It's funny watching new artists stumble over themselves trying to score coverage on popular blogs. Take the fast rising L.A. crew Odd Future, for example. Group captain Tyler, The Creator is almost as famous for his musical ingenuity as he is for his feud with revered rap blogs Nah Right and 2 Dope Boyz. After unleashing a slew of disses on the sites for ignoring his music, Tyler finally found a way to appear on the sites. He bought an ad for his Goblin LP. But when fans click on the ad, it brings up a teaser site which reads: "Fuck 2 Dope Boyz & Nah Right."
On the surface, it was a clever move, and Tyler is obviously having fun with the beef at this point. But it also betrayed his innermost desire to gain the cosign of those blogs, which is interesting, given that he's made it this far without their backing.
There are three main rationales behind the fervent pursuit of accolades from blogs: (1) visibility; (2) the appearance of legitimacy; (3) leverage. Question is, what's the actual worth of blog love? In the big picture, it is a currency with depressingly low conversion rates.
Part of the problem is that music bloggers are known to update at a feverish pace. The expression "first!" must have been coined by a music blogger. This means that obscure artists who somehow manage to score a post on big blogs usually see their content get drowned out as new posts pop up.
With the success of a few big blogs came the proliferation of overvalued clones. These copycats regurgitate content seen on bigger sites and clutter the web while simultaneously driving the value of those blogs that do hold value. It's a double whammy that puts a bigger wedge between unsigned acts and quality blogs.
Blog love yields little reward in the leverage department. We're still waiting to hear the story of the first artist to score a major deal because of a blog post. Most hip-hop heads remember the impact of The Source magazine's Unsigned Hype column. We know about the likes of Nas and Biggie Smalls igniting their careers via The Stretch & Bobbito show. We've heard of bands gaining momentum after a SXSW performance. How many artists have made similar strides following a blog post? Even in this age of social media, many still prefer radio as the go-to format for breaking new records. DJs break the song, then we Tweet about it.
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The bottom line is that the music business is exactly that - a business. And the purpose of business is to generate profit. So far, we haven't seen any solid evidence showing that blog love holds real business value. That doesn't mean it's not a possibility in the future, but we're not there yet.
It's not just blogs, either. Last year, Information Is Beautiful released a digital royalties chart based on a post by The Cynical Musician. The findings were a bit surprising. To make the monthly minimum wage of $1,160, for instance, an artist must move 12,399 iTunes songs at $0.99 a pop. Not exactly Bill Gates money here.
This isn't to say that blogs don't offer any real value. The blogosphere is still the last bastion of hope for unknown talent and independent acts, but artists need to have realistic expectations about the web as a whole.
Music blogs provide some value - just not the business value most artists are hoping to cash in on - at least not yet.