how to write a music blog

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.



9 Responses to “how to write a music blog”

  1. Matthew says:

    If I didn’t know any better I’d say this was my own mission statement lifted from the inner recesses of my brain!

    I tend to put extra-special emphasis on #4. I will read back through my archives on a regular basis and wonder to myself that if this were someone else’s blog – would I still be a subscriber? If not, what do I need to change to keep myself interested in not only reading the blog but posting on it?

    I’m also a stickler for web design clutter. Overly ‘busy’ sites are a put off and I’ll tend to click away regardless of the content.

    This was a very thorough posting – as was the recent discussion on bands promoting themselves to bloggers. Thanks much!

  2. Smansmith says:

    Is this what you are leaving us with? Your last words to the blogging community? At least they are all words to live by Adrian!

    I am on board with all of the above (regardless of myself falling victim to poor taste and not getting “into the face of artists”). I also agree that criticism in moderation – I tend to do very little which leads into your point about not saying everything is great. I gotta get my head on straight sometimes!

    If nothing else, respect the artist, give correct info and definitely find your niche. I get tired of some blogs when they cover a super unknown freak-folk band and then the next post is Passion Pit…WTF?? I guess if you are truly a “blog” it is more personal, if you consider yourself a “music interest website” then you got a different beast…

    Nice read.

    Sman

  3. Holy moley, nice job. I appreciate the effort to take a “what’s wrong” topic and make it a “how to do things well” topic. Rants and snark are pretty easy to find these days, but well-reasoned positive actions are so much more valuable.

    (Of course, I read this in the middle of working on my redesign, but I hope I made up for it by already having Awesome Tapes From Africa in my blogroll.)

  4. […] ipickmynose: an indie, soul and oldies music blog » how to write a … document.write(”); Share and Enjoy: […]

  5. Tim Markson says:

    I think that’ exactly right that you have to get the balance right between praise and criticism. I’ve only recently started my blog and I think that too much criticism comes across as very elitist and negative. thanks!

  6. Zechmann says:

    Very informative post, and it still pertains after a year and a half. Here’s my long ass response :D

    1. As much as I agree with you here, I think writing is only half the battle. Finding a collection of music that people enjoy is the other half. Anyone can find a few good songs that people have never heard. If you can find a few thousand that’ll set you apart.

    2. As much as I don’t do it for the money, I do do it for the audience. I’ll admit, I post music that I dislike. But only from artists that I respect and I still give my honest opinion. I’ll also push up music to the top of my queue that I think more people will enjoy. But to me it all comes to posting the music you love in the best writing you can.

    3. Agreed. I do get discouraged when I post a d/l link and blows it out of proportion. Usually the bigger artists are polite, they have trained people. But the people who are just starting up don’t realize ya gotta give people a taste. If you can only make one good song then you should probably be giving it for free anyway. That said, I ALWAYS take it down if they ask, especially if they are nice.

    4. Agreed. Not enough people take criticism as a helpful tool. But in the end it’s your blog.

    5. Yea, I notice that most guest posts are not my top picks, but are good choices nonetheless.

    6. I’ll admit my research skills have had a few bumps in the road (a little bit too many), but I do have the passion and respect for this music to try my best – I still make some stupid mistakes, lol.

    7. When I write, I always try to give a little something of value (mostly music).

    8. I am SO trying to do this. It’s a lot easier to connect with musicians that contact you first. It’s really humbling sometimes how appreciative they can be.

    9. I really don’t have a niche pertaining to genres or location, but there is consistent traits in the music I select.

    10. I don’t mind rejection, I just want a response :(

    11. Enthusiasm is key, but I definitely understand how you should choose your words wisely. That’s why revision is important – you get a better understanding of how you sound more objectively.

    12. I always feel like a douche when I’ve said any type of criticism and I know the artist read it. Hopefully, they understand I mean no disrespect. Commenters can, however, be harsh. I’ll never censor them, even though I probably should.

    13. I gotta disagree with you on this one. Content is #1… and #2, but updating the look, navigation and features of a site is very important for a sites growth. And internet time is fast ;)

    14. I definitely have my highs and lows, but the lows help out a lot more. I realize I gotta change shit up, it’s hard work, but it’s also fun as hell.

  7. Stephen says:

    Thanks for the tips! I’m looking for ways to improve my writing on my own blog, and these were better and more specific than the generic tips about blog-writing.

    Thanks! You’ve got a new subscriber here.

  8. Nafis says:

    Thanks a lot man! I have been searching the web for some tips on writing music blogs. And these tips are absolutely awesome. I write considering three things, every week I write three articles, a Band Profile, a album or song review and some helpful things. I am a newbie to blogging and would appreciate some help if you guys visit my blog.

  9. Eris says:

    I’ve been wanting to start a music blog, but I was never very confident about my suggestions, and I really had no idea where and how to start talking about the music. I all I know is I know what I like. Thank you for posting this, somehow it upped my confidence a bit; I’ll start thinking of a name for my real-soon-to-be music blog. ^^

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