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Open Letter To The UK Jazz Community Pt V – Blogging.

May 11th, 2009 | No Comments | Categories: New Music Strategies · tips for musicians |

photo of Corey Mwamba at the BarbicanAt the end of Pt IV, I said that band leaders could consider not hiring musicians who don’t blog to help promote the music. A few of you didn’t like that idea, suggesting that it’s all about the music, and why should someone have to be a writer in order to play music?

To which my answer is twofold:

  • Firstly, I did say ‘it’s not a hard and fast rule – you don’t want to, you don’t have to. But…
  • Secondly, you don’t have to be a writer to have a blog. You just have to want to tell people about cool stuff that’s going on around you. Some of the best blogs are a collection of really short posts – they’re a little bit of information, and some kind of embedded media. If you feel inspired to elaborate, or to write in the kind of long form article-based way that I do, that’s great, but that’s not why musicians should be blogging.

So, what is a blog?

In this sense, what’s unique and important about a blog is that it’s a space to talk about music and the things that go on around music – not just your music, but obviously including your own music – in a way that invites people to

  • Read it
  • Listen to or watch whatever you’ve embedded
  • Comment
  • Subscribe
  • Share it
  • Click through the links you’ve posted to other things that you’re recommending.

They are all things that happen best in blogs.

Let’s compare blogs to email newsletters

Email newsletters are an awkward beast – people sign up to them to find out what you’re up to, but get easily annoyed if you send out too much info, or too many messages about gigs they can’t get to. Because your emails are landing in their inbox, along with all the other stuff they need to deal with, too many of them and you’ll get unsubscribed… I don’t know many people who’d take kindly to you sending out news about other bands to your mailing list – that would feel like abuse of the service.

The opposite is true of blogs. I love reading blog posts by one artist about another. I love reading posts about what musicians get up to when they’re not making music. I love reading gig stories, seeing photos, bits of video, hearing about shows near me. Music blogs can be wonderful, without the person writing it having to be ‘a writer’.

So why demand it? Because it’s

  • Free
  • Easy
  • Quick
  • Friendly

and we need to change the culture. As I’ve said before, we all need to make a hell of a lot more noise about the wonderful music going on around us. The simple fact is that if people like your music, they’ll respect your opinion about other music. So if you get vocal about the music that excites you, and everyone else in ‘the scene’ does too, we all win. The great music gets a push that doesn’t require taking out ads in magazines.

I guarantee that you’ll get more CD/download sales or people coming to your shows from 5 of your peers talking enthusiastically on their blogs about what you do, that you will from taking out a quarter page ad in a music magazine.

So what now? Start a blog. My recommendation is WordPress.com – that way, if you want to move it to your own site at later date, you can export it to a self-hosted wordpress install (that’s what this site is).

But you could also do it on Myspace, or on a Facebook artist page, or Live Journal, or anywhere. It doesn’t really matter (it’s probably best to cut ‘n’ paste it into most of those places, if you can!)

Start by writing a quick post about why you’re starting it, find some people to link to, have some fun. You don’t have to go nuts telling everyone about it until you’re comfortable with it – break yourself in gently. But get in the habit of writing about what you’re doing, and lettin the world know about the other people in your scene who are being interesting. There’s more than enough audience for all of us, so let’s share the love.

In the comments, please post the link to your blog, or to other UK music bloggers you particularly enjoy… Have you ever discovered new music through a blog, or a recommendation on a forum? Where do you find out about gigs and new music these days?

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No Comments so far ↓

  • Rob Michael

    Sure, you can swing by my blog @ the link above.

    But, one of my favorite musical discoveries is my man Neil Alexander in upstate New York. His blog is http://pdogrecords.com/wordpress/

    Anyone who checks out Neil can thank me later.

  • Bryan Chalmers

    I have been trying to follow your advice and have started to have some kind of blog/website.

    A few things have become evident,

    – I will have to keep feeding and watering it or I will end up with an out of date website which is probably worse than no website at all.

    – As someone who is fairly introverted and shy, it is probably harder to put material out in to the big wide world as there is always an assumption that it may be laughed out of court.

    – I think there is application of what you have been saying for people like myself who are playing local jazz (or any other style) gigs as much as there is for those with a residency at Ronnie Scotts.

    – Although spending time on a website is time away from playing music, it does focus the mind on planning future music projects, especially recording ones.

    – Puting a basic website together with WordPress is not really much harder than building a Mypace site but gives many more options for development.

    Anyway, thanks for the thought provoking series of blog posts.

    All the best,
    Bryan Chalmers

  • steve

    thanks Rob – Neil is indeed outstanding. I’m so grateful for having discovered him via Twitter, and having had the chance to watch him play via Ustream. A v. talented man!

    And I enjoy your blog a lot – some great stuff you post on there. Great to see the videos of you playing as well as read your thoughts on music and the musician’s life. Good work!

  • Kieron

    Great piece. Only other thing I ‘d expand upon – since it’s proved the most powerful network ever for me – is Twitter.

    Once your blog is up and running, add a couple of Twitter plug-ins to post your new blog posts to Twitter. That way, people receive a gentle reminder without having to subscribe to RSS or anything else.

    Be sure to build a relevant network on Twitter (there are already far too many SEO experts and other “spammers” out there). But if you do, the feedback, knowledge and community you will develop is second to none.

  • steve

    Thanks Kieron, good points. I wrote a top twitter tips for musicians piece back in Dec last year that got circulated pretty widely.

    It’s definitely my most valued network, and as you say, the blog gives you something to tweet about.