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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



House Concert Dates! (Pt 1)

May 24th, 2010 · 8 Comments

We’re off to the US of A this week, taking Baby Flapjack over to his place of nationality, to meet the family.

While we’re there, we’re doing a handful of House Concerts, as is our want. 🙂

Here are the first few dates, with links to their Facebook event pages. Please send me a message too if you want to go. These are, for the most part, private events, so the addresses aren’t public, and the people whose houses they are want to know who people are, naturally… So email me, tell me who you are, check out the page, and I’ll put you in touch for more details. (it may be that some of the gigs are either full, or the details are not available for some reason or other – please don’t be offended if this is the case – the privacy and wishes of the hosts win out here…)

here’s the first batch of shows: [Read more →]

Tags: gig dates

A Decade In Music: The Internet And Me

December 24th, 2009 · 3 Comments

I was on the internet before my first album came out (this is what it looked like back then). In fact, much of the momentum that my first album had was to do with my good standing in the various bass-related web communities that I was a part of. As a player, teacher and journalist, I had a bit of a profile, and the web was a MUCH smaller place in the late 90s.

And that all made it so much easier to decide to do my album completely on my own. I never even entertained the idea of trying to get a ‘deal’. The economics didn’t make sense even then, and I had a hunch that the future was indie… [Read more →]

Tags: Gig stuff · Music News · Musing on Music · New Music Strategies

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

Celebrity 2.0 – Fame in a Conversation-economy.

March 1st, 2009 · Comments Off on Celebrity 2.0 – Fame in a Conversation-economy.

Steve Lawson with Christine Cavalier and Annie Boccio in PhiladelphiaThis blog post was triggered by a twitter conversation with two lovely women that Lo and I finally met in person on our US jaunt, Annie Boccio and Tracy Apps – Annie and Tracy are both people we’ve been chatting to online, in both text and video formats, for months. We know loads about them, and have watched both their day to day normal stuff, and the special events, like their visits to podcamps/expos/etc.
[Read more →]

Tags: New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

"Come To My Town" – request a gig.

February 17th, 2009 · Comments Off on "Come To My Town" – request a gig.

Come To My Town app on facebook for Steve LawsonI was just browsing around on Facebook, and noticed on my artist page that there there’s a ‘Come To My Town‘ request-a-gig button as part of the iLike app.

So I thought I’d bring it to your attention, as it’s always nice to know when people would actually like to come and see us play.

So head over there and request it!

Feel free to post gig-requests in the comments below too 🙂

Tags: Gig stuff

The Problem Of Time Pt II – Social Networks for Social Musicians

February 5th, 2009 · Comments Off on The Problem Of Time Pt II – Social Networks for Social Musicians

Steve Lawson talking in the Ustream chatroom between sets, Milwaukee House concert Dec 2008So, as I outlined in Pt 1, Social networks can be a really tough place to inhabit as a musician, because you’re going to get a LOT of artists sending you friend requests expecting you to check out their music.

The idea for the artist, in that case, is that numbers mean everything. If I have 80,000 Myspace friends I must be doing something right, right? Surely that means that a percentage of them are going to become fans, tell their friends and then go and buy my CDs. Surely those kind of numbers will land me a record deal? Any label that knows I’ve got 80,000 devoted Myspace ‘fans’ will surely snap me up?

Wrong. As anyone knows whose spent any time on Myspace, there’s no correlation at all between numbers of myspace friends and any real-world metric of success, be that sales, gigs, quality or measurable commercial potential. There are some truly dire musicians on myspace with 80,000 friends, who clearly didn’t get the memo that said ‘oi! stop adding myspace friends and go and practice, your music sucks!
And sadly for musicians on other social networks, the numbers game of the old industry – and myspace – still carries over, and there are bands spamming everyone and anyone on Twitter, ReverbNation, Facebook, Last.Fm and anywhere else they can find to pimp their music. The internet equivalent of aggressively flyering in the street.

Only, as I wrote in part 1, that’s just not how people find music. If you want to know how people find music online, read ‘Net, Blogs And Rock ‘n’ Roll‘ by David Jennings. It’s by far the best book ever written on the subject. It’s brilliant, and you need to read it if you want to be were you audience are likely to be. David outlines the ways that communities form around musical artists and styles, and what the tools are online that are facilitating that. His book is vital reading for anyone working in the industry, and would make fascinating reading for anyone interested in any level of community formation online.

But what I’ll add to it is about the value of being social on social media platforms.

I know, it sounds flippin’ obvious. And it is. It is obvious. So why do so many morons persist in ‘following’ 3000 people on twitter in the hope of picking up listeners? Why the inability to hold a conversation with anyone?

