“When I started a music blog called Pigeons & Planes, I had no idea what I was doing. I barely knew what the word “blog” meant, but as a college student who hated school, writing about music was fun. The longer I did it, the more serious and passionate I got about it. By the time I graduated, I had the chance to make a living off of that passion. It still blows my mind.”- Confusion, founder of Pigeons & Planes
1. How did you get started in music blogging?
I had just graduated college with a degree in finance and as I started looking at jobs it started sinking in that I was going to end up hating whatever finance job I got. I worked for a little, decided to apply to grad school, and as I was applying and wondering what I was going to do next, I started a music blog for fun. I named it Pigeons & Planes.
2. A lot of musicians are seeking blog and Internet coverage. Where do you see the role of blogging in a musician’s career?
It’s a changing role. I think bloggers have to some degree made it possible for artists to organically build up a buzz without the help of major labels, contacts, money, and knowledge of the industry. There have definitely been a few cases of artists blowing up solely because of blogs, and the speed of that transition from no-name to buzzing musician is something that wasn’t possible in the past. It used to take touring, winning over your hometown, then your state, then your coast, then your country, then the world. Artists don’t have to do that anymore—put up a song on the Internet and catch the attention of some music bloggers and geographical location is a non-factor.
But this is changing because a couple of things are happening. First of all, there is a swelling backlash against Internet buzz bands. For now, it’s nothing major, but you can kind of feel that people are getting sick of these bands that come out of nowhere, blow up, then so often disappear. I personally think this would be happening with or without blogging but bloggers and music journalists in general are constantly listening to new music and trying to push the “next big thing,” before moving on when we get bored, so some of that blame definitely falls on us.
Also, labels are figuring out this Internet thing. They’re far from fully infiltrating the blogosphere, but they’re learning how to manipulate the system and their influence over bloggers is getting stronger. I guess I make that sound band when I say “manipulate,” but I don’t mean it in a bad way. That’s their job. Music is their business. To do their job well, having some control over the music bloggers is an enormous benefit. But it is changing the role that blogging plays.
I think in the future, labels will continue to get better at controlling what pops on the Internet and in the blog world. For artists, I think this will make them less concerned with bloggers and more concerned with labels. In a way it’s kind of a sad thing to see happen, since part of what makes music blogs great is their non-biased nature, but the people working for major labels are not stupid. They may be a little behind, but they’re catching up. Right now, generating blog coverage organically can be huge for an artist. I’m not sure that will be the case in 5 or 10 years.
3. The metaphor for pigeons and plans represents underground and mainstream artists. Why do you have a commitment to both sides?
That’s a good question. I don’t really know, that’s just the way I’ve always been. I studied business in college and in grad school, but somewhere inside of me, I’ve always been turned off by big businesses and major labels, especially over the past decade or so. I think there’s a lot of fake, ugly, cheap, and terrible stuff being pushed by major labels, and I think it’s kind of giving way to this idea of music only as an instantly gratifying form of entertainment.
To me, music has always been a lot more. I think I’ll always be able to relate to passionate people who really care about music as an art and as a form of expression, and I don’t ever want to lose sight of that. That doesn’t mean I hate all major label acts though. Plenty of my favorite artists are on major labels, and a lot of them are there for the right reason: because they’re really good at making music.
4. As an editor and site curator you are bombarded with requests by publicists. Can you share any real-life examples of good or bad pitching?
Hahah yes, I’ve written posts about this (http://pigeonsandplanes.com/
- Be familiar with who you’re writing to before you pitch anything. The worst is when someone is like, “I love your blog Penguins and Planes!” That has happened multiple times, and it’s not like I’m offended or anything, but it just makes you sound fake, because how can you love my site if you don’t even know the name of it? Most people don’t like fake people, so this is automatically going to set you off on the wrong foot.
- Be concise. Most people who write about music go through A LOT of music every day. You can make it a lot easier to check out your music if you just send a quick, to-the-point email with one clear link to stream the music. If I have to read a whole essay on an artist, look through 20 links or download some full-length project just to check out something that there’s a low chance I’ll even like, I’m probably going to move on and see what else there is to check out.
- Be interesting. A lot of artists that end up seeing success have stories. Bon Iver retreated to a cabin after a painful break-up and recorded an entire album of raw, emotional music. Boom. That simple backdrop makes it so much more meaningful when you press play. It’s human nature to be able to relate to something like that. It’s not even about “selling” your story, it’s just about sharing something. If you pitch an artist, don’t include a bio that says, “This artist from this town, they are this many years old, they sound like this other band.” We can find that out later. Tell us something interesting and we’re a lot more likely to gravitate towards it.
5. What has been your greatest career achievement thus far?
Getting picked up by Complex and getting to do this as a full-time job. I’m still wrapping my head around it, because I remember sitting down at my computer in Florida and starting Pigeons & Planes, having absolutely no idea that it would ever be anything. If Complex hadn’t come in, I would probably be working at a job I hated, and Pigeons & Planes would be some blogger-by-night shit.
Oh actually scratch all that. Once Lindsay Lohan tweeted a link to Pigeons & Planes. That was probably the greatest sense of achievement I’ve ever felt.