbows, Shuffler & Hype Machine) and punched them into the possibly libelous Site Analytics. This showed even more stark declines, up to 80% year on year. Oh.
So, like, why?
Well this is the big question and if I’m right about the above then I’m sure they’ll be lots of opinions floating around (feel free to comment below of course).
My theory is as follows:
It’s all about music discovery.
I don’t believe people are listening to less music (there is no evidence to suggest this) and I don’t believe people are searching for music less online. But, the way people are discovering music is changing and surely that’s what most people read music blogs for anyway? For the more nerdish new music fan, music blogs are a must, an unmissable lunch time activity. That won’t change. However, for the average new music fan accessibility and usability are influencing factors and that’s where the behemoths come in: Pandora & Spotify (launched in the US early in the summer). Punch those bad boys into the aforementioned site and a different, upward pattern emerges. Are they killing our blogs?
As I said at the top of this article, I’m probably wrong. However, if I’m not, what does the future hold for music blogs?
I’m not wholly convinced by my speculative Pandora/Spotify argument so I wont delve into their future too much, though Spotify’s tie-ins with Facebook are ominous.
What we can say is that money talks, or at least, pays staff/costs on aggregators. I imagine either the big aggregators will fade into extinction or they’ll have to jump the shark big time to draw back their traffic. Shuffler’s upcoming iPad app and Hype Machine’s iPhone app and recent homepage rebirth suggest they’re already making moves.
If the aggregators keep shriveling (which would be sad, I love those sites) then music blogs will feel the heat. Most bloggers are hardy, passionate souls so they’ll press on regardless but it could be that a sort of Digital Darwinism will kick in. On one hand they’ll be a survival of the fittest, those bloggers that just MUST keep going. On the other hand those bloggers that can evolve will stand tall.
Can we get our blogs ‘tablet ready’? Can we fine tune our writing and music choice to keep appealing? Can we keep on the front foot of new and newer social media? Is this all just crazed hyperbole? Should I check into the nearest institution and leave you all in peace? We’ll see.