STATE OF THE BLOGGING NATION

I’ve been reflecting recently on the fact that the golden age of music blogs has long gone.  I’ve probably been quite lucky to have been around when the industry regarded them as being a significant player in promoting musicians, particularly those who were emerging and on the cusp of a breakthrough.   There seemed to be hundreds of new blogs being every month, many of them being far more enjoyable, informative and entertaining than most of the established music papers and magazines.

I got things going on 30 September 2006, with The Vinyl Villain being hosted on Blogger until 24 July 2013 when it was torn down by Google for too many violations of the terms and conditions (i.e – the big labels didn’t like that I posted mp3s).  Later that day, I launched The New Vinyl Villain on WordPress and have done my best to ensure, with the help of many guest contributors, to post something at least once a day.

As time moved on, a real sense of community began to develop around TVV, which most came to the fore back in 2010 and 2011 when I lost, in fairly quick succession, a young brother and my best friend.  Other bloggers, and in particular Ctel (aka Acid Ted), stepped in to keep things ticking over while I took short breaks, and the various postings and comments offered up proved to be a huge help in getting me through tough times.

There was also the instance when we came up with the idea of Paul Haig Day, inspired by the fact that the singer and his management were appalled that postings and songs were being taken down by Blogger and being offered the opportunity to post some new and previously unreleased material.  From recollection, some 50+ bloggers all joined in on a given day and devoted their sites to a piece of music in which Paul Haig had been involved, to my great surprise and delight.

Things have been changing a great deal in recent years for all sorts of reasons, one of which being that blogging has been surpassed by other forms of social media and on-line content. There’s also the fact that the personal circumstances of individual bloggers have changed in many instances, with the increased demands from family and/or work circumstances meaning the required time is no longer there to devote to hobbies. Others have, understandably, got a bit tired and bored with things and chose to just give up the ghost, albeit they remain very active across other social media outlets or indeed as regular commentators across those music blogs still on the go.  I know of at least one blogger who decided that it was too much work to post on a regular basis and has kept his sanity by reducing the posts to one per week….although to give credit to Craig (Plain or Pan), he did get busy writing his first ever book with the possibility of a follow-up coming soon.

It is also the case that a number of bloggers have, sadly, succumbed to illness and have passed away over the years.  In many instances, their efforts can still be enjoyed as the blogs can still be accessed, but in other situations the consequential lack of activity has seen the on-line hosts remove the entire body of work.

It was as recently as 2017 that a number of us got together in Glasgow over a memorable weekend to celebrate and commemorate all that is wonderful about music blogs and to cement what had, for the most part, been on-line friendships.  Dirk (Sexy Loser) and Walter (A Few Good Times In My Life) came over from Germany. Adam (Bagging Area) drove up from Manchester.  Brian (Linear Tracking Lives) did the unthinkable and flew over from Seattle.  A number of others sent their best wishes, saddened by the fact that personal circumstances made it impossible to be there over that particular weekend.  The Scottish contingent was represented by yours truly, along with CC aka Stevie (Charity Chic Music) and Drew (Across The Kitchen Table) Colin, Aldo and Carlo, three friends who have been regular contributors to TVV over the years. Indeed, Colin was a former blogger, the individual more than any other who had been instrumental in helping me get TVV started.

Of the seven active bloggers who got together just over four years ago, three are no longer posting on their own sites, while a fourth has gone on the record a few weeks ago as saying he had given serious thoughts to packing it in.  Over the years I’ve come very close to wrapping it up, but always pulled back in by the fact that so many folk offer up such amazing and fascinating guest contributions that I feel compelled to keep going.

Music blogs require time, energy and resources, both in terms of those who write things up and those who read them.  It’s never a quick fix with just a handful of words, phrases and clichés.   The number of people who will permit themselves the indulgence of being involved in a blog, whether as a producer or consumer, has dropped dramatically in recent years. My stats show that the number of visitors to TVV peaked in 2016.  The figures for 2021 were the lowest in a full year in more than a decade.

But do you know something?  I really don’t care.  It never has been about the number of hits or the amount of feedback through the comments section or via e-mails, albeit it is nice to know, occasionally, that you have some sort of receptive audience out there.  It really is very much about that sense of community I referred to earlier, one that I’ve been lucky enough to have been part of it for so many years and which shows no sense whatsoever of dissipating.

To be fair, I might be slightly exaggerating the demise of music blogs. Folk such as Rol (My Top Ten), The Swede (Unthought of, Though, Somehow), Echorich (The Never Ending Search For The Perfect Beat) and Mike (Manic Pop Thrills) still continue to delight after many years, while a number of folk have started things up in recent years, such as Khayem (Dubhed), and of course SWC who is entertaining us in his unique and whimsical way at No Badger Required.

I know that not every bit of writing and every song featured on TVV will find favour with everyone, and that’s as it should be.  I think I’ve got a fairly eclectic taste in music which I try and reflect here on a daily basis, but I fully accept there are some singers/groups for whom I have a real love that leave some, and often many, of you shaking your heads in disbelief.  Equally, there are loads of singers/groups who aren’t featured because I have no fondness for them, but I hope such gaps can be covered by guest contributions….none of which will ever be turned down, although there may be instances where there is a delay from the date of submission to it being published…..especially if it’s an ICA as I limit those lengthy posts to one per week.

I know I’ve rambled a fair bit today, veering all over the place.  I’m not even sure of what I set out to achieve when I started typing things up, except to offer up a sort of general love letter to everyone who gives freely of their time to support TVV and indeed all the other fantastic and wonderful music blogs out there.  It is almost certain that the number of sites of this nature will diminish in the weeks and months ahead of us.  Some writers will be able to let everyone know in advance of their plans to bring things to a halt, while others will simply just make a snap decision to give it up, not returning to their blogs to close things off.

Me?  I’m going to keep things going just now.  I’ve just renewed my fees for the domain name for another year, and sorted out payment to box to ensure the music files can be hosted and downloaded should any of you wish.

But there will come a time when I will think that I’ve said all I really want to say.  Part of me thinks I should bow out in June 2023 when I turn 60 years of age, but if I find I still have an energy, desire and passion for all of this, then it’s likely that I’ll be boring you rigid for a while beyond that.

In the meantime…..thanks for indulging me.  Again.

mp3: New Order – State of The Nation (7″ edit)

Yup.  From the original vinyl.

JC