Backroads is one! Launching on Facebook today.
Today, January 13th, 2011, is the first anniversary of the launch of Backroads. To mark that, the site is today going live on Facebook, with a revamp also for its little-used Twitter page. This is just a short note about the history of the site, and the future:
It was in September 2009 that I decided the time had come to find a way to combine my day job as a journalist with my night-time passion and find a way to write about the music that I love. That was the beginning of four months of hard work as I discovered everything that was involved in setting up a website from scratch in my spare time!
I wanted to create a website that was easy to navigate, contained the information that music fans would actually want to know, that was professional and consistent in its style and tone, that would be honest about things and wouldn’t shrink from being critical where necessary. I hope that’s what Backroads is. Certainly when I’ve received emails from people who’ve read the site, that’s what they have mostly commented on, which is very pleasing.
My first interview was carried out in Slaid Cleaves' car as he waited for a parking space behind the (now much-lamented) Luminaire in Kilburn. Since then I’ve done interviews in all sorts of strange places – in a greasy spoon cafe in Hornsey with Gurf Morlix, in an Indian restaurant in Bedford with Chuck Prophet, and most memorably walking through the rain in Kilkenny with Joe Pug as he searched for a harmonica for a gig that was starting in half an hour.
On the day before launch, I entered more than 1,000 gigs into the gig guide!
This past year: Backroads has published 30 interviews, some 70 CD and gig reviews (oh, and one movie review), numerous items of news, a few songlists and well in excess of 4,000 gigs. The site has addresses and contact details for almost 1,100 venues across the UK and Ireland, and more than 300 artists (I’ve just finished adding photos to every artist’s page). I’ve done interviews and gig reviews in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. As well as writing about the musicians, I was keen to cover the music scene in the UK, so there have also been features about the clubs and promoters who put on music on in this country. I had hoped to have an update every day, but that turned out to be unrealistic. Still, I try to update it several times a week.
I haven’t earned a penny – in fact it’s cost me lots – but it’s been fun, it’s felt like what I ought to be doing.
Most-read pages: Well, these are primarily the ones that are heavily promoted on artists’ websites or Facebook pages. The top one is the interview with the lovely Rebecca Kemp, tour manager for many of the US and Canadian artists travelling in the UK. Next comes the review of the Old Crow Medicine Show and Dave Rawlings Machine gig in London in September, which the Dave Rawlings Machine kindly highlighted on their website. The review of Texas Songwriters in the Round at Celtic Connections in January, which included a particularly good piece of audio, was also popular, and Oregon singer-songwriter Raina Rose had all her fans clicking on the review of her latest CD.
Thank yous: Despite the low-key nature of this site, I am already at the stage where I can’t always listen to all the music I’m sent or reply to all the emails I get, so I should apologise for that if you’ve been trying to contact me, and also add a very big thank you to the small team of reviewers – Ian, Michael and Simon – without whom the reviews section would be very small indeed. And huge thanks to Backroads’ extraordinary webmaster Ralph, who makes the site link together so wonderfully.
I’m always in need of more CD and gig reviewers, so if you’re interested, do get in touch. There’s no money in it, but you get to keep the CDs or to get into the shows free. (If I fail to reply, please email again, or phone me!)
I also have to say thank you to you, the fans, for reading the site, commenting on the articles and just keeping the faith with the music. A particular thank you to those of you sent me good wishes and offered their support when my mother passed away in May, and I have no way of even expressing my thanks to my good friend Sam Baker, whose music got me through that time.
The future: My primary aim was to create a website that was professional and easy to navigate, and that’s what Backroads is, I believe. But even though it is possible to comment on articles, it doesn’t really lend itself to interaction and conversation. For that reason, today Backroads is launching a Facebook page, where hopefully people can talk about the coverage, the artists, what’s playing in my car, what’s playing in other people’s cars, and all the gigs people have been to. Please come and “like” it.
I am a Facebook novice, so it may take a while before it looks completely right. Do drop me a note if you think something could work better. I’ll also be trying to do more on Twitter, and to make Twitter and Facebook and the Backroads site talk to each other. Hmmm.
Upcoming on the site: Interviews with Otis Gibbs and Elizabeth Cook, information about this year’s Kilkenny Rhythm and Roots Festival, and I’m working on something very special that may not come off, so I’m keeping quiet about it for now but I’ll let you know as soon as I can.
Hoping you like everything you read, and hoping to hear from lots of fans in the next year.