Music Blogger Symposium
5. Would you agree that the back and forth conversational aspect of the music blogosphere has died down somewhat in the last few years? Any theories as to why?
It's absolutely true that it has. Three main reasons: (a) Some of the early adopters who were best at the back-and-forths have dropped out or stepped down or changed the nature of their activities, as the novelty has worn off. (b) There came to be so many music blogs that no one could (or would want to) keep up with them all--I always feel fortunate that I created mine a little before that explosion, so at least I got to participate in some of that halcyon period. The result of the proliferation--which is of course a nice thing in itself--is that there are seldom Big Conversations that "everybody" gets in on, but just a lot of small side conversations happening along all the vectors within the bloganza. It has broken down into niches, as everything these days tends to do. Whereas when there were still only a few main news networks, so to speak, we were all reacting to the same live feed. The diversity is great but it comes at a cost. (c) MP3 blogs, which turned the music-blog scene into an acquisitive feeding frenzy which spares little time for reflection and contemplation. It's a shame, as the earliest mp3 blogs such as Said the Gramophone and Fluxblog present an entirely different model, but few are the people who have followed in their model, compared to the here's-the-latest-leak-with-200-words-of-hype model. The earlier, more criticism-oriented bloggers lost some focus and, more so, I think, have been turned off by all that.
I don't think it's died down as much as it's shifted and dispersed. In the early years of music blogging, the space was mostly populated by critics who were excited about the idea that they could write in a space that was free of word-count restrictions--there was also the influence of I Love Music/Freaky Trigger, which spawned a lot of the earliest prominent music blogs.
But today, with the rise of the MP3 blog and the idea that a person doesn't need to write about a record in order to communicate what it sounds like, the space hasn't become just for critics--while there are some great writers running blogs that have MP3s and music samples on them, there's also been a rise in blogs that are much more enthusiasm-driven and interested in sharing music directly, without any verbal clutter. There's a definite divide between the two generations of music bloggers, with a few people (Matthew Perpetua of Fluxblog, Sean at Said The Gramophone) straddling it. (I think I'm one of about four or five people who still is on I Love Music--although I never have time to post anymore--and reads the elbo.ws board as well.) Eric Harvey of marathonpacks (and Pitchfork) actually wrote a great piece on the divide between "critic" blogs and "enthusiast" blogs shortly after Idolator launched.
Not sure because I'm too new to it and also too myopic in my own Internet rounds to really notice much difference. The back and forth has been pretty steady on my own blog, but I would echo Tom Ewing of FreakyTrigger (who I think was echoing someone else) and say that online energy is nomadic. The one thing I'm worried about, though, is a kind of sectarianism that can happen when people just move away when things get kind of rough. I'm mostly worried about it because I see this tendency in myself, and I've already become a little more cautious with what I'm posting after less than a year with any readership whatsoever. Anyway, I think the novelty of the MP3 blog has pretty much died down by now, and a lot of people who started out as MP3 bloggers (including me) have transitioned into more... y'know, bloggy stuff.
It does seem to have faded noticeably, at least in the area of the blog world I inhabit. Some of the more lively bloggers around in the early days have dropped out or been distracted by careers or studies, people like Tim Finney, Jonathan Dale, Jess Harvell. I think also that music has continued its syndrome of becoming ever more disparate, and so there are fewer bones of contention or cusps of convergence simply because it is less likely you'll have heard what's getting someone else worked up. Instead there are micro-communities based around specific scenes or sounds, whether it's dubstep or teenpop. And here the dominant mode of conversation is an amiable exchange of information and enthusiasm, oriented to the minutiae of that scene or genre. There's less of a big picture and there's less self-questioning of the assumptions of that scene. Another reason there's less interblog discussion is that it has often gotten ugly in the past and that encourages people to avoid it.
Yeah, I guess. It's been a while since we've had a good "Whisper Song" debate, right? (Well, actually, that was a terrible debate. Anthony was right. OF COURSE.) It's only been recently that I've really connected with people who write about music, so I never really had any part of that. Honestly, I felt for years and years like an outcast, if not a total idiot. It shocked me when people who knew what they were talking about (not the type who leave comments like, "OMG! You should totally write professionally!") contacted me. Like, I was surprised and totally honored to be asked to participate in this very symposium.
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