Today I will mostly be…

Busy day today – got a remote recording session to finish up for a studio in Nebraska, need to listen through and read through Corey Mwamba’s tunes for a rehearsal tomorrow for the London Jazz Fest gig in November, need to chase up the peoples who said they ‘might’ be coming to tonight’s Recycle Collective gig and confirm as many of them as possible, and then pack up my stuff, get down to the gig, and play! Then tomorrow is the rehearsal with Corey (assuming it’s still going ahead – no confirmation as yet)…

So Thursday may be the next time I get to blog properly, sadly – I’ve got lots of thoughts about all this ‘future of music’ stuff that I need to get down; I might see if I can grab 20 minutes this afternoon to get some of it written up.

Last night’s Musician’s Union session on gigging and getting gigs was very good – lots of interesting info, support and pointers to places for funding and contacts. The panellists were all very approachable, helpful, and well chosen for the event. The gigs and the money the do them are there if you have the get-up-and-go to get out and get them! Time to get motivated…

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)

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)

Music to your mobile… at a premium price…

Sarda just sent me a link to this BBC news story – AT&T are doing a deal with Napster for downloads… sounding like the music 2.0 stuff? Not when you see that they are charging $1.99 a song (about a quid) or $7.49 for 5 songs…

If Gerd is right, and we’re heading to a place where music is licensed ‘like water’ en masse for a flat fee, and possibly even included in the cost of your mobile service, there’s going to have to be a HUGE shift away from the pricing of mobile downloads and web traffic as ‘premium content’. It could happen, it’ll HAVE to happen eventually, but it does give us some leeway to see quite where it will settle – whether the per-track downloads will still exist for mobile devices, just at a lower cost, but people will pay it because of the ease of use.

The new wifi enabled Mac handhelds (ipod touch and iphone) can download straight from the web via wifi – much cheaper to use than any kind of 3G broadband mobile access… maybe that’s the way forward. And it means that the costs are still the same as they are for ‘normal’ net users, they just facilitate impulse buying on the move: think of a track on the bus you want to hear, search it on iTunes, download it, you’re away… I guess within ‘The Cloud’ in central london, that’s doable now via wifi…

all interesting stuffs. Does it mean that we should all now be looking at developing download stores for mobiles to get in ahead of the curve? They’re there already, via the providers, but seem to be mainly used for shitty ringtones…

A couple of alternate views from people who think giving music away is a good idea…

Jeff Schmidt just posted a link on his blog to this article on AlterNet by Bob Ostertag, an experimental musician in the San Francisco scene, explaining why he’s made his entire back catalogue (or all of it that he has the rights for available online for free.)

The Long Tail blog (by Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail and Editor In Chief of Wired mag) features a post about the perils of thinking about the music industry as being solely about the sale of CDs, and says that it’s actually really healthy if you look at a load of other indicators – Gigs and Merch, Download sales, Licencing for TV/Film/Ads, Vinyl Sales (which I’d group with other ‘premium product’, generally – bought by DJs because there’s still kudos in vinyl DJing, but also largely by fans who often don’t even own record players – single sales are half about how great a medium vinyl is for DJs, and half an anachronistic throw-back for fans who don’t see the actual ‘music’ but need to be even more of a music fan. It strikes me as a way of classifying your allegiance – I like this band enough to download, this band enough to buy the CD, and this band so much that I’ll even buy their singles despite as yet having nothing to play them on…)

Anyway, both posts are interesting, though as Jeff points out, Bob does descend into a rant about the mendacity of big corporations, record labels etc. I’d love to see some figures for what Bob’s doing, as he says in the article that making records has always been a ‘break even at best’ exercise for small labels. I’m assuming he’s talking about the labels that put his stuff out. It never has been for me. My solo Cds have always made money (less so on the duo CDs, but they have made some) and their sale, especially at gigs has been really important to my income stream. That doesn’t automatically mean that I ‘deserve’ that in the long run, but it does give the lie to the idea that ‘nobody’s making money out of releasing music on indie labels’ or whatever other myths are abound…

Anyway, have a read of them both – Chris’ position is vey similar to that of Gerd – the music industry is healthy, it’s just the process of charging per-unit for recorded music that’s on the way out…

recorded music as an advert for gigs – the death of an artform?

