Category Archives: Blog

My 2015 Blogging Year In Review

As 2015 draws to a close the happiness engineers at WordPress have sent our end of year review winging its way to our inboxes.

As the year draws to a close it is always nice to reflect on the goals we set ourselves at the end of last year.  As I look back I am stunned as to how far my blog has advanced and I am delighted to say that I achieved most of the goals I set myself at the beginning of the year.

At the end of 2014 I set out to double my number of followers, increase engagement on my blog and to achieve an average number of 150 visitors per post.  I also undertook a post a day photo challenge.

I some ways I have enjoyed a level of success that has totally exceeded my hopes much less my expectations.

It wasn’t all a one way street though so I have plenty to improve upon in 2016 🙂

My post a day photo challenge was a partial success.  I didn’t quite manage a photographic post a day.  Spending so much time away from home at music festivals, often without an internet connection, meant that I couldn’t post every day.  That said I did post many thousand of photographs and the purpose was to improve my photography, something I think I have achieved.  I had hoped that others would join the challenge to help keep me motivated but sadly that didn’t happen.

Over the year I managed to make 629 posts on my blog, I am thrilled to have been so active especially as I now write for three other sites and am the live music editor at a major music site.  This has all come about as a result of blogging on wordpress.

I managed a 92 day streak of posting every day, and the number of views on my blog hit almost 292,707 times.  If the stats quoted on the WordPress e-mail are correct that means I had more views that the Louvre museum in Paris!!

That weighs in at an average of 465 views per post more than treble the target I set at the beginning of the year.  My best day saw me achieve 18,937 views, an incredible number.

Over the course of the year my number of followers has increased from just over 1200 to almost 30,000.  The vast majority of those followers are on Twitter though and whilst the social media platform does drive engagement to my site most of my visitors come via facebook.

I am slightly disappointed that visitor engagement has been less that one comment per post.  I don’t try to be controversial so that may be partly responsible for relatively low engagement.  This is something I will try to improve over the course of the next year.

I love blogging on wordpress and I am thrilled by the progress I have made over the past year.  I am setting myself a massive target for 2016.  In the 18 months since I started blogging I have had 341,970 views.  By the end of 2016 I want to push this to 1 million views.  It is a massive target but with a big effort I think it is achievable.

I currently have 29,765 followers and over the next year I hope to double that to 60K.

I wish each and every person who has visited my blog a very happy and prosperous new year and I hope that all of your blogging resolutions are successful ones.

 

 

Donald Trump

Donald Trump: Evil Bigot Or America’s Future

As someone born and raised in the UK I don’t even try to understand American politics.  Perhaps I should because the UK is becoming more like the 51st state every day.  The US already decides when we should send our young men and women overseas to kill and be killed and US business interests dictate most of our economy and economic policy.

More importantly I should do more to understand American politics because what is happening in the US right now is very very frightening.

Donald Trump is a very scary man.  The real truth is that, from this side of the atlantic it looks like a total madman is the frontrunner for next years presidential elections.  Trump is even more scary than Dubya was and if ever there was a man born without a decent one in his body it was George W. Bush.

Donald Trump makes bush look like bleeding heart liberal.  The thought of Trump with his finger on the nuclear trigger terrifies me and most everyone I know.  Yet Trump’s racist, xenophobic brand of hatred seems to have stirred the soul’s of main-street USA.

In recent days we have seen Trump call for a “ban on all Muslim’s entering the U.S.”  Whilst the BBC reports that Trump’s comments have been condemned across the world Trump used a speech onboard an aircraft carrier  to tell his supporters that “I. Don’t. Care.”  On that at least it seems that Trump is telling the truth.

Bizarrely Trump claimed that the Police in London are afraid for their lives because the population is so radicalised.  Truly I have never heard such total crap in all my life.  No doubt Trump also believes the legendary Fox News report that the population of Birmingham [UK] is 100% Muslim and that radicals are beating people in the streets for not dressing properly.

It isn’t often that I agree with Boris Johnson or indeed any conservative politician but Johnson’s response to Trump is on the button.

