If music blogggers had to rally together to form a national sports team to represent their country, then Nialler9 wouldn’t just get into the Republic of Ireland’s, it would be their captain. The editor, Niall Byrne, is a respected figure in music blogging, both nationally and internationally, with a busy site that updates many times each week, leading from the front with his well-written coverage of new music from around the globe.
As you can see from his gig guides, if something happens in Ireland in the new music arena then he’s onto it. However, the same could be said for any new music around the world, as no matter where it emerges from Nialler9 has it covered. This has earned Niall a lot of plaudits, alongside the thousands of daily visitors to his site. Coming in the top five music blogs in the world – as voted here on The Recommender last year – is not the only official award he’s picked up, as he’s come top in Irish blog and web awards too.
Over the last six years, since it’s inception, Nialler9 has become a fantastic example of a truly credible blog, that is as proud of it’s Irish home as Ireland is of having such a global taste-maker to call it’s own. Like a lot of quality music bloggers out there, the editor can be found elsewhere inside the music industry, with Niall being the editor for the mainstream State Magazine. He’s going to need a new bow if he keeps adding strings at this rate. We’re very proud and very pleased to include an easy choice on our regular Sunday feature, Behind The Blog.
THE RECOMMENDER: When did you first become aware of the existence of music blogs?
TR: When did you start your own music blog?
N9: November 2005. I bought a domain for my web portfolio, got a job out of that so decided to set up a music blog on the domain as well.
TR: What were your initial aims as a music blogger? What do you think makes for an excellent music blog?
N9: My initial aims were to stop bothering all my friends with musical recommendations and to put them in a central place. It grew from there when my blog posts began to be read by people I had never met.
What makes for an excellent music blog? The blogs I love have a good mix of stuff that others cover and some stuff unique to themselves. It’s so easy to fill up a blog these days with the constant stream of new music so I look for a highly curated mix – stuff I have to hear. I still prefer blogs who write something about the track too.
TR: Describe your music blog in three words?
N9: Eclectic. Discerning. Deadly.
TR: Geographically, where is your blog based?
N9: My blog’s coverage is global but there’s there’s so much genuinely superb Irish music it gets posted a lot.
TR: Which genre(s) does your music blog focus on?
N9: Electronic and its many strands, some rap and hip-hop, indie and alternative, folk, soul, pop. I would prefer to quote Duke Ellington: “There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind.”
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?
N9: I work alone save for my girlfriend Aoife’s voice work on the Podcast. Also shout out to 400 Facts who does some illustration work for those. Beautiful they are. Just look at this >> http://www.nialler9.com/9340-nialler9-podcast-33-chromeo-kisses-washed-computer-magic-black-milk/
TR: Approximately, how many visitors does your blog get each month?
N9: 40,000 or so.
TR: What perks have you experienced since becoming a music blogger?
N9: Free trips, free gigs, free music and work opportunities due to blog notoriety (ha).
TR: Are you employed? (If so, is it inside or outside the music industry and what is your job title?)
N9: The blog, and the subsequent work opportunities from that have led me to a freelance lifestyle: a mix of writing, blogging and web design.
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?
TR: Who are your favourite three music blogs?
N9: Tough one. At the moment:
Bitzl R – A music Tumblr of a good friend of mine.
Harmless Noise – Irish music covered with enthusiasm and passion.
Transparent – A blog and label who have introduced me to more brilliant new music than anyone else in the past year (with the exception of Alan at Bitzl R). Disclosure, Therapies Son, Blood Diamonds, Keep Shelly in Athens, Museum Of Bellas Artes, Holy Other, How To Dress Well. Come on. That list is ridiculous.
TR: What is more important to you, quality or quantity?
N9: Quality of course as long as the blog is regularly updated. I’ve been using the word ‘discerning’ a lot lately around the idea of quality on music blogs. For me that means, if a track is featured on a gazillion blogs it has to be essential listening for me to feature it too. Why bother featuring the same stream of music that everyone else is?
There’s a danger with music discovery at the moment – that idea of the “churnover“. Right now, there’s never been so much great music around. It means you’re loving something for a week and then onto the next thing. So the quantity aspect that some blogs go for – how do they ever appreciate any of it? As well as that, I wish we could remove the “firsties” aspect of music blogging. I’ve been berated on Twitter for posting some music that was released a week previous as if it was “old”. That’s sad. Good music has an infinite lifespan.
TR: What was your most popular post in terms of visitors?
N9: Ever? At the moment, it’s this – http://www.nialler9.com/9498-listen-liveline-rubberbandits-willie-odea/
The Rubberbandits are a musical comedy duo who wrote a song about the merits of owning a horse. Many disgruntled people called into an infamous Irish radio show to give out about the song’s portrayal of the place they’re from (Limerick) and the drug references. A local politician gets on and supports them. Then The Rubberbandits end up explaining to a guy on another line about subtext in art. It’s radio gold basically. It’s not what I normally write about but there ya go. The second most popular post was a roundup of Dubstep at the end of 2009 – http://www.nialler9.com/7094-365-days-dubstep/
TR: What do you think is the most effective way to earn comments on your blog?
N9: To write something which people feel the urge to respond to I would hope.
TR: How often do you read music blogs?
N9: Every day.
TR: How do you think music blogs from the US differ from those in the UK?
N9: More of a reliance on guitar music generally? That’s a hard one. It’s actually hard to place many music blogs to a geographical location these days. Most could be from anywhere.
TR: Which aspect do you care for most in a music blog, a good design, or well-crafted content?
N9: Well-crafted content complemented by a good design. I like when bloggers put social links on each post as I often use them to recommend to people on Twitter. I’m obsessed with my blog’s design. I’m always tweaking something with the best showcase of the content in mind. I recently changed the look of the homepage to small pics and an excerpt as I found things that were deserving of readers’ eyes and ears were disappearing too quickly. It also loads faster too now. I always have the design on my mind.
TR: Approximately, how many emails do you get in your inbox each day?
N9: 150-250. I also get a lot of mail through my other music site – State.ie
TR: What advice can you give any aspiring bands, record labels, PR, agents, or managers, to help their emails get noticed?
N9: In terms of contacting blogs? I wrote this recently – http://www.firstmusiccontact.com/bandtips/bandtips_blogger.pdf
TR: How do you prefer to listen to music online, (ie Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Myspace, iTunes, Spotify, Hype Machine, or any others)?
N9: Direct links to music – Soundcloud, Bandcamp, an MP3 hosted on a server. I detest attachments, Myspace and massive ZIP files. A band should be making it easy for people to hear their music. Less clicks and you’re bound to be more interested and engaged.
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)?
N9: Twitter, friends, other blogs, PR and magazines.
TR: What does the future hold for music blogging? Do you see their importance growing or shrinking in years to come?
N9: We’ll all be wiped out by the upcoming pan-European licence war. Honestly, who knows? I no longer upload songs to my server anymore – I just use Soundcloud streams. I would say a centralisation of the music which blogs feature is already happening. More and more official streams, be they from Soundcloud, Bandcamp or Youtube. It makes little sense to upload the same file to your own server these days. I do think the licence issue will become a big thing in future. In Ireland, three of us music bloggers were asked to pay an annual fee as we posted music online. There were lots of issues with this. You can read a summary of it here-
It’s currently unresolved but quiet. Imagine if ASCAP or PRS asked every blogger to pay an annual fee? Most hobby blogs would disappear.
TR: Can you name an artist that you expect to break through in 2011?
TR: Please let us know any useful links to find you elsewhere online (ie, Twitter, Hype Machine, Facebook etc)?