Tuesday July 21, 2015

Milliblog turns 10!

Posted by Karthik

Back when there was no satellite TV and internet, I used to be glued to my daily night fix of new (Hindi) film music through radio. I still don’t know which radio stations they were, but there used to be 15 minutes programs created by record labels like TIPS, Venus and TIME audio among others where new titles were introduced with song snippets and a lot of interesting chatter by the host.

I still recall one episode where they played Khiladi’s ‘Khud ko kya’ and asked listeners to guess the name of the composer. Even if Jatin-Lalit had debuted an year ago (1991), I wasn’t aware of them and guessed Nadeem-Shravan, which of course was wrong. If you ask me now, I’d say Nina Hagen, of course πŸ˜‰

I had even assumed that Yaara Dildara was composed by Babul Bose (composer of films like Meet mere man ke, Meri Janeman and Jeena teri gali mein) because I heard the credits wrong in one episode and I noted the credits wrongly in a cassette that had both Meri Janeman and Yaara Dildaara’s soundtracks in it (Side A and B!). For the longest time I was under that impression, till Bin tere sanam’s remix hit the mainstream and I bet with someone that the composer was not Jatin-Lalit, only to lose the bet.

I discovered the music of films like Aashiqui, Dil, Beta, Tridev, Vishwatma among others exclusively through this radio trip, long before others in my peer/school circle did so, because their source was films releasing in theaters and my source was part of the pre-release promotions on radio!

Satellite TV happened and I expanded my language selection, to tune in to new film music, from Hindi, to other languages too. Zee TV’s evening hour was added to my regular fix – it was primarily new music from Telugu and Kannada and I recall discovering tons of new music from both states.

There was of course Gaane Anjaane for new Hindi music, a sort of Chitrahaar on steroids, given relatively more newer music on display than DD’s outdated mix of one new and many old songs. I still remember being mildly worried that Anu Malik’s Hulchul number ‘Saawan ka mahina’ and Andolan’s ‘Mazaa karle meri jaan’ (both 1995) were sounding so good (to me, back then) that they may topple Rahman’s lead in Superhit Muqabala with songs from Bombay and Rangeela. Nothing like that happened and those songs are hardly remembered now!

Late 90s and early 2000… internet happened. I downloaded my first music, in real-audio format – Chookar mere man ko and Pal pal dil ke paas! Don’t know why I chose these, though!

I built a website for mp3s of A R Rahman (called arrmp3, of course!). Started ItwoFS. And continued to search for new music to listen to, even on the internet. The early days was bad – no new music and only active efforts to archive existing music. Things only improved with the advent of streaming music (beyond file sharing and torrents) and sites like Raaga and MIO (which I suspect is not official/legit) helped a lot in finding new music.

It was while searching and listening to new music actively that I thought that I may not be the only one scouring the net to find new (film) music to listen to constantly. And that my search and findings may help others too.

I wrote briefly for a Bangalore based online magazine called The Music Magazine, but stopped that eventually when my work kept me really busy.

So, back on this day, in 2005, I started Milliblog.

It was intentional that I decided to do just 100 word reviews. Couple of reasons,

– My inspiration was from India Today’s film and music reviews. They used to do really crisp, 50/60-word reviews in their back page and that was the seed for me.

– I’m not trained in any form of music. All I have is above-average English and a voracious interest for listening to all kinds of music. So, I can’t write a lot with explaining my perspective on music technically.

– There’s so much music to listen to, if I combine the 4 Southern languages and Hindi. There’s only so much I can spend time on. Imposing a 100 word restriction gave me both the discipline and liberty to write more and explore more.

– And yes, it sounded like a nice USP to have when everyone else was doing long-drawn music reviews.

And here I am, 10 years later, still running this hobby of a site!

Some of my proudest personal moments of running Milliblog for over a decade include,

– discovering and betting on a host of new composers like Amit Trivedi (in Hindi, long before most others would, after hearing his music for Abhijeet Sawant’s Junoon), Arjun Janya (Kannada), Ghibran and Santhosh Narayanan (Tamil), Shaan Rahman and Prashant Pillai (Malayalam) and Sunny MR (Telugu).

