Joe Sparrow : Why I (almost) killed A New Band A Day
When I started ANBAD, I wanted to do two main things, and they were both essentially selfish.
Firstly, I wanted to rekindle the joy of new music discovery. When John Peel died, my compass through the leftfield went awry – as it did for many people – and my attention wandered without a trusted guide. I needed to become my own guide, and needed a reason to sift through MySpace – MySpace! – to find good new music.
Secondly, I realised that my initial “career choice” of becoming a visual artist may have been a red herring, and that what gave me pure creative pleasure was writing. Recognising the need to catch up quickly, I made the name of the blog a threat to my own fragile ego: if you don’t write 250 words every fucking day, your blog is automatically a laughing stock, you idiot.
In the last 12 months, I’ve not blogged every day, and I felt that bilious twinge of my pride writhing every day that passed without a post. But I’m still not going to blog every day any more.
On the whole, I stopped the daily blogging because I achieved my goals. I found lots of good music by odd bands that never really got any bigger (which is how I wanted it, I suppose); and I became pretty good at writing 250 words of copy very quickly.
I could write a thousand words on the amazing life-events ANBAD has given me: months spent in New York City bothering the brilliant individualists at the Hype Machine, plus visits to SXSW, Berlin, and tens of other bucket-list-y things.
But really, what has given me most pleasure are the people I have met and formed deep, real friendships with. I won’t embarrass them by listing names, but unfortunately for them, they know who they are.
And this unexpected pleasure easily became the best thing about music blogging.
Back to the start for a moment.
It’s a cliché to note how fast the internet evolves, but when I began A New Band A Day in 2008, so many associated online landscapes were different. The internet was overwhelmingly unlike to the one you are looking at right now.
The iPhone had not yet launched in the UK, and people were just beginning to get to grips with the idea of that as a concept, let alone a scaled-up tablet.
Thus, use of the internet itself was fundamentally different: aimed at a group of readers who read sat at a desk, not on the toilet or whilst in the middle of a conversation about The Great British Bake-Off or in Burger King (today, it’s possible to do all these things at once, I imagine).
Consumption then was a bit slower. Kids had to wait ’til their parents had finished using the laptop before they could have a go. ANBAD somehow fitted better then.
The things that made ANBAD work in the format it was originally in – as a daily new-band music blog – are no longer the same. These include, but are not limited to two very important changes:
- Changes in blogging itself – surely ANBAD is better suited to the constant scroll of a Twitter feed? Thus ANBAD continues by aping Twitter’s brevity; the original 250-word aim now condensed to about 140 characters; and yep, it all works much better that way, really.
- Changes in music discovery and consumption: when ANBAD started, Spotify was just another great idea, Soundcloud was taking baby steps, and the Hype Machine was only three years old. And while music blogging is still essential to unearth the niche creators and to showcase the overlooked; the kind of hey-look-here’s-a-new-band blog I offered is not really the point now (and maybe it never was).
But the main change is the churn. Oh god, the churn. There are so many more new bands and artists now. So many. Everyone is doing it, and everyone is the newest, bestest, coolest thing ever. I can’t even begin to explain the difference in the noise compared to when I started.
My inbox is so permanently and hilariously full, there is literally no point using it, despite myriad and increasingly fiendishly-implemented mail filters.
Funnily, and most frustratingly, the idea of ANBAD unwittingly began to represent exactly what I never wanted it to become: a blog that appeared to want to shout about the newest bestest coolest thing ever first.
I called it A New Band A Day to force me to write; and because I was excited by the idea that there was more good new music than ever before. Ultimately, the threat of not blogging every day became too big a cross to bear, so I just let it go.
It now feels fun being completely mis-named.
If I was smart, I’d try and pass off the name “A New Band A Day” as some sort of wry comment on the newest bestest coolest first!-est attitude that fuels the churn and which – in the worst instances – stifles the exposure of really good, brand-new, non-buzzband artists. VICE has probably made some sort of comment on this already, so I’ll probably not bother.
I toyed with the idea of just killing ANBAD, in a kind of pathetically glorious kamikaze ending, but ultimately I was talked down from the ledge. Why bother? What would that prove, other than a stroppy inability to retain a measured long-view of the world?
Even though the blog was spared a ludicrous death, six years is a long time to be ploughing a specific furrow. The definition of madness is repeating the same act over and over, and expecting different results.
So ANBAD is lobotomising the madness, living on in a reduced, preternaturally calm capacity and a more frequent, manic one at Twitter. It’s better for us all that way.
NB: Here’s the first-ever ANBAD post, about a really great band called The Alibies. The first ever sentence on ANBAD was a joke implying that my search history had implicated me in something awful. Sigh.