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Nevermind the rock journos, here’s the Music Collective

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The writers at Music Collective’ wear their fandom as a gushing badge of pride on their sleeves, and they have no ethical qualms about accepting free beer for their services.

A March 3 post by UNCG freshman and Eden native Chris Babcock at musiccollective.blogspot.com begins with this promising lede: ‘“Thanks to the Greensboro Police Department a night of music, fun and friends was abruptly ended due to a minor violation of the noise ordinance (and a few REALLY crappy parking jobs).’”

The party, a showcase at someone’s house, is tragically cut short but luckily for the intrepid writer ‘— the site’s self-appointed ‘“local band guy’” ‘— Sounds Good Station retreats to one of the band members’ bedrooms and plays a ripping private concert.

‘“That night I felt the music flow through my veins like life,’” Babcock enthuses. The next night Sounds Good Station will play at Blur, a live music dive on West Market Street, with a band called Schroder (declared by Babcock to be one of his ‘“favs’”) .

The writeup ends, ‘“If you do anything that involves a local band from Greensboro, GO FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY AND SEE SOUNDS GOOD STATION.’”

Strong praise.

On a recent Thursday afternoon Babcock, Music Collective founder and co-editor Matt Blalock and contributing writer Stephen Mayer have gathered in a sparsely populated corner of UNCG’s Jackson Library, trading banter that includes irreverently deployed curse words and plans to build a wired music revolution that pairs technology with the effects of boredom and collective ingenuity. Such is the nature of their enterprise that this is the first time Babcock and Mayer have ever met face to face.

The Music Collective began with an audacious declaration in the first post on Jan. 12 ‘— ‘“This is the’… newest, hottest, and best sounding music blog around, and best place to learn about new music’” ‘— and soon began posting handfuls of music write-ups, photographs, and sound files every week.

‘“I didn’t know many people on campus,’” explains Blalock, a freshman from Winston-Salem.

Babcock and Mayer leapt at the chance to contribute to the site.

‘“I read you might get paid sometime,’” Babcock says.

‘“The thing I like best is getting free beer,’” he adds. ‘“Now, some of my best friends are the guys I was sitting down with a month ago for an interview.’”

For Mayer, it was a less tangible good associated with music-making that drew him to the project.

‘“I think it was ego inflation, that you said we were ‘music aficionados,”” he tells Blalock.

In the intervening months about 75 people across the state have volunteered to write, although more than a few have proven unable to surmount the challenges of the English language. By early April the site had leveled off at about 25 contributing writers. More changes were to come.

‘“Last night I fired sixteen writers,’” Blalock says. ‘“I had everyone send in one story for me to judge them by, and that’s the way we made the cut.’”

After some technical difficulties the site was scheduled for a re-launch on Tuesday, with an added facet: a podcast featuring a recent Receiving End of Sirens show at the Brewery in Raleigh.

If willing writers have been plentiful, bands trying to get notice on the website have created a deluge.

‘“We got so many CDs in the mail that UNCG told us we couldn’t get our mail there anymore,’” Blalock says. ‘“I have to go back to Winston-Salem once a week to pick them up.’”

The Music Collective has a myspace.com account. The personal networking site acts as an amplifier, with bands copying Music Collective reviews to their own MySpace accounts and multiplying the effects of the informational cannonade. Blalock says he gets requests from about 20 bands a day through MySpace asking him to check out their music.

‘“MySpace ‘— you can’t deny the power of this addicting, addicting drug,’” Babcock says.

Contrary to what might be expected from the globalizing effects of the internet, the vast majority of the Music Collective’s users live in Greensboro, Blalock says. Four-year universities in the United States account for 61.1 percent of the site’s visitors, with uncg.edu by a long shot serving as the most frequent internet provider for people who visit the site. IP addresses in Belgium, Canada, France and Hungary each account for 1 percent of the site’s visitors, and Cote d’Ivoire, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and Vietnam land half of one percent each.

The website has certainly developed a following in Greensboro.

During the library conversation an American literature doctoral student named Chip Smoke appears from behind a shelf and introduces himself to the Music Collective crew. He says he’s checked out the site. He tips them off to a band he used to play with in Chapel Hill called North Elementary. He’s walking with the aid of a cane, but he says he’d like to write for the site once he recovers.

The key element of the crew’s sense of possibility for their internet music project is their conviction against all conventional wisdom that Greensboro’s music scene is about to explode.

‘“North Carolina and the Greensboro area is the next Long Island or New Jersey,’” Mayer says. ‘“Our basements and our small clubs are what everybody is looking at.’”

The other two mention little bars tucked in obscure corners of Greensboro and Winston-Salem, a daylong music festival in a UNCG student dorm, outdoor campus shows and private residences like the White House and the Wilson Street House.

As a marker for Greensboro’s relative achievement the three of them note that three local bands have been signed to labels in the past year, including House of Fools to California’s Drive-Thru Records and Sullivan to Chicago’s Victory Records.

‘“Blink 182 and Less Than Jake have blown up out of Victory,’” Babcock says.

So has Taking Back Sunday, a Long Island band that snagged their bass player from High Point in 1999.

‘“The hometown hero is Adam Lazzara,’” Babcock says. ‘“He went to Southwest High School. They’ve been the biggest underground band for some time now. Taking Back Sunday. April twentieth. At Greene Street. That’s like the culmination.’”

To comment on this story, e-mail Jordan Green at jordan@yesweekly.com

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