Lobelia and I just booked a whole series of house concerts in the US, almost entirely through Twitter. The vast majority of the hosts of the concerts were twitter-friends of ours, and between us and them, we promoted the shows via Twitter. Loads of our twitter friends showed up, almost all of whom found out about ‘us’ before they found out about our music. They were people we’d chatted with about everything, who listened to the music we make because we were interesting to them.

The conversation was what gave them cause to listen, not the description of what we do. I would hazard a guess that well over 90% of our audience on this tour couldn’t name you another solo bassist (except at the shows that featured other solo bassists!). We didn’t end up playing to rooms full of bass and looping geeks. We played to people who were already caught up in the story of who were are, and were the only too eager to become part of the event, and bring their friends.

We still had to be really good at what we do. Moreso, given that the person hosting each gig was putting their reputation on the line by hosting our gig (in most venues, the owner couldn’t care less what you sound like if you can guarantee beer-drinking punters. House concerts obviously aren’t like that!).

So how does this idea of conversing with your audience transfer to social network activity? Here are some key points:

  • Myspace friends are a cheap (near-worthless) currency, in and of themselves. Most of the people who add you on myspace only do so to get you to listen to them. The only value is the interaction.
  • There are only so many superlatives in the world, and all of them have been claimed by other musicians. Telling me in your bio how universe-conqueringly amazing you are counts for nothing.
  • Your audience are far more likely to talk about you once they’ve made friends with you. ‘Hey guess what, I met this really cool guitar player on twitter, we were chatting about his dog, then I listened to his tunes – amazing stuff’ – etc.
  • Pretending to be an aloof detached rock star doesn’t work unless you’ve got the kind of money it takes to make you into a rock star. ‘Fame’ is way too expensive for very little pay-off – ignore it.
  • If all you talk about is your own music, you’ll bore people pretty quick. Frame it in the context of the rest of your interests. Use the platform you have to share info that’s of value (at this point, if you haven’t read my top twitter tips for musicians, do it!)
  • Time is precious, you have to earn the right to the time it takes people to listen to your music. Take that responsibility seriously, talk up to your audience not down to them, listen, chat, answer questions, ask them, and you never know, you might even end up getting more out of social networking personally than you do professionally 😉
  • Don’t get lost in the numbers – communities of properly connected people take time to grow. Give it time. You’ve got plenty of it.

It’s vital to not get distracted by the over-hyped, bankrupt ideas of the old school record industry. The cost of turning records into hits vs the chances of making it back made for pretty crappy odds for each artist – the labels eventually did OK by making it all back on the ones that went supernova, while the rest were left in debt, and the stars often ended up drugged out and fucked up.

We have the chance to do this differently. If we understand what’s going on, reject the giantism of the friend-list-size-obsessed spam culture and instead invest our time in making great music and inviting people into the world where that music is made, we have much less to lose and much more to gain.

Win-win.

(BTW, the picture at the top is me on Tracy Apps‘ laptop, chatting to the people who were in the chat room watching the live stream of our house concert from Tracy’s place, on Ustream.tv – gettin’ social on yo ass!)

Tags: Geek · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

Press contact and booking info.

February 3rd, 2009 · 1 Comment

Welcome! Whether you want to

  • book me (or Illuminated Loops, LEYlines, the Steve & Lobelia duo, or any of the other collaborations I’m involved in, or have a collab of your own to suggest) for a gig,
  • get me to speak at your college/university,
  • ask me to play on or produce your record,
  • ask me to open for you on tour,
  • interview me for your mag/site/newspaper,
  • ask me to write for your mag/site/newspaper…

whatever it is, email me via the form over here.

That’s by far the best way to get in touch. It comes straight to me, no intermediaries, and I can then email or call you back when I’ve got my diary in front of me!

For gigs, it’s probably cheaper and easier than you’d think to organise, and I’d love to come and play, so please do drop me a line. I’m sure we’ll work something out. For house concerts, I can put you in touch with people who’ve organised them before so you can get the low-down on what works best, if you so wish.

For now, most things you might want to know can be found on this site – stick around 🙂

Tags:

More House Concert Adventures.

January 15th, 2009 · Comments Off on More House Concert Adventures.

Steve Lawson with Owen Biddle at a house concert in PhiladelphiaOne of the magical things about house concerts is just how quickly they can be put together. Because there’s no ‘press’ involved, no promotional deadlines to hit, emails can be sent out to friends as soon as the gig is decided on, and an audience can be rustled up in about 2-3 weeks.

