Social Media – first principles for musicians (Pt 1)

Cash registers - no longer needed. There’s been a whole load of talk in the last few days, following on from the financial crash, saying that ‘Web 2.0 is dead‘.

Q #1 – what’s Web 2.0? Well, here’s the wikipedia page for it. For our purposes as musicians, it describes the use of the web for collaboration, conversation and creative empowerment, as contrasted with the old model of broadcast, one-way traffic, competitive, aggressive sales-driven stuff…

As the very wise DanLight says here, the people saying ‘web 2.0 is dead’ are actually describing a facet of the tech industry built around web 2.0 resources that is now in deep shit because its funding model is based on venture capital. VC money is deeply hooked into the world of money-markets, credit, banking and all those financial institutions who’ve finally realised that gambling can go very wrong even if you’re not in Vegas.

Clearly, the use of the web as a vehicle for collaboration and conversation is alive well and growing daily. The number of people who ‘get it’ is still growing, and loads of musicians now realise that with a little bit of care, attention and respect, their relationship with their audience can shift from being one of being “big-box producers throwing product at faceless consumers for money”, to being one of arts patronage, support and friendship.

So, just to be perverse at the Web 2.0 funeral party, I thought I’d spell out a few first principles for musicians:

  • Talking to your audience doesn’t cost big money but it does take time. In order to get the value from social media, we need to invest time in communicating with our audience. The equation is a fairly simple one – if you spend time talking to your audience about what you do, they will
    1. understand you better
    2. feel like they know you better
    3. be able to explain what you do to their friends better (peer to peer advocacy, if you will) and
    4. be FAR less likely to view your ‘art’ as something disposable to be thrown away on a P2P sharing platform.
  • Broadcasting over social media networks stands out like a dead sheep on a bowling green. People who try and use social networking sites and tools for 90s-style broadcast look really effing stupid. You become like the dude at the party who goes from group to group, looking for an audience,but leaves without even knowing anyone’s name. A HUGE part of web 2.0 for musicians is learning how to listen. I’ve met SO many fascinating people through the web, through talking to people on line, and many of them are now advocates for my music. I’m not friends with them because of that, but it stands to reason that people who are engaged by the ‘soundtrack to the inside of my head’ are going to be people I’m likely to like. My audience is almost always comprised of people I want to go out for dinner with and chat to.
  • If you don’t ‘get it’, learn from someone who does. Look, let’s be honest, a lot of people who come from a record company background [where ‘we’ make music and ‘they’ sell it for us] really struggle to understand how this works. If that’s you, GET SOME HELP. That help can come just by observing how people who do it well do it, or it could be that you hire someone to help you out. Increasingly, I’m working with bands and indie labels on strategy for social media engagement. There is no one way to do it, but there are principles to be applied in your setting. And if you don’t get it, you can end up looking like a dick. Hiring someone for a day to help you set up the right services, talk through some strategy and get you hooked up with a like-minded community that will help you move forward will be a hell of a lot cheaper than an 8th of a page ad in the back of Q magazine, and do you 50 times as much good.
  • What you’re ‘selling’ is so much bigger than the music on your CD. Think about the last time you bought a CD just because you heard a track on the radio. You didn’t know who or what it was, you just heard it and had to own it because it was so good. Been a while, huh? No-one does that any more. People are entranced by stories, and even more so, like to buy music by their ‘friends’. Even though I put ‘friends’ in inverted commas, there’s no duplicity here. Your audience become people you know, people you talk to, people who tell their friends about YOU not just your music. And you telling your story in your own words gives them the story to tell.

If your first response to this is ‘but will it make them buy more CDs?’, go back and read it again. And this time, read it because you need to know it, not because you want to disprove it so you can nestle back into ‘busness-as-usual’ safe in the knowledge that the internet is still full of know-it-all nerds who can’t actually play an instrument, but like to talk as though they can. This is all a long way from the music forums of the late 90s. This isn’t about being top dawg in a kennel of bass-nerds, it’s about inviting people who are interested in what you do to engage with it on whatever level helps them to get more from it.

I don’t know about you, but I want my music to mean something to my audience. I want to help them to find that meaning in it. I don’t need to define the meaning, just to facilitate them finding it for themselves. Next post will look at more ways of doing that, and maybe a case study or two…

Lawson/Dodds/Wood – Numbers: Available to order and download NOW!

Lawson/Dodds/Wood - Numbers, album sleeve imageHurrah! Finally! It’s up.

Yes, I know it took me flippin ages, but it’s there now, in the shop – Click here to go to the store and buy it!

Q – OK, so what do you get for your money?

A – an immediate digital download of the album – encoded at 256kbps (VBR*), beautifully and lovingly mixed, mastered and sounding amazing. PLUS an extra 45 minutes (give or take 2) of extra material: There are 3 of the raw improv tracks that Roy, Patrick and I recorded in the studio, exactly as we recorded them before they got mixed and mastered, and one completely exclusive track from the improv sessions, that’s not on the album (I’ll talk about that in a video later on today).

