See that Neil Hannon up there in the photo above this story? I've always liked him, but never more so than the day he was responsible, indirectly and directly, for the best day this site has ever seen. Allow me to explain…
In the year or so since I started running RRP properly I've had my fair share of "why am I doing this?" moments, pauses, blocks, and days of lesser inspiration. I've had to bear comments from music fans that effectively declare sites like this to be redundant. I don't need to read reviews, they say, I can listen to anything at the click of a mouse. Besides, what do critics know about music?
What do I know about music? I'm not sure that I "know" anything. Not in the implied subjective sense, at least. I do know, though, that sometimes I hear a new song by an unsigned band and I think that it's just marvellous that I have a place where I can stand and yell about its brilliance to passers-by; while most stick to their literal role in this weird little analogy, every now and then someone stops and gives this unknown melody a quick listen. And at that point, I'm happy because I connected these things.
But it can be a long, ill-rewarded road. Just as I'm not cut out for a career in sales, or any role where the most likely words I'll hear are "no" and "sorry", it's rough sometimes when you know the only reason they didn't hear you or see you waving frantically about an utterly fantastic new single is that they were already listening to something else: something with a bigger PR budget and air-time already in place, no doubt.
There are times, however, that make it all extremely worthwhile. It doesn't have to be a grand gesture - it could just be a tweet from the band to say thanks, an email from their label, a mention on Facebook or even seeing your words used in a future press release.
And it's not just about a mutual pat on the back, it's about the idea that we both get something out of it: someone asks if I'd be interested in writing about their band, I write something, they like it, they share it, and then maybe one of their fans discovers RRP, and starts reading a few other posts on the site that they would never otherwise have known about.
Better still, while it's no coincidence that the two most popular posts on the site this week were both shared by the bands, individual members of the bands, their friends, the postman, their tennis partners etc... not all the clicks on those posts happened just because of the sharing. In other words, there's a group of people who saw the posts (possibly because they were rising fast in the popular posts list) and were curious enough to take a look.
It's the classic "win win win".
Divine Comedy Day
While I was looking back through my visitor stats from last year, I found a pretty extreme example of this phenomenon. Here's a snapshot of my daily page views according to Google Analytics:
You don't need to know the exact numbers to see that something fairly interesting happened sometime between April and July. Taking the magnifying glass to the graph, it shows that the massive spike started on April 29th, peaking on April 30th, before tailing off partially again on May 1st. On April 30th alone, the site received over two thousand page views, comfortably the best day RRP has ever had. (Looking at awstats shows that just under one third of all visits in April occurred on the 29th and 30th alone).
Now, it just so happens that on April 29th 1996 an album called Casanova by The Divine Comedy was released. To celebrate its anniversary I held one of my "One Band One Day" events for the band: during the day I listened to nothing but The Divine Comedy, reviewed all their studio albums in chronological order, and tweeted about it as I went. At some point during proceedings, The Divine Comedy's twitter account started retweeting me, and their Facebook page shared all my reviews.
— The Divine Comedy (@divinecomedyhq) April 29, 2014
The massive spike in page views all came about because they got involved. And it felt bloody great.
Not only did it feel great, but it also resulted in a whole load of extra page views all over the site. Of all the views over the three days, fully a quarter were pages away from all the Divine Comedy Day content. Given how small RRP was then (even smaller than it is today), it amounted to something like a 600% increase over what I would have normally seen. If I could repeat something like that today...
The moral of the story here is: if you're a blogger, do try to get bands involved in your writing. Believe me - it can work wonders.
But do bands need bloggers, though? I must admit this case is harder to prove, and probably merits a post of its own. A proper one, with research and interviews, even…
Collectively, you could say that between them all the small to medium sized music sites out there contribute millions of occasions each year when a band and a potential new fan are connected. For my part, as well as posts on RRP I share a huge amount of content on twitter - sometimes my own posts, but often posts on other blogs, or tracks on Soundcloud, videos on Youtube, or entries on Hype Machine. Then there's my Facebook page, which isn't so active, but still reaches thousands of people each week. I'm also an active contributor to Facebook groups, one of which has just under six thousand members, all eager to discover the next big thing. I know I haven't helped make any artists rich, but I do know people who've bought music off the back of reading about it on RRP, and even if their response amounts to nothing more than following a band on twitter or adding a few Youtube views to their tally, in the modern world of metrics these have some incremental value (not a great deal in isolation, perhaps, but when added to those from other writers...)
In a nutshell, then: Go us! Go bloggers! Go music writers!
And bands - if we write about you, please, please, please share and retweet the heck out of it!