Saturday, February 9, 2013

My View: Are you losing interest in perfume?

I'm deviating from my normal format with this post, but I feel I need to make an exception at this time.

Have any of you read yesterday's post on From Pyrgos entitled "The Slow Death of Basenotes and the End of the Perfume Renaissance"?   If you haven't, you should.  Basically his thesis is that the fragrance boom that started around 2006 is coming to an end, and as a result, perfume bloggers are slowing down or closing up shop, due to a lack of interest.

I tend to agree.   I see a few culprits for this phenomenon, the first being the inane volume of niche fragrances that have flooded the market during the past five years, as well as new niche companies popping up every five minutes.   It seems like any Johnny-come-lately that has any interest in perfume can throw together a couple of mediocre fragrances, give them Arabic-sounding names, charge $250 US for a half ounce bottle, and market them as exclusive niche products that can only the most discerning perfume lover can appreciate.   It's ridiculous, and the market is saturated.   Look at Montale a couple of years ago - how many freaking oud fragrances were they releasing?   Two a day?   Does the world really need more oud perfumes?   How about patchouli frags? Clearly the answer is NO.   The whole point of niche fragrances was to provide an alternative to the sameness of designer perfumes, but now niche releases seem to far outnumber designer ones.   I wouldn't be surprised if people turn to designer and drugstore scents as an alternative to these dumb niche things.   Is there a secret competition among niche brands on who can produce the most number of unwearable fragrances in the shortest amount of time?

The From Pyrgos article also talks a lot about the downfall of Basenotes.net.   If there really is a decline in interest in perfume (and I believe there is), I cannot doubt that the fall of this once very influential website as being a major cause.   For years, it seemed like Basenotes was the hip place for fragrance enthusiasts (especially male ones) to go for reviews and engage in discussions about perfume.   Basenotes turned me, and I assume thousands of other fans, on to hundreds of new perfumes, and purchases inevitably followed.   I can only imagine how many online perfume retailers directly profited from Basenotes' existence.

Basenotes deserves to go down the shitter, due to the way its creator, Grant Osborne, has run the place.   As the From Pyrgos article notes, this guy has managed to lure in fragrance snobs from around the world, and then pit them against everyone else using the site, particularly by charging users (who are called "BN PLUS Members") for the "privilege" of posting reviews immediately and being able to engage in discussions in the "Secret Dependents Discussion Board", which is a forum only open to paying customers.   I used to be a paying "Basenotes PLUS" member, I'm now embarrassed to admit, simply so I wouldn't have to wait six months for my reviews to post.   I had access to this "secret" forum, and it was nothing more than a bunch of disgruntled perfume snobs bitching about all the other members who weren't part of their clique.  It was disgusting, and I refused to participate.   And Grant Osborne, being the catalyst of all this snobbery, would occasionally pipe in with a post trying to make it look like he wasn't participating in all the noob-bashing.   And he was charging members money for the privilege of acting like an asshole.

However, if Basenotes ultimately bites it, it's due to the fact that the site doesn't work.   It seems that at least half the time you can't even access most of the site, and it locks up when you try.   The site is bogged down with annyong pop-up ads that interfere with your access, and often bring it to a grinding halt, at least on my computer.   This is inexcusable, and is a key reason why I stopped my "Plus" membership.   Let's face it - when your website is unusable for as long as Basenotes is, people are going to get sick of it and look somewhere else.   Once you lose those people, it's hard to get them back, and this is why I expect Basenotes to bite the dust.   Plus, I'm sure people are as sick of Grant Osborne's bullshit excuses for his site always being down as I am.

The reason I'm going on and on about Basenotes here is because I know a lot of you know me from when I was moderating the Powerhouse Fragrance Users Group on Basenotes.   Your enthusiasm for the Powerhouse group has helped me build my blog here, and I thank you for that.   And this brings me, finally, to my main point of this article - are you losing interest in perfume?

