Want to save music blogs? Work together.

In case anyone out there is still believing their music blog will change the world allow me to temper your dreams just a bit. As much as we would all like to believe music influencers will always have a role to play – and they may – the hard truth is that the streaming age has quickly taken power away from the majority of music blogs. As services like Apple Music and Spotify continue to extend their editorial efforts and allow artists to share more than just music with fans (tour dates, videos) there are less and less people turning to blogs for insight. After all, why frequent a site that covers a small fraction of the things you enjoy when you can have access to everything you care about all the time – and then some – through a single platform?

Before you completely lose hope and cancel your domain, hear me out. Music blogs are never going to go away completely. There was a time over a decade ago when people thought music magazines would die out because of blogs, yet here we are in 2017 and Alternative Press Magazine is gearing up to take over the same venue that houses the Cleveland Cavalier for its fourth annual awards show. Has everyone publication survived? No, but that would be true even without the streaming age. The vast majority of everything in every field eventually fades away. This is simply a fact of life. You think the Rolling Stones and Aerosmith were the only rock bands of their time? Of course not. They’re simply the ones that outlasted everyone else.

So who will survive the latest evolution of music blogging, and how will those publications change to meet the demands of the future? I cannot tell you specific answers to either question, but over the last ten years there is one common trait I have found in almost every writer who continues to be successful: They seek opportunities to build communities rather than their own personal brand.

What I mean is that the writers and sites who succeed place an emphasis on quality, timely content instead of ego. Their ultimate goal is to provide music fans with the information they need to make the best choices with their time and money. They seek conversation over branding at all costs, and because of this they are able to adapt when the industry demands change.

If you are reading this now and are the proud owner of a music blog I have to assume you know of other music bloggers who run their own sites or who contribute to a site other than yours. What is stopping you from joining forces with your peers and, instead of a dozen people running a dozen blogs, combining your tastes/talents into a single online portal for all things music? The cost of a single site’s hosting fees versus a dozen is an easy decision, as is the idea of having twelve people market a single brand name rather than twelve people who each market a different brand. So, why not work together?

Speaking strictly from personal experience, the biggest factor preventing collaboration and community building amongst the online music writer community is ego. Everyone wants their site or their thing to be the one everyone turns to, not realizing that in five, ten, or twenty years no one will remember the person who launched the site. Think about it. Can you tell me who launched Pitchfork, Stereogum, AV Club, or MetalSucks off the top of your head? Does the fact you can or cannot do that change the quality of the site or the respect you have for those who contribute to it? My guess is no, which should tell you all you need to know about how important it is that your site be the one everyone turns to for information. All that matters is the quality of the content, which is the direct result of the talent behind it, and that remains true regardless of the URL.

Changes will come and go, but there will always be a place for quality music blogging. The path to sustainable success in modern music is built atop collaboration and networking. Writers who want to last need to drop whatever ego they may have left, push brands to the side, and find a path to work together. Combine your talents and resources in order to cover more corners of music better. Your work, your readers, and your career will thank you.

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.