stevelawson.net

Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



Twittering…

February 16th, 2008 · Comments Off on Twittering…

so I’ve joined Twitter. You may remember I joined it’s main rival Jaiku a while ago, and you may also have seen the Jaiku widgets on the blog and on my site front page… Sadly, Jaiku just didn’t have the user-base that Twitter has (they probably even had to take Murray’s advice from flight of the Conchords and ‘put -base on the end, makes it look like there’s more of them’) and I was basically just posting one line updates to my website front page. I did get quite a few clicks through the blog from it, and may still find a way to use Jaiku just for posting weblinks or something (something I also do via the del.icio.us feed I’ve got embedded at the bottom of my links page.)

So when Jeff Schmidt (who was the person that told me about Jaiku in the first place) jumped from Jaiku to Twitter, it seemed common sense to admit that Jaiku wasn’t about suddenly become de rigueur.

So I’m twittering here – if you’re on Twitter, you can ‘follow’ me, and perhaps I’ll follow you. It’s quite fun the way you can comment on people’s twitterings, but just including their name with an @ in front in your response…

…yes, you’re right, I really do need to get out more.

Tags: cool links · Geek

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…



Steve%20Lawson
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Tags: Uncategorized

Where Youtube fits in the new music economy…

February 13th, 2008 · Comments Off on Where Youtube fits in the new music economy…

So I’ve been posting loads of Youtube clips in the last couple of days, and have thus been thinking a fair bit about what youtube does for a musician and where it fits.

Firstly, it’s another huge ecosystem to inhabit – so much of the ‘social networking’ scene is about self contained ecosystems. Which can be good and bad – for example, Myspace friend acquisition is largely its own currency – the seeming failure of Snocap to make any real dent in the online sales world seems fundamentally to be because ‘what goes on in myspace stays in myspace’ by and large – the bit of it that extends is gigs. So you build an audience, and some exposure, but that’s through interaction not friend requesting. I saw a page today of a guy with 77,000 friends but only 90 plays today. Contrast that with Lobelia’s page, where she trimmed her friends list down from 4000 to 300 (it’s crept back up to 400 now), but reguarly has 50 plays in a day. 50 plays isn’t a huge amount in myspace terms, but they are more likely to be people actually listening, and the idea that to double that requires another 76,600 friends is clearly laughable.

So, sorry, back to YouTube – it’s another ecosystem that people inhabit. A heck of a lot of people use youtube for ‘one shot listening’ – you think of a classic tune and want to hear it. chuck it into youtube and there’s more than likely a version of it up there, possibly a live one, or one that’s been coupled to a new video, or a bootleg, or often the original video, perfect for nostalgic moments. There are also cover versions (more on that in a moment).

So what do you get? First up you get the ‘human face of music’ – watching a video of someone playing a song live has way more human impact than just downloading an MP3 – you see them react to their own music, you see them smile, frown, close their eyes, twiddle their fingers etc… it’s a secondary level of engagement beyond just listening. Also, there’s the really simple equation that if you watch someone play live, you’re more likely to want to go and see them play live.

For me, the single biggest disconnect between what I do on stage and my records is that my records are generally not noticeably silly or funny. On stage, I talk a lot of bollocks, which most of the people who come and see me play like (I’m sure it’s pissed off the occasional person, especially in london where ‘jazz face’ or indie-indifference are the order of the day, but hey, fuck ’em.) Youtube allows people to see some of that – I can post videos with me talking before the song, or just mucking about mid song…

the other great thing for musicians with youtube is that it’s built to be viral… it’s made for sharing. The videos can be embedded and linked from anywhere, there are widgets for it on every other site, they can be stumbled and digg-ed and facebooked and myspaced, and there’s social capital in sharing cool vids.

