Friday, 6 April 2012

In Defence Of New Music Blogging

Home-taping is killing music, the internet is killing music, Spotify is killing music, iTunes is killing music, the music industry is killing music. It seems that with every evolution in the way music is recorded, distributed, promoted and sold, somebody claims that music is being killed. Yet despite these claims a quick search of Soundcloud, Bandcamp, You Tube or a blog such as this will show that music is still very much alive. Thousands of people are creating music every day. They’ve been doing so since the first day of time. Music itself isn’t dying – maybe the music industry is (or at least it’s changing) – but all over the world people are continuing to make and perform music. Sure, the prospects of having a long-term sustainable career as a professional musician may be dwindling, but the beat of creation goes on all the same.

Recently Sean Adams, founder of Drowned in Sound responded to a piece on MP3 music blogs dying a slow death on Evolver FM (Edit : Sean wasn't saying that blogs were dying, just responding to questions regarding an article saying they were). He said “I hate this constant churnover of new music. In fact, I’d argue that an obsession with the new has been more damaging to music than piracy. This constant desire to upgrade, regardless of quality or the depth of relationship you have, seems ever so fickle for both bloggers and music fans.”

He has a point, although unfortunately his opinions that the obsession with the new is more damaging than piracy weren’t backed up with much factual evidence. Sean is right though, there are blogs that seem to post MP3 streams or You Tube videos the moment they come out, in what appears to be as much as about appearing relevant and on the case as it does about love for the music. As Sean suggests “There is so much blind love and excitement, with people reposting tracks faster than the time it would take to listen to the entire song, let alone form an opinion on it. I think there is a loss of editorializing and providing context.”

Sean’s concerns seem to come from a traditional rock journo perspective that a fan should develop a relationship with a band and that the most important ingredient of music is time. It’s not something that we disagree with. However, alongside this traditional view we’d like to offer another viewpoint, that’s less set in the world of the rock-hack and finds more relationship with the world of pop music, where the long term is often not a consideration and a quick one night stand is considered more acceptable.

The internet works fast. It speeds up everything we do. Information flows at a rapid rate. Technology works faster than ever before. It’s why the ‘upgrade generation’ need to have the latest phone model. Why perfectly good working order TV sets are replaced with ‘better’ versions. These days, keeping up is everything to an increasing amount of our ultra-speed modern society – the ‘buzz blog’ has been born out of this necessity to keep up. 

But even if keeping up isn’t particularly important to us, as a music blog that firmly sits in the category of ‘fan journalism’ when we discover some music we adore we want to tell readers about it. Not in six weeks time, not in two weeks time, but now. Because that’s what love of pop music is. It’s a rush of chemicals that make you want to punch the air and shout “yes, this is f*cking brilliant.” It’s like meeting someone that you’re instantly attracted to and thinking “I don’t care if it isn’t going to last, I want to have sex with this person today.” But our point is that sometimes one night stands do develop into long term relationships, other times they don’t; that’s the luck (or skill) of the lottery of pop. Who would have thought for example that 25 years after the release of her first single Kylie Minogue would still be going strong and have a huge fan base? That’s longer than The Smiths kept going.

Sean says that “I think one of the biggest problems with music right now is people devouring things for short periods of time and constantly ‘upgrading’ to the next, newest, shiniest, hottest, jammiest thing.” He’s right, this is certainly happening. But is it actually a problem? Only if you’re someone trying to make a living out of music. If you’re just a fan of music, when you hear something good then you want to devour it. You don’t owe the artist or anyone involved with them anything – as an independent blogger you’re free to do what you like, you’re under nobody’s payola. Sometimes (to modify the words of Shakespeare) the appetite for a certain band or group will sicken and die, because that’s how pop music (and increasingly rock music) works. Yet sometimes, maybe only occasionally, something will stick and remain to be chewed over for a longer period.

Here’s an example. It’s the new song by Foxes. We first wrote about her in summer of 2011 when she was using her name of Loui Rose. We also named her as one of our Ones to Watch for 2012. So it’s fair to say we’re a fan. If this was a real-life relationship rather than a musical one we’d have probably done the whole “I want to have sex,” thing by now, actually got down to the nitty-gritty, done it, enjoyed it and thought there may be a future in it. Now we’ve begun to see if the relationship was actually strong enough to survive. White Coats is good enough for us to currently think it will. We’d like to urge you to spend some time with her as well. That sounds wrong and rude, but let’s remember it’s the musical seduction we’re talking about here not real love making.

So yes, there’s the buzz of the new (albeit this track has been out a few days – a long time in certain sectors of the blogosphere), but we hope that like everything we put on this blog you get something else out of reading – be it entertainment (even if it’s just a pathetic sexual analogy), some context, discussion or additional information. That’s why we don’t believe music blogs are dying at all and we don’t believe they’re killing music, far from it. We firmly believe they are supporting it and moving the conversation forward. We totally agree with Sean that the best music needs time and that the ‘churnover’ without editorial adds very little (when we post a track on twitter with a link to Soundcloud or You Tube we're well aware that we're adding to the 'churnover'), but music has to get heard in the first place and in their own small way blogs can help do this, rather like John Peel used to do with his radio show. That’s why we’re defending the obsession with the new – it excites us, some of it will develop into a longer lasting love and hell we’d rather listen to this Foxes song right now than The Beatles for the 1000th time, which frankly is akin to necrophilia. But we guess some people get a kick out of that.

