I am a London-based Digital PR/Social Media/SEO Consultant, music producer/anorak, deep sea diver, avid cyclist, worldwide traveller and football-loving technology bod! This page functions as a kind of online scrapbook/resource featuring my favourite blog posts and news items as well as my own personal reviews and recommendations in the worlds of music, sport, travel and technology!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Another Round of Ben Bernanke

Another Round of Ben Bernanke: "

The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal lead, while the New York Times tops its business section, with news that Obama will announce the reappointment of Ben Bernanke to his second term as chairman of the Fed. The formal announcement, which is planned for this morning, will put an end to recent speculation over possible replacement of the 'quiet and often unprepossessing' banker. The move marks the president's attempt to maintain 'continuity' at a time when the nation seems, at long last, to be pulling out of the recession. While Bernanke's been in charge, the Fed has cut short-term interest rates to near zero, put forth nearly $2 trillion to support mortgage lending and lower long-term interest rates, created innovative lending programs, and performed stress tests of the nation's largest banks. Still, he's come under criticism for not preventing the financial downturn in the first place and for the rescue of big firms like American International Group (AIG). In remarks obtained by the Post, Obama—with Bernanke at his side in Martha's Vineyard—plans to say, 'Ben approached a financial system on the verge of collapse with calm and wisdom; with bold action and outside-the-box thinking that has helped put the brakes on our economic freefall.'

According to the Wall Street JournalApple (AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs is back at it just a few months following a liver-transplant surgery—'once again managing even the smallest details of his company's products.' He's focusing intently on a new touch-screen tablet device, the article says. Reportedly, some employees are a bit shook up at the new level of attention from the big boss. 'People have had to readjust' to Mr. Jobs being back, an unnamed source told the paper. Jobs, in an e-mail, said that 'much of your information is incorrect,' but didn't elaborate. While Apple keeps mum on upcoming products, many analysts expect that the new tablet will facilitate watching movies, playing games, Web surfing, and, potentially, reading electronic books and newspapers.

China is pushing hard to become the dominant player in green energy—especially in solar power—even within the United States, the New York Times reports. 'Chinese companies have already played a leading role in pushing down the price of solar panels by almost half over the last year,' the article says. An executive at China's biggest solar-panel manufacturer told the paper that 'to build market share in the US,' he's selling solar panels on the American market 'for less than the cost of the materials, assembly and shipping.' Despite tax credits offered to American clean-energy equipment manufacturers, these companies may still have a tough time competing with Chinese companies getting 'lavish government support' and cheap labor.

According to the Wall Street Journal, regulators are taking a close look at weekly meetings at Goldman Sachs (GS)—so-called 'trading huddles' in  which research analysts give tips to traders and then to big clients before everyone else. The Journal reported yesterday that analysts at Goldman 'sometimes shared with traders and key clients short-term trading tips that sometimes differed from the firm's long-term research.' Examiners at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority are planning to get more information on the get-togethers. Still, Goldman has not been accused of violating any securities laws in the way it distributes of the trading tips. 'We believe the disclosure we have now is entirely appropriate. Analysts are not allowed to express differing views without publishing that view,' a Goldman spokesman said.

In reference to a widely cited New York Post story revealing that Bernie Madoff has been dying of cancer in prison, the Washington Post reports the following statement from the Bureau of Prisons: 'While the NY Post story is full of inaccuracies, and we can't specifically address all of them, we can tell you that Bernie Madoff is not terminally ill, and has not been diagnosed with cancer.' The Washington Post's interpretation of this statement says that it allows for 'wiggle room,' in that the cancer may not be diagnosed yet and it's possible that Madoff could have cancer but not a terminal form. Still, the article says, 'of the three subjects mentioned so far in this story—Madoff, inmates and prison officials—two clearly suffer a credibility gap.'

And, finally: Officials from Wikipedia have announced that that 'within weeks,' the English-language version of the free online encyclopedia 'will begin imposing a layer of editorial review on articles about living people,' according to the New York Times. A new feature called 'flagged revisions' will require a volunteer editor for Wikipedia to 'sign off on any change made by the public before it can go live.' Until the change in an entry is approved, it will linger on Wikipedia's servers, and visitors will see the earlier version.  'The change,' the article says, 'is part of a growing realization on the part of Wikipedia's leaders that as the site grows more influential, they must transform its embrace-the-chaos culture into something more mature and dependable.'