– getting 100 and 200 as reasonably well-known catchwords for initial points of view on music

– inculcating language agnosticity in music among at least a few Indians. Still hear a lot of people say because they do not understand a language, they don’t venture into its music. That never made sense to me!

I have always wanted to keep Milliblog free of commercial biases (personal biases too, but that’s just my word against yours and can never be proven beyond doubt) and it remains so, till date. There was a brief period when I had wanted to shut down Milliblog because I had joined Flipkart and Flipkart was actively promoting Flyte Music by also working with a lot of industry partners. It didn’t seem right for me to be employed at Flipkart and writing about some of the titles available for sale in its platform. But then, Flyte shut down before I could decide on Milliblog!

Till date, there are 3 guidelines I follow, for everything I do on Milliblog,

1. Write with no bias or preconceived notions, based only on what I think about that particular album (preconceived notion is different from forming a pattern based on the composer’s previous albums, to arrive at a conclusion to end the review, at least in my head. Giving it a dispassionate listen, without assuming how it will be merely based on the composer’s past few soundtracks, is the first part). Himesh and Harris Jayaraj’s fans continue to taunt me with this point, but the only thing I can say is that I try and treat each soundtrack as an individual piece of work, using past/historical reference only for the same conforming to a pattern, if there is one.

2. Treat every comment as a serious enough point of view to warrant a decent, sane response. Including ones that are angry and abrasive. Sometimes I do get annoyed a bit and use sarcasm to mask it, but in most cases, I try to see each commenter’s point of view and offer mine to counter it or to add to the discussion.

3. Do not bother about readership, page views etc. I honestly do not care. If I had cared, I wouldn’t be doing reviews for most of the albums that have non-entity names behind it since I know they get negligible interest among readers (even a cursory glance at Facebook post views would tell me that). My thumb-rule is that I’m writing these for myself – to arrive at my playlist. I’m posting them publicly only because it may help someone else arrive at theirs. So, a true long-tail effort – even if a lesser known soundtrack helps just 5 people pick it up and listen to it… job well done!

This is also why I never ever tag (on Twitter or Facebook) any music-related personality for any reason when it comes to reviews. I strongly believe that affects my credibility as a dispassionate, unbiased reviewer and without credibility, there’s no point in even sharing what I write.

Finally, I have quite a few people tell me that I should celebrate 10 years of Milliblog, since 10 years of anything is worth one, it seems. But, in the true spirit of merely extending personal thoughts to a larger, open platform, I don’t intend to celebrate this milestone. I believe I’m an indie, not a tentpole – I prefer the low-key, credible positioning to a more flashy, loud nature. If Milliblog inspires you, start writing… on anything, not just on music.

Here’s to the next decade!

PS: For context, I’ve filled Milliblog with about 2,200+ posts, of which I’d assume about 2.100 would be music reviews.

Comments

comments

  • Bharathiraja Elangovan

    Great work Karthik. Keep going! I’m a recent follower of you, and I respect your reviews a lot. I admire your interest for listening to new music constantly… One question: How may times would you listen to an album/song before you write the review for the same?

    • milliblog

      Thanks! Usually about 3-4 times, but not necessarily in a focused manner. Most of the early listens are in the background while I’m doing something else. If something stands out and sticks I give it a more focused listen.

  • Gaurav

    You have been doing an awesome work! Following this blog for 7-8 years now. Still helps me explore new music every week!

    • milliblog

      Thank you Gaurav!

  • Rajesh Kumar

    Thanks for not limiting this write up in 100 or 200 words! I think the enthusiasm and efforts gone into the creation of this site is simply awesome. I have tremendously benefited from this site in discovering new music. Please keep up the good work and all the best for another exciting decade of discovering the gems!

    • milliblog

      Thanks Rajesh!

  • rpk

    Congrats Karthick on Ten years. I am a regular reader from early 2009. I live abroad, you are my only source of music – whats good , whats new etc. Thanks for sharing ! For another decade – hell yeah !

