Feature: Modculture turns 10

by Modculture 12 September, 2011

Modculture

Modculture

The Modculture website passes the 10-year mark, where do we go from here?

Although it existed in experimental form beforehand, the date of February 10th 2000 was effectively the start of Modculture as we all know it today. Which makes Modculture officially 10 years old. Don’t worry, cards and gifts are not expected.

The site was initially launched to work alongside the Northern Mods Mailing List, providing listings to back up the chat on the email-based mailing list (this was long before forums and social networking you understand). Originally called Northern Mods (as it was designed for the mod scene in the north of England), the site soon changed its name to Modculture, allowing it to cover a wider area, both in subject matter and in terms of geography.

Back then, information on ‘mod’ was harder to come by – a US-based mailing list known as Modslist was pretty much the only online discussion group, a place where an argument was never more than a few words away and the volume of emails made it almost impossible to find anything interesting. Of course, traditional printed media was still going strong – Rob Bailey’s New Untouchables mailouts, a fairly large number of fanzines (at least, compared to today), the ever-present Scootering magazine and the power of a flyer being handed out at a club to name just a few outlets. All positive things, but the ‘scene’ was certainly harder to get into without the opportunity to ‘virtually meet’ people first.

The Northern Mods list did an excellent job at breaking down barriers, especially in the north of England, allowing people to get to know each other before they ventured into a club or event. The site itself used that same community to great success too, pulling together the knowledge of the people on the mod scene – listening guides, buyer’s guides, DJ playlists, the best places to shop, the best local clubs, scooter dealers etc – the kind of information that wasn’t readily available before, unless you knew someone on the inside of course. It made accessing the mod scene as easy as turning on a computer and almost certainly boosted the scene when the Britpop bubble had well and truly burst. Modculture wasn’t alone in doing that in the early 2000s, there was also the previously-mentioned NUTS, the more international Uppers site and many other regional and specialised lists that sprung up. But it was certainly a major player, without question.

The Modculture forums started a couple of years in, taking over from the mailing list which was starting to show its internet age, as well as its inflexibility. Pulling in a wider crowd (the site was already getting a lot of attention, even being shortlisted for a national web award in 2001), the forum became hugely popular in no time at all. Even today it is consistently one of the busiest of its type and still worth reading daily if you can sort the good from the bad. The site itself also grew to cover more areas without straying too far from its main aims and core subject matter. It still grows today – in fact, traffic to the site has never been higher, especially when you take into account the large daily mailout list, Facebook and Twitter.

Modculture

Modculture

The site has also left something of a legacy over the years too, playing a role (often uncredited) in books, magazine articles, TV and radio shows, exhibitions, events, club nights and a number of commercial interests – I suspect a lot of retailers and promoters have profitted well from being featured on the site. All for free of course, Modculture has never asked anyone for a penny for listings, news stories, help or advice. It even briefly had a club night, Outta Sight, which managed to pull in 700+ people on its final Friday night in the centre of Manchester, showing mod can still be as relevant in the modern era as it was in the 60s or indeed 80s. So it’s all good news as we enter 2010? Well, that depends on how you look at it.

The site might still be popular, but along the way, the sense of community that made it has slowly drifted away. While the forums and the social networks have been great at spreading information, the impersonal and anonymous nature of them has also diminished the closeness that the mailing list (and the early days of the forum) offered. No one knows anyone’s real name, everyone has an opinion and too many people like to use the anonymity to provoke argument – knowing full well they’ll never have to account for their views face to face. It’s not a good mix.

In addition, the content on the site has become a one-way process. Whereas much of the content once came from the site’s readers, much of it is now generated by myself and a much-appreciated small band of contributors (The Scenester, Barry Murphy, Doug Hadgraft to name just three) rather than the wider readership. Submissions, whether they be music, book or film reviews, shops, clubs, scooter dealers or just recommendations of cool things have dwindled to near zero. Obviously we still get demands to plug clubs and events, but those things are rarely accompanied by an offer of something for the site in return. Some photos? A review? Not a chance.

Knowing that people were giving up their time to provide content for the site and the mod scene in general used to spur me on to give up my own to update databases and listings or to sort out the errors on the forum, a painfully dull pastime in the wee small hours. But as the submissions diminished, so has my enthusiasm for updating the nuts and bolts of the site (clubs and events for example). The lack of any community is also the reason why there hasn’t been a Modculture 10th anniversary event, which is a shame, because it could have been something special.

Which leaves the site at something of a crossroads. On the plus side, although I don’t frequent the clubs in the way I once did, my passions for the building blocks of mod is as strong as ever. After all, how can you grow out of cool music, stylish clothing and good taste? If you do, you never had taste in the first place. But with the Modculture inbox being more ‘take’ than ‘give’ in 2010, something just might have to give.

I still live in hope that the community that the site once created will re-ignite itself. If it does, there’s no reason why the site can’t continue to thrive. All it needs is everyone reading this to consider covering something from their local area, writing a review, adding something positive to the forums, forwarding a link to something interesting and stylish or simply commenting on a news piece. I’ve given up large amounts of my spare time for 10 years to keep this site moving forward, just a few minutes of your time will provide the energy and impetus to keep the site advancing. Modculture was set up in 2000 to help and benefit the mod community in general and hopefully it is still doing that in 2010. Will it still be doing it in a couple of years time? That really is down to you.