Blog buzz is a credible and seemingly essential way of building a fan base these days. But at the Thursday CMJ discussion titled "Beyond Blogfamous," panelists focused on how to turn that initial wave of interest into a successful career that doesn't sputter and flame out as the blogs move on.
Shazam's U.S. Music Manager Charles Slomovitz moderated the panel, which also featured popular Concrete Loop blogger Angel Laws, Ben Goldberg from Ba Da Bing Records, WXPN Assistant Station Manager Bruce Warren, and Sirius XMU host and Rolling Stone editor Jenny Eliscu.
"The blogs aren't everything; they are just part of the whole," Warren pointed out. But they are also a major stepping stone toward that whole.
The key to getting noticed by the Internet's tastemakers begins - and seemingly ends - with great songwriting. "If I like it, if I think it's dope, then I'm going to write about it," said Laws. "In this day and age, there's not enough focusing on the actual songwriting; it's all about the vibe," added Eliscu.
But for a group of people that get, in Laws' case, up to 500 emails per day, even making it from the email into the speakers can be difficult. "You need to have a package, a press kit, an official site, a Tumblr, a press photo, all of that when you present yourself to a blog," said Laws. "You're a brand, and you have to act like one."
When endeavoring toward a career in the music industry, artists also need to lay out their expectations and manage their careers in ways that best help them to achieve it, panelists said -- whether that means just playing music with friends without needing a day job, or aiming to be the next Radiohead. "If you start getting blog attention, don't take advantage of every opportunity or else you'll tire people out," said Goldberg. "You want to make sure you still have something relevant to say in two months."
And while being all over the Internet is great, it doesn't necessarily lead to fans. "You can have plenty of people writing about you, but the goal is to have people who like you listen to you," said Goldberg, who first helped break Beirut on his label. What that means, panelists explained, is measuring yourself not by the number of posts you get, but by the number of tickets you move or albums you sell. In the end, it's the people that spend the money that will push an artist's career forward.
If it's the blogs that break an artist, it's the music that keeps them relevant. "Great songwriting, getting buzz on the blogs, and a live show that really kills," Warren said, can be a successful formula.
So again, blogs are only part of the picture. The panel was preceded by a 15-minute discussion with Extreme Music CEO Russell Emanuel and MTV's Nic Harcourt about Hype Music and its process of syncing new music and artists to its MTV television shows. Syncing can be a simple way to reach a much larger audience, especially when attached to an MTV show. "If you're a new artist, placement is the new radio," said Emanuel. "We're helping these artists into the industry, and they're helping us."