Do I really have to blog?

Blog

In most instances, the answer to this one is a firm YES. In fact, I’m struggling to think of an instance in which the online presence of a musician, band or music enterprise would not be enhanced by the addition of a blog.

The most common counter-argument against musicians blogging is the idea of the ‘aloof artist’ – the notion that the mystique of an inaccessible and ineffable artist adds to the value of the work itself. I’m inclined to disagree, though of course, there are exceptions. Burial is a good example of a musician with that sense of mystery – but that takes real dedication. You pretty much have to go into hiding to make that strategy worthwhile.

And, in fact, I think Burial could blog without giving the game away.

But the main reason to blog is not, as you might expect, that it’s a great way to promote your music. It’s more that the blog is now part of the way in which you do what you do.

Let me put it another way. Just as copying simply happens online, so does communication.

Accessibility is the norm online
If I find it difficult to locate you, listen to your music, find out what you’re up to and where you’re at, then it’s far easier for me to find an alternative source for what you do than it is for me to go digging in order to find out what’s going on.

If you’re trying to get work, sell your music, gain clients, gather fans, promote a record or a gig, or connect with the online environment in any way, blogging is the first step towards that. It is, at the very least, evidence that you understand that your online presence should be a conversation and not a brochure.

So what actually is a blog?
Well, actually, allow me to broaden the standard definition a little. Generally speaking, the term comes from an abbreviation of ‘web log’ – a continually updating ‘diary’ of events and occurrences. But it really just needs to be some regular form of communication that can be easily updated by you.

In that respect, I’d put a ‘micro-blogging’ platform like Twitter on the list, and a voice-based message system like Utterz on the pile as well. Mostly though, it’s somewhere you can post the latest news, thoughts, events, and interesting things as they come to mind, so that visitors to your site can see the latest, go back through previous posts – perhaps respond, and spread the word.

And the best reason to blog?
A smart friend of mine once said that the best music in the world is the sound of someone’s insides on the outside (yes, he was an old punk – how did you know?). His point was one about self-expression. That music, at its best, is something we can identify with on a human level. And we tend to like music we can relate to, because it expresses something of ourselves.

And because music is self-expressive, we are more positively inclined towards music by people we know and like – because if we like them, we’re likely to appreciate expressions of their ‘self’.

So by logical extension – removing the curtain, engaging with your audience and actually letting them in on your day to day life will allow people to feel that they are getting to know you (in a ‘managed’ way), and will therefore be increasingly inclined to appreciate your music on that basis.

To put it in narrative terms – you become a character they care about. Whether you’re a musician, a label manager, a promoter, a venue owner or a music teacher – starting and (more importantly) maintaining a blog creates a story (remember this idea — we’ll be coming back to it). People love stories — and want to know what happens next — and if it’s a story they like with characters they can identify with, it will start to become meaningful and important to them.

Everybody must blog
The idea that the world is divided into content creators and consumers is increasingly redundant. What’s important is the quality, frequency and ‘engageability’ of your content – and that’s no longer restricted to your musical output.

The fact that you make music is unremarkable. The quality of your communication — musical content included — is now the measure by which you will be judged. This is not a call to pick over the mundane minutiae of your life. This is a challenge to be interesting.

And really, this is not such a radical or transformative idea. Your music has always been communication. Your music business has always been a communication business. This is about using the online tools to enhance that communication.

Tagged

21 thoughts on “Do I really have to blog?

  1. Kavit Haria says:

    Totally 100% great advice that I subscribe to and share myself, Andrew. I’m enjoying your new plan of answering common questions – it’s a very good plan in itself.

    It’s really all about being transparent about who you are as a musician and therefore allowing your audience into enjoy their experience of your music.

    I’ll write a post soon about blogging and link back here because I think you have some really valuable points and the more there is the better.

    - Kavit

  2. JP says:

    Hey Andrew,

    I asked you this question on an earlier post comment thread so I appreciate this response. I agree that artists who are connected with their fans and are accessible will likely prove more successful than those that try and distance themselves. However, I take issue with the suggestion that the only best way to do this is by setting up a WordPress page for blogging. I still have concern that maintaining a well-pruduced and frequently updated blog is a potential distraction for musicians with limited time for content creation and perfomance. (How many blogs out there start with a phrase similar to “Sorry it’s been so long since my last update…”?)

    For the majority of musicians out there, I just think there has to be an alternative to staying connected. Regarding what is a blog? You write:

    “it really just needs to be some regular form of communication that can be easily updated by you.”

    Well…the traditional newsletter fits this bill to the letter. Pehaps it’s the formatting or method of delievery that needs to be addressed? Here’s a topic I believe worth exploring:

    “Effective newsletters for a web 2.0 world”. – or something like that.

