Music Fans Mic is a lesson in underestimating the humble. They self-describe themselves as “a shitty mp3 and album review blog“, but believe us when we say that this is a music commentator that we could all learn some lessons from. Sure we realise that there may be bigger music bloggers in the game, and they may not make the same identical selections as The Recommender, but they definitely share many of our ideals, so it’s this that’s got them onto our special weekly Q&A feature.
You will see below that the Editors, Jamie and Gareth, discuss the importance of a few key ingredients in successful music blogging, such as the importance of a friendly network, or how you should post without fear, or how a blog’s aesthetic can help, or the hunger for keeping yourself at the cutting edge. In our opinion it’s in these attributes that a truly excellent music blogger’s skills are shown.
Humility is one thing, but when scanning through the posts on MFM it’s hard to locate an article about an artist that we don’t like. They’re also articulate and informative, which is why you can also locate Jamie’s opinions on the likes of Lost Lost Lost, Drowned In Sound, The Line Of Best Fit and This Is Fake DIY, plus you can regularly find him socialising online, and in real life, with other respected, cutting edge music bloggers, such as The Pigeon Post, Abeano and Cruel Rhythm.
We also mustn’t forget that Jamie is one of the younger bloggers in the established game, at just 19 years old, which means he started this project at just 14. If this doesn’t make you question what you’ve achieved with your life, then listen to their regular podcasts, as they’re one of the blog world’s best, and that will surely convince you that it really is the meek that are truly blessed.
THE RECOMMENDER: When did you first become aware of the existence of music blogs?
MUSIC FANS MIC: Probably after I started one…I began MFM as a place to re-print my amazon product reviews in one neat little website. I then became aware of Gorilla vs Bear and Pretty Much Amazing, as well as their immense popularity – which was just about the time when I was discovering Hype Machine and Elbo.ws. Their success was incredible – and a little intimidating.
TR: When did you start your own music blog?
MFM: Around mid-2006. It began with a scathing review of The Automatic, if I remember correctly.
TR: What do you think makes for an excellent music blog?
MFM: I’m still trying to work out what makes an excellent music blog. It certainly wouldn’t be re-printing your teenage amazon CD reviews, but that’s in the past. I think most of all it requires dedication: People say that just writing about the same stuff as other blogs doesn’t work but in the long run, it probably does. If you’ve got your finger on the pulse the whole time and if you can pull the occasional exclusive, you’ll do well. It’s also about making friends along the way and over the last four years, I’ve discovered how important ‘the look’ of your blog is.
TR: Describe your music blog in three words?
MFM: Frighteningly Enthusiastic Opinions
TR: Geographically, where is your blog based?
MFM: I’m currently in Reading, usually floating between there and Brighton. Gareth, the blog’s co-editor, resides in a very green part of Ireland – County Mayo to be precise.
TR: Which genre(s) does your music blog focus on?
MFM: Alternative, bleepy-bloopy, buzz stuff. The occasional post-rock record, too.
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?
MFM: It’s mainly just me and Gareth at the moment. We’ve had contributors come and go but very rarely stay put – which is fine. Me and Gareth seem to manage to adhere to the “post a day” ethos pretty well – I’m fairly astonished at how much work he puts in, if I”m honest.
TR: Approximately, how many visitors does your blog get each month?
MFM: Around 300/400 a day, so however many that is x 30. I’d say around 10,000 – sometimes more depending on how many people we get from hype machine.
TR: What perks have you experienced since becoming a music blogger?
MFM: It’s all about audience response. Even a simple ‘heart’ on one of our Tumblr posts makes me smile. Sometimes we get ridiculous amounts, sometimes very little for a similar post.
TR: Are you employed? (If so, where and what is your job title?)
MFM: I’m a student, studying Politics and International Relations at Reading University. It should be my priority – it probably isn’t thanks to MFM.
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?
MFM: I don’t necessarily network on Drowned In Sound‘s forums, because they’d call that “jagging“. I occasionally sneak a post in a topic somewhere. I’m less discrete on the Dancing Jesus Music forum. Twitter‘s probably the place I get most views from overall, though.
TR: Who are your favourite three music blogs?
