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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



Etiquette for soliciting press-quotes from people…

April 26th, 2008 · Comments Off on Etiquette for soliciting press-quotes from people…

I’ve been asked a few times lately to give quotes to people to use for promo purposes, so I thought it would be a good time to offer some thoughts on the process. Largely because it’s something I’ve done myself from time to time, and continue to do when the conditions are right…

Firstly, it’s worth thinking about why we do this, and what value it carries as a promotional tool. Like most promo ideas, it has nowhere near as much influence as we’d like to think, but it can provide context for people who have found our websites or press-packs via other routes, and can also be good for putting on posters and flyers. The value lies in a few different areas –

  • firstly in the quote itself; having anyone say that you’re a badass is helpful, especially if it provides some context as to how they think you’re a badass – some kind of stylistic reference, a particular skill they are into etc.
  • Secondly, there’s the association with that artist – if fans of artist [a] see that they are a fan of you, they may well be inspired to check you out. More often than not they won’t, unless artist [a] is actively promoting what you do, but a few will…
  • and Thirdly, quotes are most useful en masse – have a body of evidence from different sources provides people with a framework for understanding your place in the scheme of things.

OK, so that’s why they are useful – what of how to get them? Here’s my rules that I work by –

  • I never ask anyone for a quote who hasn’t already expressed – privately or publicly – a positive opinion about what I do. Cold-calling someone you’ve never had any contact with is not only bad manners, it’s a recipe for getting either criticism or worse, a lame half-quote that will ultimately make you look like an amateur (no one wants to read a lame quote about you, no matter who said it – you’d be better off getting one from your high-school music teacher or your mum than that).
  • I never quote anything said to me in a conversation, without getting permission in writing, and offering the person a chance to write something else instead.
  • if I’m re-quoting what someone has said about me elsewhere, I try and give context for it.
  • When asking someone who has previously liked what I do for a quote about a new product, I explicitly let them know that I’m totally fine with them not saying anything if they don’t like it, or don’t want to say anything about it.
  • My default is to expect to not get a quote. If I do, and all the conditions are right I’ll use it.
  • I never push people on it – I have a fair few musician friends who’ve expressed a liking for what I do in person, some of whom have offered to give me a quote, who I never pressure for them. They may happen in time, but if they don’t, my career isn’t built or crushed on whether or not some bassist or whatever says what I do is cool….

OK, that’s how I go about getting them, what about what I do about giving them – here’s the list:

  • If I really like what you do, I’ve probably sent you one already – I spend a large amount of my online time putting the word out about music I love. And by love I mean ‘love’, not ‘music by people who might be able to do favours or who are just mates of mine but aren’t very good’.
  • As a recommender of music, I’m building a brand, a brand that I actively protect from the accusation that I’ll give a quote to anything. So my default for people who ask is ‘no’, just because I only push things I think are fantastic. It’s like my policy for inviting people to play at Recycle Collective gigs – only my most favouritest musicians are in there. I might like what you do, but just not be into it enough to put my weight behind it (and, to be honest, a quote from me REALLY isn’t worth that much…)
  • That said, I’m very much aware that there are a growing number of people who DO buy albums that I recommend (most of my recommendations are made either here, on my forum or via my Twitter music recommendation feed, To The Left Of The Mainstream – if you find your music on TTLOTM, I REALLY like it, and am willing to put whatever reputation and credibility I may have behind it.
  • Getting a random email out of the blue asking me ‘for a quote’ that you can use, without having any idea whether I’m remotely into what you do puts me in an awkward position. I’m left with four options – I can lie and say I love it, I can give you a weedy quote that means nothing, I can email you and tell you I don’t like it, or I can ignore it and not reply. None of those are ideal, and certainly none of those are likely to get me to do what you want, even if I like what you’re doing. A little interaction first, and maybe even asking for my honest opinion privately might make more sense than a ‘hey’ gimme a quote. I’m well aware that a lot of people aren’t going to like what I do. Same goes for what you do. I may not like it. That doesn’t mean I don’t like you, and it doesn’t mean you’re rubbish, it just means it’s not my kind of thing, and would be misleading for me to be pointing people towards what you do.

