Emailed thank yous that no-one ever sees … discreet little intermittent likes on Twitter … the odd like of a post on FB. Nothing obvious. Not so anyone would ever notice. No words or actions that publicly acknowledge, support, reinforce, or help spread awareness. The key words in that sentence are “publicly acknowledge” – meaning, “to show someone you have noticed them or heard what they have said; to publicly announce that you are grateful to someone for something; to publicly recognise how good someone is”.
Type Irish Music Bloggers into Google and two things happen …
Aside from the omni-present Hype Machine, which imo is a whole lot of exactly that, hype, two links dominate the SEO rankings. The interesting thing about the top search result, ‘Irish Music Blogs – serenityb‘ is that the latter no longer exists. Having fallen off the Twitter bandwagon in February 2015, it disappeared into the blog-ether towards the end of that same year.
The search for Irish music blogs also yields a link to ‘The Best of Irish Music Blogs’ – a list compiled by the IASCA. This list however, dates back to 2011 in comparison with the aforementioned site whose list is a little recently clocking in mid 2015. However, the stark reality is that of the 20+ music blogs recommended by both sites, over 50% of them are now defunct.
The sad truth is that the reality tends to be a lot harsher than the passion foresees – endless long hours gnawing into weekends, family, quality and recharge time, a seriously scaled back to non-existent social life, and the relentless allocating of annual leave to far flung festivals. Not to mention the cost. We haven’t even got that far yet. Then there’s the ugly reality – the wake up and smell the one way aroma, wrap yourself around the cold comfort of unreciprocated support.
You see the fact is that unless the support network operates a dual-way system, then one side will eventually become redundant. . Like a pot plant that grows in half-light/half-shade, one side will thrive in the warm glow of attention, cosseted and nourished by a drip feed of positivity, whilst the unattended other, will simply fade and die.
The ultimate aim of most bloggers is simply to write about, nay rave & rant about music they love. And to help promote it, as best they can. To have their views, thoughts, emotions, values, and passions reach an audience of any size, age, colour and creed, as long as that audience is appreciative.
No-one likes to be derided. No-one sets out to be ignored. No-one wants their words to fall, like crumbs off a kitchen table, down a virtual shaft of disregard. Nor do they want their time and effort to be used like newspaper clippings, to pad out a press portfolio that nobody ever reads. A box ticked, a quota reached, job well done all round.
Which brings me back to the comments at the top of this piece … or, put simply and in the words of Amy Winehouse, ‘Love is a losing game’. Love is a losing game and blogging is a mug’s game … if you’re green and gauche enough to let them both beat you and mug you off. I was. Not anymore.
Days, nights, bank holidays, weekends, holidays. Time which should have been spent with loved ones, nights when I should have been out having fun, afternoons when I should have been working, Sundays when I should have been relaxing. Hell, even holidays when I hid the laptop in my suitcase, sitting up into the early hours typing reviews. Why? Because X had asked me, and if I said no, they might never ask again. Because I had promised, and I wanted to keep my word. And oh because it’s such a great song I need to be in on the action. More often than not the reward was never as sweet as the sugar I was pouring onto the WordPress screen.
How many times have I spent hours, days, working on an album review to get it just so, to make it the best I could, only for it to pass through the social ethernet unnoticed. How often have I sat hunched over a laptop on a Saturday night while everyone else was out enjoying themselves as I laboured over reviews for this publication and that publication because they operated on a strict 24 hour t/o, despite the fact that they rarely put out their requests before Friday and notwithstanding the fact that they themselves hardly ever worked over the weekend.
Possibly the biggest kick in the teeth you could ever give a reviewer is to ask them to review something and then completely blank it. The biggest slap across the face? Ask them to review something on another publication, and then completely blank it.
And while I can take the saccharine emails teasing for my opinions, pining for my thoughts on this, the latest artist du jour’s best banger ever, I cannot accept the insouciant ignorance of the musicatti – self-anointed music royalty using bloggers like some free PR vehicle.
Which brings us to the crux of the problem and the real reason why so many of the afore-mentioned go-to blogs listed by their peers as being at the top of their game, have failed, have faded and have died.
Who do you think pays for the site, pays for the time and effort, pays for the music on Spotify and iTunes, and pays for the trips to festivals including travel, accommodation and food? Where do you think the hours and days off come from? Have you ever actually given it any thought?
