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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



Social Media thoughts Pt 3 – the ongoing conversation…

May 22nd, 2008 | 6 Comments | Categories: Geek · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians |

So, from my own ill-formed thoughts on how to use Social Media as a way of connecting with an audience, I started reading more about the way other people were doing the same thing, and watching what other musicians did. There’s been a lot of cross-pollenation, as musicians who’ve taken some of my ideas have gone further with them in a much shorter space of time than I ever have – Jeff Schmidt is a good example of this.

Jeff’s got a pretty huge profile given the very short space of time in which he’s been doing this solo bass stuff. He went from exploring solo bass ideas at a masterclass I was giving to winning international competitions and building an online fanbase in just a few months. A lot of his spread was via the social media of Myspace, his blog, bass forums and videos. His playing is at times really immediately impressive which got a lot of people embedding clips of his music in a ‘wow, check this dude out!’ kind of way, and word spread fast. A lot faster than it ever has for me online… And from his thinking about this stuff, I’ve picked up all kinds of great ideas and thoughts. Our ongoing conversations on how all this works, via blog comments, twitter and sporadic podcasting – as well as chatting whenever we get to meet up – are a vital part in how I process all this stuff.

Again, the information flow is non-linear – it’s back and forth, it involves a lot of tributaries and cul-de-sacs and hours of mucking about and exploring what’s happening. Both Jeff and I are having conversations with other people, and bring those to the table when we get together. His thinking on it is very much shaped by him having a pretty demanding day job, which frees him up in terms of making money from his music, but ties him down in terms of time spent on music-related stuff… And around us, we’ve built a growing community of musicians – many of them, not surprisingly, solo bassists – who are talking about and using this stuff.

Recently, something fundamentally shifted for me. I started to discuss my ideas on this with non-musicians. Twitter was a big catalyst in the beginning of this, starting to have mini-discussions with people who were actively integrating social media into their daily public dialogue. From there, I discovered about the London Social Media Cafe, and started to have weekly conversations with people from other businesses and artistic disciplines about how the conversation enables us to do what we do, and find an audience, clients, business partners, inspiration and resources.

The format of the Social Media Cafe is so simple, a room is booked upstairs in a pub, a load of curious people turn up, drink coffee, eat croissants and chat about social media stuff. Sometimes it’s about making friends and feeling less isolated. Sometimes it’s about getting work. Sometimes it’s about helping other people process their thoughts on a particular subject. Sometimes it’s about giving and receiving encouragement. Or having a sounding board. And it’s all about the Moo Cards. :)

The founder, Lloyd Davis, is very much the personality archetype for the SMC – he’s curious, creative, tech-savvy, self employed as a social media consultant and enabler… and loves a good natter!

What is clear from the SMC (and the spin-off gatherings, like the fantastic Creative Coffee Club) is that the level of thinking and dialogue that goes on is pretty much the leading edge of thinking on the subject of social media and it’s relationship to work, innovation, entrepreneurship, the arts, creativity etc. – certainly that I’ve ever come across. I’ve listened to keynote speeches from expos and new media gatherings around the world and often things that are presented as revolutionary and new in those settings are just taken as read at the SMC and are part of the way we daily live. If I worked for a media agency or corporation, I’d be biting Lloyd’s hand off to pay for access to the collective minds of the SMC! I can’t imagine a better group to bounce ideas off, or get feedback from. The various sponsors of the Friday morning get togethers understand this.

The other key part of it for me has been about reinvention – a lot of my geek friends that I’ve known for years have watched me go from a website with scrolling text and animated gifs with a blog just written in HTML, through all of my new media mistakes and false starts, and so are less likely to be invigorated by my take on Social Media. They’ve heard all of my thoughts in their ill-formed half-baked state and as such, hear what I’m saying now in that light. That’s a useful thing, in that it stops me from thinking I’m the business when in fact I’m just writing up here what happens in my life, but it does mean that taking the more refined, nuanced, considered version of it into an environment where the tall bloke with the big hair and furry coats is a new face on the geek-scene is a good testing ground for it as a body of thought.

I’m getting to abstract from a musical context the principles behind the social media interaction discussion and instead of solo bass, to talk about film or books, computer games or education, and see how those scenarios throw light on the process, on the concept, on the whole area of looking at the failure of broadcast media to engage an audience, and the need for pathways of interaction between ‘content providers’ and consumers.

Another key piece in my thinking on this over the last 6 weeks or so has been David Jennings brilliant book Net, Blog And Rock ‘n’ Roll, which is a wonderful look at the way that people find information and how that plays out on the web in relation to music. I’ll not write a full review yet, as I still haven’t finished it, but suffice to say it is utterly vital reading for anyone thinking about this stuff, from any field.

