How Bloghouse’s Sweaty, Neon Reign United the Internet | WIRED
The first thing to know about bloghouse is that, when it all began, nobody called it bloghouse. During its sweaty, neon-slathered 2000s reign you might’ve called it electro, or indie dance, or maybe you didn’t know what the hell to call it. The point is that bloghouse wasn’t a traditional music genre. Was it a fashion trend? The gateway drug to EDM? The mid-aughts equivalent of hair metal? Music was at the core of the thing, but more than being unified by any specific sound, bloghouse was about how you found it: on MP3 blogs, the Hype Machine aggregator, or auto-playing from Myspace pages.
Myspace was many music fans’ introduction to the new landscape of social media. For a half-decade following its founding in 2003, the site was the most-visited social network in the world, and the first popular platform for musicians and wannabe scene celebs to build a following. On Myspace Music, artists could upload tracks, connect with fans, and control their own branding. For free.
On Myspace, musicians could be weirder and more personalized than in an album’s liner notes or on the websites of major labels. Creating a fun profile was a free growth hack, ensuring fans would share an artist’s music to millions of other potential fans. Does It Offend You, Yeah? drummer Rob Bloomfield says of the group, “The stupid name plus the pornographic up-skirt Lolita hentai avatar we used meant that thousands of people put Does It Offend You, Yeah? in their Top 8 friends.” Industry folks quickly came calling, looking to monetize the digital middle finger the band was giving the whole internet.
Myspace knew that its platform was making and breaking careers. The company built out features to keep the momentum up, but it was users who were really pushing things forward. A generation of kids was customizing profile layouts in HTML, adding in a line of code to trigger songs to play automatically. The ability to directly link a song to your personality became a pissing war of coolness, resulting in incalculable free publicity for artists.
This brief moment in music history could never be replicated today. For one thing, the crunchy, MP3-bitrate sound wouldn’t fly now, and after so many years of digital content proliferation neither would writing for free. Even more importantly, maybe, is that the life cycle of a song in the bloghouse generation would not legally be possible. “The entire reason that moment happened and dance music in general got to the level it’s at in the world is because of remix culture and reinterpretation. So much of it was mashups or unofficial remixes outside the bounds of the law,” says Clayton Blaha, a publicist who represented clients including Diplo, Justice, and Fool’s Gold Records.
Bloghouse’s free-for-all tone shifted when MediaFire, a popular file hosting service, cracked down, ensuring that tracks could be hosted only by a song’s owner. As a result, a lot of niche, remixed tracks from the late 2000s survive only in personal Dropboxes. “At the time, you had to know where to look and what site to follow, and [a song] was usually only available by some weird direct download with a low-bitrate MP3 that would expire quickly,” says Ben Ruttner of the Knocks. If you were a dedicated fan at the right place at the right time, you might download the track and preserve it, transferring the file from hard drive to laptop to USB. Some of those don’t-listen-to-this-on-a-fancy-speaker tracks are still lurking like ghosts in the deep corners of the internet.
Now, no one creating music, music criticism, or new communities online is doing so with a blog, let alone feeling like Does It Offend You, Yeah?’s “rockstar” while doing it. Even if the best, most dedicated bloggers came back to start new micro-sites today, the need and the space for independent blogs to push music forward just isn’t there. In fact, traditional media hardly makes a tangible dent in an artist’s career. “A magazine doesn’t fucking matter at all. You could be in 10 magazines, and no one listens to your music. The curatorial power dynamic is now with the streaming services and the algorithms that populate playlists as well as the users that populate playlists,” Blaha says.
Steve Reidell, one half of the Chicago-based mashup duo the Hood Internet, ominously jokes, “Forget bloghouse. If genre names are based off where music was bubbling, next is ‘playlist house.’”