Blogger Spotlight: Dan Howell (Yet Another Music Blog)

Surprise! We usually post only one time per day, but due to a recent burst of content creation opportunities we have found ourselves inundated with more interviews and columns than we know how to handle. We thought about stretching this material out and sticking to our normal posting schedule, but then decided getting it to you as soon as we were able was better for everyone involved. If you like this increase in content production, let us know! Email james@haulix.com or, if you prefer social media, tweet to @Haulix and let us know which columns you enjoy the most.

We have all heard the saying “everyone’s a critic,” but what if someone who chooses to write about music they enjoy does not see themselves that way? I must admit it’s a question that never crossed my mind before beginning the interview you’re about to read, but it certainly does make one think. Most of the people we have featured in this series have made it a point to distinguish themselves as a journalist or critic, but that is not the case with the Dan Howell, the man with whom we speaking this afternoon. He sees himself as simply a man who likes to share the music he loves with those willing to listen.

Yet Another Music Blog is the brilliant result of Dan Howell sharing his opinions on music with the world. Through interviews and editorials YAMB brings together the latest and greatest music from around the globe and presents it to curious music fans on a gorgeous designed site through fun, easy-to-read content that’s not afraid to dig for a good story. The best part of all may be Dan, as well as his partner Dan English, continue to write simply because they love discussing music. Their love for the art form they cover drives their efforts, and it shows in the final product.

We asked Dan about his work in music, and what we found was a man who puts his passion for the creative arts before any thoughts of business. He may not write about music full time, but he’s certainly doing his part to better the industry for everyone involved. If you would like to learn more about his efforts, please take the time to bookmark and frequent YAMB. Additional questions and comments can be left at the end of this post.

H: Hey there! Before we dive in, please take a moment and tell everyone your full name, job title, and the site we’re here to discuss:

D: Dan Howell, Search Director at Tell Jack and the site we’re here to discuss is www.yetanothermusicblog.com.

H: It’s great to have you with us. To begin, I would like to learn a little about your history with music. Has it always played a major role in your existence?

D: I’ve been a big fan of music since I can remember. My earliest memory was probably listening to a Madness LP on repeat for hours on my Mum’s record player. Music has always been really important to me, and that is probably largely down to my sister. Every so often, between New Kids on the Block and Mariah Carey, I would hear some amazing music playing from her bedroom.

H: Who is the first artist you can remember obsessing over, and how did you initially discover them?

D: I guess the first album that majorly struck a chord with me was Dummy by Portishead. I ‘borrowed’ this from my sister when I was about 11 or 12 years old and it opened up a whole world of music for me. When I hit 17/18 years old, I started socialising with an older group of friends and they introduced me to the likes of Leftfield, Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin etc. Since then, I’ve had short-lived obsessions with so many artists.

H: When you reflect on your life as teen and young adult, are you able to pinpoint any formative moments or experiences that may have lead you to a life in music criticism?

D: I don’t really see myself as a critic, it’s more that I let people know if I like something. Generally speaking, if I don’t like a certain track, album or artist, they won’t make it on the blog. Who am I to critique? I can’t even play an instrument! I give credit where credit’s due. Everyone thinks they can be critics these days, because they hide behind their computers and voice their pompous opinions to the world. It angers me. Small-time food critics are the worst!

H: What is the first concert experience you can remember? Go on, paint a word picture for us…

D: The first real live music experience was probably when I went to Leeds Festival at the age of 15. It took weeks of bargaining with my Mum before she finally agreed to let me go for the weekend. It was definitely an eye-opener! The crowds were huge, we were with amazing people, we drank until we passed out and I saw Rage Against the Machine play one of their last gigs. Oh, and there was a riot on the last night. That will stay with me for a long time…

H: As far as writing is concerned, when did you begin to look at your gift with wordplay as something others may enjoy as well?

