On Friday, SpeedontheBeat.com featured part one of our first Music Roundtable. This discussion focused on the writers and curators themselves, with a few tips about the business (especially with regards to submissions and approaching people who could “put you on”). If you haven’t checked it out, please do so post-haste (here’s the link again). Today, we delve deeper into the well of knowledge, getting opinions some somewhat controversial topics, including paid posts and the oversaturation of the “blogger” (the quotes will finally be explained today) and music fields.
As on Friday, the participants of the roundtable are:
Nikki Siixx, NikkiSiixx.com
Al Shipley, Freelance Writer for the Baltimore City Paper, Complex, and more
Quinelle Holder, Hip-Hop Curator and Head of Marketing at IMG/Warner Music Group
SOTB: So, let’s just jump into it. As journalists, bloggers, marketers, what have you…what are your thoughts on paid posts? Not trying to piss on anyone’s head, but I’ve always wondered what other music bloggers and the like think of these deals.
Rizzo: Simply put, I can’t be bought. So, I’m good on that.
Nikki: It really depends exactly how the material is being processed. If the site accepts every paid post, then I would feel they’re not going through and actually listening or being genuine. The way our site works if the artist is approved we feature them on a post. We also give a week of daily Twitter promotion at no charge. If they were interested in extending this promotion or any other methods of promoting them are rates start at $20 for another two weeks double daily promotion and even $400 for a complete campaign. That has airplay of your singles on my site whenever someone logs in they hear it automatically, from a week to max 8 weeks and even an interview to add to it. You’re really paying for the promotion, and not on the actual feature/review.
Al: People who take money from artists to write or post about them are scum. And even they’re just providing a service for a fee and not trying to be shady about it, the chance that the service is worth the price is miniscule, since the odds are that anyone who’d do that can’t write well and nobody cares what they have to say. That said, there’s a lot of gray areas these days with “sponsored content” and “advertorial” pieces, and I’m not against all of it.
I’ve done branded posts for Complex, and generally it’s the same as anything else I’ve written for Complex except there’s a company’s logo at the top of the page – sometimes I don’t even know what company it is until it’s published, because we’re not writing about them, they just want to be associated with the kind of stuff we write. That usually has little to no effect on the content – if the client’s a car company, they might change some offhand reference to a different auto brand, but I don’t really care, I’m writing about music. But again, it’s a gray area and a part of the industry that is rapidly changing. If someone else did branded content in a different way I might not feel right about doing it.
Quinelle: Paid posts and PR campaigns are two different sides of the same coin, in reality. You pay a PR to get your content on platforms based on their relationships…which is really no different than you paying each site directly. Really, the only difference is the hand things are passed through, similar to radio DJ’s. I suggest the PR route. It keeps the artist’s hands clean and has a more professional and respectable approach.
SOTB: What’d you say to other people who want to get into doing music? Or is it too crowded as is?
Rizzo: It is oversaturated and it has affected the quality of music. But, to each his own. I’m not gonna piss on Lil’ Ray Ray’s hoop dreams, so to speak.
Nikki: If anyone is interested in getting into “MUSIC,” they have to understand A LOT of people are trying to get in it as well. It’s a competition and you have to be able to network as well. Building your catalog, a fan base, getting features, and getting to perform at shows is the ultimate goal. So, work hard and get ready for a bumpy road. Stay working, be real with yourself, and build a team of people who believe in you! I feel once you have all these essentials you shouldn’t be far behind from being successful in the music industry.
Al: I like to think that making any piece of art is an act of hope. You might be trying to become famous or just to simply express yourself. But, either way, you’re putting something you made out into the world to find out what happens. So I would never discourage that, it’s a beautiful thing. And we live in an amazing time when most people in the western world, if they want to make music, can. The means of recording and distribution are getting cheaper and more accessible all the time. So of course the field is crowded, and of course the world doesn’t need another record. But someone making a song, and another person enjoying it, that’s a very simple, wonderful thing that countless people get to do every day, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a part of that.
Quinelle: All I would say is research the culture and then? Be original.
SOTB: What about “blogging?”(Ed. Note: FINALLY, the quotes are explained)
Rizzo: The word “blogging” is synonymous with rapping as becoming a field that isn’t really respected and kind of a joke. It’s over-saturated as well, but that’s natural because media on all platforms are transitioning to digital outlets. I prefer to use the term “media hub” when describing sites now. I think that is the future. Content and media which will cater to a particular audience specifically. I’m waiting on some enlightened white person to steal the term “media hub” and take credit for it. Then I know I’ve made it in life.
Nikki: For anyone who is interested in “BLOGGING,” they will need to understand there’s a lot of work to do. You will need to create a site that will be any of these topics (MUSIC, MOVIES, GAMING, SPORTS). Voicing out your opinion is key. Say if you’re doing a blog for underground hip-hop artists. You will feature their content and you’ll express to what it is, why you love/hate it, and gather any other information about the artist that you’d like to share with your readers. Next is to promote it to as many people as possible. There’s a lot of growth involved in maintaining a website.
Al: Now that blogging has been around for well over a decade, it certainly seems possible that people will still be blogging, and calling it “blogging,” for as long as we all live and into future generations. Maybe not, though, I don’t know. Things change quickly. There will always be things to write about, and I’ll probably always be writing.
