Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond

Being a Good Citizen Of The Internet: What Would The Internet Be Like If Everyone Behaved Like Me?

October 9th, 2013 · 2 Comments

This was another one of the blog themes I gave my social media students last week. They tackled it in various ways, but I’d like to expand on where the question comes from.

The root of it is the conversation about ‘marketing’ and ‘promotion’. Ever since MySpace, musicians have been looking for ingenious ways to increase their audience without actually doing any of the tried and tested pre-web stuff (actually making amazing music, doing gigs, contacting media outlets in the hope that they’ll recognise the brilliance of your work and write about you or play you on the radio, Encouraging your existing fans to talk about what you do).

photo by timag on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license

As ever, the ‘race to the bottom’ led to a whole new kind of musician spam – blanket messages sent to every Myspace (now Facebook) friend, multiple postings on other people’s pages, imploring friends and strangers to ‘check out my amazing new video on YouTube’ and perhaps the most insidious of all, networks of musicians making a pact to promote each others work, regardless of quality or the degree to which the sharer is actually interested in the shared work. (I’ve written a lot about the nonsense of this kind of reciprocity). [Read more →]

Tags: Kidderminster College Stuff · New Music Strategies

Guilty Pleasures – Why Do We Listen to the Things We Listen To?

October 7th, 2013 · 3 Comments

Here’s another of the blog topics I set for my College students – we got onto the topic of ‘guilty pleasures’ in class, so I asked them to write about it.

What do we mean by guilty pleasures? Guilty of what? enjoying it? of not acquiescing to the groupthink of our particular subculture? Of not knowing what ‘serious’ music fans ought to listen to? Are we guilty because we know its wrong, or because we’re concerned about getting caught?

All of those – admittedly trivial – concerns miss a much bigger question, about WHY we listen to music. Much as we’d love to see ourselves as objective connoisseurs of musical worth, there are way to many factors at play to make any sense of ‘transgressive listening’ remotely meaningful in relation to the music as opposed to the sub-culture. [Read more →]

Tags: Kidderminster College Stuff

Reconsidering Charts – Listening vs Shopping

October 6th, 2013 · 1 Comment

One of the first social networks I ever joined was – back in the pre-corporate buy-out days, it was an amazing way to connect with music listeners, to find people with similar taste, and through them discover some amazing music.

What was most revolutionary about it at the time, at least for me, was that it was a website that created ‘charts’ based on listening, not on shopping. So you had a record of the music that was soundtracking your life, rather than just the latest things to tempt you to part with cash. [Read more →]

Tags: Kidderminster College Stuff · New Music Strategies

Who Is Your Audience?

September 30th, 2013 · 2 Comments

As some of you know, I’ve recently started teaching in the music department at Kidderminster College. It’s a fabulous opportunity, as I get to spend every tuesday working with bassists (and a violinist!) in the mornings and on social media with a load of mainly singer/songwriters in the afternoon. Yeah, two of my favourite things, in one day. Lucky me!

So last week, I set the afternoon students the task of thinking – and blogging – about who their social media audience is:

  • Who do you know reads what you write?
  • Who do you imagine is reading it when you write it (who are writing to)
  • Who else may end up reading it?
  • Who would you most like to have reading it?
  • How do these considerations affect how and what you post (be it original words/pictures/video/music or shared stuff from around the web)

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Tags: Kidderminster College Stuff · New Music Strategies

music and more photos from Greenbelt Festival

August 28th, 2013 · Comments Off on music and more photos from Greenbelt Festival

Two new things from Greenbelt:

Some of the official photos of my gig:

and a (downloadable) recording of the first track from the gig – an improv that morphs into A Year Afloat:

Tags: Music News

Home From Greenbelt. First Blog Post – Some Pictures

August 27th, 2013 · Comments Off on Home From Greenbelt. First Blog Post – Some Pictures

Home from a wonderful weekend at Greenbelt Festival. My show there on Sunday afternoon was quite possibly my favourite ever time playing at Greenbelt, and resulted in quite a few USB Stick sales. Which is nice 🙂

I’ll post more about it soon, but here, for starters, are a selection of the photos that people took and posted on twitter while I was playing, along with Lobelia who joined me for two songs, one of them also featuring the lovely Andrew Howie. Good times 🙂

Tags: Gig stuff · Music News

FingerPainting: Complete is, uhm, Complete, and The USB Sticks Are Here!

August 21st, 2013 · 2 Comments

So, after four months of

  • mixing and mastering
  • naming tracks
  • keeping Daniel and Artemis up to date with all the developments
  • getting their input on titles and artwork
  • generally surrendering all family and social life to the task of getting this magnum opus finished..

It’s finished.

