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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Why you must start a Sound Blog

Writing helps you in several ways
How do you start a sound editing career? How can you begin and grow a network? How do you “break into the industry?”

These are some of the most common questions new sound pros want to know. But, despite a cascade of Google search results, the answer remains unclear.
I’ve been field recording sound effects since 1996, and blogging about creativity, and sharing sound since February 2011. I’ve found that while the question is indeed a tricky one, it’s essential to answer.
The easiest, and quickest way to break into sound and begin a network is by starting a sound blog.
Today I’ll share why you must start a sound blog. I’ll explain how you can do this, and include tricks that will help you build an attractive blog, and share your thoughts and discoveries with your fans.

Why Blog?

Blogging isn’t new. In fact, as of February 2011, there were over 156 million blogs on the Web. You may wonder how a blog can help you if it is merely one in a flood of others.
Also, you likely know that blogging is commonly used to share written articles. But aren’t writing and sound production radically different crafts? Yes. How, then, can something so different as writing help with your sound career?
The answer is that constant, valuable, and reliable information is scarce. This is especially true in the sound community. It’s not that existing blogs are poor. There are many excellent sound blogs on the Web. It’s just that there are so few of them, and they’re not regularly updated. Sound schedules are demanding. It’s hard for a sound designer to carve time from their schedule to write every week. A blog that releases a steady stream of valuable information is attractive, and invites traffic.
Another reason is because of sound professions themselves. There are so many creative and technical nuances to the craft that no college course can cover the black magic tricks the sound pros know. With a few clicks you can share your knowledge with millions instantly. In this way, a blog is a publishing tool. It removes the need to learn code, or even design. Instead, you can simply share your ideas with other sound pros easily.

Seven Reasons Why a Sound Blog Helps You

That explains how blogs are appealing to others. How can a blog help you?
1.   It offers a constant flow of information. Blog articles are time-based. The most recent is always seen first, and others ripple down beneath it. Regular articles keep you relevant with the community. A blog provides up-to-the-minute answers about the work you do for curious fans.
2.   Blogging is your online resume. It creates a timeline of your successes and gig history. It shows what you have achieved and what you are capable of to anyone who Googles your name.
3.   A blog is your demo reel. Embed sound and video into your articles to showcase your skills with a single click.
4.   It evolves your craft. You may write orchestral opuses. You could be a plug-in sampling wizard. Your blog can help you evolve these ideas, and explore your creativity. It’s a way of fulfilling your creative vision beyond audio itself.
5.   You own the content. You may already be sharing news on Facebook or on Twitter. Using third-party services like these are good first step. However, they have a problem. You’d don’t own your words. You can’t alter how they’re portrayed much. When you blog, you control every aspect of what you share, how it looks, and how long it remains on the Web.
6.   You design your own PR. Are you proud of your talents? Want to showcase your work, ambitions, and goals? You may wait forever for another blog to discover you. Worse yet, they may misrepresent your aims when they do. Use your blog to cultivate your preferred professional image yourself, instead.
7.    It provides instant and free, massive exposure. “Location” doesn’t exist on the Web. Every site is a neighbour to another. A blog lets you share each of the points above on a vast scale. You can connect with millions instantly, then broaden and mesh with these people until they become your network.

Blogging Options

So how do you begin? The first step is to pick a blogging platform. There are dozens available. Most platforms are split between self-hosted or web-based.
Self-hosted means you build and maintain the skeleton of the blog yourself. It requires you to pay a yearly fee for a server computer to host your files. You also need to buy a domain name. And, finally, you’ll need to install the software on this computer yourself. It’s more work, but this option allows you great flexibility to control the design and structure of your blog. The result often looks more professional.
You can also choose to a web-based platform. There’s no need to download software and install it on a host you rent. You merely need to log onto the platform site, then compose your articles within a Web browser on that site. You’ll avoid coding errors, conflicts, and bugs that may occur if you host and modify the blog yourself. Web-based blogging is usually bulletproof and problem free. The trade off is that you have less flexibility with design decisions, your site name, and other options. Some web-based platforms, such as wordpress.com, Google’s Blogger, and Yahoo!’s Tumblr are free. Others, such as TypePad and Squarespace, cost a yearly fee.

