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Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Decade

Area music blog turns ten, has existential crisis, contemplates nuclear option

Photo By Joel BernsteinJoel BernsteinIt’s funny. I’ve written this post in my mind countless times, with versions ranging from multi-chapter memoirs to a simple, all-caps “SO LONG AND THANKS FOR ALL THE FISH”, and yet now as I actually take metaphorical pen to paper, I don’t really know where to begin. I suppose the best place to start is with the fact that the common thread through all those drafts was, “goodbye”.

Ten years is an astonishingly long time to do anything. When I started this blog, it was out of boredom and with no eye towards it being anything besides a place where I could ramble about whatever was on my mind at the time. Within a few years it had become its own thing, but having not much else to do I was happy to let it become one of the main focuses of my life. Fortuitous timing allowed me to be part of the first wave of music blogs, and with that came a front row seat to the seismic shifts in the world of music, both with respect to the media end of it and the industry as a whole, with the mainstreaming of indie and rise of Canadian music on the world stage as part of that. If I can get just a little LCD Soundsystem for a moment – I was there.

Before I slip into full-on memoir mode, let me switch to broad strokes and say without exaggeration that most everything I have in my life right now – my job, most of my friends, almost all of my daily routine – has come from this blog. It has taken me to far-flung locales, gotten me access to ridiculous places, seen amazing shows, discovered more wonderful music than I ever thought possible, and encountered incredible people. I met Neil Young, for Pete’s sake. There is no measure by which this hasn’t been a long, strange, life-changing trip, and I’m immeasurably grateful for that.

But it has not come without a cost. The number of hours, the kilojoules of energy, that have gone into it have been staggering. The evenings and weekends that I’ve spent hunched over the computer writing posts, hunting down MP3s and videos, processing photos, getting things the exact over-particular way I want it, when a normal person would have been out with friends or just plain asleep are beyond counting. While I’d like to think that in the areas where it matters, I’ve been able to maintain a reasonable balance between work and personal life, I suspect that if were to ask any of my exes over the past decade if that were true, they’d say otherwise. And the only person who has demanded this regimen, who has dictated the terms of my existence over the past decade, and who has unwaveringly agreed to it, is me.

Running this site has been as much a compulsion as a vocation – oh hey, remember that time I posted every day for 1050 days straight? – and as I’ve gotten older, the ability I have to justify the effort and expense has waned with my energy. I can come up with myriad reasons why I wouldn’t want to do another large, outdoor festival or make 2013 my ninth straight SXSW, but they all boil down to one thing and that’s that I’m tired. Physically, mentally, whatever. And while I could probably keep the pace up for a few more years at least – sure it takes a little while longer for the aches to fade but I’m hardly infirm – why would I? I’ve already been doing it for probably too long.

It seems obvious when you think about it, but there’s no finish line for this sort of thing – there’ll always be another hot new artist, someone making sounds that could potentially (but probably not) change your life. Someone rehashing the sounds you grew up one, someone tearing them down. You can’t keep up with it forever. As mentioned, I feel very lucky that I was doing what I was when I was because it’s allowed me to follow a slew of fantastic artists from their days in clubs to headlining arenas. But as much fun as that ride can be, I don’t necessarily feel like it’s something that I want to get so invested in again. The aughts were mine but they’re over now.

And beyond that, the nature of the blogging beast has changed. The blue skies of the medium from five or six years ago are a thing of the past and what I do in the way that I do it has increasingly become a niche thing, anathema to the tl;dr generation and I’m too stubborn to change even as I watch numbers decline (not just mine, anecdotal evidence shows it’s everyone). Further, the degree to which everything is documented, reported, analyzed, tweeted, tumblred, liked, shared, whatever, I can’t help feeling a bit unnecessary now. Everything is commoditized now and we don’t exist in remotely enough of a meritocracy to provide the motivation to working this hard at something.

As wonderful it was to be at the leading edge of this thing, to figure out what blogs were and could do, I feel like while I got there first I started late. I envy my younger peers who, despite the market being as lean and grim as it is, can still try and indulge their rock’n'roll journalist dreams. I had the full-time job when I started this and have had one all the way through, constantly trying to balance the demands of both. I’ve always had too much to lose to try and do more with this, nor have I had the ambition of some of my blogging brethren who, besides having the good sense to enslist help, have transitioned into more sustainable operations of which the blog is just a facet – booking, A&R, proper journalism, photography, what have you. I was always too wrapped up in the day-to-day to think about the long game; I just wanted to get the next day’s post done and go to bed. Which is why, rather than an anniversary party or special event, you get this post. And when I’m done, I’ll move on to tomorrow’s post.