This is our last post for a few days, we're taking a break for Easter. See you later next week.

Foxes - White Coats


Andy Von Pip said...

Very well put,I can see Seans point, but thats how things work on t'net. I still get a buzz as much as I ever did when discovering new music. And never stream tracks we don't like or are ambivalent towards. Maybe Leigh's blog has the best blog name out of all of us, as it's what we do!

Tim said...

Great piece as ever Robin

The Recommender said...

I indulge in necrophilia all the time! ha ha

Sean puts across a real and fair argument.

Some blogs are in this strange situation where the editors don't seem to be spending any time with or returning to artists beyond their first songs. I barely think they're music blogs, just more like news feeds, no less rapid and forgetful as Twitter.

It's more like the fashion world, where shit moves on in some facile chase to always be up to date. Some blogs exist where they won't post something if it's more than a week old. "That's sooooo last week darling".

The comparison between older styled journalism and true music blogging as I know it still seems correct, when you consider those blogs who actually contain editorial like your blog (and mine too).

These are the blogs that seem to take the time to listen to the music and provide opinion and context (even if we are excitedly shouting about it the day we heard it)

Pop music is intrinsically fast moving, but I imagine that most of your analogies work across the genres.

Thanks for another wonderful article. I enjoy these as much as the straight-up music suggestions.


Anonymous said...

"So what" is not an argument and this post pretty much encapsulates all of the arguments against this sort of hipster stenography masquerading as music journalism. Terrible, terrible post.

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

Thanks for the comments.

Anon - just to be clear I'm not trying to masquerade as a journalist - I'll leave that to the professionals - this is 'fan journalism' which is a very different thing.

Secondly the thought of being a hipster is laughable. I'm a 42 year old father of two children - if I can be a hipster at my age then everyone is. I actually take it as a compliment to be called a hipster at my age. Thanks.

Mike – Your comment about the fashion world is interesting. Timothy Warner in his book Pop Music : Technology and Creativity talks about the clear parallels between these worlds. He identifies that both are luxury commodities, which undergo stylistic change in similar short timescales in order to renew themselves. He says that pop music and fashion do not ‘wear out’ but instead they ‘go out’. He suggests that they both rely on high profiles in the mass media to involve potential buyers to excite or fascinate them. They help create the ‘upgrade generation’ that I mentioned. It’s an interesting concept – maybe there are some similarities to both industries

Andy – I think you’re right. Just Music I Like is the perfect title. Maybe I should call my blog Just Music I Like and Discussions That Others Don’t Always Like?

Music Liberation said...

Great post Robin, very interesting to hear both sides of the issue, and I think you've covered it well.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately there is a market for the fastest finger first' style of blogs. Look at some that get a lot of attention. Thousands of fans on FB and love from labels after they have helped a video go viral. And why? Well because they spend too much time in their parents house and can copy and paste an embed code efficiently.

But in reality, here we are, 2012, people want there new ASAP Rocky or Lana Del Ray quicker than before. It's the era we live in and for better or I'm afraid you just have to accept it.

That said, who wants to read something about a two week old track they've seen on 25+ other blogs? Exactly, so 'being first' does serve a purpose.

Lastly, I bet half the 'blog it quickly brigade' wouldn't consider themselves journalists anyway. Which then begs the question, 'are bloggers even journalists?' One for another time perhaps ;)

Scryst said...

Enjoyed this post - not sure if you're really arguing against Sean Adams statements or not though - you seem to actually agree with some of the points ?

Breaking More Waves Blog said...


Yes I agree with your comment that

"Unfortunately there is a market for the fastest finger first' style of blogs. Look at some that get a lot of attention. Thousands of fans on FB and love from labels after they have helped a video go viral. And why? Well because they spend too much time in their parents house and can copy and paste an embed code efficiently"

These blogs are popular and so I guess there's a place for them.
One of the difficulty for such blogs is what happens one they can no longer sit and copy and embed the code as quick as they can - when they have to start work or move away from their parents and have other commitments. But then there's always another one to take their place.

It's not what this blog does - it may not be as 'popular' as some of the 'copy and paste' blogs, but I don't write it to be popular - it's just a bit of fun, helping support new music in my own small way, sometimes having a bit of a discussion about issues surrounding music (kind of like going down the pub and having a bit of a fun debate), occasionally trying to make people laugh / provide entertainment and making some great friends along the way. And I'm very happy with that.

At the end of the day though, every blog is the authors own voice and its up to them to do what they want with it.

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

Scryst - yes I agree with much of what Sean says.

I was just trying to give an explanation of why I'm obsessed with new music - something Sean says he hates.

Jenny said...

I don't think Sean was slating blogs at all was he ? More those who are just using social medias ability to embed music from YouTube with no context or a spotify playlist ?

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

Yes I think you are correct. And likewise this blog post is not a piece disagreeing with what Sean said. It's in the main agreeing with him but offering my perspective.

As I wrote in a comment above this post is trying to explain (in a long winded way) why I, like many other music bloggers, are obsessed with the new – as Andy Von Pip says “I still get a buzz as much as I ever did when discovering new music.”

The only point that Sean made that I’m yet to be won over on is that an obsession with the new has been more damaging to music than piracy, but only because I haven’t seen any evidence to justify it. Maybe it’s been damaging to the music industry, but not to music itself, which is still being created in large exciting amounts.