    Lets explore some various avenues towards creating this channel of communication. We all know there is no one formula for success in the music business so I’m hoping to see this conversation expand to explore the various communciation options available aside from the now-generic WordPress blog format…

  3. nancy says:

    Hi Andrew,
    As an indie musician I really love the idea of music as a relationship or at least setting oneself up to be accessible to those who want a little more than just hearing my songs. ( Am in the midst of finding out how to make that possible on my website that I have through Hostbaby.)

    I do have a few questions about having a blog option on my website though. It may sound a little shallow but it’s crossed my mind more than once. If I turn my news page into a blog format, what if no one comments? Am I setting myself up for potential rejection? But more importantly, will it potentially do any damage by way of giving the appearance that not much is going on with my music? And this poses yet another question: For every 100 hits to one’s website or myspace page, how many take the time to leave a msg on the guestbook? Just curious on that last one.

    Anyhoo, since part of the strategy to being successful is creating a buzz so you are at least appearing successful–which is not always an easy task to those of us who do all our own PR–I feel these questions are worth mulling over and wondered what you’d have to say ( or anyone else who sees the question! ).

  4. Liz says:

    It is so refreshing to be urged to return to our lives/music as story vs. product. Twitter can be a micro-blog or a techno haiku. An mp3 file can be a gift, or a 99 cent debit. You are right. We are inventing the new online model.

  5. Dubber says:

    @ Kavit Thanks – that’s really appreciated. Look forward to seeing what you have to say. That goes for everyone else too… :)

    @ JP – I happen to be a bit of a WordPress fan for a number of reasons I could bore you with – but it’s not my intention to suggest that it’s the ‘only best way’. It just happens to be the easiest way for me to express the importance of creating and maintaining that narrative. The message is actually ‘use whatever platform you like – but USE IT’.

    I think that the phrase “Sorry it’s been so long since my last update…” is a real problem, but it’s one of priority, rather than of platform or technology. The people who write that tend to be people who think of blogging as ‘yet another thing I have to do’ rather than ‘how I now do what I do’.

    That said, I will definitely be exploring the mailing list newsletter. It’s really important – but I do think of it as being separate to the blog. Blogs can be stumbled upon, like free magazines at the record shop. Newsletters are delivered to the door, and so the communication is even more personal. It’s not there to create relationship, but to build on an already existing relationship. The newsletter and the blog are complementary.

    I like your title about ‘effective newsletters’. That’s a really good distinction, because so few of them are.

    @ Nancy – don’t worry too much about people not posting comments. That’s a problem if you’re running a forum, which can look like a wasteland if there’s not daily activity. But a blog is mostly about you talking. That said, I will get to this issue. Writing in a way that elicits comments (eg: asking questions, saying outrageous things, encouraging discussion) is an easy shift to make. It’s the difference between ‘Here’s what I did’ – and ‘Here’s what I did – what do you think about that?’.

    Even so, very few people comment. Less than 1%, typically. I have several thousand regular readers of this site – and just a handful of comments on each post. I love getting them – even the ones that disagree with me, because it forces me to really examine what I think and how I express that. But far more people just check in, see what I have to say and move on – and they don’t have to comment to be part of the conversation.

    @ Liz – Our lives are already narratives. I think that blogging is just a way of acknowledging that fact and making the most of it. Thanks very much for your comment.

  6. Rosa Say says:

    Aloha Andrew,
    I love your article: tumbled it here: http://tinyurl.com/5ok2lo with the quotes that resonated most, and why. You have so beautifully written about the way that we communicate and share of ourselves.

    I am not in the music business, and have always so appreciated the talent and beauty with which a musician can communicate, tugging at us so emotionally, and challenging listeners to themselves be just as expressive and interesting too.

    I shall be back to read more. For now, I had to say mahalo ~ thank you for this. Your words are nourishing me at just the right time, and I am quite sure many others too.

  7. Jim Offerman says:

    Another great piece! I love the suggestion of considering all of your communication as your product / distinguishing factor – rather than just the music. I think that’s spot on.

    @Nancy: why not turn the question around… what if someone wants to comment now, but can’t? can you afford to miss that interaction?

  8. nancy says:

    Thanks for the distinction between the blog and forum Andrew and, yes, leading questions and outrageous thoughts could certainly spark something! I may have to cultivate the outrageousness though. . .

    Jim, you are so right — I really can’t afford to miss the interaction which is why I am looking into how to make my news page a blog page. It all started when I felt the need to blog about playing coffeehouse venues and thought someone may have wanted to pitch in their 2 cents too! Your suggestion, along with Andrew’s, is just the catalyst I need to risk it all and jump in so thank you!

  9. Angry Anderson says:

    You’re spot on here.

