State of the Community: Thanks for showing up
Four years ago this week, we hit “play” on this thing. I was living in a studio apartment in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood. Kyla was in the same kitchen-office where she still works (presumably; I’ve not been to her “office” in at least two and a half years). I now juggle my time between two couches, a dining table, an actual office (in my house) and various coffee shops, where I live in Asheville, NC. It was just the two of us when we started, though Kyla was working at the same time with an assortment of volunteers across the world to pull together something like 7,000 articles from the print magazine for a totally-free web archive honoring those 13 years in print.
The No Depression archive launched in July 2009 and has been active ever since. You can check it out here.
I bring up the “where we were living” part because No Depression has been such a part of everyday life since then. We threw two festivals at Marymoor Park just outside of Seattle, followed by a string of “No Depression Night at the Mural” events in Seattle proper, in conjunction with Seattle Center and KEXP. We’ve visited the Folk Alliance International conference, the Americana Music Association festival and conference, the SF Music Tech Summit, Bumbershoot, Sasquatch, Bonnaroo, Cayamo, MerleFest, PopCon, SXSW, Pickathon, and other events. Those sound like a conglomeration of industry events and festivals I’m just sort of naming at random, but going to those gatherings has been time in our actual lives when we have shown up somewhere to “be” the No Depression presence. When I’ve “been” that presence, I’ve met, in real life, people from this community, who show up here and share their thoughts and feelings about new albums. They comment on each other’s posts and share videos in the gallery. Sometimes they engage in pages-long debates in the comments of someone else’s blog post, about who was a better songwriter, or which album from some artist’s canon was the hardest hitting. (Or who was more deserving of a particular award.) But they always do so with respect for each other, and consideration of the bigger picture truth of this whole thing – that we’re all here because we care about music and the people who make it. Political, theoretical, ideological points of view aside, we all have this in common.
In real life, I’ve found these people to be just as smart and thoughtful, interesting, and considerate as they are here on the website. They’re just as excited about the music, and passionate about the players. They have questions and curiosities, and families who come along for the ride.
Indeed, what’s always mattered to me and Kyla both, is keeping in mind that the people who show up to support this site and keep us in business (and the people who purchase ad space, which helps us pay the bills) aren’t drone trolls. They’re all people with lives, into which music fits somehow or other. People who get frustrated with blog tools or moved by stumbling across something on YouTube.
I said something up there about volunteers, but I want to say more. There is no way we would have made it this far with our sanity mostly intact if it weren’t for the kind and wonderful people who have pitched in at some point – whether to help us quantify year-end lists, to lend their eyes and typing to administrative tasks, to help us build the archive, help us test things, to report spam, or just to give us a day off now and then. Without our volunteers, we would have been working literally 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the past four years. That would simply not be sustainable, and would have driven this site out of business a long time ago. So thank you especially to Lucca Soria, Russ, Nancy Dunham, Easy Ed, Gillian Turnbull, Mando Lines, Terry Roland, Hearth Music, Andy Washington, and everyone who’s ever pitched in on anything here.
Thanks also to the featured bloggers who have been coming here of their own free will, to entertain themselves and share their thoughts with you for no reason other than they actually seem to like doing so. These folks are not being paid by us, yet their content sustains this site and allows us to maintain a certain level of reliable readability. I have honestly learned about more great music from the volunteer bloggers on this site than I have from any influx of emails from labels and PR firms, blasters from bands, or festivals I’ve attended. You folks have impeccable taste and I hope you continue to share it with us.
If you get a chance, swing by the profile pages for our featured bloggers and tell them thanks for writing. Comment on their posts, share what they’ve written on Facebook or Twitter. If something they’ve posted here says it was originally written for some other website, visit that website and poke around. Chances are you’ll find something there to enjoy, too. One of the best things you can do to continue supporting this community is to pay our bloggers with your eyes, your attention, and your mouse.
You can also donate to the site. If you were to read all this content in a magazine (first of all, it would be a very, very large magazine), you’d pay by the month. On the web, we offer it all for free and currently over 155,000 unique visitors show up here each month to read something or other. We pay our hosting fees and a very small amount to me for managing the community, but that’s as far as ad revenue stretches. If you like what you’re reading, you can throw us a bone by clicking on the “Donate” button below the ads in the right column. You can also purchase music from Amazon.com through the Amazon search box on this site, and whatever music (or anything else) you purchase if you begin your Amazon search here will kick us back a little cash for the referral. These are just a couple of very small things you can do to make sure ND continues to function for many years to come.
But, perhaps more importantly, I want to give a shout out to everyone who posts content here.
When we launched this site with a two-person staff four years ago, we heard from a lot of people that crowd-sourcing content would automatically lower the bar. That we would probably dry up for lack of interesting, engaging writing before too long. That this would become a message board of shameless self-promotion. We’ve worked hard to ensure that didn’t happen and you folks have helped us keep this a place for sharing information and telling stories, rather than just pushing products and promoting shows. You have helped us to prove that hypothesis wrong.
Yes, we would love to be able to afford to pay a staff of writers. But crowd-sourcing has also exposed us to minds and voices who never would have earned an audience in a print publication. These are bloggers who have made their careers working in various capacities within the music industry; fans who have made it their hobby to understand the twists and turns of the history of American roots music; and artists who want to engage with their audiences in ways only blogging allows – telling stories about the music they make, sharing strange happenings on the road, answering questions from fans in thorough and thoughtful (and entertaining) ways.
So, I wanted to just take a moment to thank you for being here. It pleases me that I get to spend so much of my time facilitating the existence of something which informs and entertains me daily. That’s what you’ve created, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Keep it up!