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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



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

Social Media first principles for Musicians Pt 3 – going Mobile.

December 12th, 2008 · Comments Off on Social Media first principles for Musicians Pt 3 – going Mobile.

Steve Lawson and his N95 as taken by Benjamin Ellis. Finally… part 3! The timing is prescient for two reasons. Firstly, last Monday I was invited to be a panelist at a discussion hosted by Mobile Mondays (MoMo) on the whole area of Mobile tech and Social Media.

Secondly, it’s because today I’m heading to Leicester to De Montfort University Business School to help put together a social media toolkit that small businesses can use. (In case you’d let it slip your mind, being a pro or semi-pro musician IS a small business – makes for a great case study, in fact…)

So, cutting to the chase, our two Sesame Street-esque words of the day are:

Mobile‘ and ‘Transparent‘.

As I said to the lovely suits at MoMo, one of the big problems for non-uber-geeks using mobile social tools at the moment is the lack of transparent interface.

What the hell does that mean? OK, if you take a picture, click a button and quietly in the background it then uploads to Flickr for you (or to Facebook, Ovi, or if you want to post it to lots of places at once, Phreadz), that’s transparent. If, however, you take a picture, scroll through 100 menus, click a button, tell it to upload and then have to watch the screen for 5 mins because the connection keeps dropping and your phone might crash… that’s what I like to call ‘Not Transparent‘. That’s a pain in the arse, and unless you have a dedicated Social Media monitor (like a library monitor in school, but with cooler toys), it makes it very difficult to be spontaneous.

And spontaneity is key to the value of mobile for a musician. If you’re touring, all kinds of fun and crazy things are happening all the time. Lots of them (the ones that aren’t borderline illegal), when photographed, filmed or recorded, have enormous shareability. They’re funny, engaging, interesting and easily become part of the narrative. Even more importantly, they are something free you can GIVE to your audience, expecting nothing in return. You’re just inviting them into your world, to see a glimpse of the life you live on the road. Or in the studio, out shopping for music gear, or – if you’re comfortable with it – bits of your day to day life.

So where are we up to with the tech? Well, it is, not surprisingly, getting better and better. Hardware-wise, the front-runners are the Nokia N95 (my own smartphone of choice) and the iPhone… I’m not a huge fan of the iPhone, but I do appreciate the feature set it has, and it is a great device for playing around with mobile social media.

My reason for loving the N95 is that it’s as close to an all-in-one tool as I’ve seen yet
. The camera – and more importantly, the video capture – is the best I’ve come across in a mobile phone (even the world’s biggest cynic about such things, PhotoMonkeySteve, was impressed by the quality…). It has wifi, 3G and a whole slew of great apps developed for it. It’s a pretty good media playback device (if you rip films in the right format, you can even use it as a portable DVR, hook it up to your TV and watch films on the big screen…)

For me, being able to record gigs (I’ve currently got about 3.5 hours of Lobelia and I playing house concerts on the phone, waiting to be edited and uploaded to YouTube…) stream little bits of my daily life and upload photos direct to flickr (or, using TwitPic, to Twitter) is really cool. I can even blog direct to this WordPress blog from the phone.

The connection your audience will feel with what you’re doing is multiplied by a pretty large factor when you talk to them ‘in the moment’
– not ‘last night I played a gig’, but ‘I’m about to go on stage, wish me luck!’ – I posted that very message on Twitter last night before I played with Lawson/Dodds/Wood and got LOADS of replies from people who wouldn’t drop in to say ‘hey, really glad you had a good gig’ on my blog, but feel all warm and snuggly, and again, importantly, ‘like they’re missing something’ because I tell them what I’m doing right then.

So here’s what you need to get going with your Mobile social media life:

  • A Nokia N95 (or N82, or iPhone, or any other smartphone that has the features listed above)
  • A twitter account (twittering on the go makes bus and train journeys so much more fun. Most of the members of Jars Of Clay are now on Twitter, and their tour-banter is a lovely glimpse of life on the road)
  • A flickr account (you should have one of these already – I’ll post more about flickr soon…)
  • A youtube account (be warned, if you get an iPhone, the current version does NOT do video. I know, it’s insane, why the hell not?) – you can upload directly to your youtube account from the Nokia N series phones, via the youtube app. Same goes for Seesmic and Phreadz.

You can also post to Facebook, Myspace and a raft of other social sites from your phone.

Bottom line, you can double your social media footprint and quadruple your connection with your audience by going Mobile.

What’s more, it’s only going to get better from here. Be warned, a few of these things have a bit of a learning curve attached, mainly to get round the foibles of the hardware and software (by far the best feature-set of the upload apps is ShoZu… it’s just a shame that it makes my phone impossible to use when it’s running… I met the VP of Marketing at Shozu at MoMo, so will report back on my communication with her soon – she’s eager to help…)

4 years from now, social networking is going to be predominantly mobile and very much driven by rich media (photos, videos, audio) – get in there now and you’ll have a bigger slice of the audience, have made all your mistakes while most people don’t even know what you’re doing, and be in a position to innovate as soon as the tech comes along that lets you do it.