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Saturday, 22 August 2009

Logic Express Packs Most of Logic for Less; Apple Adds PDF Manual to Logic 9

Logic Express Packs Most of Logic for Less; Apple Adds PDF Manual to Logic 9: "


I have to say I think Express is a model of what a more entry-level edition of a product could be. (I know Apple competitors reading this are shaking their heads and pointing out that Apple is in the comfortable position of selling pricey computers with big margins, but I think Apple still provides incentive to buy the Studio version without feeling the need to cripple Express.)

Nearly everything new in Logic Studio 9 is also in Logic Express 9, which Apple began shipping yesterday.

Apple Logic 9’s audio editing have been transformed, via a new means of squishing audio around in time (FlexTime) and new editing tools (Bounce in Place, one-step conversion to sliced sampler instruments, drum replacement, the ability to edit in takes, and reorganized contextual menus for regions). All of those features are in Express, as is the new Amp Designer and Pedalboard.

What Express gives you: Express is basically all of Logic Pro, with all the major effects and instruments, mixing, notation, and stereo output. You ven get things like the UltraBeat drum machine.

What Express doesn’t give you: The big ommissions from Logic Express are, naturally, the additional apps in the suite – MainStage for live performance, Soundtrack Pro for editing, and the lot. You also don’t get surround sound (no biggie). Most importantly, you miss out on some of my favorite sound design tools – the insane Sculpture physical modeling instrument and Space Designer convolution reverb and not to be found.

Logic still isn’t for everyone – well, anyway, I don’t really believe in “one size fits all” for music tech, generally. But if you do like Logic’s workflow and aren’t quite ready for the whole Studio suite, Express is a good choice, priced at US$199. That almost makes it the best bargain DAW available on the Mac – except that for non-commercial use, Reaper, now available on Mac, is cheaper (and for commercial use, roughly ties).



In other Logic news, those of you wondering what happened to the PDF manual for Logic Studio 9, it’s back! Apparently there was a production delay that held up its release; Apple says it was never their intention to eliminate the PDF version. Also, if you do choose to use the default Mac help viewer, that incorporates the full text of the documentation available in previous versions as PDF and print, along with all the expanded documentation for Logic Studio 9. I still find the help viewer annoying, because it insists on staying the topmost window, but both it and the PDF version work. (For window management on the Mac, check out my new best friend TwoUp, which could help solve this problem if you’ve got a big display. It finally makes my Mac manages windows as well as, well, Windows.)

Direct PDF documentation link from Apple (thanks, dead_red_eyes on comments!)


Okashina Hotel

Okashina Hotel: "- Great animation via Catsuka.com, also check out Baidir on there too.

Layar cake

Layar cake: "Our colleagues at Red have been working with Samsung for a few months now, and one of the exciting things they’re releasing shortly will be the Galaxy, the company’s first phone built for the Google Android platform. For tecchie types, Android phones are much anticipated, not just because of the inherent challenge to the iPhone, [...]"

You’re looking at it wrong

You’re looking at it wrong: "

This great data visualisation from the NY Times comes to us via a really fascinating website called Information is Beautiful. It represents the sales in billions of today’s dollars of the various music formats over time.

NY Times graph

They claim it represents the dwindling death knell of the music industry. That’s not quite right (even leaving aside the nonsense assertion that the record business = the music industry). While put together in aggregate, the overall graph would show a larger, fatter, longer increase and decline, what this graph does not show is equally interesting.

The trailing tail to the right of the graph seems to indicate the death of music business. But look to the left. This graph does not start at the beginning of the music business. And nor does it start only a short while after the beginning of the music business.

It starts in 1973.

I don’t know about you, but I was around in 1973. I wasn’t very old, but I was old enough to be aware of music. It had been around long before I had. And even though the graph would have been tiny – at least in comparison to the uncharacteristically massive spike in CD sales around 1999 – there was no crisis in the music business then.

My guess, in fact, was that there was opportunity. In 1973, the small numbers meant that people who sought to do new and interesting things were able to do those new and interesting things. Less was at stake (at least, in aggregate) and so people took risks.

New and innovative kinds of music flourished in the margins. Funk, disco, punk, psychedelic, metal, and reggae all started to emerge as significant forces from that decade. Lots of tiny labels did amazing and sometimes incredibly profitable things. Risk-takers were sometimes massively rewarded. Those who kicked at the edges often flourished.