And yeah, there will be a tomorrow’s post. As tempting as it would be to simply give the steering wheel on this thing a hard right, drive it off a cliff, and walk away from the flaming wreckage in slow-motion without ever once looking back – and you can’t know just how close I came to that over the years – that’s just not me. But if I can keep with the automotive metaphor a little bit, what I will be doing is gearing down, moving into the right lane and once in a while, pulling over to a rest stop. And if at some point an exit ramp comes along that feels right, then so be it. It’s time for this to be less of an endless race and more of a leisurely journey. In the short term, you probably won’t notice a thing; there’s enough irons in the fire that the rest of this calendar year will probably play out as it always has. And assuming the world doesn’t end in December – wouldn’t THAT make this whole post utterly moot – when the rest of the world ramps up in 2013, I will as well – just a bit more slowly.

It may take a few more days for show reviews to go up, news might not be quite as timely (though interesting things will still go up nearly immediately on my Twitter and maybe I’ll try to understand this Tumblr thing) as I try to worry less about reaching RSS reader zero, I probably won’t be aggregating the shit out of everything anymore (sorry to those sites who needed the handful of eyeballs I would send over), maybe fewer contests (PR people, get ready for more “no’s”), and eventually will put my cover of the week to bed, at least as an every week thing. I will still be soliciting a redesign – this shit is dated, yo – and have some ideas about changing up the formatting of my posts to be quicker to write and to read while still trotting out the novel-length pieces when I feel like it. But mainly I intend to be less regimented about it all. Allow myself to pause and breathe and tend to other things. I need to. If I can squeeze some free days into my week, find more time to read, to go do non-music things, work on other projects, it’ll make a huge difference. And I suspect that if I am keeping up with the zeitgeist a little bit less, I’ll enjoy what I’m doing a lot more.

You may ask why I need to make this sort of declaration of intent on the blogiversary, why I don’t just quietly make the changes and carry on, and it’s a reasonable question. But the fact is if I didn’t draw this finish line in the sand and close off this decade-long era of the blog as what it was in an official fashion, I’d never do it. I couldn’t. The compulsion that keeps me working this hard at this also stops me from not. I have to give myself permission to allow it to morph into something else or even die, if that’s how it goes. A bit mental? You have no idea.

I recall a round table at SXSW a few years ago with a bunch of my fellow music blogging lifers when the first question raised – by the inimitable Rob Donewaiting, I believe – was, “when can we stop?”. Everyone nodded, but I don’t think that any of us there has actually hung it up yet. What we do can still be incredibly rewarding, it’s just a question of finding the right balance. This has essentially been my life’s work so far, but if I’m not careful it will remain that. And I don’t really fancy a tombstone reading, “He blogged. A lot. And will get you set times when he has them.”

It’s no overstatement that I could write a post this long expanding on each point made so far, but I’ll save that for my incredibly dull memoirs. I’ve chewed the contents of this post over in my mind for so long and it’s not nearly complete, but it’s probably enough. If you’ve read this far, I can only assume it’s because you care to some degree and for that, I thank you. I’ve never taken my readers for granted – you really are the reason I do what I do – and have always striven to be informative, hopefully entertaining, and to maybe introduce you to some music you might not have heard otherwise. Buy a CD or an LP or a concert ticket. If that’s happened, then this has been a success.

And if we’re friends IRL and you extend an invite to go do something – please do – and I get this look in my eye that I feel like I need to write up a blog post instead, you have my standing invitation to smack me.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to make the donuts.

MP3: Ride – “Chrome Waves”

By : Frank Yang at 9:28 am
Category: General
RSS Feed for this post35 Responses.
  1. Five says:

    Frank! Congrats on ten years. I look forward to seeing you at shows where you can leave when you want, you can stand near the back, and leave your camera at home.

  2. Michael says:

    Am I the first comment? I started my blog about a year after yours and rode the wave of those first music blogs. A neat time because there was so few of us giving everyone more reason to be / exist. I never took my blog nearly to the heights you did but I commend you for setting the benchmark for which many of us strived towards. It’s already been a few years since the downturn of my own site – I don’t post very often, but I’ll throw a post up when I find the strength. I’ve lost readership for sure, but really there’s more to life than blogging and I realized that several years back. It looks like you’ve come to your senses. Don’t know where else I’m going with this comment, but otherwise thanks for 10 years ( and here’s to another 10 years! uuh, scratch that last part).

  3. Darren K says:

    Hey Frank – thanks for all the work, effort and energy. You have introduced me to a lot of great music, a lot of great bands. Our tastes line up in enough similar ways that a prompting from you is reason enough to listen to something and buy a record. You go do what you need to do, and thank you so much for what you have done.

  4. Colin says:

    I read the whole thing, and I approve. See you in the pit.

  5. The Dude says:

    You’re a mammoth Frank! Take that in the best way possible.
    : )

  6. Karl says:

    First, congratulations on your achievement. Second, Phew! I am overjoyed and relieved you’re continuing.