So, off you go and upgrade your phone (just don’t forget to recycle the old one…)

Tags: Geek · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

Seesmic goes celeb crazy

May 17th, 2008 · Comments Off on Seesmic goes celeb crazy

Things got very exciting this morning on Seesmic, the video conversation site, as a few of the regular posters got to interview some MASSIVE cinema celebs at the Cannes film festival… Something v. interesting occured, but as this is a post about seesmic, I think I’ll use seesmic to comment on it – and you can use seesmic to comment back, whether or not you’re logged in – via the link at the bottom of this post. {seesmic_video:{“url_thumbnail”:{“value”:”http://t.seesmic.com/thumbnail/WA5KOeAjm5_th1.jpg”}”title”:{“value”:”Seesmic goes celeb crazy “}”videoUri”:{“value”:”http://www.seesmic.com/video/fn9WLeaa9q”}}}

There you go – what fun! Please do add a video or a text comment, especially if you were part of the Seesmic frenzy this morning – what fun that was!

(here’s Jemima Kiss from the Guardian talking about it in their PDA column.)

Tags: film/tv · Geek

Twitter-peoples: welcome to my e-world, dive right in!

May 7th, 2008 · 12 Comments

Image cut from Steve Lawson's Twitter page, illustrating this page about twitterOK, so you arrived here via my twitter page, and want to know more?

Short version – I’m a musician, music teacher/lecturer, 1/5th of New Music Strategies, writer and social media tinkerer. I blog about my music life, specifically the various things that are now possible for musicians thanks to the joys of ‘tinternet. I’m also a consultant/thinker about Social media in a wider context, particularly as it relates to creatives. I co-run a social media event help organisation called Amplified.

Your best places to start finding out what I do are my blog (set aside a while, there’s a lot of it!), and the music pages. It’s worth having a listen, honest, cos all this other nonsense is related to the music – that’s the centre of the wheel, the hub around which all the other stuffs rotates.

After that, you might want to find me elsehwere: Facebook, Last.fm, YouTube and some other places.

You’re also welcome to check out the gigs page in case I’m out and about.

Oh, and if I followed you first, the chances I found you were recommended to me, or retweeted by someone. It may also have been that I found you via something you tweeted about music… Whichever, it’s just that your feed looked interesting, so I’m checking it out – feel free to follow back or not! If you do follow me, and I tweet too much, I shan’t be in the slightest bit offended if you unfollow. My own sister did 🙂

If you followed me in the hope that I’d follow back and I haven’t, it’ll be because of two things – firstly, I don’t get notifications of new followers – there were too many, and it was taking up loads of time. I do go and have a look about once a week to delete all the spam and wrongness, so then I follow people I know.

The number of people I’m already following (2000-and-change as I write this) is already functionally too high, so I’m only adding people that REALLY interest me. If I’m not following you, it doesn’t, of course, mean that you can’t reply to things, or ‘@’ me for specific things – that’s all cool, and if we get a conversation happening, it may well be that I end up following you. But please don’t be offended if I don’t. It’s honestly nothing personal, I assure you 🙂 x

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Managing Information Streams Pt 2 – Twitter!

March 10th, 2008 · 15 Comments

Thanks so much for all the comments and feedback about the first Managing Information Streams post. Some GREAT stuff in the comments there.

I want to follow that up with what is fast becoming my favourite web-filter, and will hopefully become my primary interface with my network – Twitter.

The tech media has been full of articles about Twitter for the last couple of months, ranging from declaring it to be the saviour of the web to it being the scourge if humanity. Both are exaggerations, and as usual, ignore the range of ways to interact with a particular technology.

So first up, a ‘what is twitter?’ answer, StevieStyle – Twitter is a combination of microblog, status-update, public IM, SMS client, link-blog, mini-email, brain-storm-tool, twitterpedia and for me (I’ve not seen anyone else doing this yet, but I’m sure I’m not the first) a responsive public to-do list.

All of that in an IM-window style interface, portable to my cellphone, followable on the web and scannable at a glance.

So what’s great about it? Let’s undo everything I said it was at first –

Firstly, it’s not email – I’m getting increasingly sick of email, particularly email that isn’t addressed to me. It’s just not a quick enough or malleable enough way to get information, to difficult to filter for quality and the group stuff just makes it harder to deal with the stuff that is to me. So I’ve been unsubbing from groups and mailing lists like crazy, trying to reduce the volume of non-direct email. A lot of the things I might have used email or email lists for, I now do on Twitter. How does that help? Well, I know the answer is going to be either a) very short or b) very short with a link to a properly written explanation. If you have to post the longer answer on a public blog, you’re more likely to think about it, than if you just write bollocks to a mailing list.

