Blogs have gotten a bad name. They’ve come to represent the landfill of the internet, containing the dregs of human consciousness from funny animals with captions, to haikus about dicks, and angsty teen diaries. But that, in the awful words of Fergie, is “so 2000 and late”, now they are beginning to run major record labels out of a job.
‘20 Jazz Funk Greats’, ‘Gorilla vs. Bear’, ‘Don’t Die Wondering’, ‘Transparent’: fairly ridiculous names, these are only a few of the Internet blogs ousting labels to discover new bands and even releasing records themselves. But it’s no big secret that the Internet has replaced old school media formats as music tastemakers. Since 2003, MySpace music has been, and to some extent still is, the de facto medium for discovering artists on the Internet – the site claims over eight million artists have been exposed through its profile pages. Although now it looks more like a past-it 80s popstar, desperately claiming it’s still cool, but no amounts of botox-style makeovers are kidding anyone.
Since then Tumblr has interrupted the MySpace funeral and grinded over its coffin. Simpler, minimal, and suitable for those with Internet ADHD, it has revitalised and bred a whole new generation of music blogs. Musicians are only beginning to explore its potential: gutter mouth hip-hop collective Odd Future has released three mixtapes and seven solo albums, all available for free on their Tumblr. Despite having no label, and being entirely self-marketed, they have garnered a huge following and sold out their London tour date in 48 hours flat. Internet success stories like these are becoming more frequent with bands and artists using anonymity to whip up a hype sensation.
Appropriately named Cults, gained a sort of Internet cult of personality last year by releasing an EP on Bandcamp (another popular MySpace music alternative) but with no information whatsoever. Naturally, this was blood bait to an ocean of Internet music blogs, causing a frenzy of publicity for the 60s twee pop duo. Texas-based music blog ‘Gorilla vs Bear’ were one of the first to bite, and released “Go Outside” as their first single on newly formed label Forest Family Records. A joint venture between blog big hitters ‘Gorilla vs Bear’ and ‘Weekly Tape Deck’, Forest Family Records have also released debut singles from Dent May, Gauntlet Hair, Sleep ∞ Over and recently Keep Shelley in Athens.
Neither are they the first blog-turned-label to use their situation to their advantage. London-based blog Transparent follows a similar trend, having started out as a fanzine in 2005, before putting on shows in early 2006, with artists including Girls, Laura Marling, Foals, and The XX amongst others. Fanzine morphed into blog and eventually in 2009 they put out their first of many limited vinyl releases as a label. And I could list more of such stories ad nausem, only changing the name and location. More interesting are the reactions of major labels to these independent run blogs pissing on their territory. ‘True Panther Sounds’, yet another blog-turned-label, were prey to a major label poaching one of their bands, Delorean, when the A&R department of Columbia Records asked what deal they had with the band and offered to include them in a scouting report. Hilariously, Dean Bein, who runs True Panther, replied asking what their deal with MGMT was.
Of course it isn’t all animosity between major and independent labels: having recognised the potential of such blogs some have chosen to embrace them. Matador Records (although not part of the “Big Four” labels) have had too many great bands on its roster to list, actually signed True Panther Sounds as an imprint in 2009. In an age where radio is dwindling as a format for new music, everyone is hooked to the Internet: music blogs are rapidly becoming our music overlords.