Tuesday 18 March 2014

Sport is a competition, Music Isn't!

Sport by nature has rules and regulations built into the platform such as scores, timers, penalties etc. Music is all subjective to taste, you cannot measure talent or songwriting on a numerical scale. So why does the mainstream media insist on creating the success of musicians by a competition?

This is more than the X Factor, it is based on people's conceptions that a musician is not deemed successful until he she is on TV or in the charts. It creates tension between musical friends, why can't musicians be happy about when others are successful, its all because of the competitive element which leads to jealousy and bitterness. Sure small amounts of rivalry can be good to improve the quality of performances but I would like to live in a world where music is celebrated for it's diversity and not who gets voted in at a mass talent show which I feel like we are heading.

As long as musicians and singers keep feeding themselves into the 'X Factor machine' they keep it alive.

Tuesday 26 February 2013

The Covers Debate

I'm forever getting asked this at gigs etc. "Why do you play covers when you can write songs?"

While I have the utmost respect for artists who refuse to play cover songs live, and once I was in this category for a while, there are a number of reasons why some of my gigs are cover heavy.

1. The type of venue: The majority of the pubs and clubs at least in my area are looking to book artists who play covers. It's just a fact. I know it's different in certain cities. and it's different for dedicated music venues but for the majority of pubs I play in they specifically want covers and I tell them exactly what they are going to get before they book me. It's not to say that I don't put my original songs in, but the main reason why I am booked and to play is to sell drinks and create an atmosphere. I play what I figure the crowd wants, whether that is covers or my own music.

2. I enjoy it, pleasing the crowd with either a cover or my own song gives me an equal amount of satisfaction. I've still yet to perform a cover I don't want to do. And yes I love my cheesy pop covers and even better when it's done with an acoustic twist.

3. I don't want to limit my outlets. I do still play venues who expect you to have original music and that is still my main motivation. But it's a very risky business venture for me playing solely my own material. I'd have to have an extra job at this moment in my career. The extra money I earn from playing cover gigs all goes towards my living and not to mention CDs, transport etc.

4. I wouldn't be at the talent level I am now (whatever this is perceived at) without performing covers live, all these influences are inflicted onto my songwriting and have strengthened my singing and guitar playing along the way, not to mention all the confidence I've gained by playing over 200 gigs.

5. Playing covers has eased people into my own music, the cover gets their attention and then I see them foot tapping to my own song.

6. Playing covers has not restricted my creative output, I'm currently putting the finishing touches to my 3rd release in 3 years. and my 3rd music video.

There are some downsides:

When I'm doing cover gigs it's quite hard for people to see my direction and identity. and I could get mistaken as a sole cover artist. Well the answer is that as a recording artist I write and produce original songs, but as an entertainer live I will play what I see as fit for the crowd venue.

I welcome people/musicians into this debate. and the oppositional view.

Cheers, Ben

Wednesday 24 October 2012

My dissertation, independent study on digital distribution within social media

Ben Parcell
Bachelor of Arts Degree
Design for Digital Media

“Analysing digital distribution of creative content within social media to design an independent platform.”

I am a semi professional musician with experience of publishing and performing. I use digital distribution via iTunes and Bandcamp and also traditional CD sales via my gigs and online via Bigcartel. I will use my several years of building a fan base as well statistics collected from my existing fan pages via insights which cover a vast number of different websites.
I therefore propose to look into effective ways of building social communities and virtual presence with the object of distributing music in means to be a self-sufficient recording artist.
Firstly I will conduct a literature review about the transformation of the music industry and how with the new format of digital media, the Mp3 in 1993 of and increasing internet speeds from modems using dial up connections to high speed ASDL broadband.
I propose to carry out an original study into which I consider the main 3 existing networking websites that have music dissemination at the forefront of their model: Facebook, MySpace, and Reverbnation to discover the positives and negatives of each network and how that is integrated regarding access to social media.

1. Literature Review
The transition between physical and digital music distribution
Since the advent of MP3 technology the distribution of music worldwide has been on a constant evolution. Digital distribution of music is the biggest change to the traditional supply chain of music since the advent of the record. Formerly, recording artists had to go through the chain of the record label, to the CD pressing plant, then to the retail store and finally to the consumer and because of leaps in digital technology an artist in 2012 can self publish, record and release an album, E.P or single bypassing the record industry altogether. This is known as Disintermediation, decentralizing the power of the major record companies.