Skip forward to 1999 – ten years ago now – and you witness the height of corporatism in the recorded music business. A world of a few stars selling millions of copies of safe and frequently dull music. But most importantly, the business people who were teens in 1973 were able to take the music they loved from their youth and turn it into a multi-billion dollar industry.

And while the interesting new genres have been created in the margins all through that history, it’s the forms (and their often watered-down derivatives) loved by those execs that have massively prospered through the recorded music boom era.

Of course, music didn’t start in 1973. Or 1923 for that matter – and nor did the ability to make money from it. The last 35 years provides us with an interesting historical anomaly as far as that graph is concerned.

The boom and bust pattern of each recorded music format adds up to an overall rise and decline of corporatism in the recorded music industries. Culturally, this could well be something to celebrate.

Personally, I’m hopeful for new and interesting musical forms and genres coming from the margins and being able to reach a significant audience.

It’s cheaper to experiment now. It’s easier to reach an audience than ever before, and the economics are such that you don’t need for corporations to be making billions in profit in order to make a decent living at it.

I’m not saying that this is the best time in history for music. I’m actually hopeful that we haven’t yet seen the best time for music. It’s even possible that the biggest selling record of all time hasn’t been made yet.

My point is that the graph above only represents a crisis for a particular way of organising music business, and not for music business itself – and certainly not for music.

In fact, if we’re clever about it, this might be one of those golden ages for musical culture that seem to coincide with the skinny bits of that graph.


Spotify to hit the US?

Spotify to hit the US?: "
The music streaming app that is currently taking the UK and Europe by storm is looking to set-up in the US in the very near future. (This may well help create music industry jobs in the USA, so keep checking the Jobs Board!) Founded by two Swedish entrepreneurs, Spotify has over six million tracks available to stream, and gives users the ability to create, save and share playlists, offering greater interaction and discovery. They are working with US music publishers and labels to evolve a deal to enable them to offer the same service here. Having dealt with many of the key companies regarding European licenses, it’s a very real possibility that they will be operating here soon. The relatively new start-up (October ’08) is hoping to launch it’s desktop application in the US by the end of this year. However, even greater potential could be reached if they are approved as an iPhone app. The issue there? It could be so good as to make Apple’s iTunes virtually redundant to millions of music consumers. Spotify derives revenue from a number of audio commercials during playback (current EU advertisers include Nike, Ikea, H&M and more), or a monthly fee for a premium service with no commercials, greater audio quality and extra premium-only content. The monthly fee is currently £9.99 in the UK (approx $15), and word is that the mobile app would only be available to those who subscribe to this. People are becoming excited about the possibility of a real contender to iTunes, and as a fan of aiding music discovery, I really hope that Spotify will push forward with the licensing deals. They provide a great service, and user word-of-mouth will ensure a global success. Lee Jarvis. (Cross-posted at US Music Jobs, the premier online community for US music industry professionals and jobs in the music industry)

