stevelawson.net

Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



Live In Nebraska EP Now On Bandcamp

November 23rd, 2009 · 3 Comments

Finally! Thanks to a little help from a friend who had the CD (we sold out of them ages ago, and didn’t have any left to get the high-res files from!), We’ve now got the Steve Lawson and Lobelia EP up on Bandcamp.

As you know, I’m a huge fan of Bandcamp, and it now handles physical CD sales as well! How exciting is that (you can buy Behind Every Word on CD from there).

I’ll be ditching my online shop altogether soon and moving all my sales over to Bandcamp, or just simple Paypal buttons for the CD-only sales – if you want a one-stop shop for listening and browsing now, you can just go to the MP3s/Downloads page here on this site.

Anyway, here’s the Nebraska EP – Listen, Enjoy, Share it, Embed it anywhere you like, and if you want to keep it, pay whatever you think it’s worth:

<a href="http://stevelawsonandlobelia.bandcamp.com/album/live-in-nebraska">Happy by Steve Lawson and Lobelia</a>

Tags: Music News

Rethinking Reviews

November 21st, 2009 · 19 Comments

I’ve been asked a few times recently to write reviews of people’s albums. Not by magazines or websites who want it as journalism, but by the artists themselves, wanting it as promo.

Now, let’s leave money aside for now (given that paid journalism is a whole other subject – yes, magazines, I’ll write reviews for you, if you pay me – see the point about journalism below), let’s have a look at what reviews are, where they came from, and why we might want to rethink the idea, especially with regards to asking for them from someone who hasn’t yet heard the music… [Read more →]

Tags: New Music Strategies · teaching news

Share and Share Alike.

November 19th, 2009 · 15 Comments

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. [Read more →]

Tags: New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

Online Music: Balancing The Scales Of 'Free'

November 12th, 2009 · 7 Comments

I’ve just been reading Helienne Lindvall’s latest blog post on the Guardian site, entitled, “
Behind the music: Can we ever measure the impact of downloading?

It’s well worth a read, as it talks about vested interests on either side (though doesn’t mention that Helienne herself was a signatory on the patently loony pro-Mandelson AIR statement from the Featured Artist Coalition – she probably has mentioned it in previous posts). It does contains a couple of interesting points that I thought I’d throw out for discussion. [Read more →]

Tags: New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

Meet My Imaginary Friends

November 6th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Well, I’m now well over twelve thousand words into my NaNoWriMo novel, which is called ‘Rock And Roll Is Dead’.

As I said in my last post, I’m setting up twitter accounts for the characters as I go along, and two of them are now on there: @Drum_Monkey_ and @TheDistanceMeg. They’ve been chatting to each other and with other twitterers, and some of those tweets are ending up either in or influencing the story. Drum Monkey even got a string of really smart direct messages giving him some advice on a guerilla marketing campaign! It’s turning into all kinds of fun. [Read more →]

Tags: Geek · journalism · Random Catchup

NaNoWriMo – Steve Writes A Novel (possibly)

November 1st, 2009 · 11 Comments

For the last couple of Novembers I’ve been aware of friends of mine being a part of ‘National Novel Writing Month‘, more often referred to (at least, on twitter) as NaNoWriMo.

So this afternoon, on a whim, I thought ‘I wonder if I can write a novel about some musicians who in some imaginary world start a cultural revolution, accidentally’ – I realised that it would be fun to have a go at writing a long-form hypothetical case study on how the world of music might work out. After all, it’s how a lot of novels work – either romantic or dystopic visions of an imaginary future for people and planet. [Read more →]

Tags: Geek · journalism · Random Catchup

"Piracy" And The 3 Strikes Law – A Few Thoughts From A Working Musician

October 28th, 2009 · 16 Comments

Right, so “Lord” Mandelson has announced that the Government is indeed going to go ahead with their unenforceable nonsensical plans to “cripple the internet bandwidth of persistent file sharers“. Here’s a few highlights of the plans:

  • the cut-off is a ‘last resort‘, used if people don’t comply with requests.
  • the cost of monitoring will be “shared between ISPs and content providers” – that means that the labels that are already incapable of making money for the musicians signed to them are now going to fund this Wile E. Coyote-esque plan to catch people sharing files.
  • The ‘trade-off’ is that copyright ‘law’ will be rejigged so that now – WOW – “someone who has bought a CD would be able to copy it to their iPod or share it with family members without acting unlawfully.” (does he not remember listening to tapes made from his mum’s record collection in the car in the 80s??) [Read more →]

Tags: New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

Posterous: Blogging For Everyone Else

October 26th, 2009 · 7 Comments

OK, so the thought of maintaining a blog full of pontifications on the state of the world, the web, music, whatever is a bit daunting. The self-imposed expectation that there needs to be loads of amazing stuff to read about on your awesome blog is just too much…

…So what do we do? Clearly, the web these days – and in particular, music on the web – is ALL about sharing. Without sharing, we’re all screwed.

