Heartbreak No. 3: The Blogosphere As The New Status Quo
You know what I miss? “Blog rock.” I know what you’re thinking. I’ve been as bored as anybody by the blog-beloved blandishments of the Voxtrots and Bishop Allens of the world. However, there was a time when the blogs represented a via media between the print media and the online “magazines” like Pitchfork. Sure, they were prone to sycophancy, and knee-jerk “greatest band evah” reactions, but it was exciting to watch a new media movement blossom, one that was chaotic, democratic, and in direct opposition to the establishment.
How quickly things changed. One look over the elbo.ws or Hype Machine charts in the past year finds it indistinguishable from any mainstream media outlet’s “hot list.” While I would never decry the appearance of hip-hop and pop artists on the previously white-boy-driven elbo.ws charts, posting a Kanye West or Jay-Z MP3 isn’t exactly making an adventurous statement. And Coldplay, Britney Spears, and Katy Perry? Yeah, uh, they need the help. The majors have gotten in on this blogging thing, and everybody’s playing along, quite possibly to feel like they’re a part of the biz or join in on the never-ending quest for page views: “Sufjan used to get mad hits, but it was nothing compared to Britney! Make a reference to her boobs and that’s double the hits!”
Are these hardly scientific blog charts representative of everything that’s being done? Of course not. The blogosphere shares a lot in common with ’zine culture and alternative newspapers: off-the-cuff writing and irreverent attitudes, with the added immediacy of posting listenable music. Hype Machine’s charts are dominated by a thriving remix scene. Digging deep into the MP3 blog world, you’ll find blogs offering up all sorts of artists from myriad genres. There are plenty of interesting blogs, deserving mention on an individual level.
But there is so much noise out there it’s not surprising a lot of my favorite MP3 blog progenitors decided to collectivize under the MBV umbrella. And outliers’ voices are squelched by the press-release repeaters that now make up so much of the blog landscape. Much like the (dying) print world, everybody’s either consolidating or burrowing further into their niche. Part of the blogosphere’s success as a new media movement, in my mind, depends on its ability to act as a collective. When a preponderance of choices presents itself, things tend to slide down the path of least resistance to the most popular and obvious. Three years ago, the MP3 blogosphere touted independent, often unsigned artists. Now it posts Katy Perry’s cover of MGMT.