Music Blogger Symposium

1. Talk about your blog and how it has evolved over time. Why did you start to blog? What sorts of things do you do on your blog?

Maura Johnston
Well, I started blogging before the term "blog" was even concocted (in 1994, eek!) because my university gave free server space and I'd been online since an early age (my dad gave me the keys to his CompuServe account when I was 13). But obviously things are different now. I've been professionally blogging for a little more than a year, and Idolator is probably best known for the Jackin' Pop critics' poll, our ongoing "Worst Album Cover Of the Year" contest, and the fact that we don't just cover indie rock.

Rich Juzwiak
I started my blog as sort of a last-ditch effort to salvage a career out of writing. I'd studied journalism in college and very much wanted to be a RESPECTED. MUSIC. CRITIC. That didn't pan out. I'm terrible at networking, for one thing. I don't even know what "networking" means. I think it involves handing out business cards. I never really endeared myself to enough people so that I could make real money writing about music. I mean, I freelanced and I still do, but I still make very little money doing so and my gigs are few and far between. I think the root of all of my problems is that I'm absolutely terrible at pitching. It may be a personality defect: I can do much better than I can say. And so, if I'm writing criticism (and not a reported piece that would obviously require careful planning and backing from an outlet), I'd rather just do it than write to someone about what I'm planning on writing about. I didn't really grasp this until after I started my blog--that's when I knew that for better and especially for worse, this is the medium for me.

David Moore
Cure for Bedbugs is my second blog; the first one started with my first piece of written criticism anywhere ever and was mostly for indie rock catch-up and chaff not fit for the student papers, along with various juvenile Pitchfork swipes--which, as was then the fashion, helped me land a job there for a short time. I gave that blog up in 2005 and started the Cure for Bedbugs intending to write ponderous travelogues, but I happened into a pretty severe teenpop phase after accidentally downloading Skye Sweetnam onto my iPod. The progress of Bedbugs can be tracked over the course of semi-regular Skye Fridays, which are said to be an occasional topic of discussion in the Sweetnam household(!).

I blog because I'm kind of an opinion exhibitionist. But until relatively recently I felt uncomfortable in other people's (online) conversation spaces, so I wanted to start one of my own; it started as a fairly narcissistic enterprise, and I think narcissism is basically what keeps me going when all is said and done, though my best comment threads are way way better than anything I've ever written on my own.

I think my blogging success ratio is somewhere around 10%, but the 10% hits pretty hard. And great convos can always develop in the other 90%; the worst post can spark the best conversation. This is an aspect of blogging I'm sad to see really dwindling, especially in the blogs I read regularly. I would love to see more comment threads the size of, say, the lefty blogosphere's average thread, but for some reason a kind of individualist mindset has really taken hold in music blogs, like we're just here to watch the madmen and women raving from a polite distance.

Simon Reynolds
I started Blissblog in the autumn of 2002. I'd been following the scene--New York London Paris Munich and I Love Music and the blogs clustered around them--for some while. Basically, I just wanted to join in the fun. Also I was in thick of working on Rip It Up and Start Again, and feeling frustrated because there were things going on in contemporary music I wanted to write about. Doing it journalistically would be too much of a distraction from the book--going through the whole palaver of pitching ideas, writing them up properly, etc. So the idea of blogging appealed as a way to vent opinions in an informal, dashed-off manner.

Now that I've returned to the freelance fray in terms of contemporary music, that particular reason to blog has faded for me. It's the other function that now dominates: the blog as a public notepad for sketching out ideas, the kind of thing that couldn't be turned into journalistic writing because it's either too hyper-theoretical or it's not tied to a record release or it's just too whimsical or it ranges across a really wide cultural field and makes a lot of unlikely connections.

Blissblog has the caveat emptor--or should it be "caveat lector"?--at the top, the subtitle: "Not Fully Baked." So you know what you are getting. Sometimes the entries will be fragmentary, shards and strands of thought; other times it will be more essayistic. I'm really into linking to other blog or web writing that's caught my imagination--sometimes it's just sparked a single line, an observation or quip, other times it'll set me off on an extended meander.

From the start I've particularly enjoyed the way blogs allow you to write about stuff that isn't contemporary. It's appropriate for an era in which our listening is scattered across the entire span of pop time. For sure, people's listening has always been a bit like that, but now more so than ever, with the availability of everything instantly and the resulting abolition of pop sequential history. The music that's on my mind and affecting me is just as likely to be something I've found in a second-hand vinyl store, or seen on VH1-Classic, or tugged out of the recesses of my collection, as it is an advance CD I've just got through the mail.

Recently I grasped the full implications of the fact that Blogger allows you to have any number of blogs. I'm too inept and lazy to build a website from scratch but by using Blogger I can set up a sort of bodged-together, shanty town-like surrogate. So I have blogs for Rip It Up (mainly for the footnotes to the book), Bring the Noise ("deleted scenes"--pieces related to the collection's theme that I didn't end up including), and for my three other books. And I've started ReynoldsRetro, a disorganized archive of my writing from the mid-Eighties onwards. I might even start a new blog for more distilled, telegraphic thoughts, aphorisms and haiku-like speculations. The idea would be thought freed of the encumbrance of proof, evidence, substantiation, the fat of fact that Blissblog sometimes gets bogged down in.

Carl Wilson
I started to blog for two main reasons: First, I'd been reading the great music blogs that were popping up around 2003, and wanted to get in on the action. And second, I had a weekly column in a mainstream newspaper at the time and wanted a way to keep in touch with readers between columns and add supplementary material and discuss things I couldn't get into in the paper. It fairly quickly became a more general music issues-and-discussion blog with a special focus on the Toronto independent scene, and especially since I stopped writing my column in fall of 2005, it became one of my main venues for venting reactions, thinking through ideas, etc. The emphasis has really shifted from time to time based on whim. It's been a lot less intense the past six months while I was working on my book, but I'm going to try to amp it back up soon.

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