THE INTERNET ISN’T A DESTINATION

I love this bit from Jaime Derringer, who created Design Milk 18 years ago:

The Internet may no longer be a place I want to frequent.”

Back in the 90s, I remember riding my BMX bike and looking forward to getting on mIRC later to catch up with some friends on #pasxe (if you know, you know).

The point wasn’t to be in a chat room all night; it was to find out what shows were coming up or if we were meeting at a diner later that night.

The internet was a tool, not a destination.

SPEND TIME ON GOOD THINGS AND GOOD PEOPLE

Today I wrote how 33 minutes a day on social media equals 200 hours, and that’s the amount of time it took me to run 1,105 miles in 2020.

I then suggest we do a bunch of things that “only” require 33 minutes a day, such as devoting 33 minutes a day to connecting and talking and reaching out to the good people in your life.

“Consider that we don’t think twice about uploading our original photos and text to a platform that sells advertising around our unpaid labor while limiting the number of our friends (or potential clients) who will ever see it, thus incentivizing us to either spend more of our time (a finite resource) on the platform “engaging,” or spending actual money to “boost” our posts so more people might see it.”

While 33 minutes sounds like a lot, we toss that time out the window every single day scrolling through dumb videos and memes.

Read it here: Spend time on good things and good people

CPM HELL

Thanks Itay Dreyfus for bringing this to my attention:

“The internet makes me blind to the scale of things. If I write a blog post that is read by 2000 people that feels like crickets (these days). But last night we had 200 people come to the opening of a new exhibition at the gallery. It was overwhelming.”

Henrik Karlsson

Let’s not forget why 2,000 people on the internet don’t feel like a lot: cost per thousand ad impressions (Cost per mile [CPM]—mille is Latin for thousand).

As that CPM rate went down, more ads went on the page. Two display ads. Three. A pop-under.

It wasn’t that 2,000 people reading your work was bad. The CPM rate was “bad,” so something that got read by 20,000 people was considered “good.” After all, we have to keep the lights on!

The problem was, as more corporate interests crept in, we didn’t just need to keep the lights on. We had to pay the salaries of lots of dude bros in sports jackets and the electric bill for keeping 27 LED TVs running day and night in the office.

RETURN TO THE WEB

The only thing holding us back from having the internet experience is ourselves.

“Nothing about the web has changed that prevents us from going back. If anything, it’s become a lot easier. We can return.

This from Molly White, in a piece called ‘We can have a different web.’

We can set up websites for cheap, using a multitude of tools. We can create directories, or field guides, or fan pages for anything we want.

We can link to each others things from our websites, our newsletters, our DMs, our Discords or forums.

It might feel slower, since techbros at social media giants have been feeding you the Kool-Aid that without them you’ll turn to dust, but that just ain’t true.

RELYING ON GREY BOXES

Cal Newport makes a great point about artists and creative people being on social media.

If our work is on social media, we leave the chance of “being discovered” to a grey box. An algorithm.

But the “old way” of finding and discovering things on the Internet was through blogs and directories.

Posts and link dumps curated by real humans. DJs on live radio stations. Writers that reviewed music in magazines.

It was slower, sure, but I don’t think we need any more “36 new songs released today” posts, do we?

I think it’s time to get back to directories again. DIY style. Curated links to resources to duplicate tapes, make zines, and lists of art galleries by city and state.

MAYBE YOU DON’T NEED MORE SUBSCRIBERS

What if the people receiving your emails forwarded it to friends? What if they copied the text from it and posted it on social media? What if your words traveled from the inbox into Facebook group chats and meeting rooms?

When was the last time you sent a newsletter that got 10 replies?

If none of those things happened — not even close— maybe getting more subscribers isn’t the answer.

From social media to Substack Notes, people post in the void. No comments, likes, or engagement of any kind.

Hey, sometimes things don’t work!

Your “questions to everyone” or “open invites” have good intentions, but after a dozen or so attempts, it’s time to reassess your strategy.

