January is one of my favourite times of the year in the blogosphere. Firstly new releases are slow, so there’s actually time to breathe, as well as look back and think about the future in positive ways. I have a tendency towards cynical pessimism (well I’m Scottish – it’s in our DNA) and for me the new year helps me rise above that and brings hope in the possibilities of renewal, letting go and starting over. Resolutions don’t have to be about hating who you are or regretting what you’ve become – they can be about tiny changes and trying to achieve the things in life you want. Fail again, fail better.
In terms of blogging I am aware that I don’t always take my own advice and have sometimes struggled to keep up a schedule I imposed on myself. Having explored this in my ‘Music blogging and the paradox of choice’ post last month I know I have to take that into consideration when setting my own blogging resolutions for 2020. I have been so heartened by the responses to that post – they have really helped me see what’s good about blogging and music consumption, as well as letting me think more about what I want to do with Highway Queens going forward. Here are what I’ve come up with for the blog resolutions in 2020.
Review At Least One New Album/EP a Week, & continue with Dolly’s Discography
So yes my resolutions this year are to basically keep doing what I am already doing, rather than pushing for more. There’s always so many albums and so little time. I ended up reviewing just over sixty albums and EPs in 2019, plus nine Dolly albums which felt manageable and still a fun challenge. I’m sticking with this schedule in 2020, although I hope to work faster through the Dolly albums. This means there will be albums I miss or can’t review and I have to accept that.
Review Live Shows
In 2019 I only reviewed a live show if I had time, or if I had been given a guestlist spot. Out of the twelve live reviews I did, I had been given a pass for eight of those. I go to a lot shows that I don’t review beyond Instagram captions and this suits me. I am delighted to be reviewing at Celtic Connections again this year, and hope to write one live review a month up beyond that. I would love to go to more but I’m limited by my work and budget.
Share Music Book Choices
In 2018 I reviewed a book by a women about music every month and while I loved writing these, they were very time consuming and the views were abysmal. I don’t usually mind about views but when posts take so much effort it really wasn’t worth it. So in 2019 I tried a different way, using books to inspire more general pieces like my post on Loretta & Patsy and I also tied discussion of books to albums. The engagement was much better on these posts so I hope to continue this way in 2020. In my own personal reading challenge I am making this a ‘re-read’ year so I may revisit some older books for these posts.
Share My Opinion, Sometimes
It’s true that my opinion pieces get the most traffic on this blog and yet I find them quite draining and stressful overall. It’s so easy to rant and spout opinions about things but they can often bring unwanted or negative attention. There were times this year where I started opinion posts and abandoned them because it just wasn’t worth the energy. In 2020 I aim to write only considered, thoughtful opinion pieces about issues that really matter to me. I have been working for a while on a piece about talking at gigs and I hope to have that published soon.
Accept Your Limitations
Every year since I started the blog I’ve toyed with doing artist interviews, guest features, song reviews and various other different content ideas or even trying podcasts or YouTube. In the end I’ve accepted that I just don’t have time and other outlets do them way better anyway. I’ve accepted my skills and strengths, as well as my limits.
Continue Sharing Playlists
One thing I’ve loved this year has been doing a weekly playlist on Spotify and Apple Music. I’ve been able to make them themed, or filled with new music, or just a reflection of whatever I am listening to. I’ve managed to get over a hundred followers and most of my other playlists now have some engagement. I hope to continue to grow as a playlist curator this year.
Aim for Social Media Engagement, Not Followers
Social media adds this whole other dimension to music blogging which can be toxic and overwhelming in itself. On Twitter you feel like you have to have an opinion on everything. Sometimes I really just don’t even care. On Instagram to get followers you need to have a huge vinyl collection, perfectly taken photographs and some kind of artistic style to your feed. In contrast my collection is humble, my photography poor and my feed a jumble. I hate how consumerism matters so much on that platform so I try to show what being a real music fan actually is. Facebook remains my weakest social media but any time an artist links to me it still brings in huge traffic.
My numbers on these platforms have grown slowly but steadily – I have 2800 Twitter followers, over 900 on Instagram and 250 on Facebook. What I’ve noticed this year is that my likes and clicks to the blog are not significantly higher despite increased followers. In contrast I’ve been getting much more growth from search engines without having to make any effort whatsoever. Since more followers won’t result in more engagement, I’m not aiming to put in any effort to grow my numbers this year.
What I do love about social media is connecting with people and that’s why I will keep using it. I’ve had so many amazing interactions with people on there and some lovely support for the blog. Oh but I’m giving up on Pinterest, I’ve accepted defeat understanding how the hell that platform helps bloggers.
Don’t Worry About Building A Brand
Even though my ‘brand’ seems to have naturally established itself as mainly an Americana and country music blog, I won’t promote artists just because they are in that genre if I don’t personally enjoy their music. I will always look outwards to other genres as much as I can because that is a truer reflection of my music tastes. It might be confusing to some followers but I’m not going to change who I am just to fit into some weird idea of online branding.
I also promise to never ask my readers for money or try and sell them anything which isn’t music/books/gig tickets. As a nanoinfluencer at best, my aim will always remain only to share good music and connect with other fans. I see it as volunteer work for the music industry and I’m happy to do it.
And I also won’t be changing my blog design or logo because I discovered these things just cost too much and why bother when you can use what is free and has worked so far? I’m not trying to be a professional.
Keep Having Fun
I always put this one at the end of my resolutions, and it might seem trite but it matters to me. I enjoy writing and sharing music and I will only keep doing this as long as that stays the same. This means I will always take breaks through the year and can’t always post consistently but that’s just the way it has to be.
I mainly wrote this as a way to remain accountable to myself but if you’ve got this far thank you for reading! Please feel free to share your resolutions in the comments or on social media.