Sunday, April 25, 2010

Aquarium Drunkard

Lev Manovich analyzes "the language of new media by placing it within the history of modern visual and media cultures," which is applicable to my discussion of blogs as a new form of music journalism and commentary. (pg 8) He asks
"What are the ways in which new media relies on older cultural forms and languages, and what are the ways in which it breaks with them? What is unique about how new media objects create the illusion of reality, address the view, and represent space and time? How do conventions and techniques of old media - such as the rectangular frame, mobile viewpoint, and montage - operate in new media? If we construct an archeology connecting new computer-based technologies of media creation with previous techniques of representation and simulation, where should we locate the essential historical breaks?" (pg 8)

I hope to place Aquarium Drunkard within the discussion of history and the development of media. Aquarium Drunkard is self described as "an eclectic audio blog featuring daily music news, interviews, features, reviews, mp3 samples and sessions. Originating in 2005, the Drunkard bridges the gap between contemporary indie with vintage garage, psych, folk, country, New Orleans funk, r&b, soul and everything that falls in between."

Just as Manovich argues the signifance of historical context, we see that Aquarium Drunkard also developed out of something that was not originally web based, but " since spun off Autumn Tone Records, the Aquarium Drunkard Presents series, Aquarium Drunkard Sessions and the weekly, two hour, Aquarium Drunkard Show Fridays on SIRIUS/XM satellite radio’s XMU." In this case, Aquarium Drunkard is a direct product of a record label, which is not directly related to the literary milieu. In this case, I will focus on the question of how Aquarium Drunkard "relies on older cultural forms and languages, and what are the ways in which it breaks with them" (Manovich pg 8).

Autumn Tone Records, similarly to Aquarium Drunkard is dedicated to the "indie" genre, working to promote small, independent artists. The interesting thing about Aquarium Drunkard is that it does not limit itself to the artists which are signed to Autumn Tone, and dives into reviews of various artists, and tries to separate itself from promotional blogs that are often associated with labels or other capitalist infrastructures.

Unlike many of the other blogs that we've seen, Aquarium Drunkard (AD) has kept to a standard blog format, of rolling posts, and does not feature the various tabs and features that other popular bogs have adopted. In this sense, AD falls into the traditional category of a "blog," in the sense that there has been limited adaptation of the original format. However, I wonder, can a company really have a blog? If blogs are meant to be platforms for individuals to have publishing accessible, what does it mean when corporations commodity this resource. While Autumn Tone is an independent record label, they still represent institutions of capitalism, rather than the individualism and discourse that blogs are meant to provide. So where do we draw the line? On one hand, AD fits the framework of the music blog, but if we observe the strictly on an ideological base, one could argue that they may not be a blog at all. Or is this itself a contradiction, as blogs are meant to provide a platform for anyone, but does that include anything.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Said the Gramophone

Said the Gramophone is a really interesting example of the world of music blogging. Unlike many of the other examples I am focusing on, Gramophone only focuses on music reviews, no news, no music video, no gossip. Each post is unique, but follows a similar format; interesting and unique music reviews, that range anywhere from anecdotes to dialogues to simple descriptions, and of course mp3 downloads.

This blog has significantly less comments that the other music blogs I've discussed, but these comments represents a more authentic community centered around the written and musical content of the blog. In this case, the music often serves as background to the stories of the blog, and each elements is mean to complement the other. They describe themselves as having "launched in march 2003, and added songs in november of that year. it was one of the world's very first mp3blogs." To have lasted this long and still stuck to their original format is something that I have not experienced with many other blogs. In order to gain funding, once a year, said the gramophone hosts a donation drive, where readers can give donations through a paypal account. Beyond this, Said the Gramophone refuses to post advertisements.

Said the Gramophone is truly an mp3 blog, as each post is only focused on the music. While the authors encourage the readers to purchase the music they like, it is out of their respect for the musicians, and not a form of product placement that has been seen in the other blogs so far.


Stereogum is one of the more popular music blogs that I will look at, and is another example of a music blog that has morphed over the years as it has gained in popularity. Interestingly enough, as Stereogum has grown, the number of comments have decreased. Stereogum started in 2003, and on average would have 10 to 20 comments per post, while recent posts range from 0-5 comments.

Originally Stereogum was structured much more as a blog, now however it takes on the form of a more structured website with tabs for news, music, videos, photos, lists, and releases. News encompasses what would be considered normal blog content; featuring posts with the various artist's opinions and new musical releases and events. The home page is simply a series of links to the various features of the blog.

The rise of professionalism in the blog seems to have discouraged dialogue between readers and authors, warping the initial form. Even when the blog was much smaller, a stronger community surrounded it, which is evident in older posts. Also, Stereogum's background features various advertisements, which are normally music based, but nevertheless, are still evidence of Stereogum's shift away from approachable blogging to com modified postings. While I have no evidence that Stereogum's posting are based on commercial interests, it would be interesting to see if they ever made posts based on different products that were pushed to them.

I Guess I'm Floating

With the rise of file sharing has come the rise of the music blog. I Guess I'm Floating is no exception to this. Focusing on youtube music videos, and free mp3 downloads; reviews are minimal and makes me question the number of people who simply visit the site for free music. While the posts are well written, most of them are not over a paragraph long, but feature high resolution pictures that grab your attention. While the posts do continue, most of them are cut off into preview for aesthetic purposes, and you can "continue reading" if you please. Free mp3s, however, are always included in these short snips of the posts.

I Guess I'm Floating has ventured far beyond the realm of amateurism, as it features adds, and is updated almost daily. It is clear that this blog has developed into a business since it's start in 2005. It's earlier posts still followed a similar format, but the uniformity of the current structure was lacking. Also, the author's voice has shifted as well. Earlier posts took on a far more personal tone, as he confronted other music blogs about musical tastes, and at times used non-standard English. The author's writing is still approachable, and it seems that his intended and actual audience are young, often college students, who consider themselves to be "music people." As the focus on actual written content has shifted, it is clear that the average reader is not interested in the dialogue that blogs can create, and focus more on what they can "physically" receive.

This makes me wonder, if blogs were created in order for the average person to post their opinions on the internet, while creating open dialogue with other readers, what does the shift away from written content imply. If a website focuses more on downloads is the goal the same. While looking at I Guess I'm Floating, one the posts was only a music video, no commentary provided. Beneath the video there was just a link to purchase the album of the artist. I found this slightly unnerving, as it seemed more of a product placement than a true blog post.

As I continue my journey through blogs, I hope to look at the shift from amateurism to professionalism in the blog sphere, and the rise of commercialism as well.