According to the Telegraph, a UK newspaper with a right of centre outlook, a spokesperson for the Council on America-Islamic Relations compared Trump’s narrative with Nazi rhetoric from the 1930s.

“Donald Trump sounds more like a leader of a lynch mob than a great nation like ours,” said Nihad Awad.

In arguably his strongest ever anti-american statement UK Prime Minister David Cameron said Trump’s comments were “unhelpful.”  Way to go David, thats telling him.

Trump’s views and reprehensible comments about Mexican’s, rape victims, women in general were scary in their own right but Trump’s comments and attitude towards Muslims is downright terrifying.

The Guardian say that Trumps views are all the more frightening because it normalises hatred and extreme bigotry and makes it seem both rational and the “right thing to do.”  Trump turns hatred into common sense.

The most frightening thing, say the Guardian, is that Trump’s rhetoric is eerily reminiscent of the sort of hate talk against the Jews that saw the rise of Nazism in Germany in the dark days of the 1930’s.  What next I wonder, will Trump call for all Muslim’s in the USA to be rounded up and placed in internment camps like Guantanamo until the threat has passed.

Perhaps the most worrying thing of all about Donald Trump is the fact that, as crazy as he appears from this side of the Atlantic, more and more American’s are buying into Trump’s rhetoric  I cannot understand why Trump appears to be so popular amongst Americans, and that my friends is why he is such a damn frightening prospect for the presidency.

I sincerely hope that my American friends will see through Trump before election day.  I simply cannot believe that  Americans see Trump as the future of the USA.  If Trump is the future then god help us all.

Confront Your Own Mortality – Today! Now!

Lets get something straight right from the off.  This not one of those “woe is me, look how tough my life is” type of posts.  Far from it.  Think of it as an invitation, a reminder, a timely piece of advice from a well meaning friend.

To date 2015 has been a funny old year for me.  I have spent much of the year rushing around from music festival to music festival.  I have had a great time for the most part.  It has been a lot of fun.  I have been lucky enough to spend a huge amount of time with good friends and with my family doing the things I  love to do.

Despite all of the good things that I have been touched by this year you know that pain and heartache is never far away.  2015 has brought me my fair share of that too.  I have lost a cousin to breast cancer, she was still short of her 50th birthday.  My wife and I lost our best man to prostate cancer I have lost a couple of friends unexpectedly, one to cancer one to a heart problem.

Earlier today I learned that an old mate has been hit with health problems.  he went into hospital to have stents fitted as a result of a heart problem and had a stroke during the operation.  So what is the point?  We all know that illness and death can strike at any time and yet we all seem to have this misplaced sense of assurance that it will not happen to us.  These are things that happen to others.  Guess what, it ain’t so.

I urge you to think about this.  Think about your mortality.  Are their things you have always wanted to do but have found a reason not to do it?  We all know the excuses.  I’m too busy, I can’t afford it, the time isn’t right.  Whatever the excuse is all too often we find a way to stop ourselves from doing things we aspire to.  Just stop it.  Find a way to make things that are important to you happen.  Find a way to live your dreams.  Do not allow life to stop you living.

You know that friend you have been meaning to call?  Call them, say hi and arrange to visit each other.  That trip you have been putting off, plan it and book it.  This life is not a rehearsal.  You only have one life, live it.

Lets face it you will be dead for a very long time.  Always remember you are here for a good time, not for a long time.

Some Days Just Drive You Nuts – Music PR

For a considerable time now I have avoided using my blog as a platform for a good rant but sometimes a good rant is needed!

As an independent blogger focused on the music business I take a genuine joy from helping to spread the word about music that I connect with.  I hope that by sharing my almost exclusively positive thoughts on music that I help hard working artists in whatever small way I can.

Although I also write on a number of other platforms I do not get paid for these reviews.  I do it for the love of music and to help others in whatever way I can.  I am open about the fact that my blogging has lead to my getting paid to write elsewhere and whilst my writing is almost exclusively about music or musicians there it isn’t the sort of platform that does reviews.  My paid writing focuses on trending news and pop culture stories.

Over the past few years I have built up great contacts with a wide range of artists and their PR companies.  I have been lucky enough to attend some major events and have been able to photograph and interview a lot of fairly high profile artists.  I am grateful for the opportunity to do so and really enjoy my ‘work.’