This post started out as a response on the stevelawson.net forum to a comment from lovely Tom who said, “Perhaps the last few decades have been an anomaly and we will go back to live concerts being the mainstay of the music industry”

To which I responded thusly (i’m cross-posting it here, because the notion that records can be given away by all musicians as a way of publicising gigs has become the standard answer to why file-sharing is ‘great!’, even though that’s not what Tom – a vinyl junkie and great supporter of musicians – meant)


Steely Dan would be screwed then… no more Peter Gabriel or Blue Nile albums, no more records that take 3 years of writing and experimentation to come up with…

I think the thing that is being missed here is that recorded music is already an ‘advert’ for live music! And vice versa. A lot of times, the only money I make on a gig is CD money. Take that away, and I don’t make anything. The idea that we’re moving back to a live music economy would be just fine if there was a commensurate shift in the way venues viewed music, but the vast majority of gigging opportunities in cities are about selling beer. So the musicians are in the bar area (or at least ‘a’ bar area), playing to people who are drinking and talking, aren’t paid to be there, and get to do 30 mins max because the higher turnover of musicians means that each of them bring friends along who drink… So the bar makes a few hundred (or a few thousand, in some cases) quid, and pays nothing (and then complains that the PRS are robbing bastards because they charge them a licence for broadcasting music – hah!)

The way that musicians make money is fragmented already – I get paid for gigs, I get paid for CDs, I get paid for teaching, for masterclasses and clinics, occasionally for session work (live or studio, though most of my live work outside of my own music is pro bono for friends), royalties for live performance and radio airplay (thank God for the BBC/PRS) and very occasionally for writing about music. I’ve made money on t-shirts before now (not much), and i’ve received a fair amount of payment in kind from music equipment manufacturers, but precious little towards keeping a roof over my head…

In any one year those levels change throughout the year. This year has been a lot about gigs, music gear demos (did a fair bit for looperlative earlier in the year in Italy and Germany), and so far, not much about music sales (the Calamateur Vs. Steve Lawson album has sold a few copies, but certainly nothing to compare with a ‘proper’ CD release, sadly…)

The beauty of the music scene is its breadth – there are people who are all about the gigs, and people who are all about the studio creations, there are bands who manage to come up with an image and brand that means they make literally thousands a night on merch and live off that money (the Stourbridge scene of the late 80s/early 90s).

If recorded music just becomes an advert for gigs, it will not only be the death of an income stream for musicians, it’ll mean the death of an artform, as album-as-work-of-art become album-as-advert. (whoever heard of a 30 minute ambient advert?) As a synonym, imagine what it would mean for world cinema if all films were given away for free, and paid for by product placement and TV-style ad-breaks?

I seriously want to do more gigs, play more live music, and I would indeed be happy to spend my life just playing live and releasing documents of that process. At least, at the moment I would, because all my albums are essentially live anyway. But there are LOADS of great artists whose contribution to the artistic quilt is their remarkable skill in the studio, a skill that requires time, and money and expertise and training and years of trial and error. All of which need to be paid for somehow, and won’t happen if they are playing 250 nights a year in order to make some dough…

[blog-only addendum]

it’s funny how in the course of the discussion some people look forward to a golden age when all musicians are paid via some kind of music license (Gerd Leonhard et al), despite it meaning that there are going to yet again be middle men creaming it off – interesting that Gerd talks about this being a way for artists to get remunerated directly, but hasn’t yet mentioned the need for a multi-billion dollar intermediary such as google, yahoo, news corps etc…. unless he’s suggesting the setting up of a global non-profit organisation whose sole purpose is to make sure that the new music license (which lots of people will see as a tax) gets distributed fairly… meanwhile, the musicians at the very end of the long tail will just drop off…

One possible scenario that scares me is that we see a ‘mainstream’ licensing scheme, so you can get all the James Blunt you want as part of that license, but running along side it is a sub culture of ‘art music’ performers and recording artists, who still charge, and who operate within a community of arts patrons. To some extent it’s already happening (I’m guessing that people who buy my CDs and downloads, either here or at gigs, do so with a very different sense of investment in what’s going on that even those who by a David Sylvian, Bill Frisell or Blue Nile record in HMV), but the idea of such a schism is unappealing purely due to the implied elitism of the mainstream/art-music split – I don’t really want to be part of some elitist musical world, but I REALLY don’t want to be told by ‘the market’ that need to play shorter snappier tunes, and maybe start singing, in order for my music to connect with an audience fast enough for them to ‘get it’ and come and see me live…

The thinking goes on…

The End Of Control…?

