Anthony Volodkin of the Hype Machine is a clever interesting guy who played a big role in music culture in the early 2000s when he revolutionized the promotion of music on the internet after he coded up an aggregator called the Hype Machine in 2005 that found a way to stream tracks form the myriad of internet blogs then posting music to an avid readership numbering in the millions. I can tell ya personally about the popularity of this wild wooly indie scene because I had a music blog at the time drawing thousands, if not tens of thousands of hits a day, much of that traffic derived from Anthony’s Hype Machine website.
Today with Alphabet’s YouTube, Zuckerberg’s social media & ezos’ e-commerce empires hogging most of the web traffic, my website now pulls around a fraction of that, maybe a hundred unique visitors a day, a far cry from when there were fewer internet users but there was more equal footing amongst all the sites on the web. I myself had kind of forgotten about the Hype Machine over the past decade, as the democratization of the web has largely disappeared into corporate content mazes, but was recently amazed to stumble in and see the Hype Machine was still functioning. In fact, it had even been crowdfunded, and now plays a central part in a quasi historical new book by Lina Abascal on the so-called ‘bloghouse’ movement, an account called Never Be Alone Again of which some excerpts from her writing are aggregated ala the ype Machine below.
“Music was beginning to move at the speed of the internet and new songs could be uploaded, reviewed, distributed, redownloaded, DJed out, remixed, (and repeat) faster than ever before.
The mode of discovery shifted away from finding your new favorite song on the radio, at the record store, or even hearing it at a club; now you knew everything about an artist before you even got to the party. The party where a promoter had booked an artist based on hype from blogs written by kids in dorm rooms. The bloggers weren’t totally sure if what they were doing was legal, but it never seemed to matter all that much anyway. Publicists representing the artists being blogged about were known to encourage the practice by sending free download links in their press releases to bloggers.
Compared to now, the scope of the internet felt drastically smaller; a loose network of niche communities that had yet to be flattened by corporate interests.
The true democracy of the sound’s wild wild west was Hype Machine. An aggregator with no human face or editorial input, Hype Machine (sometimes known as Hypem) was founded in 2005 by Anthony Volodkin, a Brooklynite by way of Russia.
“It was a chaotic time for music on the internet. I would spend hours listening and finding new blogs to listen from. Then I started thinking of how I could make something so I could listen to this more easily,” explained Volodkin. Marrying curation with convenience, the software engineer began building a tool to aggregate all of the scene’s music blogs’ daily postings to one website. “It felt like a radio station was being assembled in front of me,” he said of the earliest version of the site.
With its green and white layout, Hype Machine simply listed songs in a numerical ranking by online popularity. Other blogs could decide what to post based on what the rest of the blogosphere was posting, and listeners could head there to streamline the process of trolling the blogs themselves. In its prime, Hype Machine remained a fair, non- gameable website where the good stuff rose to the top. There were no paid posts, no partnerships, no commentary. The technology did the work and the culture did the rest. (read more at Abascal’s new book Never Be Alone Again )
One of the cool things Volodkin’s HypeM team encoded recently was perhaps a penance for their illicit mp3 spreading past, this being the Merch-Table an application that can cross reference song titles from Spotify Playlists and link out to their monetizable counterpart links on Bandcamp where revenues from purchases are far more likely to actually make it to bands and labels that are keeping music alive. Here are some tracks below that I pulled from Spotify playlists I’ve made that can be found on Bandcamp where you can check out the albums and artists’ official sites to support them.
You can read about the rise and eventual decline in popularity of the Hype Machine here at Noisey