Part 1: Introduction to the Blogosphere
In case you don’t already know (though since you’re reading a blog, you probably do), the blogosphere is a big thing these days, especially in music. Thousands of music geeks each day are online writing about bands they like or find interesting, posting videos and mp3s, and it is drastically changing the way we listen to music and the way the industry works and will work in years to come.
Bands that never would have gone anywhere or would only have gained a following after years and years can become internet sensations overnight. A great example of this would be the success of San Francisco band Girls.
Pre-blogosphere I doubt there’s any way a strange, idiosyncratic (albeit endearing) band like Girls could have risen to the level of indie prominence or gained the kind of adoration they have in such a short period of time, let alone ever. 20 years ago – even with indie labels, MTV specials, cassette culture, zines, whatever – a band like Girls would either have gained fans slowly or would never have gone far at all because they’d be too weird for commercial appeal, but not weird enough to have the broad outsider, novelty or goofball appeal acts/artists like Daniel Johnston, Jad Fair or the B-52′s had.
With the blogosphere though, it doesn’t need either of the above. One music geek with a blog can hear “Lust For Life”, love it, then spread it on to exactly the kind of people who might like that kind of music, i.e. the readership who trust and share the blogger’s taste. Say a couple of his readers like it and pass it on to others who in turn pass it on to more people. The music is now being heard by the exact demographic it was intended for, without any money being spent along the way by any party. It’s the difference between bombing an entire village vs. sniping the couple baddies you came for. Faster, better, cheaper and more efficient.
Radio may as well go fuck itself. Mainstream appeal is not at all important. You want to hit up a niche market, and you can do that now. You don’t need a label. You don’t need money. You don’t need a publicist or a lawyer or anything. With some cheap software and a good song, any band/artist can have one of these internet “hit single”s if it’s good or interesting enough and gets to the right bloggers’ ears. A cool music video can also go a long way. (See below)
Next thing you know they’re signed to a major label, managed by a big company, touring the world and in the studio with a big name producer. (See below)
It took years for people to recognize bands like The Velvet Underground, The MC5 and Big Star as legendary, but people talked, and writers wrote, and eventually it happened. The blogosphere isn’t infallible and doesn’t necessarily recognize talent all the time, but what took decades back when for those bands would’ve taken months or a couple years with the blogosphere. Especially since it takes a lot less convincing to get a person to click “play” for an embedded mp3 than to get a person to shell out money for an album or a single. And this is one of the biggest reasons why I like the blogosphere and why it is saving music, because it has the power to make good music and good musicians very popular very fast.
Admittedly though, it also has the power to make very bad musicians very popular very fast (cough! Wavves, cough!).
Check back soon for Part 2, in which I explore how the existence of the blogosphere is changing the way we make and think about music.