For the most part, the marketeers suggest keeping your viral vids to 30 seconds, but that’s the adverts, we’re not interested in selling holidays or washing powder here, this is about connecting with real music… So the viral element will be curtailed slightly, but the quality of the response will no doubt be higher…

The last thing about youtube that’s useful is that extracting the (already massively compressed) audio and ripping it as an MP3 is both time consuming and due to the quality drop, largely pointless, so it’s a great way to dish out low res promo material that is very unlikely to impinge on sales. Unless your videos are purely information-based (I wonder what youtube has done to sales of tuitional DVDs given that so much of that stuff is ripped an uploaded. If I saw something really cool on youtube, I’d be more inclined to head off and buy it. I wonder if they’ll ever incorporate a ‘related link’ option for sales, downloads, websites etc? I guess that would break the wall of the ecosystem…

anyway, please do go and check out the new vids I’ve posted, and go viral with them (or if not viral, at least mildly bacterial) – the video below is getting a lot of traffic, and was up to #14th most viewed UK music video earlier today… so watch it, pass it on, rate it, stumble it, and help me out. :o)

and these are the most recent two that I’ve uploaded. MMFSOG –

and People Get Ready –

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

Early Christmas presents – your virtual gifts here…

November 20th, 2007 · Comments Off on Early Christmas presents – your virtual gifts here…

It’s something we’ve done in a small way over in the forum for a couple of years, but I thought I’d copy it over here as a comment thread this year – giving Christmas presents is often expensive and perhaps almost as often, pointless. You spend ages trying to find something that is adequate as a gift, not that is either useful or of benefit, or something where the purchasing in the first place is for the greater good…

We can talk about fair trade presents (and beautiful solo bass cds) later but for now, we’re looking for free online pressies. They can be as simple as recommendations for cool websites, or links to sites with free (legal) MP3s, or cartoons, films. Please don’t post links to anything where the legality or morality of the derivation is questionable, like MP3 blogs not sanctioned by the artists etc. but links to last.fm pages with free mp3s are good, or even last.fm pages where albums are streamable if not downloadable.

This is your chance to offer a free gift of something fun and useful and artsy and cool to all the readers of this ‘ere blog…

So here are my three for you – one or two of which I may have mentioned before –

The End of Control – on ongoing ebook, readable as a blog or downloadable as PDF chapters, on the changes in the music industry.
Free Culture – another e-book about the nature of copyright, ownership and the proliferation of ideas and content in a digital age.
New Music Strategies – a third e-book about the changes in the music industry. More deeply thought out stuff on where it’s all going.

So there you go, three books for Christmas (or for you Americans, you can see them as a Thanksgiving present too, should you wish to, along with this thought and this thought about what Thanksgiving is).

So post away, comments are open – give a freebie web-gift for Christmas! :o)

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

Statistics relating to the website redesign…

November 4th, 2007 · Comments Off on Statistics relating to the website redesign…

Just a quick observation on the redesign of my main website – whil the number of visitors to the site is pretty much the same now as it was before the redesign, those visitors are sticking around for longer and looking at more pages than before… That’s good news! :o)

As for the blog, a heck of a lot of the traffic to my blog now comes from the front page of stevelawson.net, though the number of visitors is in general lower than it was a couple of years ago… maybe people preferred it when I was blogging about cats and european elections. :o)

Stats break over – back to whatever it was you were doing before…

Tags: Geek · site updates

managing copyright in a global environment…

November 3rd, 2007 · Comments Off on managing copyright in a global environment…

One of the big problems for artists distributing music (for free or profit) online is that copyright laws are different the world over. That’s why there are Russian websites selling very cheap downloads of ‘illegally’ ripped CDs. There’s very little law enforcement in most of the former soviet union, and if a site is hosted in a particular country, it’s subject to those hosting laws…

…at least, it seemed to be. Tom from the forum sent me a link to this BBC article about a public domain sheet music site in Canada who had fastidiously made sure that all the music they posted complied with Canadian copyright law, but were then threatened with being sued for copyright infringement when Europeans downloaded the scores! (the salient legal point being that copyright in Europe remains with the estate of a deceased composer for 20 years longer than in Canada).

