I have some strong opinions on how to write and run a music blog. I thought I’d share some of my recommendations on that. If you don’t feel like reading my opinions about this, tune in tomorrow for a different post entirely. I realize I’m not the right person to tell you how to start a music blog that’ll get huge but I have a decent readership and more importantly, I think what I’ve done here is good.
Originally, this was going to be a rant called What’s Wrong with the Music Blogosphere, but I thought I’d turn it into something a little more positive. If you’re interested in the technical aspects of how to run a music blog, I’m sure they’re covered elsewhere.
- Create original content
This is the most important thing here. What sets your blog apart if all you do is post mp3s that other people are posting with the same promo photo that everyone else is posting? Write interesting things about the music you like or shows you see. Take and post your own photos. Make original videos or post mp3s of exclusive sessions with bands. Do interesting interviews with bands. There are so many different ways you can create original content. Be, well, original.
- Don’t do it for money or page views
You’re not going to become rich or famous starting a music blog in all likelihood. You might make some pocket change from advertising or you might choose to do without ads, but the point is you should have a blog because you love music and want to share it. If you find yourself changing your blog just for the hits or posting something just because you think it’ll bring page views, reconsider.
I think it’s okay to want more readers, but the way you get new readers and the way you get page views are different.
- Respect artists
We all do this because we love music and want to promote great artists, right? Posting full albums doesn’t help an artist. Posting without linking to where someone can buy the record or failing to inform readers of an upcoming live date when you post mp3s doesn’t hep the artist. And if an artist asks you to take down an mp3, do it politely.
- Write the blog you want to read
Don’t write the blog you think people want to read. Besides a few comments here and there, you probably won’t get a good idea of what most of your readers want to read, so just write what you think is good. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t ever listen to constructive criticism, just that you shouldn’t tailor your blog to something you think people want.
- Have a singular vision
I really think the biggest benefit of music blogs, besides being able to point readers directly to music (as mp3 or video), is that they can have a singular vision: a consistent opinion or taste. After reading a blog for a while, I’ll get to know what the writer’s taste is and how much trust I put in their opinion. For example, I know I should at least consider any band Frank at Chromewaves highlights. Does this mean I think you shouldn’t have co-writers? Not necessarily as it is possible for people to have similar enough tastes that the site still has a consistent taste, but few multi-writer sites achieve a singular vision. HearYa is one of the better ones at having multiple writers while having a consistent taste.
- Know what you’re talking about
No one is immune from mistakes and no one can known every band, but nothing makes me want to read a blog less than obvious factual mistakes or a gross lack of knowledge of bands.
- Share news in limited quantities
This is a tricky one and I know some people disagree with me on this, but I really think you can assume every music fan reads Pitchfork news, Brooklyn Vegan or Stereogum, so they know when Band Goes on Tour! or Band Reveals Album Art! Of course there are times when news is appropriate. That artist you love is doing a house concert in your area, tickets will sell out quickly and you haven’t anything about it elsewhere? Go for it. An alternative to posting a list of tour dates is to use the tour stop in your town to do a feature about the artist where you write about why they’re good.
- Make your blog’s presence multi-faceted
Promote live shows with bands you support, have bands into the studio, or have a radio show or podcast. I just think it’s more interesting than a straight-up mp3 blog.
- Find your niche
Whether it be a region or a genre or whatever, I think blogs with a more specific focus tend to be more interesting and have a more loyal readership. What could be a more narrow focus than digitized cassettes from one continent? But Awesome Tapes from Africa is incredible.
- Ask for what you want
There’s no point in wondering why another blogger got a press pass to an event or an interview with an artist if you didn’t even bother to ask for it. Do you want to do an exclusive session with a band? Ask for it. You might get rejected, but it’s worth a try.
- Be mindful of hyperbole, but be enthusiastic
Blogger hyperbole is almost a cliche at this point, so be weary of saying everything is the best ever. At the same time, no one wants to read emotionless chatter. Every time I hear someone talk about I am Fuel, You Are Friends, they say they love how enthusiastic Heather is in her writing.
- There’s nothing wrong with criticism, but don’t spend all your time doing it
I really think there’s value to honest criticism. If all you’re saying is that everything is incredible then the value of your praise becomes diminished. On the other hand, if all you’re doing is criticizing, you may come across as ornery or overly snarky.
- What’s with all the redesigns?
Especially in an era where a lot of people read their blogs in RSS readers, if your site is readable and fairly easy to navigate, there’s no reason to redesign it every six months. Spend your time creating content instead.
- Figure out what to do when you get burnt out.
If you post all the time, you’re probably going to get burnt out. Figuring out what works for you when you get burnt out is important. I tend to shift focus a bit, talking about types of music I like but don’t blog about a lot. For you it might be going through some old favorites or reviewing some out-there concert or who knows.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know why in the comments.