As many of you will have hopefully noticed, the last few months on this blog has been filled with deafening silence, much downtime, and inspirational messages from Eric Hobsbawm (if you missed it, you missed it). The reasons behind this obtuse approach to new music blogging are many, but they all effectively boil down to two explanations:
That being said, the process of starting afresh was one that I found led to some important reflections on what exactly we are engaged with in this thing that they call ‘new music blogging’. Trawling through six (yes, six) years of posts, I was struck by how incoherent they were as a whole. Stick a skewer through them and they would amount to the oddest musical kebab, something you probably wouldn’t even think was a good idea smothered in garlic mayo at a blurry 5am.
Stephen Hawking can stay holed up in Paddy Power’s lair, though, because we don’t need him to explain this incoherence. The truth is that when that first post was inflicted upon the internet in 2008, I was sixteen, had a failing moral compass, and was still struggling with tying my shoelaces, let alone telling my Oneotrix Point Nevers from my Of Montreals. The blog therefore represented a map of my changing musical tastes which, of course, was reflected by the blog stumbling from an embarrassing past writing scathing album reviews to a present writing about new music.
If the past six years have been marked by a clear progression, then, it seemed logical to mirror this by starting afresh with only this year’s posts. So I deleted everything before January 2014.
Frivolous? Perhaps. Induced by the semi-madness of a dissertation deadline? I hope not. The truth, I think, lies somewhere more indistinct. The truth is, whether we like to confront it or not, that new music blogging is a largely ephemeral past-time; by our very description of it as ‘new music’, when it ceases to be ‘new’, it loses part of what interested us about it. That’s not to suggest that it has no musical worth – I love everything that I write about, and it remains ‘music’ regardless of what happens to it – but new music blogging is an art of constant optimism: as exciting as those artists and tracks may seem to us in a moment, a year or two later they’ve often amounted to nothing, melted away into the ether, unheard of beyond blogs. Seeds that didn’t become what they once promised.
It’s simply in the nature of music blogging that not everyone you write about is going to turn out to be the next These New Puritans or Wild Beasts, but by the same measure, if you’re not constantly looking for them, you won’t stumble upon them when they do drop you a speculative e-mail. To turn to an incongruous aquatic metaphor; music blogs and the music they write about are part of the plankton that the music industry feeds on. We might not all be necessary, but without a grass-roots of engaged music lovers constantly searching and filtering out the most promising new things, well, who are you going to trust? The major labels, with their Venn diagrams and marketing budgets and constant commercial considerations? I can’t help thinking that music blogs are necessary simply because of the complete lack of financial considerations that informs what they write about.
It’s this contradictory reality of music blogs that I think both makes them a necessary part of the music industry, and makes it make sense to delete five years worth of posts before continuing; they’re both fleeting, and engaged in a constant search for something timeless. And before you say it, yes, music is timeless in a sense, but are our attentions? More pointedly, is the attention of the music industry?
That’s not to say that I consider Not Many Experts a ‘necessary part of the music industry’ (far from it) – for although we’re always occupied by that search for the ‘timeless’, the search itself is very constrained by the necessities of time. By dissertations and jobs, or the lack of them, and the need to find them. It is, as you have probably noticed, a completely amateurish approach to a very important job that lots of others do very much better, but as long as there is some time between those interviews and deadlines and existential crises, we’ll still be giving it a good crack from a corner of the internet where at the very least money means infinitely less than music.