Sunday July 22, 2018

13

Posted by Karthik

13 years of Milliblog. That’s 13 years of a hobby!

From the post where I wrote about completing 12 years, where I had briefly alluded to the point, 13th has been significant. As I had reflected in my post last year, I finally took the plunge and stopped doing reviews for all/most soundtracks. And moved to a different format.

There are some solid reasons for this change.

First is that Milliblog has always put my own ways of consuming music first. I’m the first reader of Milliblog since I started the blog to answer my own question – ‘What should *I* listen to?’. In the process, I figured that others may want to utilize that information too, and it became a blog. In any case, I have been writing about one form of music or other since 1999, given I have been working on ItwoFS since then. So, back in 2005, my form of consumption of music was through soundtracks and albums. I listen to them, store them (physical CDs or digital copies) and Milliblog helped me remember what I liked, what I didn’t and most importantly, what should I listen to when I want to.

The second reason is the way film music is handled now. Audio labels, which had enormous power at one point, producing consistent ‘produce’ from the houses of TIME and TIPS (TIPS continues on this journey if you include Race 3), have withered away (T-series remains a solid player with enormous clout even today). Film music doesn’t have the same clout as it did earlier. So the primacy of the film soundtrack has faded too. Many films these days are considering lesser number of songs (as against the usual 5-6 songs), or looking at narratives that do not include songs at all. Simply put, songs are not the most preferred form to move the story in films anymore. It is seen as a vestige of the past, an unreal and artificial way of moving the plot. Filmy way! How odd that our films don’t want anything filmy anymore!

The third reason revolves around the commercial considerations of a soundtrack, if at all there is one. Earlier a soundtrack gave the opportunity to producers to do a few things. One was the introduce the film and crew through an ‘audio launch’. Second, it was a PR opportunity to talk more about the film through the music. Now, individual singles serve the same purpose. In a digital-first marketing world, every touch point with audiences is important since there is an overdose of content online already. Most such content has an interest value of about 24 hours after which newer content comes and takes over our interest. So, it makes sense to launch one song a week or a month, and keep the interest in a film’s opening week sustained for a period of time. The result is that there is no soundtrack anymore, not in the way it was assumed earlier. There are just a collection of singles, now. This also means that by the time I wait and write about a full soundtrack, people (and I) have heard the singles many times over, and there’s far less interest to read about something that is 4 weeks old.

The fourth reason is a byproduct of the death of the film soundtrack. Very few films these days have a single composer who works like the musical extension of the film’s and the director’s vision. This was a norm earlier, but an anomaly these days. Finding a single composer for a film (a T-series film, at that!) is a surprise in the current times. The logical extension could be that if the producers (not necessarily the director or composer, given the horror stories I have heard from composers and directors who came to know that their film’s soundtrack had more than one composer on the day a new single launched!) don’t care for a unified product that augments the film’s narrative as much as it works like a marketing tool, why should others care?

The fifth, and final reason is the way we (and I, primarily) consume music. I don’t open a soundtrack on a streaming platform and let it play. I mean, I do that to form opinions about it given Milliblog, but from the perspective of ‘listening’ to music, I open playlists, made by me or others and start playing them. The truth is, a playlist is the format we all discover new music. This has been the case for a very long time, incidentally, if you consider how we discovered new film music back in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. The primary method was through radio, and then TV. A Binaca Geetmala was a playlist on the radio, while a Chitrahaar was a playlist on TV. Geetmala aggregated interests of people and formed a countdown-based playlist, while its’s TV equivalent was the Superhit Muqabalas and the likes. Chitrahaar was a vanilla playlist with no criteria set beside the fact that the song is fresh.

When the internet truly happened – meaning much better bandwidth for most people – there was a LOT of music for everybody. We all needed to know what to listen to. Playlists were easy to make and share now, on a streaming platform. Anybody can. And most playlists were around a theme – motivation, workout, rain, friendship, patriotism etc. Or, there were automated playlists for new music. My approach was to offer myself an editorial-led playlist for new music.

On an average, if you include the most prolific film industries in India, there are about 40-50 songs released every single week. That’s a lot of music to discover, locate and listen to. So what are the 10-20 songs every week I should listen to? And most importantly, why should I listen to them? That’s the idea behind the change in Milliblog from late 2017.

So, Weeklies, for a weekly playlist.

Monthlies for a theme (my chosen theme for this year is composers in Hindi).

Quarterlies for a summary of the Weeklies, each quarter.

And there are the Annual round-ups which aggregate the entire year into individual language playlists.

The idea is that if I put myself as the reader no.1 of Milliblog, I play my Weeklies 2-3 times or more over a week. I read Milliblog once on a Sunday or a Monday to know what the songs are that week that deserve my attention and why they do. In a way, it removes the serendipity from discovering new songs. I don’t depend on random friends or people online letting me know what I need to listen to and random points in time (that does happen too since I’m hyper-tuned to discovering new music). I make these lists to organize what I want to listen to, every single week, predictably through one playlist (3 playlists, across 3 platforms, however, to account for music availability being so terrible in terms of streaming platforms).

That’s quite a big change from the 12 years of doing the same thing… I understand 🙂 I had tons and tons of people writing to me across multiple modes asking to continue doing soundtrack reviews. And I do try to do that, mainly where the soundtrack as a whole deserves a note, and every small effort in talking about it could help the artists involved.

Weeklies is the primary product of Milliblog now. Not reviews of individual soundtracks. I have already completed 30+ Weeklies and accumulated thousands of subscribers for the Weeklies by Email.

In the process of continuing to manage Milliblog, the exercise has given me a lot, and almost all of them non-monetary (some monetary too, like the writing gigs I did for The Hindu, and now, for Filmcompanion). It has put me in touch with many, many music artists, directors and producers. Most of them just want to have a conversation about my views. I have declined so many offers to go to audio launches, meet composers, sit with composers through a recording session, live gigs (I did attend one, in Bangalore, by Shankar Ehsaan Loy, though) etc.

The reason I keep my Milliblog in the front and not me as an individual is that I’m acutely aware of the fact that I’m musically untrained (in any form) and just a slightly more articulate and passionate music enthusiast. A listener and a fan first. A vocal fan, if I may add. And I love being in the periphery observing things, trends, new composers worth backing and talking about and simply enjoying music.

I intend to continue doing just that 🙂

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