In terms of measurable value, I find that the support, encouragement and advice of musician friends is infinitely more value than a public quote from them – I have an unofficial ‘council of reference’ of older experienced musicians who seem to get what I do, and are willing to offer support, advice and encouragement. Most of them haven’t ever said anything publicly about what I do, although one or two of them have got me gigs, and in one case taken a whole pile of my CDs out to Japan to get me some radio play and work on gig promo…

Of the quotes that I do have on my quotes page – all of the non-printed media ones are from people who had said either to me or elsewhere that they like what I do. I then dropped them an email thanking them for the encouragement and asked if they wouldn’t mind giving me something that I can use publicly, always with the caveat that I’m fine with it if they don’t want to.

As I said before, you put people in a tricky spot asking stuff like this, so choose your people well, and start with some normal polite human interaction before asking for a press quote… …I don’t mean to come off like a curmudgeon, and it’s always nice to get a message from someone who wants to know what I think of what they do, but spam and marketing BS definitely trigger the red flag with me.

…and if you want to know what I’m digging right now, do check out To The Left Of The Mainstream and comment on the artists there my forum…

Tags: Musing on Music · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

One True Fan – thoughts on Street Teams.

April 2nd, 2008 · Comments Off on One True Fan – thoughts on Street Teams.

One of the most linked to blog posts in the last few months in the musical blogosphere is Kevin Kelly’s piece on 1000 True Fans – it’s a great piece of writing, and quite inspiring too.

However, I’d like to get away from the numbers for a moment and talk about this whole thing of connecting with and relating to ‘true fans’. Or ‘friends’ as I like to think of them.

I’ve commented before that I really like my audience. Not because they’re my audience, but because my music seems to draw in the kind of people I want to hang out with. That is a good thing. For sure.

What often happens is that ‘fans’ turn into ‘friends’ long before any level of ‘wow I’m getting to hang out with the guy on the CDs’ kicks in. This, on a human level is also a good thing, given that the ‘wow’ factor is BS anyway. It’s a great way to make money if you can make people think that you’re somehow special/elite/of more value than ‘normal’ people – they’re probably more likely to buy t-shirts and pay high dollar ticket prices (or stupid money ‘meet-and-greet prices) but it’s pretty much total bollocks. So the switch from fan to friend is a good one.

However, those new friends who dig your music are a VITAL part of the propagation and proliferation of your music around the world. They provide a few things that are integral to any marketing strategy, paid or otherwise – experience, enthusiasm, motivation, trust, social connection, the opportunity to acquire social capital through your music (what Hugh MacLeod likes to call A Social Object).

What’s also true is that most people don’t do that stuff on their own. When prompted, they often go ‘of course!’, but unless they are a) musicians doing it for themselves, b) work in marketing, or c) are just incredibly self-motivated and externally-aware, they are unlikely to take it on themselves to start promoting what you do. The chances are that most people who listen to your music aren’t aware that telling their friends about what you do is a vital part of your ongoing income stream, and perhaps, as a result, your ability to keep producing music that they love…

So you need a place where you can let them know about that stuff, and that’s were the idea of a ‘street team’ comes in.

Street Teams have been around for years. They’re an extension of the idea of fan clubs, where people who dig what you do are actively encouraged to – and given the tools to – tell other people about what you do. The name obviously comes from the idea of getting out there and handing out flyers and sticking up posters – and people who are willing to do that are worth their weight in gold to an indie – but more useful and immediate, and certainly a more accessible form of support and interaction for the ‘regular’ fan would be the idea of street team as social media team.

In our culture of attention, people need peer approval to find where the cool shit is on line. Most of my new music discovery these goes comes via links sent to me on twitter, facebook, email and IM. There are people who act as new music filters for me and send me the stuff they like. I do it for my friends all the time, currently through To The Left Of The Mainstream.

So creating a space where you can share ideas with those people, offer suggestions, keep track of actions carried out, and hopefully get some community happening is a good thing. And gives you the chance to reward people who help you out a lot.

I’ve had a street team for years. My street teamers have access to a whole load of MP3s unavailable elsewhere, and some of them have been able to get on the guestlist for sold out shows and such like. They get to order CDs earlier than everyone else, and in exchange, I ask them to spread the word.

