[Blog] Take Five

by Garry

Has it really been another year already?

Hello there! I know I don’t normally post on Wednesdays but today is a pretty significant day you see. If my math is correct then this is officially the site’s 5th birthday, a pretty big milestone at least in my opinion anyway and like every year I like to mark the occasion with a blog post. Nothing too crazy, just looking back over the past year and sharing some thoughts that don’t really fit into any of my other writings. Not my typical content I know so if you have literally zero interest in this kind of thing then feel free to close out the tab now and there won’t be any hard feelings.

So I’ve been saying this a lot lately, but it really is hard to believe that its already been a year. We’ll kinda get into that a bit more later on here but this has somehow simultaneously been both the longest and also the fastest year in recent memory for me. I suppose that could just be chalked up to me being old now and time feeling like it just passes quicker these days but I think we all know it’s more to do with the giant elephant currently overstaying its welcome in the room. I don’t want to bring it up but it is a factor in a lot of things I’m going to be touching on here so it can’t be helped.

Before we get into this and I lose most of you, I just want to take a moment to thank everyone for their continued interest and support of the both the site and myself over what has at times been a very trying 12 months. Whether you’ve contributed monetarily on Patreon or Ko-Fi, or just liked or shared something that I’ve posted on social media it’s all very much appreciated and it still blows my mind that people are still interested in what I’m doing over here even after all of this time. I’m just some dude with a whole bunch of opinions about music so it’s really cool that people actually seem to be interested in and care about what I have to say.

If you’ve never read one of these things before they’re pretty simple. I crunch a few numbers to see where the site is at compared to the previous year, give a bit of a rundown of all of the good and bad stuff that’s been happening both personally and in terms of the site, the fandom and all that good stuff and then we close it out with a look to the future. I can’t promise that this is going to be a super positive blog post but I’m going to do my best to at least balance it out a little while still being honest about how things have been and are currently. I think you guys probably expect and appreciate that at this point though.

Right then, if you’re sticking with me let’s take a look back at the year that 2020 was or wasn’t and just have a chat about a lot of things in general.

Running the Numbers

I’ve never really cared too much about “the numbers” like a lot of people seem to these days when it comes to YouTube, Twitter, TikTok and all that sort of thing. It’s sort of something that I’ll glance at occasionally but I never let it really have a baring on what I’m doing as far as content is concerned. In fact given the whole COVID situation, in the past year I’ve cared about and looked at my analytics even less than usual so this section of the blog is probably going to be as enlightening to me as it is to all of you guys. With that said, here’s the nitty gritty, warts and all assessment of how the last year went. I really hope this is interesting to some of you.

So in terms of raw site traffic, in the last 12 months the site did roughly 28k hits. That is down about 16k from the 44k we did in 2019 and I’ll be honest, that is kinda disappointing and I’ll explain why in a minute. The reasons are probably quite varied but I imagine COVID, people not need my Japan concert ticket buying advice at all as result and just a general downturn in interest in “Alt Idol” in the past 12 months have probably all contributed to this drop off. Or you know, a bunch of people just all hate me now for reasons unbeknownst to me. That could also be a thing I suppose but I think I’ve been behaving myself a lot better these days so there’s that at least.

In 2020 I wrote 246 articles, compared to the 104 I managed in 2019. That number doesn’t seem correct to me but that’s what the stats say and the past year has been a bit of blur and I’ve had a bunch more time on my hands so it could actually be true. 403k words were committed to print compared to 2019’s 182k so to say I really ramped up my creative output would be something of an understatement. I enjoyed pretty much everything I wrote in the last year but it is hard not to feel a bit discouraged given I’ve basically doubled the amount of content I’m creating while halving the number of views I’m getting. Shifting my mindset to firmly be me doing this because I enjoy it has helped a lot but you know, when it’s written out like that it does kinda suck a bit I won’t lie.

As far as the content itself was concerned, the most popular article on the site was once again my Japan Concert Ticket Buying Guide, which is easily the highlight of my writing “career” at this point and that’s beyond any doubt now. Reviews were topped by the likes of Herosyn, RAY, Pedro (???), CY8ER and BiS which isn’t super surprising to me as they all have cult followings or name appeal to some degree and content related to them is going to be the sort of thing that most people will be searching for. I would love for there to be a bit more variety but that’s not my decision at the end of the day and try as I might, you’re just not going to turn enough casual listeners onto super obscure groups for it to really make too much of a difference at the end of the day.

