Is this old news?
Drowned in Sound is an independent, online music magazine that has been described as a cross between exactly that, a blog and a music social networking site. Founded by 18 year old entrepreneur, Sean Adams in 2000 it started life in 1998 as an e mail music fanzine called The Last Resort. Sean Adams re-launched it as DIS and is still the current editor and part shareholder. Although independent the remaining percentage shareholding interest is by Independent Music Management company Silentway Ltd who are responsible for mainly independent but some established artists such as Simply Red (popular in the 1990s) and Brett Anderson who used to be the front man of indie Brit Pop band Suede.
The site/magazine is critically successful and attracts 500,000 users per month with 60,000 registered users. DIS was nominated in the Best Music Website Category at the 2007 Plug Awards and also in 2007 at the Shockwaves NME Awards. It is probably for this reason that in the same year DID attracted interest from BSKYB who wanted them to launch 5 new websites – the relationship was short lived as Sean Adams realised that he was compromising the historical independence of DIS and flirting with a corporation who could suggest merger and take over at any minute. Vestiges of this relationship still exist with Sky as one of the major advertisers on the site including a large banner advert for Now TV (financed by Sky), see above and regular adverts for Sky subscriptions. Although Adams reverted back to an independent status in 2008 a site like DIS will be funded primarily by advertising revenue and will need this funding to continue operating unlike websites like www.nme.com who are funded by IPC and www.qthemusic.com who are funded by the Bauer Media Group. It is with this in mind it is worth remembering that despite DIS’s global range of freelance writers and contributors most are unpaid.
Interactivity is a primary part of the site and Facebook and Twitter logos are foregrounded at the top of the homepage. There is an integrated forum and convergent links to a ‘Community’ section – recent posts are listed and visible on the right hand side of the homepage. In 2003 DIS launched their own record label focussing on independent artists with the occasional journey into the mainstream including the critically and commercially successful Kaiser Chiefs single, ‘Oh my God’. By Sean Adams’ own admittance this record label is now in hiatus and no longer publishing (Adams is a also a Journalist, Conference Speaker, Promoter and always working on new projects). In 2006 he launched a podcast promoting new, often unsigned artists fulfilling DIS’s commitment to ‘new innovative music’. This feature is still current very popular.
Although Adams is young (30) there is a significant older target audience to DIS with indie cultural capital and an intelligent working knowledge of the music industry, Drowned in Sound would also attract users who work in the industry from performers to A n’ R men to producers who are interested in their (DIS) cutting edge approach to music. The typical user is male, 25-35, aspirer and individualist which although limiting in terms of age reflects the window where most men are seriously into the indie scene. The homepage has a standardised format and design with the Drowned in Sound innovative, sans serif logo in the top left of the leaderboard but with a banner advert underneath.
Low production values are evident and the homepage has more of the feel of a social networking site which would be Sean Adam’s preferred reading as his intention is always to use the digital medium to promote convergence and interactivity. Convergent links running horizontally include Home, News, In Depth, In Photos, Records, Gigs, Directory and Community. In its current format it could be seen as competition with some of the major online music magazine like www.nme.com up to a point but with the USP that they focus on independent artists and innovative new music. This having been said there is plenty of column space given to established indie artists.
The site is easy to navigate and there are significant video links – many of the news stories are accompanied by an image of video clip to click through. DIS looks like an online magazine e.g. ‘News’ down the left hand side from above to below the fold, scrolling DHTML under the leaderboard but on closer analysis is more interactive than many other industry sites as it seeks to encourage users to learn about and experience new and old, vibrant independent music scene.