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Warner’s Mistakes

February 10th, 2010 · 10 Comments

So apparently Warner have decided that streaming services aren’t part of the future of music online after all.

From the BBC website article:

” Warner chief executive Edgar Bronfman Jr said: “Free streaming services are clearly not net positive for the industry and as far as Warner Music is concerned will not be licensed.
“The ‘get all your music you want for free, and then maybe with a few bells and whistles we can move you to a premium price’ strategy is not the kind of approach to business that we will be supporting in the future.” “

Now, that’s not a lot to go on, so please bear that in mind as I write.

However, here are a few mistakes that seem apparent from Warner’s position as expressed in the article.

  • ‘Listen to all the music you want for free’ is not the same as ‘get all the music you want for free’ – streaming ≠ ownership, and portability is a chargeable commodity. Hence the reason I describe Spotify Lite as on-demand radio.
  • ‘Net positive for the industry’ is an utterly spurious metric. Why should any one way of accessing music be ‘net positive for the industry?’ especially one that is an awesome discovery platform that costs neither side much at all. Spotify is all about discovery. And people can only be fans and therefor financially invested in music they listen to. If getting them to listen is free, the world is a much better place than it was when advertising dollars ruled the discovery game.
  • Warner are talking about Warner, not as Carl Morris pointed out on Twitter, what is best for artists, genres or regions. If streaming services could be proved to be having a detrimental effect on a particular artist’s career, then pulling their music from the service would perhaps be a decision worth discussing. Blanket judgements for an entire media empire – without considering how many artists are themselves active supporters of streaming as a concept, and who are able to directly attribute an increase in new listeners to the ability of their fans to share links to free streams with their friends – are worse than useless. They’re reckless.
  • There’s no mention here of whether or not sales have dropped across the board out of line with any projections of how the curve would be without streaming services. If streaming is a discovery mechanism, then the revenue would naturally be found elsewhere, as we saw with the Lady GaGa story of small payouts from Spotify, but still being able to sell 20 MILLION paid downloads in the same time-period.

People paying a tenner for Spotify is no better or worse for the industry than them paying a tenner to eMusic to buy the things they’ve found using Spotify, or spending ten quid a month on CDs or other downloads. And lets not forget that statistically, those who spend £120 a year on music are a pretty small minority of music consumers. They always have been. A tenner a month is a lot for yer average listener to fork out to rent some streams (if you stop paying, all the content and stored playlists you’ve created on your mobile device is lost. Any downloads happening via the Spotify interface are happening at 79p a track, via 7digital (more big industry stupidity – make them cheaper, you eejits!)

When I listen to music, whether free or paid, I’m not thinking about ‘the industry’. I’m not supporting ‘the industry’ when I buy music, I’m giving it to artists in exchange for them being awesome. Awesomeness is something I’m willing to put a cash value on. As are lots of people.

Discovery is something that benefits the person being discovered at least as much as the one doing the discovery – that’s the foundational principle of advertising, and is why record labels pay for adverts. They’re even willing to illegally pay for airtime.

Here, Warner are being retrogressive, making blanket decisions based on ‘the industry’ not artists, have no idea what streaming services actually provide to their users, and don’t appear considered how awesome free discovery mechanisms are for everyone along the chain outside of their old industry metrics that placed cash (from both sides) in front of the discovery process.

Another Major Label FAIL.

Meanwhile, here’s some awesome music you can have for free, or pay for if you want to thank Ben Walker for his awesomeness:

Tags: New Music Strategies

New London Gig: Singers Of Twitter II – Oct 6th!

September 21st, 2009 · Comments Off on New London Gig: Singers Of Twitter II – Oct 6th!

After the huge success of the last ‘Singers Of Twitter’ gig at Darbucka last month, we’ve got another one coming up! Yay!

We’ll be back at Darbucka, and this time, it’ll feature Ben Walker AKA @ihatemornings out of Twitter, as the musical sandwich filling in between the gluten-free bread slices of the ever-wonderful Lloyd Davis on first and lovely Lobelia and I on at the end! Hurrah! It’s on Tuesday Oct 6th, doors at 7pm, music from 7.30, at Darbucka World Music Bar, on St John’s Street in Clerkenwell, London. [Read more →]

Tags: Geek · gig dates

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

'But I still like CDs!': why it's OK if your audience are webphobic.

December 4th, 2008 · Comments Off on 'But I still like CDs!': why it's OK if your audience are webphobic.

one of Ben Walker's excellent graphs. Clever man.This morning I read a really excellent blog post by Ben Walker.

It’s headed Wake Up And Smell The Evidence and outlines via statistics gathered from Ben’s own audience just how little of this social media webby geeky stuff gets through to ‘your average music fan’.

So are we wasting our time? Not if, like me, you see David Jennings amazing book, Net Blogs And Rock ‘n’ Roll as the handbook to understanding this stuff.