The interesting thing here from a moral/ethical standpoint is that the point was a) contested by the Europeans, and b) there wasn’t an option to add a disclaimer to the site. Interesting that one of the synonyms for this in the web world would be porn, where the laws related to what you can and can’t look at are hugely different across the globe (I’m not sure if they still do, but the UK used to have MUCH stricter laws about what could be published than in the US…) – I’m sure there’s a hell of a lot of stuff available on sites that are legal in the host country but illegal in other places. In the US, it’s probably true across state lines! But has anyone been prosecuted? I’ve not read about it if they have (but to be fair, I tend to read a lot of news stories about legal issues in the music industry, and not too many about the porn industry…)

So it’s kinda sad that porn goes on unchecked and able to get round localised legality just by hosting off-shore, and a wiki established by a student strictly within the laws of the host country, attempting to provide a great resource for musicians firstly in Canada, but then across the world, is curtailed…

The pernicious onward march of Capitalism, I guess – he who can afford the best lawyers wins…

…though it’s definitely worth comparing the worlds of sheet music and recorded music here – this was, apparently, the largest public domain music score library on the internet, and was being widely used. Is there much of a community for trading public domain recordings? I know there was a bit of a kerfuffle recently when a bunch of still-living crusty old jazz dudes were getting upset that they were about to lose the rights to their own recordings which were now 50 years old (that does seem a bit weird, though not really top of the list when looking at the positive and negative impacts of copyright…) No, copyright infringement in recorded music is now seen as a matter of not getting caught – the RIAA prosecute a bunch of school kids for downloading and think it will frighten everyone else into compliance.

But they screwed it up for everyone by trying to make it an issue of illegal action followed by legally enforced action. They excluded themselves entirely from any dialogue about the impact on creativity, or as I keep saying, and the impact of the music life of the listener when you have no filter. So in a digital world, where community ethics seem to have far more influence on behaviour than any notions of legality, they pushed the discussion into communities that proceeded to laugh at them, use Lars Ulrich as as totem of out-of-touch-millionaire-rock-star-greed and were then able to ‘morally’ justify all the filesharing as a blow against ‘the man’.

Actually, I guess what’s worth throwing in here (damn, this is a disjointed blog post!) is the case of the Real Book – a book of jazz scores written by a load of (I think) Berklee college students, with some pretty heinous chords in them, which was sold by the hundreds of thousands the world over. I’ve no idea who was duplicating it, but it was sold under the counter in shops for YEARS before anyone did a proper legal version – then Chuck Sher came along and published a great book called The New Real Book, which has the proper chords for things in it, neatly printed arrangements, a load of unneccesary pictures of jazz stars (huh?), but is generally a great resource. There are about 5 volumes, as well as Latin versions (that’s Latin music, not jazz scores in Latin) and a ‘Standards Real Book’ which I haven’t got, but is probably the most useful of them.

However, there are digital versions of this kicking around as well – some enterprising young file-sharer has scanned in the New Real Books and uploaded them somewhere. I guess they see themselves somehow in the tradition of the old Real Book, keep the music alive, or whatever… I dunno, it’d be great if Chuck would put out a legal PDF version of all the books for a sensible fee. It’s great to be able to support the people who write these tunes.. There is also now a legal version of the old Real Book – cleaned up, some corrected changes, much cheaper than the Sher books…

Anyway, where did this start? Ah, yes, sheet music, porn, cross-border copyright problems… My last point to note is that there’s already cross border protection for buying digital music – you can only access iTunes in the country you’re a) from and b) in – I can’t buy from UK iTunes while I’m in the US!! That seems completely mad. One central store, in the host country of the company, so occasionally someone else gets a break due to fluctuations in exchange rates. Surely that makes the whole thing easier and more fun? :o) Even my favourite legal download site, emusic has different costs for stuff in different countries. There aren’t many online industries that bother with that – if you’re looking to buy domain names, or web hosting, you just pay the fee for the country where the service is being provided…

Anyway, I hope the music library is able to just stick a disclaimer at the top of certain works saying ‘this music is still illegal to download for free in Europe, please go and buy it’ and get their archive back online…

Tags: Musing on Music · New Music Strategies · Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

Music as ancillary?

