A Blog is not a Blog is not a Blog: Three human resources to identify high quality music

Probably every person who manages to cross the magical Cobain-Morrison-line of 27 years will experience one or the other profound global change in the course of his life, either due to historical or to technological progress. The changes in the music journalistic landscape and thus the way in which we discover and perceive music is probably one of the profound changes in my (average) existence.

While we used to sit in front of the TV until late at night to catch some of the more remote formats on MTv, while we recorded local radio stations, being grateful that John Peel was even broadcasted as far as Berlin and while we followed in the semi-mainstream music magazines looking for creative misfits, we now live in times of limitless diversity. And while print magazines are still looking for new horizons, the classic blog is almost dying out again. Replaced, it seems, with algorithms and influencer playlists on Spotify. And yet besides the little big players of online magazines (Fact, XL8R, etc.) there are still plenty of smaller formats. Well-arranged, cozy places where it’s only about one thing: staying true to the music. You just have to find them!

At this point I would like to remedy the situation a little and showcase my three favorite (kinda-)blogs and at the same time present three quite different formats and approaches.

Similar to the well-known Fact Magazine, Ransom Note (R$N) is a full blown music, arts and underground culture magazine. With an audible and readable enthusiasm, the R$N crew relentlessly delivers reviews, interviews, DJ sets and whatnot. Especially the artist-to-artist interviews give revealing insights into the diverse islands of underground culture. The whole thing has a distinctly British touch, with a lot of influences from UK Garage but also the comparatively open minded approaches to more experimental styles that has been rooted in UK dance music not just since 90s IDM. In political terms, too, R$N refuses to participate in the widespread club hedonism and lets new memes of Boris Johnson constantly popping up in their Musings category. The fact that they don’t try to come across as a global format maintains a certain charm. And even if you don’t always understand everything from the regional political corner, in the end you know where this special humor is rooted.

And yet, with big magazine comes big responsibility. With a constantly activated ad-blocker, you might not notice that on first sight, but Ransom Note is pleasantly free of advertising. In order to be able to cover costs in spite of all this, a Bandcamp platform is already in place, on which music and merch is offered. Recently, when entering the site, are politely asked for support in the form of a Patreon subscription. We can only hope that the supporter mentality will become more evident over the next few years. Especially when you regularly call yourself to mind that in underground music culture, from musicians to record labels to music magazines, a lot of love is put into it but quite often it doesn’t even cover the material expenses.

Terminal 313 is basically the classic one-nerd music blog. And Janno, the operator basically only does one thing, but with unlimited perseverance and talent: writing reviews. I think that’s also the reason why I have grown fond of this format over the years, because it’s just so concrete, a way out of the everyday Internet noise. You always know what you’re coming for and you can be pretty sure that you will leave with a new favorite record on your wish list. It’s not a channel where I check for new Twitter posts every day, but I can confidently lean back once or twice a month and read through the content.

In terms of style, Terminal 313 mainly features acid electro and techno made from analog machines. Sympathetically, however, not primarily from a DJ’s perspective, looking for the right tooltracks, but often from a home listener’s point of view. And so outsiders of the mentioned genres also have a place here leading the way to interesting variations on supposedly well-trodden paths.

Why this simple music blog format has become so rare since the early days of blog culture is, to be honest, a mystery to me. Since I started writing regularly about the music that is close to my heart, I have the feeling that I am experiencing part of the very open, communicative MySpace days again. Because what actually happens above all is that you come into contact, experience appreciation and exchange ideas. And not in the form of like buttons and emojis, but in terms of content and with a heart.

First Floor is basically a weekly music journalistic newsletter. Therefor the publisher Shawn Reynaldo uses Substack, a platform that prepares the good old newsletter/mailing-list format for writers in order to give them the opportunity to monetize their content via subscriptions in addition to the publication of free content. I first became aware of an article on the well-known and loved Create Digital Music (CDM.link), where a very elegant article is already available to read up. Peter Kirn already described the intimacy that this format enables, in which clean, well-researched journalistic craft is paired with a very personal point of view. Something that’s much more dificult in classic journalistic formats, because you basically always write from the publication’s perspective, which may have its own voice, but the writer himself always stays discreetly in the background.

The fact that Shawn’s weekly articles wait for me in my email inbox is honestly not really my personal medium of choice, but fortunately his Substack channel can also be subscribed as an RSS feed. Shawn’s articles belong in a category that many web publications nowadays already clearly mark as “long reads”. And I guess it’s precisely this aspect that makes a big difference in the way we consume content online these days. Since there are innumerable reasons to start the browser and click “Go!”, we always arrive there with very different levels of attentiveness. On First Floor, I always know that it’s time to sit back and let some time pass.

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