The funds come from our own pockets, our wages from the real jobs we do every day – banking, teaching, sales, copywriting – and, from our savings. Heck one 2016 trip even came courtesy of a bank loan! When was the last time someone took out a loan to pay me to write something? [ B L A N K S P A C E]
The time comes from our holiday leave allocations, our weekends, our free evenings! Everything that’s there – we give it, US, for FREE. The bloggers. The time, the money, the words, the research …
Now musicians you might counter the argument by saying that you rarely get paid for playing a gig – but at least you’re playing your own music!
If you ask a blogger to review your work or your artists work, if you cannot financially recompense them, at least show them the respect of supporting their blog. And, AND, if you have enough brass neck to ask a blogger to post a review or make a submission to another site, at least acknowledge the author when you are blowing the trumpet of that very same and usually much bigger site, because without the writer, you and your music or your artist would not be there.
If PRs and musicians do not start supporting blogs in a mutually respectful way, there will be less and less small blogs, leaving a monopoly of a handful. The big guns who hoover up all the “woo woo premieres” (really guys, they aren’t all that!) – big titles, big soundbites, one quote and no substance. If that’s what you want, then that’s what you’ll get. But with everyone competing for space within the limited confines of the few, how will every artist ever get press?
And if the big guys only ever want premieres, then does that not lessen the chances of cross-publication coverage? Because despite what some PR folks think, there can only be one premiere (unless the definition of the word has changed in the past couple of days).
Every time I am asked to post a review on another site, I respond with a simple question: how would you like it if I were to ask you to promote an unsigned band for free and/or your artist/band (tick where appropriate) to play only cover songs?
Just play 3rd party songs all the time there will you? I don’t care that you write, rehearse, record and play your own songs; I love your voices and the way you play guitar, it’s really cool, but could you just see your way to singing A.N. Other’s songs. I’d be so grateful. Smiley Fucking Face.
Let’s call a spade a spade. If the Quietus asked Portishead to do an interview but only asked them questions about Goldfrapp, how soon do you think it would be before the words “fuck off” were used? If Matt Horton wrote a piece about Taylor Swift stating that he loved her voice but she’d be far better suited to singing Demi Lovato songs, how would that work do you think?
Or, let’s look at it in another way. You or your band or your artist writes/records/produces an album. They give a copy to several reviewers whose email response is – wow, that’s super cool, thanks. That’s it. All that trouble. All that effort. Hardly anyone has heard it. Hardly anyone knows who you are or that the album has even been released. You’ve worked really hard, for no financial gain, no return and now, after everything, you don’t even get any kudos for a job well done.
Well folks, that’s us. That’s blogging.
Every month another blog closes down; because they’ve lost their mojo, or they can’t keep dedicating the time, or they can’t build enough recognition to make any money from their labour. If music artists and their respective management, PR teams and cohorts don’t actively and publicly support bloggers then why should they expect constant support themselves? They want bloggers to review their music to help generate awareness of their brand, yet in return, they offer no reciprocal support to the majority of blogs unless the words Best Fit or Clash feature in the title! How does that work? It doesn’t!
It’s not about the money, it’s not about the notoriety. Hell no. What it is about, is respect. Over the past three months I’ve sailed very close to the wind of ‘give up’. I’ve toyed with just fucking the whole thing in the bin. There’s only so much anyone can put up with until they blow. I’ve blown….red hot wired and blown. But you know what? When the lava cooled I asked myself why should I give up doing something I love because of ‘the few‘?
From November, I am returning to the blog, with hopefully, the same verve and spirit that I’ve had in the past (or at least hoped I had). This time however, the rules have changed.
If you, or your band, or your PR don’t care to support me, then remove me from your lists. If you want your music reviewed, please send it to me. If you are PR and you send me music to review, I expect you to show willing on Twitter or FB. If I don’t see any mutual love, three strikes and we’ll shake hands.
You see this is my time, my money, my life, my choice. I started writing 18 months ago because I wanted people to know about so many unsigned bands that were going unheard. I wanted to shout out about amazing Norwegian music and beatastic Danish Americana. I wanted to bounce enchantments of Dorset other-worldliness off the moon. And, I wanted to write about Radiohead.
All of that and more is what I am going to continue to do.
But I’m going back to basics. I’m going back to basics. Doing things the way I want to do them, when I want to do them and how. Blogging for the right reasons. And, for the love of music.
If you’re with me, I’ll cya around.