After reading a fantastic interview with Drowned In Sound founder Sean Adams, in which he laments the ‘death of mp3 blogging’, it got me thinking: where to next for these one-time tastemakers?
Bloggers were at one point, the backbone of music discovery. Hell, Pitchfork was once just a humble blog run by a high school grad in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Before the birth of Napster, bloggers had the benefit of scarcity. As put wonderfully by Alexandra Molotkow in the NY Times magazine: ‘Obscure knowledge was once a kind of currency. To get it, you had to be in the loop. You had to know the right people to learn about the right bands.’ Bloggers were the right people.
Moving into the early 2000s, and with file-sharing now growing exponentially, bloggers were still in decent shape thanks to slow internet speeds (oh, the memories of waiting 75+ minutes to download a 10-track LP). Not everyone could have all the music all the time. Their ability to handpick great music for fans to painstakingly download, was still of huge value.
Then in the mid-2000s, a few things happened: broadband got quick, domination by select blogs, blog aggregation beings, recommendations engines are born.
With this, you’ve a toxic combination for bloggers: their perceived value is severely damaged by a lack of scarcity, Pitchfork is beginning to capture most/all of the indiesphere’s attention, and services like The Hype Machine and We Are Hunted are taking blog content out of its natural environment and into a aggregation hub.
The latter of which, although seemingly a boon for bloggers, means they’re now working harder than ever - mainly for the benefit of others (the aggregation hub eats all the page impressions and advertising opportunities).
Now critically wounded, blogging sustained its final blow: the death of scarcity. Streaming services like Spotify and Rdio now give everyone access to all music all the time. Couple this with recent integrations between these streaming services and Facebook - ‘I just want to listen to what my friends are’ - and very hastily you’ve got the Grim Reaper spooning bloggers en route to binary death.
SO, WHAT THE FUCK NOW?
Like the recorded music business before it, bloggers need to innovate or fade hastily into irrelevance and antiquation.
Luckily for better bloggers, they have bankable skills: writing (often highly undervalued by those who spend most of their days being excellent at writing), digital / marketing chops, as well as A&R. The best bloggers will also have an unbeatable network of artists, labels, managers, and fellow bloggers.
With this in mind, here’s a few potential options:
1. Email Ryan Schreiber.
2. PR / publicity. You’ve already got relationships with media, a fan following of your own, and you know how to get people talking about bands.
3. Blog for bands. The tech industry has given birth to the Community Manager, a role best suited to talented writers / communicators, to be the voice of a brand - yes, band are brands too. You’d be their online voice for blogging, social, email.
4. Become an A&R guy. You’re excellent at finding new bands, traditional A&R people are lazy and likely rely on you (via aggregation hubs) to find new talent. Stop telling everyone about bands you love, and instead fashion yourself into a talent scout.
Of all the opportunities, the A&R business is the most exciting to me. I’ve often thought about building a platform for bloggers to ‘put dibs’ on bands, so that they’re credited with finding them first - and thus being able take some kind of residual percentage of earnings.
Imagine getting together with a group of like-minded bloggers (potentially worldwide - see: my latest project Records Abroad) to create an A&R network, who could eventually challenge indie labels to create hubs of amazing music ripe for exploitation. And just like that - on Easter Sunday no less - the mp3 bloggers rise from the dead.