But I’ve gradually done less and less “blogging” and quick write-ups of news stories and new songs, and more interviews and researched stories and essays with a strong angle or perspective. Most of the really smart, talented people I’ve known who have blogged usually use that as a stepping stone to something else that requires more skill and effort than just knocking out a blog post.
Blogging is a great way to get your feet wet in a particular world or topic and immerse yourself in something you want to get more deeply involved in.
Quinelle: I’d say the same thing as with music.
SOTB: To kind of piggyback off the last question, what would you all say is your “shining accomplishment?” Was it scoring that interview with an up-and-comer who ended up taking over the game? Was it just starting in the field? Or was it something a bit more…out there?
Rizzo: I would say even getting AnarchyEST1978.com off the ground is big. But, specifically an interview with an artist named The Black Son. Two weeks after I posted his mixtape, it was posted by a major hip-hop site. I interviewed and reached out to him solely based on the fact I like his music. It reminded me to trust my instincts and let me know I’m moving in the right direction. These blogs aint bigger than me (said in The Game’s voice).
Nikki: My shining accomplishment was being able to put a YouTube series together with other female bloggers. It was called NikkiJoMazing. I pitched them the idea, filmed the commercial, episodes, and I edited almost every episode of our first season (22 episodes). We were able to get an interview with Da Mafia 6ix, Bizzy Bone & Flesh N Bone, and RAKIM! Also, another accomplishment was that my site NikkiSiixx.com was nominated by People’s Choice for Miami New Times Magazine as Miami’s Top Music Blog in 2014.
Al: I dunno. I’ve done a lot of individual things I feel proud of, but it’s hard to say if there’s any one individual thing. I’d like to think when I’ve finished my book that will be my biggest accomplishment. For the time being, I feel like I’ve just earned a good reputation, especially in Baltimore, by very consistently writing well, giving new artists exposure, keeping my ear open to the scene, not being too much of a dick.
Quinelle: My Kendrick Lamar interview back in 2011 was the turning point for my career. That interview alone lead to me getting an internship with The FADER and eventually becoming an editorial assistant at Karen Civil. The irony is I was living with my girlfriend at the time (my wife now), I had no money or a job. Next time I see Kendrick I’m going to tell him face to face he changed my life.
SOTB: Top five artists and a sentence or two as to why. They don’t have to be hip-hop, though.
Rizzo: My top five are:
- Stevie Wonder: Best songwriter ever in my opinion.
- The Notorious BIG: Greatest Rapper I’ve ever heard
- Nas: Greatest lyricist I’ve ever heard
- Pharrell: Crosses so many genres and has made great music for so long.
- Mos Def: So much soul and skill intertwined.
- Linkin Park
- Kid Cudi
- Art Morera
- Three 6 Mafia
- Sonic Youth: My favorite band, just remained incredibly good for almost three decades before they finally took a (probably permanent) break a few years ago.
- Jay-Z: My favorite rapper, had such an incredible run before that first “retirement” that I can’t even get mad that he’s not the guy he used to be.
- Jimi Hendrix: Left behind a pretty incredible catalog in the space of 3 years, it really drives me crazy sometimes just thinking about all the music we missed out on.
- Steely Dan: A band I grew up with that have come to mean more and more to me over time. They get a lot of lip service for being cerebral and sophisticated perfectionists, but they were also just a really funny, strange band that wrote incredible pop hooks.
- A Tribe Called Quest: The Low End Theory was the first rap album I really loved and I don’t know if anything has ever topped it. Maybe I could cheat and say Native Tongues. De La Soul Is Deadis a hugely important album to me too.
Rizzo: Send an email to AxxxEST1979@gmail.com
Nikki: The best way to send a submission to my site is with this link: http://www.nikkisiixx.com/submissions. This link has a break down of what I need from you to properly review you’re content. Before sending any submissions, you should read my article on SUBMISSIONS 101.
Al: Shipley.firstname.lastname@example.org my e-mail. I’m on Twitter and Facebook and all that, but if you hit me there about music I’m just going to tell you to e-mail me.
Quinelle: Send submissions to listentomymusicQ@gmail.com
SOTB: Do you have any last thoughts that you want to share with either me or prospective readers?
Rizzo: The world is changing. The old business models are on their last legs and the digital realm is a great opportunity to stretch the parameters of what is possible in the media business. Not enough people of color are taking advantage. I feel like the ‘net is a great equalizer. I’m trying to catch that wave and take advantage because many of us are being left behind. I got a laptop an a dream. That’s all I need.
Nikki: I would like to say thank you for inviting me to Speedonthebeat.com’s Writer/Blogger Roundtable discussion. It was pretty fun answering all your questions, and I hope your readers get some insight on a blogger’s behalf. If anyone would like to contact me you can via Twitter @NikkiSiixx.
Al: Not really.
Quinelle: Follow me on Twitter and IG @quinelleholder. The #NewLegends are here!
SOTB: Again, I’d like to thank you all for participating in this roundtable. Hopefully we can help be (and continue to be) the change we seek. Cliche quote, I know, but it still fits.