stevelawson.net

Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



Two free albums for you to download!

March 30th, 2008 · Comments Off on Two free albums for you to download!

Oh yes, you read that right, TWO delicious free albums – volumes one and two in the ‘Lessons Learned From An Aged Feline’ series.

Part 1 can be had from Last.fm by clicking here

And for Part 2, you have to go to my Reverb Nation Page – and sign up for the mailing list there, then you can download all of that one too!

Anyway, that’s about two hours of lovely tunes for you!

Why am I giving them away? Have I suddenly decided that paying for music is a bad idea? Is it that I think they’re too bad to be worth selling? Perhaps there’s a third option – I released 10 full length CDs on Pillow Mountain Records since 2000 – 7 completely solo ones and 3 collaborative. Four of them were very limited edition CDs – only ever 100 copies made on CD – which were given away at the time to people who pre-ordered the CD they accompanied. The three that I did with solo albums were called ‘Lessons Learned From An Aged Feline’ Pts 1, 2 & 3. The title came from my love of all things Cat – I had a very old cat during the time I recorded the first two volumes, and two elderly cats by the time of the 3rd, so just chose titles for the tracks that were inspired by the cats. And a few other silly things thrown in.

The tracks themselves were largely things that were recorded at the same time as the album they came with, but just didn’t fit within the flow of the record. I tend to record up to 3 or 4 hours of releasable material around the time of an album, and so can often get a double album of CD-worthy stuff. The LLFAAF series gave me a chance to put some of that out, without it breaking the continuity of the ‘proper’ releases. I’ve had some emails from people suggesting they prefer some of the Lessons Learned tunes to the stuff on the CDs…

Anyway, they were free to start with, but limited. Many years have gone by, they’re available via my webshop for cheaps, but their value as a way of getting people who have maybe heard of me but not bothered to buy anything to have a listen is greater than the few quid a year I make by selling them. It’s also the case that the versions that are free to download are, I think, 128k MP3s. I’m going to switch everything on my webshop to 320K VBR files pretty soon, so if someone wanted the hi-res versions, they’d still have to get them there.

So these are either a way to get people listening (and in the case of Pt 2, to sign up to my mailing list via my Reverb Nation Page) or they are a thankyou to the people who’ve been buying my stuff all along and are patiently waiting for my long-overdue next solo album. Here’s some stuff to fill that gap.

And of course, if that’s still not enough to satiate your need for Steveness, then head to www.stevelawson.net and click on any of the album sleeves at the top of the page to go to the shop to buy downloads or CDs, or head to iTunes or eMusic and search for me – CDs and downloads are always available to buy. I particularly recommend the EP with Lobelia – the songs with here are definitely among the best musical things I’ve ever been involved with. And it’s only £3.50 :o)

Then, feel free to post reviews, links, tweets and spread the word – that’s what I’d like from you in return. It’s not compulsory, I shan’t be checking up on you. I’d just be grateful.

So there you go. Free stuff from me. Enjoy!

Tags: Uncategorized

Creativity and Socially Networked Marketing – the good and the bad.

March 23rd, 2008 · Comments Off on Creativity and Socially Networked Marketing – the good and the bad.

So much is being written about the egalitarian nature of online distribution, it would be easy to believe that all our worries as wannabe professional musicians are now over. We all know that we can get a myspace page and a facebook music page, a reverbnation widget and a last.fm page, just like the big boys. We can also get our music onto iTunes and eMusic, Amazon and Rhapsody, just by sending a CD to CDBaby and paying them less than $40 to set it up. Easy, huh?

Well, not quite. It’s true that the music economy in the last couple of decades has shifted from hundreds of acts selling millions of records to millions of acts selling hundreds of downloads, but two things are still problematic – monetizing the attention that we’re given, and building online spaces where attention is available in units greater than 30 second chunks.

