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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



measurable last.fm stat (short post alert!)

June 23rd, 2008 · Comments Off on measurable last.fm stat (short post alert!)

Just a quick one: I’ve just seen that my number of listeners on Last.fm this week jumped up to 33, from 17 last week – see the list of weekly listeners here, and add yourself to it for next week by listening here.

So, in statistical terms, that’s a success, I guess, though this year, I think it’s telling that my highest level of listeners on last.fm was when I was on tour in the US in Jan/Feb…

Don’t miss yesterday’s post which brings together some thoughts on measuring the value of these interactions – read it here

(and don’t worry, I’ll be back to writing annoyingly long essays tomorrow :) )

Tags: Geek · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

Buzz experiment thoughts: Measuring Levels Of Connection…

June 22nd, 2008 · Comments Off on Buzz experiment thoughts: Measuring Levels Of Connection…

The other day I wrote my first post for MusicThinkTank.com – a really great collaborative blog with contributors from across the spectrum of ‘what’s happening in the music industry these days?’ – I was really excited to be asked to blog for them, as there are some fantastic thinkers writing for the site that I’ve learned a lot from over the years. (please feel free to read the post and comment over there)

One of the really nice things about writing for them is the brief to be brief. So my first post is just that – short and to the point. But it does mean that I get to expand on the thoughts over here :)

So, as I say over there, one of the things that the buzz exercises are making me think about and be more aware of is the whole area of ‘level of connection’ or ‘depth of impact’. There are two vague levels on which this stuff can be measured – abstract and metric. The abstract level is probably best summed up as ‘your own perception of the level of ambient awareness’ – or just the sense that more people seem to be clocking who you are and what you do.

The metric level is actually a whole series of interlocking metrics measuring LOADS of different ways that people engage with what you do: from audience attendance at gigs, CD and download sales, free download hits, web page hits, return visits, RSS feed subscribers, mentions on other people’s blogs and web forums, quantity of email interactions… etc. etc.

What’s vitally important to remember here is that what you’re dealing with is not a set of statistics that need improving, but a number of unique individuals who are all engaging what an aspect or aspects of ‘that thing you do’ in subtle and unique ways, and are all in a position to be drawn closer into what you do, if only it is presented to them in a way that is relevant and of value.

But in order to understand and quantify where each of those people are in their relationship with you, we first need to come up with some vague staging posts along the way, from no knowledge of even the area you work in to becoming a patron/sponsor/financier of what you do.

Let’s have a look at a few of those introductory stages:

Notice that a person’s level of connection with you begins before they even know who you are: knowing something about your field is a level of connection – it’s latent, but can prove vital to them a) finding you and b) understanding what you do. So for me, it really helps whenever anyone else is successful as a solo bassist and/or musician using looping. Every time KT Tunstall or Imogen Heap does some live looping on TV, it expands my pool of latent connection. Every time Victor Wooten plays a solo spot in a Flecktones gig, and a bunch of non-bassists see how cool solo bass can be, my pool of latent connection expands.

As and when those people are drawn into my orbit, they’ll have some frame of reference for what it is that I do, something to relate it to, a peg on which to hang their labels for it, beyond ‘nice music’. They’ll see it as a cool hip thing, and I’ll piggy-back on the residual level of cool that solo bass or looping has for them. This, in my experience, has way more real-world lasting value than the pretense that what you’re doing is utterly unique and groundbreaking. The majority of people connect better with familiarity than they do with ‘extreme novelty’…

The first level of actualised connection is name recognition. How many times have you had a conversation with someone who says ‘do you know ******’ and you say ‘I’ve heard the name’… and often you have. You know precious little about them, if anything, but their name is there, in your sphere somewhere.

If that happens 2 or 3 times with the same person, your curiosity is tweaked and you may google them, especially if you’re sat in front of a computer when it happens. And name recognition turns to first level engagement with what you do – finding whichever web-presence ranks highest in google for you and checking it out… So they’ve found you, and have done so based on the feeling that they might be missing out by not knowing about you…

The obvious point to make here is that this relies on them meeting 2 or 3 people who are inspired to talk about what you do – something that is latent in a lot of your audience, most likely. There’ll be a whole load of people who like what you do who don’t think to talk about it, cos they don’t realise you need it. As I’ve said many times, and will keep saying til people realise it’s true, I’m utterly reliant on word of mouth to get people to hear about what I do – both because I can’t afford broadcast ad-space and because I dip under the radar of most mainstream music media channels… the occasional play on Radio 3 or 6Music and the very occasional article in the national press can’t sustain any level of buzz enough to help support a career – though it’s great to have listeners now who first heard me on Late Junction or read about me in a mag (I’ve been interviewed by, reviewed by or featured in The Sunday Times, Jazzwise, Bassist, Guitarist, Bass Player, Bass Frontiers, Total Guitar… etc. etc. and lots of music related websites. Sounds a lot bunched together like that, but means precious little when spread out over 9 years in the context of building a career… …more on the real importance of reviews and interviews coming soon!)