    Although I have never put the effort into my meager guest-blogging that you have into your blog, I have done it long enough to understand that it can come to seem more like an obligation sometimes — and that the world of social media now competes with and to some degree supplants certain types of blogging.

    I am confident that dialing down your level of obsession will ultimately bring a fresh energy into your already great vocation. New influences, new ways of integrating social media and so on.

    As an older guy, I still love the stuff I grew up on, but can tell you change and evolution is a necessity. I am very excited for you and the future of Chromewaves.

  7. Joe says:

    Kudos on your careful transformation from “blogger” to “blogger emeritus”.

    Also: working on my “it’s time to make the donuts” meme photos now.

  8. Brad says:

    Well said as always, Frank. Glad you didn’t go scorched earth, but the pull back is more than understandable. I never took your consistency for granted, and will keep on appreciating whatever lies ahead. Cheers.

  9. Melody says:

    <3

  10. lustandfury says:

    My feeling is that dialing back and keeping things more streamlined could actually make this blog better in the future. All the best and thanks for 10 years! The effort hasn’t gone unnoticed.

  11. erik says:

    Hi Frank.

    I met you at the japandroids/cadence weapon show a couple months ago, and I was by myself and you were standing up front with yr camera, and you were nice enough to talk to me about music and places and things for a while before stuff started. The next day I found yr blog, and I thought it was really good and I’ve read it p much every post since. It’s too bad yr going to be scaling back just after I found the site, but I’m also amazed at yr level of output, and have even thought to myself “holy smokes how does he do this?”. So thanks again and best wishes.

    The best compliment I can give I guess is just to say that no other music site I know of can make walls of text about bands I’d never heard of and probs wouldn’t care about so compulsively readable.

    thnx

  12. Casey P. says:

    Long time reader, first time caller (more like second or third time). Thanks for all the hard work, Frank. Admittedly, I don’t read blogs as often as I used to, but I still have ‘em all bookmarked and visit whenever I have the time. I’ll be sure to drop by whenever I can to check up on your latest thoughts, goings-on, reviews, etc.

    Btw, I hope this doesn’t mean you’re skipping all future festivals in faraway lands! Gotta hold out for the next Matador fest in Vegas! (We met at Matador at 21, to refresh your memory.)

  13. Michael says:

    Hi Frank,

    Congrats on 10 years.

    As someone who has only recently started to blog, I can honestly say that I have no idea how you’ve managed to keep going for so long without losing your mind. I came across Chromewaves six or seven years ago and since then usually try to check in most days. Sometimes it’s just a skim but more often than not it’s to peruse the whole fine post. The readability,the consistency,the informativeness, not to mention the sheer volume are beyond impressive. If I can get two blog posts out a month I consider it a success.

    As a voracious listener of music over the last 40+ years, I have to says thanks for all the great artists you have turned me on to that I would have never heard otherwise. After a certain point in your life it seems like you can no longer talk to friends about new music that excites them and you. And while it’s fine for some to appreciate and listen only to the music of their youth, that just doesn’t work for me. So stumbling across your blog way back when was a godsend.

    As a professional photographer who owns a photography and design studio in NYC, and who started out as a teen with a Canon AE-1 taking photos of concerts back in the 70′s, I also have to compliment you on the many fine photos you have posted. Shooting at shows is often not easy and, in a way, sometimes actually causes you to miss some fine music.

    And finally, as a geezer at the ripe old age of 54, I have to say good for you. Scaling back and taking some time to enjoy the rest of your life is a wise move. It goes by in a flash; one day you’re shooting pictures of X-ray Specs at CBGB’s, and then before you know it you’re helping your daughter move into her college dorm room.

    Thanks again (for all the fish).

    m

  14. David says:

    So many smacks incoming to you.

  15. FrostBiteBoy says:

    Congratulations on the milestone, Frank!
    And, a sincere thanks for everything…

  16. David P says:

    Thanks for all your hard work. To blog everyday for so long is nearly a full time job. Read you blog is a must read for me. I’ve discovered so many bands because of your blog.

  17. Chris says:

    Well done Frank, I’ve enjoyed your work over the last 8 years or so that I’ve been following you. You write as well as any music journo/blogger…

  18. Justin says:

    Kudos Frank. 10 Years well done!

  19. Marty says:

    Thanks Frank. As a long time reader, (and one-time contest winner!!), I’m not quite sure what I will do without the pretty much daily Chromewaves posts. The site is part of my daily routine! I appreciate the effort you put into keeping us informed of what’s new, what’s good, and what shows are coming to town. Enjoy semi-retirement.

  20. Scott says:

    Missed sending congrats yesterday (was off the computer for a much-needed break). Since I started working in Toronto six and a half years ago, and re-found your blog, it has LITERALLY been the one crucial piece of my morning. I don’t drink coffee. I rarely eat breakfast. I DON’T start my day without you.

