The history of a music fan in four decades, part three

[Cocco - Bougainvillia]

Read Parts One and Two.

Just when I thought I was done cycling through niches, I found one last rabbit hole into which I tumbled long and hard. The earliest days of this site owes its reputation to that period, but midway through the last decade, something broke.

Japanese indie rock

I remember the moment I was introduced to Cocco very well.

A co-worker was playing a Japan Nite sampler CD, and when it reached Cocco, I got up from my desk to find out who was singing. Here was someone who could have gone the easy route and sing anime theme songs. Instead, a wail of grunge guitars backed her. It was the Japanese rock for which I was searching.

[Shiina Ringo - Muzai Moratorium]The office sent me to cover SXSW music events, and I volunteered to cover Japan Nite in 1999. That night introduced me to Missile Girl Scoot, eX-Girl and NUMBER GIRL. A trip home to Honolulu in 2000 led to Utada Hikaru, the brilliant green, L’Arc~en~Ciel and Shiina Ringo.

Web sites covering Japanese music focused primarily on pop idols. I wanted to feature more of the rock music showcased at Japan Nite. So became a webzine to do just that. My rusty Japanese needed a lot of help from online tools, but over time, I got proficient enough to localize short news stories into English.

I also used this site to hone my skills as a web software engineer, pulling together the articles I was writing with various discography services. Building the site from the ground up while also creating its content took its toll, and after five years, I pivoted to write more broadly about all the music that interested me.

Turning 35

My favorite article from the Onion is “Lifelong Love Affair With Music Ends At Age 35“. In my case, it’s less satire and more biography.

It takes a lot of work to be connected all the time, and in the heady music blog days of the mid-2000s, bands got deafening buzz from posting a single MP3 to MySpace, and then the focus would shift elsewhere before that band could make a second song.

I just didn’t have the energy to trawl music sites in Japanese to find another band to fill the NUMBER GIRL void, and Western bands sounded too similar to what I grew up with to make a non-cranky judgement. So I retreated into catalog.

Cutting out the middle man

One interesting side effect of the shift to downloads and streams is the rise of direct fan relationships with artists. Facebook and Twitter makes it easy to discover and connect with artists who don’t rely on a label for promotion and distribution.

[Matt Alber - Constant Crows]In an effort to find gay artists who played music more to my personal taste, I skimmed articles in gay publications and sites for leads, and a great majority of them sent me directly to an artist’s web presence. Similarly, I would follow opening acts at concerts if their performances impressed me.

The label system lacks such transparency that the direct fan relationship feels a lot more pure. I know when I buy directly from Matt Alber, Sacha Sacket, Jarell Perry or Shaprece, they’re getting my cash, not the middle man.