Here’s some vital reading for anyone who’s interested in all this new media 2.0 file sharing web commerce stuffs I’ve been blogging about – The End Of Control – it’s a free e-book that’s been blogged chapter by chapter by its author, Gerd Leonhard (who was featured in the media megatrends video I linked to the other day)

Anyway, he’s a very astute man, but as with most futures analysts speaks with a degree of knowing fatalism… at least it would be fatalism if he hadn’t bought into the idea that this is how the future’s going to be, so hey get used to it. It’s a position common to all futurists that I’ve come across (I guess because the ones who do the research and then try to resist what they then see as the inevitable shifts in whatever area they are looking at end up suffering from severe depression…)

But the book makes some great points about how we deal with the shifts from scarcity to ubiquity, and I’m going to be following the chapters with great eagerness – I’m hoping that somewhere between his brilliantly researched and observed but fatalistic eagerness to embrace the hypermodernity of a global subscription service and my idealism and experience within the more specialist music market (and their heightened sense of the social contract), I can come up with something of enduring value to contribute to the discussion!

He’s still largely talking from the assumption that all artists should want their music everywhere, regardless of the context, arguing that ubiquity is better for your ultimate income stream. But there are big problems with that when you start considering works of art to have innate integrity that can be damaged (by, for example, distributing it via low-res edited MP3…) – his stuff in Chapter 2 about copyright comes dangerously close to saying ‘well, we’re fucked if we think we can own anything any more, so we might as well settle for whatever crumbs a globalised license will drop into our begging bowl.

There are a couple of really pernicious assumptions at the heart of this – a) that because the technology is there to steal all the content now, we might as well roll with it and see if we can surreptitiously extract some meagre revenue further down the line and b) all artists should accept that their art is there to be engaged with largely on an entirely peripheral level, as a disposable binary file where the terms of engagement are entirely defined by the makers of portable computer technology, rather than by any artists at all… As someone who aspires to make music that is important, real, and part of me over and above music that is profitable, popular and marketable, i find those assumptions difficult to stomach, but they do give me some kind of distance from his model which is helpful for formulating an alternative (if there ends up being one…)

But for now, go and grab the RSS feed from EndOfControl.com, it’s going to be a really interesting ongoing discussion…

A false sense of entitlement – the flaw in the new distribution models?

In all the thinking that’s going on about new ways of distributing music, one thing is rather bothering me, and that’s the inferred/assumed entitlement of audiences to access to music. There is, built into most of the discussions on how we move forward, the taken-as-red assumption that if musicians don’t provide music in the way that the audience wants it, they’ll just steal it. Fuck you, Mr musician, how dare you think you can limit my access to your work.

If a baker decides that he’s going to make less bread and charge more for it, either he needs to convince his customers that it’s worth the extra money and effort to get it, or he goes out of business (or finds another business to support his baking, if he does it for the love of it). What doesn’t happen is his customers decide that they’ll just go into the kitchen, make bread for themselves and take it home, or help themselves to the bread in the window of the shop, and set up a table outside the door giving it away to passers by because he had no right to do that, and is clearly a selfish bastard who needs to be taught a lesson.

But with music, the option to limit access to your music is assumed to no longer exist. Because everyone feels like they have a right to it. So if Madonna’s new album is too expensive, or only available as a download at low res and with DRM on iTunes, instead of saying ‘well I won’t get it then’ the assumption is that it’s somehow legit to take it. As though access to that music is a right, not a privilege. As though the music I write, and record and make – using my own money and time – is then no longer mine. The recordings aren’t mine, the songs aren’t mine. They’ve become public property without me even being consulted.

Likewise, the whole notion of user-generated content – YouTube videos, live bootlegs, etc. Completely unregulated, and liable to change live music for ever. Jonatha posts a beautifully worded response to the whole question of unsolicited filming at gigs and the effect it has on her in the discussion forum on her site – well worth reading. Basically, it creates a permanent document of something that is essentially of the moment, and filming it turns it into a recording session, losing something of the spontaneity. My response on the forum, when I was asked whether I minded being filmed was ‘normally no’, but I do a) like the be asked and b) like the chance to vet it before it gets uploaded. No-one wants a permanent online record of an off-night (though there is that entire recording of the gig I did with no pedals with Lo. in September!)

So, do you need to have the video of the gig you were at? Do you assume your ticket price also includes some kind of innate recording rights? If a record is too expensive, or not available in the format you want, does that give you the right to download it for free from somewhere else? Clearly, I think that’s a heinous situation, though it’s one that much of the industry seems to have resigned itself to. The biggest own goal seems to have been that the arguments have centered around money, and particularly when someone like Lars Ulrich – a multi-millionaire – complains about it denting his income, most people aren’t really going to give a shit.

However, entitlement isn’t about money, it’s about the right to negotiate with your audience, and your audience then being able to choose to not spend the money by not buying the product, and therefor not owning it! So you cut yourself off from income, but also from your audience. So you negotiate, by way of dropping the price, making it available in other ways or whatever, but it’s your product and you do with it what you like… Just like the baker with the bread.