Initially when the Moving Picture Experts Group Audio layer 3 (Mp3) format was finalised in 1993 it was an unlicensed and copyright free platform which potentially allowed the use of unauthorised duplication (Rose, M) which with the advent of Peer to Peer (P2P) technology and the first incarnation of Napster in 1999 created by a University dropout Shawn Fanning. (Bloomberg 2000)

Napster shared music between people over the Internet for free although the controversial practice was against copyright laws around the world. Napster became the enemy which could inadvertedly bring down the record industry due to loss of earnings. The difference between the Mp3 and the former uncompressed lossless .wav format was file size, a 128kbps Mp3 is approximately a tenth the size of an uncompressed Wave file, with a small compromise in degradation in quality. This is a different system from former unauthorised reproduction of music onto cassette tape or recording music from the radio as the key element in the equation is the portable file size and the ability to share.

The conventions of converting a wav to mp3 are similar to the JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) it is lossy compression, designed to allow the transfer and storage of media in a small portable size. In 1999 when the original Napster was up and running via a 55.6k modem it would take around 15 minutes to download a single song. It may seem like slow in today’s speeds of 20Mbps ADSL connections when an mp3 can be downloaded in the matter of seconds but at the time a growing number of users had the first taste of freedom of information. (Aldrich, S et al 2000)  

It wasn’t long before the record industry realised what Napster could potentially do to the record industry, people around the world could upload mp3s and then share and transfer music without any royalties or payments going to the record labels and artists, and on December 7th 1999 The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) took action by suing for copyright infringement, asking for damages of $100,000 each time a song is copied. Further to that on April 13th 2000 the rock band Metallica joined the lobbying for the shut down of Napster as well as numbers of Universities in the USA banning the use of the Napster client in fear of copyright violations. The US courts to be shut down in July 2000, and in July 2001 Napster shut down its entire network in order to comply with the injunction. (BBC 2001)

Napster was a key turning point for music distribution, during the period, other P2P software had been developed including Kazaa, Emule, WinMx, which meant that the revolution against the centralisation of music owned by the record labels had started.

The record companies reacted by trying to close and takeover each of the three online music sharing services. This proved unsuccessful, and initiated the product life cycle trend, where digital music distribution services are continually evolving to avoid the threat of legal action. (P6, Alves, K. 2004).

It wasn’t long before the 5 major record labels realized that there was a lucrative business opportunity to invest in, but they had to create a secure system which meant that unauthorized duplication of mp3 files could not be performed, the answer to this was DRM (Digital Rights Management)

DRM, which is designed to prevent unauthorised copying of content and enforce restrictions on its use. When combined, these technologies provide a personalised online media experience for consumers within the confines of what Strauss (1999) terms a ‘Digital Fort Knox’, or impenetrable fortress securing a rich treasure. (Burkart, P, McCourt, T 2004, p.351)

“Eventually the record companies and retailers have established themselves online, causing reintermediation through the introduction of a pay-per-download (PPD) and subscription payment system”.
(Alves, K 2004, p.6)

Rather than phase out the traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ retail outlets and physical music products, they brought in the digital format to run alongside the traditional media. It wasn’t a major record label which first sought the opportunity, but a pioneering company Apple which first popularized a business model for the distribution of digital media with its combined hardware of the iPod and the software of iTunes. It meant that record labels could transfer music libraries of legalized music and retain royalty and distribution payments. The flat payout and generic pricing scheme made this popular with record labels and independent artists, which under the pricing schemes would earn 70 cents from a 99-cent download. The modest iTunes cut of 30% meant that Apple could be profitable as well as the record label or equally an independent artist getting a huge 70% of the sale, which in the previous traditional music industry this was unheard of. The preauthorized credit card setup, and one click ordering once the consumer had set up payment details was what made iTunes the most popular mainstream music distribution method. (Tunecore 2011)

With the popularity of the social media networks came MySpace. MySpace allowed record labels, and independent artists the same level playing field to present a dynamically updated working portfolio of their music and news. It was a big shift in power from the Major companies to the small independent music labels and independent artists. The popularity of MySpace was down to the interaction between fans and artist, it was the first time in history that fans could directly talk and interact with their favourite bands in real time in a two way, forum setting. The power of social media today is that their peers will notice the trends of a particular person and adversely the fans are acting as promotional tools by sharing artist’s videos, commenting on status updates, reviewing the latest release. MySpace has the largest collection of artists and bands online.