Music Social Networking: A Comparison of iLike, Reverbnation and Soundcloud

Music Social Networking: A Comparison of iLike, Reverbnation and Soundcloud: "
In this article the focus is on three online platforms which have a specific focus on music: iLike, Reverbnation and Soundcloud. Over the past few weeks I have been ‘test-driving’ these sites, primarily from the perspective of a record label, and the aim of this article is to present a summary of their main features whilst looking at how well they can be used alongside other social networking platforms, as discussed in last month’s article on web integration. I will also touch on the ability of these websites to act as ‘central hubs’ which was highlighted as being important in last month’s article.
The large benefit of all three sites is that they allow you to control your musical content from a central location and by integrating them with other websites you can keep that content up to date just by updating music in one location.
Kelvin K has also written an informative article specifically aimed at artists/musicians about improving your online presence through social networking and integration. Read it here. iLike
  • Overall iLike is more suited to artists than record labels. It doesn’t allow a record label to set up a specific account that allows them to showcase their artists’ music. The only way I found to include content from my record label was to pretend to be an artist and name the music files carefully.
  • iLike was developed as the music application for social networking sites such as Facebook and Bebo and therefore has excellent integration options on such sites. For an example visit Lost My Dog on Facebook and click on the music tab.
  • It will pull in a Youtube feed which is a feature unique to iLike and also a Twitter feed so you can share that content on your iLike profile page (it will also display this on your Facebook page in a ‘Music’ tab)
  • It allows you to write a blog which can also be posted to your Myspace blog area. However, unfortunately it does not allow you to import a feed from another website meaning you have to update the iLike blog manually.
  • iLike will automatically search iTunes to link to your music so the artist and track names have to be set up exactly as in iTunes for it to find. In my experience this function rarely works and definitely won’t work if setting up a record label profile. iLike includes an iTunes link next to each track by default which can be frustrating when the link doesn’t work or if your music isn’t available on iTunes. It does, however, allow you to include additional links on your profile page which you could populate with direct store links.
  • Due to its good integration, iLike is good for fans who want to include your artists’ music on their profile pages on sites such as Facebook and Bebo.
  • iLike could be used as a hub site as it allows you to post up info in a blog and showcase music, then automatically populate a number of other websites with this information.
  • iLike is free to use
  • Reverbnation is an excellent resource for artists/musicians and while it does have a specific account type for record labels the options are limited. For example it is not possible to import an RSS feed in the way that an artist account will allow you to, and crucially a record label can’t upload music to their profile.
  • Record label accounts in Reverbnation are based on linking to artists and therefore rely on artists keeping their own individual pages and music up to date. There is an option for an artist to allow the label to manage their page, but unless you are a label owner who only releases music you create yourself or a label with exclusive artists then it’s unlikely that artists will give you the access (and it would be a large job to keep multiple profiles up to date). That said it is still worthwhile setting up a Reverbnation label profile page and linking in your artists who do have a presence on there.
  • As with iLike, you could set up a record label profile as if you were an artist in order to take advantage of the additional features and music uploading.
  • Integration with other sites is good with specific highlights being the ‘My Band’ tab for Facebook and the excellent widgets which can be placed on almost any website. For examples of widgets in action visit Kelvin K’s Myspace page.
  • Reverbnation collects excellent statistics and allows you to build a mailing list and create newsletters.
  • It allows you to provide multiple links to stores where people can buy your music.
  • Record labels would struggle to use Reverbnation as a central hub with a specific label account type, but for artists it is a great option and offers many benefits not discussed above.
  • Reverbnation is free.
  • Soundcloud can be used by almost any discipline within the music industry including record labels.
  • It is not as comprehensive as either iLike or Reverbnation in terms of the range of features and it much more strongly focused only on music and their player which is does exceptionally well.
  • Soundcloud integrates with other websites and social networking platforms via its music player widget. It won’t automatically link up with other sites, but once you place a Soundcloud player (or multiple players) onto another site you can then easily update all music via your Soundcloud dashboard. Soundcloud can also be set to post an update to your Facebook and Twitter account when you upload new music.
  • The Soundcloud player looks great and is customisable to match the colour scheme on the websites where you place it. You can include a direct ‘buy’ link on all songs which will appear in the player. View Soundcloud players on the Lost My Dog Facebook page and the Lost My Dog website.
  • Soundcloud collects good statistics on plays and downloads of your music as well as details on which other uses are following you.
  • The player allows for excellent interaction with ‘followers’ who can mark songs as their favourites and make comments on the music.
  • An additional feature of Soundcloud is the ‘dropbox’ which allows others to upload their music to you. This can be particularly useful to record labels as a demo submission tool.
  • Soundcloud would not lend itself well to being a central hub for all of a record label’s needs, but for music alone it is perfect.
  • A basic Soundcloud account is free, but this limits you to 5 uploads per month. There are three tiers of subscription account allowing varying levels of uploads and customisable ‘dropboxes’.
In Summary
  • iLike can be useful to record labels but is more suited to artists. For a record label to use it well they need to set up an account as if they were an artist, which isn’t ideal. A key benefit is that it creates a very useful and comprehensive ‘music’ tab on your Facebook profile.
  • Reverbnation is an excellent resource for artists, but less flexible for record labels. It is worthwhile labels setting up an account but keeping it up to date relies mainly on artists. Good widgets, stats and marketing tools.
  • Soundcloud is more strongly focussed on the music but does this extremely well. It is not so suited to being used as a general record label hub site but is my preferred option for a music-specific hub.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Words that make you go ‘Grrrrr’

Words that make you go ‘Grrrrr’: "
Watch out, you might me sesquipedalian. Click image for source.

