Getting the Band Back Together

http://www.metalbandcampgift.club/

My day job has me working in WordPress and Square Space a lot. Hours every week. So when it comes to my personal projects, logging into these services is just… a bummer. And a bit of overkill.

WordPress just has so many options and features and choices. Square Space is the same. And really, I just need to update some text and links for my Metal Bandcamp Gift Club project.

Inspiration arose from randomly finding the Web Design Museum, and the late 90s / early 00s versions of the Yahoo homepage.

That’s where I got my start, back in 1995. Hitting View > Source, saving the contents to a text editor, and then messing around (and learning) HTML by saving and refreshing a local file over and over again.

The Metal Bandcamp Gift Club website was using WordPress.com, and I really didn’t need a full blown new post every time someone had a birthday, especially when all I wanted to do was link directly to their Bandcamp wishlist.

Sure, I probably could have done all this with WordPress.org, and lots of work, but I honestly love hand coding static HTML sites. It’s something I miss. It’s honestly like picking up a musical instrument and playing a few riffs and songs from years ago. The concepts and ideas are still in the brain, and it’s fun to let them loose.

I had a blast hand coding the new Metal Bandcamp Gift Club website. It’s a bunch of ugly tables, and it doesn’t look great on a phone, but oh well – it looks okay in a browser, and that’ll do.

The whole site is less than 900KB, and it’s hosted on my Dropbox account and served via Site44. I use TextMate as my text editor.

UPDATE: I ditched the Dropbox / Site44 set up and moved to a real webhost (I Heart Blank) that my buddy runs. I then use Mountain Duck to mount the server, update the HTML files, and save directly in my Finder window. I love it.

Again, this was meditative for me. It goes back to how I got started on the internet, how I began my career. I know there are all sorts of other programming languages to use, and even CSS (HAH!), but really I just had a lot of fun with this. The hours flew by, and before I realized it was midnight! That’s when you know you’re having fun.

Make ‘Em Feel Good

I’m part of a project called Metal Bandcamp Gift Club, which is basically a bunch of metal nerds that gift albums to each other from their Bandcamp wishlists.

If you want niche, that’s pretty niche.

But it’s been going on since 2016, and my sources tell me we’ve helped sell a shit ton of music during that time.

Our website fell stagnant for awhile, but I got it rolling again in October 2019. A few months later we had our biggest month ever.

That big spike is from our February fundraiser, where we raised almost $500 for girls’ rock camps (we eventually broke $500 in March), from Dallas Texas to London and Canada. It was pretty awesome.

I’ve been working on “content strategies” in one form or another since 2001, and what’s really worked for me is this: make the reader feel something, the happier the better.

When I did Skull Toaster (my metal trivia project on social media from 2011-2018), I built the questions with the answers in mind. Some questions were pretty damn obscure, but I usually knew someone would get it, and what would they feel? AWESOME. It wasn’t about driving clicks to my website, it was about that feeling of answering metal trivia.

With this recent fundraiser, people felt pretty good – especially the organizations that got some money in their accounts.

Deadspin Writers Are Back for the Super Bowl

So Dashlane asked the former writers from Deadspin to write a blog for Super Bowl Weekend.

But wait, a BLOG?!?! IN 2020?

I think we’ve had over 1,000 comments now on the site. It wasn’t supposed to go live until today, but then it got leaked last night. And after that happened, our traffic spiked so much that we had to get upgraded on WordPress to a dedicated server just so that it wouldn’t crash today.

Tom Ley, founder, CEO, and publisher of Big Cool Tom Media LLC

Just remember – all those social media posts are pointing to WEBSITES. Buy tickets, pre-order an album, read an interview, watch a video – they’re all on websites, and websites are still plenty relevant in 2020.

Social media posts come and go, QUICK. But the web sticks around forever.

And it’s just the CONTEXT of the web. When you’re scrolling on your phone it’s usually to kill some time, or unwind, zone out. Not saying these things don’t have happen when you’re sitting in front of your laptop, but serious work happens on the computer; coding, producing, editing, researching.

The Unending Scroll

Well, if this doesn’t hit between the eyes…

Each night I lay in my bed beside my boyfriend with one eye closed against the pillow, the other eye open, and wheeled down Instagram’s infinite scroll. Each morning I woke up to my phone alarm and rolled over to tap it off and, if I had time, looked at Instagram half-asleep. I easily spent an hour on it a day — in bed, on the subway, or at my desk during lunch. Compared with the hours I spent elsewhere on the internet, it felt like nothing.