You see, the huge problem with the MySpace/Youtube/iTunes generation is that it favours instantaneous gratification. It favours music that ‘wows’ in the first few seconds over music that takes a while to grow – in much the same way that mainstream pop radio has done for decades. It’s just that now, it’s not just the top 40 sector that’s expected to fit that paradigm, it’s everyone. There’s no special version of myspace for people with long songs, where the listener knows that it’ll take a particular piece of music a good few minutes to get going and reveal its hidden magic.

It’s true that to a degree it has always been thus – playing music to your friends in a ‘hey, check this out!’ scenario has always been a less comfortable proposition if you’re introducing them to the magic of Steve Reich or Brian Eno’s Music For Airports than if you were letting them in on the hitherto-undiscovered-to-them genius of Chic or Duran Duran. Pop music is by its very nature more immediate.

No, the problem here is a slightly more insidious one – it’s that all of us, ‘pop’ acts and more difficult to classify musicians alike, are being encouraged to market what we do via these channels in the same way, and music lovers are being encouraged to look for it in that way, and it can have a negative effect on the way we create and the way we find the music we love.

The fantastic potential that Myspace/Youtube/iTunes gives us to connect with an audience that we’d previously have needed a record label and radio plugger to connect with is still largely bound up in the ‘instant gratification’ notion of where the value lies in a piece of music. 30 second previews of tracks are useless for through-composed or gradually evolving music. 30 seconds of just about anything by Michael Nyman or Philip Glass isn’t going to show where the piece goes as it unfolds over the course of minutes rather than seconds.

How do we deal with this? I think acknowledging it is the first part of the answer – once the influence has been ‘named’ we can see if for what it is, and hopefully recognise the difference between our own creative urge pushing us towards brevity or accessibility (certainly no bad thing if that’s where you’re leaning) and the crippling of a deeper more evolved sense of where a particular piece of music should be going out of a fear that it just won’t work on myspace.

Download culture is wonderful in that it frees us up from the limitations of length – in both directions – that vinyl/casette/cd/minidisc had – we can put out tiny short works and not feel like we need to pad it out to fill a CD, or we can release massive epic hours-long single pieces if that’s really where our muse is heading. There’s nothing to stop you putting out 10 hours of continuous music, other than the limitations of the download speed of the person trying to get hold of it. We’re no longer constrained by pressing cost or media size, but we are still subject to the evolution of the music-discovery culture, and we all need to be thinking hard about how we build a space where we encourage people to investigate music that takes many listens to sink in, music that doesn’t reveal any of its complex magic in a 30 second low-res preview, but given time will seep into our consciousness and affect us in a unique way.

We need filters. We need

  • people and
  • media-outlets and
  • blog groups and
  • socially networked advisors who will recommend great music to us in the way that magazines used to.

Magazines still provide some of that, but they are very limited in their scope, because they are beholden to their advertisers and the broadcast nature of what they do, so are constrained by the need to write about people their core readership already know about. Those people aren’t really our concern. The ones who already have a career, a fanbase, a stream of self-generating traffic to their sites and online store. Finding out about the new Nick Cave or Pat Metheny record is rarely going to prove difficult.

No, we need microfilter channels, groups of 5,10,20,50 friends who get excited about new music and do the research for eachother, in the same way that Google Reader lets us search out news and blog posts for eachother.

There are already music blogs like this – audioblogs that feature MP3s on a daily basis. Some of them are fabulous. Many of them are less helpful in that they are basically a mashup of bit-torrent and blogger.com – illegal giveaways of whole albums that don’t actually help the band because they direct no attention or traffic in their direction. I was talking with a guitarist friend in LA in January who found that only a week or so after his latest album had come out, someone was giving it away on an audioblog based in Holland. The sales in the first few weeks of any project are important because that’s when the publicity is focussed on, so to be offering illegal free downloads of an album that close to the release date is particularly galling.

The new currency online is attention. Time is valuable, and it is possible to monetize that, through sales of CDs, downloads, DVDs, t-shirts, gig tickets, teaching weekends, meet and greets, promotional spin-offs, advertising revenue. But directing attention is best done by communities, by trusted advisors, but bloggers and twitterers and facebookists and friends of friends who know their subject and seek out the best new music around and tell people about it. And do it because then their love for it is propogated, the artform and the creators are encouraged, make enough money to make the next record, and the cycle of soundtracking a part of our lives is completed and begun again.

