We are quickly approaching the 4 year mark for this publication. As always time is just flying by. So much has happened since I had the idea to start this blog in March of 2018. Aside from Covid absolutely changing the international landscape with regard to live music and many other things, as some of you know I spent a year moving across the country with my family and for the first time in about a year I am starting to feel a little bit settled. It's a great feeling, and comes with an opportunity to do a bit of reflection on CHILLFILTR and the path forward from here.
I started out with stars in my eyes, knowing that I wanted to do what I could to help the indie music scene and that I had both the musical knowledge and the writing ability to make perhaps only a modest difference, but still do my part to put a spotlight on great music that I didn't think was getting the attention it deserved. After more than three years of doing this, I have reached a new understanding in terms of what I bring to the table, and most importantly, what is realistic in terms of outcomes and expectations. What follows is a list in no particular order of the major takeaways that I have to offer. Like I've said many times before, I make mistakes so you don't have to. If you have any interest in writing for a living in the entertainment space, have started a music blog of your own, or plan to, I hope you will find below a few important notes.
Copy is Cheap
No matter your background, I would hope that it goes without saying that the writing that I do here is at very least above average in quality. A big part of what launched me in the space was looking around at many of the other music blogs, and feeling like there was a lot of room for improvement in terms of the language and the presentation. I wanted to do better, and I think that I did, but the mistake I made was to think that at some point there would be an easy path to monetization. With that naïve "first steps" mindset which I think is crucial in terms of getting an idea off the ground, I thought that simply doing strong work in the space for as long as I have would somehow eventually yield something tangible beyond what I am able to scrape by with in terms of submission fees from my channel on SubmitHub. It has become increasingly clear why so many blogs like mine run those terrible looking banner ads, as much as it ruins the experience and really becomes quite an eyesore, at least those pennies accumulate a little bit and take some of the sting off of the costs associated with hosting a high-performance blog. At the end of the day, there is almost no money in online content, and without the organic discovery that comes from walled-garden outlets like Apple News and Google News, I have to concede that my original business model was flawed. I have been writing from a place that stems from my own passion for independent music, and discovery, but at a certain point the bloom is off the rose when I am rounding out my fourth year of writing basically for free. Those of you that have been following closely know that I intended to do some development on the CHILLFILTR site and open up paid memberships to help with that monetization strategy, but there's really no reason to believe that would succeed in any meaningful way. I feel strongly now that that would just perpetuate the same problem that I have with what you might call an "if you build it, they will come" strategy (shout out to Kevin Costner). As it turns out, I have built it. I am proud of what CHILLFILTR is, but at the same time I cannot afford to be overly optimistic in terms of what it could become. In my last newsletter, I asked for feedback from my thousand-plus followers. I received two replies. It's a big busy world out there, and engaging people is one of the hardest things to do. I love you all and I appreciate the opportunities that I have had, but at the same time I need to feel free to follow the ideas I have that I'm excited about.
Community Building is Hard
Another thing that I really thought would just work itself out is the concept of building a community. If you are just starting out, give this a long and hard look and make sure it figures into your strategy from the beginning. This was another mistake that I made, thinking that it would be enough to write about music consistently to attract return users and just build a community organically over time. If I could start it all over, I might begin with a discord channel and create a buzz around that before even building a website. I love what CHILLFILTR has become, and I will always maintain it because I don't want to lose what I've written. I still believe that over a much longer time frame the content I have written will stand out as being both perhaps a little prescient and valuable as a source of record. But for now, the numbers are in. When Apple News decided to delist my channel, for whatever reason, from the broader news aggregation, I just couldn't recover any organic momentum. Now, every five weeks I have a completely new set of readers. The community that I was hoping to build still does not exist.
Focus on What You Love
When I started writing in 2018, I had just come off a decades long period of depression and self-sabotage. It was an extended midlife crisis, perhaps, and most striking about it was that I had all but stopped listening to music. That seems completely ridiculous to me now. The greatest gift that CHILLFILTR ever gave me was reawakening that passion I have for music. I've listened to more fantastic new music in the last three years than I did in the entire 40+ years that came before it. I imagine that my email box will continue to be completely swamped with new music every day, and I will continue to listen to it. CHILLFILTR Radio is going strong, and I have no plans to stop with that. New songs that are added to our radio coverage will be listed here, and it is possible that I will petition SubmitHub to change my listing from blog to radio. I'm sure that the day will come that I want to start writing about music again, but in terms of the business model there's really no reason to think that economy will change. The hard fact is that no one wants to pay for good copy, which is why so little of it is written. I can't change that, as much as I have tried. No hard feelings. I will continue to focus on what I love, because life is too short to do anything else. As it turns out, mixing what you love with the pursuit of a sustainable income can leave you compromised in both directions. Even doing what you love isn't worth it if you are left feeling burnt out.
NFTs are a Thing Now
It's hard to find a topic that is as divisive as NFTs are this year. To some, they represent a massive opportunity, and to others, they are a depiction of exactly what is wrong with this world. I can see the points on both sides, and I wrote something about that here. I would think that perhaps no one that reads CHILLFILTR would know this about me, but I got my start as a software developer almost 20 years ago now by writing a small web game with Ruby on Rails that was loosely based on Hobo Wars called RockStarAlley. Every couple of years I find some thing that really changes my outlook on life, it seems. In 2008, that idea was web technology and browsers as a vehicle for engagement. in 2012, that was the emerging data-centric market of Business Intelligence. In 2018, that idea was what became this site. In 2021, that idea is crypto investing as a broad concept, and NFTs as a platform for game development as well as artistic entrepreneurship. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to follow through with these concepts, so that is where my focus will be for the next few months. You can follow what I'm doing on my page at OpenSea, where I am furiously working through different ideas and things will be changing from day today for the foreseeable future. This frantic space is always where I do my best work, and it occurred to me recently that there is a subtle but important distinction in the landscapes between web 3.0 and web 2.0. Without getting too deep into the details, which might be fodder for another post at some point down the line, what is surfacing for me from this NFT space right now is the idea that perhaps for the first time ever, the 'loner' personality is emerging as front and center in the current zeitgeist. If Web 2.0 was the season of the video personality, the dime-a-dozen YT and Twitch smilebots—some of them of course making a fantastic profit but many of them just squeaking by—web 3.0 will be the season of the anonymous loner. Either by crypto investment, NFT flipping, or both, the stars of this next regime change will have personalities that are far more private and closely guarded. We are losing yet another layer of intimacy in the dynamic feud between royalty and peasant that plays out on social networks, and this just feels like a natural step towards the homogenization of humanity itself as we approach von Neumann's inevitable singularity. The end may be close, but it is not here yet.
On a personal level, perhaps every generation gets a chance to beat the numbers. In my youth that sense of opportunity came from a DoD invention called the internet. For millennials and beyond, that opportunity is simply a decentralized blockchain. But make no mistake: this small intersection between cryptocurrency and NFT technology is about to blow up all over the world.
HODL, my friends. This thing isn't over yet.
Cover photo by Christopher Burns.