October 31st, 2007 · Comments Off on Music as ancillary?

So, back on track – onto the task of unpacking the notion of our music being given away for ‘free’, the story going that it’s great publicity, that we’ll develop a degree of ubiquity (or localised ubiquity – is that an oxymoron???) and it will serve us well in the long run.

A lot of the talk about new ways of getting music out there has revolved around established bands ‘giving away’ their music, with the aim of spreading the word about their tours, and making it back in the live arena, the two main ones being Prince (who gave his new album away in the UK with copies of The Daily Mail – a heinous newspaper, inexplicably read by a couple of million people a day…) and The Charlatans, who gave theirs away to downloaders on the XFM radio website.

Now, what’s happening here really? Is anyone being altruistic? Prince was paid handsomely by the Mail (just been trying to find out exactly how much, but can’t – it was over a million anyway…) the Mail circulation spiked by almost a million, and you can bet your ass they charged more for advertising in that issue, knowing that they would have that many more copies out there.

No, what happened was that the CD – and the music on it – became an ancillary product to the Mail selling advertising space, and getting people who wouldn’t normally buy it (both those who hate it, and those who would normally buy a rival paper like the Sunday Express). No-one was ‘giving away’ anyway. The mail sold it as part of the cover price, and Prince sold it to the paper.

I know less about the Charlatans deal, but the XFM website is advertising driven, and they clearly benefit from increased traffic, both in terms of new listeners and click throughs to their advertisers. I wonder if the Charlatans are on for a cut of that. I also wonder what they’ll do when everybody’s doing it.

See, advertising space in newspapers is REALLY expensive, so if you can get the jump on the rest of the market, and are a big enough band to make a splash by announcing something like this, or the Radiohead deal, you’re getting serious amounts of column inches for free, or rather, for the cost of the album. Right now, it pays for a band like the Charlatans or Radiohead to be seen to be giving it away, but it’s a trade, and for the people doing the giving away, the music is ancillary to their primary business – it’s just there to generate traffic.

This isn’t a new thing, as I’ve blogged in the past about Carling owning loads of venues, with the purpose of selling more beer (wow, it was over two years ago that I wrote that!), but it is something that we REALLY need to be aware of in all the talk of ‘free’ – we need to ask the question, ‘is this ‘free’ idea just about someone else making money out of me giving my music away?’

It’s already happening – Myspace, for example. You get free hosting of a few music files and a page, and they make billions in advertising. We’re providing the content that fuels Murdoch’s empire (yeah, when you put it like that, it’s pretty seedy). However, it’s a knowing agreement, and in return WE get the traffic too – it’s our content, we can get the click throughs etc. and hopefully the increased audience…. hopefully.

So there are two models here – symbiosis and exploitation. Trying to sell indie musicians on the idea of giving their music away for free because Prince and the Charlatans think it’s a great idea is utter bullshit. It’s heinous. There is no parallel, as we won’t generate either the column inches or the fee for licensing our product to whichever media outlet wants to distribute it…

And unless someone comes up with a far far better workable scheme, the same would be true of whatever globalised collection agency was needed to distribute the fees collected when music is made downloadable for free in exchange for a ‘tax’, possibly collected by ISPs. The music would be ancillary to the company behind the agency making money and branding it. The kind of size of operation needed to do such a thing online means it could only really be handled by one of the online giants – Google, Yahoo, News Corps, Microsoft or Macintosh – I really don’t relish the thought of trying to contact Google’s new licensing department to get my share of the license cash… Still, I have a couple of chapters of The End Of Control that I’ve not read yet, so must go and find out how Gerd has been expanding on his ideas…

