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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



“Ask Me Anything” – Interview idea, Inspired by Steve Albini

May 19th, 2012 | 52 Comments | Categories: site updates |

Recently, Steve Albini posted an ‘AMA’ on Reddit. I’ve never spent any time on Reddit, but a few people sent me the link to it, and I read it. The basic idea is that someone notable says ‘hey I’m here, ask me anything’. And what you get at the end is part hagiographic fan-boy nonsense and part really cool interview with questions that magazine and radio people would quite possibly never think to ask. In Steve’s case, it’s lots more of the latter. Here it is, if you want to read it.

Anyway, it got me thinking – I’m not remotely notable enough to do the ‘AMA’ thing on Reddit, and don’t really understand the site anyway, but the idea of hosting a load of questions posted by interested people and answering them as a kind of ‘crowd-sourced’ interview appeals to me. I’ve no idea whether there’ll be much interest in posting questions, but I’m going to stick this up on the blog and see what y’all say.

As it says, you can ask me anything. No promises I’ll answer everything, but feel free to ask away and we’ll see if we can put together a definitive set of Stevie-info for people who are looking for a way into SBS-world, yes? :)

So, if it sounds like something interesting to you, please do post a question in the comments. I’ve yet to decide whether I’ll answer them there (the threaded comments here would make it easy to follow if I did) or whether I’ll cut and paste them into a new page… probably both. Either way, post away and we’ll see what we come up with…

[you may also notice that the single post view for this looks a bit different – I’ve tweaked the site to make reading individual posts more focused and less distracting. I hope you like it :) ]

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52 Comments so far ↓

  • Adam

    After years of studying music in Higher Education I wasn’t prepared for the outside world when the apron strings were finally cut.

    I went into teaching and now I work in an office. which is killing me because I want to be creative. i have music I am happy with. I just want to take the big step to be the musician and writer I envisioned myself becoming when I was an undergraduate.

    The truth is, I don’t know where to start. Gigs, website, social media outlet, blog, recording an ep…… It just seems so daunting to jump into.

    Am I right to plan for this? Or does being a freelance musician and writer mean you have to go with the flow?

    All the best,
    Adam

    • Steve

      Hi Adam,

      it’s a common problem, and one for which there are no easy answers. One of the issues is that most of the ‘jobs’ playing music that offer anything like the kind of living that people who’ve had jobs before are used to are as uncreative as the office jobs they left. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – there’s a lot to be said for getting to use your skill/craft to make music, but if your urge is for self expression, a steady gig in a wedding/tribute/theatre pit band might not be the kind of music life you were expecting…

      Add to that the problem of most of those kinds of ‘money’ gigs happening at exactly the same time as the shows you’d want to be doing as a creative path, and you’ve got yourself a day job that happens at night, it just happens with an instrument in your hands…

      So how does it work otherwise? Well, most of the people I know are doing their own music full time did so because a series of opportunities presented themselves that led to them not having to have a day job any more. Sometimes it’s just that they found an agent who could book them loads of gigs (sometimes alternating paid covers gigs with music of their own), some found lucrative work as a side-(wo)man for someone else, and that gave them a load of useful contacts. Others got publishing deals, which, while there may be other issues that are less positive about them, can certainly provide a modicum of stability in the form of a publishing retainer…

      So being ‘full time’ in music is less of a plan than a realisation… The good thing about doing it as well as another job is that you don’t have to compromise it to try and pay the bills. Looking at an empty diary and rapidly emptying bank account, it’s tough to stick to whatever ‘integrity’ you may have conjured up for your music plan at a time when you still had another income.

      So, there are two things that I think help a lot – the first is making your life as cheap as possible. The biggest question is not ‘how can I earn more’, it’s ‘how can I spend less?’ – being a full time musician is so rarely stable in the traditional job sense, that having any unnecessary overhead is deeply unwise – gas guzzling car? smoking? expensive holidays? large house? just not viable…

      If you drop your cost of living, it often becomes possible to live on a part time wage – that alleviates some of the stress of ‘where does all my time go??’ – you get way more time to play and manage your music path.

      Secondly, if you are going freelance, don’t ever plan to do one thing – the freelance life is far safer if you have a portfolio career. Make a list of things you’re really good and and enjoy and start to find ways of getting paid to do them and make the world better in the process. Freelance life goes in cycles – there have been times in my career where most of my money has come from journalism, or teaching, or social media consulting/documentation or whatever.. I’ve been paid to build websites, I’ve coached bands, I’ve given university talks to philosophy students, I’ve been a research consultant on digital media research projects… tons of massively interesting stuff that feeds beautifully into my life as a creative person. I’m professionally curious, doing whatever I can to pay the bills and find out more about the world :)

      Thirdly, all of this happens in community – build community. With other musicians, with your friends, with people who like your music… don’t get hung up on any ‘strategy for engagement’ or any such bullshit. Make music, and invite the people who like it to be part of the ongoing sustainability of it existing.

      The single best thing I’ve ever read on this subject is Danny Barnes’ blog post, . Read it, get it tattoo’d on your arm 😉

      • Adam

        Firstly, I would like to thank you for answering my question Steve, it really means a lot.

        I have started the ball rolling. Over the last 6 months I have cut back on my expenditure (It’s surprising when you find out what you need rather than what you think you need to live) and I am trying to find a part time job in order for me to spend more time on my music and writing.

        Now that you have said, it seems logical. To create a community that is interested in your work. I mean it’s why i keep coming back. Even though I don’t post as much on this website, I am an avid follower/lurker/reader of your blog posts and other social media.

        You have given me a lot to think about there Steve, thank you.

  • Ask Me Anything : Anthony Quinn

    […] idea of creating a crowd-sourced interview is one that I’ve borrowed from Steve Lawson’s blog. The format is […]

  • Tom Robinson

    It’s only a small question, but it concerns an aggravating niggle that takes up too much of my time: is there some straightforward way find out a band or artist’s twitter handle – preferably complete with the @handle.

    As a musician you never get told in advance when your work is going to get played on the radio. So when I’m broadcasting live I like to tweet to let the artist – and their fans – know they’re currently being played.

    At the moment every single time I’m having to google an artist’s name with the word twitter, then scroll down the results to find which one is the artist, then carefully copy the twitter handle without accidentally clicking the link, then add the “@” sign and paste the whole thing into Tweetdeck.

    Surely to goodness there must be a simpler way?

    Tom x

    PS of course it would be 5000% simpler if bloody artists bloody well cross linked their bloody websites and their social media pages so you could click through to their Twitter from their Soundcloud or their Bandcamp or their Facebook or their YouTube or just from their own bloody dotcom homepage. But of that would be asking too much.
    RANT MODE = “OFF”

    • Steve

      Hi Tom!

      my method, sadly, is much the same as yours. I guess it plays to an even bigger malaise which is bands not understanding how the social web works – simple cross-linking between pages makes this kind of stuff SO much easier. I’m amazed at how many times I google a bands name + ‘bandcamp’ and find they’ve got a load of music on there that is neither mentioned, linked to nor embedded on their website! Truly insane..

      The upside is that for the most part Twitter is really good at SEO – Search Engine Optimisation – so assuming the band are either moderately successful, or have a unique name, that google search will work. You can do a twitter search as well on the site – that’ll give you two different sets of results – tweets mentioning those words and accounts relating to those words… Both of which can be useful.

      But, as you say, it’s a massive faff, and the only proper way round it is the band giving you the info. So maybe we just need to be more vocal in telling bands to link to things. I’ll write a post about soon :)