AND, of course, you get the CD, including world-wide postage, which will be sent out on or before November 24th 2008. It’ll be in the usual Pillow Mountain Records deluxe gatefold all-cardboard packaging, designed by the genius that is Kenny Laurenson

Q – and how much will all this cost me
A – £12.00 (as I said, including postage)
Right, so why should you order it now? Well, obviously, it’s not available anywhere else yet, so if you’re dying to hear it, this is the only place you’ll be able to get it for now – it won’t be up on iTunes/eMusic/whichever other digital store you usually use for months. Srsly. And the extras aren’t available anywhere. And won’t be for a very long time. Certainly not for ‘free’.

But more than that, it’s about future investment. If you order it now, we can cover the cost of pressing the CDs before we even put the record out. No debts, no loans, just sending the music to the people who want to hear it without any record companies or distribution companies getting in the way. We get to make the music we love, you get to hear the music we make, and no-one has to go without food to make it happen.

Think of it as arts patronage if you like, only you’re not giving ‘a donation’, you’re just buying direct from the artist to make your arts-money go further.

We’re also happy to sign any advance order CDs that you want signing, so feel free to indicate that in with your order (once the CDs out, it’ll be much harder for us to make sure we’re in a position to do that, given that we don’t live in some Monkees-esque fun-palace of gorgeous improv. We do lead normal lives… so consider it another added bonus)

Thanks so much! We’re REALLY excited about the album, as it seems is pretty much everyone who’s heard it.

And don’t forget that I will be carrying a digital copy with me, so should you have any kind of laptop or whatever with you, I can drag a copy onto your computer if you want to buy it there and then, and I’ll take your address and send you the CD when it comes out, same as if you ordered it online.

Sustainable Touring Pt 1 – planning a house-concert tour.

I’ve just written a piece for MusicThinkTank.com about Sustainable touring, inspired by an interview on BBC 5Live with Geoff Hickman, the manager of Paris-based band, Televox – here’s the interview, and the video discussion that’s happening off the back of it on Phreadz…

The Music Think Tank post will go live in a few days (they have a new queuing system for new posts, where things get posted at more regular intervals – good idea, perhaps I should learn from that. 🙂 )

I don’t want to pre-empt what I wrote there, but one of the things that I do want to highlight at this point is that Lobelia and I are planning a house concert tour for early December – if you’re interested in hosting one, and are somewhere in or near the Southeast of England, please drop me a line. They are easy to organise, the logistics just being

  • travel,
  • an audience (can be any size),
  • some way of us getting paid (either ticket/donation, guarantee or a sponsor – we can sort that out by email)
  • a date!

For now, if you have any thoughts on the idea of sustainable/eco-touring, please throw them into the comments – would be nice to get your thoughts before mine go live on the MusicThinkTank blog for a change…

Collaborating super-heroes part II

super-hero tools. Capes not includedSo, following up my thoughts about the ‘future of business‘, where I touched on this idea of collaboration between groups of experts as the way forward, where everyone has an investment in what goes on, everyone has a say within their group etc…

The first example I talked about was the Lawson/Dodds/Wood trio – 3 musicians, 3 different approaches and skill sets, lots of great skills to throw into the mix (and far too many toys to fit on the stage at Darbucka!)

The second is JFDI (our soon-to-be web-home is www.socialtakeaway.com) – this is a collective of social media thinkers and practitioners, looking at ways of pooling our skills and resources to provide social media-led solutions to whoever wants to hire our expertise. The four amigos are me, Nik Butler aka LoudMouthMan, Mike Atherton aka Sizemore and Christian Payne aka Documentally. Each of us brings different skills and spheres of expertise to the mix, but all have done a serious amount of thinking and doing in the whole area of social media, of communicating honestly and effectively with one’s audience/clients/customers/friends/competitors via the wonders of conversation-based internet tools.

We’re good at it on our own, and we’re even better when we can call on each other to fill in the blanks. No-one is the ‘boss’, no-one is calling the shots, it’s not a sealed group, in as much as we all have huge extended circles of talented people to draw on when we need other skills – it’s just that four people is a nice number for this kind of venture, and we seem to have a lot of bases (and basses) covered.

It feels slightly A-team-ish (only, this is probably a whole team of Murdochs), in that we’re for hire, we’ll make a splash and bizarrely no-one will die no matter how many pyros we set off… uhm, not sure about that last bit. (well, I’m sure we won’t kill anyone, but I’m not sure we’ll be using pyrotechnics… though with Christian involved, anything’s possible)

But still, it’s a loose collective, one that I feel pretty good about being a part of – I really like the guys I’m working with, like the things they do, and enjoy bouncing ideas and strategies around with them. We’re all still doing things on our own (it’s not like the bands and solo artists that I talk to about how to use social media to communicate with their audience are going to be able to afford to bring the four of us in), and I’ve got other collaborators in other fields, but that’s the beauty of this kind of working. I feel deeply invested in it without being chained to it. I’m there because of what I have to give, and because these are people I want to work with… Much like being in a band, really 🙂

Lawson/Dodds/Wood, the making of Numbers video #4

It’s back to me talking non-stop on this one, I’m afraid… actually, that’s not all true, Roy gets a look-in half-way, but there’s lots of me. 🙂

The next two are mini-featurettes on Roy and Patrick, so look out for those in the next few days. Til then, here’s #4

photos!

some new photos!

New promo pics 2018

and some older photos:

promo shots