This is second installment of a series of post “Behind the Lens” of a music blogger. For the full series click here.
I’m torn if people actually think music blogging is all that awesome. Don’t get me wrong–I love it. I just wonder: when people discover that I blog about music and reply, “Oh my god that’s awesome,” are they actually saying “Awesome—you’re like six degrees of Kevin Bacon-famous” or “Awesome–you’re probably a deadbeat that ‘writes’ while living with his mother.” (Both, in my case, have been true.) Would they find it awesome how much time I’ve spent on my laptop in my sweatpants at obscure hours rewriting sentences because “the tone isn’t right?” Do they mean it’s awesome to get free concert passes and gear? Yes, well–sure–it is. But I doubt they know what’s REALLY awesome about music blogging.
I can tell you – and I’m sure the fifteen to twenty writers and photographers I worked with over the years would agree with me–free tickets get old. For every two hour show, I put in three hours organizing my thoughts, scrupulously writing–then deleting–each word, editing, and formatting. These days it feels like publicists expect that if I download an album from them, I’m going to write about it. It’s a lot of work. Most of the writers I’ve known have burned out or moved on to a place that paid because free stuff doesn’t pay for rent.
No, for the last four years I’ve stuck around because finding, discussing, reading about, and hearing new music makes me happy. Unlike many enthusiasts I’ve met, I wasn’t raised with music in my family. My mother spent most of 2011 listening to Andrea Bocelli on repeat, while my father only introduced me to a handful bands when I was growing up. I think my mom’s guttural disliking of hip hop (for its misogynistic videos and crude language) was probably the rebellious catalyst I needed to fall in love with Wild 107.7 and 106 KMEL. By age 12, I was downloading enough music illegally that as Napster, and soon too its users, became targets by record labels, I got anxious.
Even my jacket of curiosity and excitement to talk about new music eventually wore thin. Two years ago, I wrote about how the internet’s insatiable appetite would bring an end to music blogs. I almost quit, but the community kept me going.
I remember my first leap was getting accepted as a “music blogger” as a part of Elbo.ws‘ forum. At the time, the forum was the place where I met bloggers like Culture Bully (now defunct), The Blue Walrus, tsururadio (now defunct), Song By Toad and others. We shared music, but also discussed the “best and worst” publicists, the bizarre rants of “Squashed” (which at times we’re insightful) and got excited when Anthony of HypeM or Sean of Drowned In Sound would interject on threads. Later, I met Indie Shuffle, The Music Ninja and Nigel, from whom I received help designing my site, learning SEO techniques and marketing my content. I didn’t spend a dime building this site–because people helped me.
As I attended more shows, I began to see the same people. I met Victoria Smith, an amazing photographer, who helped me get my first press badge to Outside Lands. We helped each other cover shows: I’d write and she’d photograph, each building our portfolio. Four years ago, there weren’t as many music bloggers as there are now, so I got to know EOTB, Spinning Platters, The Bay Bridged, Epicsauce and Katarokkar at shows.
Victoria introduced me to Patrick, a photographer who’d been helping her catalogue her work. Slowly, the cycle repeated and Eve, a college friend with whom I always shared music with, introduced me to Angela, a copy editor at a marijuana book publishing company. Before long, I had writers like Rip and Collier that leveraged their work at SF Critic to become paid journalists. Later, I schemed up SF Critic parties and ideas with Darryl, Julie and Fabian that have yet to come to fruition. My role shifted, as the SF Critic staff grew to include Ryan, Leticia, Maggie and Carlos, pushing me to become an editor. Soon my network had grown large enough that I connected friends with each other to help them pursue their interests.
You see, when people tell me “Oh my god that’s awesome!” they can’t be reflecting on the community. How could they understand the value of friends you randomly see at shows or know the sense of accomplishment when you meet strangers new to blogging who admit they’ve read your blog. I’ve collected the badges and ticket stubs that I hope to show my kids, but the stories I’ll tell them will be about the friendships I made and how my commitments paid off.
Over the next fews weeks, thanks to the sponsorship of Sony and Flavorpill (who gave me the camera that took these photos), I’ll give you a glimpse into the world of a music blogger you don’t see. It won’t be backstage antics, that stuff rarely happens. It will be a different story of what it’s really like to be a music blogger.