Today’s edition of our ongoing weekly series looks at a biggie from the UK’s music blog scene. We went back stage with the editor, Bill Cummings, from the one of the largest and most established music sites we know, God Is In The TV. They’ve been going online for so long that they pretty much pre-dated the word blog, calling themselves an online ‘zine’, or ‘web zine’, but the word blog that’s become common parlance is now firmly attached to them. One thing is certain, they share all the right genetics – to serve up an independent, critical voice in the world of music.
Just like others from the larger end of the blog scale, such as The 405, or Drowned In Sound, or The Line Of Best Fit, among others, they blur the lines between being a website, an online magazine, a blog and a fanzine, but there’s no denying that they’re a useful and respected resource. There’s not many other music sites out there that have their own Wikipedia listing! However, just like all the sites that have appeared on this series, God Is In The TV, had humble beginnings, as Bill took steps to share his passion online.
A team of deputy and sub-editors now contribute to the site’s broad coverage. Some of it’s writers have even gone on to write for the likes of NME, The Guardian and Clash Magazines. Their words can actually affect the careers of those lucky enough to gain coverage, marking this citizen journalism out as a true tastemaker. That’s why they’ve appeared on the BBC 6Music and been join judging panels at award shows. It’s for it’s impact, it’s passion and it’s quality that we’re pleased and proud to welcome this site onto our series. We’ll hand the rest of their story over to Bill…
THE RECOMMENDER: When did you first become aware of the existence of music blogs?
GOD IS IN THE TV: 2001. Maybe before?
TR: When did you start your own music blog?
GIITTV: I started way back in 2003, as a primitive Yahoo site. It’s been through various evolutions and re-designs but one thing has remained constant, our commitment to writing and music. We actually came more from the tradition of music webzines initially: I was attracted to the idea of the collective opinion rather than it just being about my own work. I didn’t want it to become a vanity project for one thing my ego isn’t big enough! I guess that idea came from my love of the traditional fanzine, and blogs only seemed to rise in prominence later on. Using WordPress as our current home though we can’t really complain at the ‘music blog’ tag though, indeed we probably embrace it now!
TR: What were your initial aims as a music blogger? What do you think makes a music blog stand out from the crowd?
GIITTV: To represent and vocalise different strands of music away from just the mainstream of the charts or better known media. To allow an independent platform for writers and artists, (from unsigned and small label to the majors).
TR: Describe your music blog in three words?
GIITTV: Independent. Platform. Collective.
TR: Geographically, where is your blog based?
GIITTV: I am based in Cardiff, but we have writers right across the UK. From Edinburgh to Bristol, Brighton and London.
TR: Which genre(s) does your music blog focus on?
GIITTV: We will cover any kind of genre. The only criteria are whether it pricks up our ears or not, sometimes not! Obviously we have a strong tradition of supporting ‘guitar’ outfits, but we cover an eclectic range from electronica, dance and hip hop, to indie, anti folk, and post rock!
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?
GIITTV: I don’t work alone, we have a strong team of very committed sub-editors now. Back in the early years GIITTV was just myself and a talented writer called Alex Worsnip. Now I’m joined by a gathering of brilliant writers and sub-editors: such as Tiffany Daniels who valiantly runs our new music section. There’s also Rhian Daly, our albums sub, who has her finger on the pulse of new long players. Plus Luke Langlands who runs the single reviews and our weekly round up of releases. Finally Owain Paciuszko who diligently delivers his constructive critiques to unsigned artists and their demos. We are in the fortunate position to attract most of our writers by word of mouth or friendships. We do however make exceptions and ask those we admire to contribute too!
TR: Approximately, how many visitors does your blog get each month?
GIITTV: I don’t have the exact figures to hand but we run into the 100,000s of views, in terms of uniques I think we’re at around 40,000 a week at the last count. But again our stats aren’t a full indication. I prefer to look at things like user’s sign ups, facebook ‘Likes’ and re-tweets etc these days. Yeah, how hipsterish huh?!
TR: What perks have you experienced since becoming a music blogger?
GIITTV: Well apart from being in the privileged position of receiving some of the best music around today into my letterbox and inbox every week. I have also been fortunate enough to be asked to judge a few music competitions. Recently, for instance, I was involved in the Big Gig judging panel in Cardiff’s The Globe. The aim of the ‘battle of the bands’ was to pick an artist to open the free festival this summer, joining the likes of Funeral for a friend, Friends Electric and erm Dodgy. The site has allowed me the honour of getting involved in some great music events.
TR: Are you employed? (If so, is it inside or outside the music industry and what is your job title?)
GIITTV: I have been building up my own independent online music promotions company for the last three years. So I guess you could say that ultimately GIITTV has given me the contacts and experience to be able to broach such a venture. I keep the two separate though, it’s important GIITTV has it’s own independent voice.
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?
GIITTV: I think twitter and facebook have taken over for better or worse in this respect. However, I still read quite a few forums apart from our own, including the one on Anorak, (which is more of a indie pop one), and occasionally dip into the melee on Drowned In Sound.
