Blogger Spotlight: Anthony Fantano (The Needle Drop)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to the second Blogger Spotlight of the week. We have been inundated in recent weeks with requests to feature the person at the center of today’s post, and we could not be more excited to finally share their interview with all of you. If you know of a writer or blogger who would be a good fit for this column, let us know! Email james@haulix.com and share your idea. 

Anthony Fantano may not have started writing about music with the intentions of building a career for himself, but that is exactly what has transpired in the seven years since The Needle Drop debuted online. Through reviews and engaging editorials, Anthony built a rabid following of fans, and in 2009 took things to a whole new level when he launched the site’s official YouTube channel. He’s one of the few self-made independent bloggers to be featured in this series who are fortunate enough to write about music full-time through their own publication, and in the interview below he offers some insight as to how it all came together.

The music business needs more people like Anthony Fantano. He’s a driven, forward-thinking individual that understands the evolving relationships we have with technology and art. It’s nothing short of an honor to feature him in this series, and we want to encourage everyone interested in learning more about his work to follow The Needle Drop on Twitter. Additional questions and comments can be left at the end of this post.

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H: Hey there, how are things? Before we dive in, please tell everyone your full name, job title, and the name of your site:

A: Anthony Fantano, uh, editor-in-chief, I suppose, and The Needle Drop.

H: Thank you again for participating in this series, Anthony. It’s a pleasure to have you with us. When you reflect on the key moments and experiences in life that lead you toward the career in music b/vlogging that you now have, what memories come to mind?

A: Getting a boombox as a kid, getting into punk music in high school, taking bass lessons, running a college radio station, and interning at an NPR affiliate out of Hartford. I think all of those moments played pretty pivotal roles.

H: Was music always a major influence on your life?

A: Maybe not when I was in the single digits, but its influence on every facet of my life seems to increase every year.

H: Who was the first band you remember obsessing over, and how did you originally discover them?

A: Rage Against The Machine, probably. I heard ‘em over the radio when I was a kid. I was a huge “Weird Al” fanatic, too.

H: As far as writing is concerned, when did you initially take an interest in the world of music criticism?

A: Just as I decided to take The Needle Drop onto YouTube, really. Up until then, the blog and podcast I ran were mostly curated to feature artists I thought were great, not my opinions.

H: Do you remember the first review or feature you created?

A: I remember writing a really positive review for Wolves In the Throne Room’s Two Hunters back in ’07. Even earlier than that, I would occasionally write things about artists that I liked on this personal LiveJournal account I had. I liked having a place to share music I liked with the people I considered to be my friends. However, I wouldn’t really call any of what I was doing “critical” since I would only post positive things I knew I enjoyed going into the process of writing.

H: Let’s turn our focus now to the site that first brought you on our radar: The Needle Drop. What can you tell us about the site’s origin?

A: It started as a Blogspot blog in ’07, and has undergone numerous redesigns since. I’m actually looking into another one soon. It’s just kind of the hub for all of my reviews, and new tracks that are grabbing my attention.

H: When you initially launched The Needle Drop, what goals did you have set for yourself? How would you say those goals have changed or otherwise been refined over the last 7 years?

A: I basically wanted TND to become my career, and sort of grow into one of the top music sites out there. While the first of those two things has happened, I still think I have work to do on the 2nd. Even if that manages to happen, I’m still gonna feel like there’s more to do. It’s hard for me to feel like I’m DONE doing something.

H: For those who have never stumbled across your corner of the web before reading this article, how would you summarize the type of content found on The Needle Drop?

A: Album reviews performed via video, and posts dealing in recently released songs and music videos.

H: The about section of your website notes that you are an NPR-affiliated publication. How did that relationship develop?

A: It started when my internship began in ’07. While I don’t work over there in a paid capacity now, the relationship is still good. TND’s just been demanding more attention the more it grows.

H: You launched a YouTube channel under the name ‘The Needle Drop.’ What inspired you to take your efforts to the world of video?

A: It actually started in ’09, but the reason I started it is I thought my efforts in blogging and podcasting weren’t going anywhere. I needed a way to differentiate myself from other music writers out there. It was an awkward transition at first, but I’m here now.

H: Your following on YouTube has swelled to thousands in a relative short amount of time. To what do you contribute your quick success? Do you have any tips for those considering the world of video journalism/criticism?

A: It’s always been a slow, upward hike, in my opinion. There was never a moment where TND just “exploded,” and I like it that way. Nobody’s gonna get famous overnight for a music review, and I understand that, but it doesn’t get me down cuz I’m more of a long-term thinker anyway. As far as advice: Find your voice, style, preferred mode of communication. Then do what you do, and hope it resonates with a crowd.

H: I’ve noticed there is some advertising on your site. Are you able to operate The Needle Drop full time? Do you have plans to monetize further in the future?

A: Yes, but I make my living off of YouTube mostly. Website advertising is only a bit of what I generally make, and I’m always open to new monetization options as long as it doesn’t ruin the functionality, credibility of the reviews.

H: We should mention that there are more contributors to The Needle Drop than just yourself. How large is your team right now?

A: It’s just me, a few voluntary website contributors, and a good buddy who edits for me for several hours on weekends. Pretty tight crew of 3-4 people most of the time

H: Are you currently looking to add to your editorial team? If so, how should people interested in writing for The Needle Drop go about sending you an application?

A: Not at the moment. You can always reach us at our contact page on theneedledrop.com, tho.

H: You have helped a number of up and coming artists from a variety of genres gain exposure to new listeners. Where do you turn when hoping to discover new music?

A: A number of blogs I list on my site, but my viewers recommend me stuff all the time that’s very worthwhile. Plus, I’ve made a number of friends who are fellow bloggers as well, and they’re always happy to share what they’re listening to.

H: What advice would you offer artist trying to make it today?

A: If you’re trying to make being a musician your career, then you have to think of yourself as an entertainer, a communicator. Think of who your audience is, and what you think they need to hear. What do you want to tell them, what do you want to make them feel. What are the best sounds, rhythms, melodies, lyrics, and recording techniques to make this happen?

When you’ve got your answers to these questions, make songs. Keep making songs. Release them, share them, spread ’em.

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

A: I prefer digital platforms these days. While physical is always nice, I’ve always got so many promos to sift through. Giving me a place online where I can hear the records I need to hear without creating a huge pile of clutter is important.

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

A: I wish records still made a substantial amount of money, and that more of it was going into the artist’s pocket.

H: I think that covers everything. Before I let you go, do you have any final thoughts or observations you would like to share with our readers?

A: Eat your fruits and veggies, exercise, get a good night’s sleep, compliment someone who deserves it.

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.