Headquartered in Kuwait, Loft 965 is the #1 music blog from the Middle East.
I got to interview Nasser AlQatami, the founder of the site, about blogging, the relationship between music and fashion, and the perception of pop music in the Arab world.
After The Show: Loft 965 covers a wide range of artists, from Madonna to Vanessa Carlton to Karin Park. How do you choose which artists and songs to feature, given that there’s so much music out there?
Nasser AlQatami/Loft 965: I basically started the blog partially because I was frustrated with the state of pop music – a genre often unappreciated but it is somewhat the glue of our global commonplace. There are many artists that never chart but produce some great pop tunes and then there are the known artists who keep on doing what they are great at through the ups and downs of their careers, both of which need support. I had always loved music in many forms and thought it would be a fun idea to put all this research time I spend online on music to good use. The blog is the result and it took off quite nicely.
ATS: Congratulations on being chosen as a Middle East ambassador for Puma. How did that come about? What do you think about the intersection between fashion and music [I like that you're not afraid to comment on fashion, like Madonna's "ugly gloves"]?
Isn’t it great? My best friend recommended my blogs, PUMA’s representatives looked at it and they liked what they saw. They wanted people in the region who were doing something different. I guess I fit that category. I try to drop a snide comment here and there about artists who have let fame get to them. Sometimes I rile up the fan base of a certain artist to see the kind of reaction I get. Madonna’s fans are up there with the rest of them, but not as bad as Britney Spears’ and Beyonce’s. I love all the artists but I will be the first to say if something I think falls in the “not ok” category.
Yes, of course fashion and music are inseparable. Although I predominantly cover music on the blog and my interest in the fashion world has waned as of late, the visual is a very important aspect when it comes to pop music, in fact it’s only second to the music, just ask the Gaga.
ATS: How did you decide to start the website in 2008? What does the name mean, and what factors have made it so successful and widely-read?
I have always used the world wide web as a portal and before this one I did use sites like LiveJournal and others when blogging was in its infancy (it was called a weblog). When I did my Master’s I didn’t have time, but I promised myself that when the time comes I would launch a blog for public consumption. The thought kept rummaging through my head and then when I had to do it, I basically knew exactly what I wanted.
There are many factors that made it visited by the thousands on a daily basis. First, you have to like what you do. Having passion about the subject is what draws people in, if you feel an obligation to post about something then it is probably not the thing for you. You have to keep it short, visually succinct and updated. The rule of thumb when it comes to writing is to address the blog reader as if you are having a chat with them when a certain song comes up. Nobody wants to spend their night reading an essay. They want the punchline with a pretty picture.
Other factors include the fact that I have artist loyalty. I don’t stop posting on an artist should they falter or take a turn in their career (unless they show a bigoted side to themselves). Also, its important to attach a face to the blog. It’s not a text book and people want to know who does it, more about their lives and why they do it. I think I have captured those dynamics on the blog.
The name is simple. I came up with the idea of a place, like a hangout, and I usually hangout at a loft during the weekends. I didn’t want to overburden the reader with music keywords. Also, my other passion is travel (which is why my other blog is titled Flight965.com). So, I decided to take my country’s telephone code and attach it to Loft. It gives it a regional feel with no pretense.
ATS: Have you faced any criticism for posting your content given that you’re based in Kuwait? Is there a backlash against American dance-pop or is there a desire to access that material, especially among young readers of Loft 965?
To tell you truth, I have faced many forms of criticism. The whole array of possible criticisms have come my way throughout the 3 and half years of operation. It’s important to say that the backlash is from all over the world. But, because I have a journalism background, both in academia and previous professions, I know that feedback means that people are reading. I get a good balance of good and bad. Many accusations come my way but you have to learn to ignore them. Oh, and the IP Address registration is coming in handy.
ATS: What do you envision for the future of Loft 965? What about the role of music blogs in general?
It’s going places, but I always hope for more. I see its potential and I keep working on the material and the site. Many people think blogging is easy, but it definitely is not. In fact maintaining a blog is a full time job. So, imagine working full-time and then running two blogs. If the right circumstances should arise and I have time, I would like to take it to another level. You’ll have to keep clicking to see what that is.
When it comes to blogs in general, I think they are the future of journalism. Much to many people’s dismay, print journalism will most probably disappear into electronic form. People will start reading and trusting the opinions of bloggers and online journalists who have a history of credibility in their work. A degree won’t matter anymore, what matters is what you have to say, how many people enjoy it and what they do with it.