There are however a couple of things that really piss me off and both relate to PR companies.  The first thing is just pain rudeness.  If I apply attend a show as a photographer through an artists PR company then I don’t think it is too much to ask to have my messages replied to.  If the press list is full or you don’t think the publications I write for are high profile enough then just send a two line message turning down my request.  It takes 30 seconds and being refused is no big deal.  Being kept hanging or being ignored is annoying, it’s rude and it’s unnecessary.

The second thing is a bigger issue.  At present I get between 50 and 100 messages a week from PR companies offering interviews, albums to review or gigs to attend to photograph and review.  This is wonderful and of course I am flattered.  Sadly as a one man independent I can’t meet every request that comes my way.

As a rule I only review things that connects with me in some way.  Generally I like to review stuff released by people I know personally or by bands I like.  I also like to discover new stuff so if a release from a PR looks interesting I will usually give things a listen and if I like it I will review it.

A few weeks ago i was approached by a PR company who asked me if I would be interested in interviewing their bands.  Naturally I wanted to have a look at the roster and to check out the bands to see if it would be my thing.  I couldn’t find the PR companies website or any social media presence!  I went back to them asking where I could find them.  they wrote back saying they don’t have any because they prefer to “spend their money promoting their artists in the most effective way possible.”

They sent me a message with links to three bands Facebook and bandcamp pages but nothing else and asked me to submit a list of questions for e-mail interviews.  They also became a little pushy to the point where yesterday they sent me a message demanding a same day response.  They got their response.  I said I wasn’t interested and took the time to write a message explaining why.

The very least I expect from a PR company is a “one sheet” explaining a bit about the band, their music and an idea as to what bands they are similar to.  I don’t expect to have to spend a load of time researching the band before I can even have an idea as to whether or not I am going to like their music.

What this company were actually asking is that I do their job for them, free of charge of course.  Well I have news for you.  You need to get a grip.  What exactly are your clients paying you for?  The very least you can do is to help me to help you.  If you are not prepared to put a bit of effort in then why the hell should I.

Reading Festival 2015

Saying Farewell To Old Friends – What I Learned About WordPress

It has been a funny few days.

Earlier this week I decided it was time to prune the number of blogs I am following on WordPress.  I didn’t want to lose any blogs that I read frequently or bloggers with whom I interact.  As a result I decided to go through every account I was following and prune the ones who don’t actually post on their accounts.

I was really surprised at the number of accounts I was following that had been dormant for years.  As a result I decided to prune any blogs that had not been used in the last six months.  It was interesting to see that the vast majority of the blogs that were dormant had very few followers and that they all followed a very clear pattern.

I suspect that many of the people I unfollowed abandoned their blogs because they didn’t have a readership and as a result they lost interest and gave up.  I believe this demonstrates a few simple truths about blogging.

We all blog for different reasons, but I think we all share something in common.  We believe we have something to say, and of course we want others to hear us.  A blog without a following is simply a public diary.  We use our blogs to express ourselves whether through our writing, photography, art, craft,  cooking or whichever medium we choose.

The thing is if you want people to buy into your blog you need to work at it.  It takes time and effort to build a following and it is a slow process, but the more you put into your blog the more readers or viewers you will attract.  It is important to post regularly, but it is even more important to interact with other bloggers, especially those with whom you share an interest.

WordPress has something like 13 million blogging accounts and you really need to be a part of the community if you want to gain followers.  With that many blogs around your relationship with your readership needs to be a personal one.  I was sad to unfollow so many accounts, but following those accounts was a pointless exercise.  My blog is important to me, but so is being part of the community.  I enjoy blogging but interacting with others is important too.

I hope to be here for a long time, my blog is a part of my day and I hope it will remain so for many years to come.

Friends: Value them while you can!

I am a little late sharing this story but I think it is worth the sharing nonetheless.

It is a short story about friends, a story of both joy and almost unbearable sadness it is also true and it happened just this past weekend.  It is a story of two interconnected parts, in a way it is a story of two longlasting friendships.  One nurtured and one, to a degree, taken for granted.

