stevelawson.net

Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



Entries Tagged as 'tips for musicians'

Podcast of the Outside The Box Panel from UnConvention

July 3rd, 2009 · Comments Off on Podcast of the Outside The Box Panel from UnConvention

You’ll remember a few weeks ago I was on a panel, chaired by the lovely Andrew Dubber, at UnConvention in Manchester. The panel was titled ‘Outside The Box’, and the aim was to address some of the unique issues that face musicians and bands that don’t fall into the ‘guitar/bass/drums/vox’ indie band format. So there was me, a few electronica people, an Islamic devotional music artist, and a 17th century folk music artist… all kinds of fun and games!

And here is the audio recording of it – it’s just over an hour long, and contains a lot of great discussion. (there’s some fairly grown up language in the recording, in case that kind of thing is a concern for you).

Enjoy – it’s well worth a listen! Here’s my blog post from the time, with a lot of my brain-stormed ideas from thinking about the session – there are loads more in the recording, from the other amazing people I was on the panel with.

Tags: New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

Abe Laboriel Snr Interview From August 2000

June 30th, 2009 · 5 Comments

I’ve mentioned before how fortunate I feel to have got to meet so many of my musical heroes early on in my music career. Back when I was writing for Bassist magazine – and then Guitarist magazine when they were merged – I had the opportunity to hang out with and chat to so many players whose music had meant a lot to me. In some cases, they were pleasant interviews, and the players now say hi if see them at trade shows. Others are people I now class as good friends, and some I’ve had the chance to play with. After this interview with Abraham Laboriel, we played together for over an hour. (I’ve got a minidisc of it somewhere, though given that it was only a few months after I first got my 6 string fretless, I’m guessing my intonation wouldn’t be quite what it is today!) [Read more →]

Tags: journalism · tips for musicians

Fame, Fame, Fatal Fame – Michael Jackson And The Death of Global Super-Stardom

June 27th, 2009 · 22 Comments

The death of Michael Jackson – like so many celebrity deaths – has brought with it a swathe of responses, both from the public and in the media.

Anyone who ever met him gets dragged out to talk about ‘their relationship’, and anyone remotely famous who might have a connection (be it sharing the pop-charts with him in the 80s, that they at some point in the past expressed a liking for his music, or just happen to be famous and black) is door-stepped for their comment.

It’s a fairly unpleasant media feeding frenzy, but it’s definitely serving a voracious need amongst a large section of the populus to be handed a secular liturgy for mourning the death of someone that, while insanely significant in the history of popular music, hadn’t made a notable artistic contribution in 20 years, and was written off a few years ago as a freaky paedo that many people (without any real evidence or experience of the case) thought escaped jail on a technicality…

For all those of us who hadn’t seen him live in over a decade, only listened to his older records (or not at all), and whose main month to month awareness of his was the reports of his spectacular and mind-boggling financial collapse, the emotional outpouring seems to be more an expression of 3 things:

  • a desire for some kind of connection with *the thing that’s going on* – get our opinion in, be part of the public conversation, tell everyone you always thought he was a genius/freak/whatever.
  • a sadness – close to grief – for our youth (a deeper expression of the same thing that drives people to watch I Love The 80s)
  • a largely unarticulated – but it appears, deeply felt – sense of loss for the age when musical and media megastars could MEAN something. (Andrew Dubber mused on this on Twitter)

Michael Jackson in his day combined musical genius, innovation and fame-beyond-measure. He was a truly global phenomenon. Massive far beyond the reaches of late 70s Ameri-centric radio and the English-speaking world. Larger than life, weirder that weird, but astoundingly gifted. Ever since Off The Wall came out, generation after generation of kids have connected with his music (there’s something about his music that definitely – and in light of the court case from a few years back, disturbingly – connects with pre-teen kids more than almost any other soul/funk-based music).

His creative partnership with Quincy Jones, producer of Off The Wall, Thriller and Bad, produced some of the most iconic moments in the pop canon, but since Bad, he’s produced little that’s considered musically significant (I saw him live in the late 90s, when I interviewed his bassist, Freddie Washington for Bassist Magazine – outstanding show, but definitely all about the decade-plus old hits).

So what do we get out of grieving?

What are the questions we need to ask about the impression we had of him, the false feeling of connection we had with him as a person through his music and the press, and our complicity as part of a media-hungry world that fueled his madness (largely, it seems attributed to a seriously screwed up relationship with his dad, but made worse by his fame-neccesitated isolation).

Neverland, bubbles, oxygen-tanks, Liz Taylor, plastic surgery, llamas, friendships with kids, that documentary… A life documented like a dystopic flip-side to the Truman Show, but one that destroyed him.

At the recent UnConvention conference in Salford, I was asked at the end of our panel on being ‘outside the box’ what my one piece of advice was for musicians looking at their place in the world of music. My comment was

‘it’s more important to be nice than it is to be talented’

if becoming a ‘great musician’, and more pertinently, a ‘famous musician’ turns you into a reclusive lunatic, your priorities are screwed. Quit music, get a job in a bookshop, and leave fame to those whose narcissism is so overpowering they’ll pursue it to their own death.

Michael was rightly celebrated for his musical contribution, but his fame and its destructive influence on his life was out of all proportion to that (how could any music possibly live up to that??) – his public persona was a media-created 2-headed chimera: musical deity and social demon, invented to seed the front pages with stories between the album releases. If the next album’s a turkey, who cares, we’ve got pics of him in an oxygen tent, kissing a monkey dressed in tiny human clothes! Win!

