Thursday, 20 December 2012

Five things I learned this year

The Radio To Go 2012 review part 1: You can learn a lot from your blog's figures. 

Clicker is a freebie app in the Apple store
The total pageview count at Radio To Go clicked past 40,000 this week: mainly people checking out the 1EYE / Del Camino post.

I'm pleased. I launched the blog in 2007 to plug my radio consult business. A regular topic was how local radio and local music can do good things for each other. But as radio shrank - four years of systematic merging of local radio into national 'brands' - I found myself writing more and about my other great passion: music. Preferably fresh,  honest and local.

Up to Christmas 2011, blog page views were tiny: less than 9000 in four years. But this time last year, at the Destroyers’ Brum Christmas party, it struck me that the radio posts were now almost irrelevant. On the other hand, here I was, watching a band that people care about; much more interesting, and very different. And that's what put me on a new path. Thank you, Louis, Paul, and company. 

So this past year, I've focussed much more on music, and things have changed - a lot. Now it's the end of the year, so here's a two-part 2012 review, starting with how people have used this blog. I’ve learned a lot.

1: Your personal passions may inspire you; other people’s passions, struggles and triumphs are just as, if not more, interesting.
I still love radio, deeply. Sadly the kind of radio I love most (intelligent, un-patronising, committed, passionate both about good ideas and, where appropriate, good music) is pretty thin on the ground at the local level. But those same qualities are present on the local music scene, and the people who make that happen are, simply, very interesting people indeed. Some of the stories I’ve uncovered this year, almost as a by-product of the blog, are totally inspiring; I wasn’t expecting that. 

Some posts:
We Do It Because We Love It with Zirak Hamad and others
The Songwriter's Cafe
Richard Shakespeare snapper supreme

2: People do still care about Radio
… but only when it resonates with the audience. The fuss people made when the BBC proposed to kill off 6Music is one example. The reaction to my post on the departure of BRMB was, by the standards of this blog, absolutely huge. That post is, head and shoulders, the most successful post on Radio To Go. But please note that I did not, and do not, argue for the retention of the old BRMB. Those good old 20th century days are long gone, and they're not coming back. 

Some posts:
BRMB Free To Go into the record books

Re-thinking Regional Media? We'd better... before it goes forever
3: People will help and share
There's always a lot of snarky, shallow, ego-tripping to be found both on stage and behind the mic or the decks. That's showbiz, folks. That said, a wonderful and positive aspect of the blog has been the willingness of both seasoned industry professionals and hot headed young guns to generously share their experience and tips and tricks on how they achieved their goals. The posts here are packed with generous insight. Mostly, they got great circulation, and the advice they hold has hopefully been widely used and appreciated. Huge gratitude is due to all of the following, and others...

Tribute Bands with Ian Danter

Doing That Album with Paul Murphy, Amit Dattani and Rob Carvalho
Pledge-funding That Album with Red Shoes and Electric Swing Circus
Studio Costs and Survival with Artisan and Elephant House Studios
Videos: get the concept right first

4: Reputations are not guaranteed. Surprises are.
Not every band or musician captures the imagination; you might be surprised at the page view figures that 'reasonable' names do - or don't - generate. It's very instructive. Me, I get a kick out of writing the post, telling the story, crafting the copy and dressing it all up with audio, photos and video. It scratches an itch. Many of the stories I write up could go straight to radio - some have - and that’s partly why I like to work this way. There are occasions when I write up a post, with great pleasure, put it out, and sit back… to watch a bleak reaction. That’s getting rarer as the blog develops, I’m pleased to say. And sometimes, the word gets out in all sorts of surprising ways, and that’s good to see. For example, Don Fardon has just come off a four-gig hometown run at the Ricoh Arena, playing to 10,000 people; they've clearly been googling him, and his numbers on this blog are up - again.

Some posts: 
Don Fardonroyalties, finally, after 45 years
Birmingham Reggae production houses
Talking About My Generations with Khaliq

Mr Bailiff! 1EYE / Del Camino 

5: There's a bunch of us out there. 
This blog is not out there on its own. There are a lot of people who really care about local music and creativity. Like me, they hold that this music is a priceless asset to our region. We need to prize and value it. I greatly admire those people who put themselves on the line to follow a creative dream, or who take regular financial risks just so performances can take place. There are the magnificent and generous people who simply see it as a duty to help new talent grow and flourish, and the wonderful veteran musicians who take gracefully to the stage for the sheer joy of performing their craft. There are magnificent bloggers and broadcasters too, who care every bit as much as we do. Some of them are on the blog list on the right. It's company I'm honoured to be part of. 

Some posts: 
Reggae City and the Shambala crews
The Hare and Hounds Under Threat - now reprieved. VERY BIG numbers on this post.
John Fell from Goodnight Lenin on the Moseley Festivals and more
Gavin Monaghan
Steve Gibbons
Sings And Plays on Radio To Go
Handling Music History and our Music Future
Birmingham Opera Company

I am, of course, indebted to all those people who generously gave me their time and showed great patience so I could write up the posts. For those I wanted to catch up with, but didn't, and even for those who never bothered to reply to my email and Facebook approaches - I look forward to talking next year. 

Next week, a Radio to Go review of the year.

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