Blog January 2007


  Michael Foster, editor 

Past Blogs

May 2006




I got to thinking that perhaps something a little more open than an editorial might be better for sharing my thoughts with you the reader of Ambient Visions than what this used to be called which was an editorial. Hardly original as there are blogs by the hundreds and thousands perhaps even millions all over the web by now but I will try to stay away from a blow by blow description of what I had for dinner any given night and what I liked on TV (FYI I finally gave up on TV and had my cable disconnected not too long ago DVD's and music have become my entertainments of choice these days with news being gathered from the internet) and try to stick to the relevant issues for a website called Ambient Visions. Although I do admire folks like Sam Rosenthal who doesn't mind taking a political stand during an election year, or any other time for that matter, with his Projekt label's newsletter but be forewarned Sam is quite the outspoken Democrat and not afraid of calling it like he sees it.

2006 has been a relatively good year for AV with traffic holding about even from the beginning of the year until now. Reviews on the site have gone down but that is understandable since most of our reviewers have moved on and there has been no offers to fill the void from those who are able to create well articulated views on the music that was released in 2006. It seems that reviewing ambient or new age music must have gone out of style and since I am an eloquent writer when summoning up descriptions of the latest ambient offerings I have not had many to post to the site. Review copies are still welcomed so that I am able to keep up to date with what is being released and what it sounds like unfortunately I can not guarantee that a review will be posted. I can promise that if I like a CD and I know it has been released (usually by receiving the aforementioned review copy) I will post announcements of its release and press releases about the artist so that there is some form of promotion happening in return for the review copy that was sent my way. 

I have been more than happy to stick with doing the interviews and trying to keep new chats with artists going up to the site on a regular basis but is that enough? I have been pretty good about publishing the music charts that flow my way through the e-mail groups that I am subscribed to and the press releases that are sent by those artists who actually want folks to know they have released new material but is that enough? I wanted this blog to take a look at 2006 and see where we are headed in 2007 so forgive me if I am stating the obvious when it comes to the trends that I am seeing. Ambient and new age are niche markets to be sure and probably have a limited appeal to surfers on the web but does that mean those of us who have been involved with this community for quite a few years should sit back and relax in regards to trying to reach out to new listeners via promotional efforts that for the most part are fairly cost effective due in large part to access to the internet that reaches into a large portion of homes these days? That doesn't necessarily mean posting a few more e-mails to announcement groups is the answer though. Other websites that I have been involved with developing have equally niche markets but the traffic to those sites is triple what AV has and the more poplar sites that I don't run (still very niche though) can reach into the millions of page views per week. So what is it that is different about these other sites? They have community participation on a large scale and the readers feel a personal involvement with what happens on the site and the material that is published on there. Why is this? One of the main reasons is that many of the contributions of articles and opinion pieces are from the readers themselves. With this kind of involvement people naturally come back for frequent visits and feel a loyalty to the website they otherwise would not feel. This means more opportunities for artists to publicize the fact that they have a new release out or that they are doing a special one of kind performance somewhere. Or even to share their views on trends that they see appearing on the horizon for ambient/new age music.

I don't think this kind of participation currently exists in the ambient or new age niches. Oh it may exist on certain bulletin boards which are great if folks know about them and are willing to keep up with the threads and post their own ideas in response. The one that comes to mind is the Hypnos board but does that reach out enough to the web community at large or is it more for those on the inside of the industry to talk to amongst themselves about their projects and what they like or don't like. All well and good but will that help you spread the word beyond your own little group about your latest release or an upcoming project? Perhaps but since this is your musical project don't you want to take every opportunity to have your name in front of those who want to buy your product? Sites have been closing and reviewers disappearing over the last few years and AV even disappeared briefly for a few months a couple of years ago because I had lost faith in what benefit my website could have to the community when no one seemed interested in being involved with it on an ongoing basis. I think that some crucial points that make a website successful are continuity; participation and a constant reaching out to the community you are trying to cover.  

Over the years I have watched most of my reviewers disappear and the ones that remained were not always responsive to my e-mails after a certain amount of time writing for AV. I have made appeals in e-mail form when I still maintained an AV Yahoo group and from previous editorials for folks to let me know what they like about the site and how it might be improved or to participate in articles or opinion pieces. I received absolutely no response from the community at large. I'm sure that burn out is the reason for much of migration and dropping out of sight but shouldn't the community be large enough to have those who step up when others have had enough?( If you used to write for me please feel free to get in touch with me again if you'd like to pick up where you left off or even if you have reviews published on other sites that are able to be published simultaneously on AV) My goal for 2007 is to reach out to the community and see if I can solicit some participation in the website from those who read it and find the information useful. Most magazines have many people participating in it to make it a success and it would be almost unthinkable that one person would be responsible for all of the content that you read in Time or Newsweek each week. Granted those writers are paid for their efforts but since AV is not a money making venture then that option is not an option. The other niche publication I mentioned earlier does not pay for its material either but they have tons of new material being published each week and that draws in the readers as well as inspiring readers to write their own pieces and submit them to the site. A productive cycle that generates more and more material to draw new readers to the website. Good for readers, good for artists and hopefully good for exposing new music to readers around the world.  

So what's ahead for AV in 2007? Well that depends on the community that AV serves. I would like AV to become a source of information through the interviews, through contributed reviews and through articles and opinion pieces that the readers write and submit to be published. The site is about the music. If it was about money I would have long ago given it up or added those annoying flashing banners and ads all over the front page. I have been happy to eat the cost of the software, the web host fees and spend the time needed to keep AV relatively up to date because I want to see the good music that is produced each year given a spotlight/forum and brought to the attention of those who will enjoy it the most. I am going to seek input from artists and fans alike in terms of articles, opinion pieces and reviews for publishing on the website along with the interviews that I conduct on a regular basis. I hope that by the end of 2007 I'll be able to report better news about site traffic and community participation in the development of AV and if not then perhaps AV is not a really needed resource and perhaps I should think about working on other efforts instead of AV. I don't look at that as a negative statement but rather a realistic assessment of whether the community finds AV a useful tool in the promotion of ambient/new age music. Tools that can be modified to make them useful again can still be used but tools that are past their prime and beyond modification need to be discarded in favor of other tools that still meet the reader's needs. I hope that AV can still be a useful tool for ambient music in the years to come but I am realistic enough to know that wishing it were so is not the same as it actually being so. I will take another look at this in December of 2007 and see where things stand at that time.  

In the meantime I would invite my readers and the artists that I have dealt with over the years begin to view AV as a community tool to be used in the promotion of the music that they have to offer. Send in articles, send in opinion pieces or send in reviews of your favorite new releases to be shared with the readers of AV in the coming months. Think past just the promotional efforts alone and how you might be involved with the community and promote your music at the same time. Don't be afraid to send in ideas for new columns or features that you think would be great information to share with the readers of AV. Ambient Visions has been pretty much my own ideas of what folks out there would want to read but it is only one version of what AV could be. More people equate into more ideas and more ideas can expand the horizons of AV in the coming year. Join with me in taking AV to new levels during 2007. It might surprise you just how much difference a year of change and participation might make in AV.

I hope 2007 will be a productive year for alliances, for great new music and for reaching new ears with this music. See ya in the next great blog adventure. Take care.

Michael Foster, editor
Ambient Visions