I was reading David’s post on “Music Blogging in 2011” and was especially moved by the comments. Dozens of bloggers chimed in with their viewpoints on blogging, and, most importantly, their own motivations for blogging.
I’ve written before on constructing personas for bloggers, but I think it’s worth looking at the personas in a different light: motivations. Most music bloggers exhibit some combination of these four motivations:
- Participating in a community - Bloggers are almost always the biggest consumers of other blogs as well. They comment on each others’ posts, repost content they’ve found on other blogs, join forums, and go to meetups. People like to feel close to people similar to them, and musical taste goes a long way towards identifying potential friends.
- Sharing with friends - Most bloggers are the same folks who made all the mixtapes for their friends and parties in high school and college. They want their friends to hear great music, and blogging is a great way to publish their favorites. I know a good portion of the subscribers to my blog personally, and often subscribe to their blogs on other topics.
- Feeling of accomplishment - There are two main ways this manifests itself: being (among) the first to discover a new artist (coolness), and driving more traffic to your blog (attention). Many folks are ashamed to admit these motivations, but they’re natural and human.
- Helping the artists - I believe this is the most under-appreciated motivation. Simply by the act of creating a blog and posting music, bloggers are raising their hands saying “I want to help by telling everyone I know about your music!” I’m shocked at how many artists take that for granted, and how poorly “PR” is constructed to account for this motivation.
It’s also important to identify the underlying motivation of nearly all online motivations, something Paul Ford recently described as WWIC: “Why Wasn’t I Consulted” (Clay Shirkey refers to it in different context as Cognitive Surplus). People want to share their opinions, and feel that those opinions are being heard. The three levels of participation on the web are content creation (the artists), commentary (bloggers, commenters), and approvals (like buttons, word-for-word reblogs, tweeted links — “the digital equivalent of a grunt” according to Ford).
A lot of bloggers are missing out on the opportunities grunts present because they view them as distractions and competitors for attention. While it might not seem like much, harnessing the grunts can add up to a lot when it comes to fulfilling the blogger motivations. Allowing people to grunt gives a better sense of community (the most avid grunters are the most likely to stay on and return to your site), and counting the grunts can add to a sense of accomplishment for building that community (and measuring how to better serve that community).
Perhaps most importantly, the grunts can help the artist (the most unfulfilled motivation of the bloggers). Something as simple as implementing a Facebook Like button will drive more eyes and ears to the artist’s content. Taking it one step further, bloggers could tie those Like buttons to the artist’s Facebook page — the blogger fulfills all their motivations, and the artist gets the benefit of being able to accumulate and communicate with new fans via Facebook. It’s really easy to implement, too — there’s a simple Like Button Generator on Facebook’s site.
That’s only one way bloggers could increase their value to the artist and fulfill their own motivations. Undoubtedly more will emerge. I would challenge the industry, rather than the bloggers, to figure out how to make that happen — you need the bloggers more than you realize, and they’re feeling somewhat unloved at the moment. Rethink your communications with bloggers, and find new ways to empower them to spread your word. They want to help.
Post script: The other motivation that is prevalent, but not all bloggers share, is enjoying the art of writing a well-crafted review. Several of the commenters on David’s article lamented the fact that a seemingly increasing number of bloggers write half-assed posts, rarely containing any analysis or original thought. Frankly, that criticism is like saying the teenagers on YouTube singing along to a song into their webcam is a poor cover song. As I alluded to above, these simple posts are really more of grunts (approvals) than commentary.