The Little Blog that Could
Music site celebrates 10-year anniversary by doing the unthinkable: going into print
By Kevin J. ElliottPublished February 1, 2013
Moving to a new city is always a daunting endeavor. When New Jersey native Robert Duffy found himself in Columbus after a move from San Francisco in 2002, the usual questions of a recent transplant began to surface: Where to eat? Where to live? What to do and what to avoid? And for Duffy, the most important quandary …
Were any of the bands in this town worth a damn? And if so, who deserves the most love?
Those who have lived here all their lives know that answer to the first question is undeniably “yes.” As for the second question, that’s perpetually up for debate. What Duffy found is that any resources pointing him in the right direction were scant, so he took it upon himself to document his experiences with an outsider’s perspective, starting the modest website Donewaiting.com. As the name suggests, Duffy wasn’t about to sit around expecting answers to come to him.
“Back then all there really was on the Internet were the big brands like Village Voice and Rolling Stone. I may have heard of Pitchfork at that point, but it wasn’t what it is today,” said Duffy of his pioneering days in cyberspace. “Of course there were fan sites for bands, which I miss, and Columbus had Cringe and Swizzle Stick, but I just wanted my own site where I could write about the music I liked. It wasn’t until I started to go out and see some shows at the Treehouse that I made Columbus the focus. Seeing Tim Easton and Miranda Sound – those first couple of bands that I saw really mapped out what my Columbus was.”
Duffy’s take on Columbus music both past and present has always been a refreshing read since the site’s humble beginning. Donewaiting represented a niche, if you will, in a world of music journalism often biased and aggressive. Duffy put everyone on the same playing field. Soon, as the hits increased and the site’s fabled message board put fans of Times New Viking and Watershed into the same fishbowl, Duffy moved quickly from outsider to insider.
“For a while there, the site felt really important in Columbus. I would go out to shows and people wanted to talk to me about Donewaiting. Everyone was into it,” reflected Duffy on the website’s early days. “I bought into Columbus music almost instantly. By our two-year anniversary, I was making vinyl for the bands that I really loved. I was putting up my own money for these releases and putting a lot of time into promoting shows and doing things outside of just doing the blog.
“I also think at the time there were just a lot of bands to be excited about,” he added.
But it wasn’t only Duffy’s unadulterated adoration and altruism toward the local scene that raised the profile for Donewaiting. Back then it was rare to find a site that would speak of Wilco and underground hip-hop in the same breath and people were beginning to notice this anomaly outside of Columbus. In 2006, Duffy was even making enough in revenue to take a stab at running Donewaiting full-time. And then there was a little annual festival in Austin known as South by Southwest, which truly made Duffy a celebrity in blogging circles. Before being the heavily sponsored, multi-media blitz that SXSW is today, most making the pilgrimage trusted in Duffy and a handful of others “in the know” to guide them through that coveted week in popular culture. By 2008, he had joined the SXSW machine, hosting his own party showcasing some of his favorite bands from around the country.
“The Austin websites weren’t covering SXSW in the way that we were,” Duffy said. “It’s another example of new people coming in and doing things differently.”
Doing things differently has never scared Duffy, which is probably why he’s set to ring in a decade of Donewaiting by pulling a Geppeto: he’s gonna turn the blog into a real-live boy.
The proliferation of other virtual soapboxes like Facebook have spiked nails into the coffins of sites like Duffy’s, leading him to undertake the unthinkable challenge of doing digital-to-print.
“I just felt like it was time to call it a day. Even though Donewaiting is national and people know about it all over, the DNA of the site is based in Columbus, and with me living in New York, it just didn’t feel genuine to continue. Maybe we can turn it into one more different thing with a print version,” concluded Duffy. “That’s a nice way to end this story.”
Donewaiting will be celebrating both 10 years of online service and its eventual end at 9 p.m. on February 15th and February 16th at Ace of Cups (2619 N High St.) featuring performances from Miranda Sound, the Cheater Slicks, EYE, and others. For more, visit www.donewaiting.com or www.aceofcupsbar.com.