MP3 Blogs: Musical Democratization

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The term “post-rock” initially referred to the way non-traditional use of guitars and drums revitalized indie rock. Nowadays, “post” could just as likely mean an MP3 blog entry, and the “rock”… well, that’s subjective. Music has gone from being heavily distilled by journalists agonizing over every prefix to being immediately offered up on the internet as a daily fix. This democratization has created a new online currency: a potential arms race for exclusive soundbites and–maybe more importantly–cool points.

Labels now know it, and are increasingly taking control of sharing their MP3s. Vice Records directly services as many music blogs as possible, with the hope that by acting as middle man it can leave artists to be creative and not get tangled in promotions. And well-publicized tune purveyors like Music for Robots and Big Stereo appreciate the mutual respect, seeing their MP3 blogs not as a free-for-fall for leaking material but as a filter for highlighting the best music in a responsible way.

“Sometimes a blog is such a huge fan of one of our artists,” says Adam Farrell of the Beggars Group, which controls everyone from 4AD to Matador, “[that] we might give them a heads-up that we’ve posted something [in our online forum]… But we really implore them to tone down the ‘exclusive’ or ‘premiere’ crap,” he says, noting that within minutes those songs might also appear elsewhere.

For many, the idea of exclusivity hardly applies. “For the most part, music bloggers are not generating any original content,” says Al Shipley, who runs the blog Government Names. “It’s usually just an MP3 and a sentence under it, and that’s not really much to get possessive about.” Government Names partially counters that problem by tightly focusing on a specialized area of coverage: Baltimore hip-hop, club, and R&B. Its offerings aren’t “exclusive,” just less exposed.

Others use the buckshot approach. “I find a producer I really like, and I’ll post as many of their remixes as I can find,” says KissAtlanta’s Preston Craig. “That way, when people search the internet for one of any 10 artists, they find us.”

In the case of Sweden’s beat depot Discobelle, DJs and producers provide some of that dubiously termed “original content,” in the form of DJ mixes. As well, brand new remixes may be found on France’s dance hybrid-heavy FluoKids blog and Palms Out Sounds, which has become known for “Remix Sunday” and “Sample Wednesday.” (The culture of remixing, and remixing remixes has helped fuel many MP3 blogs in an electro-pop direction.)

Ultimately, many of the blogs aspire to take Shipley’s concept of exclusive content to its logical end (or is that beginning?). “I see the blogs as potentially the best new venues to promote very new artists,” says Palms Out’s Haldan Blecher, who has a 12” release forthcoming. “So while it used to be labels like Dim Mak or Def Jux that would put out the first couple singles of an artist before they went to a major, I could see it becoming blog labels that put out the first single, and indies taking over after that.”