So, what’s the value in the SMC/CCC/Social Media Geek-world for me then? Well, it works on many many levels. It’s a test-bed for ideas, it’s a place where I get to contribute to other people’s conversations, as well as starting my own. My, uhm, esoteric place as a musician makes for a great perspective provider, in that I’m clearly never looking to make millions, but am fiercely protective of my own creative space. I’m a good foil for conversations about the place that ‘meeting the needs of a market’ takes in any business/marketing plan, and maybe that will spill over into some consulting work on that.

I’m also able to collect stories and info from all these various worlds that are hugely useful for talking to music students about this stuff. I’m really looking forward to doing more university sessions on this, and helping music students plan a strategy of engagement, of interaction, of story telling and ‘real’ buzz-building around their music. I’m getting enquiries now from people wanting me to go and talk to their bands about this, which will be a lot of fun too!

And on top of all that, I’ve met a load of really amazing people, who inspire and energise me, who challenge me to up my game, and who encourage me. As well as a whole new load of listeners to my music – that last bit alone makes a lot of this worthwhile, but is actually just an added bonus!

So where do I go from here? I keep talking, keep sharing stories, keep helping musicians, keep learning from the mega-minds at the SMC/CCC/London geek world community, and carry on making the best music I can!

Are you an SMC/CCC attendee? What does it mean to you? What have you got from it?

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6 Comments so far ↓

  • Ben Walker

    I’m fascinated by the SMC idea, and have been watching the wiki with interest for a few weeks. Unfortunately I couldn’t make the muso meet-up on Wednesday…

    I’m playing piano and banjo with a singer called Jont on Radio 2 this morning (8:15am!), and if all goes to plan I’ll make it to the SMC for 10:00, before heading off to the Small World Festival in Kent. I think I might have a few things to discuss… ;o)

    Very interesting series of articles, Steve. I look forward to meeting you.

  • Jeff Schmidt

    I hope you didn’t forget that after I won the competition, I emailed you and asked “now what do I do?”

    Among other ideas – you said – “get a myspace page”.

    So I did. It was late 2005 and I didn’t even have a myspace page. how pathetic. ;)

  • steve

    Haha! Jeff, I couldn’t remember which order it happened in – I remember having a couple of pretty defining conversations – there was one at the first masterclass when you were pretty stunned that I’d just handed all my ‘secrets’ over, and explained how I do pretty much everything… From your ongoing experiments with videoing and podcasting your ‘process’, it seems like that was a pivotal moment too :o)

    But it’s certainly true that I’ve picked up loads of ideas from what you’ve done since – you were on Jaiku before me, switched to Twitter before me, were Podcasting before me, Vlogging before me… :o) Good stuff!

  • Mike Arthur

    Hey Steve.
    I think what you and some others are doing with Social Media/Web 2.0 is great.

    The problem I have is that so many of those doing “innovative” and “exciting” things, unless either a) self-promoting or b) providing useful information are glorified spammers, filling Facebook/Twitter/etc with advertising based “viral marketing” shite or are completely self-absorbed people who blog about their boring lives and make controversial or mysterious statements just to increase their advertising revenue.

    To me, the jewels of the Web 2.0 crown are things like Wikipedia where people are contributing useful information that is of value to others and not the countless blogs (yours not included in this) of ego-masturbation and deliberate controversy.

  • steve

    Ben,

    great to meet you this morning – hope you enjoyed the SMC, and that the festival went well – talk soon!

  • Benjamin

    A big takeaway from the SMC for me has been the inspiration that comes from getting a broader view of the world, by meeting people I would not have otherwise.

    One of the inspiring things about watching the Steve Lawson journey over the years is how the solo musician combines what would normally be so many different roles… MD, marketing manager /PR manager, sales manager, operations director, producer and so on… That kind of multi-skilling is the future for the business workforce, and you are pioneering it here.

    Social Media is enabling a dynamic form of business and learning and knowledge creation that hasn’t been possible before. We aren’t so much living in the information age now, as living in an age where we can access the information, and now (with social media) the people behind it.

    It almost feels like 1990 again for me. A sense of a new phase, a tipping point. I look back and remember that no-one knew how it would work out at that point. I also remember that half a decade later, in 1995, I was still speaking at conferences explaining what this “Internet network of networks” thing was, and being told it would never work out or make any commercial impact.

    It all feels strangely familiar, in a very nice and exciting way.