RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Steve Inskeep is home for the holidays. I'm Renee Montagne.
And on this Christmas Day, we consider the end of the decade that's being called the aughts. In the next few minutes, we look back at how the past 10 years changed music and culture.
One of the biggest sources of delight and concern for musicians and fans has been the Internet. It's changed how people get their music, and Web sites have emerged as important arbiters of musical taste. Joel Rose reports that one year in particular, 2004, was a watershed for the music blog.
JOEL ROSE: Hardly anyone in the U.S. had heard of Arcade Fire in the fall of 2004 when the band released its full-length debut, �Funeral.�
(Soundbite of song �Rebellion (Lies)�)
ARCADE FIRE: (Singing) People say that you'll die faster than without water. But we know it's just a lie, scare your son, scare your daughter.
ROSE: By then, the Montreal band was already familiar to readers of the music blog called Said the Gramophone. Sean Michaels had been writing about music online, and posting MP3s of his favorite songs, for about a year.
Mr. SEAN MICHAELS (Blogger, Said the Gramophone): We'd joke about what happens when the album comes out. Then when it did come out and things began to accelerate sort of even beyond anything we had imagined. What David Bowie was at their concert? You know, Bruce Springsteen's singing with them? What's going on? It was just sort of inconceivable, this youthful imaginings manifest.
(Soundbite of song �Rebellion (Lies)�)
ARCADE FIRE: (Singing) Every time you close your eyes. Lies, lies.
ROSE: �Funeral� went on to sell nearly half a million copies. Arcade Fire was one of the first bands to show that buzz on a handful of music blogs and Web sites could lead to actual mainstream success. Record labels took note.
Mr. SCOTT PLAGENHOEF (Editor-in-Chief, Pitchforkmedia.com): We get far more attention from all corners of the music world now.
ROSE: Scott Plagenhoef is the editor-in-chief at Pitchforkmedia.com. The site was one of the first to run a rave review of the Arcade Fire album. But back then, Plagenhoef says Pitchfork was having a hard time getting major labels to take the site seriously.
Mr. PLAGENHOEF: They were very suspicious. You know, trying to get someone on the phone to get a hip-hop record or a major-label rock record at the time was extremely difficult. Where now it's - major labels are a lot more cooperative.
ROSE: The music industry has even come to accept MP3 blogs � where fans post their favorite songs for other people to hear and, yes, download for free. That's a practice the industry spent years and millions of dollars trying to fight.
But Sonal Gandhi at Forrester Research says many labels are now willing to tolerate MP3 bloggers, as long as they're helping to promote new product.
Ms. SONAL GANDHI (Forrester Research): If it's an artist that few people know about and blogs might actually build hype around it. It's sort of the cost of doing business.
ROSE: For many labels, it's become standard operating procedure to put out one MP3 from each album that bloggers can share freely, says Sean Michaels at Said the Gramophone.
Mr. MICHAELS: You never hear nowadays of labels trying to shut down blogs unless they're just posting full-album .zip files or something like that. You know, the labels are pals. Of course, buzz on the blogs doesn't always translate into success.
(Soundbite of song, �The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth�)
CLAP YOUR HAND SAY YEAH: (Singing) Once the dogs have quit their barking. Son, my neighbor said to me.
ROSE: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is one example of a band that has so far failed to deliver on its early hype. Sean Michaels says now there's something of a backlash against so-called blog bands.
Mr. MICHAELS: People will even use the term blog band to sort of smear bands that pick up early hype and then don't live up to their reputation. But I think that for the formula of Internet-promotion-equals-longevity to work, the bands need to be great artists.
ROSE: The conversation may have moved online, but Sean Michaels says it's still the music itself that gets people excited � or doesn't.
For NPR News, I'm Joel Rose.
MONTAGNE: See a flashback of how music blogs looked a decade ago and hear some holiday mixes at NPRMusic.org.
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