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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How Music Blogs Failed

ilu fail cat

Definitions:  Music blogs - Blogs which focus on providing mp3s, show reviews, artist interviews and event previews of newer and emerging artists.

           To say music blogs failed is not the same as saying "How Music on the Internet Failed" quite the opposite- the internet is a huge success music-wise, particularly for enhancing the "direct to fan" experience.  It's the blogs that have failed, and them which need to be swept from the earth, Biblical flood style.

       As much as I would like to inveigh and fulminate against music blogs for their failings (and I will, a little) the main explanation for "How the Music Blogs Failed" is structural:  Artists can have their own blogs, communicate "Direct to Fan" and render the mediating function of music blogs obsolete in a minute.  The DIRECT relationship between ARTIST and FAN is THE future of the music industry, and music blogs, with their poor functioning for this purpose, will be swept into the trash can of history.

        Definition: Fail:  As in, fail to produce new ideas or cultural product, ossification of format, content restriction.   Music blogging emerged alongside other advances in music consumption technology, perhaps as an adjunct to ehe MP3/digital music format.  Music blogging at it's origin was a mixture of "pirate" distribution of cultural product and an extension of magazine style rock journalism and "zine culture."  Because of the socio-economic status and gender of many of the leading music bloggers (male, college educated, white, from the midwest or east coast) their tastes formed the basis for the style of music that would largely become synonymous with music blog culture.  In response to the initial emergence of music blog culture, others responded.  This is a pattern that is often repeated in the history of ideas.

         A philosophy/religion/scientific idea emerges as a result of material conditions (here, advances in technology) and the backgrounds of individuals involved.  If the idea has power, it expands to others outside of the initiating group, then it is challenged, a back and forth ensues.  Powerful ideas expand, diversify and then wither as they assume wider impact.  New ideas are generated, process repeats.

         Due to the impact of technology on the creation of music blog culture, responsive cultures were not limited by geographical proximity.  A New York city/Chicago axis was challenged and in many ways joined by London, Paris and other smaller cities in the United States.  Perhaps a seminal moment in music blog culture was the emergence of No Age, a strong music blog act that emerged from a strong DIY scene in the nation's second largest city.  Another key moment in the history of the music blog was the admiration of bloggers for French dance music acts like Daft Punk & Justice. 

        The embracing of musical acts from outside the local environments of the music bloggers challenged the unspoken assumption that these blogs maintained universal control over the canon of associated musical acts.  Another major event in the history of music blogging was the emergence of "popular" hip-hop as a legitimate artistic force.  Bearing in mind the milieu of music bloggers:  WHITE, MALE, COLLEGE EDUCATED, FROM THE MID WEST OR EAST COAST. it is not hard to see how commercially successful hip hop challenged their claim to universality.  Perhaps it should be noted that both of these destructive cultural events were perhaps induced by separate articles in the New Yorker Magazine, the first, a profile of No Age, was published on November 19th, 2007.  The second, an article about the accomplishments of T-Pain.was published on June 9th, 2008. Both were written by Sasha Frere-Jones.

        It is interesting to observe the relationship between artists who follow in the "lineage" of both No Age and T Pain, due to the challenge that they offered to music bloggers.  They "call into question" some of the assumptions that underly music blogging itself, and thus, you would expect to see "frayed nerves" exercised as well as a critical apparatus that is sometimes non-functional/mistaken, etc.

       Music blogs could save themselves, creatively speaking, by abandoning their unsuccessful attempts to interpose themselves betweens artists and fans and instead engaging in dialogue between blogs, which is actually an easier way to draw the attention that all music bloggers, by their very existence, must crave.  It speaks to the low quality of music bloggers generally speaking to see the familiar links to other blogs on the side bar of the page, but to see literally no discussion of those blogs within the content of the main post.  How backwards!  My friend, the whole point of your blog is to draw attention to it, and how better to do so then by summoning your betters for a spirited debate.  Instead, opinion is crudely displayed in the "comments" section.  This comments section does more then other feature to ALIENATE the very ARTISTS upon who ALL MUSIC BLOGGERS DEPEND.

      Think about that for a second.  Commenters poison the relationship between artists and music blogs, and the embracing of comment culture is a proof of their failure.

     All of this is a side-note to the main reason that music blogs have failed:  Artists have figured out that literally any moron can operate a blog, that you don't need to blog everyday, that myspace and facebook are perfectly fine if the goal is to have a direct to fan communication, etc, etc, etc. 

      Ironically, this direct to fan experience leaves "traditional" media to RESUME their privileged position as arbiters of taste to the general public, since Artists are now seeking exposure to additional fans in the general public (because they can always communicate to the enthusiastic directly.)  If music blogs aren't "breaking" new bands, they don't really have a privileged mediating function in the artist/fan relationship, let alone the artist/music industry relationship, and therefore they don't matter.

   This should not take anything away from those bands that "broke" during the hey-day of the music blog culture, I would imagine that they will wholly maintain their status within mass culture.  In the end music blog culture is simply an adjunct to the proliferation of the mp3 and the tastes of white nerdy guys from the mid west in the 90s.  They got a jump on everyone, but by the end of the 00's everyone caught up.

 Also, it's the artists who will benefit from the failure of music blogs.


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