To kinda close out this section I thought that it might be fun and/or interesting to see where most of the site’s traffic came from in the past 12 months. Like in 2019 America topped the list once again with 28%, followed by Japan on a very surprising 15%, with the UK in 3rd on 7%, Indonesia and Canada following close behind on about 5% each and several European countries, Australia and Mexico all on about 2% each. It still blows my mind that people in all of these countries are visiting my website and looking at my content and I wish I could translate it all somehow but that’s just simply impossible with the technology that’s currently available unfortunately. If you’re reading this though please do know that I appreciate each and every one of you no matter where you are in the world.

There you have it then. Thankfully this isn’t an investor’s meeting otherwise I’d probably be getting fired right about now. I probably could have done a lot more to promote the site on social media if I wanted to, done some collaborations, interviews and whatever else people are doing these days. This isn’t a job for me though and that’s a lot of extra time and effort that I just don’t have much of these days. It would be cool if we could get back towards where we were in 2019 this year but I think I’m still pretty happy with how things are going all things considered. This is really just a hobby for me after all so I can’t expect too much right?

What Little Good There Was

It’s at this point where I usually like to take a look back at all of the good stuff that happened in the past 12 months, be it surrounding my fandom or just personal stuff that I feel deserves to be mentioned. I won’t lie though, I’m really struggling to come up with too much to type here and well, we can all thank good old COVID for that too I suppose. There’s a couple of bits and pieces I should probably mention though so while this section isn’t going to be super long there were definitely a few good things that happened in the past year.

As far as the Idol stuff goes, there are still a few groups around that I’m really into and I know that’s a lot more than a lot of people can say right now. I’ve kind of focused my fandom a lot more heavily onto maybe 3 or 4 groups in the past year instead of trying to follow as much as I possibly could. Partly this is down to a lot of groups I was interested in breaking up but it’s also nice to be able to focus a bit more closely on the stuff I really like. So I’ve still got Melon Batake a go go, The Grateful a MogAAAZ, XTEEN and Diable Voix to support and I’ve been doing what I can in that regard but it is kinda tough being stuck on the other side of the world of course. We just all have to do what we can until we’re able to get back outside to enjoy this stuff in person I guess.

Outside of that, I’ve been keeping myself fairly healthy this past year against all of the odds. I’ve managed to keep the weight that I lost off and even managed to lose quite a bit more actually. I’ve probably gone too far the other way now though because last I checked I was getting towards the bottom end of “healthy”. Well, it’s better than being overweight I suppose but it is something I probably do need to work on a bit better still once gyms and stuff are opened back up again. We’ll see though, I am still pretty lazy and that sounds like a lot of hard work. I’ve also managed to dodge catching COVID so far too so that’s great, though I’m more worried about possibly passing it on to my parents than anything else right now if I’m being total honest. So far so good though!

I also was one of the fortunate ones to not have their job be negatively impacted by the pandemic, and in fact if anything the whole thing has actually been great for business as weird as that is to be happy about. We were busier than ever last year and despite the questionable COVID protocols we have in place it is good to have a steady income when so many others out there have been laid off. Things could definitely be a lot better though but I’m just sitting here stockpiling money waiting for the day when I can put a few thousand miles between myself and where I’m at right now which is sitting on the couch typing this thing out.

Like I said, not a ton to write home about as far as “good” things were concerned last year but it could be worse so I try to keep things in perspective as best I can.

A Whole Lot of Bad

Well obviously the big stinking pile of bad from the past year was COVID and I’m obviously far from alone in wishing that it would just fuck off already so we can all get back to having a life and doing things that are actually fun again. It’s going to be sticking around for a while yet though and it’s a thread that’s going to run through most of this section so you’ll forgive me if I repeat myself a little bit here.

This time last year I was in a pretty good place mentally, the best that I had been in a long time actually. Yeah, that’s pretty much all been undone in the past 12 months unfortunately and there have been a few pretty dark moments in that time I won’t lie to you. Who knew having your life put on hold and all of the things you enjoy doing not being allowed anymore could really screw you up mentally huh? Hardly a unique situation to be in right now I’m sure but that thought doesn’t really offer me too much comfort either sadly.

I think it’s the monotony that gets to me the most. If I’m not at work I’m sitting at home on the couch, which was kinda nice for the first month or so but now whenever I have a day off I almost wish that I could just go to work so I can at least get out of the house for a few hours. I haven’t been to a concert in almost a year, or had a night out in general really and Japan seems like it’s a million miles away right now too so I didn’t even have something like that to work towards and look forward to. It just sort of feels like I’m doing nothing and given that I feel this constant need to be doing something all the time it definitely hasn’t been an easy year that’s for sure.

