Blogger Spotlight: Jonathan Barkan (Bloody-Disgusting)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to a new month and a new edition of the Haulix Blogger Spotlight. We have a lot of new content coming your way in August, including new columns that I cannot reveal just yet, so make sure you follow Haulix on Twitter and Facebook to ensure you never miss another update.

So far, all of the writers we have featured in this column have written for publications known primarily for their music coverage. While those writers have keen insight on building a reputation within the music industry, there is something equally worthwhile to be said about those whose music coverage serves as one piece of a much larger online community, and that’s why today’s featured talent is none other than Bloody-Disgusting’s Jonathan Barkan.

Bloody-Disgusting has been the number one online destination for all things related to horror films and the community that supports them since its launch in 2001. While Barkan was not a part of the site at that time, he was a follower, and over the course of several years worked his way to being the Music Editor. Now, with the help of contributors, Barkan leads the Bloody-Disgusting music department with an ear for all things rock and roll. From news, to reviews, song premieres, video exclusives, contests, and beyond, Jonathan and his team have made Bloody-Disgusting just as important to the heavy music community as it is to those who love Jason Vorhees.

We spoke with Jonathan about his rise through the ranks of Bloody-Disgusting, the art that got him interested in this line of work, and a whole lot more in order to complete this spotlight. His knowledge of working as part of a team in the digital realms should be considered indispensable, and his drive to make a name for himself is downright admirable. If you enjoy what he has to say, please make it a point to follow Jonathan and Bloody-Disgusting on Twitter. If you have any additional questions, feel free to add them in the comments section below.

H: For those unaware, please state your name, the site you work for, and your role at said site:

JB: My name is Jonathan Barkan and I am the Music Editor for Bloody-Disgusting.com.

H: Since you work for a site covering multiple areas of entertainment, it seems only right to figure out what got you into the unique position you hold. What was the first album and horror movie you fell in love with, and at what point did you know you wanted to work in entertainment?

JB: The first album that I truly fell in love with was Metallica’s Black Album, which is also the album the spurred me to learn how to play guitar. The first horror movie that I remember clear as day was A Nightmare On Elm St. Part 4. The scene where Krueger bursts through Joey’s waterbed is my first horror movie memory, not to mention my first movie memory! Since then my tastes have obviously changed and evolved but that album and that film hold special places in my heart.

I knew that I wanted to work in entertainment from fairly early on. I was always so entranced by the creativity that went into making a film, recording an album, etc…, and then creating a whole package to go with it. I was the kid that loved reading video game manuals. I was the kid who read through CD booklets. I wanted books with pictures not because they were easier to read but because it was a direct path into the mind of the author, to see what they wanted me to see. The amount of work, love, and passion that goes into a fully realized product is astounding and it always appealed to me to learn more about that in the hopes that I could one day be a part of it.

H: You’re the first person to be featured who writes at a site that isn’t essentially known for its music coverage. How did you come to work at Bloody-Disgusting? If there’s anything more to the story, can you also provide a bit of background on BD’s music coverage (launch, etc)?

JB: So my story of how I came to write at Bloody-Disgusting is a bit amusing. I had been coming to the site pretty much since its launch in 2001 as, by that point in my life, I was a horror hound. So, one day in October 2009 I went to BD and suddenly saw a brand new area: The ‘Music’ section. I immediately sent a PM to the author of one of the articles not realizing that it was Tom Owen, the co-owner of Bloody-Disgusting. I expressed my deep interest in contributing for the site, citing my certificate in Music Production and Engineering as well as my band playing/guitar tech experience as reasons why they should bring me on board. Keep in mind that I had zero blogging experience as well as zero music industry experience. This was all brand new to me.

So, in the beginning I was asked to write 1-2 album reviews per month. Once give that clearance, I got in touch with every record label I could think of to begin getting advance copies of albums for review. But then labels began saying things like, “Hey! On top of a review, how would you like to interview the band?” How could I say no? I started doing video, email, and phone interviews, contests, and more. Within two months I was posting 4-5 articles per day and I was landing opportunities that I’d never before thought possible. Since then, I was elevated to the Editor position and I’ve been going along ever since!

To make it very short, I pestered the hell out of Tom and Brad Miska (the other co-owner) until they took me on. Sometimes nagging CAN work!

H: Though the list of bands that could potentially appear on BD is rather endless, it’s safe to say you tend to focus on all things related to rock and roll. How would you describe the coverage offered by your music department?

JB: I look at bands to see if they challenge conventions of society, the industry, and what is “popular”. At the same time, we obviously love bands that love horror and incorporate it into their theme in some way, shape, or form. It doesn’t have to be through look, such as bands like Slipknot, Motionless In White, Mushroomhead, etc… It can be lyrically, thematically, tonally, and more.