Tags: Musing on Music · New Music Strategies

Recycle Collective gig, Tuesday 30th…

October 29th, 2007 · Comments Off on Recycle Collective gig, Tuesday 30th…

(this is cross-posted from my mailing list – thanks to the lap-top problems I’ve been really slow to send out info about tomorrow night’s Recycle Collective gig, so am putting the word around as much as I can today, giving you the chance to make a last minute decision to come and spend the evening listening to marvellous music in the gorgeous surroundings of Darbucka…)

Sorry for lack of communication over recent gigs (if you have a look at www.stevelawson.net/gigdiary.shtml you might see some stuff that you’ve missed) – broken laptop has messed up my web-life all round… all the more reason to subscribe to the gig RSS Feed on that page… :o)

But anyway, this is really a reminder about tomorrow night’s Recycle Collective gig at Darbucka in Clerkenwell, London – www.darbucka.com is their website.

The line-up is me on bass and loopage, Patrick Wood on keys and Roy Dodds on drums. This is a bit of a dream line-up for me, as I’ve been a fan of Roy’s drumming since his days with Fairground Attraction (yup, that was him on ‘Perfect’) through to his beautiful playing on Theo Travis‘ new ‘Double Talk’ album. And Patrick is a regular at Recycle gigs, having played with us at Greenbelt this year, and is never less than amazing – melodic, funky, inventive; the ideal improvised music collaborator! :o)

So PLEASE come down – it’s only £6 to get in, and Darbucka does fabulous food either upstairs in the restaurant beforehand, or while you’re sitting listening to gorgeous music!

Music starts at 8pm – www.stevelawson.net/gigdiary.shtml – head there for a link to a map for where Darbucka is. The address is 182 St John Street, London EC1V 4JZ and the nearest tube is Farringdon, and we’ll aim to finish in time for you to get the last tube home! Music starts at 8pm.

thanks – please check out the gig calendar for more dates and my blog for more on what I’ve been up to. Hope to see you soon,

take care

Steve
www.stevelawson.net
www.recyclecollective.com
steve.anthropiccollective.org
www.last.fm/music/Steve+Lawson

Tags: Gig stuff · Music News

Gig dates RSS feed development…

October 23rd, 2007 · Comments Off on Gig dates RSS feed development…

As you’ll have seen yesterday, I’ve started posting my upcoming gig dates as entries on the blog – this puts them on the front page of the website, means that you get to read about them here, and also it means I can generate a separate gigs RSS feed direct from here, that contains all the microformat data (the bit that means it’ll add to a calendar apps).

….except it doesn’t… because the tag-specific pages here (here’s the one for stuff tagged as gig dates) strip out all the formatting, so you don’t get the weblinks, you don’t get the hcal mark-up, and you don’t even get the line-breaks that stop it from just looking like a jumble of text.

So, for now, it’s back to the iChat drawing board with the lovely Sarda to see if he knows how to make it work the way I want it to work. :o)

The eventual idea is that this will be the feed that is directly linked from my gig calendar page on my site, and it’ll contain the hcal information so that clever readers can extract the information and you’ll be able to add individual gigs to your calendar if you want to go to them and need a reminder.

stevelawson.net – providing for all your bassgeek needs since 1997… :o)

Tags: Geek · New Music Strategies

web ubiquity – web 2.0 smarts for musicians

October 22nd, 2007 · Comments Off on web ubiquity – web 2.0 smarts for musicians

I don’t know if you ever look at the stats for your website, but a HUGE amount of the traffic that my site and my blog get are from search engines. Google is the heart of the way most people use the web. This is no bad thing, but it does mean that presenting a website that’s designed to trap information within it in the vain hope that people will love you enough to type your URL into their address bar every morning only to find that you’ve added nothing, or maybe one gig on another continent to them isn’t going to work.

