Tuesday, June 10, 2008

New Media Pioneer: Vonnie “Honey” Woods of the Honey Soul Blog

New Media Pioneer: Vonnie “Honey” Woods of the Honey Soul Blog

Honey Soul Blog
“Anything great always starts with love,” says soul-music aficionado Vonnie “Honey” Woods, whose means of expressing her sincere, simple passion for the music and its artists, has grown from a small mailing list about new music finds, to an internet show called Soul 2 Soul (projectvibe.net, rawcast.com), a morning radio show called Honey Soul’s Sunrise (90.1 FM, KPFT Houston), and HoneySoul.com, a site that receives visitors from at least 15 countries, including the U.K, Canada, Netherlands, France, Sweden, Japan, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Poland, Jamaica, The Philippines, Brazil, Germany and Austria. The site has ranked as highly as #15 of out 198 million “soul music” searches on Google, and it has been referenced and/or acknowledged by Prince’s official site, Vibe.com, Eurweb.com, Capital Records, Okayplayer.com, AOL Black Voices, and Philadelphia Weekly - all in only two years.

Q: What is the story behind you actually starting Honey Soul Music Blog?

A. In 2004 I started an email list to share something that was very close to my heart, music. I'd search online for music that had elements of what I listened to growing up and was not being played often on radio. I call it soul music but it really is any meaningful music that you can feel. One day I stumbled across something I had never heard of, blogs. I loved the personal point of view and at that time I couldn't find many that talked about soul music. In October 2004, I started my blog, Honey Soul Music to share my passion for soul music. It grew into much more than I could have planned or imagined.

In 2005 I started asking artists for interviews. I recorded them and posted them on the blog. It seemed like a natural evolution and because this was about nine months after starting the blog I jokingly say this is when Honey Soul was born. Traffic increased dramatically and others started to take notice of my relaxed and conversational style. Soon after labels and publicists started contacting me to interview their artists. The icing on the cake is that I've been recognized as a tastemaker and an authority on soul music, been referenced on other sites from AOL Black Voices to Vibe.com and landed some opportunities to do local and internet radio. In 2007 HoneySoul.com won a Black Weblog award for "Best Music Blog." Plus I've had the honor of interviewing some of my music idols like Chaka Khan, Maurice White, Ron Isley and Teena Marie as well as talking to some of the most gifted, up and coming new artists. Talk about living your dream. I'm blessed.

Q: What's the biggest challenge you've faced as a blogger?

A. My biggest challenge has been finding balance. Things change so quickly on the internet and everyday there are more who do the same things you do. Remaining fresh, relevant, different, creative, and maintaining motivation can be a challenge. There is also a unique balance between sticking to your roots, the things that made you successful and growing. Yet through it all I want to remain a valuable and useful source for both the music lover and the artist. Ultimately there is a balance between doing what I need to do versus what I want to do. I've learned not to take it all so seriously. I remind myself why I started the blog, for nothing but the love of music. Anything else that stems from that is a blessing and the mistakes and missteps have been learning lessons. It's always a matter of perspective.

Q: How do you go about choosing which CD's you are going to review?

A. We receive quite a few music submissions from artists, publicists and labels. We also get recommendations from our readers, DJ's, promoters, friends, and fellow bloggers. I select albums that I personally like or that I think our audience would enjoy. They are CD's that in their entirety evoke a certain feeling or emotional response because that's what I feel soul music does best. We are also fortunate to have a talented group of contributors who discover new music on their own and write great reviews.

Q: As far as bringing more traffic to your site, what are the two best tips you can give other bloggers?

A. My best tip would be networking and that takes several forms. Network with other bloggers, your audience and those in your field because word of mouth is wonderful for building traffic. Network by joining social media sites, online communities and forums if for nothing else than leading traffic back to your blog.

I'd also suggest building traffic through sources that don't originate online. While they are great ways to build traffic through search engine optimization there is nothing like building your brand the old fashioned way, face to face. If you've got access to social and business events in your area use it. Pass out business cards and make contact with other movers and shakers. Recently I've added blog contributors. Not only is it a great way to give back by allowing them to spotlight their voice to an established audience but it can also bring new eyes to your blog and it gives your audience a fresh, new perspective. Be consistent, be patient and take chances on something new. Nothing worth having is easy to get and it certainly doesn't happen overnight.

Q: What song is continuously playing in your ipod right now?
A. Although I have favorite artists (Prince, Dwele) and favorite songs of the moment (like Jill Scott's My Love), I rarely listen to anything on repeat. Because of HoneySoul.com I'm lucky to always have a steady flow of new, exciting music. Contrary to what you hear on commercial radio these days, for me there never seems to be a shortage of good music.

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