Friday, April 30, 2010

This much we know

With the benefit of five years' blogging, ten tips we'd like to pass on to anyone else who may want to start their own music resource:

Everyone starts somewhere
But too many people think it's easy enough. Grab some tracks off Hype Machine, write about how everyone is tipping them for the top and repeat. Never having had ambitions to be an mp3 blog, the fulcrum behind starting STN was "we know music; we want to share a love of music to people who might like us for being ahead of the game or on their thoughts wavelength; let's make this a virtual community of loveliness." Needless to say we turned out to be too individually minded for that, but five years ago there were very few UK based blogs, the market almost completely dominated by your Fluxblogs and Said The Gramophones. When blogs started being offered advance tracks it was like a revelation from the big men upstairs. Of course their conciliatory hand turned out to be a lead weighted boxing glove eventually, but around our own obsessions the language changed. And yeah, maybe quite a few of those reading this were led towards a certain band by our hyperventilating, otherwise all this has been even more pointless then we suspect it already is, but... well...

You're out of fashion
"Blog buzz band" has become a sneer, a signifier that this is just another in whatever genre Hipster Runoff made up for an injoke, another Brooklyn band with 'Bear' in their name, and you'd be wasting your time. Maybe the greater number of blogs, all seeking to be first and claim they were onto tomorrow's big thing at the outset like those stereotypical indie fans of yore who cared about "selling out", do coagulate around the same fixed points, but either there's a reason for that or it's something to carefully steer past chasing down your own ideas. We like to think we've paid only lip service to the feeding frenzy, and besides some of them we've never heard as there's never time. Accidentally, but also purposefully.

There's too much new music
Much as it sounds like the dying words of the desperate man, getting loads of free tracks isn't all its cracked up to be. It's when you're wading through another synthpop band who think they're the hipster Duran Duran when they're barely a fourth rate Belouis Some that you start to be fearful. But even so, following your heart and your leads will bear fruit even if you have to handle every poisonous berry on the vine first. Los Campesinos!, as mentioned the other day, came from a single unassuming post on a message board. The EP by our new favourite band of the year so far, Under Alien Skies, arrived in the inbox with no auxiliary fanfare. This sort of wonder is the reason you keep going, because it's the reason Peel kept going - in among all these wastrels you might just find the band of your life.

Bands will never become your friends
We could, were we in the mood, list all the people in bands we blather on about who now recognise us on sight. We could equally list those who don't have a clue who we are. The chances of the former following your every move are, with the greatest of respect, likely to be very slim. They're busy people with backstage riders to lead. We won't pretend there haven't been those we've turned to in a feature emergency and we don't doubt they aren't grateful that one bloke in a back room whose blog circles round the 140 hits a day mark is fighting the good fight for them, but they aren't an infinite resource of love.

It's not your key towards anything much
At the time of writing, Sweeping The Nation has got us guestlisted three times in five years. One of those we couldn't make and one we already had a ticket for. This might say more about our character and willingness to exchange dignity for cash, but we've never got a permanent writing gig on spec, having applied for the hell of it to those we do contribute to. Don't start dreaming of A&R positions, basically. Never even a DJ set.

The 'thousand fans' industry model applies in a slightly different way to blogging, and it's more difficult than you'd imagine to achieve
200 regular readers used to be known as the basic lower level of blog fame. Five years and several mentions on Largehearted Boy (and one in the Guardian Guide, which as far as we can tell isn't online any more) later, as stated, we're comfortably below that. You'd wonder why we bother, given the way we now know everyone who ever leaves a comment. We're masochists, basically, hoping someone will find us through a silly Google hit and be intrigued by what they find. Putting your name in stone in the music blogosphere isn't an automatic privilege.

It's infuriating even when it works
Bands take bad musical decisions. They do battle of the bands competitions when you have first hand proof they're capable of so much more if only they'd believe those quotes. They just don't understand? Really, they're not supposed to.

The language of music reviewing is severely limited on both sides
Discussed this many times before, but as a side effect let it be known that the worst reviews aren't necessarily the most negative. It's what we call the "I think this is good because it is exciting" school of writing. Throw as many adjectives at Word as possible and you'll have your 300 words, stripped of all feeling or apparent love of your subject.

It's a very quick way to a very slow nervous breakdown
When you reach a certain level, the obligation to write something new every day or thereabouts is overwhelming, even when there is nothing left to cover that you haven't already splurged out of your mind onto the blog, or Twitter, or Facebook, or wherever. Couple that with the amount of music still to hear, present, future and past, and various ideas that formulate for the future even thought you know they'll fall slowly apart in time and you'd need the patience of Job.

After all that, the moment of clarity is worth the effort
Because you're still reading. Five more years!


23 Daves said...

I'm glad you've kept at it all this time. One of the main reasons I never started a blog focussing on new music is the fact that I genuinely feel that STN does a brilliant job already. No sooner have I thought about somebody I'd like to write about than you've covered them, often within the matter of a week, and often more insightfully than I'd have managed.

Martin McCullagh said...

One of the best blog posts I've read in a long time. Keep going, STN.