BUT if you’re a musician, unless the career part of being a professional musician is more important to you than the musician part, all of that has to be at the service of getting the word out about YOUR art. That which you hold most dear. Not an advert for what you hold dear, not a truncated, MySpace-ized version of it, but the real deal, however dense, complex, mellow, subtle or otherwise it is. Which brings me back to a point I’ve made a few times on here before – BE THE KIND OF FAN YOU’D LIKE TO HAVE – musicians need to be using the attention they have from their audiene to share the love, to let their listeners know about the music they love. It’ll come back, karmic-stylee, and will solidify your position as a guru of great music, a person of taste and discernment and the hub of a music-loving community. That’s how we build RELATIONSHIPS with the people who connect with our art – relationships built on shared knowledge and an unfolding understanding of where our aesthetic tastes overlap…

That is, as the yanks like to say, all good.

Tags: cool links · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

Managing Information Streams Pt 3 – Twitter for Musicians

March 12th, 2008 · Comments Off on Managing Information Streams Pt 3 – Twitter for Musicians

OK, let’s get practical about the use of Twitter for musicians.

Here’s a list of possible uses, that I’ll then break down (in no particular order of significance)

  • spreading rumours
  • publishing gig dates
  • inviting discussion
  • interaction with fans
  • promoting friends
  • developing a brand
  • personalising your website
  • keeping your site updated
  • proliferating info to a lot of sites
  • integrating with other social networks
  • keeping up with the interests of your audience
  • cutting down the time needed to interact via everything else…
  • tracking the buzz about you

Let’s break those down –

Spreading Rumours – we all have bits of near-confirmed info that we’d love to tell people about, but don’t want to post as news cos we’ll look like muppets if we get it wrong… Twitter overrides that by allowing us to be a bit more vague, but to generate a buzz… post about tour plans, collaboration invites, press stuff. Create a sense of expectation for what you’re up to, and let people know you’re still working even between ‘big’ news.

Publishing Gig Dates – just a really easy way to get gig news out there fast. Yes, it still needs to go on myspace, reverb nation, your own site, and all the other gig lists, but twitter is fastest!

Inviting Discussion – ‘hey, what do you think about [xyz]?’ – do it on your forum, and you may get pages of nonsense posts from people who have an axe to grind (caveat, not on my forum – I have possibly the most lovely bunch of forum posters anyone could want. It’s not prolific, but the quality is right up there!) – post it on twitter, get funny, clever responses from people who want to engage with you. reply and make them feel special. time spent? 2 mins for a 10 reply convo..

Interaction With Fans – a safe interface for your audience to contact you. It doesn’t take much time, it’s public, and it’s managable… if people get nasty you can block them, and the public record isn’t easily linked to, so trolls are less likely to spam you for the web-kudos.

Promoting Friends – this comes back to being the kind of musician friend you want to have – post links, cross post news, re-tweet information. Help eachother out!

Developing A Brand – this can be by being funny, insightful, posting about your other interest whatever that may be, posting in a unique way (the syntax of a particular twitterer can act like a digital signature) or just by updating regularly about what you’re doing… Tweet about your practice regime or recording ideas. Share tips and get known as helpful and supportive…

Personalising Your Website – got a corporate looking 3rd person website? Well, that’s probably a bad idea, but overlooking that for now, a twitter widget embedded will allow you to add personal regularly updated info to your site. It’s contained within the widget, but it lets people know what you’re doing. (see my myspace page for an example of an embedded widget – go here for more widget options)

Keeping Your Site Updated – again, if your site is really slick looking and updating it is tricky or costly, having a twitter feed can be a great way to mean that people coming back always have something new to see.

Proliferating Info To A Lot Of SitesTwitter widgets can be put on myspace, reverbnation, your blog, your band page, your personal page.. one tweet goes to loads of pages.