Disconnection is another feeling that comes up every now and then. I kinda live in the middle of nowhere at the best of times but not even hardly being able to leave the house has really left me wanting for social interaction. I get a bit of it at work but it’s not the same as hanging out with friends and doing that through a computer screen kinda works but it just doesn’t feel as “real” as it should I guess. This coming from a guy who always considered himself to be introverted too so there you go. I think I’ve probably withdrawn a lot more into myself again as like a coping mechanism too which sucks and hopefully people understand but I sort of feel like a dick for being so distant and intentionally unavailable sometimes. It’s the only way I knew how to deal with the last year though.

Outside of my head, things haven’t been super great in the Idol hobby for me either. Quite a few groups I liked have broken up, others are struggling and I’m not really sure what sort of scene, if any, I might be going back to whenever I do eventually get back out to Japan. Its all been a pretty big part of my life for a number of years now so having it ripped away like this is a tough pill to swallow and I wake up every day half expecting the couple of groups I do still follow to have thrown in the towel too. Being an internet fan also just can’t replicate or replace the feeling of actually being there so while I try my best it does really just feel like there’s a big part of the experience missing and I don’t know how long it will be until I’m able to get that back.

My other hobbies aren’t doing too great either, with “investors” and scalpers showing up to ruin the fun no matter what the subject is it feels like. Trading cards, vinyl records, electronics, you just can’t really buy anything anymore unless you code a network of computers to do it for you. As such, here I am with plenty of money saved up and I’m unable to really buy anything that I actually want without having to pay double, triple, or more than the retail price. It sucks the fun out of everything and I could really use some fun right about now but no, everyone’s out to make a quick buck unfortunately so distractions from everything going on have been in rather short supply this past year too.

I’ve tried to keep this section as light as I could but what’s here is just the honest reality of how the last year has been going for me. I’m “fine” in the general sense but it’s a struggle and whenever things do eventually return to “normal” I’ll probably be screaming and shouting from the rooftops in celebration. Make it end soon, please.

Socially Speaking

This is the part of the blog where I usually share my thoughts on various aspects of “the fandom” at large, often pissing a lot of people off in the process I’m sure. This past year though I dunno, it kinda just feels like everything sort of fell apart. It could just be me playing into that feeling of disconnection but I don’t really get this strong sense of “community” anymore when it comes to our shared Idol fandom. It does sort of feel like everyone just does their own thing now and we don’t really interact with each other in the same sort of frequency as we did in years past.

I could of course be way off the mark in that assessment, but from my personal use of social media it seems like discussion and interaction on the usual platforms like Facebook, Twitter, etc is way down in the past year and quite a few faces don’t seem to come around as often anymore. Of course I still see a lot of the lifers like myself hanging around but there definitely feels like there’s been a bit of a drop off when it comes to the more recent, often younger crowd that came into the hobby in the last couple of years. There’s probably a bunch of reasons for this, be they moving onto K-Pop, using Discord or newer social media more to communicate or whatever else. Again, just my perspective but it did feel like the community contracted further still in the last 12 months than it had already been trending in the previous year.

Several of my contemporaries also called it a day last year, the big ones being Nihongogo and New School Kaidan I suppose but there were a few others too and that always sucks to see but that’s life isn’t it? People move on, interests and priorities change and all that fun stuff. It was good to see Homicidols make a bit of a comeback in recent months though, I feel like they’re putting out some pretty decent content these days too actually. A far cry from the at times moderately concerning ramblings of some of the lunatics that were left to run the asylum for a while there. That’s a joke if you couldn’t tell, but I look forward to the pot shots in the openings of the next few Weekenders that I’ve probably let myself in for. Call me sometime. There’s a few other cool publications still chugging away along with us too, and you can find some of them in the sidebar of the website so I would encourage you to check them out if you get the chance.

One thing that does kinda bother me about certain elements of the fandom in 2021 is the social media interaction some people are having with idols. I kinda get it, they’re attractive women and what have you but some of you guys need to calm down a bit with the content of your tweets. Sexually suggestive comments and rambling poetry are a bit much guys, at least try to appreciate it’s a real person on the other end of the screen when you’re sending that sort of stuff. It doesn’t really make you look good, it’s probably a bit awkward for the idols involved and we can all probably do a bit better in general when it comes to the fan/idol dynamic. We are all real people after all, even if some people do try to sell the whole Idol thing as being this larger than life, pure goddesses type of a thing. By all means ignore everything I just said, I’m not trying to tell you how to live your life but maybe just think about it a little bit alright?