Facebook is the most popular social media network in history to date with users worldwide. As of February 2012, Facebook has more than 845 million active users, (Protalinski, E. 2012) and features artist pages, although it doesn’t allow sales of digital media directly from the platform, but with integration from music resellers such as Bandcamp, Reverbnation and the integration of applications from within the customisable to allow for complex, structured business procedures. Soundcloud is a stripped down purpose built social media website primarily for music and audio applications. Social media using the Internet and mobile technology has become an important tool for the distribution of music and creating fan bases.

The four models for digital distribution.

1.Music as a product: for example, the iTunes business model. Users pay 79p per digital download. How this system is a direct follow on from the aging music industry of owning a CD, but does not have the advantages of having a physical item and encourages artists to go through a record label. Also offering ‘pay what you think’

2.Music as a service: David Kusek compares the future of music to running water (Kusek, D, Leonhard, G 2005, p.1) Where users pay a monthly subscription fee, which gets divided between the artists and consumers have the freedom of listening to any artist. For example, Last FM, Spotify Premium.

3.Music for free: a stealth income generated by advertisements goes to the artists/record companies. This is already in place by the free version of Spotify. Which has reported losses of £16.6million in 2009. (Clark, N. 2010)

4. Music in exchange for a ‘shout out’ or consumer information. Is a new experimental method of what can be given by the consumer in exchange for music: instead of a monetary payment the consumer can ‘tweet for a track’, tagging an artist in a status, or unorthodox techniques such as having the consumers take an online survey in relation to social media for a free download.
With the increase of technology and bandwidth, and the popularity of social media is has become a new norm to link digital music distribution and social media together. It has also enabled independent musicians such as myself to have the option to be able to have the same digital distribution models as signed artists, and cutting out the record companies.

2. Research Study:
Compare the three major social networks, which incorporate music networks and distribution.

2.1 Reverbnation
Reverbnation is the newest of the four music based social networking websites I am critically analysing for my study, launched in 2006 it is the most feature rich platform for acts and parties involved in the independent music industry.

Band equity
A feature unique to Reverbnation is a rating system, which uses an algorithm to work out an artists popularity by giving them a number, the higher the number the greater the exposure that the artist has had. It combines song plays, page views, interactions by pooling in stats from the internal use of the website as well as external interactions through use of ‘widgets’ which can be integrated into websites via HTML. It is similar to the Facebook ‘Insights’ but the ‘Band Equity’ takes the stat gathering feature which all the major media websites implement but takes it further by applying it to a dynamically updated chart system. The chart system touches on the emotional need for gratification of artists and is a boost to the ego that the artists can then share to other social media networks to show as a form of trophy. It is a successful method to gain traffic on the Reverbnation platform as the more encouragement to the artist to deliver fans to the platform directly increases the chances of becoming top of the local charts, and then onwards to the national charts.

One of the downfalls of Reverbnation is that although there are millions of bands, artists, venues and record labels listed on the website, it is somewhat lacking the social interaction of the peer-to-peer level conversations. Because of this there are many attempts to try to tap into the wealth of people resources on the largest social media networks, Facebook and MySpace. The widgets are a number of different customisable plug-ins, which can be implemented into Facebook posts and MySpace profile pages. The main features of the widgets are to implement a music player and show listings into a small compact player, which gives fans access to the basic stats of the artist, further information will be found if the consumer clicks on the artist name.

Band Profile
A further integration into the social media giant of Facebook is a fully featured application for the ‘Pages’ feature of Facebook. The band profile is a repackaged, streamlined version of the Reverbnation profile page which contains music, videos, biography, shows and other customisable features as well as a banner option to include a link to your music store of choice that hosts your music. The combination of ‘Band Profile’ and Facebook ‘Pages’ is a powerful solution to showcase an artist’s music and achievements with the additional impact that Facebook allows custom landing pages to new fans, this can be a great method of captivating brand new people and encouraging them to ‘Like’ the page once they arrive.