Stop asking “everyone” and start actually asking people.

➡️ Reply to someone else’s post. Go into the comments section of another post, or another Tweet, and reply there. Be the person that people love seeing in the comments section by being insightful, gracious, and / or funny.

➡️ Email someone directly in your network. If you’re hoping those people even see your original post and take the time to reply is a long shot. Instead, reach out and ask them. Say you’re looking for their insight for an upcoming post.

➡️ Invite someone before inviting everyone. If you’re just getting started in hosting video hangouts, live sessions, or workshops, consider inviting a few people you know directly. See if you can get three people to commit before announcing to “everyone.”

➡️ Go beyond “just sharing” and make it a big deal. Make a whole post about it. Go deeper than typing “THIS,” and explain why this piece resonated. Don’t just “curate your feed,” rolling the dice hoping that 10% of your audience might see it. Take the time to write about something (or make a video or an audio snippet), and share it directly with your audience in an upcoming newsletter (where 99% of your subscribers will see it in their inbox).

Soda section from a grocery store in Palmerton, PA

“Yeah, but Seth, I just want to post my thing and go do other things,” you might say.

Well, you see the results that “just posting” gets you.

Also, how can talking to your fans, audience, and readers be a waste of time?

Setting a timer for 15 minutes and communicating with real people five days a week will probably get you more results than the hour you spend making one Reel for 153 “people” to see (and which will never be seen again after 12 hours).

Does it scale? Fuck scale, do the work.

The strategy of “just posting” ain’t working, and it’s not going to get any easier to reach your fans in that way as we roll into the second half of 2024.

A garage in Fleetwood, PA

NO GOING BACK

Here’s the terrifying thing about the state of music in 2024 (from The Verge):

“The tech industry’s introduction of MP3 slowly felled major retailers. Behemoth music stores went belly-up in the 2000s: Tower Records, Virgin Megastores, and Sam Goody. FYE bought up the rest. Ads from those retailers vanished, too.”

Like, that happened 20+ years ago and we’re still recovering. All the music knowledge, the time we spent going to those stores, the jobs that were cut and lost… the digitization of music is an atomic bomb that I don’t think we’ve recovered from.

Back when we paid $16 for a CD, yes, music review sites were crucial. And of course, yes, music critics are of course needed, but they’re not valued (as we can see).

There was a time you could write for an online outlet and make a few bucks. There was also a time when you could write for a newspaper and pay the rent.

Ernest Hemingway was paid $1 a word in 1936. That’s more than $21 per word in today’s dollars. The maximum I was ever paid to write for a glossy magazine in print was $2/word, in 2021. No one (and I really mean no one) in media makes $21/word. That compensation just doesn’t exist. 

That’s from Defector (above).

When I ran Noisecreep in 2008 we were paying writers $50 a post.

A few years later, I was writing posts for $5 a post.

Now Yahoo for Creators isn’t even paying per post, but they “offer a competitive 50/50 ad revenue share from ad placements in your articles as well as e-commerce benefits like affiliate revenue share.”

CPM display ad placements. On blog posts. It’s 2005 all over again.

TELL ME HOW TO LISTEN TO YOUR MUSIC

If I click on your band’s LinkTree / Link In Bio and I can’t tell in 1.2 seconds how to LISTEN to your music, you’re fucked.

Tour dates. Great.
Press kit. No thanks.
Website.

Hmmmm… think about that last one.

While I’m stoked a band even has a website in 2024, what has our experience been with band websites for the last 20 years?

They’re usually not updated, maybe it’s just a bunch of tour dates from a BandsInTown embed, maybe some old photos…

DON’T. MAKE. ME. THINK.

Make one of the buttons “LISTEN” or “HEAR OUR LATEST SINGLE” and link it DIRECTLY to a place where I can listen to your actual music, or click play on a YouTube embed.

This might sound like I’m being old and curmudgeonly, but patience for this stuff wears thin after two decades of doing this 10 times a day.