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Entries Tagged as '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

Bandcamp, Soundcloud And The Portability Of Music

October 12th, 2009 · 17 Comments

For many years,  musicians have been looking for decent ways of hosting, embedding, distributing and selling music online. The shops that sell MP3s, on the back of iTunes success, are myriad. As are the sites that let you upload a few tunes and put them on your profile, ala Myspace, Reverbnation etc.

But two services are now becoming essential in the web-savvy musicians tool-kit – BandCamp and Soundcloud.

I’ll blog about Soundcloud tomorrow, but let’s start withBandCamp: [Read more →]

Tags: Music News · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

Featured Artist Coalition Backs Lily. "WTF?" Says Everyone Else.

October 5th, 2009 · 57 Comments

So, after initially recognising the truth that Lily Allens position on file-sharing her pro-Mandelson notion that ‘persistent file-sharers’ should have their internet connections cut off/crippled – was nonsense, they’ve now turned round and said, “ah no, see when Lily was talking like a complete loony? yeah, we’re all about that now. Rock on, with your Machiavellian internet snooping!” Here’s a link to their statement on it. [Read more →]

Tags: New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

U2 And The Feast Of Enoughness

October 4th, 2009 · 11 Comments

In response to This article about the scale of U2’s current tour, I posted this on twitter and facebook:

U2, knocking years of the length of time earth can sustain human life, one gig at a time

The discussion on Facebook then got as far as one friend suggesting that people who objected to the planet-trashing excesses of U2’s tour wanted us to “email [all the gig-goers] to stay home and make organic muffins…..” – the kind of Richard Littlejohn-esque reductionist, lazy thinking that leads someone to say such things, often stems from the feeling that something they value highly has been questioned – in this case, it was a friend who was deeply moved by the U2 gig he went to, so any attempt to frame them as irresponsible needs refuting and debunking. [Read more →]

Tags: New Music Strategies · Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc. · tips for musicians

Lily Allen and The Politics Of Self-Interest

September 30th, 2009 · 45 Comments

I know, I’m a week late writing about Lily Allen and her attempts to back Peter Mandelson’s campaign to have ‘persistent file sharers’ internet connections taken away. (and in the meantime, she’s taken down her anti-file sharing blog, and allegedly quit music!)

There have been a lot of responses to this, many of them suggesting that Lily (and her brothers in arms James Blunt and Gary Barlow) don’t make music worth buying so they deserve to have it pirated…

So let’s deal with that first. Your (or my) impression of the ‘worth’ of Lily Allen’s music has no bearing whatsoever on whether she’s talking sense or not. She could be John Coltrane saying this, or she could be the Reynolds Girls. It makes no odds.

What’s more important is why she’s saying it. [Read more →]

Tags: New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

Independent Music Manifesto Pt II – The Video!

September 17th, 2009 · 6 Comments

So, after having posted yesterday’s blog spelling out the ‘State Of The Indie Union‘, I found a tweet linking to this video of me talking at Leeds Metropolitan University a couple of weeks ago. The event was organised by JAMESJoint Audio Media Education Services – who booked me to talk about the state of play for musicians in the new music economy.

Given that it was a room full of educators and students who were also musicians, it’s leans further towards the education end of the spectrum in places, but is pretty much a video version of the manifesto in yesterday’s blog. Enjoy!

Tags: New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

Independent Music Manifesto

September 16th, 2009 · 20 Comments

I was asked to write a piece for Agit8.org.uk about ‘The Future Of The Music Industry. It was a nice chance to pull together a lot of thoughts, which, given that we’ve no idea quite how the future is going to pan out, are actually all about where we’re at now. A state of the indie nation address, if you will. So here it is. Enjoy, it’s a pretty good summary of where my thinking is at just now.

-o0o-

Major label collapse, 360 deals, Pirate Bay, Spotify, Bit Torrent, Youtube… It’s clear to anyone with half an eye on the news that something huge is happening in the world of music. And if you believe the majority of the press, it’s universally a bad thing – lots of very sad multi-millionaires are seeing their scarcity cash-cow sacrificed on the alter of ubiquity.

However, the problem is not actually with the music industry, but with the CD selling industry. There’s an old saying, ‘when all that you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail’ – if your entire view of what being ‘in music’ is about is shifting CDs, then indeed, the future of the CD selling business looks pretty bleak. [Read more →]

Tags: New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

SL On The Radio

September 15th, 2009 · 5 Comments

A couple of weeks ago, I was interviewed by the wonderful Tom Robinson for his show on 6Music, ‘Introducing – a show all about new music with, rather brilliantly, lots of handy tips for bands and artists starting out and trying to negotiate the tricky transition from the age of the mega-deal-at-the-end-of-the-rainbow to the scary world of DIY and talking to your audience. [Read more →]

Tags: Music News · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

The Illusion Of ‘Genre’

August 8th, 2009 · 24 Comments

John Goldsby just tweeted a link to this article from the Wall Street Journal. It’s all about the falling audiences for jazz. A whole load of demographic stuff about who’s going to see jazz, and who now isn’t going to see jazz.

The problem with this is that any artist worth a listen doesn’t do ‘jazz gigs’. They play their own unique music. They play ‘John Goldsby music’, or ‘Miles Davis music’ or ‘Pat Metheny music’ or indeed ‘Steve Lawson music.

The ‘style’ might be jazz, but the intention, ideas and the 20/30/40/50 years of life experience that lead them to make the music they make are unrepeatable. [Read more →]

Tags: New Music Strategies · tips for musicians