Are you online looking for something interesting, newsworthy, inspirational, or merely useful in some way in the music media? You may be looking for a long time, because, well, those things are hidden beneath other, more pressing matters. If you’ve read Ryan Holiday’s book “Trust Me, I’m Lying”, you’d be familiar with the fact that our current mainstream music media (music and otherwise) and blogosphere want polarizing issues, trivial gossip and controversial content, whether it’s true or not. Rage pays. Apologies, corrections and updates simply mean more traffic at a later date.
Many comments on music blog’s features add up to “Is this really newsworthy?” and “Why would you guys post this?” as of late. We look for music news and instead we’re faced with endless posts such as “Earl Sweatshirt trashes Jay Z” (shouldn’t that be between them?) or “Bieber did WHAT off a balcony?” (from the Huffington Post today. I’m still not sure what he did), meant to anger us so that we click. Once we click, nothing more is needed of us. We realize that we’ve been had and the site earns. Two days after Earl Sweatshirt trashes Jay Z, he announces his new album. What a particularly sad promotional trick. Who’s time was wasted? Ours.
Traffic is the currency, from the bottom to the top, and your success often depends on what you’re willing to do to get it. Gossip magazines used to be something people would purchase in the same way as, say, condoms or rash cream. Throw a few other items in the mix and hope it goes unnoticed. Now, the internet keeps our squeamishness intact and everyone engages. It’s gone mainstream, from the very highest to the smallest. Traffic means advertising, after all.
Until someone (come on, Google) comes up with an internet filter where we can block certain things from our viewing (to remove, say, Lana Del Rey from our news feeds for example), we’ll have to contend with this trend. To make things entertaining, I thought I’d Google a particularly silly piece of news that made the rounds worldwide. Miley Cyrus “twerking”. I must admit, when this first started showing up on just about every music blog I frequent, I didn’t read, and still haven’t read, any of the articles on the subject…because personally, I just don’t care, not to say that you shouldn’t. In this list you’ll see initial posts by major publications, which pave the way for endless follow up posts. This is a technique often used to gain more traffic. Spread something apparently scandalous and put celebrities in the position of defending themselves. Bandwagon hopefuls gets involved, too.
If you were recently promoting a major event, a charitable cause, an important piece of news, a groundbreaking company, or artist, and wondering why appealing to the mainstream media was so difficult, this is why. This is what gets the hits.
The Guardian features a headline saying “Nicki Minaj reminds Miley Cyrus that she can twerk in the pool”, while The Huffington Post highlighted a piece on Demi Lovato and how she “avoids twerking”.
This case study is one of thousands of examples. I don’t want to name names, but your favorite music blog’s news feed probably has many similar “stories”.
What’s the positive side?
There are many publications who provide excellent content, such as Consequence of Sound, Pop Matters, The Quietus or Pitchfork, and of course, thousands of smaller publications. Focus on them for your press needs, and don’t give gossip rags your valuable hits. Once you click, they’ve made money from their advertisers. Support the blogs you feel are doing good work. Give THEM the traffic. Next time you see a great music feature, take the time to comment. Share it. Resist the urge to click on the next “beef” piece. Contribute to the culture by starting a quality blog of your own. It’s up to us how we communicate with each other and what we cover. Things change depending on the choices we make every day, and you’re your own filter.