Song, by Toad

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Ten Years of Song, by Toad – Why Do I Fucking Bother?

media-image-346120-article-ajust_930 First things first: the answer to the above question is that I have absolutely no fucking idea why I bother.

Secondly: I have absolutely no idea if I’ve been doing this for exactly ten years, but I know it’s roughly there or thereabouts. It may not have a date stamp, but the first review I ever wrote was of Modest Mouse’s Good News for People Who Love Bad News, and that was released in April 2004, so I guess ten years is a reasonable guess.

It’s not strictly ten years of Song, by Toad either, because when I first started writing about music on the internet I didn’t call it Song, by Toad and it wasn’t a blog, initially. I just fired up reviews on a static site which nobody read.

I only discovered blogs a couple of years later, and realised that I was actually writing one already, so I moved everything over to Blogger and suddenly there I was, writing a blog like so many others. And the rest, of course, is history – if you know about the site you probably know it all already, and if you don’t then you probably don’t care.

I suppose I have to mark a (vague) ten-year anniversary one way or another though, and I suppose I’ve lived through the full cycle of blogging as it emerged, peaked and now seems to be petering out somewhat.

I say that, but people who talk about the death of blogging annoy me now as much as journalists who, back when it first emerged, would say that blogging was killing journalism. Blogging is simply a form of writing, and any good writer should be able to write a compelling blog. Blogging itself has simply been incorporated into mainstream journalism, and there are also more and more ways for amateur enthusiasts to get involved these days, so it would be daft to say that blogging is in decline.

What is in decline, though, is the sense that blogs are the drivers of the broader music conversation*. Back in about 2007 or 2008 they – or we, I suppose – seemed to be where an increasing number of fans went to read about new music. But that audience seems to have wandered off recently and blogging has diffused into dozens of different variations, from online magazines like Drowned in Sound, which publishes plenty of bloggy pieces but is still basically a magazine in digital form, to Twitter, which is published fan participation at its most minimal.

If you think about it, back when they first began to rise to prominence, blogs were the embodiment of the promise of the internet. Interactivity, amateur involvement, instant reactions… all the things we still talk about now. But back then there was no social media, for example, so all the silly conversations we see on Facebook and Twitter now actually used to take place in forums and in the comments sections on blogs.  The informal nature of the writing was a welcome change to the rather stuffy world of real music journalism as well, but they learned their lesson pretty fast, and now professional journalists (being talented writers, generally) write some of the best blogs out there.

Most prominent bloggers with ambition either parlayed their status into jobs in the music industry itself or turned their blogs into online magazines, and the emergence of these has filled a large amount of the space between the amateur and the professional music press which bloggers had briefly threatened to overrun on their own.

 

Random chatter has now moved to social media as well, and as a consequence not only have blogs’ readerships declined, but that argumentative bickering in the comments section has moved elsewhere as well, and with it the obvious evidence of an engaged audience which made blogs so enticing to a music industry which, in 2009, had pretty much no idea where its audience had gone.

Nowadays, we know. Music fans are all over social media, they supply all their listening stats on Spotify, and with Soundcloud and YouTube embeds it is pretty easy to gauge exactly how much traction a newly released song has gained. Blogs somehow seem so old fashioned these days.

Partly, they have destroyed themselves, I must say. Posting and re-posting all the same old shit, regurgitating press releases, needless click-baiting, it all seems a bit passionless and craven.  Some people made a real name for themselves with their blogs and it seems a lot of people are entering into the field with that as the goal from the start, rather than just for the joy of writing.

Back then, people blogged for loads of reasons. Some of those reasons are better served by social media these days, and others by other forms of participating in the music industry. Not all that many people wrote blogs for the particular joy of writing, or even because they thought of themselves as writers. They weren’t, they were music fans, blogging was just a way of enjoying music.

But I think that’s why I am still going some ten years later, when most people have a two or three-year trajectory from starting off to petering out. As well as music, I actually love writing and I always have. Song, by Toad isn’t just about reviews or finding the most acest new music ever, I just enjoy sitting down at the keyboard and wondering what nonsense is going to emerge this time.

It’s a pretty standard artistic cop-out to say that I don’t really expect people to read this blog, but I don’t. I’d like people to read it of course, but it’s not something I expect. There are more informed and analytical writers out there, and god knows what most people make of my music taste.

I’ve no idea where I’m going from here, either. There’s no real sense that I want to stop, although I would imagine that it’s pretty obvious that the label is taking more and more of my time these days. But two things come together here at Song, by Toad – my love of music, which writing the blog has enabled me to explore to levels I never really imagined, and my enjoyment of the act of writing.