Watch out, you might be sesquipedalian. Click image for source.

The communications world never ceases to amaze me. The very people who put together amazing programmes for clients seem unable to do this for themselves.

Perhaps this is why they get such a bad rap. The ‘PR is crap’ meme circulates the web every few months, as does the ‘Advertising is dead’ meme. Maybe they should make like the Magicicada and come around according to prime numbers to avoid hitting each other.

But they don’t help themselves by wrapping simplicity up in complexity. So, here is a list that I might start compiling – who knows, maybe even to replace the PR Friendly Index which I just cannot be arsed to maintain any more – of ‘word compression’ techniques. Or, to put it another way, why use three words when one word will do?

Here are three I prepared earlier:

  • In order to – to
  • Be able to – can
  • Multiplicity of – many

So instead of saying “We are able to leverage a multiplicity of skills in our stakeholder platform”, how about saying “We can leverage many skills in our stakeholder platform.”

I know what you’re thinking. Eek! He said leverage! And stakeholder! And platform!

For many PR/general comms people these are ‘the words you should use’. Fresh-faced graduates love using them because it makes them sound cool. Unfortunately they then grow up in PR still using these words which, let’s face it, hardly anyone else uses. When I started, I didn’t know what leverage meant. I wasn’t entirely sure what T. Blair meant when he talked about a stakeholder society (neither was he, I suspect). And I had great difficulty envisaging a message platform. Was it like an oil rig perhaps?

So, for PR/comms specifically, how about this:

  • Leverage – use
  • Platform – programme
  • Stakeholders – people

See what I mean? Now we can say “We can use many skills in our programme.” We don’t even need to use the word stakeholder here, right?

Like I said, this might become a PR/comms jargon-busting list. I’d love to know if anyone else has favourite ‘angry’ words – that is, words that make them angry just by their existence – especially if they have antidotes. If not, maybe I’ll be able to think of one. Let’s see.

Posted in copywriting Tagged: communications, copywriting, PR, words, writing

The Twitgigs Experiment

The Twitgigs Experiment: "

The Twitter population has increased so fast and so massively these last few months that it is going to be harder and harder to organise Twitter meet-ups that bring together a representative cross section of this huge community. It is now time to understand the Twitter population as a network of micro-communities. That’s why, when Rax and Nisha came up with the idea of the Twitgigs Experiment, we thought it was a brilliant initiative.

It’s still a Twitter meet-up, but it’s aimed specifically at people who are interested in music (including the bands themselves who were recruited via Twitter). During the event people were able to share their comments about the music and to vote for their favourite band using Twitter. Tweets were featured on a screen which generated interactions inside and outside of the event and the lucky winner - Essay Like Nephew - was decided on by Twitter voting at the end of the event. It’s a nice human way to share cultural discoveries, such as music, with a wider audience but it is also a clever strategy to link people inside of a community itself.

If you missed the event yourself, here’s a nice overview:

Well done Rax and Nisha, we are looking forward to attend the next Twitgigs! If so you are, don’t forget to follow them on Twitter.


Voting begins for heat one of the People’s Reviewer

Voting begins for heat one of the People’s Reviewer: "

The contestants have finished their week long test drives in heat one of the Volkswagen Tiguan People’s Reviewer campaign that we’re involved in and now it’s time for the voting to begin.

Stefan, Eric and Dirk all produced some truly original footage ranging from adapting the TIg into an impromptu knitting party to creating an homage to “park assist” to stuffing the vehicle with a super hero rock band.

Frankly, you can’t stop this craziness, you can only hope to contain it!


The Oasis Masterplan - Noel, Sack Liam and you won’t Look Back in Anger

The Oasis Masterplan - Noel, Sack Liam and you won’t Look Back in Anger: "


So, it finally happened, then. I’ve reached that age when I prefer Noel Gallagher singing Oasis songs than Liam.

All through my twenties, I said that I liked Liam belting out the tracks, but after the band’s recent iTunes gig at London’s Roundhouse I’ve decided that’s just not the case anymore. In fact, I’ve drawn up my own, ahem, masterplan for the future of Oasis.

Sack Liam - he’s a liability and a parody of himself. At the Roundhouse show, he sauntered onstage in a fishtail parka (yawn) and proceeded to heckle the crowd, swear during songs and, sometimes, not even bother to sing his parts. Spending most of the set acting like a surly teenager who couldn’t get his own way, he only seemed enthusiastic when he sang the songs that he’d penned - namely Songbird and I’m Outta Time.