In January of 2014 my wife and I made a little pledge.  We promised each other that we would make a real effort to take more care of our friendships.  Friendships are like houseplants, some need a lot of care, they need to be fed, watered and care for.  Others less so.  Some friendships can be left largely to their own devices, they grow almost unaided and so long as you don’t forget about them entirely they will still thrive. A little water, an occassional feed , some warmth and enough light and that is sufficient to keep them healthy.

On saturday we had some friends over for dinner.  Two of our oldest friends.  We see them very regularly in a variety of settings and they have been friends for around twenty years.  I even gave Jo away when they married some 16 years ago.  Jo and Alan’s friendship is real important to us.  When we are together we eat, drink and most importantly we laugh.  We laugh a lot.  we laugh until our sides ache and we can barely breathe.

My friendship with Pat was different.  Even longer lived, we had known each ther for close to thirty years and Pat was my best man when Shirley and I married.  Pat was a few years older than me and we mt initially through his job as a financial advisor.  To some our friendship was an unlikely one.  Me a Northern Irish Protestant and he a Southern Irish Catholic nonetheless we got on like a house on fire, fuelled in part by a joint love of Arthur Guinness’s black beer.

My friendship with Pat was one of those that didn’t need a lot of care.  You knew it was there when you needed it and it needed no more than the occassional phone call or a meet up for a pint every now and then.  It had been a while since I had spoken to Pat and then he rang me a while back.  As always he was full of life as he laughed and joked but he had rung to give me some awful news.  As was his way he broke the news with a joke.  He told me he had bowel cancer and should by rights already be dead.

We chatted for a while and Pat told me he wasn’t feeling too well but promised that we would meet up when he felt a little better.  Like a fool I accepted that.  It’s a strange situation that one.  You are never quite sure whether to push the issue or wait for the call.  It’s awkward, you don’t know whether to give space or impose yourself.  After some soul searching I decided to wait for the call.  In part I knew it was a little selfish to do so but I also thought that Pat would want to be withn his family and I knew that visits would be awkward for both of us.

Last Thursday evening Pat’s son David rang me to tell me that Pat was in a hospice and that he had gone to sleep and wasn’t expected to wake up.  I went to see him first thing on Friday morning.  He was asleep and seemingly pain free as the medication took effect.  Pat never did wake up and he died peacefully surrounded by his family on Saturday morning.

Pat will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him.  He was one of the kindest, most generous and above all funniest men you could ever meet.  He had that cheeky Irish charm and a twinkle in his eye.  He had a seemingly endless supply of jokes and could have you in fits of laughter for hours on end.  I don’t believe I ever saw him cross or angry.

Selfishly I regret that we never did get together for that final pint.  I would have loved to have spent some more time with Pat, to have had that final chat.  Of course that was about my needs not Pats.  His passing leaves a hoe in my life.  One that can’t be filled, but it also leaves so many wonderful memories of times spent together over a few beers but most of all of laughter, always laughter.

So farewell old friend.  I will miss you.

Fox News Facts

Fox News Facts: You Have to Laugh #foxnewsfacts

I am sure that just about everyone in the UK has by now heard about the hilarious comments made by “Terrorism Expert” Steve Emerson on Fox News in the wake of last weeks horrific events in Paris.

The Telegraph reports that Mr Emerson, who describes himself as “an internationally recognised expert on terrorism”, made the claim, which may come as a surprise to the hundreds of thousands of non-Muslim residents of Britain’s second-largest city, during a television discussion about no-go zones in Europe where Muslims are apparently in complete control.

“In Britain, it’s not just no-go zones, there are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in,” he said.  He continued saying that in “Parts of London, there are actually Muslim religious police that actually beat and actually wound seriously anyone who doesn’t dress according to Muslim, religious Muslim attire,” he proclaimed, without giving examples.

Of course the claims have been treated with hilarity in the UK and the hashtag #foxnewsfacts has gone viral with people posting in comparably wild claims.  Here are a few of my favourites.

For the avoidance of any doubt the tweets are sarcastic and satirical.  None of them are actually true 😉

Needless to say I have had far too much time on my hands this evening.  I could go on but I won’t 😉