In this article Andy Greenwald, examines the success of Vampire Weekend, a band for former Columbia University undergrads, who have recently and rapidly been thrust into the forefront of the music industry because of the blog buzz they incurred. Vampire Weekend appeared on the cover of the February 2008 issue of Spin Magazine, becoming the first band in Spin's history to achieve a cover before they have released an album. Admittedly, the band avoided sending their demos to traditional record labels, calling the very idea "ultimately fruitless" due to the industry's rigid thinking. Greenwald uses Vampire Weekend as the poster-child for the radical redefinition of 'success' in the era of the Blog. The band utilized this modern-grassroots venue to showcase their music, which with the internet, allowed for instantaneous dissemination.
This article highlights the growing displacement of traditional record labels by MP3 Blogs. Bands view the traditional route of label and broadcast radio play as obsolete, so much so that they choose to opt out of the process altogether. Bands directly appeal to these new gatekeepers who in turn appeal to their audience with a review to the benefit or detriment of that particular band. Also the idea of redefining success of bands is an important point to my claim that MP3 blogs have transformed the traditional music industry. The article states that no longer is selling CDs, selling out concerts, or in this case, even having a CD out is a means of defining success. Nowadays, success comes with generating blog buzz or appearing on a TV show that premiers to your demographic. Old media now plays catch up with internet, as opposed to the pulling strings, as it had done for decades.
This rebuttal ironically comes from a music blogger, and complicates my claim that blogs are poised to supersede traditional labels. Dave Allen of Pempelmoose, states that blogs will simply not be the new music labels. He credits this thinking to the crisis-mode state that the entire music industry is in and their hastiness to "grasp at straws." His counterpoints center on a blogs' need to remain independent and his idea that record labels will not discontinue their functions as A&R sources. Allen rebuts by saying that a blog must remain pure. Plainly said, if they are contaminated by the corporate steamroller, blogs will lose the credibility they have garnered throughout the years. Also, if MP3 blogging becomes a careerist endeavor, blogs will be shackled by a conflict of interest (promoting their own bands), betraying the very nature on which MP3 Blogs were founded. Also in regards to A&R, Allen states that the ceiling is caving in on major, not indie labels, who he claims to be thriving and will continue to act as band developers.
Allen is correct that if MP3 blogging became about money and sales, a conflict of interest would ensue. However, there would be other blogs around who would police these postulated 'label-blogs' and poseurs would be quickly flagged and discredited. Allen's second point is also true--major labels are flailing. However that is all the more reason why MP3 blogs could become the new labels. Capitalizing on the lack of trust in major record labels, a new system could develop--a congregation of smaller blogs.
This article by Forutune Magazine senior writer Devin Leonard, features Jon Cohen and Rob Stone, two veteran music marketers who have turned to MP3 web sites to reach their much desired demographic. However, the difference lies in the fact that these two have gotten advertisers (blue chip companies) to sponsor free downloading. They have set up a network of MP3 blogs and have already inked deals with Microsoft and Toyota. The two say that Fortune 500 companies are finally realizing that blogs are where influential tastemakers graze, the same gatekeepers (with a constant audience) they want to advertise their products to. While independent blogs have troubles obtaining profitable ads on their sites (due to the posting of illegal copy-written material), Cohen and Stone have capitalized because their network of blogs (serving only authorized material) has an audience of 240,000 which is more enticing to advertisers.
This article takes the postulated ideas of 'blogs as labels' and puts it into practice. While this isn't exactly a record label, this is blogs acting as the publicity department for major labels, while still maintaining free content. The marriage of blue chip companies with the trendiness of blog culture is what Cohen and Stone are capitalizing on. Both advertisers and labels seem to comply and since their network of blogs appeals to 240.000 daily their audience is certainly substantial. This could be the future role of blogs in the music industry.