But how is that measured? We as musicians need to make ourselves available for feedback – whether it be email, forums, tweets, myspace comments, blog comments, last.fm shout-box comments… Encouraging a culture of “letting artists know that we’ve found them and we like them” is a huge part of making music ‘sticky’, so that it pollenates beyond our ‘primary reach’.

So, comment thread: other than me (though if you’ve just discovered me, you can tell me where too!), who was the last independent artist you heard that got you excited? Feel free to video comment and play some of the music in the background :)

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

Last.fm-buzzing – day one results + free stuff :)

June 19th, 2008 · 1 Comment

OK, one day into the last.fm buzzing experiment, and the first thing that’s clear is that this is going to take a little longer. Twitter buzzing takes a maximum of 20 seconds beyond reading the blog post. You find a link, you twurl it, you tweet it. Simple As.

I did, however, have twice as many listeners on last.fm yesterday, compared to my daily average, and also visits to this site are also still up way above the average… Not sure how much of that is interest in me or interest in the results of the experiment. Either is good!

The Last.fm thing has a bigger pay-off – you’re listening to a load of music you presumably find interesting – but it takes a LOT more time, from the actual listening time, to navigating the site, to deciding where to comment, to finding out how this ‘loving tracks’ thing works.

So, here’s the first ‘prize’ for those of you that haven’t got it already: A free album to download from Last.fm – it’s my most ‘ambient’ album yet, with two massive long ambient epics, and a few shorter tracks, all to be downloaded and listened to in your own time. All I ask is that you sign up for last.fm and listen to them with the plug in switched on (once you’ve got it, if you set it to auto-load when you turn your computer on, you don’t even have to think about it, it just logs what you listen to, and when you want it to, can suggest interesting new music, or generate radio stations for you – all for freebs, how cool is that?)

What’s also note-worthy is that no-one has – as far as I can see – commented on there yet – I guess there are too many choices. So today, if you read this, please comment on the artist front page

I’m trying to find a way in their ‘music manager’ software of tracking when tracks are ‘loved’… the most obvious page for me to follow is the Fans page – which auto-updates whenever anyone plays some stuff on there. It’s great to see in real-time what people are listening to (though also slightly alarming when people start with my earlier albums – for some reason, the top two most played tunes on there are from Not Dancing For Chicken, which came out in 2002… guess you can’t control what people listen to :)

Anyway, the experiment goes on, please, join in today if you’re on last.fm, or fancy signing up, download the free album, and enjoy!

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

The experiment Pt 2 – Last.fm-Buzzing

June 18th, 2008 · Comments Off on The experiment Pt 2 – Last.fm-Buzzing

OK, Pt II of the experiment is an easy-ish one, if you’re already on Last.fm.

In case you don’t know, Last.fm is an online radio/playlist/social network site – the heart of it is an ENORMOUS catalogue of songs, many of which can be streamed on demand, and all of which crop up in radio stations, based on the music that people who like what you like like. :)

There are also artist-specific stations, (you can go there and listen to ‘artists similar to Steve Lawson’, for example, and will get a play list of stuff that’s listened to by people who listen to me…)

So, here’s today’s experiment (feel free to sign up to last.fm if you’re not on there already).

there are four bits to this –
1) Listening
2) Tagging
3) “Loving”
4) Commenting

A little more detail on each:
Listening is easy – just head to my last.fm artist page and hit play – for the track to register, you need to listen to at least a minute of it I think, so if you do skip around a few tracks, do play more than a few seconds of each one.

Tagging is also dead simple – when you go to my artist page, you’ll see ‘User Tags’ in the top right of the screen. Click on ‘Tag This Artist’ underneath it, and start by clicking on each of the ‘popular tags for this artist’ that you agree with. The more times a particular tag is used for an artist, the higher they ‘rank’ in the radio stations associated with this tag – more taggers=more radio play. Feel free to add your own tags too, by typing them in the box.

Loving a particular track can be done either in the embedded player on the site, or via the downloaded Last.fm client – just click the big heart button when you’re listening to a tune you love, and it’ll bring it up more often in your radio station, and log it as something worth listening to.

And Commenting is again, I guess, self explanatory – you can comment on any page on last.fm – artist, album or song, so feel free to add more than one comment – a short comment on the artist page would be great, some more specific stuff on your favourite album of mine would be even better.

The purpose of this experiment is to see how deep the connection goes with Last.fm listeners, and also how much the radio stations are affected by this kind of thing – I get pretty accurate stats back from last.fm about how many radio listeners I’ve had, and can see the ‘recent listeners’ list for me as an artist, as well as individually for each track and album.

So go to it – you can even do a lot of the listening and loving here on the MP3s page, but you’ll have to head to last.fm for the tagging and commenting.

thanks so much! Those who comment and listen to the most tunes this week, that’ll add towards the Cd prizes, for sure!

I’m working on bringing some thoughts together about how we measure the quality of connection/interaction with our web-audience… will blog that soon.

