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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



Lily Allen and The Politics Of Self-Interest

September 30th, 2009 · 45 Comments

I know, I’m a week late writing about Lily Allen and her attempts to back Peter Mandelson’s campaign to have ‘persistent file sharers’ internet connections taken away. (and in the meantime, she’s taken down her anti-file sharing blog, and allegedly quit music!)

There have been a lot of responses to this, many of them suggesting that Lily (and her brothers in arms James Blunt and Gary Barlow) don’t make music worth buying so they deserve to have it pirated…

So let’s deal with that first. Your (or my) impression of the ‘worth’ of Lily Allen’s music has no bearing whatsoever on whether she’s talking sense or not. She could be John Coltrane saying this, or she could be the Reynolds Girls. It makes no odds.

What’s more important is why she’s saying it. [Read more →]

Tags: New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

Spotify – Are They The Bad Guys?

August 18th, 2009 · Comments Off

[EDIT – this post is a couple of years out of date – for a more recent appraisal of where I stand with Spotify, see Why I’ve Taken My Music Off Spotify]

There’s been loads of discussion of late about what Spotify are up to – in connection with both their extraordinary growth, and the prospect of an iPhone app in the near future.

Much has been made of the fact that, as the calculations stand, no artists are going to make any sensible money out of it at all. They’ve done an insane deal with the major record labels, giving them an 11% share in the platform, as an incentive to sign up their catalogues. Clearly no-one here is really thinking about the artists on those labels making any money…

So does this mean that Spotify are bastards? (we already know the major record labels are all bastards – that doesn’t even need discussing ;) ) – no, it means that they are a business – they had a plan for a service, no apparent pre-arranged funding model beyond trying to make it work – ad-funded music has been touted for a long time, no-one else had yet come up with either

  • a deal that was appealing enough to the companies or
  • a UI that was pleasant enough for users.

Spotify solved both of those. So what of the not getting paid thing.

Here’s the deal – the internet is not divided into clear-cut heroes and villains. Yes it would be great if there were app-developing caped crusaders coding til their fingers bleed to make the web a more profitable place for indie artists. And it would be great if we could all agree that Sony/News Corp/RIAA etc. were such monoliths of evil intention that everyone but the kind of acts that were happy to play Sun City in Apartheid-era South Africa would refuse to have anything to do with them.

But it’s not like that, and we’re pragamatists. Before we start making money, we need an audience. And to find an audience we need to get heard. And to be heard, our music needs to be out there where people are listening to it. So right now, we have the choice to make it available on Spotify/Myspace/Reverb Nation/iLike/Facebook etc for no meaningful financial compensation (ReverbNation currently owe me $22 as my part of their revenue sharing scheme! Yay!), or we stick with the old school route and

  • co-ordinate a combined radio and press campaign,
  • getting pluggers,
  • designers,
  • ad agents,
  • distributors
  • oh go on, throw in video directors as well

…and we’re back to being a hundred grand in debt before the records out.

That Spotify isn’t paying us is a pain in the arse. Yes, the guy that started it is probably going to get rich. But right now, I’m not losing anything through it. The people listening to me on Spotify are almost all doing so cos I sent them the link. They are people I’d previously sent last.fm or Myspace links to but Spotify is easier, it’s familiar, it’s where they are listening right now. And my music needs to be where their ears are.

So I’m glad it’s not costing me anything. When something better comes along, I’ll happily jump ship. Til then, I’ll keep hassling CDBaby to get my other 3 solo albums onto there,  joining Not Dancing For Chicken and the Calamateur Vs Steve Lawson album which are already there.

What is more interesting is what mechanisms are going to be developed for turning Spotify into a music discovery platform. It does have an API, so other people can build things on top of it… What would you like to see possible with Spotify’s music library?

Tags: Geek · New Music Strategies

The End Of Record Labels?

June 10th, 2009 · 26 Comments

One of the most interesting things about UnConvention this weekend was the chance to listen to some people from a number of record labels talk about what they do.

The thought that struck me from the discussion was that, while a lot of the work they do is still very much important and of value, the notion of ‘a label’ is stifling the reinvention of ‘companies that support the spread of music’ in the lives of musicians.

See, the term “label” suggests that there’s something physical to print a label on – that the biggest part of what they do is provide the funds and resources to record music in a studio and then release it in various containers, be they CD, vinyl, DVD or whatever… [Read more →]

Tags: New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

They (Should) Work For You – Record Labels as though Music Mattered.

April 8th, 2009 · Comments Off

link to a photo of a road sign saying 'Money Street'Ever since the advent of rock and roll and the vinyl record explosion in the 50s, record companies – whose business is making money – have been using music in order to meet that aim.
[Read more →]

Tags: New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

Solobassteve's Social Media Surgery

October 17th, 2008 · Comments Off

I’ve finally got round to writing a page on this site about social media consulting – helping out other artists, labels, students etc. with understanding how having a conversation with your audience is preferable to shouting at them.

I’ve been doing this kind of work for years – over the last 7 or 8 years, I’ve had various musicians come to me asking for help with releasing their own music, both the logistics of getting CDs pressed etc. and then how to make their music available and talk to their audience. A lot of people confused new tools with old media, and spent ages trying to rack up as many 10s of thousands of Myspace friends as they could before realising that all of those friends were using them in the way they themselves were being used – as someone to try and broadcast at.

So after the disappointment of trying that, a fair few musicians – from singer-songwriters to fellow solo bassists came to me for some help.

More recently, I’ve been talking about this stuff in Universities, writing about it here and on sites like MusicThinkTank and Creative Choices, and running informal sessions with groups of musicians, as well as continuing to consult with individuals.

And then this week I’ve been helping out on a PR job with a new digital download service, finding bloggers and social media enthusiasts with a connection to the subject who might want to check it out. Having the huge range of connections I’ve made through the disparate bits of my career – all the way back to my days writing for Bassist, Guitarist, Total Guitar etc – has really come into its own. :)

So I’ve written a page, bringing all that stuff together – if you or someone you know needs some help and advice on such things, read the page, then drop me a line!

Tags: Uncategorized