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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



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

London gig on Aug 25th – the Singers Of Twitter :)

July 31st, 2009 · 6 Comments

This is the first proper London show in AGES for Lobelia and I, so we’re making it a special one. We’ve asked 3 of our favourite singers to join us for an amazing night of singer-songwriter-ness… and genius Ukulele magic. It’ll be on Aug 25th, doors at 7pm, music from 7.30, at Darbucka World Music Bar, on St John’s Street in Clerkenwell, London. [Read more →]

Tags: gig dates · Gig stuff · Music News

Paradigm is no measure of quality – what to do when you're 'different'…

July 20th, 2008 · Comments Off on Paradigm is no measure of quality – what to do when you're 'different'…

This post is inspired by two things – firstly, a conversation I had recently with the very lovely Laura Kidd. We’d known each other quite a few weeks before she finally bothered to listen to any of the music I did, assuming that because it was solo bass it would be a load of techno-wank bass cleverness and therefor not something she’d be interested in. She eventually listened to it, probably as much out of politeness as anything, and said with a large degree of surprise the next time I saw her how much she liked it.

She was quite embarrassed, but actually her response is pretty much mine whenever I get an email or get given a CD and told ‘you’ll really like this, it’s solo bass’.

The problem is that solo bass is neither a style of music, not does it carry any indication of quality. And, for the most part, I’m not hugely into what happens on solo bass. There are some very notable exceptions to this, and some of my favourite musicians in the world are indeed solo bassists, but as a ‘draw’, solo bass doesn’t really work for me without some evidence that there’s more to it than the tools of the trade.

Same goes for ‘loop music’, ‘ambient music’, or any other vague classification I might fit into. It’s one of the reasons I find it so tricky to accurately sum up what I do in a single sentence…

The 2nd thing that inspired this as a topic was thinking about mine and Lobelia‘s upcoming gig at Darbucka. Going out to live shows in a city as big as London can be such a chore, and venues are, by and large, becoming less and less pleasant places to hang out. I don’t want to stand around in a dark smelly hall surrounded by drunk people shouting waiting for a band to come on only to find that I can’t hear them play anyway… I’m immediately wary of any gig in a venue I haven’t heard of, and I’m guessing that most of the people who would enjoy my gigs feel similarly.

So how do you get it across to people that a night out at Darbucka is ‘not like other gigs’? That the venue is cool enough to be worth a night out on its own, that the food is great, the ambience is really mellow, the sound is always cracking, it’s a fun night, people listen, the audience are generally lovely, and there’ll be the return of the lovely bloke playing Ukulele and singing, as well as all the usual Steve ‘n’ Lobelia loveliness.

That, dear readers, is where you lot come in. Cos nothing at all beats word of mouth in spreading that kind of info. I can rant til I’m blue in the face about how fab my own gigs are, but hey, they’re my gigs, I’m bound to say that. Why should anyone believe me when I have a vested interest in them being there?

…I hope that for most of you reading this, that last bit is rhetorical, that it’s clear I do try to be honest about what I’m doing, and definitely go out of my way to put on the best gig I can (despite Darbucka having it’s own PA, and me not owning a car, I still take my own PA down there cos the sound is better, for example 🙂 )

So, if you’ve been to see us before, take the next couple of mins to tell someone about it – post a comment on last.fm or Myspace, or hey, just post a comment on here! Tweet about it, blog about it, or call up some friends if you’re in London and bring ’em along. If you’re bringing loads, email me for a group discount 🙂

Hope to see you at Darbucka on Tuesday 29th July – it’ll be a really lovely mellow, fun night out, I promise!

Tags: gig dates · Music News · Musing on Music · tips for musicians

The foolishness of Copying Radiohead (or 'why poor people vote for lower taxes')

June 5th, 2008 · 2 Comments

[This started out as being my first post for MusicThinkTank.com, a site I’ve been invited to blog for, but ended up far too long to post there, so I’ll put it here, and post something else there… 🙂 ]

So Trent Reznor has gone one step further than he did with Ghosts, and is giving all of his new album away TOTALLY for free. No high dollar packages – at least for now – just free downloads, including putting massively hi-res versions on Bit Torrent, with a CD/Vinyl release to follow in July. (No mention yet of extra tracks on the physical release)…

Since Radiohead and Prince ‘gave albums away’ last year, we’ve all been talking endlessly about whether or not all music should be ‘free’, whether this is the new model that we should all adopt.

Two things are clear about Radiohead, Prince and Trent Reznor – (1) they’re all massively wealthy, and (2) all could guarantee massive press coverage for a move as ‘bold’ as giving a record away.

From those two points, I think it’s easy to see why modeling our marketing strategies against these artists is a non-starter. Unless you’re independently wealthy, or have the kind of day-job that affords you both the time and resources to tour heavily to symbiotically promote YOU via the free downloads and the tour, there’s not really a comparison financially.

And as anyone knows who’s ever paid for print advertising, column inches are incredibly valuable – the value of the coverage that Radiohead got for ‘giving their music away for free’ must’ve run into millions of pounds worldwide – a new Radiohead album is frontpage news in Q and Spin, but not in all the national newspapers around the world that covered it as a lead story, or on the television news programmes that led with it.

