Saturday 8 December 2012

Blogging and Electricjive: A Personal Reflection

A few weeks ago I read an article entitled "The Rise and Fall of the Obscure Music Download Blog" at The Awl. I shared this with the electricjive team to stimulate dialogue about how we feel going into the new year and some of the challenges and opportunities ahead. From my side I want to say thank you to Chris, Siemon and Nick for the incredible music, detailed contexts and dedication to keeping this blog the key resource for out of print and archival recordings of South African music. And to our readers thank you for your comments and input - it makes a huge difference when you leave comments.

You might read into this personal reflection a wavering of purpose but it is safe to say that from my perspective there are still many many recordings and perspectives that have yet to be uncovered and shared. I do hope that 2013 will bring some different projects to light. I am preparing the Sathima Bea Benjamin recording for reissue as well as some new ideas associated with the As-shams/Sun archives.

I am keeping the faith (to borrow the Northern Soul mantra) and I know the others are too...the question for me is whether you as our readers and enthusiasts share the same feeling. I'll leave it there for today, my personal message is over. Looking forward to your thoughts, comments and observations.


  1. I am always thrilled to visit Electric Jive and to, from time to time, share that ecstasy with readers of my weekly Mining the Audio Motherlode column at WFMU Radio's blog. In a recent Motherlode, I addressed directly the "death of the blogs" lament given voice in the Awl piece you mentioned.

    Here's to an ecstatic 2013 at Electric Jive!

    — Doug Schulkind

  2. It's difficult to find old SA kwela, jive etc. Here your blog makes a wonderful contribution, the write-ups are a must!

  3. ElectricJive is an important part of my blog diet. I find the write-ups always insightful. I can't think of any other place where these words and music could be more accessible. Please keep it going. I look forward to more musings and rediscovered music.

  4. The BIG brother with imperfect timing has struck. Not only are Rapidshare restricting downloads but Mediafire is being hit by robots for removal of content.

    Unfortunately it appears that my mediafire account has been suspended rending all of the MF links associated with my account locked.

    This is truly tedious and I do not have the time to research new file hosts or go to the expense of setting up private dedicated servers.

    Not a good development but one that many fellow bloggers have encountered over the past few years.

    Doesn't look good

  5. All my mediafire links will result in
    "The resource you are trying access belongs to an account that has been suspended"

    I have made a counterclaim regarding the content I have uploaded to Mediafire.....I can only hope.

  6. Writing from Tucson, Arizona, USA, I want to say that I very much appreciate your efforts, and visit your blog weekly. My only problem with the vast availability of obscure (to me) music available in blogs such as this one is that I don't have time to listen to everything I download. Please keep up the good work. Robert Mitchell

  7. Matt,
    I really hope that you find a solution. There are other hosters as well; DepositFiles, Filepost, Zippyshare etc. Don't give up.

  8. Echoing what Goofy said, I would strongly recommend investigating the file-hoster Zippyshare. I have heard nothing but good things from other blog hosts and my own experience as a downloader has been uniformly excellent with it.

  9. Matt
    Thanks for your words .... It sort of puts you guys into human context with doubts and waverings about how your efforts are recieved. It is so easy as 'consumers' to get a bit complacent about the amazing resource that this blog provides but I/we never forget that this is an absolute labour of love and thank you for that kindness of your sharing.
    All good wishes as we ease out of this year and into the next !!

  10. And a huge thankyou for the Blue Notes material!! You do an amazing thing here and please feel good

  11. you do brilliant things here - I love the Blue Notes. Thankyou so much !!

  12. I fully understand your frustration that some of the most amazing posts and uploads at ElectricJive barely seem to have registered little notice with the Internet public. I don't even run the blog and even I look at the seemingly paltry number of comments and downloads of what should be this or that blockbuster history-changing post of the decade, and I think to myself "What is the MATTER with everyone? This is the greatest music ever recorded, rescued from certain extinction and eternal obscurity, and it hardly causes a ripple? Wake up, humanity!"

    On the other hand, I am a blogger with a lot of experience and I can reassure you that the number of comments or visitors to a particular post may not in any way reflect its true impact or social significance. My area of blogging has nothing to do with music (I am an investigative journalist), yet I experience the exact same thing that you do: Sometimes I will spend weeks discovering and then documenting and then posting about some jaw-dropping political scandal that in theory should literally change history -- and it barely gets noticed and falls like a tree in the forest when there is no one around to hear it. Other times, I will make some off-hand observation or seemingly trivial post, and it will become national news. Who can explain these things?

    But one thing I have learned over the years: one can never predict what effect or significance a post might have. It might not happen when you first post it, and it might not be reflected in the traffic statistics, but sometimes when you least expect it your most-forgotten post will change someone's life or cause a chain of events bettering the world in a way you will never know.

    One example from my own experience: I made a post covering what I thought was an interesting political incident, and the post didn't seem to arouse much interest, so I shrugged my shoulders and moved on. THREE YEARS LATER I got an email from someone who had (unbeknownst to me) written their PhD thesis based on my post, and their thesis was being published as a book, and they wanted to mail me a copy! Later, that book itself caused a bit of stir, and the political ramifications are still being felt. All from a post that I thought had "flopped"!

    The same is likely true for any number of ElectricJive posts. You just never know what kind of ripple effect they have on the universe. And don't base your pessimism on the number of comments, either -- most people never comment, even though they may be thrilled by the post.