No, one of the most important aspects of the shift from scarcity to ubiquity is that it’s not just about proliferation of recorded music. In fact, i’d go s far as to say that information about you, and the proliferation of your brand over and above the music is even more important, as it generates interest in the music before people have even iistened, and helps to frame their listening in some way.

This is why being everywhere is vital in web-world. So here’s vol. I of a short list of tasks you can do yourselves, without needing a webmaster to sort it out for you:

  • Get a Flickr account – free photohosting and a whole lot more. Flickr is a huge community of visually minded web people, who love seeing well-taken pictures of bands and gigs and touring and all the interesting stuff in your life. Start a second unpaid career as a photojournalist, link to it from your website, and let your audience into a little of the visual side of your world.
  • Sign up for a last.fm user account – your music is already on there, right? Well, there are two ways to use last.fm – one is uploading music, the other is logging what you listen to. it’s a great way to give your audience a handle on the music that makes you tick, and also to give props and some publicity to the great stuff that you’re listening to. Add one of the last.fm widgets to your site so people can see at a glance what you’re listening to this week. Last.fm also has a journal section, so you can post reviews of what your friends and heroes are up to – share the love!
  • Youtube – start your own channel, and get some videos up on there. Don’t just leave it to people with phone-cams to post crap, get some footage up there, and preferably something of you talking too. For some reason people are fascinated by what musicians’ voices sound like when they talk. Weird, but true.
  • Sign up for facebook – yeah, I know, it’s for college kids trying to pick up hotties and tragic 30 somethings who think it’s the cooler version of friends reunited for hooking up with your childhood sweetheart. Right, but it’s also got a whole shedload of useful things for connecting with your friends, peers and audience who are also probably on there. You can put your myspace player on there, your last.fm profile, your reverb nation widget so people can listen to you, and RSS feeds of whatever other information you are generating. Which brings us to our last one…
  • start a blog! You’re reading this, that proves they work. You can blog about all kinds of things – when you’re working a lot, just short updates on tour highlights, or excitement in the studio – post links to your flickr pics and youtube vids for the full interactive experience. When you’re not so busy, or have a little bit of time, use it to big up the people you play with. Musicians can be so damned self-obsessed that they never bother to give back the kind of recognition they so readily crave and grasp at for themselves. Come on, if you’ve got a platform, use it to help everyone out. It’s good for all of us.

when you do, make sure you get accurate stats about what’s going on with your blog and site, and do the same for any RSS feeds you’ve got going on. And don’t be disheartened if you have 10 readers a week for the first while. Blog proliferation is often slow and steady, just keep blogging about interesting stuff, get it registered with Technorati so that they get updates from it and people can find you on searches, add social bookmarking tags (pretty easy to do in Moveable Type and WordPress at least, or addable to your feed via Feedburner), so people can share the love, and link back to all your favourite reads, so they get some of the love too…

I often get asked how it is that i seem to be everywhere in the online bass and looping world, and the truth is that it’s just been through constant involvement in those online communities for over 10 years. For a couple of years, I was the only bass teacher in europe with his own website, was one of the first solo bassists to get music up online, was one of the first featured pros on talkbass, a regular contributor to loopers-delight, and crucially, had some fine music for people to check out when they cam back to my site… i was a little late in the game on MySpace, pretty early at last.fm, very slow to get with flickr and stumbleupon… I also for years kept an archive of all the articles i’d written for bassist magazine on my site, which brings us full circle back to Google at the heart of the web – I used to get SOOO much traffic via that. I only took it down cos I changed servers and the Database that it was running in was incompatible with the new server. That’s why I’m reposting the best of the interviews here…

Regardless on your feelings about the proliferation of digital recordings, ubiquity online is unquestionably a good thing for a musician. But it takes time and effort, and isn’t the kind of thing that happens over night. If you’re savvy, it shouldn’t take 10 years of online geeking like it did for me, but it will take some time. The alternative is to pay some web designer somewhere £25 an hour to do it all for you, and if that’s your preferred route, I know a couple of lovely friendly geeks who will happily take your money from you. :o)

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