D: I didn’t really think about other people reading my articles until I saw my first print article. It was for a free local lifestyle magazine and it was distributed in all the shops and bars in Manchester city centre. When I saw people reading it in one of my local bars, it completely weirded me out. Anyway, my work seemed to get a good response and the magazine kept giving me more work, so I must have been doing something right!

H: What inspires you as a writer?

D: I definitely have a lot of respect for some of the bigger sites such as Resident Advisor and Pitchfork. They have some really talented writers and they’re always on the ball. It’s always good to remember that these sites came from humble beginnings.

H: Okay, let’s move on to your site. Every time I stumble across your blog name I am reminded of the parody film ‘Not Another Teen Movie.’ What can you tell us about the spark of creativity that lead to the creation of your site? We’re very interested in learning your ‘origin story.’

D: I started the blog as a little project for a Digital Marketing agency I worked for and I was put on the spot to think of a name. There’s nothing profound about it I’m afraid – it’s just an acknowledgement that there’s soooo many music blogs out there, but hopefully we’ll do things better than most! I do like the name and it seems to go down pretty well with our readers. I buy quite a lot of records and the original idea was that I’d write about the latest additions to my collection, but then I started to focus on interviews with the artists. Sometimes I think the interviews make the best reading.

H: How would you summarize the content found on your site?

D: A round-up of my favourite music/musicians. I’m pretty paricular about the type of music that goes up, but I can’t even begin to pinpoint exactly what passes and what doesn’t.

H: From what I can find, it appears you are the sole contributor to your blog. Have you given any thought to expanding the writing team?

D: I’ve actually just got another guy on board, Dan English. He DJs in Manchester and has a sharp ear for music. I’m open to other people contributing – if anyone’s interested, get in touch.

H: At this point there seems to be absolutely zero advertising associated with your efforts. Have you given any thought to monetization?

D: I’ve actually just redesigned the site and added some banner ads. Some people are dead against putting ads on their beloved blogs, but I think, “what the hell?”

[ Editor’s note: This interview was over a span of days. When we began the launch of the YAMB new website had yet to take place. Due to scheduling delays with this article, it has since gone live.]

H: The posting routine on your site varies. Sometimes you update frequently, other times days go by without posts. Do you have any plans to raise the frequency of new content being added to the site?

D: Since the redesign and getting Dan onboard, we’re definitely looking at ramping up the number of posts. I feel the blog has a new lease of life since the redesign and I’m definitely making it a higher priority.

H: What goals do you have for your writing efforts? How about goals for the site in general?

D: I want to grow the site as much as possible and I’ve got a few things lined up, in terms of expansion, for later on this year. Watch this space…

H: I assume you have a job outside of the site. What do you do day-to-day?

D: I’m a Digital Marketer; I specialise in Search Engine Optimisation. I basically live in the internet. I’ve worked in the industry for a little over 4 years now and I love it. I’ve learned so much in a relatively short space of time and it definitely keeps me on my toes. Working in this industry certainly gives me the upper hand over some of the other music sites, in some respects.

H: Would you like to reach a point where you write full time, for yourself or someone else?

D: Of course. To grow the site to such an extent that I could work on it full-time is pretty much the dream. For now it’s a bit of fun, but who knows where it could go.

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

D: Honestly, I prefer it when artists contact directly. This is mostly people who are just starting out, but it just makes the whole thing that bit more special.

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

D: I’d get rid of Simon Cowell. Maybe put him on that one-way trip to Mars everyone’s been talking about recently.

H: What advice would you offer aspiring music critics?

D: Get yourself out there. Contact your favourite magazines and blogs and offer your articles for free. Good content is so valuable to these guys, so you’ll probably be surprised at the responses you get. If you have a genuine passion for music, that will show in your work and you shouldn’t have any problems getting it published somewhere.

H: That’s all I have for you. Before I let you go however, are there any final thoughts or observations you would like to share with our readers?

D: Erm, go check out KZA’s latest album, Dig and Edit 2. We just interviewed him and the album is awesome 🙂

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.