I want you all to know that I haven't. I say this because some of you are probably wondering why I haven't posted anything in the Powerhouse Fragrance Users Group in almost a year.   It has nothing to do with my losing interest in powerhouse fragrances or, for that matter, any fragrances.   It's simply because I'm only one person, and the time I've been spending writing this blog has prevented me from being involved in the Powerhouse group.   I thought I could handle both, but I can't.

Most importantly, my own tastes in fragrances - classic and old school frags - have prevented me from losing interest.   And I suspect most of you are of the same mind set, or at least I hope you are!   Oud fragrances, niche fragrances, etc., have come, and they will pass.   But old classics like Azzaro Pour Homme, Eau Sauvage and Quorum are eternal.   They were created a long time ago, and they're still around for a reason.   I still wear them, and always will.   And that's why my interest in perfume has never faltered.  I plan to keep the spirit alive with Pour Monsieur, and I hope From Pyrgos will continue on as well.   I'm fortunate in that I feel like I'm unaffected by the waning in perfume interest.   I hope you feel the same way.

I encourage you all to post your comments below, because I really am interested in gauging the enthusiasm level amongst you all at this moment in time.

18 comments:

  1. It is true familiarity breads contempt and no one can really keep up with the thousands of new releases per year nowadays. Only financiers dream of expansion that keeps growing at ever growing rates. It is reasonable that after a bubble-growth a period of stabilisation will follow and this is what we are experiencing. The western financial crisis is also a factor that limits consumer's interest in perfumes. Numbers are not important after all because we are all in this perfume blogging habit not because it gives us more power on a larger audience but because we cannot help it we have to talk about perfume! As long as we have that need our little, fragile, fragrant, foolish, sentimental universe will exist

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    1. Great blog post, and I agree with Christos in that we can't help it - we love perfume and we will always talk about it. I for one intend to keep writing, and I'm glad you guys do too.

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  2. Hey Shamus!

    Your Powerhouse group on basenotes and most of your reviews there and here got me really into collecting and honoring oldschool, vintage oder simply unknown fragrances, which I knew from my childhood and youth in the 80s, and now at the time where my collection is gettin to the 200 mark, I still search and smell obscure oder rare fragrances and of course read yours and Pyrgos blog.
    Keep up the fantastic work, I'll always follow your reviews and views on fragrances and the culture behind it.

    Greetings from Hordak

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  3. I wouldn't say I'm losing interest, however, new releases have to stop. I would be happy if only a dozen or so new bottles were released each year. These days, I'm sure it's well into the thousands. Even Old Spice isn't innocent.

    I have also stopped posting on basenotes. I might read it every now and then, but I pretty much know what all the highly praised bottles are now. I agree that in this day and age, not having a working site is ridiculous. I don't know why, but when I read a lot of praise for Kerosene's fragrances, I started to think there were a lot of people with agendas on there. I'll give him credit for doing what he loves, but to start out with that cheap looking packaging and charging niche prices, it just makes me mad. I can't comment on the scent itself, but I don't plan on sampling them.

    I still like to try new stuff, but I'll be very cautious in the future. It's easy to get suckered into the hype. I have enough fragrance for the rest of my life, so I'll stick to reading blog updates via email and the usual sites occasionally.

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  4. Basenotes probably came around at the right time. Just like the Turin & Sanchez book. I still remember the first half year very fondly. Reading the reviews religiously (esp the great Naed Nitram), tracing a sort of “secret” history of perfume which eventually led to creation of the Power House Group. Eventually everything gets mapped, discussed and then things feel saturated. For awhile the site has been invaluable to me.

    On a personal level, I never wanted to become a fragrance collector. I want to use and enjoy them on a regular basis (also has been discussed on BN: the loss of the signature frag, good or bad?) I already own too many records and books. ;)

    But I love reading the blog and your characteristically fearless enjoyment of the cheap, non-vintage and non-niche, an attitude which has been very liberating.