Copying the actions of celebrity millionaires is a bizarre kind of aspirational living – similar to that which drives Grazia-buying women to copy the fashions of the wives of sportsmen, and which causes millions of Americans vote for a political system that will leave them considerably financially worse off, ‘just in case they ever get rich’ – the myth of the American Dream, that anyone can get rich, keeps a lot of poor people voting for low taxation & lower government spending, because they’d hate to have their money taken off them when they get rich, despite the statistics showing that a minute number of people ever make the kind of quantum leaps in earnings that take even middle-income workers into the world of the super-rich. [I know there are a lot of other reasons why people might vote Republican or Libertarian, so please, no political comments on this one 😉 ]

Musicians are following suit, taking at face value the idea that Radiohead, NIN et al. gave away their music for ‘free’ and not looking at the massive value it carried as a press-generator for them in a way that just doesn’t work if you haven’t already had millions spent on you over years and years to get you to the place where your ‘free’ album is front page news.

Clearly, me ‘giving my music away’ and Radiohead ‘giving their music away’ are not comparable situations. Not at all.

For one thing, I’m a solo bass player. In a world where ‘pop’ music is driven by two main things – singing and drumming – I play instrumental music without a drummer, often without a fixed rhythm at all. Copying the broadcast-focussed actions of a bunch of zeitgeist-defining millionaire pop-stars is about as useful to me understanding my audience as putting videos of me reading Shakespeare on Youtube would be, just because a lot of people like Shakespeare.

Getting sidetracked by the aspiration to be a rock ‘n’ roll superstar is career suicide for an artist still needing to generate an audience to be monetized. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, in the new music economy, any strategy that relies on Broadcast media but doesn’t have millions of dollars to invest to get that rolling is doomed to failure.

Yes, there’s the chance that something you ‘give away’ will ‘go viral’. There’s also a chance that you’ll win the lottery and be able to pay for all that lovely broadcast airtime you so crave. Neither happen anywhere near frequently enough to be statistically significant when planning how to build an audience and connect with them.

[this is the point that this post becomes ‘Social Media Thoughts Pt 5’]

No, we need to think differently, and the bit that we do have control over is the conversation. The back-and-forth with our audience, our friends and our peers about what we do and why we do it, framing out art in a dialogue about what it is, why it exists and the ways that people who like it have to support it.

That’s what social media presents us with. I can answer in-depth questions about what I do on the forum, I can invite comment about what I do, here on the blog via comments, I can answer one-line questions and field comments about gigs via twitter, creating a buzz about it amongst those people who get to hear about it.

Last Tuesday I did a gig at Darbucka, with Lobelia, and with the Lawson/Dodds/Wood trio (apparently we’re changing the order of the names in the band name – it’s getting very Spinal Tap! 🙂 ), and with special guests Lloyd Davis and Miriam Jones. Almost everyone there got in for free. The guestlist was HUGE. We made so little on the door as to be insignificant. However, the audience were, for the first time in AGES, largely people who’d never seen me play before, and as a result I sold more CDs at the gig that I have in ages at a Darbucka show. Miriam sold some CDs too, and the buzz afterwards on Twitter was huge – way more people talking about that gig via Twitter than any previous gig I’ve done. I got a lot of messages from people who were really sorry to have missed it, wanting to know when we’re playing again, and a lot of people downloading the free albums, and others buying Cds and downloads from the shop off the back of the gig. And there’s a LOT of talk about the forthcoming albums from both Lobelia and I and the trio…

So am I anti-free? Clearly not, the gig was essentially ‘free’, for most of the audience, but it was a different kind of free. It was free with context, free with value, in that everyone who was put on the guestlist was grateful, came with a sense of excitement and expectation, and went home talking about the gig. The music became a social object, something with value and cache, all of which is there to be monetized at a later date.

The bottom line is Don’t give it away for nothing, but the currency you trade in doesn’t have to be money

The gig, the music and my relationship with the people there was framed within the context of a series of social media-enabled conversations. I’m not suddenly going to fill Wembley by doing this, but the desire to fill Wembley is a destructive greedy pipe dream that ignores the beauty and value in where my music, career, and relationship with my audience is at NOW. I may one day fill Wembley, but I may also one day meet a benevolent billionaire on a plane who decides to sponsor my music to the tune of £200,000 a year, expecting nothing in return. Neither are a good plan to base a marketing strategy on.

So, forget about the mis-use of the word ‘free’ as applied to the ‘music in exchange for press coverage and gig promotion’ that already-successful multi-million-selling Rock stars do, and start focussing on the conversation you can have with your audience, using your music as a social object around which to build value, cache, excitement, events and value added product/scarcity-based revenue streams.

(A LOT of the stuff in this post is talked about in the Creative Coffee Club podcast That I recorded with Penny Jackson – If you’re interested in this stuff, you really ought to listen to it… )

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

Tuesday night gig in London: don't miss it!

June 2nd, 2008 · 1 Comment

OK, this is VERY last minute news of a gig tomorrow night at Darbucka!

It’ll feature Lobelia and I playing our duo stuff (see Youtube for more on that!), my new trio with Patrick Wood and Roy Dodds (see Reverb Nation to listen to a track from our forthcoming album!), and will also feature Yolanda Charles and Miles Bould (oh yes, unbridled funkiness from two of the most amazing musicians I know) and Lloyd Davis (one man and a ukulele – he’s fab!)

It’s a celebration, which you’ll know all about if you’ve been following Twitter over the weekend, and we’d love for you to be there – So much so that it’s only £3 for you to get in if you say you read about it on the blog when you ge there… Normal tickets are £6.

So bring your friends and come on down. The gig is at Darbucka, on St John’s Street in Clerkenwell, doors are at 7, music starts around 8 and it’s wise to plan to eat there as the food is amazing, either in the restaurant upstairs, or downstairs in the venue. It’s all marvellous.

For more info, if you’re on Facebook, you can check out the facebook event page.

See you there!

Tags: gig dates · Music News