Digital Distribution
As part of the feature rich service Reverbnation offers its artists, there is a paid option for artists’ mp3 tracks to be distributed to a number of many popular digital media outlets including iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, for a yearly fee of $34.99. The artist then gets the amount of money per download and stream paid directly into an account, which can then be withdrawn. As an independent artist I rely on digital distribution services for income and also a greater exposure to international platforms.

Reverbnation works best when integrated into the general public centred, social media websites Facebook and MySpace. Due to the fact that there is a lack of non-artist members present on Reverbnation I feel that a Reverbnation account on its own will struggle to gather new listeners apart from other artists and labels. From my use on Reverbnation I find the majority of my messages in my inbox are from other artists asking me to check out their music via a ‘Fan Introduction’, artists looking for gratification from each other. The idiom “You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours” comes to mind, and in this context it is a false economy because the internal interaction on the website is not coming from fans with a potential to purchase your music. This does not amount to real value as artists are generally focused on their own achievements rather than boosting the popularity of others. Without the backing from major label artists using the service, Reverbnation lacks the credibility of the other three social media websites, which major labels have happily integrated.

2.2 Facebook
Facebook was founded in 2004, initially to college users in the USA. It gradually increased in popularity and progressively powered it’s way to become the world’s most popular social media website, as of today it boasts 900 million active users. What makes Facebook unique is that it doesn’t have a dedicated music hosting service. Instead it integrates with applications such as Spotify, LastFM and Soundcloud to operate as a delivery system to streaming music service. (Sengupta, S. 2012)

Facebook Insights
“Facebook Insights provides Facebook Platform developers and Facebook Page owners with metrics around their content. By understanding and analyzing trends within user growth and demographics, consumption of content, and creation of content, Page owners and Platform developers are better equipped to improve their business and create better experiences on Facebook.”
 (Facebook. 2012)
‘Facebook Insights’ is a statistical service, which relates to the activity of a Facebook page. In the case of an independent artist the statistics relate to activity on their page, I will use my own page as an example.

Figure 1. Facebook insights graph

The main section of the insights provides a graph that plots the popularity of the page; it has three trends that it follows; ‘Posts’, ‘People Talking About this’ and ‘Weekly Total Reach’. If you hover over each data point, detailed information will be shown. Independent artists can view this information and correlate it directly to the type of activity and topic of statuses that were posted during the dates provided. It can provide excellent feedback to the types of statuses used to the effect of persuasion, humour, general information and new media content.
Below the information graph is an analytical view of the most recent and popular posts made, which can be ordered by;

Figure 2. Facebook post analysis

Reach (The number of people that have read the post),
Engaged Users (The number of unique people that have clicked on your post)
Talking about this (The number of people that have interacted with the post by sharing or commenting on the post)
Virality (The percentage of people that have shared or commenting on a post compared to the overall amount of people that have seen it.)
This data can be invaluable in determining which types of posts the artist’s fans have welcomed. This relates to Leon Festinger’s Cognitive Dissonance Theory. Hypothesis 1:
“Selective Exposure, Prevents Dissonance”.
 (Griffin, E 2003, p. 351)
As a public figure I need to self censor my statuses in a way, which doesn’t go against the beliefs of my fans, which will in turn create dissonance. Through analysing my past statuses I can figure out which type of statuses have created the most interaction and ‘Likes’. For example, previously I made a Facebook status, which described my negativity for talent competitions and that music shouldn’t be a competition. It was one of my most popular posts because it related to my fans views and beliefs. I believe that the majority of my fans support independent music and are against the commercialism and undignified exposure of pop artists on television shows such as The X factor. This belief was mirrored in the statistics in the analytics of the status.

Figure 3. Facebook post analysis

It proved popular with my fans, but the same sarcastic status, which has a stab at the X Factor generation, would more likely to create dissonance on a Pop music oriented page. By avoiding certain ‘touchy’ subjects on my page I aim to reduce dissonance and increase popularity.

