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Maintaining Integrity As A Music Blogger and Photographer

Whether you believe it or not, as a blogger and photographer, what you say and the way you present it online does matter, especially in music.

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Preface: This is of course a very nuanced issue with a lot of considerations that factor into the way you represent yourself online as a member of the music media community, but here are my thoughts on the state of blogging as it pertains to usage of social media and the responsibility to maintain a blog and profile with integrity.

I keep seeing something on Instagram that has continued to bother me in the photography/blog community, and think something needs to be said. Yes, we all hate “the algorithm” (it sucks and none of us get the impressions we should) and want to find ways to see more engagement, and of course want to support our photography colleagues and friends to that end… but shamelessly showering posts with absurd SUPERLATIVE comments and overly hype-y praise every time is nauseating and loathesome 🤢

For instance, writing that every show you go to, each picture that you post, or commenting on some other photographer’s shot that it’s YOUR ALL-TIME FAVORITE/WOWOWOW/WTF/OMG 🔥🔥🔥/AMAZING — diminishes the gravity of capturing shows or shots that are actually special. Don’t get me wrong, comments are awesome and very helpful. This isn’t about being on a high horse, but calling for everyone to be a little less fake, and to be responsible with the way you interact and share on social media, because our role matters. 

For the most part, most music photographers willingly trade our time and effort for the price of a ticket, and for those of us that run blogs or supplemental content, that generally makes us feel like we should give a positive endorsement as well. However, I feel like some in the community have taken that too far and say everything they cover is all-caps INCREDIBLE, which is a slippery slope, especially if you’ve got fans and readers who depend on your content and taste to point them toward things they should spend their time and money experiencing. As media people and active photographers, whether we think so or not, our content has the ability to influence others to purchase a ticket to see a show.

The general population goes to just over two shows a year, and if you’re seeing a few shows a year and paying for it, you probably expect them to be GREAT. Thus, one would hope if it was recommended or endorsed by an outlet or someone with experience and access, that you’re not wasting your time and money. In contrast, as bloggers and photographers, some of us see 50-100+ shows a year, and as media we pay for very few of those tickets. That means the stakes are relatively low if it’s not a great show “this time around.” There will be another. 

I’ve shot 100 shows this year, and seen a total of 128 shows. I’ve paid in some way for all of them in the countless hours of effort editing, writing, posting and sharing, but at the same time, have only paid out of pocket for six of those shows. Generally, I’ve enjoyed most of those 100+ shows I’ve seen this year, though I’m not going to pretend or say each time that those performances were incredible or the best show I’ve seen this year (or ever). However, I do recap what happened and highlight the most compelling parts of each show.

It’s important to me that Early Bird, on the site and on social media, is an active representation of artists and shows that I personally enjoy, back and would recommend you get familiar with. At the end of 2018 I made a pact with myself that in 2019 I’d only go shoot shows of acts whose music I enjoy or that I’d share with friends, or on the blog whether I saw a show or not. I think I’ve only broken that rule 2-3 times this year out of the 100 shows I’ve photo’d (I won’t say which) and I’m proud of that fact. 

As long as it’s running, Early Bird Music will continue to represent emerging musicians with its own unique perspective, honest commentary, and no bullshit. Early Bird is about sharing and spreading awareness of great music with the blog-first mentality – not about racking up Instagram likes/follows – and will always maintain a high standard of quality content. The people who matter that have helped Early Bird get to where it is today already know that.

Accordingly, to each of you 900+ people that follow Early Bird here, Spotify and Instagram, I appreciate your support, your likes, your DMs every day, and look forward to an even bigger 2020. It’s hard to fathom having a better year than this one, but I’m sure it will be: the blog continues to grow, opportunities continue to present themselves, and more supporting photographers continue to contribute each month. When you comment, like and share our content, playlists, and photos with friends, you’re helping Early Bird accomplish its original mission: to honestly and accurately highlight the best up-and-coming musicians on the scene, and the best shows coming through your cities. Thanks for being a part of the journey ✌️

Jim 

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