Blog Collectives Ad Hoc, Portals Embrace Communal Fandom Over Influence
It's obvious music blogs have a unique place in the great big music discussion. Entire careers have been bolstered by one lone blogger posting a hot new MP3 that quickly catches fire and burns up RSS feeds. However, some of the biggest taste-makers on the Internet have combined forces and their new music blog collectives appear to be a communal reaction to traffic-baiting blog hype.
Ad Hoc is a blog collective founded by Emilie Friedlander and Ric Leichtung, who have posted a Kickstarter to generate funds for the website and a companion print zine. The two are the former editors of Altered Zones, Pitchfork's experimental/weirdo sister-site. The site, which gathered 12 geographically disparate music blogs that all had ears tuned to the avante-garde, kicked the bucket in December last year. Ad Hoc will double down on what Friedlander and Leichtung started, bringing together not only ten music bloggers but a bunch of special musician contributors like Real Estate's Alex Bleeker and Neon Indian's Alan Palomo.
Portals is another blog collective foray, uniting sixteen music bloggers. The site's mission statement says it aims to "liberate ourselves from a passive cultural journey" by creating a "shared refuge for the sights and sounds which shape our time." Sweet.
Participating in both of these entities is Decoder (formerly known as Get Off the Coast), a blog run by three friends on separate coasts. While formally involved with Ad Hoc, Decoder writer Jheri Evans told me via email that the site will be an infrequent guest contributor to Portals.
Evans and his cohorts also contributed to Altered Zones, which he spoke of favorably. "Altered Zones accomplished the idea of a real music blog collective," Evans wrote. "It was the first of its breed, and obviously we learned a lot as we went, and people watching had the opportunity to learn some as well."
In terms of content, the Ad Hoc Kickstarter says the site aims to be "a daily destination for MP3s, videos, mixes, interviews, artist's writings, and cultural commentary -- curated for quality, and with an emphasis on emerging artists and musical movements that best exemplify the new grassroots, Internet-fueled DIY." Evans said Portals will feature podcasts and monthly events in addition to MP3 posts. "It's aiming to give as much content as possible," he wrote. "Portals seeks out a more community-oriented idea, I think."
What interests me about these collaborations is the choice to huddle everybody together like a big music-obsessed commune. These operations aren't structured like blog networks (Gawker, for example, or good ol' New Times) nor are they forging all their manpower into a conventional music site entity like Pitchfork or Stereogum.
In their Kickstarter video, Friedlander and Leichtung often employ the word "community" when talking about Ad Hoc's mission to promote independent music and hopefully bypass parasitic hype. On the Portals homepage, the site's mission statement calls for the banding of a "Do-It-Together movement" in "recognition that no single human creative pursuit can be monolithic." When I asked Evans if the aim of Portals is to have similar influence to other tastemaker monoliths, he cautiously balked at the idea of wielding "influence" over a readership.
"A lot of the Portals crew are already establishing themselves as tastemakers, and all of these blogs are trying to support those they feel are under-represented," he wrote. "I can't really speak for everyone else, but I'm not trying to become more influential. I guess the goal of expanding who we're reaching is something, but I don't want anyone to listen to something because I said so. I just want to let as many people know it exists as I can. I want these bands I think are amazing to at least have the chance to be heard. I just don't think influence is the right word."