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Davis, California

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Column: The business of buzz

There was a certain point in my life where I thought I could run a successful music blog and distribute the latest and greatest to the masses in a simple, exciting and #based way. My original goal was to make it to The Hype Machine, a music aggregator website which compiles the best music blogs, but in the end the majority of my page views were from my little brothers’ friends (shout out Burlingame High School’s post-prom playlist).

And while my blog eventually died like 90 percent of blogs on the internet, it led me to a lot of research on what it’s like to run a music blog.

At this point there are three ways people actively find new music: Apple iTunes’ Genius, friends with good music taste (your definition of good taste), music blogs, Pandora or other recommendation services. In 2012 I’d say most people use a combination of the three in their quest for musical truth, with some relying heavily on one method, and swagsters relying mostly on the Avicii Pandora station (hope you’re down for 12 different “LE7ELS” remixes).

Ultimately, music blogs are where most of the organic music discovery goes down. New artists can catch fire or, as we in the business call it, “buzz” on a few blogs and next thing you know they are featured on the new “LE7ELS” re-work. Watching an artist go from obscurity to the stage is a beautiful thing. I’d call it the “American dream,” but  “Swedish dream” is probably more accurate at this point.

These music bloggers become the taste-makers of culture. From deciding what songs should be featured on their spring must-have list to breaking down the best new Canadian artists from the first half of 2012, these blogs dictate what is buzzworthy and deserves the attention of music fans.  There’s practically no trickle down effect as the news is handed right from the artist to the blogger to the fans in a matter of minutes. In a certain respect, music blogs have more power over what we listen to than any record company ever did — especially in the age of free mixtapes and single releases.

While this is a really great way to distribute music cheaply and relatively fairly without muddling with suits, there are still flaws in the system. Because music blogs are in the business of both sharing and editorializing, there can be a conflict of interest.

Lets say, for the sake of argument, that Drew Verderosa is a popular underground Bay Area rap sensation with mad tumblr followers and he’s about to release a new mixtape. Drew’s mixtape is going to get “mad hits” because he is popular, so he doesn’t really need to do much, besides tweet the link. The only problem is the new mixtape isn’t really his best work. Now if a blog bashes or “pans” the album, Drew is probably not going to grant that blog interviews or sneak peaks in the future. They are left with a choice: dap up the album as something that should be listened to and try to stay in good grace with the artist, or tell the truth to the fans and readers.

While magazines have faced similar issues in the past the circumstances were quite different since blogs can be updated throughout the day. We now live in an accelerated culture which puts a crazy emphasis on the production of content, news or buzz.

Magazines like Rolling Stone did not accrue the same kind of relationship bloggers have with artists — sure, maybe some writers did, but never the brand “Rolling Stone” itself.  The creators of the majority of music blogs are also the writers and editors themselves. It’s a very transparent process and you can follow the writers of each blog on Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram to see what show they are backstage at, or find out what they are listening to at that moment.

Bloggers and musicians are almost equally dependent on each other in today’s musical landscape, and if the editorial wall wasn’t already falling, most of them are actually friends with each other, as evidenced by Twitter.

While I spend the majority of my computer battery checking the blogosphere, I have to remember to take every good review with a grain of salt. Music blogging is now a business — and businesses are in business to keep doing more business.

ANDY VERDEROSA is just a bro trying to get mad hits on this digital content farm of ours, and you can contact him at asverderosa@ucdavis.edu.


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