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Entries Tagged as 'tips for musicians'

Transformative Vs Incremental Change

December 16th, 2009 · 18 Comments

This was originally written for MusicThinkTank, and the comment thread there is well worth reading. But you lovely regular readers here haven’t had a chance to mull it over and chat about it, so I thought I’d repost it here. On you go :)

—o0o—

OK, I’m going to try and explain why Big Music genuinely doesn’t get what’s happening with the online stuff. It’s easy to dismiss the thoughts coming out about ‘3 Strikes Laws‘, and Bit Torrent being to blame for the death of musicians’ livelihoods etc. as being a bunch of really rich people want to keep their massive piece of the pie – and there is some of that, for sure. But there’s also an entire way of thinking that explains why they feel the way they do.

The problem is to do with the difference in response required between transformative change, and incremental change.

Sticking with the music industry, let’s have a look at some examples of both, starting with incremental change: [Read more →]

Tags: New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

The Futility of Fighting Fire with Fire

December 10th, 2009 · 23 Comments

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the madness of the music industry. To want to fix it. To put it right. To ‘reclaim‘ the territory for ‘real‘ music.

Remember back in the 80s, when the charts were full of music we liked? Top Of The Pops had a point, the chart show was a way to discover music. It was good.

The problem with that idea is that it ignores the fact that the situation then was us making the best of the limitations. We learned from the charts because we didn’t know any better. Most of us moved on to specialist radio as soon as we discovered it and developed the patience or the dadaist affectation required to sit through the more extreme outlying regions of John Peel and Andy Kershaw’s record collections.

[Read more →]

Tags: New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

If Spotify Is The New Radio, The Artists Are Winning

November 25th, 2009 · 25 Comments

[EDIT – this post is a couple of years out of date – for a more recent appraisal of where I stand with Spotify, see Why I’ve Taken My Music Off Spotify]

There were a few articles kicking around yesterday touting a figure that ‘Lady Gaga earned $167 from Spotify for over a million plays’ – I think the story originated on TorrentFreak.

Perhaps not surprisingly the writers at TorrentFreak aren’t too au fait with the way that payment systems work for artists. The figure quoted is a publishing royalty – it’s from STIM (The Swedish Performing Rights Society). It doesn’t reflect payments due to the performer direct from Spotify (outlined in somewhat confusing detail in this Guardian article) which, according to the CEO of We7, are roughly ten times the PRS-collected royalty payment. It’s this figure that may or may not have been negotiated downwards by Spotify with the major labels – the labels have pretty much no say over the rates that the PRS set (other than through lobbying). [Read more →]

Tags: New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

Lily Allen Invents The Criminal Commons License

November 24th, 2009 · 6 Comments

Wow, now this one we didn’t expect! Lily Allen, following her heartfelt protestations that Mandelson’s plans to cut off the internet connections of ‘persistent file sharers’ were destroying opportunities for hard-working record labels to put money into young bands, has flipped to the polar opposite position.

No, she’s not saying file-sharing is OK. She’s now saying that it’s only bad if you DON’T charge for it. Yup, she’d rather you bought bootleg copies of her album from the crim in your local market than got it from a friend who bought it legitimately.

She has, in effect invented a whole new “license” – The Criminal Commons License: “please only breach the legal copyright on this work if you intend to profit financially from it.” [Read more →]

Tags: New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

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

"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

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

SoundCloud – Audio Online, Your Way.

October 13th, 2009 · 6 Comments

So, Part II is about Soundcloud:

Soundcloud is SUCH a great compliment to BandCamp. While BandCamp is all about the curated artifact of music, Soundcloud is all about malleable audio – there’s no restriction on file-size, or resolution, so you can put MP3s up, podcasts, entire gigs as a single embeddable file…

It works great as a sketchbook, and again, you can control whether the stuff is streamable, downloadable or whatever else… There’s also a nice social side to SoundCloud, with the usual 2.0 follower/followee relationship, as well as the option to have ‘private’ files, for sharing music amongst collaborators before making it public. Very useful. It’s got a host of other fantastic features, which you can check out here, and to see it in action, here’s the EP that Michael Manring and I made available a few weeks ago, exclusively via SoundCloud:

Steve Lawson and Michael Manring live at Don Quixotes by solobasssteve

The pairing of Bandcamp and Soundcloud is a pretty much unbeatable combo for distributing audio files online. And Bandcamp gives you to option to charge for them as well.

What is as yet un-mapped is the actual relationship between how we value music, and how artists can price their work relating to that value. Donations, like the pay what you want option in Bandcamp, work really well – we the audience get the chance to be generous if we want, and people with no money can still get the music (and if they want to ‘pay’ something, can just share it around – after all, that’s ultimately what it’s all about!) but it still the case that you either pay before you listen (in which case the donation is a guess) OR the listener has to come back and make a donation after (which requires a level of commitment to the ideal that few of us are capable of…)

One of the projects I’m working on is a platform that seeks to work out that value and allow listeners to pay based on it, and I’ll write more about that very soon…

Tags: New Music Strategies · tips for musicians