Facebook Streaming
On September 22nd 2011 Facebook launched a service with partners Spotify, Rdio and MOG. It allows Facebook users a music streaming service from the Facebook ‘Page’ of the artist in question. (Panzarino, M. 2011)
The tracks are displayed on the right hand column of the Facebook page and with a click the third party application such as Spotify will be launched and the track directly played. One of the benefits to the artists of this feature is that Facebook records and displays the play history of its users, which acts as a passive recommendation service. People with the same interests and likes are more likely to reduce uncertainty. According to Axiom 6, of the Uncertainty Reduction Theory of Charles Berger,
“Similarities between people reduce uncertainty, while dissimilarities produce increases in uncertainty.”
 (Griffin, E 2003 p. 351)
Therefore friends and peers are more likely to ‘Like’ the activity of others and repeat the actions in following a certain artist. Facebook’s partnership with Spotify created a controversial requirement that all Spotify users now require a Facebook login to use the service and an opt-out service which automatically publishes the music listening habits of the user to the Facebook system. The option to not publish which tracks the users are listening to is available within the options but is required to uncheck on every login, which in turn means that the majority of users will adopt the public view of their music habits. Allowing Facebook to record musical trends from all of the involved parties, which are integrated in the service, is a powerful tool for statistics. This information is currently held in a centralized database, it opens up opportunities for a global charting system, which would combine Independent artists and Major label artists because the access to such distribution to Spotify and Last FM are equal for both entities via an annual fee. (Orlowski, A. 2011)

Implemented communication theories
A Facebook page acts as a public front for artists to portray a social media presence. According to Judee Burgoon’s Expectancy Violations Theory and the Study of Proxemics by Edward Hall There are four interpersonal distances. (Griffin, E 2003, p.82) The use of a Facebook page exists in the ‘Public Distance’ zone, which is from between 10 feet to infinity. It is less intimate than a personal profile page of an individual person. This also relates to the Social Penetration Theory Irwin Altman & Dalmas Taylor, (Griffin, E 2003, p.132) the self as having layers of intimacy like a multilayer onion. In that the outer, public layers (Facebook Page) on the surface level shares trivial information such as biographical information, tastes and worldviews. If a fan interacts with the page by posting a question, the figurehead of the page then decides to reply to the question by reciprocating, they are getting further into the layers of intimacy touching on the semi private core. When a fan meets the artist at a show he/she may then form a personal friendship and add the person on their personal Facebook profile. The level of self-disclosure has reached the semi private stage because the user is more likely to share personal and uncensored information on a private Facebook profile.
Because of this boundary of separation between personal profile and Facebook page it is an example of power distribution. The page owner with the virtual power of ‘Likes’ and a celebrity status appeal has hierarchical power over the less important members of the group. This is an example of Functional Perspective on Group Decision Making the theory of Randy Hirokawa & Dennis Gouran (Griffin, E 2003, p.231) Facebook pages act as a small community group that members all share the same interest of being a fan or affiliated with subject of the page. This gives the page owner, extra power in persuasion through being at the top of the hierarchy. The same system of ‘Followers’ is the main feature of a large social media network Twitter which I have chosen not to study due to its lack of musical promotion components compared to the others, although it is still a valid platform for musical artists there is no distinct separation between artists, fans and other figure heads.

2.3 MySpace
In 2003 when Myspace was launched, it was the start of a social media revolution which was going to benefit bands and artists in particular. Myspace made social networking on the Internet into a mainstream phenomenon. There had been attempts of social networking websites before Myspace was launched such as Friends Reunited (A website designed to reunite school and work colleagues, Vampire Freaks (An alternative and gothic community) and Deviant art (A social media website devoted to traditional and digital artwork) but none of these had the influence that the social media giant of Myspace. Between 2005-2008 Myspace was the most popular landing page for bands, it was an alternative to a homepage The Myspace profile was a one- stop system with everything available on one page to the fans as well as interaction involving a ‘wall’. Myspace was adopted by millions of regular users, which gave the bands in question a surge in popularity. Certain bands such as ‘The Arctic Monkeys’ owe their success to the Myspace boom.

