Today marks a year since one of the most earth shattering moments in the history of music blogging. We made the bold and in no-way speculative or unhinged pronouncement that the ‘Death of Music Blogging‘ was imminent. Cue much hilarity and a year long increase in traffic. We felt silly but somewhat relieved.
However, in the intervening year the bloggers equivalent of a riot broke out (see here, here, here and here). Opinions were vented, sides were taken, we dressed in our best smocks and stared down the barrels of loaded MacBook keyboards. I was even, get this, compared to Gerald Ratner. I know. Deep breath people it’s ok, IT’S OK.
However pointless the argument (I won’t need to do to much to convince you of it’s utter futility), it got me thinking; regardless of the future (good or bad) of music blogs. What point do they serve? What value, if any, do they have?
Now, at first glance this is boringly simple. Because from the music bloggers perspective I imagine a universal purpose pervades across all music blogs. And no it’s not to do with money. Maybe at the start we think that at some point we’ll strike the affiliates pot at the end of the Adsense rainbow, but soon enough we realise that music blogs have the earning potential of a blind, demented, one legged pony called Trevor. No, no, music bloggers strive on based on a singular motivation expressed most aptly by our comrade Robin at Breaking More Waves:
I think my taste / views are great. I want to tell the world about it.
Or to put it another way, we love music and we want you to love it too.
So from the bloggers point of view we serve a purpose of music discovery. We discover it, we love it, we share it, you love it. End of. I guess that could be the end of the story (and I imagine a number of you have probably come to that conclusion and left my train wreck of thought a few paragraphs ago).
However, I think that misses the subtleties of the purpose of music blogging a little.
So, we approached a few professionals in the music trade and asked them for their point of view: Will Gilgrass (a producer for BBC 6Music) responded as such:
I often go on blogs to discover new music.
There we go, music discovery it is then. However, he goes onto say;
A lot of people get very excited about the role John Peel used to play – picking stuff from all over the musical spectrum and I think blogs play that role now. They are a fantastic source of music and so interesting. In the UK it is difficult for blogs to break tracks because of the role the BBC plays and somewhat dominates – shows like Zane, Annie Mac, Huw Stephens etc – but in the US sites like Pitchfork and Stereogum can really put artists on the map as there isn’t a pan-USA broadcaster which acts in a similar way. However, when lots of blogs back a particular artists and they get buzz, they can be massive and really jump start their career – just look at someone like Grimes and Lana del Rey in the past 12 months.
Interesting point. Perhaps music blogs serve a more refined purpose of music curation? At least on an aggregated sense, music blogs work as a cohort to bring a consensus of silence or warm appraisal of an artist that can shape taste and even ‘jump start’ a career or leave it drooping in the endless abyss of failed SoundCloud uploads.
Sandra, from the Cascine label shares similar thoughts:
I think it’s an expression of someone’s taste and love for music. I don’t think music blogging will ever diminish because of that – there is more music than ever now and it’s getting harder and harder to listen to it and even beyond that, decide what to listen to. So music blogs act as a kind of aggregator to personal taste. Music blogs will highlight some kind of status quo – aka everyone will post the new Grimes video, or the new Beach House track or the new AlunaGeorge remix – but look beyond that and they’re a fascinating picture of the emergence of new genres that probably don’t even have a name yet.
I think they perform an important function for the industry as a kind of organic consensus that ironically, has little to do with the industry. Most bloggers don’t get paid for their effort, so it is a true endeavour of passion and they only post what they feel really passionate about. That kind of thinking forms the bedrock of the music industry, from the ground-up. A blogger’s approval can form the basis of an artist credibility as they travel up the spectrum of the industry, and without that early championing from key voices most artists will realistically never get noticed by a wider audience.
So, in summary, it seems to me that in a collective sense bloggers do the dirty work for the music industry. We sweep the bins (Gmail inboxes) and sift through the countless press releases, grovelling emails and twitter DMs that got incessantly produced by talentless, ‘Chill-wave’ wannabes. Most we ignore, but between us, this small army of dedicated (but usually grammatically flawed) bloggers listens, selects, curates and posts. Either via the medium of the aggregator behemoths like the Hype Machine, or through the individual blogs themselves, radio producers, label A&Rs and the next echelon of the music press (those actual journalists) are enlightened.
To proclaim ourselves as ‘John Peels of the digital world’ seems a little grandiose but perhaps the role is more akin to that of the independent record store owner. As keen teenage enthusiasts the writers of SGTMT were fed music by the owners of Sounds Good To Me Too in Claire Court, Bedford (the defunct store from which we stole this name). They listened all day to the new releases, curated and then advised their small but keen audience of the best picks.
Obviously music blogs discover new music but we might not directly influence the average music listener (at least not on any grand scale), but deep in the depths of the interweb we’re busy curating away. Our Tuesday late night explorations of Scandavian Synth-Pop, or our lunch break skim through the gmail may seem fruitless, but who knows what we’ll discover? Would bands like Chvrches be currently getting as much hype without the enthusiastic reception of countless blogs (including SGTMT)? Frankly, I have no idea (this article clearly proves this). Sit back and listen, that’s all we can advise.
Feel free to comment below if you hold differing views on the purpose of music blogging. We’d love to hear your thoughts (particularly from Ed our crazed commenter).