Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond

Share and Share Alike.

November 19th, 2009 | 15 Comments | Categories: New Music Strategies · tips for musicians |

A wise man once said, ‘do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.’ Advice that works incredibly well online.

In my wanderings round the web, I’m seeing two very distinct groups of musicians.

  • Those who are part of a sharing/discovery/recommendation culture, and
  • Those who are (often incessantly) requesting help from that culture, but not demonstrating any willingness to be a part of it.

Not surprisingly, they don’t tend to get much spill-over outside of the people who are already their fans.

As I’ve said before, the single most powerful currency online is gratitude. It flies in the face of every bit of old school marketing advice you’ve ever received about how to accrue ‘value in your assets’ and all that BS, but we’re not dealing with an old school market. We’re dealing with a situation where in the eyes of music listeners/buyers/downloaders, there are two types of music people:

  • Them, who are part of the old establishment, who don’t ‘deserve’ help because they are part of the problem, and
  • Us, the new world order, those who have grabbed the transformative potential of the web, who see the democratised potential for discovery as an overwhelmingly positive thing. We are part of the solution.

I just wrote a piece for Music Think Tank about this – it’s entitled ‘Transformative Vs Incremental Change‘.

What’s clear is that to expect transformative community support within the context of an old-school broadcast-only output makes you look like a tool. Sure, your fans are still going to find you and probably buy your music. They care, they already know you. But the potential for discovery is severely curtailed by you expecting a whole lot from people but giving nothing.

Toby Moores, AKA @Sleepydog, calls this ‘Reciprocal Altruism’ – you share with the group, knowing it’s good for everyone including yourself. This isn’t hippy bullshit, it’s just acknowledging that the future is too complex to go it alone. (Toby is, without doubt, one of the sharpest transformative thinkers I’ve ever met. Genuinely brilliant.)

So, this week’s challenge for those of you currently taking but not giving is this:

For the next 48 hours, don’t mention your own music online.

Seriously. Just talk about other people’s stuff. Tell your audience about the great artists you’ve gigged with over the years:

  • Blog about them (if needs be, start a new blog for it.)
  • Tweet about them
  • Post Facebook updates about them
  • Comment on their Myspace pages about how awesome they are without trying to add the embed codes for your own album in there too.

Seriously, you need to go cold-turkey on the narcissism. Remember, You Get What You Give.

And if you’ve got any cool stories of music discovery through mutual sharing/recommendation, please add them to the comments!

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15 Comments so far ↓

  • Rob

    Hi Steve,

    This is a very good post and interesting timing for me. You published it minutes after I published a promo video on all my profiles for my CD!

    I am a believer in the power of giving out kudos to others although I still tend to forget that sometimes and slip back into “Hey, listen to me, I’m great” instead “Go and listen to her, she’s great”

    So thanks for the timely wake up call.

    As a result I am going to resist the urge to post on my blog about about my promo video until next week and I decided to leave my website URL off my name for this comment.

    Now I’m off to recommend Ben Walker to a few folks, who I think is really good and deserves a mention. Twitter @ihatemornings


  • Chris

    I agree completely that supporting other musicians is part of getting your own fanbase to grow, by helping each other out – on Facebook I recently did this by inviting all my friends to be a ‘fan’ of a friend’s band who I think deserve a bit more recognition – and they all did the same in return!

    The supportive nature of musicians I find to be astounding, if you find the right people. I’ve encountered so many people in the local music scene in Newcastle who have rubbed me up the wrong way because they believe they’re on a higher plane of existence or something!

    Excellent blog entry, really lays it out how we should act online as musicians.

  • John Anealio

    It can be difficult to find a balance when it comes to interacting and promoting yourself online. What I’ve discovered is that it just feels better to talk about other people more than yourself. It shows that you are a real person.

    I recently read Chris Brogan’s “Trust Agents” (a great book, which you should all check out) and he mentioned that for every time that you promote yourself you should promote your peers 12 times. I don’t know where that number comes from but I’ve been following that advice. I feel much less spammy/creepy now when I do promote myself.

    As for some great music online, you can’t go wrong with Jonathan Coulton, Brad Sucks, or Trifonic.

  • MikeF

    Superb post – have put the link up on Facebook. Everyone needs to read this: you’ve nailed the truly transformative thing about the new musical economy – “the future is too complex to go it alone.”

  • Rikk Kazz

    Hi Steve,
    You’re a friend of Kennan, so I take that as ‘ You are a good guy”. I’m just curious…. what do you think of Michael Manring, and also Doug Johns, as solo bassists ?…in general.

  • lateral

    one person said:

    The universal common good doesn’t exist. But The natural-born good into Acts/Gestures. It exists! That is the difference. Sweet Web.

  • Justin Boland

    I really dig this — especially the fact it’s short, sweet and a call to action. This is an action more people should take. (Especially since some of them might wind up talking about me, you know?)

    Self-promotion is such a dead and boring scene…but a huge one.

  • Joe Reed

    Great post, Steve :)

    I think you might have a good explanation as to why MySpace Music kinda sucks: it’s full of bands just posting flyers for their own gigs on other band’s pages!

  • Sharing by Example « Rich Huxley AKA TheHuxCapacitor

    […] Having recently read “Me, Me, Me is Boring” by Kevin English and “Share and Share Alike” by Steve Lawson I realised that like them, I should be leading by […]

  • steve

    Yay! thanks for getting it. Perfect idea. And anything that involves telling the world how awesome Ben Walker is is fine by me. :)

  • steve

    Thanks Mike. That’s a Toby Moores quote – his take on this, as someone who’s been hugely successful in the games industry (with Sleepydog inventing the ‘Buzz’ games for Playstation and redefining social gaming) is wonderful and heartening. He gets it, and there’s no reason why anyone else from a big industry background shouldn’t also. But the new economy definitely favours the well connected small-scale operators :)

  • steve

    Hi Rikk,

    I’m a big big fan of Michael, and his music. We’ve toured together a number of times, and aside from my wife, he’s my favourite musician in the world to play with. He’s the gold standard for solo bassists.

    I’m not as familiar with Doug’s playing, but the stuff I’ve heard from him has been excellent. He also seems like a really nice guy, which counts for a lot! :)

  • steve

    thanks John – I’ve not read Chris’ book. And while I’m wary of putting numbers on something like this, 12:1 sounds like a good ratio. In general, I think web concepts should be guided by common sense and ‘literacy over policy’ – guidelines can help us grasp the framework, but it’s being fluid and literate in the tools and modes of communication, and as well as their analogues in the rest of life (I find pubs to be a pretty good analogy for Twitter – ie, if you walked into a room full of strangers and stood there talking about yourself all night, you’d be rightly labeled as a self-centred freak :) )


  • steve


    great idea with the fan invites on Facebook. Good stuff.

    Re: musicians who see themselves as above everyone else. Try not to hate them. Pity fits better. It’s a really sad place to be, cos reality keeps getting in the way of you being able to confirm your sanity in light of your assumptions about your increased value to the world thanks to your (often questionable) musical talent.

    Leave them to the rest, and get on with finding the community of musicians who want to share, play, chat and encourage one another.

  • Rich Huxley

    Lovely ideas here again Steve. It’s inspire me to do a friends and followers bandcamp embed blog post like yours. Been meaning to do that for ages.

    As for 48 hours without self promotion. I’ll try.