The video I linked to earlier about media megatrends characterised the shift in slightly more euphamistic a-moral terms by talking about it being a move from scarcity to ubiquity as the driving currency – in an age when you have a physical product, the distribution of which you have control over, the value therein is in it’s scarcity – independent record shops survive because they stock things you can’t get elsewhere. Record labels can do exclusive deals, or even just sell direct. Artists can just sell at gigs, making their product even more desirable by the difficultly of finding it. Even if you sell in mainstream shops, you can set your wholesale price at the point where the price stays up, if that’s what you want, and the the competition is with other recording artists – will people pay £15 for one of my CDs, when they can get someone else’s that they like just as much for £8?

The ubiquity model says that the artist should relinquish control over the proliferation of their work in exchange for a shot at ubiquity – being everwhere, and making money through the exposure, be it profit-sharing on youtube, increased live attendance, sales of premium product (which is what CDs are now becoming, given that the default in a very short time from now will be the download) and radio, tv and film royalties.

I think there are ramifications to this that are anti-creative, and rapacious in their treatment of the creative output of a the artist – especially if you value the mixed-media product that you’ve assembled (be it artwork, sleeve notes, video, collage, pop-up book, whatever…) There’s a hyper-capitalist, spectral Friedman-esque element to the terms of engagement that negate the value of scarcity or the more esoteric value of specific and particular artistic expression, and remove any rights of the artist to negotiate or explore the notion of the work having greater or lesser monetary value in relation to any other work. Instead, it’s about rushing to make your product as ubiquitous as possible in order to turn that ubiquity into cashflow just by being everywhere instead of by being valuable/important/’good’. It’s a pretty unique and depressing scenario… Where next?

My bottom line thesis – you/we don’t need the music. You/we aren’t entitled to the music, it’s not yours/ours to take, it’s the artists to sell, or give away as they see fit. And if you don’t like the terms, you don’t need to buy, and they can starve if they choose to be stubborn. Or sell 30 CDs for $1000 a time.

DRM is a crock of shit, but with its removal comes a social contract between the artist and the audience, one that I think should, if adhered to, help both. The removal of DRM makes it easier for the listener to share tracks as a way of spreading information about an artist around, and also to play the stuff on different systems, copy from computer to mp3 player to phone – being cross-platform is vital, and is why iTunes is now having to change it’s shitty DRM policy (and up its resolution), but it does leave musicians vulnerable… with over 50% of all web traffic being filesharing, the vast majority of it illegal, the idea of the social contract is not getting across. The feeling that somehow it’s fat cat record company execs and multimillionaire rock stars who are losing out seems to absolve the conscience of the file sharers. But the artists still are making art. The judgement call that says ‘this person has sold out already, therefor i can download their stuff with impunity’ isn’t anyone’s to make.

The consequences of all this in creative and artistic terms are things I’ve blogged about a lot recently… it’s a really murky world, and I’m fascinated to see where it goes. I’m going to keep mulling this one over, and see where it leads… your thoughts are much appreciated in the comments, should you wish to share them :o)

more on indie-musicians and the web

Spent a lovely couple of hours yesterday with Jonatha Brooke – aside from being one of the finest singer/songwriters ever to pick up a guitar, she’s also been running her own label, Bad Dog Records for most of this millennium thus far… So it was great to get to chat about what works, the frustrations and challenges of file-sharing, user-generated content, download sales, gig booking and web promotion. Apparently, a lot of this stuff is being discussed right now at CMJ, so the list of resources I gave J were all the things her lovely people were finding out in New York (only my version didn’t involve wandering around a convention centre listening to sales pitch, and did involve a particularly delicious glass of wine – must find out what it was…)

Given that myspace is fast becoming a time-vortex – where musicians can spend ages getting nowhere fast, just sending out bulletins and invites to other musicians, who in turn send invites and bulletins back, with no intention whatsoever of ever buying eachother’s CDs or turning up at shows – it’s becoming all the more important to highlight the areas that are working, or at least have the kind of infrastructure that means they should work, and are worth getting in on at ground level.