    • milliblog

      Glad it helps – thanks πŸ™‚

  • Sid

    Hello Mr. Srinivasan,
    Your music reviews are simply superb. From the USA, here’s to another decade!

    PS-
    I would say your English is definitely NOT above-average.
    There were times when I had to look up some of the words you have used in your reviews! Very sophisticated πŸ˜€

  • nmpraveen

    Congrats. Always looked for your review for any album before buying or listening. Honestly though, I still couldnt accept 200 for Linga. Haha, but thats fine. Its your view but other than that all your reviews were spot on. And I believe you are unbiased just for the fact that you don’t tag any celebs. And I don’t even remember you using hashtags for movie names while posting your reviews. Apart from that I feel your reviews DOESNT take into account of film’s budget or actors in that movie. That is a rare thing in these days. Keep up with that! and Congrats again.

  • Saravana Kumar R

    Congrats Karthik. As you have mentioned, Milliblog introduced me to many composers like Amit Trivedi, Santhosh Narayanan and Ghibran and enabled me to flaunt about some lovely albums to my friends even before those albums went mainstream. Still vividly remember your music reviews on “Vaagai Sooda Vaa”, “Uyirmozhi”, “Ishaqzaade” and “Lootera” which introduced me to those composers and also had wondered and was peeved as to why “Maryan” didnt deserve a 300 back then. Heard that “Appatakkar” album was released yesterday and then jumped into milliblog to catch up with the music review before getting on to listen to it and here I am caught commenting on your post. Such has been this site to me. All the very best. Cheers πŸ™‚

  • Say Something

    Congrats..!

    A much younger person introduced me to this site, probably right when you started.

    While the quality has gone down drastically — and I can’t really take/agree with most of the views expressed in Milliblog reviews [or even this turns 10 post] anymore — is still a good place to know what is out there [not the nature of it].

    My gripe is — the site has become way too much about the author — than about what he is writing about (Music) — though to a large extent, I understand these are inseparable.

    It makes me want to throw up — when I see every 3rd or 4th post is named “Hitman” (typically accompanied by garish pictures) like some Jason Statham movie title πŸ™‚

    • milliblog

      1st 3 paragraphs – nothing to add, really! But 4th para – sweet Jesus! ‘Hitman’ is the title of an ongoing section in The Hindu, not even in this website – I’m merey reusing what I write in the Hindu since that’s original content created by me around music too πŸ™‚

      • Say Something

        I know what that Hitman section is about — Hindu et al. But is what this blog has become. Shoddy pictures screaming at you — and the voice behind indicating “Look, here are some clever choices..!” kind of.

        First 3 paragraphs – blissfully ignore – but is how this reader feels.

        • milliblog

          I’m not sure what this ‘pictures’ you keep referring to? You are aware that they are embedded YouTube links and not ‘pictures’ right?

          Also, if you notice, I did not blissfully ignore the first 3 paras – I said I have nothing to add meaningfully. In other words, you are perfectly entitled to hold that opinion, and I don’t have anything to counter that from my point of view.

          • Say Something

            Yup, the embedded links. Like opening the Friday cinema page of Thinathanthi. All flashy.. and attention grabbing and.. I scroll and scroll… trying to find one good album (mostly, once a week). And then.. those reviews too are not so reliable.. and I’m afraid to visit the next time. All good things die. Disappear.

    • engr945

      @say something,, rightly said. but sadly cant blame karthik for the lowering quality,,, music in recent times havent been that good,,, they are all made with a life span of 1 month max, unlike old times where even after 10 years people were buying cassettes and cds of albums like roja, taal, dil, ashiqui etc.
      @karthik you heard mud doll by niraj chag yet?

      • Say Something

        Agree.

        The quality of music too deteriorated so much during the period that there is not much to write home about. I can sense — in so many reviews, Milliblog is actually trying to sound enthusiastic about some inane album with just one or two good songs [the standard these days].

