Last year whilst on holiday in Spain we dashed off an unedited blog post entitled Are Music Blogs Dying? It ended up being shared by lot of people and became one of our most read posts of 2012.
So as today we find ourselves in the same location on a similar holiday, exactly one year on we thought we’d revisit that post and take stock of where we are now with another ‘written on a flyer, on the beach, in one go, unedited post’.
The past post in question predicted the slow death of the traditional MP3 blog (like this one) and concluded that those that do something different, or that have something interesting to say will win out (possibly in another form away from blogs). After all, ever since pop music culture started there have always been people who want to write and talk about music and everything surrounding it from the haircuts to the sex to the debates be they professional journalists or through d-i-y culture such as fanzines and unfunded blogs and an audience that wanted to read / listen.
Here are the five key pieces of evidence that we presented in the original post, to which we’ve bolted on our further thoughts from 365 days later E.g. today.
1. The Lack Of New Start Ups
Here we suggested that often music blogs tend to be temporary and that many (but not all) blog authors are time rich – that’s why they start their blogs. Once that free time is reduced, usually by work, travel, relationships or the biggest time consumer of all – children, their blogs often close. We suggested that in the past, as old blogs die there had always been new fresh faced pups of blogs who were able to quickly cast their spell over the internet and establish their place on the blog scene; but that this seemed to be happening less so now.
Last year we named Alphabet Bands, Lost Lost Lost, Brapscallions and Beat Pyramid as four new start-ups that were being recommended to us. A year on and Lost Lost Lost has completely closed down, Brapscallions has posted 6 times since May 20, Beat Pyramid 3 times since the same date and only Alphabet Bands has been churning out high quality and regular posts. Based on this type of evidence it looks like our original argument holds true – the new start-ups generally aren’t establishing themselves in the same way as the older blogs managed to.
One blogger (Scott from Surfing On Steam) who commented on our original post gave a good explanation of why this may be so. He stated “I know that no one likes to discuss this but money is a big part of the equation here (ad revenue). The name-worthy music blogs that came up in the second wave of music blogging (2004-2005) are either making decent to great ad revenue, have been bought-out, or they're in the same place they were seven years ago (or longer for some). So you're not going to see a lot of great original content from new bloggers because it's already been taken care of elsewhere.”
It’s a good point, although we’d argue that some of the greatest (and most original) content will always come from those who are fresh faced and not doing it for the money. Great creativity can come from the pure joy of creation; a good new idea costs nothing, but sometimes the risk of doing things differently is stopped because of the fear of how it may affect revenue. However if a blog is generating decent revenue the motivation to continue is easier; the blog can become a part or full time job, whereas fully unfunded and independent blogs like Breaking More Waves are only able to exist through the sheer love (and available time) to create.
A year on and the lack of new start-ups that are being ‘successful’ (and by successful we mean keeping going in the longer term and developing a readership) suggests that as the older blogs end the lack of replacements ultimately could lead to the slow death of the traditional MP3 blog. Sure, people are starting up all sorts of crazy exciting projects on the internet, but MP3 blogging doesn’t seem as high on the agenda as it did a few years back.
2 + 3. The Prevalence Of Free Music Elsewhere + There Are So Many Ways To Discover New Music
These two points are linked and still seem to be so. Nothing particularly seems to have changed over the last year in this area. You Tube, radio and Social Networks all remain the most important discovery tools, with blogs occupying a (possibly shrinking) niche area.
4. Decreased Traffic / Hits
A year ago we stated that over the last four years Breaking More Waves had seen a constant increase in visitors, yet the six months before the Are Music Blogs Dying post our visitors had plateaued and dropped a little. At the time we wrote that some other bloggers had also confirmed the same trend although this was by far from universal, a number reporting an increase in traffic. (See this piece from the now partly on hiatus Recommender - one of the blogs who told us their visitors were up in 2012).
So what has the last year seen for Breaking More Waves in terms of traffic? Has that plateau and dip continued in a downwards direction? No, it hasn’t.
This is one area where we’ve been proven categorically wrong. To our surprise Breaking More Waves has gone from strength to strength in terms of visitors. In fact the number of hits on Breaking More Waves in June and July 2013 was our biggest ever and the average length that the reader stayed has remained broadly the same.
On its own that might suggest that blogs are more popular, but we’re not so sure. We suspect there’s a whole number of factors at play here. Maybe we’ve just stolen some other dying blogs traffic as blog readers look for new sources. Maybe it’s as we create more content there’s more out there on the World Wide Web to find? Maybe Google searches are being kinder to us than they were in the past? Maybe we've just got a little bit better known? Or maybe just more people are online more of the time?
5. Buzz Blogs
Now last year we pissed a few people off by slagging off Buzz Blogs. But let’s be clear about what we mean by Buzz Blogs as this term was misinterpreted. We mean the type of blog that has no sense of being well curated or sense of love for the music they post. We’re talking about the sort of blog that will post any crappy Lady Gaga remix or Jay-Z mash up just because it will drive traffic to their site. We’re talking about the sort of blog that provides no commentary or context. We’re talking about the type of blog where being first is everything. These blogs are killing the reputation of all the great music blogs out there and as a result helping kill music blogging.
6. Blogs Just Aren’t Sexy Anymore
Well we’re still here, gagging for it, still hoping that we fulfil your fantasies. Gosh we look hot sat behind a laptop. But do you still want it?
So one year on, where are we now and what does the future hold?
We’re pretty sure that there are less successful new start-ups these days. We’re also pretty sure that the rise of social media and platforms such as Twitter and Tumblr has had a knock on effect on new music blogging. These days the champions are those who can share others quality content first, before anyone else, but not necessarily by creating their own great content to accompany it. But are traditional MP3 music blogs dying? Maybe not quite yet; certainly our traffic statistics suggest that there’s a bunch of people out there who want to read the crap we write. Also the number of artists and labels that approach us looking for a post about their music suggests that the musicians and their backers still value blogs. So maybe our original post a year ago was a little gloomy and on the pessimistic side? Maybe if traditional MP3 blogs are slowly dying, it’s going to be a real long slow death?
After all everything ends at some point doesn’t it? Having said that, crystal ball gazing on the internet is near impossible, so we’ll stop now and promise not to revisit this topic again in another 365 days.
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