  10. JP says:

    @Nancy,

    “It all started when I felt the need to blog about playing coffeehouse venues and thought someone may have wanted to pitch in their 2 cents too!”

    In this case, I would say you best bet to develop a relationship with your audience would be at the night of the gig. Seize the moment! Why hope they will remember to visit your blog later on and maybe drop a comment? Get ‘em while they’re in the mood! I guarantee an email sign-up list will garner more value than a blog comment thread!

    IMO, if you only have the choice (due to time constraints) between maintaining a blog and personally answering emails, I would always put my money down on direct email communication. The interaction is much, much, more on a personal level and is a more effective way of maintaining contact with your core audience.

  11. nancy says:

    JP,
    I’ve had a growing email list since 2004 and do value a repore the night of my gigs. But having a blog is going beyond that and reaching people who may never be in my vicinity. By making myself an online presence just by having a website, people are finding me, maybe not in droves, but enough to realize that maybe my music IS making a difference in someone’s life even if it is just one listener at a time! But that’s in addition to my gig nites. I just had someone subscribe to my mailing list from Australia and I live in Boise, Idaho. Alas, the beauty of the internet.

    One of the reasons I want to blog is because I enjoy writing. It’s goes beyond what I do with my music. Not everyone enjoys writing so those who don’t needed feel pressure to join the blogosphere. But for those of us who do revel in the written word, what a great way to connect with other people in another way. I’m already blogging on other blogs like this one when I feel like it. I’m a regular poster on a really great parady blog, and I’ve started my own blog that isn’t related to music. I’m ready now to bring that into my music world.

    The only caution is to reign oneself in from time to time because it can take up too much (music) practice time! ;-)

  12. Julian Moore says:

    Something that doesn’t seem to have been mentioned here is the tone of the blog itself. The cult of fame doesn’t always mean that even your most diehard fan wants to know about when you watched TV or had a boring bus ride.

    So just creating a blog and starting isn’t neccesarily beneficial. It can blow the mystique of fame right out of the water before it has begun.

    I can think of several bands for whom starting a blog would be a terrible idea. I think that before starting a blog you should be very clear how much you are willing to give away and create some personal boundaries. A well known band could easily blow their cool by starting a rambling blog. Leona Lewis could start a personal blog and we’d be shattered to know just how boring she is. Thousands of pounds are spent creating media concepts for these people – a couple of rambling blog posts from Leona out of her skull on babysham could seriously mess up her global sales pitch.

    For some artists starting a blog is a great idea, for others it’s not. I can’t imagine a good manager letting one of their artists simply go to town in a blog, simply because it could confuse the premise of the act he was trying to sell. As an act of promotion, the blog would have to follow some clear guidelines to be effective for the artist.

    Blogging is a great tool for the right artists in the right places, but I don’t think the act of simply writing one is immediately useful and without careful thought can damage credibility incredibly quickly. Some people shouldn’t be let near a blog!

    If you’re going to start one it needs to be really, really good and there is such as thing as ‘too much information’. Please name as many famous acts as you can who have in depth blogs posted often and I think you’ll find it’s very few.

  13. Shawn says:

    Hi Andrew -

    Great stuff. Transparency, visibility, and accessibility seem to give artists an edge in a world saturated with always-available free media. I see music and the musicians who create it as becoming more and more viewed as co-creators of culture as opposed to far-away symbols of some unattainable state of human being.

    What if the “mystique” that musicians generated for themselves had more to do with how much love and kindness, compassion and generosity they can inspire in people? That’s the kind of artist I am committed to being, and letting my fans be in a living conversation with me allows them to get close enough to me that they see that.

    Keep up the great work!

    Shawn Madden
    http://theaffluentartist.wordpress.com
    Bridging the gap between prosperity and passion!

  14. nancy says:

    Julianne,

    You’ve given alot of food for thought. But it depends on what purpose the artist is trying to achieve by blogging and whether being a part of the cult of fame is important to him or not. Not everyone WANTS a piece of the hyped-up mainstream pie and not every listener hungers for the big music industry machine wants to feed them.

    Your warnings are valid ones though since it would be a shame to undermine ones’ own purpose by saying something stupid–or worse yet–something utterly uncool. Uncool seems to be death to most musicians. (God forbid that the artist risk sharing his soul at the expense of being uncool!) I could see making a mental note to self: Blog with caution or as the old saying goes: Think before you speak.

  15. Juan Zelada says:

    Good post and good comments. I see a lot of Julianne’s points but I think the point is even those mystique bands could blog with a different style and keep their cool or wahtever they want to communicate. If anyone has seen Ryan Adams’s blog (http://dradamsfilms.com/) you can see what I mean…

    I’ve been “communicating” for a month now and I’ve begun to get a rhythm. At first, it was a struggle and did take some time off my music, but now it flows naturally and I like the tone I’m getting. It doesn’t take any time away and it complements what I do.

