Do Dance Music Blogs Still Matter?

Pages: 1 2

Greg Scarth investigates the impact of blogs on dance music and asks whether they’re still an effective way to discover new music and a way for artists to get their music heard.

In the constantly evolving world of dance music, much has been made of changes in the way consumers discover and acquire tracks – the shift from physical sales to digital, the decline (and subsequent resurgence) of vinyl and the post-file-sharing climate of fear in the industry.

Music blogs have played a major role in redefining the way consumers find and access music, but their impact has been just as significant for artists themselves as it’s been for fans. Whereas new artists relied in the past on mailing demos to labels and dreaming of DJ support, radio play or magazine coverage to help their music be heard, blogs helped to democratise the market for new music and level the playing field for established and unknown artists.

However, a sense of discontent has been growing over the last year or so as bloggers, artists and PRs have identified a significant decline in the quality of output in the blogosphere. Has the dance music blog had its day?

What impact did blogs really have on electronic music?

It would be foolish to assume that all varieties of music blog have enjoyed the same success and, equally, that all genres of music blog have declined simultaneously, so it’s worth considering the impact of blogs specifically in relation to dance and electronic music.

The peak of dance music blogs – both in terms of their power to break new bands and their usefulness to consumers as aggregators of new, interesting and unheard music – occurred between around 2006 and 2008. The music on dance blogs at that time tended to reflect some of the most popular trends of the era. Perhaps most notably, French dance music was at a peak: Justice were breaking through to superstardom, Daft Punk were at the height of their fame and Ed Banger Records was on the rise. Numerous other relatively short-lived fads including new rave, fidget house and dance-punk helped drive blog content.

It was around this time that the term ‘blog house’ emerged as a popular shorthand for a vaguely defined sub-genre of dance music which appeared on blogs. Although never a serious genre in its own right, the fact that the term emerged at all demonstrates to some extent the impact that blogs made. The larger dance music blogs such as Discobelle, Too Many Sebastians, Gorilla vs Bear and Nashville Nights have established themselves as key players in breaking new artists, promoting tracks and even helping to launch entire genres. Blogs offered an alternative way for musicians to get their tracks out to the world – if not quite replacing the previous model of record labels, magazines and specialist radio shows then certainly offering a valuable supplement to the music industry’s slimmed-down, post-file sharing form.

What exactly made dance music blogs so popular in that peak period? Clive Lewis, editor of Electronic Rumors, believes that blogs flourished when a consumer audience latched onto them as a way of discovering new music. “I think in the beginning it was hardcore music fans reading what other hardcore music fans were writing,” he tells us. “There was more of an exchange of ideas – and musical discoveries – between the kind of people who actively went out there and discovered new music anyway.” But as new acts began to break through as a result of blog exposure, a less hardcore audience adopted blogs for recommendations of new music: “People caught on that if they wanted to hear something first, the blogs were where to find it.”

The industry view

Looking at blogs from the perspective of musicians trying to get their work heard, music blogger and freelance PR Ali Jamieson believes they’ve had a significant impact on the success of certain artists, tracks and even entire genres over the last few years and that they remain relevant as a way of promoting artists. “Blogs form the cornerstone of a modern digital PR campaign,” he tells us. “A few decent blogs posting your stuff doesn’t necessarily translate to sales, but it still ranks alongside radio play, gigs, social media, remixes and all the normal stuff. Blogs often get hold of great music before traditional print press and larger online publications get anywhere near it.”

Clive Lewis isn’t fully in agreement. “I think the ‘golden age’ of music blog buzz creating new stars is well and truly over,” he says. “It can be helpful, but there are so many other ways to discover new music that our voice is just one of many. Music blogs are still a really good way of getting your music out there, getting some press and maybe even generating a buzz, but are they the best? I doubt it.”

Does that old idea of ‘blog house’ still hold true? Are blogs more relevant if your music fits into a particular genre popular with editors and readers? Jamieson agrees that specific styles have tended to dominate the dance music blogs: “Over the last few years blogs have been dominated by nu-disco, folky chillwave stuff, bootlegs, plasticky wobble electro, plus nowadays trap and dubstep… you get the idea. Chillwave is interesting because it’s almost an entirely blog-centric genre. The term was in fact coined by Hipster Runoff.”