Which is exactly what happened to us for Philadelphia. Linda Mills sent me a message on Twitter just before Christmas saying ‘what would it take for you to come to Philadelphia?’ – we swapped Tweets, then emails, and it was booked! Because of Philly’s proximity to New York and New Jersey, a lot of the other twitter and social media friends in the area were up for making the trip, some musician friends were emailed, and a plot was hatched.

The date was picked because it was the day before Lo and I were going to be giving a looping masterclass at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh anyway, so we’d be out and about, and needed to have a car rented for that weekend anyway.

And once again, we were in the now-familiar situation of turning online friends into real friends, getting guided tours of cool cities, and introducing another room full of lovely people on to the delights of house concerts. (and posing for bizarre pics with lovely audience members/friends at the end, like the one above)

The gig went so well – the PA was put together from bits borrowed from Lo’s brother and from the drummer from her old band, Kevin Quickle. So the sound was fab. And Linda’s house has a through-lounge, meaning that we could do the fairly common L-shape set up, with a lovely assortment of sofas and chairs and cushions for people to sit on.

As a reference for how well house concerts work, we sold more than one album-per-person at the gig, including Lo’s first foray into selling her entire back catalogue + rarities on a 1gig memory stick. Definitely something we’ll be exploring further in the near future!

Being an audience largely drawn from the world of social media, the amount of fab technology on show was amazing, from great cameras, to Macs streaming the gig live to Ustream, two Nokia N95s taking pics and video, iPhones tweeting and twit-picking… Welcome to the future; blink and we’ll be onto something new.

We now can’t WAIT for the 3 more house concerts we’ve got in Northern California on the 22nd,23rd and 24th January – it’s going to be a LOT of fun. 🙂

..But before that, it’s NAMM, which starts tomorrow. Except for the ‘social media for musicians‘ session that I’m doing tonight. If that counts as NAMM for me, we start in about 2 hours!

…Oh, and one more thing – if you want the definitive explanation on how looping works, just watch the video below, from the Philly show:

Tags: Gig stuff · Music News

Thunder and Rainbows – the heaven and hell of life on the road.

December 22nd, 2008 · 2 Comments

Thunder and Rainbows - from chrislev2001's flickr streamOK, before I start, this post is going to get VERY sad indeed. So if you’re just reading this for a light-hearted update of what’s going on in my life, during your lunch hour at work. Probably best to leave it til later. Bookmark it and come back.

So anyway, we’re 2 shows into our house-concert tour now. Currently in Milwaukee, with the very lovely Tracy Apps. we played a house concert here last night. More on that in a moment.

The night before, we were in Toledo, at the home of Steven Guerrero – an amazing solo bassist and good friend who helped us find a gig last time we were in the area, and this time offered to host the house concert. He had another solo bassist friend – Trentin Lee Manning – that they’d been planning to do a house concert with, so it seemed perfect to hook the two up and do a solo bass (+ lobelia) night. I’d not met Trentin, but had heard really good things about him and was looking forward to meeting him and hearing him play.

We got there and set up, but no sign of Trentin. We left messages on his phone, but gig time arrived and we’d heard nothing, so got on with the show – maybe he’d canceled but run out of battery on his phone. Whatever, we were sure we’d find out later.

The gig went SO well – I’d not seen Steven play before, and was genuinely floored by how good his set was. Great sounds, great playing but above all, some seriously beautiful melody playing and writing. Some of my favourite solo bass stuff I’ve heard in a long time.

Lo and I played a great gig too – really lovely audience, great connection, all good.

That is, until about an hour after the show when I checked my email to find a message from Pete Skjold, the bass builder that Trentin had been visiting on his way to see us, saying that Trentin had been killed in a car accident that afternoon. As you can imagine, the four of us (Lo, me, Steven G and his wife) were so shocked. What on earth do you do with that? Steven rang Pete, and got a few more details, but the shock was overwhelming. What a horrible, tragic, awful thing to happen. Trentin was 22 years old, Steven had met and played with him, and had been telling us how great a player he was, how much potential he had. Now we’d never get to meet him.

And for his family… Beyond words. We were shocked, upset and saddened. Their lives would never be the same again.

So we were there still feeling the warmth and friendship of our amazing hosts, glowing from such a lovely gig to such friendly people and now reeling from such a tragic and shocking piece of news.

And what’s more, we had hundreds more miles of snowy driving to do. Not really the best prospect to face after news like that.

So it was with some trepidation that we made our way back out onto the roads the next morning, still unable to properly process the news of the night before. I’m not sure there is a place to properly file all the feelings associated with such a random even, such a tragic event of someone you nearly met.