        What pisses me off is — some of the good albums are slammed down so badly [if they are high budget/famous director films] in this site — and some of the worst ones [or if they are of indie type] are praised generously. There is a set pattern to this — so predictably lame.

        • Say Something

          Let me expand on the last point.

          Often, I listen to an album — feel it’s good (or) above average [OK Kanmani or I] and then check here just to see how he manages to slam it.

          Or often I read some album I was not familiar with – that was praised so generously – listen to it expecting to find something good and end up thinking.. “He must be like those mindless teens enjoying Taylor Swift ”

          Very rarely that I really “find” something good that I would not have noticed.

          I can see the ageism – not able to pick up the nuances and be sensitive to – in a truthful/innocent manner, through the years. May be too much exposure can do that to a person.

          • milliblog

            I’d love to point out that your and my views are not the only ones to inhabit this planet and everyone has a point of view too. If our views don’t match, that doesn’t say yours is better than mine or the other way round. It just means we have divergent points of view. I guess you are making a sweeping assumption about how good your musical taste is. You should blog, I tell you, and listen to what your readers tell you. Nothing like that to keep you grounded.

          • Say Something

            I don’t compare or any of the other things. Just looking for something good to listen to. At one point, I had a 100% hit with this site. A 200 review was certainly good. Now they are all just numbers by somebody. Like those meaningless messages in Twitter or elsewhere. The importance and interest I used to attach to the reviews here is lost. I’m just registering my disappointment and nothing else.

        • milliblog

          Isn’t good and bad albums merely a point of view – yours, mine and others’? Just because I don’t like some albums you liked, why should it be ‘lame’? A bit unreasonable, perhaps?

          • Say Something

            The predictability is what I termed lame. Just to me. In fact, I expect to see it so and often is exactly that. Like DSP’s music. Again and again.

  • if this post was about ARR you would only give 100 words….jk. congrats on ten years and looking forward to continuing to obsessively check milliblog for new reviews

  • jeanjohny

    Karthik, Congrats, it’s no mean Feat! πŸ™‚ I believe that I’m one of your first readers since 2005 as I used to follow the scroll update onthe itwofs site. And yeah, I also were never happy when an Anu Malik song or other composers song sound good, juz coz of the Rahman love! πŸ™‚ Well I have graduated as a music lover and those things bring a smile. Cheers to the next decade! πŸ™‚

  • rnjbond

    Congrats on ten years! I’ve really enjoyed your blog during this time and it’s given me exposure to so many albums and songs I would have never otherwise listened to! Keep up the good work

  • Vishnu

    Congrats Karthik !! Thanks to your efforts, I get to know what’s out there.. Week after week.. And your are pretty much my only source, when it comes to new releases.. Good luck for the next 10 !!

  • Jaydeep

    Did you realize, it also means, we are 10 years older, lol. Its been great 10 years. I don’t know what it means to other visitors but for me your work has been inspirational in many ways. Also, for me Milliblog has been that virtual likeminded friend with whom I could share my thoughts about music any day anytime, no strings attached. Here’s to that friend, “Cheers, buddy.”

  • Kartikeya Juneja new

    http://gaana66.blogspot.sg/

    Please read my music reveiw blog also

  • Pradeep Ramakrishnan

    This is perhaps one site I have been following for quite a long time now. The taste is eclectic and varied, which has been quite a ‘jell” factor with me, as I have always listened to music without boundaries. There is a lot of passion behind this website and Karthik, you deserve a real ‘hats off’!

  • Uday K Panthagani

    I think you do amazing work Karthik. As a language agnostic myself, Milliblog has been my source for music for a long time now. Our views differ a lot of times, and I’ve come to accept it. But I wouldn’t even know of a lot of albums if not for you.

  • Sujith S Kumar

    Congrats, friend! Keep up the good work! Always a pleasure to go through ur (re)views.

  • Sakshar Thakkar

    Congratulations for the journey so far…I’m your regular reader, commenting first time and your recent listens sections helps me to expand my music listening to other languages…thank you for this… and keep it up!

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