"With the boost from MySpace, the Arctic Monkeys proved yet again that successful bands could do without big record companies. They released their debut single and album on small independent label Domino. Both went straight to No 1."
 (Stelter, B 2009).
As Myspace became associated with independent artists becoming famous, whilst bypassing the traditional music industry model of a record label and publisher it gave way to millions of bands using the service.

Figure 4. Graph showing Myspace vs. Facebook users

April 19, 2008 - the date that Facebook overtook Myspace as the #1 social networking site on the Web. (Mack, G. 2008)
After the success of Myspace up to 2008, the Internet adopted the more ‘grown up’ attitude and migrated to Facebook. The main difference between Facebook and Myspace was anonymity. Myspace didn’t require the sign up to use a real name and often users adopted an avatar. Facebook brought transparency and a cleaner, less cluttered interface and inevitably, Myspace slumped in popularity until the present day with attempts from pop star Justin Timberlake to revive the system with a new layout. It was all a little too late as Myspace had already gained the reputation as a website in decline.

Bulletin Board
A bulletin post is a system that allowed a post to be made and then seen in a feed of all friends of the person, artist or band. This is an early version of the Facebook ‘News Feed’ it brings dynamically updated information to be viewed in real-time, this is essentially how the twitter network is operated. The advantage to posting a bulletin by a band was a mini advertisement to entice you the user to visit their page. Without the bulletin board, the artist’s relied heavily on the fans regularly checking the artists Myspace page manually. The evolution of the Internet has made most social media websites ‘on demand’ and dynamically updated with information. Myspace got there first.

Music Player
Having music directly to stream on the band’s profile page was the start of media decentralisation for independent artists, it was one of the first broadcast methods which allowed a music artist of any level of calibre to showcase their music to an international audience, the same undiluted system which the major labels also had access to. When Myspace was introduced in 2003 the speed of the Internet connection in the U.K was still at the dial up connection rates of 56k modems or claimed by ITU Internet Reports, 2003 was the ‘Birth of Broadband’. Due to the slower capabilities of computer hardware and telecommunications speed, Myspace used a less than CD quality compression of 96Kbps in an mp3 codec. The proprietary compression settings were never upgraded to meet the more demanding consumer appetite of near CD quality streams of between 192Kbps and 320Kbps because of this a lot of the artists migrated to other systems such as Reverbnation or bypassed the music player altogether and instead integrated the Reverbnation music player into the profile via HTML.

Profile Customisation
The original Myspace system allowed artists and bands to use HTML and CSS to create a unique experience to deliver rich media content and a high quality presentation. This is somewhat of a ‘two edged sword’ because the ability to customize meant that there was a lack of uniformity between different profiles. The buttons and sections usually ended up in different places from profile to profile within the interface and for every aesthetically pleasing profile page, there were a lot more which looked like a clash of bright colours and animated GIFs. This brought a degradation of quality to the system.

Myspace still exists till today and while it was once the main social media website and the website that defined a lot of the rules and concepts for today’s social media experience, it failed to keep up to the times with change and as a result lost a lot of its appeal and popularity.

3. Conclusion and Design of System
To take my findings of research to create a new social media platform I will take the positive examples that and avoid the negative approaches.
1.     My website will be simple and intuitive.
What I’ve learnt from the demise of Myspace is that one of the main reasons was that because of the non conformity of design across various profile pages, it created a non uniform design which was confusing for the brain to compute. I will make sure that only essential sections prevail and the navigation system will be seen on every page.
2.     Audio and video will be of high quality
Rather than give users a preview quality sound or small clips of music, I shall maintain that all music is provided at least 128kps and higher, which is an acceptable compression setting for Internet browsing which makes a small compromise between delivery speed and degradation in quality.
3.     Facebook integration
The internet doesn’t need yet another membership sign up system, Facebook API provides a system which allows Facebook users to log in to a third party website and share information directly to the Facebook newsfeed, this creates passive recommendations.
“Facebook Platform enables you to make your website more social. You can use our Social Plugins, such as the Like Button to drive user engagement with a single line of HTML”
(Facebook 2012)
Without the integration of existing social networks such as Facebook, I will fail to drive traffic to the website.