    Sporenburg

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  5. I will comment on my personal journey, I've reached a point where I understand my tastes/bias....no aoud for example, so my testing has diminished, my income has diminished my ability to pander to my curiosity, and the paucity of critical reviews has diminished my faith in bloggers. I have also been disappointed with the variation between scents sampled and scents purchased..... Micallef's Royal Amber and Imperial Santal were fantastic as 5 ml samples from TPC, but as purchases from Micallef in France were completely different.

    My complaints are all to do with the industry around the scents, the scents themselves will always be either good or bad, overpriced or too hard to get, or underappreciated, they always have been, for whatever reason. The problem of wading through the dross to get to what I want remains the issue, the great hope is that the makers get past the point of constant releases and start creating scents that are magnificently wearable, maybe we as consumers will refuse to pay money for scents that are objects of fashion, and start to be more selective about what we say and what we buy.

    Hopefully someone will do a modern Aramis line, top quality well sorted classical scents as their standard line, leather, fougere, oriental, gourmand.....etc, at sensible prices, that can be easily purchased on line in bottle sizes starting at 10ml..... they can then move forward with "some" more experimental scents......and make them bloody well........just a dream, because purchasers continue to buy, flankers, things that smell foul and cost $500 a bottle, and stuff from the lastest celeb.

    Yet it may not be a dream, if bloggers continue down your path; as difficult and occasionally dispiriting as it can be, reasoned criticsm and an understanding of your own bias can teach far better than endless rah rah. Whether it be new or old niche or designer, cheap or expensive, we need to look past the marketing, the history and the reputation, and just smell the scent.

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  6. Shamu,

    My interest in Basenotes has indeed waned, for various reasons. Primarily, I've grown more confident in my own tastes and judgment so I'm less dependent on recommendations from strangers. Second, as you comment, the regular crashing of the site is risible and frustrating. It doesn't happen on any of the other few websites that I regular peruse. Third, like many others here, there are only so many hours in the day to devote to external activities. I still wear my fragrances every day and I still buy them, blind or otherwise. So, my interest in frags for my personal wearing has remained intact, but my interest in sharing with the outer world and in arguing points, has subsided a bit. I still check Aromi, From Pyrgos and Pour Monsieur every few days, so hopefully you'll be able to keep up the good work. The latter two blogs, especially, are not niche-laden and therefore of more interest. Finally, on Basenotes, there's an element of posturing that I've grown weary of; it seems to me that there's a "joiner" mentality and that many posters don't even truly enjoy fragrances in and of themselves.

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  7. Hey Shamu -

    I read your blog post as well as From Pyrgos...I feel a need to comment. While the vast majority of visitors at Fragrantica are usually not true lovers of fragrance, Basenotes.net has been the "aficionado's" forum. After speaking with people on Fragrantica and recommending that they come over to Basenotes, they said they are quiet lurkers but feel (sometimes) that it is truly a place where those with deep passion and knowledge go. Fragrantica has made itself fully-accessible to all. I admit that I contribute to both - often using Fragrantica as a "review" site and also been blessed to have made some wonderful connections with great people there in personal communication. However, Basenotes is a place where one comes who is truly passionate and the conversations in forums can cover intricate details that Fragrantica will never touch.

    They are very different. Belonging to one would, from my perspective, push me to contribute to the other. Some people concur with this - others say that time is limited and they pick one. Having a paid membership with Basenotes was to say, "Thank you" and show support for the community. The privileges it provided were beneficial, but I would've given money regardless to assist if it was asked. Why? Because Basenotes.net, in my opinion, has grown to become a place contributors truly care about both scent and even one another. You feel a sense of community - not just a redundant posting of notes and ratings. To me, it covers historical perspective and formulations much better (which is so key today). Vintage fragrance is respected - not the 'fringe'. The question is not whether "we lost interest with fragrance, it is whether the industry has lost interest in us, the consumers who have discerning taste." To me that, is telling by their actions (and IFRA's involvement in banning so many important ingredients)...we cannot become indifferent. Our passion is personal and no matter what happens at the corporate level (a prime example is L'Oreal's entire reformulation of Yves Saint Laurent's beautiful and timeless bottles...repackaged and everything washed away like the ebb tide. We know, however, it will not come flowing back. Gone forever.

