Do you remember personal websites? If you’re olde enough, my guess is that you’ve relegated them to the basement of your memory — here’s why they deserve to live again.
Personal websites were pretty important, maybe, fifteen years ago. Having a personal website was a sign of professionalism, but they were also ripe for ribbing –– such as the day I showed up to a freelance orchestra rehearsal in New York, probably in 1999, and one of my colleagues exclaimed — “oh, you’re that guy — with the website!”… Can you imagine — being a viola student, recording your own music in your bedroom and having a website?! Personal websites were the oat milk of the day –– delicious and healthy –– but maybe a tinge indulgent and high on carbs.
Personal websites became less important in the MySpace days, when having a single page with two photos and two-three audio tracks became satisfactory enough for fans, presenters and passersby to get a taste of your work. The internet was slow and musician websites in particular were laden with Flash-based objects, clunkily-embeded audio, HTML frames and other design excesses — each website’s usability varied greatly, whereas MySpace, with its uniform design, was easier to process — and a highly prominent friend counter gave the viewer an immediate window into a page’s popularity.
In 2020, when someone asks for “your site”, they usually mean your instagram or youtube page; if someone tells you “you’ve gotta check out [artist name]”, chances are you’ll head to youtube first. A highly prominent view counter there gives you a window into that video’s popularity — never mind that it could be a re-upload of something that was once devoured on LP, cassette, VHS, CD, TV and radio, by generations. (What — Bach has only 1 million views?!)
It would seem that personal websites are irrelevant today— except if you harken back just a few years and remember what happened to MySpace — and also to AmieStreet, MP3.com, Garageband.com, IUMA and other music sharing sites. All of these sites bred community and lived through their versions of corporate takeover and reinvention, if not outright extinction. Communities were built, thrived and lost— as were, in some cases, recordings and images that people casually uploaded to these sites without backing up on their own computers. (I myself was guilty of this with my first uploads to IUMA, only some of which were gratefully resurrected on archive.org many years later.). This December, Yahoo Groups will finally shut down, after nearly 25 years and dwindling readership.
And now we’ve arrived to the era of the “Social Dilemma”, a documentary about the dangers of oat milk that I read about on the oat milk carton itself. My relationship with Social Media has grown increasingly distant — I post often, but rarely read my algorithm–selected feeds, preferring to catch up with friends by going to their pages manually.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, with everything canceled at once, I decided to be more present online. Hoping to reach a wider audience, I began to post new music on instagram, facebook, youtube and twitter –– the same content to all four platforms, directly, so that on each one of the platforms the video content would auto-play — but at the same time, my own website had largely remained neglected, until the day I collected thirty videos into a youtube playlist of my new COVID-19 era releases since mid-March. At that point, something snapped in me — I hadn’t updated my personal site since January 2019.
POSSE — Post on Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere — is a very simple, powerful and self-explanatory concept. You make content and post it on your site, then syndicate it to other sites through embedding or linking. It’s what your local newspaper does when it posts a story –– it’s what you should do with your work, too.
Over the past few days I’ve been going through my website and building individual posts for works and I’ve released since mid-March. The process has shown me how it’s possible to create context and connections across works and media within your own ecosystem. It makes for a point of entry and departure. My front page — long static — is now an evolving feed of new posts.
On the socials, the work I post is contextualized differently for each viewer — you might see a post of mine before or after a political ad, a photo from your childhood, a funny meme or a tragic personal story –– the order of things you see is calculated to keep you engaged longer; here the context is all mine — handpicked and same for every person. I don’t know anything about you — and while your visit here may be shorter and less frequent than to those other sites, I hope it will be more meaningful.
I registered my domain in 1998, and now, just like over 20 years ago, I’m still “that guy — with the website”. And you’re that person – reading it. Thank you for being here.
||> See a playlist videos of Ljova’s new music released during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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