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Figure 1. Facebook insights graph http://www.facebook.com/benparcellmusic
Figure 2. Facebook post analysis http://www.facebook.com/benparcellmusic
Figure 3. Facebook post analysis http://www.facebook.com/benparcellmusic
Figure 4. Graph showing Myspace vs. Facebook users http://www.alexa.com

Monday 23 April 2012

How to collaborate with other musical artists

Artist collaboration is a great way of expanding your musical horizons and bringing diversity into your repertoire. It's also true that a good collaboration between two recording artists can be beneficial to both parties and increase crossover fans from both entities. But before you want to enquire about a collaboration with an artist there are a good few points you may want to consider.

1. Make sure you have a plan.
So you have identified an artist or band that you would like to work with, the first thing you need to do is have a clear goal of what you want to achieve before you make first contact, at least from your side of the collaboration. Explain what exactly you will be contributing, whether that is vocals, lyrics, guitar, video, production and you are bringing some added value to the table. E.g A collaboration where you bring a different instrument or unique idea that the other artist hasn't done before will be much more interesting than trying to do a collaboration that shares the same skills as the other artist.

2. Have something to show them.
Occasionally I am very flattered that I have artists who are starting out asking if they can record a song with me, and when I ask to see their previous work or biography, the majority don't have anything to show me. A typical response I get is "I'm going to be recording soon", or "I have some singing to backing tracks" Neither of these answers encourage me to want to work with them. I want to see more than just evidence that they can sing. I want to see an online presence, evidence of gigs, a buzz about them. Unfortunately there are a few people that see collaboration as a springboard to launch their career, the recipient can see through this straight away. Don't be disappointed if you are declined or don't get a a response if you are chasing a dream without having any credentials of your own, my advice is to build up a small following first before you do ask people to collaborate.

3. Don't assume that everybody wants to work with another artist.
So you have recorded an album, you have got all your press releases sorted, website up to date and you are confident enough to ask another artist to work with you. More likely than not you will be met with rejection. The reason why is that not everyone wants to share their creative content with another artist, especially solo artists. The hint is that they are the only person in their band and this is usually a choice :). I've made this mistake myself in the past, especially with friends who I know well and try to push myself into working with them, don't take it personally just because someone is a great friend doesn't mean they will automatically work with you. It's nicer to offer an invitation than to storm in and be pushy, assuming that they will jump at the chance of working with you.

4. Work out the logistics before deciding to collaborate.
So you decide that you want to work with another artist and record a single or music video together, the problem is that you live at opposite sides of the country. Yes, there are ways of recording now via online collaboration and if that is suitable for what you are doing then go ahead. Certain situations like recording live music together or doing gigs together require you to be actually there in person, the distance between the artists will be a big factor on how successful it is or people cancelling on you. When asking to work with someone, don't assume that they have all the equipment to record with and have all the contacts, show initiative with having your own contacts and distribution channels and you are more likely to make a marriage of two artists happen.

5. The right time and place to ask an artist.
I would avoid proposing to an artist that you want to work with them just after they have performed a gig. It puts them in a very awkward position. Leave them a CD by all means and introduce yourself, but don't make any propositions at the gig. The same thing would not be to ask them in a public forum such as a Facebook wall. Find out their email address and send them a polite and informative email. This gives the artist chance to weigh up the pros and cons about the project that they might be undertaking, it might be a no brainer to you that you want to work with an artist who has just packed out a venue, but their idea might be slightly different.

I'm open to the idea of working with other artists so if you would like to collaborate with me, feel free to Email me with an idea.

My latest E.P involved collaboration with Edwina Hayes providing backing vocals, and Tattoo artist Jan Moat for my Artwork. You can stream and purchase it here: Painted By Numbers 2011

Tuesday 28 February 2012

My Top 5 Gigs.

I've enjoyed every one of my 120 gigs so far but these are my top 5 in no particular order.

Ryan Spendlove Music page, Edwina Hayes Duchess, York 30/04/2011
I was planning on attending this gig so it was quite a shock when Ryan emailed me out of the blue to come and support him on his debut album launch. Played to around 200 attentive people, and Ryan put on one of the best performances I've ever seen from a solo artist.

