I don’t often write anymore about blogging and social media. There are too many people out there who do nothing else, and the topic seems sort of beaten to death to me. But I’m going to today, because I’m inspired from an unexpected source.
Regulars know that I think Alison Krauss and Union Station is the greatest musical group working today, and possibly of all time. I would gladly put them up against the Beatles, against Led Zeppelin, against anyone at any time. Alison Krauss herself has won 26 (yeah, that’s twenty six) Grammy Awards — a world record. Jerry Douglas, her dobrist, has 12 Grammys to his name, and her bassist Barry Bales has 13. That’s an astonishing 51 Grammy Awards just between these three members. Dan Tyminski and Ron Block are both incredible musicians in their own right. We’re looking at three, maybe four surefire hall of famers in the same band.
Well, AKUS has just released a new album, Paper Airplane, which I went out and bought immediately. And it is just a lovely, lovely work. The video above is their first single and the title track, and showcases just how amazingly talented this group of musicians are. Alison’s voice, of course, is a once-in-a-generation gift.
But I was inspired to write this while reading up on their new album. Alison says something that really resonated with me, even though she’s a musical artist headed to immortality, and I’m just a random blogger fella on the Internetz.
What She Said
I found this on the AKUS website. I know it’s marketing, whose purpose is to sell more albums and concert tickets. But I believe that Alison meant every single word here:
In the end, making Paper Airplane was a revelatory experience for the band. “Whatever formula we thought there was doesn’t exist,” Krauss acknowledges. “It disappeared, especially this last time out. You can’t trust your method; you can’t rely on a method. The only thing you can do is record things that move you—that have a connection with you—and to represent yourself truthfully. Things have to be true that I sing or I can’t do it. Whether I write them or not, they have to be true for me to say it, and for the guys to play it. The only recipe is if it feels true, and true may be incredibly sad. But that’s the part that feels good, because it’s truthful. It might not be true for anybody else, but it is for us. That’s the recipe.”
Read that again, carefully. In that statement is the heart and soul of what I believe makes for a good blog.
You can’t trust your method. You can’t rely on a method. There is no recipe for success, except one: truth. It may not be true for other people, but it is for you.
January of 2011 marked the 3 year anniversary of this blog. And from the start, I swore I would write it as a personal project, that I would write it whether anyone read it or not, and not care if traffic is up or down or sideways. I write it because I’m a writer, and I write about things that interest me. I write long rambling posts with complex sentence structures and five dollar words when a nickel word would do, because that’s how I write. I violate all sorts of rules and methods about online writing, because that’s how I write.
Yet, you all are here from time to time, and more than one person has told me that this is their favorite real estate blog. (Although I only write about real estate when that interests me, and have moved a lot of that over to my company blog.)
If there is a reason why any of you are reading this right now, I think it’s because I’m doing what Alison talks about. The only thing I can do is write things that move me — that have a connection with me — and to represent myself truthfully. The only recipe is if it feels true, and true may be incredibly disturbing. But that’s the part that feels good, because it’s truthful. It might not be true for anybody else, but it is for me.
Marketing and Truth
I’m not a musical snob, as anyone who’s ever listened to my Blip.fm stream will tell you. I love passionate artists like AKUS, but I also love fun entertainers like Lady Gaga. I got no beef with prepackaged marketing products like any of these contemporary hip-hop/dance crews (Three Six Mafia anyone?). The world is big enough for AKUS and Rihanna.
And there is a time and a place for all things. I wouldn’t put Paper Airplane on if I’m having a party. But then again, in introspective moments, I’m not reaching for the latest Akon either. The musicians wouldn’t want it any other way either. AKUS isn’t thinking about filling stadiums for some fancy stage show with laser lights and fog machines; then again, Lady Gaga isn’t looking to play deeply personal music for a small group of people in an intimate theatre either. They’re both getting what they want.
The issue for bloggers — especially real estate bloggers, since that is the industry I know best — is which do you want to be?
The methods, the recipes, the best practices of blogging or social media or marketing or what-have-you work only if you’re in the Lady Gaga category. Then you have a time-tested formula for success. The various “75 ways to get more people to Like you on Facebook” and “12 Unbeatable Content Creation Strategies” tips are, I’m sure, worth it if you’re just looking for wide exposure.
But let’s not pretend you’re going to get enduring fans out of those methods. Even the greatest and best of those marketing-driven musicians fade away and become irrelevant. Think Madonna.
Meanwhile, AKUS has been together in its current form for twelve years. Alison Krauss has been making music professionally since the age of 14. They make music that is true to them; in a way, they make music for themselves, while being grateful to have an audience that would pay to have them create that music. Frankly, I don’t know that AKUS would go out of their way to please me — they play bluegrass, after all, hardly the most popular genre. The result is that their fans may be smaller in number, but we are absolutely rabid in our adoration and appreciation. This is the music we reach for when we want to be moved, when we want what the best of music brings out in us. Because they sing the truth and represent themselves truthfully.
This goes beyond blogging, but it applies with force to blogging, to marketing, to branding, to whatever you’re doing. You can do things for other people, with them in mind, and if done correctly, properly, according to the methods and recipes, you can find success. For a while.
Or you can do things for yourself, with what is true to you as the only recipe, breaking every rule, refusing to rely on methods and recipes… and maybe find something beyond success. Maybe you can find truth.