We hooked up with Joe Sparrow for this week’s blogger inquisition. Joe is the editor for a couple of very self-explanatory sites, Bad Cover Versions and the site he’s perhaps best known for – and the one we will be focusing on today – the excellent new music blog, A New Band A Day.
Like all the talented music bloggers featured on this regular Sunday feature he comes armed with great taste and a way with words, but he’s also carrying a a couple of key skills along with it; humility and the desire for originality.
It’s hard to locate bands that others aren’t writing about. There’s so many blogs out there that it’s a very difficult task, especially if the band is any good and isn’t from your home town. Where as some bloggers try other tricks to stand out, Joe’s finest trick is taking punts on all sorts.
He’s thrown caution to the wind by only focusing on those bands you’ve never heard of. It must be bloody tough offering up a new band every single day, but somehow this busy hunter-gatherer regularly returns with some original and classy goods.
THE RECOMMENDER: When did you first become aware of the existence of music blogs?
A NEW BAND A DAY: Later than some, earlier than others. Probably when I got tired of the NME.
TR: When did you start your own music blog?
ANBAD: Just under three years ago. The other day I calculated how many words I’d written and how many bands I’d written them about. I had a mini-breakdown immediately afterwards. The numbers were terrifyingly large.
TR: What were your initial aims as a music blogger? What do you think makes for an excellent music blog?
ANBAD: I was a very reluctant visual artist – it just wasn’t working for me, so I wanted another creative output. I love writing, and I love new bands, and there was also a John Peel-shaped hole in my life after he died. I like the immediacy and throwaway nature of blogging as a creative endeavour. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I started a second blog, www.badcoverversions.com, which finally proved to me that I have too much free time, or that I have mightily under-estimated how many hours are actually in the day.
An excellent music blog is one that doesn’t blindly follow PR mailouts, listen to wishy-washy consensus or use flavour-of-the month scenester mouth-floppers to find their good new music. I find out about those bands without trying to. I want blogs to tell me about a band I haven’t heard of, making music I didn’t expect. PROTIP: If you run a blog along these lines, you can kiss Internet traffic goodbye, but I’ll read you.
TR: Describe your music blog in three words?
ANBAD: Another band tomorrow.
TR: Geographically, where is your blog based?
ANBAD: Manchester, UK. A good place to be for music, a bad place to be for weather.
TR: Which genre(s) does your music blog focus on?
ANBAD: I don’t really have any criteria, but I probably lean away from bands that sound like they spend more time thinking about the arrangement of their clothes than they do on fuzzy guitar noises. Also, if a band has a name that I like – possibly with a pun in the title – they’re a shoo-in. Consistency is the enemy when picking bands.
TR: Do you work alone on the blog, or do you have contributors – if so, who are they and how did you initially get them on board?
ANBAD: It’s 99% me doing the reviews, interviews and podcasts, though I run a feature called The View From…, which lets contributors describe their local music scene. It’s got some great insight of towns and cities from Melbourne to Rio de Janeiro.
TR: Approximately, how many visitors does your blog get each month?
ANBAD: Not enough – but whose does? Probably 20,000-ish? I met Arjun from Indiescision (India’s big music blog), and he told me he got twice that every day. Perspective.
TR: What perks have you experienced since becoming a music blogger?
ANBAD: The usual free tickets and pats on the head. There aren’t many earth-shattering perks, but free gigs are always lovely. The best thing is meeting and becoming friends with interesting people. Also, Justine Frischmann (from Elastica) once recommended Bad Cover Versions on her blog and I nearly fainted. I had a poster of her on my wall as a teenager, so it was a teenage dream come true. I mean, not the exact dreams I had about her when I was 16, but close enough.
TR: Are you employed? (If so, where and what is your job title?)
ANBAD: I’m an office monkey. Trying to escape. Not happened yet.
TR: Who are your favourite three music blogs?
TR: What is more important to you, quality or quantity?
ANBAD: Quality. I only write about a band if I like a song of theirs, which is a nice position to be in.
TR: What was your most popular post in terms of visitors?
ANBAD: There’s two: one which is an apology on behalf of the Indie community to Tim Westwood, the hip-hop DJ, and the other is an interview with the excellent Egyptian Hip-Hop. Also: any post containing the words ‘Wu Lyf’ instantly get an extra 50% clicks.
TR: What do you think is the most effective way to earn comments on your blog?
ANBAD: Honestly? Create some fake comments under each post. Not that I do this (though I know people do), but I know that once you’ve got two commenters, all the others come out of the woodwork.
TR: How often do you read music blogs?
ANBAD: Daily. But I’m a grazer – I don’t read any particularly religiously.
TR: How do you think music blogs from the UK differ from those in the US?
ANBAD: In the UK, the BBC provides so much fabulous coverage of new music that I think music blogs are not at the forefront as much as they are in some other countries. I go to BBC DJs like Rob da Bank and the late night 6Music/Radio 1 output to hear a broad idea of what’s new. I spent ten years or so falling asleep listening to John Peel’s show, so it’s a hard habit to get out of now.
US bloggers are much more approachable and willing to share. Cold-emailing a UK blogger to suggest meeting up for a chat is often like getting blood out of a stone, but that’s a comparison that applies in general, not just music bloggers.
TR: Which aspect do you care for most in a music blog, a good design, or well-crafted content?
ANBAD: Content. Surely no-one would read average words just because the box they were in looked slick?
TR: Approximately, how many emails do you get in your inbox each day?
ANBAD: Enough to mean that I don’t spend enough time with my nearest and dearest.
TR: What advice can you give any aspiring bands, record labels, PR, agents, or managers, to help their emails get noticed?
ANBAD: One band per email. Be friendly and tailor the email a bit to each individual blogger. Soundcloud/Bandcamp links too please. Brief description of the band. Attach a picture. A follow up email is OK, but two is weird. Expect the blogger to make an irreversible yes/no decision in under 15 seconds.
TR: How do you prefer to listen to music online, (ie Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Myspace, iTunes, Spotify, Hype Machine, or any others)?
ANBAD: Spotify has changed my life. I’m quite happy to admit that. I almost cried when I discovered it. It was like the Internet God had been listening to my prayers.
TR: What is the most common way you discover new music online (ie through your network, tips from the industry, tips from friends, gigs, other blogs, emails etc)?
ANBAD: Just hours and hours of searching. I wish there was a quicker way. Tips from friends are always best, and online aggregators are useful.
TR: What does the future hold for music blogging? Do you see their importance growing or shrinking in years to come?
ANBAD: I think that the big ones at the top will get bigger, and the rest (hello!) will keep scrabbling like so many idiotic typing-ants trying to escape the great anteater of adult responsibility.
TR: Please let us know any useful links to find you elsewhere online (ie, Twitter, Hype Machine, Facebook etc)?