Having struck a chord with what turned out to be one of my most-read blog entries in June, Keeping up appearance fees, in which I railed against a mission creep within the media whereby contributors are expected to contribute their expertise for free, it may seem counterintuitive to have launched a second blog.
Let me explain. Blogging has always been free. I started this one in 2006 because, after a number of years broadcasting every weekday on 6 Music I’d moved to weekends, and found the daily blog I started on the station’s website a fun way of staying in touch with the listeners during the week. I moved over to Blogger in order to a) relieve me of the workload pressure of writing every day, and b) relieve me of the editorial pressure of doing so on a BBC website. I’ve been tapping out my thoughts ever since.
A childhood diarist, I used to use the blog as a place to post bulletins from my ordinary everyday life. But this solipsistic approach has hardened into something a little more formal, and a little less revealing since 2007. I can’t imagine how I can have become more busy since the punishing days when I was a DJ, author and scriptwriter in the late noughties, but I find myself going for a whole week sometimes without blogging now. If it weren’t for my weekly alert for Telly Addict, which takes five minutes to write, the gaps would be longer. But when something’s on my mind, it’s a unique outlet, with a surprisingly large available audience, thanks to Twitter.
The new blog, Circles Of Life: The 143, came to me in early July, when I felt an urge not just to catalogue the best 143 songs of all time, but to write a short, personal essay about each one, and do so in an aesthetically pleasing manner and gradually. So it came to pass.
Because these entries about individual songs are by their nature fairly brief, I feel I can snack on them, publishing them as and when I have the spare time in an otherwise busy day. So far, I’ve published 13. Only 130 to go. I quite like not knowing how long it will take, and I love the freedom to mould the list as I commit it to the public domain. (It’s based on an actual playlist I made for my iPod earlier this year, and only one song is permitted per artist; I’ve already added, dropped, altered and replaced quite a few as I’ve catalogued them in The 143. It is the compiler’s right to do so.)
Anyway, have a look if music is one of your lifelong passions. Compared to the numbers under the bonnet on this blog, the following is modest, and not all that vocal. But a “soft launch” was my aim, and a soft launch it has been.
It was very kind of the esteemed David Hepworth to blog and Tweet about it earlier today. Numbers have risen as a result. So I’m officially “hard-launching” it here. What I wanted to say was: yes, I’m writing prose for free. I’m not trying to get a book deal, or even an eBook deal. I’m not trying to get a job. But rather than wait around for a publication to pay me to write about music, I’m doing it anyway. For fun. Barney Hoskyns’ campaign to withhold freelance labour from those who would exploit us is something I’m right behind. But since nobody asked me to write about my 143 favourite songs, I don’t feel I am exploiting myself in doing this.
I’ve spent much of my professional life writing about music; for around seven years, I did this while on the staff of three consecutive music publications, thereafter in a freelance, per-word capacity. But when Word calamitously went down a year ago, I lost my main outlet for paid music writing. (The Times dallied with me for a while, but lost interest – hey, commissioning editors change jobs, you fall in and out of favour, it’s a cruel world.)
I’ve grown quickly fond of The 143 blog. I like the “theme” I’ve chosen from WordPress. I’m quietly proud of the 999-based montage I made on my scanner and with very basic “effects” software. And I hope you enjoy reading my free essays. There’s nothing to you can do recompense me for them. That’s not the idea. But if you enjoy them and have something to say, post a few words, follow the blog, and that will be payment enough. It’s all about the music in any case.