Integrating With Other Social Networks – following on from the last one, It can even update your facebook status, and will probably be able to do the same for Myspace before long. You can also feed info back into it from last.fm and a few other sites…

Keeping Up With The Interests Of Your Audience – if like me, you find your audience fascinating, it’s a great way to keep up with what they’re up to. I love reading tweets from people I know, and people I don’t…

Cutting Down The Time Needed To Interact Via Everything Else – twitter is quick and easy, it’s low maintenance, high yield in terms of interaction. Use it to cut down the volume of pointless email, or forums you visit and people you google. Do as much of it via twitter as you can, and you’ll free up time and headspace for everything else.

Tracking The Buzz About You – twitter lets you ‘track’ keywords via SMS – you send an SMS to twitter that says ‘track solobasssteve’ or whatever, and it texts you every time you get mentioned. Great way to find out what’s happening outside of the people following you…

Get on it, start doing it, choose your level of interaction (from news only to deeply personal – it’s totally definable by YOU) – there’s no compulsion to blog your breakfast choice or marital strife, so don’t feel that you can’t use it because you want to keep that side private. Tweet the music, tweet the tour dates, tweet the rumours and news…

what are you waiting for? – don’t forget to follow me there too.

Tags: cool links · Geek · Gig stuff · Managing Information Streams · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

perception trumps design – why Myspace still works…

March 6th, 2008 · 2 Comments

A few thoughts that sprung from a comment response here and a twitter conversation, re: the myspace vs facebook thing.

One of the problems with being a webgeek is that it’s easy to forget to think how Webphobic digital-dabblers engage with the web. They often choose an ecosystem that feels homely, one that while not being particularly functional is self contained and looks like the scenery for a kids TV show. I can’t believe that any self respecting web-user would still be using the AOL interface, but it happens. And we-the-geeks have to learn to work within that first and foremost.

Re-educating people about the clunkiness of Myspace is a very different task from effectively and productively engaging with your audience. And for a huge part of the music-finding web-audience, Myspace is comfortable. It’s homely, familiar and doesn’t feel like a geek-domain in which webtards are a nuisance. It looks like it was designed as a school project, so no-one feels patronised by it. For a really significant majority of people looking for your music online perception trumps design – telling them that Myspace is clunky, horrible to use, slow to load, unmanageable in terms of effectively sending out mass mailings etc. doesn’t change the simple fact that they are happy there.

As my previous post about this said, Facebook is almost exclusively a friend-interaction ecosystem. Myspace is far more of a discovery one. Yes, it’s rubbish, yes facebook looks better, yes Reverbnation still has a far better feature set and interface than either of them for actually digging up great music without getting spammed or having a pumpkin thrown at you or being bitten by a werewolf, but within each one, we need to adapt, to understand and to engage. Yes, we can continue to educate people, and to request better integration and implementation from the various sites (Myspace’s new API for developers is a HUGE leap forward… let’s see how much of it is useless spamming BS when the apps go live), but if you’re in the business of making music and connecting with an audience, educating digital toe-dippers has diminishing returns as a primary method of engagement.

Make Myspace work for you by interacting with people who express an interest in discovering new music, keep your friends list manageable, send regular friendly bulletins, use the blog and the status update, and if your friend list is small enough, the event invite (though I’ve found in my experience that the response to bulletins is close enough to being as high as it is for event invites as to be not worth the extra effort to send the event invite…) and use the status updates to keep people clicking through to your page.

And use facebook to connect with your friends and to supply them with the social capital to look cool because they know you – Facebook’s primary virgin market for musicians is friends of friends – your friends post your music on their page, and their friends listen because someone they trust digs it. It’s a pretty simple equation, and a pretty effective strategy in terms of quality engagement with people predisposed to wanting to like what you do.

So don’t get so hung up on telling people that they are losers for liking myspace, just accept that they do, and talk to them there. Just avoid spam like the plague, it’s so flippin’ obvious on Myspace, it stands out like a dog turd on a dinner plate. Better quality interaction with fewer people.