Secondly It’s not IM – IM sucks my time. IM is a very demanding thing to have running. It can be very useful and a great way to get quick responses, and also to deal with more personal things, but for the most part the big problem with IM is that you sit WAITING FOR A REPLY, and the other person is doing the same. So you don’t get on with your stuff, you ‘do IM’ for whole chunks of time. I NEVER do that with Twitter. Even if I post 5 or 6 posts in a couple of minutes, in between I’m working, I’m blogging, I’m searching, I’m answering the good emails, I’m deleting the crap ones, I’m cooking, brushing my teeth, on the bus… whatever, it’s all going on, and Twitter can fit to that. I never get tweets that say ‘are you still there? hello? where’ve you gone, you bastard??’ like on IM.

It also means that there’s a public record of a process if you’re planning something. This is what happened when Jeff Schmidt and I planned our podcast. I think Jeff sent me one direct message on twitter about it, and the rest was public. Perhaps as a result, the podcast had the highest first day or two’s downloads of ANYTHING Jeff has podcasted. And he’s done some great podcasts (search in iTunes for his name, for more – really good stuff.)

Thirdly it’s not facebook – if I go into facebook and check people’s status updates, there are a million other distractions – photos, scrabblez, groups, event invites, etc. I set up Facebook as a separate app using FluidApp just so I can open it, do it, and go. Twitter is the status update with the option to reply, and without the distractions. That’s a good thing. Facebook can be so addictive.

Fourthly it’s not this blog – blogging here takes a lot of time and effort. It’s also very much an interactive archive of my public writing. Twitter is immediate, and then gone. Sure you can find or favourite tweets, but it’s largely about NOW. I try to keep my blog archive manageable by not posting quick ‘check this out’ blogs – that’s what twitter does REALLY well. I can also, crucially, start rumours on there about what I’m up to, talk about things that might happen but might not, in a way that would come back and bite me on the arse if I did it on here…

Fifthly it’s not Google – if I use twitter for a question, I’m not searching the internet for prewritten answers, I’m asking the minds of my fellow twittists. I’m asking people who know me, or at least know about me, and I can follow up. And all of it in 140 characters. I’m not demanding much from peoples, but I can get top quality info. And it’s filtered by who I CHOOSE to interact with. No spammers, no trolls… The traffic isn’t public enough to attract disgruntled losers shouting at windmills.

Sixthly, it’s not a to-do list – to-do lists are currently the bane of my life. I never know where to write things down to remember them. Twitter means that my to-dos can become discussion, friends can remind me, hassle me, and I feel a compulsion to update, and therefor a drive to get something done so as not to embarrass myself by saying ‘did fuck-all today’… So I post a list, I post options and court responses, and on some things, I can collaborate. I can even ask my flatmate to pick up milk or washing-up liquid on the way home. Last night, my landlord used twitter to find out if anyone was home in order to access a document in the flat – THAT is the magique of the Twittosphere!

Seventhly, and this is a small but significant one it’s not regular SMS – how? a) it’s free to send, and b) I can type it, not key it in on my phone. HURRAH!!!! That should be enough to get everyone in the world signed up…

So what’s unique about it, that isn’t so negatively defined? OK, there’s the asynchronous nature of ‘following’ – if someone clicks to follow me, I can choose to follow them or not. I can also follow people who don’t follow me. I can follow people for the conversation, or the inspiration, I can post in the same way – conversation or open ended thoughts. And people can choose to read or ignore. No-one is wasting time they don’t want to waste just to see if the info is good or not. Glance, engage, revert. It’s easy.

Two, it provides interactive news. On the scene ‘buzz’ about events. Right now, SXSW is going on in Austin. Last week was TED – the precis of ideas on twitter is a GREAT way to find out what’s hot and what’s not, what are the salient parts of an hour-long talk, what’s going to be rocking the tech-world in a few months time. Choose a different set of people to follow and you’ll get the same from glastonbury or the protest movement, or parliament, or probably even the countryside alliance *shudder*… you choose, you filter, you edit, you follow/unfollow, and form a group of twittettes who entertain and inform, interact and educate.

Thus far the signal to noise ratio on my group of feeds is extremely positive, and the stuff that’s come out of it is amazing. Lately, that’s been all about Seesmic, the video-blog site. But that deserves a post of it’s own, because it’s f’ing amazing.

So maybe now you can see why I’m hoping to make my twitter account my main web interaction. Sign up for twitter at twitter.com, add me, and if you’re a bass-head, add Jeff, Trip and search around for some others. Consider this my TwitterFesto :o) .

I’ll post some more stuff about it soon, but suffice to say, if you want to get in touch with me quick, twitter beats anything besides just calling me up on the phone (we need to get back into phones – our modernist technolust has relegated phones to a last resort. that’s got to change…) Email is great for longer more involved information, IM is good if your life is falling apart and you want my help or support, Facebook is good if you’ve got silly photos from your stag night, and Google is good if you want a URL to send to someone. Otherwise, TwitMe!

(addendum – I’ve tagged this as ‘future of music’, because twitter is something that bands and artists HAVE to get a handle on. It’s where so much web communication is heading. So read this, and I’ll post more about music specific application in the very near future)

(addendum #2 – massive credit must be given to Hugh MacLeod for his thinking on twitter, much of this was informed by his twitterings and bloggings. Follow him at twitter.com/gapingvoid)

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