From news to exclusives, premieres to interviews, editorials to contests, rants to lists, the coverage we offer is fairly endless. Horror fans love seeing passion and we want to cultivate that. We wants the readers to know that we love hearing from them, even if their opinion is completely contradictory to our own.

H: Aside from the presence of every horror fan in the world, what is it about your coverage on BD that separates what you do from the numerous music blogs around the world covering essentially the same talent?

JB: I love to think outside of the box. I want the bands to be excited to appear on BD. I want them to think, “This is something different, something I’ve never done before or been asked before! Let me show my love and passion here because it’s not the same thing that I’ve done over and over for days/weeks/months/years!” I want bands to have fun and get creative, which, in turn, shows in the article. Readers can tell when someone is being genuine and they feed off of that.

H: The team at Bloody-Disgusting is spread throughout the country. You live in Michigan, for example, while site creator Brad Miska resides in California. What are the biggest challenges you face in this digital office space, and do you think it’s better or worse than having a physical location you report to daily?

JB: It can be very challenging to maintain constant and open communication. However, we are always working very hard to ensure that we are all on the same page in terms of article scheduling, back-end business, upcoming features, etc…

I would love to know what a physical location for Bloody-Disgusting would be like! I’m guessing we’d have a screening room and watch horror movies constantly. I would definitely gain about 15lbs just from all the popcorn we’d be eating!

H: What do you think of the rising popularity of absurd subgenres throughout the metal community in recent years? Do you think whether you call yourselves “metal” or “subterranean New England metalcore” makes that big of a difference in the grand scheme of things?

JB: In many ways I think it can be very useful for bands to appeal themselves to particular audiences. However, there comes a point when it’s too much and these subgenres can turn off people just as much as they can guide them. The argument between “djent” vs. “prog metal” vs. “tech metal”, for example, can get a bit ridiculous. If someone enjoys music, does it really matter what genre it’s from? Music should be shared, not contained.

H: You have featured a lot of rising heavy acts over the years. Where do you go when you want to discover new music?

JB: I love checking out Reddit as well as hearing about bands via word of mouth from friends. But the best place for me is honestly in the vast amount of press releases I receive. Engaging headlines and well written band descriptions can be just the thing to draw me in and, ultimately, provide coverage.

H: What about when the bands come to you for news coverage? What advice would you offer bands hoping to stand out from the others vying for attention in your inbox or social feeds?

JB: You should absolutely check your spelling and grammar. A poorly written, poorly phrased email is a HUGE turn off.

Also, don’t presume that I’m 100% going to write about you. If you’re a rising band, have humility. Nothing makes me hit the ‘Delete’ button faster than a message from a band stating how I NEED to write about them because they are the biggest thing since sliced bread.

Lastly, show me that you’re into being on Bloody-Disgusting for a reason. Don’t send me a copy-paste email that doesn’t address our readers and their interests in any way. If you’re some band that doesn’t care about horror movies or care about the horror crowd, why even come to me?

H: In the digital age, do you feel there is still a need for physical press kits?

JB: I definitely think there is something to be said about holding something in your hands. I grew up before the internet was even available. I bought cassette tapes. I watched movies on VHS and dealt with tracking on my VCR. I still respect the feeling of being able to see and feel a physical manifestation of an artist’s work.

That being said, the convenience of digital cannot be denied. Throwing an album on my MP3 player and plugging it into my car for long drives is just incredible. So I believe that there is place for both.

H: When it comes to receiving music for review and feature consideration, which services do you prefer and why?

JB: If it’s for a feature consideration, either an album download link via Haulix (which is honestly the service I use the most) or Sendspace would work great. If the label wants my opinion on a band, a simple YouTube link works great. It’s fast, I can load it in HD for good sound, and I don’t have to go through the rigmarole of downloading a file, unzipping it, dropping it into iTunes, deleting the zip file, deleting the folder, blah blah blah. It’s a hassle.

For review, absolutely a download link or a physical CD (which I ultimately rip onto my computer and then put on my MP3 player or play through my sound system).

H: If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?

JB: I would change the antiquated notions that things cannot/should not change. The world is moving at breakneck speed and social media and the internet has dramatically changed the playing field. The music industry has to accept this and find new solutions rather than taking tried and true methods from ten years ago and trying to make them applicable in today’s world. The music industry needs to embrace radical, risky, innovative ideas that shock and wonder people. People will spend money in the right places if they are given the right reason and the right method.

H: Before we let you go, can you tell us a bit about what you have planned in the months ahead?

JB: As of now, just doing what I do! I always try to challenge myself to bring new ideas and new coverage to the site so we’ll just have to see what lightning bolt strikes me next!

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.