A-Trak and I don't have a lot in common.
He's a millionaire who's traveled the world performing in front of adoring crowds, while I could be writing this naked and no one would know. But we did both get our professional starts on the music-internet at about the same time (circa 2005), which means we've seen firsthand how dramatically things have changed, which means we both totally agree: The album isn't dead, but the classic blog era is.
Here's what it used to be like:
We would get to know via email or MySpace messages the people who ran those blogs, and we would do tracks and send them to them, and they would premiere them. Even the remix process, in terms of the requests, it often didn't even go through the powers that be and management. A lot of times I would just get an email from someone like, I'm so and so from this band in the U.K., and I'd be like, oh shit, I know this band, and they'd ask me to do a remix and we would just set it up. That was exciting. - A-Trak, Billboard
And here's what it's like now:
I think music blogs are less where it's at. Even simply because blogs don't give music away anymore. In a sense, streaming music, the full arrival of streaming music to where it is now, I think had this side effect where it made all the music on the internet legitimate. There's barely anymore sites where you can just illegally download tracks. Everything is regulated; there's a legal alternative.
There's a lot that I love about streaming: I love that artists are making some money, and I love that there's a quality control, it's the right quality of files that are disseminating, whereas a lot of times on blogs it was like shitty rips, which sucked for the artist. But the downside is there's certain things that don't even exist on the legal services, which are being sort of wiped out. It's hard to find some of these secret stashes on blogs in this regulated climate. - A-Trak, Billboard
He nailed it.
More than anything, it's been the rise in streaming services that killed the blog's old function of serving as a destination for people to discover new music. That function still absolutely exists, but it's no longer the primary driver. You just can't run a financially viable site when you're competing with a DJ on SoundCloud who can do the same for free.
What that's meant for "blogs" is that to survive they've had to re-emphasize original writing over being the first to rip and post a leaked song, which on the whole I consider a good thing, but once again A-Trak's right on in that the major downside has been that remixes, rare b-sides, cool freestyles, all the things that make hip-hop culture truly unique, have been largely wiped out by the corporatization of streaming.
Whether the change is for the better or worse, there's no turning back. The classic blog era is dead, long live the blog.
By Nathan S, occasional keyboard hitter and beard maintainer. This is his Twitter.
Photo Credit:Triple J