All of this changes when you reach 50,000 people that have added you and engaged with you, when 10,000 of those have comments, and you’re regularly topping 3000 plays a day. Then we can start to talk about the percentages involved in sending out blanket mailing and trying to get actual email addresses from those people to connect with outside of myspace. Til then, it’s one potential TRUE fan at a time.

Remember, no-one owes you anything, no-one is compelled to engage with your music, or assume that it’s any more important than what any of the other millions of musicians out there do. And a lot of them won’t like what you do, for perfectly valid reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ you are in any measurable way. So we keep putting it out there, inviting them in, rewarding their engagement, providing social capital and resources to gain cache and kudos from having engaged with us, and just making some friends! I’ve found that the vast majority of the people who dig what I do are people I like. Not in a sycophantic ‘hey I love you for buying my music’, but just that the music that soundtracks my life (my music) is likely to appeal to people who share a few of the values and perceptions that I have. I’ve made friends with so many people whose first point of contact was a gig or masterclass or CD of mine, it’s great, and a vital part of my life right now.

…I also have great friends who really couldn’t care less about my music, and are equally valuable for that reason, but that’s a whole other blog post…

So obviously, if you want to connect with me, feel free to do so on twitter , myspace or facebook.

Tags: cool links · Geek · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

To The Left Of The Mainstream – new music recommendations

February 25th, 2008 · 4 Comments

I’ve written before about the need for filtering in the online music world – there’s just too much music and not enough time to leave it all to chance. As Jeff Schmidt just expressed it on twitter – “curation is vital”.

Which is why I’ve just started To The Left Of The Mainstream – a twitter-based music recommendation feed. I’ll post at least once a day, sometimes more, with links to great artists, with the proviso that all the sites will provide full track on demand streaming tracks or downloads. They’ll mainly be from Myspace, last.fm and Reverb Nation

So if you’re on twitter (you should be), you can ‘follow’ TTLOTM on there, or just click the link and then grab the RSS feed to follow it in google reader or safari or wherever. I’m sure you’ll find loads of great new music through it.

Stylistically, it’ll run the gamut from singer/songwriters to ambient music, rock bands to chamber works, electronica to nu-jazz. All the kinds of things I love. There’ll be no ‘buy-ons’, as it’s only going to be of any value at all if the sole criteria is quality…

That doesn’t mean I’m not taking recommendations – make those in the comments below please (rule #325, you can’t recommend yourself! ;o)

Tags: cool links · Geek · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians · website recommendations

website and blog music-player updates…

February 16th, 2008 · 3 Comments

OK, I’ve just added new last.fm music players to both the website frontpage and here on the blog – they’re over on the left hand side there, beneath the links. The main difference between the two is that the one on my site autostarts, the one on the blog doesn’t – I’m guessing that the majority of the visitors to the blog are here to read stuff, not necessarily listen to music, whereas visitors to the stevelawson.net homepage are far more likely to be wanting to hear something straight away. (feel free to discuss the relative merits of autostart music in the comments below – I’m open to persuasion either way. I’m definitely not putting it on on the blog – there are a couple of blogs I just never visit any more because they have music players on them that play all kinds of nonsense that I don’t really want to hear…)

The decision to go with the last.fm embeddable thingie over the reverbnation one was simply that the last.fm one was portrait and the reverbnation ones are all landscape, but not landscape enough for them to work in the main body of my site – if they did one that was 500px wide and about 80px high, I’d have probably gone for that on the website front page, but just wanted something a little tidier.