I rarely know what I am going to write about, and although I think about albums a lot before I write about them, I never really plan the actual thrust of a write-up or think about phraseology or anything like that, I just sit down and write. And it’s fun. And I guess that’s probably why I’m still going after ten years when so many people who started at the same time has quit.

*Awful expression, I know. Sorry.

12 witty ripostes to Ten Years of Song, by Toad – Why Do I Fucking Bother?

  1. avatar

    Fuck me – ten years?!

    Comments moving away from blogs to Twitter/FB has been a little sad to see over the years, but other than that I don’t think blogs are dying – just that they are no longer seen as the cool thing to do if you want a job in the industry, so everyone and his dog no longer runs one…

    I think blogs have somewhat settled into where they were always meant to be – somewhat niche and produced by people who love finding new music.

    PS – Good News for People Who Love Bad News was released in 2004, unlike the typo in your opening paragraph. And what’s up with the two pictures?

  2. avatar

    “I think blogs have somewhat settled into where they were always meant to be – somewhat niche and produced by people who love finding new music.”

    Pretty much exactly my thoughts. They’re now only written by people who specifically want to write a blog, not because they’re the only way of expressing your opinion, or because they are the best route into the actual industry.

  3. avatar

    Keep JAMMIN man

  4. avatar

    Alas even the joy of writing can become a chore eventually.

    However this news certainly deserves a celebratory bear punch. HOORAY!

  5. avatar

    Yeah Stu, I like to think that I have more than enough other ways to keep the blog interesting if I don’t feel like writing, so that helps. But I’m sure it will end up changing over the years, as I tend to get bored fairly easily in most other aspects of life.

  6. avatar

    I’ve had the same crappy Blogspot blog for seven years, and go through this question every year. Don’t get all the comments and views that I used to, and as such, no longer write as many long form reviews. The bizarre thing is that it now gets treated like a real site, and I get about 20 press releases or emails from publicists or bands each day. So the blog now feels more like free PR than a passion project. Are you dealing with the same dilemma? I keep going on the chance that someone will discover something they like from my blog, and I’ve discovered music because of yours. So there’s that.

  7. avatar

    Well for me, China, the blog is a fundamental part of the label, and with the sessions and podcasts and live shows somewhere in the mix as well, it’s a bit different for me.

  8. avatar

    You didn’t start with a label but you obviously promote a lot of the music on it at this point; do you still get a lot of publicists hitting you up and do you feel at all obligated to help cover anything sent? Especially now that you’re on both sides of that game?

  9. avatar

    Congrats on your thereabouts ten year anniversary. We’ve been thinking recently ablut how long we’ve been about and our first practices will have been around the same time as your infamous Modest Mouse review.
    Its funny to think of all the bands that have come and gone that we’ve played with.
    Here’s to the next ten years for both of us!

  10. avatar

    Congrats on passing the decade mark! It is interesting that it’s us few really old-timers that are still at it. The original Muruch site was technically created 15 years ago, though I didn’t start posting mp3s on it until 2000. I feel the same as you do, it’s the combined love of music and writing that keeps me going. Last year was the closest I’ve ever come to shutting the old girl down, since I have manage to parlay it into reviewing for a local newspaper and so many have migrated to social media. But that urge to write (unedited) when I listen to a great song just won’t go away and so I keep going. And I still get comments and emails from people that have been reading since the beginning. I’m happy that you have your record label and Sean from Said the Gramophone just published his first novel, but I’m also glad you’re both still blogging about music. :)

  11. avatar

    China – I don’t really feel obliged to write about anything, really. If anything the label gives me a greater sense of obligation, as I have to publicise the stuff that I do or I am letting the artists down.

    Onions – that’s the weird bit I find – looking back at all the people who have come and gone in the interim. Are they all just doing nice sensible desk jobs now? Do they miss music at all, or is it all much more enjoyable when you’re just a fan looking in from the outside?

    Muruch – I can’t really shut the blog down altogether, because of the label, so the closest I could come would be to stop writing about new music and just make the blog the news feed for the label.

    I have considered that once or twice, but as soon as it seems imminent something comes up that I get really excited about and then the act of writing just comes naturally again, and I’m back in there rattling on about stuff no-one else really cares about again!

  12. avatar

    Been enjoying the new music finds since about 2008 I think. I clicked on the link the first time because I liked the name and stayed for the similar musical tastes. Congrats on being able to keep it up for this long. I traveled to Edinburgh (from San Diego, CA) just because of the blog itself. Reading about the city and it’s music motivated me to put it on my travel map. Cheers!

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