  • last.fm has a proven track record, 10s of millions of users, and is becoming a reference point in the industry for what music listeners are ACTUALLY listening to… It’s pretty much a must to get your stuff up on there, they have good sales links, and the radio stations are fab.
  • Reverbnation looks like the best of the new breed – lots of ways of getting the information out, and ways of your fan-base proliferating it via their networks etc. It’ll be even better when they support information ‘pushed’ into the site rather than just ‘pulled’ from it – I’ve already emailed about them, and had a ‘thanks, that’s a great idea, we’ll see what happens’ email back…
  • Facebook is an interesting one – important if only because of its size. Reverbnation have a great facebook plugin so you can put your favourite artist’s music on your page, or your own music. The other great use of facebook is that it’s all set up for people who already know eachother, or have a connection, so the social capital of telling your friends about great music is perhaps more valuable on there. There are also facebook groups, which some musicians start for themselves, and others that are fan generated… all good stuff to mull over…
  • Cdbaby – of course, the finest resource for indie musicians anywhere in the webz. Very well implemented, hugely popular, and constantly innovative. Cdbaby acts like an unofficial global trade union for musicians, campaigning and lobbying big business on our behalf, and negotiating deals with the likes of Tower Records and iTunes on behalf of its artists, and still giving a vast proportion of its revenue back to the musicians. Truly wonderful.

on top of that, if my Google analytics stats are to be believed, the social bookmarks at the bottom of each entry on this blog work – I’m getting quite a few visits from stumbleupon and del.icio.us after people have book marked the pages, or ‘stumbled’ on them. Need to check and see how that’s working out on my main site. (and if you get a minute, and you use stumbleupon, digg, reddit, del.icio.us, etc. PLEASE bookmark some of the site, or forward interesting posts to your facebook chums etc…)

There are loads of others – pandora, iSound, Mog, Bebo, friendster, garageband yadda-yadda-yadda… some more worth investigating than others… Damn, this stuff was easy back in the days when all there was mp3.com (where Lobelia racked up over a million plays, was getting paid sensible money for those downloads, and signed all kinds of endorsement deals etc…!)

Staying on top of all this stuff is a full time job, but right now I’ve got to go and tidy up, then practice! Do you think I could convince some kids to do all the webstuff for me as work-experience? :o)

Oh, and while we’re on the topic, this post on the mediafuturist.com is vital viewing – a discussion/presentation about media mega-trends. Gerd’s point about the shift from scarcity to ubiquity is definitely one to spend some quality time considering…

balancing 'easy access' with 'information overload'.

Been thinking about my new website design, which I’m pretty happy with. It does raise some questions about the balance of making as much as possible available to visitors in one click (web users are notoriously lazy bastards) with not overloading them.

Was chatting with the PhotoMonkey on Sunday, and he said that with bands, the first thing he looks for is their myspace page. ‘OK, see how long it takes you to find the myspace link on my front page’ says I, fairly confident that it would take him about 4 seconds… …15 seconds later, he finds it. Which is a heck of a long time in web-world, and as much a testimony to the uselessness of the MySpace logo as it is to my design, but it did raise some questions…

Firstly, how do you balance offering ‘good’ content over expected content? PM looks for myspace, even though myspace is a bit shit. It’s easy and a known quantity. I’ve got the reverbnation link on the front page which he – an experienced web-user and music fan – had never come across, despite it being a far superior interface for both artist and audience… Do you go with ubiquity just because it’s easy, or press on with offering a range of places to interact and listen to music, even if some of them are lesser-known now… (oh how I’ll be laughing if 6 months from now Reverbnation has 50,000,000 users and I’m top of all their search queries. :o)

Likewise the CDbaby link, I guess… It’s there because they provide a great service to people looking to buy music. Good for CDs and for downloads, and they do have a lot of users… I guess I really ought to put emusic and facebook on there as well, but there are already enough links…

The other interesting comment PM had was that he didn’t think the feed from the blog needed to be there… The connection between the blog and the music wasn’t as clear in his mind as it is in mine, obviously… it’s very difficult to step outside and see yourself as others see you. It’s certainly not something I’m all that good at. So I see the inner workings of my head expressed in blog form as being pretty close to what’s going on with the music. I hope that readers of the blog have a better understanding of what the music is all about than people who just hear tracks on their last.fm radio playlist.

What is clear is that my web traffic is up considerably since the redesign, which is great, and the main feeder site to my blog is my main site, that’s where nearly all the clicks come from (although this month, a huge amount of traffic has come via the DGM live news page who linked to the Tony/Trey interview, and a fair amount from StumbleUpon from people who’ve been adding the blog pages via the link at the bottom of each post…

So, here’s a test – if you haven’t been over to my main site for a while and you fancy helping me out with a bit of esoteric research, get a stopwatch ready, then click here and see how long it takes you to find the MySpace link… click stop, and let me know. (if you don’t own a stop watch, you may well find that there’s a ‘timer’ function on your mobile phone).

thanks!