Blogging As An Act Of Defiance In An Age Of Social Media Manipulation

So this website finally had an 11 year overdue overhaul. Total redesign and optimisation. If you need yours sorting out, talk to Thatch, who did this one – he did such a great job. Have a rummage around to behold the goodness and read all of the words.

There’s a bit of me that feels like announcing a website overhaul in 2019 is like shouting ‘hey, check out my MySpace page!’ or putting my ICQ number in my Twitter bio, but we desperately need some push-back against the kind of bullshit that goes on social media, and by that, I don’t just mean ‘there are Nazis on Twitter and Fake News pages on Facebook’, I mean ‘social media algorithms reward us with attention for being blunt, sensationalist, aggressive, shouty and sloganeering‘. So worse than just nazis being there is that it’s built to push us all towards confrontation, to react not reflect, to argue not discuss, to punch each other with nonsense opinions instead of collaboratively researching stuff. All the shit that leads us to Trump and Brexit

So yes, of course Twitter/FB should ban the fash, but if the entire model is set up to gift attention to people with shouty opinions and misleading headlines, we’re all the worse for having to engage with it. At which point, having your own website is an act of defiance. Writing long-form without the dopamine hit of immediate likes and shares and comments, having a comment section that doesn’t reward those commenting with that same load of bullshit, it’s just a space to expand on ideas.

So, yeah, go overhaul your neglected website/blog – we’re all here slaving away in the Zuckerberg Saltmines, churning out ‘content‘ that gets ‘monetised‘. And we think we’re smart if we have a strategy to monetise it, even if that strategy involves capitulating to the horrible terms of engagement that are promoted (man, the tragic irony of this starting out as me waffling on like this on Facebook when I could have been writing it here as a blog post on a site I own… FML)

…anyway, we need spaces to be ourselves, to be quiet, thoughtful, nuanced, unsure, to tell stories & not be baited into shouting at terrible politicians as though they’ll change their minds due to informed snark.

So, if you’re blogging on a regular or semi-regular basis, post a link in the comments here. I’m going to give Feedly another try and see if curating a diverse bunch of daily reads by thoughtful people is even possible. And if you’re a blog reader, grab the feed for this blog from https://feeds.feedburner.com/SteveLawson

BTW, there’s a lot of this theme that gets explored in the new MusicTechFest podcast that came out today, an interview with me that could be subtitled Small Is Beautiful. musictechfest.net/podcast035/  give it a listen 🙂

Will 2017 Be The Year We Admit Ad-Funding Is Ruining Everything?

Ad-funding is why we can’t have nice things. I’ve long held this to be true, and have yet to see any useful evidence to the contrary. Pretty much every business idea that relies on it that I’ve come across has to compromise on content, context and impact due to the need for a) massive numbers of page views, and b) the invitation to click away from the thing you’re actually interested in as quickly as possible for the person hosting the thing to get paid for you looking at it.

As a musician, making music because I think the music itself is the thing that matters, that’s clearly useless. I’m not making sonic clickbait – I’m not trying to gather up likes and views in the hope of hoodwinking some company or other into advertising on my site/giving me money/product endorsements/record deals/whatever. The music is the thing I care about, and the process of making it available and telling the story about it is about supporting its existence.

Barnes Law, section h) “keep your art the main focus. it isn’t about you it’s about your art. do what’s good for your art”

With that in mind, this is VERY interesting stuff from Ev Williams (“Renewing Medium’s Focus” – posted on 4th Jan 2017) – he’s the founder of Medium, and interestingly, the co-founder of Twitter, a platform whose social value has nosedived as it has chased advertising money. Continue reading “Will 2017 Be The Year We Admit Ad-Funding Is Ruining Everything?”

How To Send Bandcamp D/L codes via Mailchimp…

Here’s a thing I’ve been mentally wrestling with for a few days – I really want to be able to do a Bandcamp download code for each member of my mailing list, which is hosted with Mailchimp. I looked through the documentation for the site, but couldn’t immediately see how to do it.

So I did what I always do when I need a problem solved. I asked Twitter.

And my clever friend Lee told me how to make a custom field in the list database.

 

He tweeted:

 

So I did that, but there’s no import option for a single field… I then noticed that there is the option to ‘auto-update‘ your current list when importing data – which means I can export the list from Mailchimp to Excel, generate the codes in Bandcamp, add them to the newly created column in excel, then reimport the list to Mailchimp using the auto-update function.

Then just add the short-code merge tag for the code in your actual email template. Hey presto, unique Bandcamp code for every list member…

It’s worth noting that this is only advisable if you either have

a) massively higher than average open rates on your mailing list or
b) shedloads of spare download codes that you haven’t used with bandcamp.

I’m in the latter camp, so can afford to give them away and see what happens…

50,000 Tweets – A Love Story

Tonight, I clocked up my 50,000th tweet. It looked like this:

It’s no secret that I REALLY dig Twitter. It solved a whole lot of online communication questions for me when I found it. I cut back on my posting on forums, and eventually even deleted the forum on my own site in favour of encouraging the regular posters there to head over to Twitter and talk in a more democratic environment.

I loved the fact that I was no longer stuck in a subject-specific space, or one where I people had to sign up to be in my gang before joining the conversation. It’s not my conversation, after all, it’s a global free-for-all.

Except it isn’t. I mean, technically it is, but actually the only bit of Twitter that concerns me at all is the people I follow and the people who follow me. And occasionally the people who tweet using a hashtag I happen to be following.

I am, as the 50K Tweets would suggest, a power-user. I document my life in this way. I use it to:

  • Talk with my audience in a way that has replaced my email list,
  • Talk with musicians in way that has replaced myspace,
  • Talk with my family in a way that has replaced email,
  • Talk with my colleagues in Amplified in a way that has replaced wikis
  • Talk with anyone who’s interested in a way that’s replaced chatrooms/generic forums.

