It’s always said that the older you get the faster time seems to go. Maybe it’s because it is running out, but it seems only yesterday that I introduced this weekly round-up feature Short Shorts to wrap up smaller items that don’t warrant a fuller blog entry of their own and today’s column is the 50th.
That’s appropriate as I rapidly hurtle towards my own 50th birthday next month. And since next month begins tomorrow, it’ll be here before I know it. Here’s to the next 50 — Short Shorts columns at least, if not 50 years!
But as always with anniversaries, however real or arbitrary as this column’s one is, it provides an opportunity to stop and reflect; something that, in the fast world of Twitter and instant communication we sometimes live in, there’s no time for. And it also gives us a breather to appreciate and take stock of what we’ve done and what we achieve.
I love being here — on this blog as well as this planet — and the daily opportunity I get to share things with you. So I want to start by thanking you for reading. Without you, I’d be talking to myself, which I’m sure a lot of blogs do.
The number of blogs tracked by Neilson/McKinsey’s NM Incite has grown from 36 million to some 181 million in just five years up to the end of last year. Tumblr has almost doubled in size in less than a year: in September 2011, it was hosting 28 million blogs containing a total of 10 billion blog posts. Now it has over 50 million blogs, with users generating more than 20 billion blog posts. Its users post around 55 million posts a day — that’s 637 posts a second, or 38,194 posts a minute, or 2.3m posts per hour, or 385 million posts a week. At this pace, it is estimated that Tumblr will be hosting in excess of 35 billion posts by the end of 2012. And Tumblr is adding around 120,000 new blogs each day.
That’s an awful lot of content being generated and a lot of people are talking. But is anyone listening? It makes me even more grateful that you are!
Thomas Cott, a long-time New York based arts administrator who is currently Director of Marketing for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and previously held the same position for Lincoln Center Theater (where he was based for 17 years) and New York City Opera, is someone I listen to a lot, though it’s not necessarily his own voice he’s promoting.
He provides a daily free e-mail news bulletin service called ‘You’ve Cott Mail” that provides an invaluable digest of arts stories he’s trawled online about various arts topics, that he usefully links by theme. It’s like having someone incredibly well-informed whispering in your ear about what to read.
I’m always personally proud when this blog gets ‘Cotted’, as I call it, by getting a mention in his bulletins; you can sign up for it to receive it yourself here. And in a recent blog posting for arts administrators called Barry’s Blog, Cott was named in this year’s list of the 50 most powerful and influential people in the non-profit arts in the US. According to the blog, Cott’s “blog is widely read because of the convenience it provides in amassing various perspectives on important issues. Cott does the work for us, and when he picks a topic people take note of, and focus on, what he has gathered. More influential in determining people’s thinking than he might imagine.” Bravo, indeed!
Other ‘aggregator’ services that I really value include Broadway Stars that collates headlines to theatre news from New York and beyond in one place, and from where you can link direct to the story. Another is Arts Journal that does the same in various categories, including theatre, music, dance, visual and publishing; it also hosts blogs by plenty of arts writers.
One by Norman Lebrecht last week provided yet more disturbing news about the changing climate for arts journalism itself. Edward Seckerson, the long-standing and widely respected chief classical music critic for The Independent, was threatened with suspension, and subsequently resigned, after being accused of conflicts of interest for making and posting interview podcasts that appear on various sites, including that of the Independent itself.
This is crazy: of course arts writers have to diversify these days — no single publisher pays us enough to survive, not least The Independent. Yet here the paper chose to act against one of its own writers for doing just that.
In the midst of so much change and online noise, one of my favourite occasional blogs is Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, which provides, according to its front page sub-heading, “a bitterly nostalgic look at a city in the process of going extinct.”
One entry last week proves the point exactly: he wrote of the imminent closure of Colony Music, the record shop that occupied a prime site in the Brill Building on Broadway as long as I’ve been going there. I have to admit that I don’t think I’ve ever bought a single album there, which probably helps explain why it is closing: in the days of Tower Records, Virgin and HMV, it was always way over-priced. But now that they’re no longer there, either, it’s the only shop in the Broadway area that still sold CDs, memorabilia and sheet music.
As the blog puts it, “While die-hard vinylists might see Colony as a tourist trap, overpriced and understocked, I always found it to be a respite from the Times Square stupidity, from the crowds of tourists hungry for the next Disney fix. I could step inside and step back in time, to a quieter, more unusual place — where I might run into something odd, like a Sal Mineo Fan Club button. One time, heading to Colony, I looked up at the Brill Building in which it stands to see Woody Allen at a window, looking down at me. It was a bit of a thrill, I must admit.”
On a previous occasion, he wrote of the passing of one of my favourite New York “theatres”, the Gaiety. But though it was right on the edge of Broadway, on W46th Street next door to the Lunt-Fontanne, it wasn’t a conventional theatre at all, but an all-male strip club. There was nowhere quite like it anywhere else in New York; when Madonna photographed her infamous ‘Sex’ book, several pages were shot there, using some of the local ‘talent’.
Finally, still in New York, Broadway Spotted is a blog founded by a tweeter @BroadwaySpotted. One entry this week, posted by Jennifer Tepper, offered part one in a series of the Top 100 Broadway commercials, and it is irresistible viewing: an instant archive in the marketing of Broadway shows from Dreamgirls to Carrie, The Phantom of the Opera to Miss Saigon. You may just get hooked.