    We need to look at this with simple perspective - this is a purely subjective passion. The opinions of others is great to share and read, but what is most important is that we get to savor the beauty of what will be gone in the years ahead. For those of us with children - we can only hope they find the deep love over the years for scent...as I believe mine have and will continue.

    My appreciaton for both Pour Monsieur and From Pyrgos - always a pleasure to read the insight of both of you. It is part of what keeps this passion alive. The next generation will probably have another review site like Fragrantica...but what Basenotes brought together was a true sense of community, sharing and our willingness to both contribute and listen. I will remain loyal and hope that people explore scent and the olfactory realm for what they enjoy through Basenotes. It will be seen, many years from now, as one of the 'originals'. The names of those who contributed and their reviews of scents long gone (or incredibly rare and expensive) will be a time capsule. Imagine in 2025 when someone get a bottle of early Vintage Paco Rabanne Pour Homme (now 50 years old!) and reads all the cobwebbed threads that are still posted somewhere. And, because someone took the care and attention to keep it safe...it smells rather brilliant!

    To me, there is something beyond 'us' that this matters for. Take what you need, share what you want and always remember that we are all simply human beings who have taken notice in a olfactory art and are Blessed to exalt our intelligent and glorious impressions about it. This is always going to be part of who we were...but it will not last forever. Nothing does.

    Cheers,

    ericrico

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  8. Well, until 2 years ago I owned a bottle of Brut,Old Spice and Yardley's Sandalwood, all of them used only occasionally since I have never been much of an activist when it came to AS or EDT.

    Until I came across Bay Rum, which intrigued me and on my search for a do-it-yourself formula I happened to stumble upon this blog. I have been bitten by the bug ever since,meanwhile own such gems as Quorum,Moustache,Lapidus pour homme,Cigar,Azzaro and at least a dozen miniatures, all of which have received high marks by shamu and (except for two or three) match my taste to the dot.

    At the age of 53 my folks think my new found hobby, well, let's say "bizarre", but I must admit that wearing perfume on a daily basis now has enriched my life quite a bit. Needless to say that my greatest worry is how to push the stop-botton when it comes to new purchases, especially when I read in some of your comments what it may eventually lead up to!

    So to answer your question, shamu, I think that blogs like yours are not only helpful for long-time perfume enthusiats, but help to haul in a whole new crowd who have never cared much about the subject before. Interest in perfume, like in wine, will never vane, the question is: Who cares enough to help distinguish the gems from the mundane ?

    May your tribe increase...

    A German believer.

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  9. Hi shamu - I read the From Pyrgos piece and have to agree, albeit with some sadness, that the Basenotes site is in trouble. The technical issues are not seemingly being dealt with in a positive manner and I too have been accessing it less due to the frustration of crashes and slow speeds. The Powerhouse Forum (and yourself shamu) have been fundamental in my learning and enjoyment of this hobby and I feel like we were all once part of an extended family, SillageMonger, Perf Addict, Aromi, Seasoldiermarine, Easyfish and more lately Swanky, Slayerized, Perfume Collector & Boge. I miss the banter and cameraderie but appreciate that things move on and peoples situations change. I'm not sure that the perfume industry is going through a decline though. It's a part of the fashion industry as a whole and will go through good & bad phases like any other. The rise of niche has swamped the market with a whole jumble of products, some good, some bad. The internet has, unfortunately, made it very easy for anyone to put themselves out there with their 'art' be it music, photography, visual art or, indeed, perfumery but for every one person with genuine talent there are now thousands of 'wannabees' one has to wade through to find the good stuff. I'll keep reading this blog while you keep writing as I find it carries with it the spirit of the Powerhouse Forum which fired my interest in the first instance. It'll be a shame if all the knowledge and expertise is lost as everyone disperses from the Basenotes site.