Enter Posterous – it’s a blogging platform that’s been around for a while, but seems to be really gaining in traction of late for a whole host of reasons. I’m going to focus on what an awesome service it is for embedding, and posting links to, things you really like online. [Read more →]

Tags: Geek · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

Marketing By Accident

October 19th, 2009 · 1 Comment

I’ve written a lot over the years about the power of curiosity – that most of my own best disoveries have just happened because I was interested in something and decided to investigate it without waiting for any kind external confirmation that that was ‘OK’ or ‘wise’.

So yesterday when a link from a friend landed me at xtranormal.com and I saw that there was a ‘create’ button, I set to work writing a comedy script for two people talking about a solo bass house concert.

Since then it’s had about a thousand views (pretty good going for overnight on a Sunday!), and I’m sure has quite a journey to go on yet… All because I saw a link, clicked it and played around.

Try it, sometimes it can really help 🙂

Anyway, here it is. “Solo Bass. It’s The Future.”

Feel free to share it around, or make your own videos. It’s pretty time consuming, but well worth it 🙂

[EDIT] it’s worth noting that the first place I shared this was Posterous. An awesome blogging platform, that I’ll write more about v. soon!

Tags: bass ideas · Geek · New Music Strategies

Convergence Pt II – Room To Make The Music That Matters

October 14th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Over on the Beyond Bass Camp blog, I wrote a post about ‘The Convergence Pyramid’ – the idea that the higher up/deeper you go into any endeavour (in that case, learning bass), the less distinguishable the various fragmented elements are from one another. So theory, technique and equipment for musicians all merge in the service of an intention; practice and performance both just become the process of making music and musical awareness is deeply connected to self knowledge.

It’s also vital for those of us who are making music – and trying to make it discoverable to people who may like it – to seek convergence in the purpose and the method.

One old music industry model was to see a manager as doing the dirty business of ‘monetizing the assets’ of the artists, while the musicians were able to make music in an unsullied fashion, with little concern for the business side of things.

The problem arises when the manager and artist are working at cross purposes. It is quite possible, even likely, that the business strategy within which an artist operates will affect the music. In fact, the more effective, efficient and useful a manager you have, the more likely it is that the outworking of their industriousness will shape the creative environment for the band.

And that kind of fragmentation is a clumsy tension at best.

The first positive step is just recognising it. I had a fairly lively encounter with Peter Jenner at a Musictank event I spoke at. Peter is Billy Bragg’s manager, and a very bright man. He was asking the usual questions about ‘where the money is’ in the new music economy, not realising what an insignificant statistical blip those people who actually make money from record deals are. (the amount of money earned is not insignificant, it’s just piled up at one end of the curve, and 9/10 albums end up costing more than they earn).

But at the end of our conversation, Peter said ‘I’m glad you’re passionate about this, it’s what you’re meant to do. And my job is to make sure that the artists I represent make enough money not to have to worry about how to keep doing it.’ Or words to that effect. It was a very astute assessment of where music managers can position themselves as both business-heads and creative altruists.

It made a lot of business sense in the context of the someone like Billy Bragg’s career. There are a large number of valuable assets in Billy’s business – both tangible (songs, recordings, trademarks etc.) and ephemeral (the ‘Billy Bragg brand’, if you will) – both of which require a fair amount of clever thinking to be maintained and maximised.

But for the rest of us, who don’t already have that, we can afford to be way more imaginative in defining the space in which we want to create music. And far from impeding our success due to our lack of ‘business savvy’, the end result is that we *should* be making much better music, and hopefully doing it in a way that invites people to be a part of the process of letting the rest of the world know about it. In business terms, that’s called ‘buzz’.

If you’re not reliant on it as your measure of success, noticing when there’s a localised ‘buzz’ about your music is a lovely experience.

And the wonder of organic buzz is that it translates into options for the artist. You have the option to respond to the opportunities that interest in your music from the wider industry brings up. Or not. It’s quite OK to recognise the freedom in doing it all yourself, keeping it small and personal, on a cottage industry level, but being aware that that additional interest in you acts as a fantastic ‘safety zone’ around your business model. It gives you headroom.

So, what does convergence mean for us? It means focussing on the things that matter, setting our goals based on creative freedom, on what matters in the context of the music.

Music is way too important to waste the creative opportunities on trying to make a living out of it over and above our creative aspirations. There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with making money from it. It’s rather nice when it happens, but if music becomes your ‘day job’ to pay for ‘your music’, you may find that it’s a pain in the arse because the gigs you do for money are happening at the same time as the invites to play the music that means so much more.

Only you can really decide what’s important to you. There are no hard and fast right answers to this, beyond the observation that ‘fame’ rarely leads to increased creative freedom, and if your own creative process is valuable to you, you’re going to have to carve out a work space conducive to allowing that to flourish.

(two other posts on the Beyond Bass Camp blog are worth reading for further thoughts on this:
Why Settle For More And Miss The Best
What’s Important?

Tags: New Music Strategies · tips for musicians