10 Shows, 59 tracks, 10 hours, 16 minutes and 7 seconds of music.

[Buy the USB Stick here]

10 of the tracks (or or two from each of the 8 shows from 2013) feature Artemis on vocals. A few of those are on Soundcloud or on Bandcamp.

So what now? Well, they’ll be on sale at Greenbelt Festival this weekend. All the preorders will be sent out at the start of next week. I’ve discovered that the FLAC versions, being 24 bit, won’t all fit on a USB stick, so if you ordered that, you’ll be getting the stick with 7 albums on and 3 download codes to get the others 🙂

Now begins the task of loading them all up with music!

In the meantime I’m sequencing the 2 CD set, which should be available by early September.

I also ordered custom sticks/boxes for the Steve Lawson Complete Works set. Which is slightly misleading, in that it only has 2 of the FingerPainting albums on it, but it’s 24 albums spanning my entire solo and collaborative career. But you can order those on Bandcamp too –

Tags: Music News

New Album! Serendipity by Steve Lawson and Daniel Berkman

August 14th, 2013 · Comments Off on New Album! Serendipity by Steve Lawson and Daniel Berkman

Time to release another of the complete shows from the Steve Lawson/Daniel Berkman FingerPainting: Complete set. This one, titled Serendipity, was recorded in Petaluma, California, and was the 2nd-to-last show of our January tour. It is, of course, included in all of the full sets of all 10 shows, or on its own from Bandcamp for £5.

Click here to buy the USB Stick of All 10 Shows.

It has a markedly different flavour that the rest of the shows, due to Daniel electing to leave a fair few of his laptop-type gadgets and controllers out of his set up, and instead using a sitar-guitar on a couple of tunes.

The decision was in response to our observation that the average age of the audience was considerably older than previous shows, so we might want to go somewhere a little mellower with the music. However, just before we started, we overheard an enthusiastic conversation involving about half of those in attendance, about the relative merits of various 20th century composers: John Cage, Stockhausen, Harry Partch… REALLY difficult music. So we were once again freed up to play some pretty weird music as the muse led…

The end result is a record that’s both distinct from the rest of the set but deeply consistent with the aesthetic. It’s fun, exploratory, overflowing with melodies, and features two stellar vocal contributions from Artemis, the 2nd of them entirely wordless. So often the vocal improv was the high point of the show, the pinnacle of the show’s emotional crescendo. Huge thanks to Artemis for sharing her amazing skills on all these gigs!

Big thanks must also go to our amazing hosts for the night, Darin and Jessica Wilson. Darin is himself a fabulous musician. Go here to listen.

Tags: Music News

What Do Singles Sales Tell Us About The Health Of The Music Industries?

August 13th, 2013 · Comments Off on What Do Singles Sales Tell Us About The Health Of The Music Industries?

Here’s an interesting data set – a list of the best selling singles ever, divided into physical and digital. It lists anything with ‘verified’ sales of above 5 million (though those numbers are often rightly questioned because of the way that ‘sales’ are reported – there are 185 references at the bottom of the wiki page 🙂 )…

One of the interesting bits for me is the time span of each era – the physical sales cover 1935 (Bing Crosby, Silent Night: 30 million sales – at a time when it must’ve been owned by pretty much everyone on the planet that had a record player, was before albums existed, probably sold even more copies as sheet music and was a song in the public domain!) through to 2004 (Green Day’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams: 7 million physical copies, of a track that was also on an album that sold 15 million too.) So that’s a 69 year span, with 128 singles selling more than 5 million copies. It’s worth keeping in mind what percentage of the records released those were (how many records had even been made, let alone were stocked in shops, by the end of the 40s/50s/60s etc…)

The digital list covers 2004-2012 (8 years), and has 104 singles selling more than 5 million copies. All of which also appeared on (numerous) albums, were licensed for films/games, earned some money for streaming/youtube/other usage, and were no doubt torrented extensively. But, crucially, none of them required any plastic discs to be made and shipped around the world. No shops to stock them, no trucks to carry them across the country… So in terms of where the money went, far less of the gross revenue needed to go on the fixed cost of physical manufacture and distribution of a scarce good.  [Read more →]

Tags: New Music Strategies

How to Talk About Music on the Internet

August 1st, 2013 · 5 Comments

The ‘publishing revolution’ of the internets has been overwhelmingly positive. We know that, right?

However, there have been a few – perhaps unintended – consequences to all online words being given equal billing (at least potentially) and all public typed conversations being searchable. So let’s have a think about how we – as musicians – talk about music on the internet:

One of the hardest things for a musician to do online is work out two very distinct ways of describing music positively: [Read more →]

Tags: Musing on Music · New Music Strategies