TR: Who are your favourite three music blogs?
GIITTV: It’s hard because it’s like choosing between your favourite types of food, they’re all different but on a similar level in terms of taste! Obviously I read The Quietus and The Line of Best Fit (a site I probably most associate GIITTV in terms of it’s current set up). But personally I am a big fan of The Devil Has The Best Tuna, as a blog he uncovers some real musical gems and goes beyond in terms of giving you a personal journey through his discoveries. Andy Von Pip from The Von Pip Express, based in Liverpool, claims he sounds like Ringo Starr in a beehive but for me he’s a writer, (and now broadcaster), who deserves a lot of credit: his blog is witty, irreverent and opinionated, all three things I admire. Plus his music taste is pretty darn impeccable too! Lastly I’d pick out Kowalskiy‘s Scottish music blog. He may not be familiar to English readers as he’s based in Edinburgh but he’s constantly showcasing the fabulous music (Frightened Rabbit, Admiral Fallow, Withered Hand, Letters) that has emerged blinking into the spotlight from Scotland in recent years. His singles feature is a highlight for me where he gets bands to describe their release like they are pitching themselves on a dating site is particularly amusing!
TR: What is more important to you, quality or quantity?
GIITTV: In terms of articles it’s quality. However, the frequency of news pieces is sometimes high to keep the site current.
TR: What was your most popular post in terms of visitors?
GIITTV: We’ve had a few recently, Tiffany’s women in 2010 was a very popular feature on our old site early last year – she wrote about the rise of female artists that feel a little contrived in the mainstream. Highlighted artists like Laura Hocking, Caitlin Rose and others who deserved more…
TR: What do you think is the most effective way to earn comments on your blog?
GIITTV: Create debate. Offer original personal opinions. Write passionately about music you are passionate about!
TR: How often do you read music blogs?
GIITTV: Every day of my darn life!
TR: How do you think music blogs from the US differ from those in the UK?
GIITTV: There are some great US blogs, but I think they can often focus on the bigger picture. Some of them are much more professional which is fine, but they may lose out a little on the British quirks such as our certain regional blogs, alongside the irony and irreverence with which many British bloggers approach a record or an artist. Oh and Pitchfork takes itself way too seriously and I think that may filter through to some of those below!
TR: Which aspect do you care for most in a music blog, a good design,
or well-crafted content?
GIITTV: Well-crafted content
TR: Approximately, how many emails do you get in your inbox each day?
GIITTV: It must be in the thousands actually. My inbox gets so full sometimes I have to clear it to be able to send out again! Maybe I shouldn’t be transferring my love of hording records to emails too!
TR: What advice can you give any aspiring bands, record labels, PR, agents, or managers, to help their emails get noticed?
GIITTV: Approach us in a personal manner. I find the emails that stand out to me are the ones that have actually read the site, looked at our writer’s tastes and sent us a kind email telling us about their new records, with our names on. Rather than some bulk email about the latest greatest new band since the last latest greatest new band. Who often turn out to be rather dreary anyway! Like I don’t know, say, The Vaccines.
TR: How do you prefer to listen to music online, (ie Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Myspace, iTunes, Spotify, Hype Machine, or any others)?
GIITTV: Soundcloud and bandcamp have taken over for me. It’s a great way to find new artists and search out new tracks. I love the accessibility and the way artists can share music with you instantly, plus it’s got that human touch. Unlike Myspace where you’d get added by multiple fake profiles, and hundreds of garish cover bands!
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)?
GIITTV: All of the above I guess. But since I spend alot of my day trawling through my inbox so it’s more often than not from the personal emails I get from artists and small labels, or tip offs from other friends. Two recent great discoveries include Manchester’s Ramshackle, or ch-pop act Heart Ships and the fearsome noise of The Men’s new album!
TR: What does the future hold for music blogging? Do you see their importance growing or shrinking in years to come?
GIITTV: I think it will only grow as older music media falls away (for better or worse) in fact I can see blogging and podcasting slowly but surely fully taking up that role of music criticism, appreciation and discovery. Plus the Internet is now becoming part of our lives to the extent that you can carry it around on your iPad and phone, and these kinds of distinctions between the online world and the offline will blur.
TR: Can you name an artist that you expect to break through in 2012?
GIITTV: Expecting and hoping are two different things! It also depends what you mean by ‘breaking through’? However I think The Good Natured‘s gloomy electronic pop is sure to gain wider acclaim because she has such personality. I hope Edinburgh’s Withered Hand will get more attention. His album of almost two years ago now, but released in the states this year, is really starting to prick up ears of bigger media, (Rolling Stone even wrote about him recently!), to his conflicted bittersweet sound that marries religious guilt with heartbroken song writing. It’s a must hear! Closer to home I’ve witnessed a Cardiff collective grow of late; The Evening Chorus offer a heart-warmingly tender take on the post-Mumford & Sons/Fleet Foxes sound, with lashings of the old style hoe-downs that probably date back much further in terms of their origins.
TR: Please let us know any useful links to find you elsewhere online (ie, Twitter, Hype Machine, Facebook etc)?