Friday, 15 February 2013

First to the Post – Our Perspective on New Music Blogging ‘Firsties’

Over the last few months we’ve read (and have voiced) criticisms concerning the speed-rush amongst bloggers to post about an act or a song. We’ve hinted and suggested that there are too many blogs scurrying to upload to the web with absolutely no opinion, no voice, nothing of any interest or context to say about the music and with nothing in the post to entertain or interest the reader. Why visit a blog if it’s not adding a little bit of value in some way? All the blogs we enjoy don’t necessarily post music that we like all the time (everyone has slightly different taste) but we still visit those blogs because we value their voice and words.

Yet today we’re almost contradicting ourselves and explaining why for us, in certain situations, being the first is still a little bit important.

This is our own personal take. But to get more than a tunnel vision of things we canvassed the opinion of music bloggers on Twitter for their thoughts on being ‘first past the post’. Their views were many and varied and gave us food for thought, but ultimately haven’t changed our own ideas which we’ve set out below.

Our view is this: Being first is sometimes important to certain blogs including Breaking More Waves  – but only in our case as long as we’re providing some commentary of value and the first is our own 'natural' discovery found without assistance. 

But readers for the most part don’t care if we’re first or fifteenth. It's just a personal thing for us.

For example this week’s most read post by a country mile was our piece on Chvrches new song Recover, which we posted after plenty of blogs had already written about it. The reason it was our most read? Because people liked what we wrote and shared it via social media platforms, increasing traffic way above what a high Google search place or being first on Hype Machine would achieve.

So why, despite this example, is it important to us to sometimes be the first to discover something? There are two reasons and a lot of it hinges on the type / method of discovery.

First there’s the ego. Ultimately our ego is pretty huge (basically we think we’re a.m.a.z.i.n.g, sexy and pretty damn great) so it really doesn’t need feeding, but a little top up is nice now and then. As a blogger dealing in ‘the new’ sometimes there’s a small sense of pride and purpose in being able to say “hey this is really new and I am the first person to bring it to a wider audience.” Building a sense of ridiculous self-importance is kind of fun, as long as it remains just fun and we don’t begin to arrogantly believe that we really are the world’s greatest champion of new artists. “Look at me, see how on the case I am. You don’t need to listen to anyone else, just listen to what I have to say because I am the new music game changer.  In fact I’m going to change my blog name to The Tastemaker.” Nobody likes that level of smugness. But every now and then being the first to discover a new act or song and write about it feels great for us. Not everyone feels that way, but we do. Sorry, we can’t help what we feel. It’s just built in to our personality. We liken it to how John Peel must have felt, playing a record that hardly anyone had heard before on the radio. It excites.

But here’s the key point. When we use the word discover, there are different routes of discovery. We’re not talking about being the first to copy and paste some code a PR company has sent and claiming to be the first to discover the band. That type of discovery doesn’t mean anything to us. It’s not really what we would classify as genuine discovery. Sure the music may be great and worthy of getting excited about, but in terms of getting a real buzz and sense of satisfaction we’re talking about natural, unforced, organic discovery of great new artists, through means that aren’t led by the music industry or the artist themselves. That’s what personally gives us a sense of pride. As several bloggers told us on twitter, long searches through Bandcamp and Soundcloud may be time consuming, but like mining, when you hit gold it’s a thrilling experience.

Of course such discovery takes time. We’ve said this before and will continue to do so for a long time yet, but it’s the reason why many of the best ‘discoverers’ of new music are either students, the unemployed or those paid to carry out the function. Time rich = more chance of great discovery. Basically the longer you fish the better chance you have of getting a bite. Most of the best new music discovery blogs don’t have some innate skill at discovering great new music; they just have a better chance statistically.

For the rest of us, it’s often just a case of striking lucky now and then. Two of our favourite discoveries of the last two years have been the sweetly gorgeous Alice Jemima and the abrasive electronic blitz of Curxes (although Curxes have a softer and equally gorgeous side that has yet to be fully revealed), both of whom we found by chance (not through the inbox) and started writing about only to find that slowly and surely a lot of other bloggers (particularly UK based ones) came on board as well, leading to both acts becoming two of the Top 15 most blogged acts on Hype Machine in 2012 by UK bloggers. This has meant exposure and opportunities for both artists, something which we’re hugely proud of having been part of at the beginning.

Also (and again this is largely due to the ego and pretty much everyone ultimately wanting to be liked) it’s great when you’re the first to post about an act and that act responds to you with huge appreciation. “There’s nothing better than a brand new band going crazy over the fact you’ve written about them,” Josh from the excellent Crack in the Road blog told me, and he’s right. In fact Crack in the Road is a blog that prides itself on new music discovery. “A fairly high proportion of Crack in the Road posts are ‘first discovery’ pieces, and that’s where most of the traffic goes to,” Josh explained. It’s therefore no surprise to find that Josh also says that he gets a kick from being the first to find a band; however he also explained to me that he doesn’t understand the hype around being the first to post something from an already established act. It’s an observation we’d agree with, but that’s because being the first to post on an established band is more about your ability to cut and paste code quickly than hours of trawling to unearth new treasures organically.

And so there you have it; some simple reasons why sometimes we like to be first. In summary

1. It boosts our ego. (Although it's already big enough)

2. It makes us feel like we’re good at what we do (discovering new music).

3. It gives us pleasure to see those artists that we were first to discover and write about then grow their careers.

4. But most of all we love the thanks that comes from those artists that we post first about.

Of course for the masses that don’t write a new music blog (and for some that do as well) who is first is irrelevant. As one of our twitter followers (@Colourofbone) told us in less than 140 characters “No one cares. It’s an irrelevant badge and most people think anyone who boasts that sounds like a knob.” But then maybe they don’t write a blog and don’t know the effort and therefore pride that goes into discovering something great and new. When someone’s proud of something it’s sometimes hard to be humble about it.

To finish here’s a tale from a few months ago. Rizzle Kicks, a duo who have had big commercial success in the UK and are an act that we supported when Down With The Trumpets was just at demo stage, tweeted us out of the blue to say that they had never forgotten our early support. That tweet gave us a warm glow for the rest of the day - it encapsulated all of the reasons why for us; sometimes being the first to discover and post is important*

 *Even though in this case we weren’t the first! According to Hype Machine A New Band A Day got there way before us with Rizzle Kicks!

Rizzle Kicks - Earl Grey