This is an interview series in preparation for my SXSW Panel: The State of Music Blogs in 2010. I reached out to a number of influencers, musicans, labels, marketers and music fans to get their perspectives on the topic and will be posting these in a series leading up to the conference.
Today we hear from Stacy Schwartz, music photographer and founder of Cake In 15.
Why do you think music blogs are so popular?
They’re accessible, generally easy to navigate, usually free, and they can be as specific or as general as people want them to be. Blogs are so customizable that you can have just one blog on metal music, one on music photography, on avant-garde jazz, on anything you want & people interested in that specific thing can find you easily via search engine. Now with the addition of things like Google Reader, you can even compile the blogs you read into one space, eliminating the need to actually type in the URL & click into the page. Instead you can scroll through headlines, reading only what actually interests you. It’s both a time saver and a time sucker, in my opinion. Music blogs in particular are popular because they host free mp3s to download, introduce the reader to new music they may not have heard, and they can also help make or break a band (as obviously evidenced by Pitchfork). People also like to be snarky, so there’s a way to be semi-anonymous while being mean – which I think some people enjoy.
How do you think music blogs/aggregators/social networks have impacted the industry?
I think they’ve eliminated the need for labels to a point. Only because people are able to self-promote worldwide without the help of a major. MySpace seems to be the real pioneer in a sense because they were the first social network where a band could have a page and add “friends” all over the world. These virtual friends could then listen to that band’s music, look at photographs, and see their tour schedule, all without having to visit a record label’s website – or even an individual band’s website. The bands came to you – although it was just as easy for an individual to “friend” a band & get that information as well. (Paragraph please) Blogs in and of themselves have helped bands get more public exposure. One blogger who really really likes a band has the power to help make that band. They can publish reviews, mp3s, bios, tour schedules, and farm it out to places like Digg and Twitter. They can publish this info to Facebook pages and email it to friends – who are very likely bloggers themselves. This can create a buzz (or a backlash) for a new band. Like anything else a small blog may write about someone and as the information gets passed around a medium-sized blog picks up on it and then a larger blog like Stereogum or Pitchfork and then BAM! It doesn’t always work, because the music still has to resonate with listeners, but it definitely helps. (PARAGRAPH please) All of this information being thrown out there only somewhat eliminates the need for record labels. A band can do a lot on their own, but generally they can’t do everything. The stress of doing everything yourself can break a band apart & sometimes labels (or maybe even just a manager) can help keep the group focused on music.
How have they changed your music consumption and/or marketing efforts?
They’ve changed my music consumption in that I now have access to music from all over the world that maybe wasn’t there before. I definitely am a downloader of free Mp3′s. I’ll download a few songs to see if I like the band & then hopefully pick up a copy from the Fetus where I work, or be able to preview it there. I think blogs help with the “take home” satisfaction. I remember in the early 90s buying a CD for one song & the rest if it was garbage. The likelihood of that happening is less now. If I only like the single, I can just buy the single – or if it’s a popular one I can more than likely get it for free off a blog. This has definitely led to me going to more shows to check bands out, rather than spending the cash on CDs. Although, I’d rather get the vinyl with a download code anyway, to be honest.
What’s the best thing to happen to the music industry in the last year or so?
Things are so multi-sided I’m not sure there’s a best. Maybe that people are making more decisions for themselves as far as what they enjoy. There’s a backlash now in certain circles against larger blogs like Pitchfork. I think that’s ok. It’ll always be a bible of sorts for some people, but it certainly shouldn’t be the final word.
What’s the worst?
The RIAA lawsuits against consumers of music. I can understand suing someone for illegally downloading tracks and asking them to pay the $250 dollars for the 250 songs. But making someone pay thousands or millions of dollars is insane. The music industry as a whole is at least 10-15 years behind in understanding their customer base. These lawsuits are only making people MORE anti-label, anti-industry, and it’s doing nothing to stop illegal downloading. It’s very frustrating.
What is the single biggest strategy/technology/innovation/societal shift you think will impact music in 2010?
I don’t think CDs are going anywhere yet, if that’s what you’re asking. People still love holding that album in their hands. There’s artwork, liner notes, etc. If anything they’re getting more ornate and trying to differentiate themselves – look at POS’s last album. The packaging was amazing! You could make your own cover by mix & matching various sheets of plastic – it was really cool. Northern Howl, another local band, had a safety pin & button holding a cloth covering over their CD. I don’t think it’s a big thing, but I it’s my favorite change.