Army Of Tastemakers

This was inspired by a tweet from mark earls (@herdmeister) – how very modern. Here it is in full:

RT @rafikam bloggers do not make or break artists. “tastemakers” are not real things. the idea exists as a rationalization after the fact

I think he’s right, from personal experience.

First: my band has a few influential bloggers calling our corner. Tom Robinson is an influential DJ. And yet we haven’t seen any explosion in popularity.

Think about how many bands those people recommend. Think about how many the arch-tastemaker John Peel recommended. One night, for example, he played the terrific “Caught By The Fuzz” by new band, Supergrass. I bought it. Loads of other people did the same.

But, possibly on that same show, John played Anaesthesia, by Rochdale band Mazey Fade. I remember because I went out and bought their album, “Secret Watchers Built The World”. It’s a riot of noisy joy, but no-one else will remember. Mazey Fade never went anywhere.

Attributing success of acts to bloggers is confirmation bias. It’s like people thinking it’s a coincidence that there’s life on earth. Our planet! Life! Imagine that!

Well, try and imagine an alternative.

What would be really surprising is if a band managed to become famous enough that you’d heard of them, and yet a radio DJ (who spends their entire life listening to new music) hadn’t heard of them. Cause is the band starting to gain momentum. Effect is blogger writing them up. If there’s enough momentum, you might get multiple effects. Multiple bloggers and DJs taking notice. Then, you might get a snowball. But you won’t get success from one isolated effect.

Also consider this: how different a mention of a band you haven’t heard of can feel in these two situations:

– when it’s in isolation (ie on one blog)

– when it’s the third you’ve come across

I don’t think we follow the tastemakers. I think we follow congnoscenti hum. It’s only when you hear buzz that you risk investing in a new band (or brand, or whatever).

Thinking back to the difference between Supergrass and Mazey Fade, Supergrass also got played in a lot of other places. Mazey Fade … well, faded.

I think bloggers only work in series. I think they influence each other. I think the difference between spotting a trend and spotting a nothing is that other people pick it up. And that no blogger has the power to create success.


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