The Cover of Net Blogs And Rock 'n' Roll by David JenningsDavid addresses the very issue that Ben is most concerned with in the book, and in this blog post entitled Participation And Influence In Social Media in which he introduces us to a pyramid in which the 3 categories of participant in social media – as categorized by Bradley Horowitz – work as follows:

  • Creators — 1% of the user population might start a group (or a thread within a group)
  • Synthesisers — 10% of the user population might participate actively, and actually author content whether starting a thread or responding to a thread-in-progress
  • Consumers — 100% of the user population benefits from the activities of the above groups (lurkers

So when we put all this stuff out there, when we make our blogs and music and widgets and all that geeky bollocks sharable, we’re actually doing it for only a small percentage of our audience.

We can actually take heart that 1% of our audience are likely to be creating their own widgets, writing their own blogs about music and generally making a fuss about the things they love. If that happens to be us or our music, so much the better.

The next 10% are the ones who care, who share and who are very often there to bring friends along to gigs – they aren’t doing youtube mash-ups of our songs and clips from US teen TV shows, but they are very much aware of what we’re up to, and are more than happy to pass the info along.

And at the base of the pyramid we have the other 89%, who just like what we do, who listen, who put it on while they do the dishes. Who buy CDs, who listen to the radio, and use the internet to write emails to relatives and to passively stalk old school friends on FriendsReunited. They don’t really care (at the moment) about downloading and RSS feeds and twitter and tagging and all that other stuff we’re so excited and passionate about.

But then they don’t need to. Hopefully they’ll find out about us because one of their 10 BFFs is doing that for them. and then maybe…

…1 of their 100 work colleagues has started his own internet radio station,
…and he digs mellow loopy solo bass post rock goodness.
…So he plays me.
…And then Mrs FriendsReunited hears it because, hey, he’s a nice bloke to work with, and he even went to the trouble of emailing the link round.
…Most of what he plays is very odd, but there was this really gentle bit in the middle, sounded like the soundtrack to a mellow film.
…etc. etc.

The evolution of web-tools will always be targeted at these three groups differently. While Ben and David and I are all trawling the net for news of great social apps that we can add as plug-ins to our wordpress blogs, our keen friends and fans are happy to click on the ‘share this’ links a the bottom of each blog, and send it out to their mates on facebook. The better the facebook integration with our blog is, the better the chances are for them to share that stuff. And given the size and reach of sites like facebook and myspace, you never know, Mrs FriendsReunited may well have a facebook page, and get sent a link to a post about my new album, and hear it, and think ‘hmm, that reminds me of that thing on the internet radio station’ and about 3 years later she’ll serendipitously find out that they were one and the same, and will buy a CD…

So please do read Ben’s post. It’s excellent. But the situation is slightly less bleak than he makes out, as the marvellous David Jennings makes so clear in his post. I’m glad I have such wise and talented friends. (and no, for the record, David didn’t steal the idea from me… 😉 )

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

Social Media – first principles for musicians (Pt 2)

October 21st, 2008 · 6 Comments

House Concert in BournemouthOK, let’s jump straight into part 2 with a few of the fears musicians have when making ourselves available to talk directly with our audience.

We’ll look at 3 areas we often get wrong when interacting with our audience, which are:

  • How to treat your audience like friends rather than your ‘target market’. (notice I keep using the more neutral term ‘audience’ rather than ‘fans’ – I’ve never been all that comfortable with the word ‘fans’, seems a little patronising in some contexts, but substitute it if you wish…).
  • allowing people to comment on what you do doesn’t mean you have to put up with insults and slander.
  • don’t confuse inviting comment with asking for advice.

These three are biggies in terms of HOW we actually treat our audience.

  • If You Treat Them Like Friends, They’ll Stick Around Longer. I was going through some old letters earlier today (we’re moving house) and found one from a guy I knew when I was a kid. It was the first letter I’d got from him in almost 2 years, and he was trying to sell me insurance! No introductory message, no catch-up, no context. Just ‘I’ve got a new job selling insurance; want some?’ It all came flooding back to me how used I felt when I got the letter, how insane it seemed, even back in those pre-spam days.The parallels with talking to your audience like friends are obvious. If all you ever say is ‘buy my shit!’, there’s no level of which it’s a friendship. Think about it in terms of ‘how would you feel if everyone you talk to on social media started behaving like you back at you?’ – if you’d be getting hundreds of adverts a day, it’s time to change your approach
  • Allowing People To Comment On What You Do Doesn’t Mean You Have To Put Up With Insults And Slander – this is probably a bigger issue for Americans than Brits, given that you guys have a much stronger attachment to the notion of ‘freedom of speech’.I was chatting with Ben Walker last night over curry, about all the things that happened around the viral explosion of his Twitter Song video. One of the things that he got that seems to be endemic on Youtube was the hateful, nasty comments. Hundreds of them. From people who hadn’t even watched the video, but just spend their time posting hateful comments for absolutely no reason. Fortunately Ben found it funny. His girlfriend, less so. I never allow insulting comments to stay on any site that I moderate. Disagreement is fine, but politeness is a must.My rule is, if someone said it to me in a pub, would I walk out? I’ve stopped posting on a couple of bass-related forums because I was being insulted by a handful of posters. It’s not that I get upset by it, but it does become a waste of my time. I’m not one to court negativity or ‘controversy’ by getting into arguments with internet trolls. I’m happy to chat with people who don’t ‘get’ my music, but insult me and I leave the conversation – as the person in the conversation who has a reputation of sorts, you’ll never win. So the lesson is, keep such discussions to places you can moderate – Myspace, twitter, facebook fan-page, Ning pages, reverbnation comments, self-hosted forums : all of those are places you can keep the atmosphere at a level you’re socially comfortable with. Don’t feel like you owe airtime to people with a grievance. Deleting insulting posts isn’t censorship, it’s selection – censorship suggests you’re denying them a voice, when actually you’re just choosing not to allow them to hijack YOUR audience. Anyone can set up a blog posting about how much they dislike whoever, they just can’t do it in my forum. Simple as.
  • Don’t Confuse Inviting Comment With Asking For Advice – a lot of musicians, in order to stimulate conversation, ask their audience for their opinion on their work, be it released work or ‘works in progress’. It’s a good way to start a discussion, but there is a fine line between inviting people to pick their favourites, and getting completely unqualified criticism of your work from people with no idea what you’re actually trying to do.
    Crowd-sourcing advice for your music is a sure way of
    a) confusing yourself, and
    b) losing any sense of a coherent narrative to what you do.
    I make it as plain as I can without sounding stuck-up that I don’t make music FOR anyone except me. Not because I don’t care what they think, but because I can’t. I can only soundtrack the world as I see it, as best I can. Someone else telling me what I could do differently to best suit their aesthetic, their view of the world is completely futile.

