MotorCityRocks.com gained a front-and-center spot in the legion of current music blogs soon after it was launched in early 2003. Nearly everything on the site is stuff you can find elsewhere. But, its the assemblage of information the blog postings and MP3 files, essentially that accounts for the sites popularity.
Whats refreshing about MCR is it doesnt boast a cluster of naval-gazing typists who fancy themselves writers ranting incessantly about music. The brainchild of twentysomethings Ryan Sult (pictured) and Matt Caruana, this site is all innocence and DIY purity with a smattering of cheek and (un)healthy dollops of love for new Detroit rock n roll and indie bands. It transcends its own almost deliberate artlessness with its sheer volume of gossip, MP3 downloads, podcasts, show calendars, a forum, the occasional feature or review, and links to Detroit-specific rock news stories, both local and national. Though the site favors the personal tastes of Sult and Caruana, theres a sense through its show listings, forum and tidbit-gathering that its community-owned. Plus, the plethora of local and up-to-moment MP3s (compressed song files) available makes it a veritable library of up-and-coming local rock music.
Sult, a bespectacled University of Michigan grad (American culture and music) is gracious almost to a fault. In conversation, his opinions about and exuberance for music are guarded, and hes careful not to insult anybody. That trait is reflected in his site; MCR rarely offers true music criticism, though commentary from outside sources is linked. After college, Sult did a six-month stint in New York City, interned at RCA Records, and returned home when no record biz gig materialized. He got hired on at All Music Guide as a technical editor (Its a lot of dealing with the factual content of databases; not the most exciting stuff in the world). He also manages the band Holy Fire, which is set to announce its signing to a significant record label.
Sult and Caruana came up with the Motor City Rocks as a way of making Detroit a little more informed about the strong music scene thats there, Sult says. Matt came up with the idea of adding on a blog. That seemed to be what people were most interested in, so that became the focal point of the site. A third MCR principal, Gary Blackwell, is now living in Colorado.
MCRs blog is one aspect, the MP3s another. With MP3 players the gimme item-of-choice for Christmas 2005, young adults between the ages of 18 and 23 have made it known that they prefer downloading to radio. Too, bands and artists have taken their wares to download sites and launched careers overnight. In 2003, DJ Danger Mouse showed that blogs can be a powerful marketing tool with the Beatle-tripping Grey Album, and Brooklyns Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah is one recent success tale.
Indie labels and A&R weasels can get whiffs of bands in an instant, sure. But if somebody hears about your band off of, say, MCR, there can be a downside if youre unprepared and your songs blow. If the scouts come across a band before its ready, an initial negative impression could lead to closed doors in the future.
They may have made their decision of, Yeah, I wasnt totally thrilled with it, Sult says. Then you have an even harder job of changing a persons first impression.
Sult says MCR generates about $150 a month from small ads, so it pays for itself, which is all hes asking for.
The site averages 3,200 page views from 1,600 unique visitors a day, a number Sult says is more than we ever thought wed get. Too, MCR has so far succeeded at its startup objective of providing a platform for the discovery of indie bands that otherwise would be ignored.Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org