Perpetua responds with characteristic grace to my post about the future of sites like Fluxblog. While acknowledging that emerging forms of sharing can be more efficient, he smartly defends the utility of blogs like his in an environment where corporate interests still prevent music from being easily shared. There’s a punk ethos to MP3 blogging that often goes unspoken these days, because sharing songs without corporate permission no longer strikes us as a radical act. But in 2002 it absolutely was, and in many ways it still is.
Perpetua doesn’t say it, but the other thing we would lose if MP3 blogs all died is the writing. Every day I rely on writers like Perpetua, Abebe and Breihan to help me unpack what I’m listening to, to see it in new ways. At their best they shine a light on some facet of a song I would never otherwise consider, or persuade me to take a chance on a band I intended on skipping. Writing about music is famously difficult, making sites like Fluxblog that have maintained such high quality for ten years all the more precious.
And yet — if I might chip away a bit more at the utility of blogs like my own — most of that writing goes to waste. How many times have you seen a paragraph of text on your Dashboard about a song or band you had never heard, and skipped right over it? Later you’ll encounter the song in another context — in the car, at a party, on a playlist you’ve subscribed to — and you’ll try to remember who had posted something about that song and what they had said. And you will not remember. The reason that images are exalted on Tumblr is because they can be appreciated immediately, in the moment. Too music music and music writing finds us here when we aren’t ready to listen.
Which is why Spotify et al would be smart to license content from music writers and let people subscribe to it. Perpetua famously (and wonderfully) wrote about every song ever recorded by R.E.M., a band whose earlier work I had almost completely ignored till last year. (The first R.E.M. record I ever spent real time with was Up, which is so weird!) I could have gone back and tried to read Perpetua’s posts while I fell headfirst into Murmur and Life’s Rich Pageant, if the thought had occurred to me at the time. But what if I could just subscribe to Perpetua on Rdio and, in addition to seeing his playlists, also see his commentaries on the songs I was listening to at the moment I was listening to them?
Nowadays we think it’s barbaric to have to watch a television show as it airs live. Why should we have to be ready to reflect on unfamiliar music whenever it pops up on our Dashboards? Why can’t we time-shift music and music commentary the same way we time-shift TV?
Whatever the case, I hope sites like Fluxblog lead long and happy lives. Even as the Spotifys of the world make it easier for us to discover and share music with us, we remain in need of discerning minds to help us explore them. And that’s as true today as it has ever been.