    That’s not to say that I don’t have people whose opinion I trust who can comment and critique what I do – I have a whole list of them – it just that each of them have earned that place over years of listening and conversation. It has context. It’s also certainly not to say that I don’t like hearing what people like and don’t like about what I do. It’s fascinating to hear, and hugely encouraging when people ‘get it’, on whatever level. But as an example, we recently had a letter back from a record label about the Lawson/Dodds/Wood album (have you bought it yet? :) ) The guy said he really like it, but threw in ‘maybe it needs a female vocal?’ – why? Why would it ‘need’ anything? Why do we need telling that? because we don’t know any female vocalists? The last few gigs we’ve done as a trio have featured one of the finest female vocalists I’ve ever worked with, and if we felt like we needed to add her voice to the album, we’d have done it. I’ve no idea who this dude is, I’m glad he likes the record, but have no real interest in whether or not the album sounds like it needs samples of dogs barking or clowns being kicked squarely in the nuts on it, in his estimations. It’s not that his opinions aren’t valid to him, they just lack context in relation to how and why WE made OUR record.

Talk to your audience like friends
don’t patronise them
don’t shout at them
listen to them but don’t pretend they’re your producers
share things of value with them
invite them into your creative pathway
give away information and ideas that have currency
help them and they’ll help you.

I’ve said before on a number of occasions, my audience is almost always entirely made up of people I’d love to go out for a curry with after the gig and chat to for hours. Demographically, my favourite people in the world are the ones that go to Steve Lawson gigs. If I wasn’t Steve Lawson, I’d be hanging out at his gigs to meet cool people. Somewhere along the line the approach to drawing an audience into your world that I’ve outlined above has worked pretty much perfectly for me.

Take the principles and examples, think about them, discuss them, adapt them, play with them, jump in and try chatting to your fans. See what happens. Please post and thoughts, comments or questions below.

Part 3 I’ll look at some of the software and hardware tools that work best.

Tags: Uncategorized

What my musical friends are up to…

October 9th, 2008 · Comments Off on What my musical friends are up to…

I’ve been telling you a lot about what I’m up to musically of late, but I’ve got some rather talented friends who’ve been busy too, so here’s a quick and incomplete round-up of what a few of them have been doing:

First up there’s Ben Walker – fellow Tuttlist and fab singer-songwriter. He was writing 50 songs in 90 days, a few of which he wrote one Friday morning at Tuttle. One of those was called ‘You’re No-one If You’re Not On Twitter’ – here’s the video, which has been watched almost 300,000 times! (warning – it’s insanely catchy…)

Then there’s Jonatha Brooke – I met up with Jonatha in New York in January and she told me about a record she was about to record, featuring songs with words by Woody Guthrie for which she’s written the music. She was very excited, and I’m really happy to say that finished album shows the excitement wasn’t misplaced. I reviewed the album for this month’s Third Way magazine – It’s a truly exceptional album, and here’s a clip of her teaching Joe Sample (jazz legend, out of the Crusaders) how to play one of the songs:

Uhm, who else now? Seth Horan – solo bassist singer/songwriter, recently toured the UK. He’s doing an interesting thing with the production of his new album, that you can be involved in – here are two blog posts about that: Part 1 and part 2.

Iain Archer has an AMAZING new album out, recorded and released entirely under his own steam. Judging by the record, it was a VERY smart move. Beautiful stuff – check out the tunes from it on his myspace page.

And of course Lobelia – we’ve had some great gigs together of late, and here’s a lovely clip of her playing from the same gig as my ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ Vid’ –

More friends-news coming soon. :)

Tags: music reviews · Musing on Music · Uncategorized