For the majority of the show, he sulked, used foul language and dissed punters. Nothing was sacred - we got tiresome, childish rants about skinny jeans, pointy shoes and, even, living in Camden. It was left to his big brother Noel to save the night - dissing Liam (”Someone’s in a bad mood tonight”) and coming into his own for superb semi-acoustic performances of The Masterplan, Half The World Away and Don’t Look Back In Anger - Oasis’ unsung hero, Gem Archer, playing mean electric guitar and expertly taking the solos.

Acting like a moody brat is oh so 1994, Liam - we’ve all moved on since then. You’re in one of the best UK rock and roll bands of the last 20 years, so, for god’s sake, show that you care. Just as the Britpop Oasis versus Blur battle comes back to haunt us, Liam has so let the side down.

His band are, musically, better than they’ve ever been, but the Roundhouse performance was tarnished by his sloppy, childish behaviour. During My Big Mouth, he simply gave up singing and went to sit on the drum riser, leaving Noel to take up the slack. By the way, Noel, if you’re reading this, dump Liam, take over the band and become a professional Dadrock outfit in the vein of Weller and his current musical cohorts. You may not be as rock and roll as you were in the past, but at least you’ll maintain some dignity and some musical credibilty - and perform some professional shows.

Liam - sorry mate, you’re outta time.


The Web, Social Media and the Democratisation of Music

The Web, Social Media and the Democratisation of Music: "

Camberwell Digeridoo

Art to product to art

Somewhere along the line, music went from being an art to being a product.

Instead of making music to provoke others to feel, think or dance, or purely for the musician’s own expression and enjoyment, it became about selling as many records as possible. “Success” was — and still is — measured by how much money the musician brought in for their record label. Worse still, those deemed not profitable enough would be “dropped” from the label and considered a failure.

Slowly, though, the Web is helping music to become art again. While the mainstream music industry once again cries that “Home taping is killing music“, things are changing for musicians in a very positive way.

The Web, and particularly Social Media, are now often touted as routes to attracting label attention. For me, though, the really exciting part is that they are enabling musicians to distribute and promote their own music without any label intervention at all, freeing them from the involvement of traditional record labels and allowing them to decide their own musical paths and measures of success.

How things used to be

The recording and distribution of music used to be an extremely costly business. Recording required expensive equipment far out of the financial reach of an individual, while the resulting master recordings then had to be pressed to thousands of discs (or other media) and shipped to outlets throughout the relevant territory. Marketing in the press, radio and television was also a huge expense.

The vast amount of money needed for this process naturally had to come from somewhere, and that was where the record labels/distributors came in. Naturally, they wanted to make money from their investments, and were quite happy to compromise the rights, earnings and ideals of musicians in order to boost their own profits.

This wasn’t good for artists, nor music lovers. It was effectively up to a small number of very big, profit-led, companies to decide what music the general public could and couldn’t experience.

Then, in the mid-Nineties, affordable “multi-media” computers came along that provided enough power to process multi-channel audio. Soon after, Internet connections were widely adopted in people’s homes, giving musicians everywhere the tools to record, produce and distribute music from their living rooms and bedrooms.

Social Media and the Musician

A decade-or-so later, the Internet has become an integral part of our lives. We have fast, always-on home connections that most businesses could probably only have dreamed of ten years ago. The Web has grown out of trying to be a broadcast medium and now participation and sharing are an integral part of it, in the form of Social Media and Social Networks.

In recent years, Social Networks, particularly MySpace, have been heralded as great launch pads for up-and-coming artists. Due to their very nature, Social Networks enable musicians to quickly acquire new fans through “word-of-mouth”. They are also a brilliant way to keep up the interest of existing fans by supplying regular news updates, gig announcements and new audio.

While a great deal of the success stories that get reported are of artists that have either become or already are part of the mainstream music industry, they can still be used to good effect by musicians that are and wish to remain independent.

On the other side of the coin, many established acts are using the Web to keep distributing music after leaving their labels behind. Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead are two high-profile acts that caught a lot of attention by releasing albums themselves on the Web after finishing contracts with major record labels. Not only that, but they adopted even more radical strategies, with a free release and ‘pay-what-you-want’ release respectively.

