When I leave this blog to fend for itself my visitor numbers drop off quickly, but surprisingly they don’t sink forever. After a couple of weeks of inactivity, they level off at a not-too-dispiriting level. The reason for this is quite simple: search engines. After a couple of years of semi-regular updating I’ve accumulated a fairly ‘search engine friendly’ archive of reviews and ramblings (and being listed on The Hype Machine and Elbo.ws certainly hasn’t hurt). If you’d asked me back in the heady, halcyon autumn of ’08 if I’d settle for the hits-per-day that I’ve sustained since my last post in January you’d have received an assuredly unequivocal and resounding “Yes!”. Ask the same question to day, however, and you’ll get a different answer entirely. In fact, chances are I won’t even accept the premise of the question.
Over the last few months I’ve been thinking long and hard about what I want from this blog. My early musings, to be sure, were mostly centred on how to get more people to look at the site, on how to construct my own little empire of influence, my own army of dedicated readers. Thankfully I quickly realised that I was approaching the issue backwards; it feels somewhat trite to say that high-quality, regularly-updated content is what leads, invariably, to a bigger audience, but trite or not, it’s nevertheless true. So, in short¹, if I write a lot of reviews then I’ll get more hits.
The trouble is, I’m not sure a simple bump in page views is what I’m actually after. Hits that come as a result of googling are pretty much worthless, really, and I’m well aware that most people who visit the site are simply after the free mp3 downloads. Now I don’t have a problem with that at all, because if even a paltry percentage of those fleeting visitors stick around for a while and read through a couple of posts then I’ve managed to reach a fairly sizeable audience. What I’m really after, however, are the more valuable visitors; the ones check in regularly or who subscribe to the RSS feed, the ones who take the time to comment and join the debate, who (and here I really ought to be struck down by my own hubris) actually find what I write interesting. It’s these readers (and if you’re still reading by this point, then it’s precisely you that I’m talking about) that I want, and it’s these readers that I’ve been shamefully neglecting.
This post marks the return from my second major hiatus from blogging. Last summer I took a couple of months off purely because I was what they call (and here I use some complicated, technical medical language) a ‘lazy arse’. This time, however, I have a slightly more justifiable excuse for my absence; I’ve been devoting my time to my postgraduate study, which has required an awful lot of hard work² on my part. What little time I have had to whittle away on the idle speculation of pop songs has been poured into my radio show, I Sing the Body Eclectic (formerly of Wired Radio, but now searching for a new home…). The irony here is that my MA is in music, and it’s been writing about music for my course that has kept me from writing about music on these pages. It goes without saying that academic writing is a markedly different kettle of fish than writing the self-absorbed, journalistic stuff that has been the stock in trade of The Eaten by Monsters Blog since its inception, and therein lies the problem. The twenty-odd thousand words of academia that I’ve bashed out so far (with almost as much again to get through in the coming months) have left me feeling far more capable of musical writing than I’ve ever done before, but trying to reconcile this new way of writing and thinking with the style of my past posts has been something of a stumbling block.
It’s not so much my authorial ‘voice’ that I’m worried about, but rather the content (or, perhaps more accurately, my approach to the content). Most notably, I’ve always shied away from using specific musical examples – preferring instead to deal with purely emotional responses – but being as the critical, analytical approach of music (that those with more lofty aspirations than mine would term ‘musicology’) is where my expertise lies, and oughtn’t I to be playing to my strengths? Quite frankly I think that, yes, I ought.
The practical upshot of all this introspection and over-thinking is that there’s going to be some stylistic and structural changes around these parts. The biggest change is going to be the frequency of the posts; the worst mistake I made, and arguably the driving factor behind my recent absence from the blogosphere, was to confuse ‘regular’ and ‘frequent’. Striving to bash out a half-hearted review (of an album I’d not even properly absorbed in the first place) every day or so made the whole thing feel too much like hard work, and in that kind of situation the quality of the content suffers as much as anything. I like to think that when I take the trouble to write about music I actually have something to say, and to that end I intend post on here a lot less frequently – I’m thinking that one or maybe two posts a week sounds realistic. Naturally this will have a knock-on effect on the content of those posts; they’ll represent a higher level of thought on my part, and as such will endeavour to be more than just simple reviews. I’m not saying I’ll be wrestling with enormous and ineffable philosophical concepts or anything, but I will try to say a little more than simply whether or not I like the music.
All this will also change the nature of the music I write about, too. As my inbox will attest, I’ve rather let the deluge of submissions overwhelm me of late, and rushing a review in order to stay current is a sure-fire way to completely miss the point of listening to and analysing music. I’m not laying down any concrete rules here, so if something new excites me then I’ll still write about it (and, indeed, I certainly hope this happens on a regular basis), but I don’t intend to force myself to come up with ‘opinions’ about records before I’ve had time to absorb them properly.
Regardless of the future, I’ve already most likely bored you silly already (which is a good way, I imagine, to send any potential audience running for the hills), so to atone for needlessly wasting so much of your time, I’ll include an mp3 to reward your patience. I won’t use anything serious (I’m saving the really good stuff for future posts) but here’s a funny little tune that’s been kicking around for a while now. For all C. P. Snow’s talk of the ‘two cultures‘, I find it highly unlikely that anyone who shares my tastes in music will not have heard of the inimitable Carl Sagan, so what could be better than an autotuned Sagan-fest from those crazy cats at Symphony of Science? Enjoy!
Carl Sagan – A Glorious Dawn
¹ Only kidding; the most cursory glance at posts past will show I never use one word when two (or ten, or a hundred) will suffice.
² And here I use the term ‘hard’ in relation to a lifetime of perpetual studentship – those of you who actually work for a living have every right to sock me one right between the eyes.