It’s important to consider exactly who makes up the audience. Are the readers of blogs actually the same people who go out and buy music? Lewis doesn’t necessarily think so: “I have a theory that the biggest audience for music blogs is other music bloggers, other producers, label A&R and PR companies. Don’t get me wrong – that’s a fantastic crowd of tastemakers to have your music promoted to – but I know very few people in the ‘real world’, outside the music industry, who actually read music blogs regularly.”

Decline

The gradual decline which Lewis hints at certainly isn’t specific to dance music blogs. In an article entitled The Rise & Fall of MP3 Blogs, Casey Rae, deputy director of the Future of Music Coalition, summarises the impact of music blogs on the music industry as a whole. Rae is talking specifically about MP3 sharing blogs rather than streaming music or embedded videos, but many of his arguments are equally applicable to music blogs in general. The blog’s popularity and apparent decline is, Rae argues, closely linked to the music industry’s attempts to enforce copyright laws, but it’s also related to the fact that “recent years have seen a profound shift away from editorial content around music. Initially, music blogs were blamed for this transformation, as the arrival of online self-publishing was seen as eroding the marketplace for newspapers and magazines that published music reviews, interviews and the like.” Rae avoids apportioning blame for falling standards in music-related editorial content, but alludes to the decline of editorial on blogs over recent years.

Jamieson agrees that declining editorial standards are the biggest threat to blogs’ future as respected sources of new music: “There’s a culture of blogs wanting to be first to post about new music, often with little to no write-up. That often reflects their traffic. Decent, established blogs that do their own research – i.e. they don’t just copy and paste press releases – and write in-depth, well thought-out reviews will always prevail in a crowded market. Unfortunately, some blogs are now also writing about topics like Paris Hilton, Pitbull and David Guetta to improve their SEO. It doesn’t set them too far apart from something like Heat magazine…”

Pages: 1 2

Back to top
  • Words: Greg Scarth
  • Date: 6th November 2012
  • Ubbs Wrote:

    Great discussion guys, the ‘golden age’ of blogs is well and truly over but it’s thanks to the hacky-blogs that litter the web and social media not the consumers or media.

    A major pro to it all has been great exclusives and opportunities given to the blogs (some turn sites) that have stuck it out with a genuine passion and ethos for quality over quantity.

    We have defiantly felt as if we’ve ‘earned’ each and every hit, and every follower!

    Ubbs – Stoney Roads

  • Mark Jenkins Wrote:

    Agree with the comments in the article and also your comments Ubbs. We’ve always aimed to post ‘positive’ at Friedmylittlebrain, We don’t see the point of even making a new post about something we don’t actually like or to leave a negative review purely for traffic purposes. Like the article says though, there are tonnes of these blogs/sites doing exactly this.

    We will of course aim to continue to write about what we like and even if it’s just a handful of dedicated fans who read what we write, it’s worth it for us. It also lets our writers have an outlet, somewhere for them to writeup what they are feeling right now.

    Blogs who stick it out and are dedicated because they actually have a passion for music are winners!

    Mark – Friedmylittlebrain

  • Simon number nine Wrote:

    I think the Hype machine has done more harm than good.As soon as you could just grab the music without having to read what Bloggers had written about it,people stopped visiting the sites.I know i did,i used to have a bookmarks folder full of tons of sites,now theres about two or three i visit occasionaly

  • Mike Wrote:

    Personally I’ve never got into the blogosphere too heavily, but I think the comment about blogs becoming far less editorial is perhaps said in the wrong way.

    Fair enough they are, but isn’t that because more and more people were turning to blogs as a music discovery tool? If I’m looking for new music I want to listen to music, not read about how someone was classically trained and is ‘making noise’ in the studio recently and received support from someone I’ve never heard of, yawn! There are magazines for that, online or otherwise.

    You alluded to online radio and podcasts becoming another outlet for new music, but isn’t that what most of these non-editorial blogs have become in a roundabout way? They’re only serving the music, after all.

    Perhaps it depends on what you want to achieve, and how much time you have to achieve it. This applies to both bloggers and consumers.

    Mike – Digitally Imported

  • Absolute Bassline Wrote:

    I’ve read this article with attention. You’ve done a great job pointing out the problem: most of the blogs out there only post a soundcloud link with no reflexion behind it.
    I tend to write long posts on my blog to share my impressions about songs. But once someone gave me that quote “writing about music is like dancing about architecture”. I guess some people don’t see the point in writing about something that they will hear anyway.
    On the contrary, I think it gives info on the song but more than that, it can give great insight on an artist’s work and world. If I stumble on a music blog with no text accompanying the music, I won’t even feel like listening to the music.

