Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Flogging A Dead Horse: Why I'm Done With Daytrotter

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I remember the first time I discovered the website Daytrotter. It was the same time when I discovered where Daytrotter was based out of-the perfectly named Rock Island, a quarter of the Quad Cities which is an often overlooked community when it comes to the hipster-quotient scale.
Rock Island isn’t a regular stopping point for most indie bands, which made Daytrotter kind of an anomaly. It’s strategically located right off the interstate, as is Iowa itself. I know, Rock Island is actually on the Illinois side of the Quad Cities, but we Iowans still count it amongst us because, let’s face it, Iowa will claim anything that isn’t Chicago, Minneapolis, or that crummy Omaha.
The idea that our little working class neighbor was grabbing the attention of fresh new artists that you don’t normally associate with the Midwest was kind of neat. I even offered my services to the website once in some kind of “You guys are really doing some cool stuff” email. It was unsolicited, but it was also a product of quick blurb that hinted how Daytrotter could always use some extra material-and since we’re both practically in the same neighborhood and since I always seemed to have some extra material, I dropped a few articles off at the head-Trotter’s main publisher type of guy.
I got nothing back. Not even an acknowledgement. Heck, even a ‘thanks but no thanks” would have been sufficient. But even in my naiveté I expected more from a fellow Midwesterner, particularly one that attempts to mesh our “aw shucks” values with hipster appeal. I saw the Daytrotter pony a file miles up the road from my home in the suburbs and it ignored me just like any other cleverly named editor at Pitchfork or Blender.
Fuck those guys.
I tried to get a feel for the website’s writing style, but all I came away with is the long-winded prose of the editor, trying to vaguely map his descriptive words with the band being featured. And you know what, not once did what he was saying prompt me to look at a band I wasn’t familiar with more scrutiny.
I guess that’s what the music on their sessions is supposed to do.
Recently, the website announced that they would begin charging for these sessions, that it simply became cost prohibitive to provide the music they’ve recorded for free to its visitors.
It made me wonder “Why now?”
I’m not entirely convinced that having an independent musical act stopping off in Rock Island, Illinois to record a few selections live in an unadorned studio for distribution on a website with vague articles and colorful illustrations would be a solid business plan. It’s a novel one, for sure, and something that appeals to the left side of my brain, but I’m not sure that it’s something that I’d bet the proverbial farm on.
If I’m not mistaken, Daytrotter was started as a labor of love. It required that those who manned the site devote an enormous amount of time and, yes, costs to keep the light bill paid, but it was a business model in which none of those involved planned to get rich from, just like it was a model where those envolved were ready for the site to be such a success.
I’m sure those site stats were please with the results and forced to make a decision of how to navigate the behind the scenes trenches with limited free time and even more limited financial resources.
But I’m sorry if I’m not automatically reaching for my wallet to pay for such an endeavor, to fund for the studio time of a few bands that I care to hear in such a setting while paying for even more bands that I could give two shits about.
Particularly if the idea is to get to me give two shits about bands I’ve never heard before. I mean, I don’t remember John Peel asking me for a few bucks just so I could learn about The Fall. Particularly when I’m sure there are dozens of record labels who would love for me to discover one of the bands they have decided to stop by for some exposure at one of the digital world’s most infamous sites for young upstarts.
What Sean and his cohorts at Daytrotter have done is create an admirable website with a unique approach to exposing new artists to like-minded fans, all at a cost effective price (i.e. free) that promotes a bullshit-free opportunity to get music you wouldn’t normally get to hear.
What I object to is the idea that, because they haven’t found a way to adequately pay for this-even after selling the name to a larger site that was needed to help cover Daytrotter’s own expansion and popularity. I’m not understanding why I have to be the one to foot the bill. Why are they asking me for financial assistance so that they get to chose what artists get to be recorded? Why am I funding to maintain the site’s seemingly unending schedule that overloads my hard drive with band I’m not entirely sure I need to pay to hear? I don’t need to hear how Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin attacks one of their old numbers in the Daytrotter studio because I’m not a fan enough to reach for my wallet.
I’m paying for their tastes, their visual arists, and their branding-in the same way that I would pay for a subscription to Rolling Stone (which I dropped on the issue that featured Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen on the cover, admittedly making the Boris Yeltsin comment a bit reckless), but only after Jann Wenner himself told me an increase in the subscription is needed because R.S.’s business model is failing.
So do what needs to be done to stay afloat (limit the sessions to a manageable number, reduce the amount of illustrations, spend more time addressing revenue issues instead of spending it on pointless prose that does little to tell me more about the artists you now want me to pay you to record). It just seems a bit rude to ask me for spending change so that you don’t have to assume a new business accumend that began as your hobby.
All of this sounds a bit bitchy, particularly when you consider the monthly cost that Daytrotter is asking for. But for me-like many others in this country at the moment-who is working through the unemployment of one of the breadwinners in our home and the tight budget that this has created for our family of four, the idea that we’re supposed to pick up part of the tab for someone else’s labor of love doesn’t set well.
After all, I would love for my own musical prose to be able to pay the bills, but the reality of life forces me to prioritize and cut back on the things I enjoy doing while I attempt to make good on the things that I need to do.
Maybe Daytrotter should have considered right from the get-go what they wanted to be: a hipster website fueled and paid for by their own passion or just another music website with a unique approach that should have contemplated their own financial goals with a solid business acumen before going live.

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