How Much Should a Music Blog Cost? The Curious Case of Blog Collective Ad Hoc
Ad Hoc, a DIY/experimental music blog collective created by editors of Pitchfork's defunct sister site Altered Zones, recently succeeded in raising over $37,000 for the project through a Kickstarter drive and will be going live in the coming weeks.
Editors Ric Leichtung and Emilie Friedlander, after ending Altered Zones in December of last year, corralled ten prominent bloggers and a number of esteemed indie musicians to contribute to what they called a community-oriented, holistic DIY music destination.
In March, when I wrote about burgeoning music blog collectives, Ad Hoc had just begun its fundraising efforts. I was curious about how these collectives maintained the individualistic spirit of MP3 blogging within a journalistic/do-it-together structure. The editorial duo explained that Ad Hoc aims to create a decentralized alternative to major publications and let artists themselves contribute to the discovery appeal of music blogs.
At first, some of the more entertaining music curmudgeons on the Web were skeptical of Ad Hoc's fundraising methods. Doug Mosurock of Dusted Magazine's vinyl-only Still Single review series said on Facebook: "Can someone explain to me why a new music blog needs $33,000+ to get started?" Spin Magazine senior editor Christopher R. Weingarten tweeted: "Ex-Altered Zones eds start new Kickstarter. So much good and bad here I don't know whether to make fun or donate!" The tweet came with a possibly suggestive link to the Kickstarter page.
Leichtung says Ad Hoc's community-oriented presentation likely helped to put their Kickstarter effort over the top. "It's clear it did resonate with a lot of people since we got over 1,000 backers from all over the world," he says. "It's something that people really want to see."
Friedlander said seeking crowd-funding was in line with their independent ethos; it was more ideal than searching for corporate sponsorship or support from another music site. Ad Hoc also aims to pay their contributors for more than just linking to files.
"We value quality thought, it's not just about upping an MP3 or a video on the internet," Leichtung says. "It's about cultural criticism, looking at things intelligently."
"More than paying someone for their curatorial prowess, we're compensating people for their time and people who show a dedication to this music and have an advocacy angle to what they do," Friedlander says.. "There are plenty of people who have good taste on the Internet. But there are people with good taste that go out of their way to find good stuff and give a voice to artists who don't necessarily have a publicist or labels for PR."
She explained the decentralized approach of a blog collective aims to preserve the independence of the contributors, resembling "a mosaic of voices as opposed to this omniscient, centralized editorial voice" of a typical music site.
The two acknowledged the collective music blog concept has been in place for some time. Leichtung cited projects as straightforward as MBV, a group effort of five prominent music blogs that focuses on MP3 and video content, and as prolific as FMLY, a bi-coastal entity in support of, among many community-oriented projects, all-ages art spaces and music happenings.
He and Friedlander said one aspect that will distinguish Ad Hoc from other web-based music entities is a commitment to redefining the relationship between writer and subject. Essays and tour diaries from musicians themselves will be featured prominently, something that was merely touched upon with occasional guest posts on Altered Zones.
"We had a guest post from Nate from Pure X," Leichtung says, "and because of him, we were one of the first people to write about Odd Future. It sort of became apparent that the artists have a finger on the pulse before a lot of writers do."
In this way, Ad Hoc functions very much like a blog. Friedlander said the site will not have standard album reviews, instead highlighting albums in the same manner that MP3 blogs tend to focus on celebrating acts they like and not bothering with stuff they don't.
In turn, the long-form content of the site is like that of an established music entity with critical analysis of trends and emerging sounds. Ad Hoc will also be publishing a quarterly print magazine edition, something Liechtung said adds value to long-form writing when taken outside what he considers the overwhelming torrent of available Internet music content.
"Holding something in your hands is more important than ever when the landscape of musical journalism is completely transient," he said.
Friedlander said Ad Hoc is an outward acknowledgment that bigger publications are tipped by blogs toward ascending acts, that everybody reads everybody else, that independent music dissemination ultimately comes from community dialogue.
"A group of like-minded bloggers can get together and create a significant voice in the conversation," she says. "It's great to think that the Internet makes it possible for anybody to start their own publication."
Friedlander is about to complete her masters studies in journalism at NYU and says she also likes that aspiring music writers have a chance to seize their own destinies on the web.
"The Internet makes it so that you can be a music journalist," she says, "and not have to hope and pray that one of five music entities will take you."