    Congratulations on ten years. Congratulations on a body of work you can be proud of. One of the main reasons I don’t take my camera to many shows is because I know you (and some others) will always be there taking BETTER pictures. I fully understand your need to dial back – it couldn’t happen any other way – but whatever your plans, I will be reading. Missing you on mornings you skip – but understanding the need for a life.

    Your blog is not only admirable, it’s essential. You’ve built trust. As others have said, your taste is so solid that a recommendation from Chromewaves is one of the few “must-listen” recommendations I follow.

    To whatever the future holds (and I genuinely hope it’s a memoir – you’re conversational writing would be a treat)… you can rest a laurel on having hit a milestone few blogs make, and even fewer make with the consistent body of work behind them you have.

  21. Mike says:

    Congrats on your decision, Frank. You can hang it up whenever you want to; you done good.

  22. alec o says:

    classy post frank. numbers don’t measure vitality. fingers crossed you keep the car running

  23. dk says:

    Congrats on 10 years, Frank. Wow. Just Wow. Glad you’re not going away, but that you’re taking time. You’ve been a daily read for me for likely nine of those 10 years, and I look forward to continuing, even on a reduced basis. Congratulations!

  24. Ian barber says:

    Frank. Im canadian. I live in the caribbean, I use you as my daily take on the Canadian (and international) music scene. Ive been reading almost daily for the last four years. Congrats on your accomplishments. Hope to read more.

  25. Bruce says:

    First of all – what everyone else said. Especially the parts about the numerous introductions to music previously unknown. Having that all in one place? Priceless.

    I always wondered how you could keep up this pace, and indeed, why you felt it needed to be there every single day. Hopefully it wasn’t a sense of reader expectation or even worse, pressure, as I’m sure nobody would judge you for taking a few days off at a time when needed. And we’d still be there when you came back (at least I know I would). Having said all that, I’ve always looked forward to your posts. While I appreciate all the aggregating of links and songs and videos, that to me was all gravy, above and beyond the words and photos at the heart of the thing. And if gathering all those links takes you as much time as I think it does, then I’m sure cutting back on them partly or completely would be understandable and totally reasonable. The blog would be no less worthwhile.

    Given your track record, I’m sure making the blog a more occasional thing won’t hurt your standing in the ‘sphere one iota, and you’d still be able to enjoy the perks. You see where I’m going with this? In a selfish direction, meaning, do what you have to do to make it work for you, ’cause I’d sure miss it if it was gone!

  26. Jeremy says:

    Agreed with the masses above! You’ve had a good run, and it has been much appreciated. Anything you continue to offer here will continue to be valued.

  27. Greg says:

    I am a lil late to the party but I can’t say anything that has not already been said …

    Thanks Frank!

  28. Patanoia says:

    Thank you!

  29. Fawaz says:

    Frank, thanks for keeping up with this great blog. I used to live in Toronto an found your site invaluable for finding out upcoming shows, finding out more about the bands I love, and learning about new bands. I appreciate the hard work that goes into this and wanted you to know that I really appreciated it.

  30. John says:

    Former Toronto, current UK – always enjoyed the wit, reviews and opinion. Keep it up and do it as you feel the need to – I’ll still be reading. Cheers John.

  31. Frank Yang says:

    it occurs to me that I haven’t said “thank you” to everyone for the kind words and support.

    Thank you for the kind words and support.

    And don’t worry, it’s a long goodbye.

  32. Ryan says:

    Frank! Congrats on 10 fantastic years.

    Having put my site to rest after only 3 years, with not nearly as much of an effort being put in on a daily basis, I can only imagine how much of a weight off of your shoulders it must be just to take a step back. I look forward to continuing to read your posts, and seeing you at the occasional show and brunch.

    Also, hopefully with the added free time you can get that NES fixed and make your way through Metroid!

  33. Lauren says:

    From my early Toronto days as one of your readers, to trying to solicite your attention as an artist, to constantly trying to solicite your attention on behalf of REAL artists, to big brother, general authority on most things relevant to being an adult, my favorite travel companion and actual real life friend; I’m so grateful for all that your endless stream of wry words have brought to my life (but mostly you). You’ve taught me so much, and I know you have so much more to teach me, which I look forward to getting straight from the horse’s mouth.

    Congratulations Frank; I hope you acknowledge what an enormous thing you’ve done here. And I’m so glad it brought you into my life.

  34. Dave says:

    Nicely said Frank. I’ve always admired the effort you put into Chromewaves. Your words about obsession, compulsion, and “letting go” ring very true to me.

  35. Happy Music News & Some Sad Music News | Life On Oz says:

    […] has been slowing down even since September 2012 when Frank decided to post less frequently. He thought that this new, less structured schedule would allow him to recover from […]