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  10. There are so many comments, and all coming in at around the same time, I can't really respond to each of you. However, I'm glad to hear that your enthusiasm is still there, just like mine is.

    May the classics live forever.

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  11. I can't say I disagree with what you have to say about not only the industry, but especially basenotes. You and I both started out there and both of us headed up the Powerhouse Group. The members in that group were ( and are ) great fans of scent in general.

    I left basenotes before the site itself become really bogged down and slow. I vacated for 2 reasons. The haughty attitudes of certain members there and a moderator by the name of stuigi. Like you, I believe basenotes is going down without air tanks and when it does, the blame can be left on Grant's doorstep. I truly don't know what his deal is, and I really don't give a shit. His little henchman stuigi actually runs the site and for someone who "works" a 9-5 job, he sure is on line 24 hours a day throwing his weight around. I'd love to have his job where I can sit on my ass, get paid and break people's balls on a site completely unrelated to what I'm getting paid to do.

    Change is inevitable. That's just life. What you may not see ( yet ) is there are alternatives out there proving that people can belong to a community of adults in our hobby without all the arrogance and intrusive moderation. Fragrantica is not the answer to the replacement of basenotes. Parfumo is a viable alternative and I wouldn't doubt that a few more may pop up over the next few years.

    People like us will continue to quietly plug away blogging and reviewing fragrances. Why? Because we want recognition and props? We do it because we enjoy it and have a genuine interest in something that costs us money as opposed to gaining from it. Grant has made his money and will remembered for his site. Like the industry itself, it's time to move on to the next level. Whatever that may, you and I will be there giving our opinions whether people want to hear them or not.

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    1. I can't say I've had any run-ins with stuigi, but when I first started posting in the forums back in 2008, a had a LOT of problems with another moderator (who I won't name) who made a point of busting my balls right there in the forum at every opportunity, for the entire BN community to see. I shot right back at him, and pointed out for all to see his hypocrisy, and I came within a hair of getting permanently banned from BN. Shortly after my last confrontation with him, I became a paying "Plus" member, and guess what? All of a sudden I was immune! I swear I could have posted almost anything on that site and gotten away with it. The "Plus" members most definitely get treated much better than non-paying users. And that really sucks.

      Fragrantica allows you to write reviews, and they post immediately, subject to being removed by moderators, and they charge nothing. Grant Osborne, by contrast, charges money for being able to have your reviews post immediately, even though the freakin' site is frozen up half the time. What the hell are you paying for? The guy is getting money from a million advertisements that freeze up the website, plus he's fleecing his members. Shame on him.

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  12. I have heard he's been trying to unload basenotes for a little while now, but I have no way to confirm that. The site, as a whole, is cumbersome and intermittent. Like you, I stopped paying as did quite a few veterans of the site.

    Most of the members I used to enjoy reading and having interaction with have long since disappeared or have reduced themselves to lurking. I see no upside in having alot of activity in the forums if the content is mostly redundant and inane. In 2010, the site membership became inflated and no provisions were made to accommodate the influx. It seems the site has been left to run on it's reputation and not much else.

    Change or die. I personally think basenotes will undergo a lingering death if something very drastic isn't implemented soon.

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  13. I was a former BN Plus Member and I stopped simply b/c the site was down so darned much. I got tired of getting ignored or blasted by the snobs once I stopped paying for something I was not getting, and basically hung around the Powerhouse Fragrance Users and founded the Discount and Drug Store Fragrance group. Nowadays I hang around over at Parfumo...I enjoy the laid back atmosphere there, intelligent reviews, and the captivating conversation without the fluff.

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  14. Shamu, I've always seen you as a classy perfume enthusiast who's beyond all things rude and snobbish. Please do stay the way you've always been and do not criticise those who do not deserve any attention at all. Regards.

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  15. Great Information to buy perfumes online .. I am waiting for your next post

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  16. The link to Pyrgos' blog post is dead - he appears to have wiped it completely and it's not available in the google archives, at least that I can find. :/

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