    Yes, it may be depressing to look at the number of views racked up on YouTube by some of the most atrocious and talentless performers the world has ever witnessed, and compare their 100 million views to the 600 downloads of some South African LP that's infinitely superior. But think of it this way: It's not the quantity of fans, but the quality. Yeah, some blow-dried boy-band or some unlistenable rap-wannabe may have 100 million fans, but those fans are all idiots; whereas the 600 people downloading an ElectricJive post are the most insightful and significant people in the world.

    So, whatever the future of ElectricJive may bring, I make one request:

    That even if you run out of new material to post;
    that even if all the file-sharing sites go bye-bye and take all your uploads with them;
    that even if the copyright lawyers manage to get your uploads taken offline;
    that even if ElectricJive comes to a standstill forever and/or is stripped of its musical downloads;
    PLEASE leave the site and its textual/photo content online forever!

    The research and information and images and knowledge contained in your cumulative posts is significant for musical and human history!

  13. As for nuts-and-bolts suggestions for ways to increase traffic and/or attention to the posts at ElectricJive:

    Not sure if you already do this, but it's something I have done often in the past and it has frequently paid off quite spectacularly:

    As you may have noticed, the single best way to get increased traffic to a post is NOT to expect excitement from your existing fans/followers, and to NOT expect random people to arrive via Google searches; but rather it is to get an incoming link from some other popular blog. If the person who links to your post is big enough, it's like a firehose of visitor traffic is turned on. And then once the new visitors check out that specific post, they often stick around and notice all the other stuff you've posted as well!

    So the trick is to somehow get noticed and get linked by other popular blogs. And how to do that? BEG!

    Well, not beg exactly, but do a bit of shameless self-promotion for posts you think merit extra-attention. Who I do is maintain a long list of other blogs that cover a similar field of interest to mine -- big and small blogs, corporate, quirky, huge, one-man-shows, and everything in between -- and when I make a good new post, I scan through the list and look for blogs that I think might be interested in linking/noting/discussing that new post. Then I send them each a personal email saying "You might like to check out my brand-new post that discusses X Y and Z -- your readers may find it intriguing!" Amazingly often, such blogs will indeed link to my post. And if it's a big blog, then the traffic can magnify exponentially as lesser blogs imitate the bigger blog by linking to you as well.

    Admittedly, the world of journalism and current events (my area) is a bigger pond than the small pool that is old music from a single country, bit I think the principle would work the same. If you could get some trendy/trendsetting style/music blogger to say "Check out the great free download of this interesting album over at ElectricJive," even if that blogger is not normally interested in South African music, then it could garner you possible new followers.

  14. Another traffic-generating idea is to make some posts that are purposely designed to attract random visitors, by touching on well-known or frequently-searched topics. A perfect example that occurred to me is this:

    There seem to have been exactly six South African music "crazes" in the history of American popular music. They are, in chronological order:

    1. The Skokiaan craze of 1954, with hundreds of American performers and groups covering the original version by the Bulawayo Sweet Rhythms Band;
    2. The Mbube/Wimoweh craze of ca. 1961 when the Tokens had a #1 hit with the Americanized "Wimoweh" version of the 1939 hit Mbube by Solomon Linda.
    3. The Pata Pata craze of 1967 when Miriam Makeba had a huge hit worldwide with her re-recorded version.
    4. The Malcolm McClaren "Duck Rock" craze of 1983 when the former Sex Pistols manager ripped off various South African artists and repackaged their songs under his own name, and stole songwriting credits as well, and had an influential series of "hits" from the album which young fans naively thought was a "new kind" of music.
    5. The 1985 release of The Indestructible Beat of Soweto compilation, which more than any other single record, introduced most Westerners to "real" South African music for the first time.
    6. Paul Simon, Graceland, 1986. Nuff said.

    (There may be others, but those seem like the biggest crazes.)

    Of course, all of this is well-known to you, me, and the kind of people who already read ElectricJive, but if you made a well-researched post name-checking all of these crazes, and perhaps offering for download some of the more obscure offshoots related to the different outbreaks (not the well-known in-print copyrighted tracks, obviously), and then promoted the post a bit, then it would remain forever online as a "search term magnet" and would draw in readers searching for any of the various semi-famous names associated with the various crazes.

  15. I have been reading this wonderful blog for about a year now. I just wanted to say how much I appreciate the efforts of those involved in digging out all these forgotten treasures of South African music and posting them for us all to enjoy. Hopefully I speak for lots of other largely anonymous visitors who have enjoyed reading the blog and who have found some "new old" music to listen to, when I say we really appreciate all your efforts. What you're doing is not just a labour of love. it's almost a public service. This music should be made accessible to a wider audience and hopefully your blog will help that happen.

    As a resident of the UK I first visited SA in the nineties and have been visiting occasionally ever since. At first I was under the impression that SA had little to offer to me musically and my first few visits to the country seemed to confirm this. The music shops were souless places, stacked high with Pop, R&B and hip-hop music. There always seemed to be a very poor selection of traditional SA music. But eventually I picked up some old maskandi CDs and from there I became hooked. Discovering this blog has made me realise that SA has produced lots of fantastic music over the years, even if mosty of it seems to have been largely forgotten or ignored by the outside world.

    So please please please keep up the good work because it really is appreciated!

  16. Thumbs-up electric jive,always

    Myself and other music enthusiasts

  17. I love your blog and through your postings I am discovering so much amazing music. I am also a musician (saxophone) so your blogging may well help inspire new music influenced by these classics. Much thanks for what you do.


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