Behind the music: Ally from Any Decent Music

In the first in a new series we talk to the people behind the scenes in music. Over the course of the year we'll be talking to everyone from the sound guy, to the tour manager, the PR rep and the label boss. We start off by having a chat with Ally Palmer from Any Decent Music, or ADM. They're a reviews aggregate site that focuses specifically on album reviews. They've just released their ADM poll of polls and if you keep an eye on the site you'll see their report of 2016.

Hey Ally, can you introduce yourself for people not familiar with you?
Hi. I’m Ally Palmer and I run ADM. I’m also an editorial designer with many years experience in the newspaper and magazine world. My first design job was on a Scottish-based music monthly called Cut. We were one of the first publications in the UK to be produced on an Apple Mac. I also played guitar in a post punk band called TV21. We split up after supporting the Rolling Stones in Edinburgh.

Tell us a bit more about Any Decent Music and how that got started.
We started ADM as a way to show clients that we could also design websites. But also because we wanted a site that helped us sift through reviews of new album releases. Too often I’d buy an album based on one review and then often felt let down. I believe in the wisdom of crowds. It’s certainly more reliable than a single reviewer.

What are the realities of running the site? Time wise and financially.
It’s tough. We do have some advertising and that helps a bit but hosting costs alone make it tough and with ad blocking even that income is decreasing. Last year we launched our iOS app as a way for people to subscribe and also support what we’re doing. And we’re registered with Patreon so this is allows people to donate as little as $1 a month. It does actually help with costs.

In terms of production, it can take a couple of hours a day just to do the basics though I have some help from a couple of people.

What kind of support do you get from others online?
Not as such. I have spoken before about involving volunteers to help compile information but that in itself is complicated. But I see that as being the possible future of the site, where it’s run by dedicated music fans.

What’s been the most exciting moment for the site so far?
Launching it was exciting but we also enjoy doing our end-of- year Poll Of Polls where we compile all the scores from our sources and our own ADM Report where we look back at the most critically-acclaimed albums of the year.

And the hardest?
We used to have a third-party app on Spotify which featured the chart. Unfortunately they pulled support for it a couple of years ago, even though we like many others had spent a lot of time and money building the app. So this was a blow.

What do you see the future of the site as?
We need to develop the content. The chart is the key and will always be the focus. The main reason for visiting ADM is to discover new music and be guided to some degree so that’s at our core. But we’d love to build on what we’re doing and become a go-to site for music lovers who want to discover new music as well as read opinions.

How can people get involved with the site, or help you continuing to be successful?
At this point I’m looking for partners. They can be developers who know the site and get what we’re doing, or they can be investors who want to help take us to the next level. I know there is a community of music fans out there who want to help us but we need to update the site and the production to allow that to happen.

How do you see music in 2016?
I still get excited everyday checking the site and reading about new albums and new artists, but times are tough for the music industry and for artists in particular. Making a living from being a musician was never easy but in this day and age its almost impossible. But having said that, the chance for musicians to be exposed to a larger audience is far greater.

In this world of streaming whatever music you like, how relevant are reviews?
Our ease of access to new music is greater than ever. Twenty years ago we read a music magazine, saw a live show, spoke to friends and somehow discovered new music. But it was hit and miss. And now there is so much information out there that it can be confusing. So as I mentioned above the Wisdom Of Crowds comes into play;If you aggregate many different opinions from a diverse group of people, you are much more likely to arrive at the best opinion than if you listen to one specialist*". (That quote isn't from the book of the same name, but from Soccernomics by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski. A brilliant book about my other great love, football.)

Having a number of opinions, from carefully selected sources, is probably going to result in more balanced view than simply listening to one opinion.

What sort of music gets played on your MP3 player or office stereo?
It’s very much influenced by what’s happening on ADM and I know I’ve discovered artists through doing this that I would never have been exposed to. So it can range from Max Richter to Fucked Up and from King Creosote to A Tribe Called Quest.

Forgetting the review scores, what’s been your favourite album of 2016?
Probably Flotus by Lambchop, though I also really enjoyed Frank Ocean and Big Thief.

If you could only listen to one song this week, what would it be?
'Marquee Moon' by Television

What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
What football team do you support.
(Answer Ayr United)

Finally, how do you take your coffee? (Or alcohol?)
White no sugar.

If you want to support AnyDecentMusic and help to keep the site going then you can pledge a couple of pounds (or more!) at Patreon. We're big fans of the site and it's an invaluable resource for finding what the majority thinks of an album. So go pledge. Now.

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