Up until yesterday, my main point of contact with my street team was an email list, where I would send out all-too-sporadic emails asking them to do things. It got some stuff done, but gave no room for feedback and cross pollenation. I had a street teamers forum on my site too, but because of the mailing list, I neglected it, and so, largely did they…

So yesterday I sent out a message saying it was moving there permanently. I’m not going to send out the emails any more, and instead will interact with anyone who wants to help me out in the Street/Social Media Team forum on my site.

So, if you want to sign up, head over the forum on my site sign up for the forum, then send me a message via email or forum PM and tell me why you want to join. It’s not a cryptic question, it just stops the list from being an impersonal opt in.

The question here is not one of building 1000 true fans, but is about giving the people who like what I do but don’t think like marketers a space to explore how they can help me out. Ideas for spreading the word, and some insight into how it works. Not many people know that just by adding a blog post or website page to stumble upon, they can send upwards of 500 new people to see my site. If 10 people stumble it, it can have a massive impact. Same goes for fowarding pages to facebook an myspace friends, reTweeting information about new blog posts etc. on Twitter, and posting links to stuff on their own blogs.

As well as all the more traditional street team stuff such as sticking up posters, emailing radio stations and magazines, handing out flyers and bringing friends to gigs.

I’m thinking later this year of doing a Street-Team only gig in London… will have to see how that pans out.

A blog like this one, or even Twitter can act as an informal Social Media Team suggestion place, where your listeners and friends can get links to click, or can forward posts like my post about the two free albums to their friends, but it’s definitely a good idea to provide a space for clearer discussion about actual promotion…

Tags: cool links · Music News · New Music Strategies · site updates

Managing Information Streams 4 – General twitter tips.

March 12th, 2008 · Comments Off on Managing Information Streams 4 – General twitter tips.

Here’s a load of more general twitter tips, based on my observation of what goes on on there, and in no small part based on the things I’ve got wrong, and the twittering faux-pas I still make, but designed to help us use Twitter as part of a well-managed information filter… (I’ll blog about something other than twitter later, just wanted to tidy this one up for now.)

#1 keep if fluid – it seems the best way to work with Twitter is not to see subbing to or unsubbing from a particular feed as a big deal. It’s not like adding someone as a friend on Facebook where it’s likely to lead to a flurry of interaction. They’ll get a notice that you’re following them, but they won’t that you’ve unfollowed, and no-one seems to get hung up on that anyway. Especially not if they post a lot. I post very regularly, and there are bound to be people who find it clutters their twitter stream to the point where it’s not desirable to have there. So they unsub, no biggie. I’m not offended, they aren’t overwhelmed and my twitter page is still there if they want to check out what I’m up to at any point…

#2 beware of too much IM style usage – this is only an issue if you WANT people to follow you – if you’re just using it to interact with people you know, this isn’t a problem at all. But if you’re trying to build a core group of followers, the feeling that you’re listening to one side of a conversation in moon language is really off-putting (I have been guilty of this, for sure!) – here are a couple of tips to get round that – firstly, use the ‘@’ reply protocol, so that at least there’s a link to the person whose post you’re replying to. (on the twitter.com page, it links to the nearest-in-date post in the person’s twitter-stream that you’re replying to) Secondly, if you’re replying to a post with a link in it, re-tweet the link to give context. thirdly, break up the flow of interaction with some stand-alone inspiration or information – make a point of having at least every 3 or 4th tweet be a non-reply – a question, a cool link, a thought about something, a gig date, a suggestion, a status update…

#3 don’t use text speak but do edit. SMS-style abbreviations are a) not understood by everybody, and b) annoy a lot of people. So instead, just think about how you can reword your tweet to fit into the 140 characters and still say what needs to be said in english (or your tweet language of choice!)

#4 don’t get stuck sounding like a series of adverts – if yours is an info-only twitter feed, then go with information, not hyperbole. This is just an observation, but it really doesn’t seem to work. Twittists seem to be up for info-feeds, or opinion feeds, but I’ve not seen much traffic around ones that sound like mini-commercials. So either post stuff with an opinion that’s personalised, or just provide the info…

#5 go with a regular syntax structure – again, most important for news/info style feeds. Are you putting the date first, or the link ,or a category (either in square brackets, or using hashtags.) It’ll make it easier to spot your posts in a stream, and also to extract the right info from it (see my To The Left Of The Mainstream music recommendation account for an example).