The tool set for independent musicians is better than ever, and with that comes increased opportunity to stay independent.

Making money, not selling out

So, without a record label to put CDs in shops, how can musicians make money from their music?

The most obvious way to make money without CDs is to sell download versions of your music. You can spend as much or as little as you want recording (or do it yourself) and use an online shopfront like ithinkmusic or your own website with a payment gateway like PayPal to take a small fee for the download, for example.

Downloads also have a stand-out advantage over their hard-copy counterparts, and that is availability. While CDs must be created and distributed in large quantities to be available to a wide number of people, a single uploaded file can be instantly available to anyone that wants it, worldwide.

Of course, there are plenty of people who prefer to have a physical product (me included). If you feel that the demand is there, you always have the option of producing CDs on top of selling downloads. Some artists are having success with self-produced CD-Rs, although print-on-demand services are also beginning to emerge. Just as Lulu produces one-off printed versions of books, TuneCore has partnered with Amazon’s on-demand CD printing and distribution service to produce on-demand versions of artists’ recordings.

It may even be possible to license your music to a label who have better access to production and distribution chains, without surrendering any of your rights.

Gigs and live shows can also be a revenue stream for independent artists. However, this can be difficult for those with a small following as there are inevitable hiring and running costs and you may decide that you are better off playing for established promoters for negligable pay or nothing at all, in order to gain increased exposure.

Merchandising (e.g. band tee-shirts) is also worth mentioning, although, again, you have the initial costs of production and then distribution that will vary depending on the quantities produced.

Changing the tune

The Web and Social Media are putting musicians (and other artists and creators) back in control. Stadium shows and Inter-Continental recording sessions may still be the preserve or the major labels, but if you have humbler ambitions and are already creating what you want to create, you no longer need to rely on the investment of the Men in Suits before anyone will know about it.

You can send your message out to the World, and whether your work is a success or failure, or even if there can be such a thing, is up to you. You never know — you might even make a few quid along the way.

Image is Camberwell Digeridoo by Flickr user scribex.


20 Things video podcast

20 Things video podcast: "


The university I work at has put together a series of videos about my free e-book The 20 Things You Must Know About Music Online.

This is not a video version of the book per se, but rather me talking briefly about each of the different sections of the book in turn.

Because these video podcasts are eventually destined for the iTunesU site that the university is putting together, they are in a particular (and very nice) video format, which doesn’t lend itself well to embedding and distributing, which I think is a shame, really.

So as soon as I get a chance, I’m going to grab the files and stick them up on YouTube and Vimeo, etc. Feel free to do the same. In the meantime though – these are as they appear on the BCU website, where you can also get the files as mp3s.

Full video iPod video
Introduction – The 20 Things Watch Watch
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Stunts and the Art of Celebrity Maintenance

Stunts and the Art of Celebrity Maintenance: "

Today’s Independent features a story about stunts at the Edinburgh Festival, mentioning me and a number of other Edinburgh stuntsters, notably Malcolm Hardee. The article uses a number of the stunts that made it into my online and on the streets #Twithibition, as well as a number of more recent stunts and is a good, brief guide to the great stunts of Edinburgh past and present.

Sheep in Edinburgh

Sheep in Edinburgh

“PR expert Mark Borkowski , who is a veteran of the Fringe, has a record as colourful as Hardee’s, having been responsible for launching the extreme, chainsaw-juggling, circus group Archaos on an unsuspecting Edinburgh public in 1991. In order to promote their show, the troupe were pictured sawing a car in half on the Royal Mile and leaping over parked cars on motorbikes on the mound.

“Later in the Nineties, Borkowski took on the Jim Rose Circus, which provided the PR another opportunity to wind up the press and the authorities. Among numerous well-documented occurrences, Rose discovered a forgotten by-law that allowed sheep herding up the Royal Mile before 6am and duly obliged. Some of his flock entered the council offices before being herded out again, a not-so-sheepish gesture of anti-authoritarianism.

“This year, [the publicity stunt is] a craft that will be celebrated by a new award called the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award. Already being considered for this award is Shed Simove, the Ideas Man, whose publicity material will over the next three weeks be printed on lavatory paper and put in toilets all around Edinburgh. ‘Pooblicity’, as he calls it.”

To read the full story, click here. To follow my #Twithibition, click here and search the site for #twithibition. For more information on the stunts recorded in the #Twithibition, click here.