On this ongoing weekly series, in which we dive into the backstages of music blogs, we find ourselves at Chicago’s Cream Team and reach out for the thoughts of it’s editor/creator, Veronica, (or V to those that know her). We believe that The Recommender relates to her blog in more ways than one; we not only started our blogs in exactly the same month all those years ago, but we were also recruited as one of the blogs on the Strangers In Stereo blog collective – a project she helped to organise.
It’s with this collective that we were first introduced to her fantastic American blog and we’ve returned time and again ever since. Our parallels stretch beyond our direct connections though, as she also shares similar guiding practices about blogging. She’s gives a shit about quality editorial – a fact that’s missed by too many blogs in our opinion – plus she appreciates aesthetics. She’s also bold, fearless and intelligent, as you will see from the below insights. This is a blogger that really understands blogging.
The trouble with such an intimate awareness of your surroundings is that its easy to become conflicted in the blog world. Veronica expressed how therapeutic our Q&A was to collect her thoughts on the topic of blogging. We now exist in such a vast, over-saturated, noisy market place, and for the experienced, simple blogger it can begin to weigh heavy on the mind. The reasons for entering the blogosphere can be forgotten and blurred by the hungry industry and competitive environment.
So today we wanted to offer Veronica a spot on this blogger series to show off to the world one of the shining stars among the dark matter. We want Cream Team to know that it is respected and loved and worthwhile. Just in the same way the best music generates genuinely passionate fans, the same can be said for the best music blogs. Cream Team is written by one of those fans, and we are a fan of Cream Team. Here’s Veronica to take up the story…
THE RECOMMENDER: When did you first become aware of the existence of music blogs?
TR: When did you start your own music blog?
CT: March 2008
TR: What were your initial aims as a music blogger? What do you think makes for an excellent music blog?
CT: Cream Team was started with a partner who was a nightlife promoter and at the time our aim was to profile electronic music, and throw events in Chicago. But he got busy with school and very quickly fell out of the picture leaving me with a music blog and no idea what to do with it. So I started posting music I liked, and asked a few friends if they wanted to join me. It’s several years later and we’re still doing the same thing. I’ve never had any delusions of grandeur that I’d get rich or famous from blogging. It has always been—and as long as it remains up—will always be, quite simply, a place to share music we like, however frequently we please.
I enjoy writing, and I look for blogs who place as much emphasis on the words as they do on the music. It’s hard to be a truly unique music blog in 2011 because there are so many out there, but if you can regularly introduce me to new artists, and show off your personality along the way, that’s all I really look for.
TR: Describe your music blog in three words?
CT: Heart and soul.
TR: Geographically, where is your blog based?
TR: Which genre(s) does your music blog focus on?
CT: We focus on new sounds, and under that umbrella you’re likely to find a variety of genres from bedroom pop, to lo-fi rock, hip-hop, R&B and lots and lots of electronic noise.
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?
CT: Finding the right contributors and keeping them interested is one of the hardest challenges of running a music blog. You have to be ok with knowing most won’t stick around, otherwise you’ll drive yourself mad. We’ve had about 15 contributors come through the blog. Some stayed for years, others wrote only a single post. They’ve all helped to shape what the blog is now. I think that’s what’s important. Currently the blog is myself, with contributions from two local friends.
TR: Approximately, how many visitors does your blog get each month?
CT: How many do you think it gets? There’s perception and there’s statistics. The ambiguity of the Internet has a wonderful way of letting the small fish be noticed in a huge pond for their originality and sentiment.
TR: What perks have you experienced since becoming a music blogger?
CT: I used to get into lots of shows for free. I made the decision about a year ago that unless guest list was provided by a personal friend, I would buy a ticket for all shows I attended. Without the unspoken expectation of having to write a preview or show review in exchange for entry, and the culture of entitlement that comes with free access, the strings were cut so I could go out and just be a fan again. It feels great. Any music blogger who throws a fit over having to buy a ticket for a show is not a fan. And that’s why we all started doing this, right?
The real perks have been the people. The musicians, other bloggers, media folks, event promoters, (and even a few PRs), I would never have met these people without the blog. Many of them I may never meet face to face, but a lot of who I am in my life outside the blog is thanks to the words and ideas we’ve exchanged over the years.
TR: Are you employed? (If so, is it inside or outside the music industry and what is your job title?)
CT: I work as a graphic designer at an ad agency.
TR: An important part of a music blog is the network it has at it’s disposal, so which other sites/forums do you network on mostly?
CT: I’ve been told I’m good at Twitter.
TR: Who are your favourite three music blogs?