…and by ‘talk with’ I mean all the myriad forms of communication that go on there – chat, debate, encourage, learn from, teach, swap links, post news… anything that’ll fit in 140 characters.

    It’s clearly an open, messy, FUN way of communicating that I love. I don’t have to keep track of loads of different websites – I do have 10 different twitter accounts, but most of them lie dormant at the moment. SoloBassSteve is where pretty much everything happens, and for some unknown reason there are (currently) 4836 people who have seen fit to follow me. Some may be spammers, but I’ve blocked and deleted AT LEAST 3 times as many followers as I’ve allowed to stay. Any spam accounts I cleared out… I’ve definitely had well in excess of 12-13,000 follow notifications, I just didn’t want either a misleading amount of followers, or to leave those accounts without some registering a ‘spam’ click next to them…

    But, in the last 3 years, most of the good things that have happened for Lobelia and I have happened through Twitter.

    • We’ve met some of our best friends
    • We’ve planned tours
    • We’ve organised recordings
    • We gleaned information
    • We had support and congratulations on the birth of our baby
    • We shared our holidays
    • We found people to help us move house
    • and We had LOADS of work, new listeners, and – crucially – amazing people willing to talk about what we do as musicians time and time again.

    I spend a lot – most – of my time on Twitter talking about other people’s music, encouraging and connection musicians to eachother, helping people get their heads around this brave, heady new disintermediated world we’re in. I’m trying to model the way I think the distruptive awesome internet of the future should work. Cos the future is now. We’re in it, it’s great, and Twitter is quite possibly THE game changer.

    Youtube was big, Myspace was big. WordPress was big. Bandcamp is HUGE. Soundcloud is awesome. But as the glue that makes all of them workable, manageable and connected, Twitter for me is THE killer app. The reason the internets was invented.

    So, 50 Thousand Tweets on, I’m still all about it. Here, if you’re interested, is my twitter-list of people I chat to, day in, day out: The Awesome Squad.

    -o0o-

    This evening someone asked me (on Twitter) which was the classic Steve Lawson album. So I asked my friends (on Twitter) to answer. So far the answer has come back, overwhelmingly, Grace And Gratitude. Which is fitting. Because I’m hugely grateful for all the good things that have happened through the amazing people I’m connected to on there. Please have a listen, and feel free to download it – don’t feel obliged to pay for it, but if you want to pay whatever you think it’s worth, that would also be hugely appreciated:

    The Digital Economy Act – The Way Forward?

    Last night I was invited to contribute to a discussion hosted by the Digital Economy All Party Parliamentary Group – it was a meeting, convened by Eric Joyce MP, to start the ball rolling on the discussion that REALLY should have happened before the Digital Economy Bill became the Digital Economy Act, forced through in the ‘wash-up’ at the end of the last government following a huge amount of lobbying by representatives of the major labels and their allies. Continue reading “The Digital Economy Act – The Way Forward?”

    Web Stats for musicians: Lies, Damned Lies and Google Analytics.

    So, you’ve taken the advice and started blogging. You’ve put your music up on Bandcamp for ‘pay what you want’ download. You’re chatting to your audience, friends and fellow musicians on Twitter and Facebook. Now you want to be able to measure how much impact all this stuff is having, right?

    Almost all web-hosting comes with some kind of statistics option for tracking how many people are visiting your website, and what they are doing. The most widely used 3rd party option is Google Analytics, which is available to be added to any website (and particularly easily integrates with publishing packages like WordPress and Moveable Type). Continue reading “Web Stats for musicians: Lies, Damned Lies and Google Analytics.”

    Rock And Roll Is Dead… And My Novel Is Finished

    As you’ll remember if you’re an even semi-regular visitor to this site, in November I took part in Nanowrimo – National Novel Writing Month. I started it, expecting that I probably wouldn’t finish it, due to the impending baby. But baby arrived and I still managed to finish it! Fifty thousand words that I’m actually rather proud of. It’s called ‘Rock And Roll Is Dead’, and it’s about a band who go on a journey.

    Big, big thanks to the people who were reading it as we went along – you’ll see some of their tweets in the book from when they replied to the characters on there. Your encouragement and willingness to talk made-up nonsense to imaginary people was invaluable in shaping the direction of the book and providing the motivation to keep writing. Nuff respect. Continue reading “Rock And Roll Is Dead… And My Novel Is Finished”

    Meet My Imaginary Friends

    Well, I’m now well over twelve thousand words into my NaNoWriMo novel, which is called ‘Rock And Roll Is Dead’.

    As I said in my last post, I’m setting up twitter accounts for the characters as I go along, and two of them are now on there: @Drum_Monkey_ and @TheDistanceMeg. They’ve been chatting to each other and with other twitterers, and some of those tweets are ending up either in or influencing the story. Drum Monkey even got a string of really smart direct messages giving him some advice on a guerilla marketing campaign! It’s turning into all kinds of fun. Continue reading “Meet My Imaginary Friends”

    NaNoWriMo – Steve Writes A Novel (possibly)

    For the last couple of Novembers I’ve been aware of friends of mine being a part of ‘National Novel Writing Month‘, more often referred to (at least, on twitter) as NaNoWriMo.

    So this afternoon, on a whim, I thought ‘I wonder if I can write a novel about some musicians who in some imaginary world start a cultural revolution, accidentally’ – I realised that it would be fun to have a go at writing a long-form hypothetical case study on how the world of music might work out. After all, it’s how a lot of novels work – either romantic or dystopic visions of an imaginary future for people and planet. Continue reading “NaNoWriMo – Steve Writes A Novel (possibly)”