#6 work out what time of day you want to post a particular bit of info. Lots of people don’t go back and read tweets they missed – so if you’re writing something for Americans but you’re in the UK, don’t post it before about 2pm, or most of them will miss it. And vice versa. Know your timezones!

#7 don’t finish a twit-sesh on a weird post. Especially if you use the twitter-widgets, you don’t really want to leave a bizarre or insulting tweet up there for two long… follow it up with a ‘goodnight all’ tweet to tidy things up. Assume that anything and anyone you tweet about will be read by the person you’d least like to have reading it. Then you’re safe.

#8 have fun! web interaction at its best is about relearning how to ‘play’ – it’s a big game, and the more you interact with it as an adventure, as fun, as something to be discovered rather than something to be conquered, the more the time you spend on it will be open to the possibility of creative reimagining. It may be that twitter is just for posting gig dates and album news for you. That’s fine. It may be that you just answer Twitter’s expressed question – ‘What are you doing?’ a couple of times a day. That too is obviously fine. However, it may be that you discover a way of using it that no-one else has thought of. Hurrah. Seeing it as play leaves you open to the possibility of these and more. (I’ll write more soon about the play thing.)

For those of you doing music, Twitter is a great sand-box in which to experiment with your online persona. It gives you space to step out of the 3rd-person big-record-label-clone website that you’ve had since the late 90s when we all thought that was the way to go. It’s a way to add a little box of personal stuff to your site and let people know you’re human. Chances are it’ll get more interest than the flash-driven corporate looking static website, and will be a stepping stone into turning your website into a blog-style interactive space, or at least doing what I’ve done, which is have the blog updates as the main content on your site front page.

Get out there, get interactive, and use twitter to save on time and energy in that engagement. Enjoy!

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

the ecosystem is wrong… why facebook for music still doesn't beat Myspace…

March 1st, 2008 · 3 Comments

Jeff Schmidt just linked to this article via his Google Shared Items (find them in the side bar on his blog and grab the RSS feed) –

Facebook Music Rocks, in which the author waxes lyrical about how functional the Facebook music pages are. Which is true, they are, functionally, kicking the ass of MySpace, with the option to embed lots of stuff, and present it in a facebook profile-like way, so the target audience understand it.

We know that, I’ve blogged about that before (click the ‘facebook’ tag at the bottom of this post for all the stuff I’ve written about facebook… grab the feed for that tag too, if all you’re interested in are facebook stories… :o) – the problem is about ecosystems, and facebook is about connecting with people you already know. Facebook doesn’t have anything like the internal friend-adding currency that Myspace has. If I see someone with 1000+ facebook friends, I assume they’re a bit of a tool.

I, and the vast majority of the people I talk to, use facebook to keep up with friends news, whereabouts, photos and to play scrabulous. I deny almost all the event and application requests I get, I only put stuff on my page that says something about me, and have never that I can remember added f’ing pirates or vampires or werewolves or whatever other nonsense is on there… I don’t even use it for sanctimonious bragging about how green I am to my friends (despite that being my conversation-of-choice in most circumstances… ;o) – it’s about real world connections played out in web-time, and less-so, about finding out about online friends you have from elsewhere. I think I have maybe 3 friends that I first met on facebook, through other friends.

So, what of the musician pages? Worth having? definitely. Especially for indie musicians. Here’s why – your friends are a really important part of your audience. Look, we all know that having a stranger buy your CD or download is way more impressive and thrilling than your mum buying copies for the family for Christmas, but money is money, audience is audience, and your friends are predisposed to give you a fairer hearing than most. And – here’s the facebook catch – they have social currency to gain by telling their friends about their connection to you – almost every artist I am a fan of on Facebook is one I know personally. They are people I’m proud to know, regard as friends and want to help out.

So use facebook music, now, to mobilise friends. It may well be – in fact, it’s likely – that the facebook ecosystem will shift, and more people will embrace the idea of finding music there, of searching for great music etc. At which time you HAVE to have your ‘ducks in a row’ – your page set up, your core base of REAL WORLD FRIENDS (and family members) on there using it, and spreading the word.

Make the most of your friends as a fan-base and defacto street-team. That’s where facebook works REALLY well right now.

click here to go to my musician page on facebook
and here for To The Left Of The Mainstream

(oh, and grab my google reader shared items from the side bar on the front page here while you’re at it – there’s some great stuff there…)

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

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