MFM: Disco Naivete: Incredible dedication and an amazing design. This guy knows what he’s doing. The Pigeon Post: Probably the most well-written new music blog out there, I’d say. The Line Of Best Fit‘s Song Of A Day is always first when it comes to a “buzz track” – always beautifully written, too.
TR: What is more important to you, quality or quantity, with regards to your posts?
MFM: For my posts I’ve tried to achieve a balance. I like the album reviews to be really in-depth, to give the reader the best impression possible of what exactly the record they’re reading about is like. But I vary it by doing posts simply showing a forthcoming album’s artwork. So sometimes when I’m feeling really lazy I’ll hook one of those up. Quality gets you more respect but I’ve little doubt that quantity gets you more views. Although don’t go overboard.
TR: What was your most popular post in terms of visitors? (please provide any link, if possible)
MFM: The most-viewed ever was a piece explaining my decision to no longer post ‘illegal’ mp3s. That got re-posted on MOG, DiS, loads of places. The domain to that one has disappeared now – thanks to a trusty WordPress hacker.
TR: What do you think is the most effective way to earn comments on your blog?
MFM: Interacting with people elsewhere. Not just commenting on other people’s blogs, but talking to them on twitter or facebook chat, getting them to want to look at your blog in the first place.
TR: How often do you read music blogs?
MFM: I must end up reading about 20/30 a day at the very most. I have about 10 that I try and endeavour to read every single day.
TR: How do you think music blogs from the UK differ from those in the US?
MFM: American ones seem to have a very good local reputation. That’s probably through the bloggers themselves going to shows, probably networking very well. Another major difference would be that I honestly think British blogs are far, far less defined by the “pitchfork view“, whereas some American blogs base themselves upon it. American blogs also seem more enthusiastic sometimes, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it can prevent you from picking out the very best stuff from the songs they post.
TR: Is the design and layout of a music blog important?
MFM: Hugely – ridiculously so. I’ve little else to say about that but a good background and a clean, spacious feel goes a long way, for sure.
TR: Approximately, how many emails do you get in your inbox each day?
MFM: 100, I’d say. Google’s ‘important email’ tracker has helped a great deal. I’m not cynical about getting loads of emails though – you’re always bound to get at least 5/6 a day that’ll be worth your time.
TR: What advice can you give any aspiring bands, record labels, PR, agents, or managers, to help their emails get noticed?
MFM: Stop pretending to know me, if you don’t. Never call me “Music Fan’s Mike“. The best PRs are the ones that don’t make it obvious that they’re actually PRs. They’re ones that you can get on with on Twitter, talk about football/other interests with them, before being willing to listen to anything they pitch to you. Aspiring bands: be yourselves, be honest, don’t give long pitches – just tell me who you think you sound like and send along a soundcloud player. That’s the most effective means.
TR: How do you prefer to listen to music online, (ie Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Myspace, iTunes, Spotify, Hype Machine, or any others)?
MFM: Soundcloud was massive for me. The design of it, the seamlessness of it, is something else. I’ve also started paying for Spotify – just to try and listen to every exciting album that comes out each week. I’ve imported my library into Spotify too. I try and give Hype Machine more time but I find the whole place a little nauseating sometimes.
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)?
MFM: It’s probably half emails/half other blogs. One thing I do is I find a track that’s gathering buzz and seek the first person on Hype Machine to post about it. Then I keep checking on their blog and try and snap up some of their recommendations. It shouldn’t necessarily be a race to find the best new music first because you could end up posting some absolute tripe. But many blogs are on the ball about 80/90% of the time, which is quite remarkable.
TR: What does the future hold for music blogging? Do you see their importance growing or shrinking in years to come?
MFM: I reckon they’ll stay the same, if not grow. I’m more concerned for established publications and printed content. Music blogs come and go – some stay popular, some bloggers leave to concentrate on their day job. But there’ll still be a demand, because there will always be the existence of these “Tastemakers“, who more and more seem to be bloggers.
TR: Can you name a band you expect to break through in 2011?
MFM: If by break through you mean one that’s been around but looks set to get huge, I’d cite Tuneyards. Her second album is jaw-dropping. As for new artists, it’s got to be Cults. I can see them playing very high up on festival bills over the next year.
TR: Please let us know any useful links to find you elsewhere online (ie, Twitter, Hype Machine, Facebook etc)?