Thank God, the roads were as clear as can be all the way from Toledo up here to Milwaukee. We were late arriving, but we weren’t about to rush it.

So we walked in and the looping ideas/solo performance masterclass started as soon as I’d taken my coat off. I talked while setting up my gear about what a whole range of things relating to the possibilities, pitfalls and audience engagement ideas of looped music (and looped video). A really fascinating conversation with a lovely diverse group of musicians and performers. Great stuff.

Great stuff, followed by another really lovely gig. One in which we were able to talk a little about the tragedy of the day before. It’s one of the things I love about house concerts – it’s a conversation between performer and audience in a way that bigger gigs can’t be. You can chat, you can change things around, you can hold a conversation about things that matter. (the entire gig is archived here) – again, we played pretty well, and got to hang out with a load of lovely, interesting, engaging friendly people. In the midst of the sadness surrounding Trentin’s passing, we have two amazing shows, make lots of great new friends and find that the significance of what we do, both for us and in terms of the people it brings us into contact with, is huge. This really is the best playing environment I can imagine, especially when you have to deal with the ‘thunder and rainbows’ that life throws at us, even when on tour.

And today we got to spend the day with Tracy – we’ve known tapps for a long time in the virtual realm, but getting to sit round and chat, eat, and even play some music at her church this morning brings friendships to another level. It’s been another great day.

Tomorrow we drive to Chicago, for gig #3. Another amazing group of people no doubt await, but, God-willing, no more tragedy.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Trentin’s family and friends. Listen to him and read more about him on Myspace.

…oh, and the title? That’s from a song by Martyn Joseph (the words are, I think, by Martyn Joseph and Stewart Henderson) – I can’t find a link to the song or a paid download of it, though it may be on iTunes. here are the words:

The light or the shade, concealed or displayed
Enemies, friends, opposite ends
Bitter or sweet, ruffled or neat
Feathers or lead, silent or said
Generous or mean, corporate or green
Vagrant or lord, the dove or the sword
Distinct or obscure, prosperous or poor
Devil or saint, we are and we ain’t

Intricate mysteries
Life’s secret code
Cul-de-sac signposts
On yellow brickroads
Ambiguous answers
The question’s still “Why”
Thunder and rainbows
From the same sky

Champagne or dust, banquet or crust
Authentic or fake, angel or snake
Flower or thorn, prestine or torn
Desert or sea, the throne and the tree

Intricate mysteries
Life’s secret code
Cul-de-sac signposts
On yellow brickroads
Ambiguous answers
The question’s still “Why”
Thunder and rainbows
From the same sky

The light or the shade, concealed or displayed
Enemies, friends, opposite ends
Flower or thorn, prestine or torn
Desert or sea, the throne and the tree

Intricate mysteries
Life’s secret code
Cul-de-sac signposts
On yellow brickroads
Ambiguous answers
The question’s still “Why”
Thunder and rainbows

(and the photo at the top is by ChrisLev2001 – here’s a link to the original )

Tags: Gig stuff · Random Catchup · travel

Coming to America…

December 10th, 2008 · Comments Off on Coming to America…

Steve Lawson and Lobelia a live photograph taken in Hounslow, London.A week from today, Lo and I will be in New York! How exciting is that? Well, for us, very exciting. For you, probably less so. 🙂

But what may be of a little more interest is the series of house concerts that we’re doing. Being house concerts, I’m not putting the addresses up online, but if you want to more info on any of these please do drop me an email via the contact tab, or normal email if you’ve already got my address!

There are a couple of things still pending, so do keep an eye on the blog, especially if you’re in California or Philadelphia.

So here’s the list:

Dec 19th – Toledo, Ohio
Dec 20th – Brown Deer, Wisconsin (near Milwaukee) – details
Dec 22nd – Chicago Illinois

Jan 5th – Nashville (this will be a gig in the evening and a future of social media masterclass during the day – lots of details on request!)
(in here there could be a bass masterclass in Philadephia and there will be a future of social media for musicians masterclass in the LA area – more deets ASAP!)
Jan 15th-18th – NAMM Show, Anaheim California (demoing for Looperlative, Modulus and AccuGroove)
Jan 19th – gig, Long Beach, California, also featuring Vicki Genfan (she’s so good, it’s scary) – details
Jan 23rd – House Concert, San Jose
Jan 24th – House Concert, San Jose

There you go – that’s quite a lot of stuff going on, and may well be lots more… if you can see a hole in the calendar, and can think of something cool for us to do, be it a gig or a music masterclass, or a seminar/session on the future of the music industry, do get in touch. We’re open to offers :

Tags: gig dates · travel