Year Three in Review

Strange Currencies Blog

Since Strange Currencies was inaugurated on December 31, 2019, it’s become something of a custom to send each year off with a look back at the site’s previous twelve months. The shorthand version that one might find in such a recap of our third year would go a little like this: first five months = lots of activity, focused on the continuation of the “theme months” that we began in 2021; next three months = Strange Currencies almost becomes an exclusively garage rock site; last four months = mostly crickets…

In September, I laid out the rationale for the relative lack of activity that followed. The arrival of a new year doesn’t change any of that, but I do hope that – as far as Strange Currencies is concerned – 2023 looks a little more like the first half of 2022 than the second. Moving away from themed months has turned my own listening habits toward a “free agency” status, which has been good for my enjoyment of music, but bad for the site’s productivity. If I had investors, they’d probably be a little frustrated.

The thing is, there’s already a lot of content out there that my collaborators and I have created over the past three years; our recent review of The Clash’s Sandinista was the 250th article published on Strange Currencies. Some of these pieces have found a pretty decent-sized audience, while others have remained virtually unread. Oddly – or maybe not, since this is the internet – there’s little correlation between quality and clicks. For example, one of the best features that I’ve done for this site was a three-part series on Harry Smith’s legendary Anthology of American Folk Music. At present, the second part has been read exactly eight times – whereas most pieces reach triple digits within a few weeks of posting.

Oddly – at least for me – I’ve become kind of fascinated by how some pieces reach thousands, while others may only see tens of views. There are some easy explanations: for instance, Google “exotica music,” and see how far you have to scroll down to find our Introduction to Exotica feature from the summer of 2021. If the scale were a little bigger, and if I’d made any attempt to monetize Strange Currencies, that’d be the piece keeping the lights on around here. Likewise, I know that Beatles-related content has an audience, but why has our George Harrison In the Wilderness feature reached so many more readers than Tim Ryan Nelson’s thoughtful revisitation on Magical Mystery Tour, Remy Gottschling’s piece on the band’s class politics, or my own re-imagination of Harrison’s Wonderwall Music? For what it’s worth, that last one is particularly baffling, and if nothing else, you need to listen to that playlist, ASAP.

So yeah, there’ll be new content in 2023. Sometimes it’ll be organized around a theme, and sometimes it’ll be a little more random. The podcast will probably return at some point – though for the time being, Tim, Glenn, and I have prioritized giving our free Saturday afternoons over to creating some new “Royalty Free (To Us) Music.” Other features, like In the Wilderness, will hopefully return as well, alongside some more collaborative pieces. There might even be some entirely new features coming too: we’ve been kicking around an “album trio review” concept for awhile; and there’s a possibility that Strange Currencies engages in the “pivot to video” that seemingly every website was talking about seven or eight years ago.

But we’re also going to try some new things with engagement as well – meaning, we might actually try something to promote engagement. Obviously, a major factor in getting content read is maintaining a social media presence – something that we (admittedly) suck at. Our Instagram profile – which was created more-or-less simultaneously with the website – still has less than 100 followers. Our Facebook page has significantly more, but limited interactions. While things such as ‘likes,’ ‘comments,’ ‘follows,’ and ‘shares’ have always struck me as superficial, I suppose they matter when one is trying to maintain a web presence.

And at the end of the day, “maintain” seems like an appropriate word for Strange Currencies in 2022. Our overall page views were only about hundred fewer than they were last year (when we experienced a 500% growth from Year 1), despite the fact that we published fewer new articles. Perhaps we’ll find a way to alternate ‘maintain’ years with ‘growth’ ones.

Or maybe we won’t. I mean, we’ll keep doing this in some capacity either way, until – as I said back in September – it starts to feel like work. For now though, as the switch to a new calendar often does, we’re approaching it with some fresh perspective, and newfound enthusiasm.

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!

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