Fame is the downside to success, and the way it removes the consequences from ones actions means that people like MJ who desperately needed help to recover from his screwed up childhood-in-the-spotlight never got it. If you’re heading towards it, in the words of Monty Python’s Holy Grail, “Run away! Run away!”

Or, indeed, put another way:

“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Nothing is worth that.


So, commenters – fame, celebrity, talent… where does it all go from here? What does a tale like this mean for those of us working in music, and using social media to break down the myths around our lives? Is ‘accessibility’ just another myth, once you get beyond a certain as-yet-undefined number of pseudo-personal connections? Have at it!

Tags: Musing on Music · obituaries · Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc. · tips for musicians

After CDs. What’s next?

June 11th, 2009 · 12 Comments

Following on from yesterday’s post about the anachronistic nature of the term ‘label’, I’ve been having a think about the actual format that music is released in.

It’s amazing how containers can make us lazy about content. The assumptions we make about the nature of music, collections of music, what constitutes a ‘complete work’ etc.

There’s a great thread over on solobasssteve.com about this, where Tom asks about the way that downloads are allowing classical music to be consumed in the way it was intended – in mixed programmes of individual movements, or of complete works without the weird filler stuff that’s used to make up the empty bit on the CD. [Read more →]

Tags: New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

The End Of Record Labels?

June 10th, 2009 · 26 Comments

One of the most interesting things about UnConvention this weekend was the chance to listen to some people from a number of record labels talk about what they do.

The thought that struck me from the discussion was that, while a lot of the work they do is still very much important and of value, the notion of ‘a label’ is stifling the reinvention of ‘companies that support the spread of music’ in the lives of musicians.

See, the term “label” suggests that there’s something physical to print a label on – that the biggest part of what they do is provide the funds and resources to record music in a studio and then release it in various containers, be they CD, vinyl, DVD or whatever… [Read more →]

Tags: New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

Brainstorming New Models for Music Careers

June 9th, 2009 · Comments Off on Brainstorming New Models for Music Careers

As you know, I was at Unconvention in Manchester at the weekend, on a panel titled Outside The Box.

On the way up there, on my epically crap train journey, I wrote down a load of ideas for the session, some of which I shared, some of which there wasn’t time for – so here’s that post, as a log of some of what was said, and a bit more besides. Feel free to add your own suggestions at the end, and DEFINITELY visit Martin Atkins’ site Tour Smart website.
[Read more →]

Tags: New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

The Earnestness of Being Important

June 3rd, 2009 · Comments Off on The Earnestness of Being Important

…AKA, What’s Important about your Music… To You?


Following on from the discussion about ‘what makes you interesting?’, I’ve been thinking about the other ‘value metrics’ for what we do as musicians, and the directions they flow in.

Interestingness is one bi-directional value:

  • What you think is interesting, or find interesting about what you do
  • What your audience find interesting about you AND about what you do.

The important element being that YOU being interesting isn’t a prerequisite to making great music, it just provides additional context for the music. It’s why we all bought music magazines – we didn’t buy them for dry descriptors of new music by people we’d never heard. We bought them to read stories, thoughts and opinions from the people whose music we love already, and to discover in the taste of the journalists some new music that they get excited about. [Read more →]

Tags: Musing on Music · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

Guest Post II – Jennifer Moore on 'Interestingness'

June 2nd, 2009 · Comments Off on Guest Post II – Jennifer Moore on 'Interestingness'

[This post was originally posted as a comment on my “What Makes Your Music Interesting?“, but was far too wonderful, and involved, to leave as a comment. So please do read the other post first, and Jennifer’s earlier comments. Jennifer Moore is, as I said in the comments there, the first person I ever saw play a whole set of solo bass. A fabulous musician, and a regular commenter here, she always brings clarity and insight to whatever she comments on.]

::ponder ponder ponder::

I’ve been thinking more about all these comments, esp John G‘s use of the word “engaging”.

I’m thinking that “what’s good” vs “what’s interesting” (in the hooky/intriguing/initial-engagement sense of “interesting”) leaves something out.

“I was found by being interesting, not by being good” – Partly true, but you were partly just found by being there. That is both “there” at the event, and “there” on Flickr. [Read more →]

Tags: Managing Information Streams · Musing on Music · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

What Makes Your Music Interesting?

May 28th, 2009 · 21 Comments

These last couple of weeks, I’ve been SO busy with geek-things, that I’ve had little time for picking up a bass and making noises. It feels like a bit of a shame to have lost the momentum I picked up whilst posting my series of new video experiments to vimeo, but it also feels like a good break, time to think.

The 3 ‘live blogging’ events I’ve done have all been very different, but have all contained lessons for the discerning social-media-monkey-muso. [Read more →]

Tags: Geek · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

London Songwriting Week seminar with Andrew Dubber and Tom Robinson

May 18th, 2009 · 12 Comments

I’m going to be live blogging this today – here’s a link to the page about it

[12:41] It’s going to be a group seminar/workshop on collaboration in a digital age, but the sounds of things. Just had a chat with Tom and Andrew about the whole thing. Let’s see how it goes.

[12:51] Just tried to grab the feed of the Twitter search for #freshnet and embed it here, but feedburner won’t let me! How nuts is that? Anyway, if you want to follow other twitterings from today, head over to the #freshnet search. [Read more →]

Tags: Geek · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians