August 3rd, 2014 · Comments Off on A Month of Sundays (3 Gigs in Birmingham)
Following on from last week’s lovely gig with Julie Slick and Andy Edwards, I’ve got TWO more Sunday night gigs at Tower Of Song in Birmingham coming up:
August 10th : Jem Godfrey, Steve Lawson, Andy Edwards – Jem’s band is Frost* (which Andy used to be in), he’s also played keyboards with Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. If that wasn’t enough, he’s an Ivor Novello award winning songwriter, writing massive hits for Shane Ward, Atomic Kitten, Holly Vallance… He’s very, very good at whatever area of music he turns his hand to, so expect amazingness. [Ticket Link] -0- [Facebook link]
August 17th : Lobelia’s Lazy Sundays presents Briana Corrigan + Steve Lawson – Briana was the original vocalist in the Beautiful South, sang on all the early hits. Since then, she’s released two wonderful solo albums, written and performed in plays and a one woman show called ‘Mum’s The Word’. She’s properly brilliant, and I’m VERY excited to see what we come up with together… the plan is to write/arrange/rehearse/plan a show in 3 days. There’ll definitely be songs, music, maybe some spoken word stuff, story-telling, poetry… who knows. It’s going to be lovely, and you need to be there. [Ticket Link] -0- [Facebook Link]
So, two in a row. Very different, but equally magical, I promise.
And if you’re wondering what you missed last Sunday, here’s some lovely video of the opening 12 minutes of the show (it’s shot in HD so choose the 1080p option and watch it full-screen!) :
Words matter. The way we describe things are a huge part of how people think of them, even if those descriptions aren’t definitive or in any way concretely imposing on the thing we’re describing.
An example is the language around variable pricing for digital music. The most widely used variant is ‘pay what you want’ and its acronym PWYW. For some reason that grates. It feels dismissive. It feels off-hand. I’m not sure why.
October 5th, 2011 · Comments Off on Video Of Improv with Shlomo in Edinburgh.
You may remember that back in August, a trip to Edinburgh to do some work with the Arts Council happened to coincide with the opportunity to guest with beatboxing genius Shlomo on his Edinburgh Fringe show.
I’d seen Shlo play a few times, and love his music – he’s one of the most musical and versatile beatboxers I’ve ever come across, and as meeting him confirmed, always seemed like a really lovely bloke too. [Read more →]
May 2nd, 2011 · Comments Off on “Keep One Share One” – Selling CDs in Pairs.
This is just a quick post to throw an idea out there that we’ve been chatting about on Twitter this evening. I mentioned a short while ago something I’ve been thinking about for a while – the idea of only selling CDs in pairs – “keep one share one” – thinking of it as a way of making ‘promo copies’ count… [Read more →]
2010 has been, for me at least, a bumper year for new music. I think it’s safe to say that I’ve bought more albums released this year than I have in any year for well over a decade. This is a very good thing. That a lot of them were bought direct from the artist is also a very good thing.
Here’s a list of my 20 favourites – not any preference order, that would be futile, and subject to change at a moment’s notice (they’re alphabetical by artist).
Suffice to say, I recommend all of them, with the obvious caveat that if the are from within a style that would otherwise be something you’d avoid like the plague, proceed with caution…
Something interesting happened on my Facebook page recently. Apropos of not much, I asked a couple of questions about the music people listen to – ‘favourite sounding records’, ‘records you didn’t like at first, but grew to love’ – that sort of thing. I did it largely because I found I was missing the kind of chats about music that used to happen on my forum. I intentionally shut down the forum a coupla years ago and suggested the posters there move over to Twitter, when it became apparent that a more open forum for conversation would result in better things to talk about for all of us. But Twitter is a short-form medium, and sometimes, threaded longer conversations can yield some really good stuff that won’t fit in the constraints of Twitter.
Suddenly, my Facebook page became a hive of activity – the ‘insights’ section graphs lit up with info about traffic to the page, posts, likes etc… It all got very active, and not because I posted about my own new music.
All I did was provide a place to talk about music, to share stories and meet like-minded music lovers. I – for a moment – became
The conduit not the destination,
The bus driver, not the main attraction.
And as a result,
More people are now connected to me.
More people are there to see what I do as a musician,
More people are sharing content from my Facebook page on their pages.
There are a lot of perfectly valid – and frankly scary – accusations that can be made of Facebook, but one thing it gets right is it’s an amazing environment for sharing. The Facebook ‘like’ may end up being the single most radical music sharing tool ever. It isn’t yet, but the statistics on site traffic for many of the top music sites show that FB sends them as much – if not more – traffic than Google.
On this site, the top drivers of traffic are Google, Twitter and Facebook –
Google is largely people looking for me,
Twitter is a curated community following my links (or retweets of those links),
Facebook is mostly listener-driven – people sharing my stuff on their page.
The integration with Bandcamp and Soundcloud make it SO easy for anyone to take my music and embed it on their Facebook page, to write a few words about it, and suggest that their friends check it out. That’s amazing. Srsly.
And all I have to do is provide a space to talk, a few questions, and a load of supremely awesome music that makes life worth living.
Here’s my latest solo album – Ten Years On: Live In London – have a listen, then try sharing it on your Facebook page, just to see how easy it is
Tonight, I clocked up my 50,000th tweet. It looked like this:
It’s no secret that I REALLY dig Twitter. It solved a whole lot of online communication questions for me when I found it. I cut back on my posting on forums, and eventually even deleted the forum on my own site in favour of encouraging the regular posters there to head over to Twitter and talk in a more democratic environment.
I loved the fact that I was no longer stuck in a subject-specific space, or one where I people had to sign up to be in my gang before joining the conversation. It’s not my conversation, after all, it’s a global free-for-all.
Except it isn’t. I mean, technically it is, but actually the only bit of Twitter that concerns me at all is the people I follow and the people who follow me. And occasionally the people who tweet using a hashtag I happen to be following.
I am, as the 50K Tweets would suggest, a power-user. I document my life in this way. I use it to:
Talk with my audience in a way that has replaced my email list,
Talk with musicians in way that has replaced myspace,
Talk with my family in a way that has replaced email,
Talk with my colleagues in Amplified in a way that has replaced wikis
Talk with anyone who’s interested in a way that’s replaced chatrooms/generic forums.
…and by ‘talk with’ I mean all the myriad forms of communication that go on there – chat, debate, encourage, learn from, teach, swap links, post news… anything that’ll fit in 140 characters.
It’s clearly an open, messy, FUN way of communicating that I love. I don’t have to keep track of loads of different websites – I do have 10 different twitter accounts, but most of them lie dormant at the moment. SoloBassSteve is where pretty much everything happens, and for some unknown reason there are (currently) 4836 people who have seen fit to follow me. Some may be spammers, but I’ve blocked and deleted AT LEAST 3 times as many followers as I’ve allowed to stay. Any spam accounts I cleared out… I’ve definitely had well in excess of 12-13,000 follow notifications, I just didn’t want either a misleading amount of followers, or to leave those accounts without some registering a ‘spam’ click next to them…
But, in the last 3 years, most of the good things that have happened for Lobelia and I have happened through Twitter.
We’ve met some of our best friends
We’ve planned tours
We’ve organised recordings
We gleaned information
We had support and congratulations on the birth of our baby
We shared our holidays
We found people to help us move house
and We had LOADS of work, new listeners, and – crucially – amazing people willing to talk about what we do as musicians time and time again.
I spend a lot – most – of my time on Twitter talking about other people’s music, encouraging and connection musicians to eachother, helping people get their heads around this brave, heady new disintermediated world we’re in. I’m trying to model the way I think the distruptive awesome internet of the future should work. Cos the future is now. We’re in it, it’s great, and Twitter is quite possibly THE game changer.
Youtube was big, Myspace was big. WordPress was big. Bandcamp is HUGE. Soundcloud is awesome. But as the glue that makes all of them workable, manageable and connected, Twitter for me is THE killer app. The reason the internets was invented.
So, 50 Thousand Tweets on, I’m still all about it. Here, if you’re interested, is my twitter-list of people I chat to, day in, day out: The Awesome Squad.
This evening someone asked me (on Twitter) which was the classic Steve Lawson album. So I asked my friends (on Twitter) to answer. So far the answer has come back, overwhelmingly, Grace And Gratitude. Which is fitting. Because I’m hugely grateful for all the good things that have happened through the amazing people I’m connected to on there. Please have a listen, and feel free to download it – don’t feel obliged to pay for it, but if you want to pay whatever you think it’s worth, that would also be hugely appreciated:
One of the big questions hanging over Spotify for me has been ‘do premium plays pay more than Spotify Lite plays?’ – I.E., do I get paid more if someone with a premium account plays my tunes vs. someone using the ad-funded version.
It stands to reason that the person with the premium account is paying more to listen, so surely you’d imagine that’d be reflected in the royalties?
At SXSW this year, the CEO of Spotify was giving a talk, I asked the question about royalty rates via Hugh Garry and apparently they are distributed evenly.
This is, as far as I can see, Spotify’s MASSIVE mistake. A deal-breaking, game-not-changing, screw-up of gargantuan proportions.
The people best placed to promote Spotify are artists. We can link to it from our sites, we can provide links to it when we release new music, we can blog about how great it is and share music by our peers via the links.
If we push it, it becomes the place to find our music.
Spotify needs premium accounts for it to work. At the moment, their strategy for getting people signed up is to annoy the shit out of you with adverts until you capitulate. So you get irrelevant adverts that provide no value at all to the user, and therefor no value to the advertiser. Ergo, the amount paid per advert is likely to go down not up, killing the ad funded model. If I was an advertiser there’s no way I’d bother with Spotify. ‘Can you pay to produce an advert that we’re going to use to annoy people into paying not to hear it?’ no thanks.
So what would work? Spotify’s (and the other streaming services) best chance of success is if artists see it as a viable alternative to selling individual albums and tracks digitally. If it becomes that, the amount of traffic will go up and all that listening will be happening in a discovery environment, so more music will be heard by more people.
They could also make way more if the ads were something other than anti-value annoyances to be got rid of. There are loads of ways of making ads work in this setting – referrals, targeting, favouriting, user-profiles, profit-share, in-browser special offers… all kinds of stuff that would make the ad-side of the site self-supporting. If it isn’t currently viable, then the solution is to up the level of the ads even further til it is viable. The listener needs to FEEL what their listening is actually costing.
Why? Well, contrary to what Gerd Leonard has been telling us for years, ‘Feels Like Free’ is not the answer. It never has been and never will be. Free is, in fact, better than ‘feels like free’.I’d rather make my music free to download, no strings, and be rewarded in gratitude than have some weird filtered, taxation-based payment mechanism for it where people are left thinking music has neither cost nor value because there’s no tiered pricing, no opportunity to ‘pay what you like’, no thought about the value over and above the experience that access is via a portal and detached from the artist…
Listening to ads is a form of payment. We all know that. If the ads don’t cover it, then it’s a lie to keep that system going by subsidising those listens from people who are actually paying – people who are quite explicitly paying a subscription rate that puts a distinct value on their listening time. To not divide those up is to say that the value of both listens is the same. It isn’t.
Spotify Lite is a limited but hugely useful discovery platform. If you have the kind of life where Spotify Lite is ‘enough’, then you weren’t about to pay £10 an album for CDs anyway. You’re probably the kind of person who listens to the radio and buys the occasional compilation. Certainly not the kind of person for whom £120 a year for Spotify premium is workable.
Spotify Premium is an alternative to buying music. It’s also, when you look at how long people spend listening to music, a great model for paying a sensible amount per listen. If – and only if – it’s not being used to prop up a broken ad-funded ‘feels like free’ bullshit model.
If you want me to pay £10 a month for music, let me allocate where that £10 goes by choosing what I listen to. Make that £10 count, make it mean something. Cos otherwise, I’m going to stick with eMusic, where I know that my monthly sub goes to the people whose music I’m downloading. I know they get a set amount per track, that they wouldn’t get if I wasn’t paying for it. Real end to end value.
‘Til then, there’s no way on earth I’ll be paying for Spotify premium, and I won’t be encouraging anyone else to either.
If this feels like a deal-breaker to you, and you already have a premium account, you might want to consider cancelling it, and emailing Spotify to tell them why. Or better yet, blogging about why. Let’s have this discussion in public where possible.
[and before the inevitable ‘hey, I thought you loved Spotify!’ comments happen – I still think Spotify-lite is an awesome discovery tool. Spotify premium is, as yet, way too small a slice of anything to make me rethink my position on that. I don’t need to make money from Spotify-lite for its value to be realised. But the payment model that’s there doesn’t work, so the growth curve that Spotify needs to remain viable will be a seriously uphill struggle.]
Time for some end-of-year bloggage – I’m going to do a round-up of my favourite blog-posts on here from the year in a bit, so if you have any that were particularly useful to you, please do let me know via twitter or email or a comment here…
But first, my own chart of music listening for the year.This is taken from my last.fm account, so is a pretty accurate list of what I’ve been listening to (there’s no much of my listening that doesn’t get scrobbled to Last.fm…)
I’ll add some notes into the list… (the numbers after each name are the number of plays in the year) My Top 50 most-listened artists of 2009: [Read more →]