In this article, Betsy Schiffman of Wired Magazine, sets out to find out why MP3 Blogs have yet to be targeted by the RIAA, subsequently she declares that these blogs could be a "win-win" situation for all parties involved--including Google. An owner of a blog aggregator divulges that record companies contact them about promoting bands." The owner goes on to say that he performs this service free of charge; Schiffman declares that MP3 blogs are not a moneymaking operation. Many blogs run ads, but these only add up to 75 cents for each hour put into it. These ads come from Google's AdSense program. Google reportedly makes 1/3 ($1.45 billion) from AdSense in 2007 alone.
This article discredits the Guardian article's assertion that blog aggregators hurts the music industry. If labels are voluntarily seeking out these hubs in order to further their band's notoriety, than they can't be "killing music" because if these labels could avoid a middleman they probably would. Also why is the RIAA so laissez faire about MP3 blogs? Could it have something to with the fact that both sides are making money, emphasis on the record labels? They are getting free promo, while bloggers toil simply out of love. Also could the influence of Google, who has just as many lobbyists as the RIAA, carry a certain amount of clout in the RIAA's unwillingness to act?
Written by correspondent Siddhartha Mitter, this article defines what an audio blogger actually is. Mitter makes a claim that these MP3 bloggers are tastemakers--influencing their audience about what is good and what is not. An important point is that audio bloggers don't just post an MP3 file, they also provide commentary, "a whimsical capsule review, with sound attached," he calls it. He defines audio bloggers as unpaid obsessive music geeks who have capitalized on this generation's "sense of immediacy" about everything culture related. He acknowledges that bloggers have become the tastemaking elite, able to take acts such as Diplo from "obscurity to sensation" because of the 'buzz' these bloggere build. Also mentioned briefly is a vague allusion to an unwritten Bloggers' Code of Conduct', in reference to how long a song is allowed to remain an downloadable.
This article raises several different issues pertinent to my topic. First, it underscores the importance of the 'non-commercial' status of blogs in regards to their legality. Second, it reaffirms the ideas that bloggers are the dictators of what is deemed "cool" as opposed to the industry public relation firms, music magazines, MTV (old media). Perhaps most importantly, it parallels the mp3 blog and the book review. An MP3 blog is contingent upon the fact that along with the MP3 posted, there is some sort of commentary to go along with it. To me, this raises the question of Fair Use. Obviously, book reviews are allowed to print excerpts of the book in their critiques, and the courts have ruled this as a transformative version of the original work. My insinuation, is that MP3 blogs could fall under the same statute. Does the fact the song is being being critiqued force the MP3 blog under the Fair Use Defense by creating a transformative work?
In this piece Louis Pattison of the Guardian contends that MP3 blogs do more harm than good, and their 'grass-roots' 'for the love of music' tone is causing a detriment to the industry. He begins the piece with a succinct and emphatic statement: MP3 Blogs are killing the music industry. He describes audio bloggers and music as if they are in an abusive relationship, calling that kind of coverage, "killing it with love." Pattison showcases the Rapture, a band on a small New York-based indie label who have witnessed a significant decrease in sales since the advent of MP3 blogs. It also brings in the underlying complications of having MP3 Blog Aggregators like The Hype Machine, who index every blog with a downloadable song of the band you search for. Pattison says aggregators cause frequenters to develop a sense of "comfort." Pattison says that users will not use these MP3s as a means of trying before buying, but use them for a quick fix.
This article provides a contrast to the Vampire Weekend article in Spin Magazine. For every Vampire Weekend, there are other lower level bands who will not reach instant success. Smaller indie labels are sometimes hurt by the widespread use of blogs. Although blogs appeal to a small number of people, the demographic for an indie band is just as small, allowing for a dramatic effect on sales. Pattison also brings in the implications of Blog Aggregators, that act as central hubs, allowing users to put together a band's entire album by rounding up every relevant MP3 blog. This complicates my argument that MP3 blogs are a force of good in the music industry, in regards to fans ultimately purchasing the band's music after being swayed by a particular band's buzz. However, under the new terms of success name recognition, is just as, if not more important than CD sales.