So, have a listen! Go on, you know you want to. If you do want to listen to the stuff that’s on the reverb nation page, you can do so with the player below – there are a few live things on there that are unavailable anywhere else…

Do those of you that have music pages use any other embedded widgets? Do tell…



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Tags: Uncategorized

gig – solo bass night nr Milton Keynes, with Yolanda Charles and Kev Cooke, March 16th

February 12th, 2008 · Comments Off on gig – solo bass night nr Milton Keynes, with Yolanda Charles and Kev Cooke, March 16th


date
Sunday 16th March, 7.30pm-10.30pm
venue
The Dolphin, Whaddon Way, Newport Pagnell, nr Milton Keynes.
details
Solo Bass Night, featuring Yolanda Charles, Kev Cooke and Me.
weblinks

Tags: gig dates · Music News

If you want me, you can find me…

February 10th, 2008 · 2 Comments

…left of centre? well, yes, but also at these places (just as a recap, in case you missed some of them!)

Facebook
Reverb Nation
iLike
Last.fm
iSound (I’d pretty much forgotten that this one existed!)
MySpace
YouTube

and then just for buying stuff there’s

Cdbaby (there are a host of other MP3 stores linked from here).
iTunes
Emusic
Amazon.

….and also on Rhapsody, Napster and god-knows-where else!

Which of them do you use? Which sites are useful to you as a listener? Which sites have features that draw you in to spend time browsing for new music? It’s amazing that after all this time, there’s still nothing that can top Myspace, exposure-wise, shitty design or no shitty design. Last.fm is now definitely the go-to site for hearing music on demand, and emusic is my download site of choice, though the Amazon store is pretty kick-ass too..!

Which ones do you think will last? the Facebook fan-page thing doesn’t seem to have caught on all that much as yet, mainly because Facebook is ALL about connecting with people you know… I guess the artists need to do more interacting on there! Last.fm seem to have a really good thing going, and they are going to start doing subscription downloads too, it seems… What about myspace? The news about their open access API seems great if it works and we’re not just swamped with spam through it…

Thoughts please, bloglings. :o)

Tags: cool links · Music News · Musing on Music · New Music Strategies

Reverb Nation plug in for Facebook 'pages'…

February 2nd, 2008 · Comments Off on Reverb Nation plug in for Facebook 'pages'…

Reverb Nation has already got one of the best sets of tools for musicians thus far available on the web, with embeddable widgets, RSS feeds and more.

Their ‘My Band’ application for Facebook profiles was a great way to show your friends what you do (never underestimate the importance of your actual friends as part of your audience… more on that later, perhaps), and now it works on Facebook ‘pages’ too.

So instead of having to send facebook scanned documents and all that other privacy-breaching weirdness, you can just have your Reverb Nation info and songs appear on your Facebook band page.

You can also use iLike to put music and info on facebook page… and then each of those applications have their own artist page within facebook… Damn, this is getting very clumsy… These pages HAVE to start accepting information ‘pushed’ into them from a central point, even if it’s only gig dates… Let’s see what happens when Myspace open up their API – I doubt they’re going to be the front-runners in open formats, given that they’re slowly morphing into facebook-lite at the moment, but we can hope… Facebook are rubbish at accepting data, (probably because they’re way too obsessed with the advertising revenue of page impressions to allow anyone to upload any info without clicking on at least four pages with ads on them…

Still, if I hear any more, I’ll let you know. :o)

Tags: cool links · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

Reverb Nation picking up a head of steam…

December 28th, 2007 · Comments Off on Reverb Nation picking up a head of steam…

I’ve blogged about Reverb Nation quite a few times, but it’s always worth another heads up as the user base is growing, and people’s familiarity with the two Facebook plug-ins (My Band for musicians and Reverb Nation for fans) is also growing.

The widgets on their site are a great way of compiling players for all your favourite artists onto one page, as Kev Cooke has done on his myspace page.

They still don’t accept information ‘pushed’ to the site, and don’t allow all that much tweaking and customisation of the widgets themselves, but the range of sizes available is a great idea, and the basic design is pretty cool looking…

Here are a few of the widgets for me, for playing music, adding to the mailing list, and showing your gigs…


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Oh, and if you go to my reverb nation page and click on the ‘favourites’ tab, you’ll see all the fantastic musicians I know that are on there, with more stuff being added all the time!

Tags: New Music Strategies · tips for musicians