    First few days I was sure it was an online monologue, no comments, no views, no nothing, but I just kept on writing as a catharsis almost. I’m not Stereogum or Brooklyn Vegan all of the sudden, but I have what I wanted… a place where people can talk with me about the stuff I’m interested in, and obviously a place where I can showcase my music.

    Its only been a month and it’s been pretty good so I would encourage anyone to do it. Even “mystery-cool-image aware” bands… Just like communicating on top of a stage, a blog is just communication online. Its up to you how and what you want to say.

  16. Greg Rollett says:

    Jim said it great in that without a blog, you are missing the people who right now want to interact with you. Yea, you have Myspace comments or what have you, but they are no longer personal, require no thought and contain more spam than good.

    A self-hosted blog gets your music branded, let’s you express your thoughts beyond your tracks and allows for personal interaction.

    So yes, blogging is now imperative for all artists looking to break into the middle class.

  17. stuart says:

    Your blog is always a great read and informative, so thank you for that. My question is: Where do i blog? I have the option to blog on my site, but i’m also on MySpace, Lastfm, indie911, iLike, Facebook, mp3.com – ALL of which offer a blog platform. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all. Do i just go to WordPress, or Blogger, then have a link to that on all of the sites? Do i copy & paste the same blog on all sites? what is one to do?

    I’d love your opinion

    thanks

  18. nancy says:

    I was about 85% ready to jump in and add a blog tab in my navbar on my website, when I happened upon Andrew’s post “Do I really have to blog?”. His article, along with the helpful comments from others following, gently pushed my cautious remaining 15% over the edge to do that very thing! I’m now up and running!

    So I thought I’d stop back by and invite anyone who reads this to stop by and say hi! My first real post is called “Music is Personal (and How that Relates to WHY I do What I do)”

    My next step is to letting my mailing list know that the blog is there and after find other ways of letting the cat out of the bag. I’d love to hear your 2 cents (not to mention garner a little traffic — this is all so new to me!), so click here if you are so inclined: http://www.nancykellymusic.com/blog/

    Also, I need to apologize to Julian Moore whom I mistakenly called Julianne when I replied to his comment a while back. When I later visited his website I was a bit mortified because the fellow who posted after me called him Julianne too. So, sorry Julian!

  19. Hi All,

    I was against blogging about my professional exploits for many years. I can’t exactly tell you why. But to me – at the time – there were some very convincing arguments against it. I have started a blog this year and hope it grows into a viable means for me to share my music, communicate to the larger public community and also collaborate with the recording and performing musician communities on the web.

    -Hakim

  20. nancy says:

    Hi Andrew and His Blogger Friends,

    Decided to come back to this post a few months after creating a music blog of my own (10 months to be exact) to leave an update on how my blogging has been going.

    First I’ve all, it’s been exciting to have an outlet to communicate beyond the 3-4 minute song format. It’s been cathartic for me since I like to write anyway so it’s not too hard to come up with occasional windows into the soul etc. I average one a month so far and I’ve had good feedback from comments as well as from folks who tell me they’ve read my blog (yet don’t leave a comment for various reasons – sigh! – but oh well at least they are reading it and liking it enough to tell me about that!).

    At the beginning I worried a little about whether there would be comments but quickly realized that wasn’t important yet since I was just learning to blog. I’m honing this blog as related to my music but I have another one (about toxic experiences of staying in and then leaving a controlling church) on Blogger which is teaching me about using a different format. I’ve noticed about the same amount of commenters on both blogs. So, now that I’m used to the posting/administrative process, I’m ready now to learn more about attracting folks to my blogs without being spammed to death. I’ve found administrating on WordPress is harder than Blogger since you delve into a bit of code stuff which is a new world for me.

    Another new step I’m fixin’ to try is attaching song video to my Blog-a-Song category. I know it’s not rocket science to upload a youtube to each song, but simply haven’t had the extra cash for a decent camcorder, and not being sure of what I really needed to get by with the simple stuff. Thanks again to Andrew, I learned about the Flip Ultra he mentions in http://newmusicstrategies.com/2009/02/05/ian-hogarth-on-live-music/ — Having investigated it, I’ve decided it may just the ticket for my next step, so ordered one yesterday through Amazon.com along with the tripod.

    So, will come back after I crest the hill of a new youtube library to leave another update.

    Bye for now, Nancy

  21. “The fact that you make music is unremarkable. The quality of your communication — musical content included — is now the measure by which you will be judged”.

    Yes, I prefer the blogging musician! Suits my style and genre better.

    @Nancy: Nice work on the blog. Love the title ‘Dulcet Dreams’.

    Cheers