Popular Options

WordPress is currently the most popular blog platform on the Web. It’s used by Fortune 500 companies. The software is sophisticated and bug-free.

How Do You Choose?

Which do you pick? The decision depends on:

Big Decisions

  • Your budget. Hosting your own site will cost you around $75 a year. If you choose to host on an existing site, the price is $0.
  • How much customization you need. Do you have a radical idea for your sound blog’s layout? Self-hosting will allow you to tweak every pixel of your site.
  • How much work you want to do. You can begin blogging in minutes with options like Blogger and TypePad. Hosting your own blog takes time and effort before you begin writing your first post. You need to install the software yourself, set preferences, design, and so on, all before you begin writing your first sentence.
  • Community. A strong blogging community means vast forums with support for any problem you may encounter.
  • Plug-Ins. This is a big one. Each platform begins with a bare-bones installation. Plug-ins are small software packages that enhance your blog. Examples are displaying a Twitter feed, your Facebook friends, latest photos added, and so on. A large amount of plug-ins means that you can customize your site to match your precise needs, without sacrificing power, or having to hire coders.

Smaller Features

Once you’ve decided on the broader scope, consider what smaller features you want on your sound blog.
  • Social media. A hidden blog is worthless. You must connect with others. Can your platform mesh with Twitter, Google+, or Facebook? Is RSS baked in? Does it support mailing lists?
  • Media access. Is it easy for your blogging platform to add YouTube videos, or SoundCloud audio snippets? You work with sound daily. It’s essential to have a way to describe your work beyond words using sound and video. What about photos? Most platforms can add photos easily, but can they display many of them attractively in a gallery?
  • Design flexibility. Blogging platforms are able to change their design quickly via themes or skins. Browse blogs already created using the service you’re considering. Do they have a “cookie-cutter” look to them? Do they all look the same? Are there many free themes? Are there premium, paid themes available? Is it easy to switch between them?
  • OS support. Is it easy to access the admin on your OS, or preferred browser? What about viewers? Is your blog responsive, or accessible equally on desktop, laptop, and mobile browsers?
  • Comments. It’s important to communicate with your readers. Are visitors able to leave comments? Can the blog filter out spam, or moderate comments? Is there a method to alert you to new comment submissions?
  • Tracking. Knowing which posts are popular with your fans allows you aim future articles. Web stats and Google Analytics integration allow you to track visits and traffic simply.
  • Simple editing. Not everyone wants to wade through HTML to make bullet-point lists, or change fonts. Look for a visual editor to present your text exactly as it is written as you compose it. Built-in spell- and grammar-checkers are a plus, too.

Beginning Writing

Take some time to choose your platform. However, don’t agonize over it. Sound pros like us love stats, tinkering with tech specs, and gadgets. It’s natural to become engrossed with building the blog, flipping the switches, and customizing its design.
However, the most important thing is that you must begin blogging itself. Start writing. Getting your ideas and sounds on the Web now means they’ll slip into the minds and ears of others. They’ll also be indexed by Google and Bing sooner. Your network will begin to grow. It’s easy to refine the blog’s look or prefs later, perhaps between gigs, or the downtime when you’re waiting for deliverables. Start writing your ideas now, and spread them into the sound community.
Of course, writing is the biggest job. We’re sound pros. Perhaps you have no writing experience. How can you compose articles other sound pros will want to read? That’s in my next post. Stay tuned.

About the author: Paul Virostek travels worldwide recording the sounds of cities and cultures. He shares his collection at airbornesound.com, and writes about his experiences field recording, and sharing sound effects at jetstreaming.org. He is also the author of "Field Recording: from Research to Wrap - An Introduction to Gathering Sound Effects", which was published in 2012.


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