A lot of things went wrong with music blogging very quickly. It became an excuse to ask for free music and concert tickets. It became a traffic game, where newcomers would ask, “How often should I post?” News headlines swallowed up personal encounters with new favorites in an endless torrent. Personal sites became the product of editorial teams. So, so much bad writing.
But when it started, it was exciting. It stayed that way for a while for me. No one knew what was coming next — not that anyone does now, but things seem to have settled down now that avenues such as Twitter and Tumblr have reached a ubiquitous maturity. In 2005, Rawkblog — then The Rawking Refuses To Stop!, a borrowed title from a personal, quite emo Blogspot page I started in college — was a pretty goofy site. I paid no attention to SEO and wrote about what I was listening to while procrastinating on homework. There’s a post from June 2005 where I became aware of the Blog Ads network — Stereogum was apparently charging $200 an ad at the time. How far we’ve come. That August, I wrote about the 10th anniversary Jagged Little Pill acoustic album. Rawkblog was never going to be cool. By the end of the year, though, I was posting MP3s via YouSendIt, trying to get on the ball.
I didn’t switch to Wordpress until maybe 2008, and it was already too late by then. The blog hierarchy had been established - Stereogum, Gorilla Vs. Bear and so on. Hipster Runoff was ramping up. We were all getting the same PR emails. At this point, it seems pretty clear why Rawkblog never blew up the way some other blogs did. At its peak, summer 2007, it was drawing over 1,500 uniques a day and I was posting 3-4 times with some help from a couple of trusted friends. But it was never a content farm and rarely driven by news headlines. Carman wrote a sports column. Greg wrote Pitchfork-sized reviews. I was still writing artsy headlines instead of SEO.
There were a lot of missed opportunities in that crucial ‘06-‘07 window: I could’ve brought in 3-4 (or 10) serious writers and boosted the productivity; switched to Wordpress and written SEO-savvy headlines, played the Digg game and so on; paid for hosting much earlier to better share MP3s; been much, much less cantankerous and more focused on taste-making. I could’ve bought a DSLR a couple years earlier and built the handsome website I have now. And I could’ve not named the site The Rawking Refuses To Stop! for like three years. Sheesh.
I was one of the rare people who came to MP3 blogging at that time from a journalism background — it was always an extension of my work for the Daily Bruin and Cokemachineglow and my various internships, never the focus, though it’s become a big part of what I’m known for now. That held me back, in a way: for conflict of interest and time-management reasons, I didn’t start promoting local shows or launch a label, techniques many of my favorite bloggers have used effectively. (And they’re more than just techniques for attention, obviously.) When blogs started, one thought was it’d be a way to become a professional rock critic — I’m not sure that’s what people ended up wanting, outside of Matthew Perpetua, who by being the “first” music blogger is the exception that proves the rule.
I don’t have any regrets, though. Rawkblog has always been true and expressive of my opinions and my taste, idiosyncratic as it is. I’ve tried not to waste anyone’s time. (This Tumblr is much more indulgent.) During the brief period I had a staff, they were friends and it was fun — and didn’t last long enough for me to feel bad about not paying them. I’ve met a lot of really incredible people. I don’t know what the Rawkblog legacy is beyond that, and the rest of my career, and that’s fine. If I could go back, maybe I’d trade in a few dozen — hundred? — posts for hours bar-hopping in New York or college essays written more than 12 hours in advance. But maybe not.
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