Ben MarwoodOxygen Thief The Garratt, Manchester 01/10/2011
This one was courtesy of Moon & Back Music. I couldn't believe it at the time because a few of my friends were big fans of Ben, It was my first gig of the Northwest and so I had the chance to meet a lot of people that I have been talking to on Facebook. I got stung for £24 on parking though, but it didn't matter as I was on such a natural high.

Chris HelmeMark Morriss Stereo, York 10/11/2011
Gigs come from the most unusual sources, I got asked to play this one after a gig for Screaming Tarts at the Adelphi. It was one of those pinch myself moments as in the 90s I was a huge fan of The Seahorses and The Bluetones. This was a sellout on the night.

Joe McCorristonDylan Brierley Musician Central Station, Dewsbury 18/02/2012
I've been online friends with Joe from before I released my debut album and I've become a great admirer of his music. It only took me 115 gigs for us to play a gig together and although the crowd was small, the atmosphere was buzzing, singalongs a plenty.

Rachel Morrison, Brother's of Craig. Vale Bar, Glasgow. 15/05/2011
Quite early on in my gigging career I took a gamble to play a mini tour outside of my country, 2 of the 3 gigs got cancelled, but this remaining one paid off. I took the long journey up there to find people had bought tickets and turned up to a show so far away from my humble beginnings of Bridlington.

Tuesday 31 January 2012

2012 Update

Update 2012:

I'm a very independent person when it comes to my music career and I guess life in general. I'm the type of person that likes to get things done myself or learn how to do it, rather than waiting for things to come to me. I guess I don't like my destiny being in the hands of other people, which is why rather than waiting on the chance of record labels to fund me I just got on with it and put my first 2 releases out myself learning from mistakes on the way.

My debut album 'Humble Beginnings' in 2010 which I recorded entirely by myself is the achievement in life that I'm most proud of, and to know that it's sold in it's hundreds is pretty amazing. I've learnt from early on that a little niceness goes a long way with other artists and I wouldn't be able to do the things I do without the support, help and encouragement from others. I'm over the moon about the progress I've made so far, and during the past few months it's all seem to come together for me as far as my expectations. Maybe my progress will have diminishing returns soon or there could be a lot more in store, I have no idea but whatever happens I'm going to enjoy the journey!



Saturday 24 December 2011

My top 5 albums of 2011

5. Frank Turner - England Keep My Bones

Frank is one of the hardest working artists out there right now and without stopping his constant touring he's back with an album that has taken him to the edge of the mainstream, does it match the anthemic songwriting of his prior efforts? Maybe not, but there are plenty of memorable moments that make it worthy of my Top 5. 

Stand out track: 'Redemption'

4. Marit Larsen - Spark

Marit is my future wife, she's just playing hard to get right now, but in the mean time I'm enjoying the third album by the Norwegian songstress. If you like folk music right at the poppier end you're gonna love this album. 

Stand out track: 'What if'

3. Ben Marwood - Outside There's A Curse

I'll admit the first time I heard Ben I wasn't won over immediately, I was 'hounded' into listening to him by a couple of my friends, and then out of the blue I was asked to support him. Come his live set I got what all the fuss was about, and suddenly I realised where the magic was live. After that the album has been on repeat and I've been to see him play again in York.

Stand out track: 'I Will Breathe You In'

2. Edwina Hayes - Good Things Happen Over Coffee

I met Edwina at an acoustic guitar party just under a couple of years ago, we got chatting about music and my then unreleased album, she gave me a lot of advice about how to get the CD pressed and released, and then more recently she contributed some amazing backing vocals to my latest E.P. Anyway to the album, this is one of the most honest, heartfelt albums I've heard in a long time, the recording is done in a way that you feel like she's in the room with you. 

Stand out track: 'Nobody's Coming Around'

1. Ryan Spendlove - Fable

For me Ryan is hands down the most talented singer songwriter in the U.K right now. He recorded this album within a week, mostly in one take via Candyrat records in the USA. 'Fable' is hard to pin down as a genre as he touches Blues, Folk, Pop and Gospel all delivered with a voice to die for drenched in vibrato. He's very proud to show his Yorkshire accent in the songs and it works. 

Stand out track: 'Silicone Puppies'

Honourable Mentions: Blink 182 'Neighborhoods', Joe McCorriston 'One Day', The Swellers 'Good For Me''