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Summary of site status for 2009
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• Posted by: Christian Clemmensen   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Sunday, January 3, 2010, at 11:57 a.m.
• IP Address: caelen.filmtracks.com

Re-Write Project and General Review Update:
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The process of revising and expanding all of Filmtracks' 941 reviews written before April, 2004 was completed in April, 2009, ending a frustrating four-year process that stunted the forward movement of the site. All reviews at Filmtracks now conform to the same structural format, including a base length of 650 words per score (the overall length average is close to 1,100 words). At some point in the future, it is my intent to revise and expand the remaining 62 reviews written from April to December, 2004 as well.

After the conclusion of the re-write process and subsequent layout and major software changes to the site in May and June, two series of brand new reviews debuted. In July and August, an expansion of the review base for Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, and James Horner consisted of 52 new reviews. Starting in September, a second series of new reviews was meant to be completed by the end of the year, chosen based on the popularity of scores as listed in the all-time cumulative stats of Filmtracks' internal search engine. These "modern classics" (though some are nowhere near classics in terms of quality) ultimately consisted of about 50 reviews, though I was only able to complete about 40 of them by the new year. Filling such holes in the site's coverage has proven to take longer than expected because many of these super-popular scores require reviews of significant length that cover several album releases. The remaining ten scores in this series will be covered in January, and all of them should debut in the On Cue section of Filmtracks by the end of February.

After the "modern classics" series is finished, there are several directions I'd like to take the reviews in 2010 (money permitting... more on that below). A survey of 2009's best scores (and remaining major holes in 2009 coverage) will immediately follow. Then, along with more significant coverage of current releases, surveys have been planned for the scores of Hans Zimmer (10 or more), Christopher Young (at least 8), Patrick Doyle (likely about 5), and Danny Elfman (filling in the few holes in his discography at the site). Another round of revisions to reviews for which a more recent album has become available will also include about a dozen scores. Once all of that is done, there is no set schedule. There are another 50 or so scores further down the "modern classics" list that probably deserve coverage, for they better represent works popular within the film score community rather than mainstream hits.

My goals for 2009 were to write 50 reviews of all-new albums and complete the remaining re-writes (which were calculated to be about 220 in sum). Technically, I didn't meet the first half of that goal, because I only reviewed 44 all-new 2009 releases (37 of which were for scores debuting this year). But the composer and modern classics surveys did add 96 all-new reviews of older scores to Filmtracks (9 of which written but not yet revealed), yielding a total of 140 new reviews at the site in 2009. That's the most new coverage since 177 new reviews were added in 2003. In the re-write category, 291 reviews were revised, meaning that a record 431 reviews were "touched" in 2009. It's unlikely that such a number will ever be achieved again.

It's difficult to place a number on my reviewing goals for 2010, because the most daunting challenges facing the site are related to money and servers. As a rough estimate, I hope to write 60 reviews of all-new 2010 scores, 80 reviews of older scores, and 15 revisions of older reviews to account for re-issues and expanded products. That's about 13 reviews per month, which is a conservative goal given that I managed to write 80 new reviews from July to September this past year. The number of reviews of new 2010 scores will be the most important goal to hit, and anyone who believes that Filmtracks is stuck in the past will likely agree.

By the numbers:

2010 Goals:
------------------
New Reviews: 140
Re-Writes: 15

2009 Stats:
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New Reviews: 140
Re-Writes: 291

2008 Stats:
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New Reviews: 38
Re-Writes: 323

2007 Stats:
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New Reviews: 43
Re-Writes: 190

(these numbers from 2007-2008 may differ slightly from previously published stats)


2009 Site Summary:
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After a few relatively lackluster years for film scores, 2009 offered enough strong and popular music (and films) to help increase traffic to Filmtracks. The review for Avatar alone contributed to a monumental December in terms of first-time visitors. That, along with the end of the controversial re-write process and addition of reviews in the "modern classics" series, ended the three-year trend of declining traffic and helped the site shoot up a solid 5% in unique visitors (returning Filmtracks to 2005 traffic levels).

The increased traffic unfortunately did not bring any higher grosses to the site in 2009. In fact, Filmtracks lost money in a month (albeit a small, $65 loss in September) for the first time since it commercialized in 1997. With sponsorships and other advertising sources heavily restricted during the current global recession, the site had to rely upon $550 in generous donations from Filmtracks visitors to help cover basic costs for two months. Even with this assistance, the site's gross revenue fell a disastrous 35% to levels not seen since 1998. Overall, Filmtracks' revenue is down 52% from 2006. Every source of income is down despite increased traffic levels.

Nothing suggests that previous levels of revenue will return to Filmtracks anytime soon, making 2010 a difficult year. Advertisement dollars are still slim, the site has been forced to purchase more of the music it reviews because of tightening promo supplies, and, let's face it, tough economic times and a trend towards digital music storage has led to more illegal downloading and thus significantly declining commissioned sales. The donations, while greatly appreciated, did not come in to the site at a rate that could carry it for very long. Of the roughly 1,500 to 2,000 film score collectors who regularly frequent Filmtracks, only 19 individuals donated to the site. Two of them (both Germans) graciously donated multiple times, though.

These circumstances lead Filmtracks to a few potentially difficult dilemmas in 2010. The site's 2005 server is woefully inadequate for the combination of new software running its layouts and the current increases in traffic. Certainly, everyone has noticed a frustrating decrease in loading speed. My contract for the old server expires in May and the upgrade costs through the remainder of the year will require a savings of about $1,000 (some up front, the rest for monthly increases). As of the start of the year, Filmtracks only has about $250 in the bank (thanks to a decent holiday season). If the site can't earn enough for the server upgrade, or if revenues collapse again in 2010 as they did in the summer of 2009, then Filmtracks may need to close for an undetermined amount of time. More information about what has led the site to this point is available on the donation page.

If money were no issue, the server upgrade would be the most important change outside of the addition of new reviews to the site in 2010. As with all server upgrades, though, the only change visitors would notice is an improvement in loading speeds. The only other major project slated for this next year is the batch processing of all the Real Audio clips on the reviews into MP3 format. Updated composer tributes and awards databases are also in line to be done, but there is no timetable on them.

None of these upgrades or new reviews will be as much of a priority in 2010 as finding better revenue streams for the site, if possible. A steady increase in traffic does no good unless there's a way to pay for the resulting costs.

Best wishes to all in 2010,

Christian






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rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. Scoreboard created 7/24/98 and last updated 4/25/15.