Could music journalism be more profitable away from the web?

The Quietus - coverRecently you may have seen my post singing the praises of the new Quietus anthology, which might just be the finest compendium of music writing I’ve read in a few years now.

Since finishing it though, something about it has been playing on my mind. Perhaps not one thing; more a collection of realisations. In no particular order, these are:

1. I still don’t look at The Quietus website as much as I should – and I’m probably missing some good articles as a result.

2. I do all my leisurely reading via Kindle e-books, books and magazines. This is because I sit at a computer all day for my job; reading news & articles from one just doesn’t work from me. If I am reading from an online device, its my Nexus 7… but even then I tend to limit it to Kindle e-books because I want to focus and not get distracted by that “read for 2mins then surf on” behaviour that comes with websites.

3. The Quietus is, by their own admission, hardly raking in a ton of money from advertising – which, if I’m not mistaken, is their primary source of income as a business.

4. Something I loved about the Quietus’ anthology is that I enjoyed reading about artists or albums I wasn’t so familiar with every bit as much as those I was a huge fan of. Part of the reason for this was that I was reading these articles in an environment where I had the time (and lack of distractions) to really get into them. Had I been reading them on a website, there’s a pretty high chance I would – rightly or wrongly – have just moved on because when I’m browsing I’m immediately more ADHD about how long I spend on content.

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Music, marketing and the race to the bottom

Down, down... I do love it when I read an article that crystallises various random thoughts of my own into a clear and precise view on something. Yesterday, Matt Hawn sent me an article from James Penycate’s Ooh Brilliant blog, various points of which did just that. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’ve been feeling (not to be too dramatic, but…) a sense of crisis about how exactly music is marketed of late. Facebook is becoming ever-more pointless as a platform from which to market (though perhaps not as a platform to carry word of your band – a very key difference). PR coverage on key sites feels like its becoming less meaningful as 500 labels queue up to grab a premiere on The Guardian, Pitchfork, NME or one of the other kingpin sites, which in reality may only be exclusive for an hour and which in my experience often actually drive very few plays. Overall, it feels like rising above the churn of “stuff” to get noticed is getting harder and harder. I won’t repost the main points of the article here but if James’s summary is “less noise, more quality please” (though the article runs far deeper than that) then I wholeheartedly agree. Someone recently commented to me lately that “cultivating media” should be a key element of building an artist up – all the more so now that the days of securing on going campaign-wide coverage via one site/magazine are well and truly over. However, if the media coverage one is securing is nigh-on pointless because it amounts to a mere mention or repost of a press release with no personal touch or passion behind it, it counts for very little. We’re all cheating ourselves here and it is becoming a race to the bottom. That desperately needs to change.

Attribution: How content creators get screwed and why it needs fixing

raceNote: this article first appeared on Drowned In Sound on September 3rd 2013.

Last week, Music Ally published a relatively small but nonetheless notable story: Daft Punk had surpassed 100m streams on Spotify – quite a milestone for both the band and the streaming music service.

The following day, the same story about Daft Punk appeared on the Music Week website. What was notable, however, was that Music Week had failed to credit Music Ally in any way. To all intents and purposes, it looked like news Music Week had generated themselves. The day after, the same thing happened on Music Ally got in touch with both sites and pointed out that they had originated this story (that is to say, they hadn’t received a press release along with many others and run their version of this news – they’d happened to notice the stream count and turned it into a news post). Both sites ultimately amended their articles to give due credit.

In that instance, the issue was resolved perfectly amicably. However both episodes are fine examples of an ever-growing problem, namely the lack of attribution in online content creation. Ask any credible website of note and I’m sure they’ll give you at least one example. Drowned In Sound famously saw most of their interview with Paul McCartney reprinted by the Daily Mail with no credit given. Buzzfeed routinely run stories driven from Reddit – as do so many other websites that it would be entirely fair to describe Reddit as the primordial ooze from which 90% of viral content flows. Every day, photos, jokes and more are shared on social networks, with the creator of that content blissfully unaware.

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