DAYNA TORTORICI

Catching myself more often, though, asking myself “why?” What am I gaining? Am I learning? Growing?

It’s far easier to pass the time on Instagram that it is to write (like this), or to create music, or do 20 minutes of stretching.

Mind you I found my run coach via Instagram. I find inspiring quotes from runner friends, which gets me out the door some mornings.

It’s just wild how Instagram has become my routine, my habit, my ritual. And not just for me, for so many others, too.

Growing Things

Last year I rebooted Metal Bandcamp Gift Club. Started in 2016, it fizzled quite a bit, and by 2019, it was running on fumes.

In October, I shook the dust off, kicked the tires, and got things rolling again. While the initial idea was formed and grew quite well on Twitter, I chose to move things to an email list.

Sure, the Metal Bandcamp Gift Club Twitter account has over 500 followers, but I know every time I send out a Tweet, not everyone sees it.

My last birthday Tweet had 712 impressions and 7 link clicks. That’s a 0.9% click rate.
My last email went out to 67 subscribers and got 6 clicks. That’s a 8.9% click rate.

Think of the work I have to put into growing my audience on Twitter. If I have 1,000 followers then what? Maybe 14 clicks?

But I’ve grown the Metal Bandcamp Gift Club email list from nothing to 71 subscribers in just three months.

It’s the Seth Godin idea; people like us sign up for newsletters like this.

Not everyone wants to get an email with a link to an absolute stranger’s wishlist when it’s their birthday, and that’s okay. This isn’t for “everyone,” this is for a handful of people who understand the power of surprising and delighting people they don’t know with music on their birthday.

And right now, and into 2020 and beyond, I believe that the audience who gets what you do, who knows what you’re about, they’re going to subscribe to your thing because not subscribing is missing out, so yes, you are that special, and you absolutely matter.

While you can continue to build on social media, make sure you’re building your email list along the way. When (not if) those sites shut down, you won’t be able to export any of those fans, followers, or subscribers.

Don’t Look Back

Start today and tell a friend about a band you like.
Go to a show and get there early to watch the opener.
Click around YouTube and Vimeo for some good music videos, and share them with your friends.

A decade ago you made a blog and hoped people read it.

Now we’re all our own media outlets, so choose your programming as such.

Free Williamsburg Closing Up Shop

Founded in the late 90s on Geocities, Free Williamsburg has been through a lot. The internet, and this whole “BLOG THING” held lots of promise, but it’s hard to compete when so many eyeballs are diverted to the slot-machine allure of social media.

 A good chunk of this happened before a little old thing called social media even existed. Before Instagram, you’d go to photo sites like The Cobrasnake or Last Night’s Party, or to countless blogs like ours, to see what the cool kids were up to. Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok just weren’t a thing. Today, they’re definitely a thing. And as FREE Williamsburg has turned fifteen… eighteen… twenty… we persisted (we’re stubborn) while the cultural currency that used to be defined by websites like this one shifted to social media and corporate-backed publications.

We Had a Good Run…

I wouldn’t say my music blog of the 2000s (Buzzgrinder) had a tenth of the pull and cool vibes that Free Williamsburg held, but we were sort of in the same zip code for awhile. Literally. I lived in Brooklyn from 2005-2010, and got to my share of shows in the area, and met up with people in Williamsburg because of my music blog thing.

A shame, too. Most all of content we talk about, link to, and share on social media is from a website. The interviews, the music videos, the big articles – they all sit on a .com somewhere, which you access via a URL.

The problem is sites like Free Williamsburg compete with a zillion other sites who are publishing 80 articles a day, and have cash on hand (or rather, funding…) to promote their posts.

Hard to cut through the noise when the noise of promoted posts and harrowing click bait articles rule the social-world, but Free Williamsburg had a spectacular run.

Streaming Problems

Sorry / not sorry for pulling a majority of recent content from my social media feed:

For the streaming apologists out there, when a music industry heavyweight like (Jimmy) Iovine says the problem with streaming is that they’re ALREADY PAYING TOO MUCH for music — maybe it’s time to admit there’s a fundamental and systemic problem with the model.

Sean Cannon

Music licensing fees ain’t gonna get cheaper, and exec salaries are just going to keep going up, so yeah… not sure how this premium buffet of all you can consume music for $10/mo is going to continue.

Re: my “sorry / not sorry” from above – my pal Sean posted that Tweet on the 7th, and it’s already lost in a sea of a jillion more tweets, pics, and videos. I’m bummed that so many thoughts and good ideas and great stuff gets lost in the ether, so posts like this are just one way I try to hold onto them.