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.”
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