I have written, rewrote, scrapped and wrote this post again and again now. I can’t seem to get it right. But then how do you say goodbye to something that has been a major part of your life for seven years? Do you highlight the milestones? Do you admit the low points? Do you even mention it at all? Does anyone else even care? I don’t know.
The TDLR version of this post is I’ve cancelled my WordPress subscription and the .com domain for TheRootMusic. After seven years of trying to build a brand, I don’t want to say I’m giving up because that would imply I’ve failed, but I am moving on.
Maybe I should leave it at that. But then, maybe I owe myself, the brand I shed blood, sweat and tears for and you the reader one last long read. So lets start, at the start.
There was a blog I started writing from my phone on WordPress but I don’t remember what it was called and there’s no trace of it either, but I started taking music journalism semi-seriously on 12th December 2012. I created an account on blogger and wrote a review of Joe Budden’s A Loose Quarter mixtape on leehawthornmusic’s blogspot domain.
I was a depressed eighteen year old who had ran out of college essays to rewrite for my media teacher to remark (thank you for your patience if you’re reading this), and I needed something to channel my overwhelming emotions. I’d been listening to Budden’s music for months and with the new release being a long the lines of the Mood Muzik series I loved, I wanted to share my thoughts with a few friends who also had started writing blogs at the time.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the feeling when Blessed By The Beats retweeted a link to the review. I had tagged everyone remotely linked to A Loose Quarter from the producers to featured artists and just known associates of Budden. BBTB was the first to Retweet but I couldn’t believe how well received it was. Just about every single one of them shared that review. I look back now and I kinda hate it but that one post did so much for me, its pretty unquantifiable.
As I continued to write more reviews, mostly for underground artists on a forum I frequently posted in called Rap-Royalty, I started building a following. 750+ views in the first month is pretty good for something I was really just wanting to use as an outlet to escape my own head for a bit. The following built and built, and actually in a way I outgrew TheRootMusic very early and only just realised that as I write this. In 2019, Lee Hawthorn is undoubtedly a bigger brand than TheRootMusic but looking back it probably was by mid-2013 too.
I was asked to write for various different websites unpaid and was more than happy to do so. Then I was getting paid semi-regularly by SooDetroit. I was doing all of this while keeping TheRootMusic going and earning a name for myself as one of the hardest workers in the bloggersphere at the time.
At this time I was still in college with no real responsibilities and working a weekend job and the wages mostly went on buying music. There wasn’t really any pressure to put write anything, but whenever I did the views would roll in and debates would break out on Twitter. Social media engagement was high and didn’t need much work or any kind of strategy to induce it.
Seven years later that weekend job is a weekday job, I’ve got bills to pay, way more pressure and a way smaller audience. Somewhere along the line I lost the core followers of TheRootMusic when I made the decision to focus on my local scene in the North East but that has worked out in the long run which I’ll get to soon. The pressure comes from artist’s I know personally and speak to regularly. I can’t just put out one review, because I’m then expected to write reviews for every artist that drops something and I certainly don’t have the time for that anymore. Social media engagement is low because algorithms hate external links so reach is minuscule and thats with a full blown strategy I pain stake over for weeks.
But like I said, “I don’t want to say I’m giving up because that would imply I’ve failed, but I am moving on.” TheRootMusic has been far from a failure. 18 year old me wouldn’t believe what 25 year old me has achieved. I do wish quite often I could go back to those times when there was a buzz about me in the worldwide hip-hop industry but its mad that that buzz ever existed anyway. Now I’m pretty confident in saying I’ve become ‘something’ in my local area and that is something I am immensely proud of.
I always thought working for MOBO Awards, Complex and Pigeons And Planes in 2015 would be the highlight of my career. There was a time when I thought I had peaked and it was all downhill from here. Then about 8 months ago I got myself a job working for BBC Music Introducing in the North East. Its only eight hours so I’m still at the day job, but it is an absolute dream all the same.
I’ve spent the last six years trying to push hip-hop artists in the North East of England. In my run as a radio producer and presenter at Spark, I’ve given hundreds of local artist’s their first radio play, first interview and even as a writer first reviews. I remember when I first came in writing for Northern Lights, a lot of artist’s hated what I was doing. Music journalism had never really existed previously, reviews were rare and limited to the less than a handful of acts who bothered sending their music to bloggers and DJs.
Now, rappers are all over the regions radios, magazines and blogs and beginning to push nationally too. While its by no means down to me. I like to think I play some part in the growth of the “scene” to the SceNE. TheRootMusic did too. But its time to say goodbye.
This time last year I relaunched TheRootMusic on WordPress with a .com domain with the intention of making it my full time job through advertisements. Unfortunately I couldn’t keep it up. Fortunately thats largely because the BBC job came literally a month after the relaunch. There’s still so much I want to write, including something about Callum Pitt’s EP and its launch gig, including how great Rick Fury’s Death of Autumn album is, and so much more too. But I can’t do that for TheRootMusic anymore. Instead I’ll be focusing writing as a part-time, relaxed, whenever I’m inspired to for another platform thing. If anybody will have me. I do contribute to NARC., but I’d also like something more immediate and online rather than just planning months in advance.
I feel like this post fell off a bit towards the end. But like I says its hard to wrap up seven years of my life. I’m pretty sure one day TheRootMusic will be back but for now it is being laid to rest, at least for a bit. Thank you.