There’s probably a few other things I could bring up here, like how it’s absolutely inexcusable that Necronomidol take 6 months to ship Bandcamp orders, how it’s kind of hilarious that Derek from Idol Underworld would probably sell the shirt from his back if he thought he could charge 50,000 yen for it along with a bunch of other stupid shit but honestly I don’t really give a fuck anymore. None of those sorts of things really concern me after all and these days I’d much rather just keep myself to myself and do my own thing. I do still see all of the nonsense that goes on in the fandom but I just don’t have the time, energy or interest to comment on it or make any sort of fuss. That’s a young person’s game and I’m getting a bit long in the tooth here.

Keeping myself to myself is a good way of summarizing my fandom heading into 2021. I have the site, I like writing and making content for it without really caring what anyone else thinks about it and I’ve managed to limit my social media use to a couple of times a day where I pretty much just like tweets from idols and maybe respond if I can come up with something interesting to say or feel like they need some words of encouragement. Apart from that I have a couple of friends I’ve made from this hobby over the years that I still keep in touch with fairly regularly and that’s about it. Maybe others have gone down a similar path to this now that I think about it, what a roundabout way of answering a lot of my own theories and speculation in this section huh?

Looking Ahead

Here is the part of the blog where I typically make mention of what I’m planning for the year ahead while beginning to wrap things up. There’s just so many question marks over everything right now that it’s kinda hard to really give any sort of firm plans though. There’s a ton of stuff that I want to do but as we all know by now COVID fucking sucks and is making it so I can’t do much of anything for the foreseeable still. So yeah, lots of question marks, asterix and what have you next to everything that I’m about to type next.

Well, the hope and in some ways number one priority for me is getting back out to Japan at some point this year. Seems like a pretty slim likelihood at the moment if I’m being honest but I kinda need something to work towards and look forward to so I’ve booked out some vacation time from work in November like usual and we’ll see how it goes I guess. It would do a world of good for my mental health I’ll say that much and I suppose with vaccines being put in arms at an increasing rate and Japan’s recent very resolute vow to have the Olympics go ahead as planned, things are looking a bit more promising than they did a couple of months ago. Probably just trying to make myself feel a bit better but allow it alright?

The thought of maybe doing something different with my writing has been coming to mind somewhat frequently too. I dunno if it’s just the pandemic, Idol being a bit down currently or what but I do find myself thinking maybe I should change something up, start a new site or something along those lines. I don’t really have the time or motivation to put too much more thought into it than that but it’s a thought that rattles around in my brain every so often so I figured I would mention it. I doubt I’ll quit the site or anything like that but if the COVID thing continues to gut the Idol scene then there might not be a whole lot left for me to talk about here one day. Kinda grim thought that isn’t it?

Last year I tried and failed pretty hard at getting a podcast off the ground and while it is something that I would like to try and get back around to, I just don’t see how I can make it work. It was taking me like 3 hours or more to record, edit, upload, etc and that’s a lot of time when you have a day job, want to write articles and do other life stuff. It’s also kinda weird talking to yourself so I would probably need a co-pilot and that just opens up a whole bunch of other issues so right now like a lot of things in my life it’s going to get filed under “It’s a nice idea but…”. I dunno, if anyone wants to maybe do something along those lines let me know and we can talk about it I guess, as I would like an outlet to physically talk about music in general as I’ve been lacking in terms of social interaction quite a bit in the past year like I said earlier.

Apart from that it’s just kinda boring life stuff that I’m hoping to accomplish I guess. Keeping my weight in a good place, maybe starting to actually work out a bit and get in even better shape physically might be nice and I need to do a lot of work on my mental health again but I think a lot of that is probably going to resolve itself once we’re not being kept under quite so draconian lockdown restrictions. I’m 30 in a few months so I should probably start focusing a little bit more on getting my house in order before the wheels really do start to fall off eh?

That’s kind of it at least in the short to medium term I suppose. Like I said, there’s too many question marks over this year to really look forward to anything or have any real expectations as to how things might pan out. I’d love for everything to go back to “normal” tomorrow so I could rush out to a billion shows, actually hang out with friends in person again, go travelling and all of those things I definitely took for granted previously. As it is though we are where we are and we’re going to be here for a while longer yet so I guess we’re all just going to have to make the best of it until then…whenever then is.

Before you all go, I just want to take one last opportunity to thank you for all of the support, interest and friendship you’ve shown me over the years. I still can’t believe anyone cares about this little website of mine or has any interest at all in what I have to say. So again thank you and I hope that you’re all doing well out there and both you and your families haven’t been impacted too badly by COVID or anything else that went down in the past 12 months. I can’t promise this year is going to be that much better but hopefully we can all get through it together and come out of it on the other side as better people and not too worse for wear from the experience. Yeah, I think that would be good so here’s to another year and whatever it has in store for us. Have a good one and we’ll talk again soon. Cheers!