In a crowded world of music blogs what are the key things that make the reader return for a second vieiwng? Well, there’s a whole list of key attributes – many of which we’ve discussed in this ongoing weekly series that looks at the editors behind the blogs – but one of the major boosts is the musical knowledge of the blog’s creator. If a blog is a commentary on music, then knowing your subject is absolutely essential if you want to be respected. Andy, from The Von Pip Musical Express, can be held up as great example of a knowledgeable blogger.
He’s been delivering new music for years, having written for magazines and fanzines in the pre-blog world, much in the same way Breaking More Waves used to. He’s also got a history from both sides of the live experience, having been in bands in years gone by, as well as regularly being found in the audience at many gigs, particularly in the Merseyside area.
His credibility in the UK is widespread, having picked up several award nominations, including him being voted as the ‘Best Blog’ winner at the 2009 Record Of The Day awards, and being asked to vote on the BBC Sound Of poll. He’s even been recognised by everyone from Steve Lamacq, to Paloma Faith, to John Moore from The Jesus & Mary Chain. As one of the nicest guys in our blog circle, we’re very proud to welcome one of the UK’s real characters to this blog series.
THE RECOMMENDER: When did you first become aware of the existence of music blogs?
TR: When did you start your own music blog?
VPME: 2007, although I had no real focus at that stage, it kind of evolved from a blog that was essentially based on some mild photoshopping satirical fun
TR: What were your initial aims as a music blogger? What do you think makes for an excellent music blog?
VPME: I suppose the initial idea was simply to talk about music I love. I had written for mags and fanzines years back and have always written about something or other over the years. The best blogs are the ones that manage to convey the enthusiasm of the writer. Personally I can’t stand reviews that are basically an exercise in showing off a persons vocabulary, but communicate nothing to the reader except to highlight that a degree does not an interesting writer make. I prefer writers like Laura Barton who talk about their emotional response to music rather than the technical side. So in essence my idea of a good blog are ones that entertain and inform, but essentially are written from the heart.
TR: Describe your music blog in three words?
VPME: Passionate, committed and sexy, but enough about me …the blog? Tomorrow’s music today.
TR: Geographically, where is your blog based?
VPME: Merseyside, home of popular music, and one road up from Half Man Half Biscuit’s HQ to be more specific.
TR: Which genre(s) does your music blog focus on?
VPME: Well to use a cliché there are only two genres: good music and bad. I like to think I highlight the good, but that’s subjective and people may disagree
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?
VPME: 99% of the time it’s alone, exactly as Andrew Marr described in his tirade against bloggers. Except, I’m not bald, single, or pimpled, nor do I live in my mother’s basement. As for contributors I do have an ancient Goth chum from Yorkshire who occasionally contributes some lovely pieces focusing on classic bands. We met through our admiration of The Jesus & Mary Chain. He is suspicious of anything new.
TR: Approximately, how many visitors does your blog get each month?
VPME: Last time I looked it was fluctuating between 5-7,000.
TR: What perks have you experienced since becoming a music blogger?
VPME: Oh the usual, drugs, sex, brown paper envelopes, well, actually no. Press accreditation for certain events have been great, as well as meeting some heroes such as Emma And Miki from Lush. But I think the best part, without sounding cheesy, is helping, albeit in a small way, and spreading the word about music/artists I believe in. Seeing an artist I’ve featured go on and achieve success is quite gratifying.
TR: Are you employed? (If so, where and what is your job title?)
VPME: That’s a sore point at present to be honest. Legal wrangles mean I best not divulge at this point in time. Let’s just say Eric Pickles and David Cameron are both on my sh*t list.
TR: An important part of a music blog is the network it has at it’s disposal, so which other forums do you network on mostly?
VPME: Myspace used to be fantastic but is now about as popular as Michael Barrymore at a pool party. At the moment Facebook, Twitter, Hype Machine and Elbows are all great places to share, discuss and connect, but as ever I’m sure it will change – such is technology.
TR: Who are your favourite three music blogs?
TR: What is more important to you, quality or quantity?
VPME: Has to be quality. I tend not to bother with blogs who simply cut and paste PR from labels and offer no insight. Or ones who have no love for music and simply use it to advertise any old tat.
TR: What was your most popular post in terms of visitors?
VPME: Probably the interview with Miki Berenyi from Lush after years of silence. And Jim Reid of the Jesus & Mary Chain. Funny a comment from Jim in which he said he, “wouldn’t rule out playing a ‘Psychocandy’ show at some point“, which was picked up by the NME as, “Mary Chain mull over 25th Anniversary show“, which morphed into “Mary Chain to play 25th Anniversary show“.
TR: What do you think is the most effective way to earn comments on your blog?
VPME: Most comments tend to arrive in caps lock form if you dare slag off an album or gig. The Horrors for example have very loyal fans, and a bad review of a Glasvegas led to some rather choice hate mail.
TR: How often do you read music blogs?
VPME: A couple of times a week
TR: How do you think music blogs from the UK differ from those in the US?
VPME: Well US blogs tend to say “awesome” and “sophomore” a heck of a lot more than UK blogs, but generally the good ones are the ones where a love of music shines through – and that’s universal innit?
TR: Which aspect do you care for most in a music blog, a good design, or well-crafted content?
VPME: Design, like a nice front door may bring in visitors, but if the house is empty, you ain’t gonna hang around, if you know what I mean, so obviously good content will keep you coming back for more.
TR: Approximately, how many emails do you get in your inbox each day?
VPME: About 80 – 120, depends on the time of year, at the moment I’m snowed under which is good in one way but I do wish I could answer everybody, there are just not enough hours in the day
TR: What advice can you give any aspiring bands, record labels, PR, agents, or managers, to help their emails get noticed?
VPME: I suppose the personal touch always helps. Putting “FREE SEX” in the header may get attention, but may not pass the spam filter. I think the best advice is don’t keep sending RnB artists to an Indie blog, at least check the blog out before hand to see if your music/Artist would be a good fit. Bloggers do get inundated so you need to do a little homework I guess.
TR: How do you prefer to listen to music online, (ie Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Myspace, iTunes, Spotify, Hype Machine, or any others)?
VPME: Personally I love Soundcloud and Hype Machine. Great platforms, great interface, easy to use. As for Myspace, sadly it’s an unmitigated mess these days, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it would certainly be a lesson learnt for it’s owners.
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)
VPME: All of the examples given are generally the way I go. Also via trusted DJ’s like Marc Riley, Huw Stephens, Bethan Eflyn, Lammo, etc. I’ll often use the ‘listen again’ facility on the BBC iPplayer to check out what they’ve been playing . They do so often unearth some gems.
TR: What does the future hold for music blogging? Do you see their importance growing shrinking in years to come?
VPME: I hope the good ones continue to gain credence and influence because they are often written by people who don’t just love music, they live it. I think the industry has woken up to the fact that there are some superb blogs about and that they can all work together.
TR: Can you name a band you expect to break through in the next 12 months?
VPME: The Good Natured – Brilliant dark pop with genre traversing appeal.
TR: Please let us know any useful links to find you elsewhere online (ie, Twitter, Hype Machine, Facebook etc)?