CT: I tend to read more online magazines than blogs. I appreciate that the content is often not limited to only music, and the writing is generally more in-depth. There’s so many blogs out there now that I find it hard to follow any one with regularity. Three that I can always count on to return to and find the same quality content are: Abeano, Truants, and Gorilla vs. Bear.
TR: What is more important to you, quality or quantity?
CT: Quality will always suffer when quantity becomes priority. Unless you’re a major publication lucky enough to have a large, paid staff. In which case, can I have a job?
TR: What was your most popular post in terms of visitors?
CT: In advance of TRON: Legacy‘s release one of our contributors found a supposed Daft Punk clip from the soundtrack buried in some forum. He was very clear it was unconfirmed in his write-up, but the hype for that film’s soundtrack was so monumental that it was instantly linked everywhere. Took the site down for an entire weekend.
TR: What do you think is the most effective way to earn comments on your blog?
CT: The comments on the blog have been broken for at least a year…
TR: How often do you read music blogs?
CT: I use twitter like an RSS reader. I follow my favorite blogs and when they tweet links to their posts, I read the headlines and click on the links that most pique my interest. It keeps me up to date on music news and what they’re up to, without the time suck that is visiting…5…10…50…blogs a day.
TR: How do you think music blogs from the US differ from those in the UK?
CT: What is more important to you, quantity or quality?
TR: Which aspect do you care for most in a music blog, a good design, or well-crafted content?
CT: I make my living as a designer so aesthetics are important to me. Consistency of content presentation goes much further than a killer logo or site design, and I think it’s an area often overlooked by music bloggers. Are your post titles worded and punctuated in a consistent manner? Are your images, videos and song players placed in the same location in all your posts? A good-looking, easy to read blog isn’t about knowing a rockstar designer, it’s about being organized, and a little bit neurotic. Content will always be king though. You can have the most beautifully designed blog on the web, but if you’re re-posting press releases or content littered with poor grammar, a good logo alone isn’t going to make your site a destination.
TR: Approximately, how many emails do you get in your inbox each day?
CT: Too fucking many!
TR: What advice can you give any aspiring bands, record labels, PR, agents, or managers, to help their emails get noticed?
CT: 1) Do your homework. 2) Don’t be a pest. 3) Get to know the people behind the blogs.
TR: How do you prefer to listen to music online, (ie Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Myspace, iTunes, Spotify, Hype Machine, or any others)?
CT: I like to be able to listen and browse with a quick click. Soundcloud, Bandcamp and The Hype Machine are all good for this. I’m not a fan of standalone services like Spotify, Pandora, etc. that attempt to learn your taste and suggest new music. Automation is the enemy of discovery.
TR: What is the most common way you discover new music (ie through your network, tips from the industry, tips from friends, gigs, other blogs, traditional media/journalism, emails etc)?
CT: This is going to sound absolutely ridiculous, but print magazines are still a major means of discovering new music for me. Not SPIN, Rolling Stone, or any of the major titles, but small press art, culture and fashion publications I’ve found to be great sources for stumbling upon emerging acts whom haven’t been blogged to death. I’ll camp out in a Barnes & Noble on a Sunday, grab a coffee and a stack of magazines, making notes of acts I’d like to look up later at home. I have a real fondness for the print medium.
I delete 90% of PR email to the blog without reading them and very rarely do I write about an artist I’ve discovered through a major outlet like Pitchfork. For me, running a blog has always been about the thrill of the hunt, and the high of discovering and sharing what I’ve found. That doesn’t mean I’m not a fan of so-and-so’s wildly popular new single, but I’d rather give the press to a deserving artist who’s not yet wildly popular. I spend a lot of time sifting through Soundcloud, Bandcamp and YouTube and I rely on a few friends to send new music my way.
TR: What does the future hold for music blogging? Do you see their importance growing or shrinking in years to come?
CT: It’s insane how much music blogging has changed since Cream Team began in 2008. I don’t fault new bloggers though for having different practices and expectations. Where music blogging is at right now is a direct reflection of the larger “rolling news” media culture. I think we are going to continue to see a depersonalization of music blogs in years to come and eventually total automation as considered discussion is traded in for key bullet points, delivered in the least amount of time. Music blogs will become vital tools for generating demographic, industry and trend-forecasting data.
For those of us who’ve read music blogs since they first existed, and who started our own inspired by that ideology of discovery above all else, seeking that intimate relationship between writer and audience, it’s the fabric of who we are, and we’ll probably quit blogging, but we won’t quit being creative in the digital space. I think we’re going to see a return of small-scale, conceptual projects. The idea of being close to something vs. making it bigger and bigger and bigger until it explodes.
TR: Can you name an artist that you expect to break through in 2012?
TR: Please let us know any useful links to find you elsewhere online (ie, Twitter, Hype Machine, Facebook etc)?