Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Buzz on Blogs (Part 3 of 4)

But is the power of making or breaking a band all in the blogs? For Indie-Rock, in particular, fans no longer look to their once beloved and popular mainstream music magazines. Blogs can now provide them with immediate access to bands that may be particular to an area or scene. Some blogs will review a show, or just inform its readers on a certain band, more often than not providing a free mp3 to listen to. Readers generate a certain trust to that faceless blogger behind the computer screen that when they mention a band they like, the readers will have confidence in the their opinion and check it out themselves. Jessica Shelton, a 26-year-old New York resident reads music blogs on a regular basis to find out music news or discover a new band.

“I absolutely feel like there are bands out there that I ‘should’ be listening to after having seen them all over the blogosphere,” she said. “I am more likely to give them more of a chance than a band I’ve only seen once. The blogs I read generally suggest musicians that I end up liking, so I figure if they’re all talking about the same performers then there must be a good reason.”

But for Katherine Bernard, an 18-year-old student at NYU, when there’s too much talk, she turns away. “Blogs take away that romantic period in between recording and gaining popularity,” she said. “I’ll look for some other protégé once I hear that a band I like is buzzing. I’ll still like the music but I won’t necessary feel obliged to talk about them unless it’s to say ‘oh yeah, they were so cool 43 minutes ago before that buzz blog was posted.’”

In 2004, the talk was all about Arcade Fire. Many believe that they would have received the popularity and credibility without the blogs, but it’s undeniable the process was sped up do to the blogosphere’s constant praise. This year, there were two bands that took on the “buzz band” name, and yet in two very different ways. If you mention “buzz” to any blogger, they’ll immediately mention the Brooklyn based band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

“Clap Your Hands is the biggest buzzed band this year in the indie circles,” said Audrey Levy, one of the original NYC music bloggers who goes under the name of Melody Nelson. “Each year, people look for a new ‘so and so’. This year, everyone wanted to find a new Arcade Fire, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah was the closest thing to come.”

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s self-released album yielded them praise from the blogs first, and then the industry followed soon after. They have since signed a unique distribution deal in the US and landed a UK recording contract.

“As long as buzz is backed by solid talent and people don’t let their egos get in the way, they can have a lot of success and reap the benefits of being a “buzz band,” said blogger Nora K. “Clap Your Hands Say Yeah did this the right way. They come off as normal cool guys who aren’t trying to do whatever they have to do to be famous and chase after the limelight.”

And yet even though bloggers were singing their praises at first, the backlash soon followed. Many were irritated by lead singer Alec Ounsworth’s voice and it became a hipster cliché to like the band. “Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s hype was only partly deserved, so when people figure that out they got the backlash,” said blogger and musician Wes . “The blogs that blew them up surely did love them that much, it’s just that not everyone has to feel the same. A buzz band is when everyone is talking about them in a viral way. It starts with a few people and it grows exponentially. You don’t want to start a backlash before your buzz can generate actual fans.”

During all this talk, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is anywhere but in the middle of it. When asked if he reads blogs, singer Ousworth replied: “I don’t read blogs so I’m not sure what folks are talking about. Maybe they have an influence, I’m not the one to ask.”

And yet the debate still continues, mostly through comments posted on blogs or through posts themselves. Blogger Nikki of "Indie Don't Dance" believes that being a buzz band can go both ways, but in the case of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, it was beneficial. “When you look at a band like them, the label benefited the band. I don’t think it is necessarily detrimental unless the band spent many years being primarily unknown and then suddenly blow up” she said. “The underlying message of the buzz is: ‘Hurry and see this band before they become really big.’ In my opinion, the indie music scene suffers a bit from the I-heard-them-back-when disease.”

Previously:

  • The Buzz on Blogs (Part 2)
  • The Buzz on Blogs (Part 1)

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