    I would also tend to agree with the fact that most of the music blogs readers are producers themselves, other bloggers, label owners and PRs. Still, I think music blogs still have an impact on what people who don’t want to listen to mainstream music discover/listen to.

    Absolute Bassline

  • Ali Jamieson Wrote:

    Hehe @Absolute Bassline I think that quote might be Frank Zappa.

  • David Felton Wrote:

    @Ali … Ah, the Zappa… Gotta love some of his quotes. “Most rock journalism is people who can’t write, interviewing people who can’t talk, for people who can’t read.” ! (Not that that is relevant to this particular article of course !)

  • Attack Wrote:

    It’s a good quote but it’s probably not Zappa.

    http://quoteinvestigator.com/2010/11/08/writing-about-music/

    It’s also, in case it isn’t already obvious, a sentiment with which we completely disagree. It’ll take more than a pithy aphorism to dismiss centuries of arts criticism!

  • Absolute Bassline Wrote:

    @ Attack: Definitely ! Plus one can totally dance about architecture, haha.

  • Tim Moore Wrote:

    ”Great discussion guys, the ‘golden age’ of blogs is well and truly over but it’s thanks to the hacky-blogs that litter the web and social media not the consumers or media.”

    I wouldn’t say that…. we are here right talking about the things we love (music lol) and its a blog right.

    Problem is people don’t try hard enough something and you end up with the above. Blogs littered with pooo.

    I also blame Facebook ! hate it, tried clearing up my ”friends” but its full of c*@p from start to finish 90% music based and things you just dont want to know or care about.

    Tim Moore
    http://www.truesoundhire.co.uk/
    Freelance sound tech

    Hopefully 2013 will be a fresh start for some and Facebook + twitter is going for me lol

  • Kiyoshi Wrote:

    I’m excited to get back into blogging after a hiatus – this article made me realize that all the blogs just post Soundcloud links of overly-hyped stuff.

    I do miss the days of there be being far fewer blogs, each hosting their own files and really taking the energy to select must rather than just filter their Soundcloud streams and hitting up Hypemachine.

    kiyoshi

  • Ante Wrote:

    There were soooo many excellent and interesting music blog back in the time. Me myself, being a great music fan, used to edit my own blog dobramjuza.blogspot.com and I remember how I was surprised with the popularity it gained after a year or so of (obsessive) blogging.
    But my blog, as most of blogs at the time, offered sharing or downloads of albums/compilations along with my own reflections and opinions about them.
    One of the reasons I stopped blogging was typical blogging-overburn syndrom, but it also had something to do with googles ever more often warnings about breaking the law and authorship etc.etc.

    Hear this, hear this:
    “Since the crackdown on file lockers in January 2012, hundreds of music blogs have decided to throw in the towl and they either stopped their activities – that means no more updates – or even deleted their blogs altogether. Google has also been cracking down hard on music blogs and has had hundreds of them deleted from blogspot. As a result there are simply way too many blogs in this directory that are no longer accessible.
    I just cleaned out the Popular Blogs section and in doing so I realised that this is simply no longer sustainable. Therefore: this blog directory will no longer be updated and it will soon be delegated to a yet to be created museum section probably.
    It was a good idea at the time, but because things and times have changed so dramatically, there’s no longer any point to it. So we might as well pull the plug on it.”

    That’s it!

  • Ante Wrote:

    Blogs at the time could be divided into descriptional active blogs that were presenting new music/styles/moods through direct collaboration with artists ( best example would be mnml.ssgs in minimal, moody techno field ) and those which shared music illegaly, mostly with best intentions of sharing the “good vibrations” To the world. None of them had any profit in mind. Interestingly enough some of the best music-sharing blogs never spared a word – for example the majestic and legendary nodata.tv , active still today and my daily source of good music. In my opinion most of the artists as the matter of fact largely benefited from blog activity, even though they didn’t earn directly from their sharing their music

  • Tonka Wrote:

    I write a dance music blog and it’s fucking brilliant. It’s called the Weekly Review of Dance Music.

    http://tonkawrdm.blogspot.co.uk/

  • Paul Wrote:

    Great conversation here, I would agree with the majority. Quality music blogs are a dying bred.