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

Twitter-Buzzin' – some early results…

June 17th, 2008 · 2 Comments

Thanks so much to all of you who took part in the great Twitter-buzzin’ experiment! It was firstly a whole lot of fun and the most obvious traceable statistic is that it the number of unique visitors to my blog and the wordpress part of my site more than doubled, and unlike most traffic spikes, the ‘average time on site’ stayed as high as it does for my regular visitors… So the new visitors sent in by my tweetin’ lovelies were engaged to a greater degree than most of the random traffic that comes to my site without any ‘buzz generation’ going on.

However, what also became VERY clear is how impossible it is to accurately track the spread of organic buzz – or rather, it’s impossible to track buzz where the buzz-generators don’t explicitly sign up to being tracked…

What I tried to use was tweetburner, which tracks clicks on twurl.nl so you can see who’s been clicking your links, and, I thought, tracks who else had tweeted it. Except it only tracks accurately those who are signed up for tweetburner, not all twitter users (which makese sense, given data protection and privacy considerations, I guess!) – so while it does show the sites/external apps that are clicked on, it doesn’t say which account generated those clicks, which made it a lot trickier to follow. There are some indications, in terms of whose twitter URL the clicks originated from, but most twitter users are using a client of some kind…

I was able to get some more accurate stats by upgrading my MyBlogLog.com account to pro, and see more details about where clicks were coming from, and by cross referencing that with my Google Analytics stats, I get some idea of where traffic is coming from. But it’s all very much long tail stuff – loads of single clicks from disparate sources add up to a whole lot of traffic.

Conclusions Pt 1 –

And I guess that’s the nature of ‘buzz’, real buzz – it’s not about having one link appear on stumbleupon for a few hours, getting 500 visitors who never come back, and stay for about 6 seconds on your site. It’s about peer proliferation – friends telling friends, inviting them to check out something cool, something relevant, something connected, something of value. One of the interesting bits that was equally un-metric-able was the number of people who were listening to my (or mine and Lobelia’s music, since some of the twurl links were to youtube vids of us… ) – a few tweets came back talking about it, but again, unless people had opted in to having their music listening tracked by last.fm, or chose to comment or rate the youtube vids, the buzz was largely unmeasurable…

So in terms of prizes, I’m a little stuck at the moment to tell who got who to come here… but there’ll be another few parts to this experiment before CDs start whizzing their way around the planet, so rest assured, the prizes are still there to be had.

For now though, a huge thankyou to Banannie, Documentally, ihatemornings, knackeredhack, andycoughlan, t1mmyb, garethjms and to otir and tapps who took the concept over to plurk

For now though, did anyone tweet you back about it? Anyone message you to say they thought it was cool? One day is a short time in which to track these thinsgs and I intentionally kept it as ‘spam-free’ as I could – I wanted this to be about a group of friends helping out and seeing what happened…

Pt II coming later – Blog-Buzzin’! :)

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

The great "Twitter-Buzz experiment"!

June 16th, 2008 · 5 Comments

OK, here’s the plan – I’m interested to see how much of a buzz a modest number of twitter-followers can create about a particular site/service/artist/whatever, so I’m running a competition, in which y’all get to come up with whatever ideas you like to send your twitter-readers back to my site, or to my videos on youtube, or music on last.fm. You could pick a fave song, video or blog-post and link to it, you could use it as an example of something, you could even just tell your twit-friends about the experiment (this isn’t a clandestine thing at all!) – it’s just to see how well twitter works for generating buzz…

The key to this is that a) the links are put on twitter, b) you use http://twurl.nl to shorten your url, and c) you tweet me the shortened url so I can retweet it and be able to follow the number of times its clicked as a result.

And yes, there will be prizes, which will include a few of my CDs, and some never-before-heard unreleased stuff, as well as previews of forthcoming albums (again, unavailable anywhere else) – a lot depends on just how effective the competition is – there’ll certainly be a top prize for the most amount of ‘buzz’ created, as measured in number of people clicking your link, which can be to a blog post, or some of the media, or the front page of my site, or whatever, and you can get other to re-tweet the same link, and it’ll count as yours…

If the results are interesting (and I’ll publish them all here), we’ll try the same with blogging about it, and then again with embedded widgets, with stumbleupon, and so on, and see if we can find which is the most effective form of ‘buzz creation’. And hopefully everyone will win – you’ll have some fun coming up with interesting ways to point people to what I do, I’ll get lots of new visitors to the site, a few people will get a load of great new music for nothing and we’ll all find out a little more about how this works. Oh, and whoever wins can write a guest-post here, outlining what they did… Does that sound like fun? Feel free to register your intention to join in in the comments below, then get tweeting.

Remember:
1. Use http://twurl.nl to shorten the URL (web address – you paste the address into the right field on the site, and it gives you an alternate one, that’s easier for me to track)
2. link to my website, a blog post here, a last.fm track, youtube vid, my myspace or reverbnation page.
3. only link to it on twitter
4. direct message me on there with the URL so I can retweet it, and then track it via tweetburner.
5. sit back and watch the prizes roll in.

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