August 28, 2009

Tour Smart Plus! A weekend crash course in everything a DIY musician needs to know

Tour Smart Martin Atkins Book front cover

Tour:Smart is the brainchild of Martin Atkins. The ex- Public Image Ltd / Nine Inch Nails and Pigface drummer has applied his decades of experience and educated vision of the new music industry to a book, a DVD, and a series of crash-courses / seminars / discussions / school-events designed to aid musicians on their journey through the industry.

I don't know how to describe the latest offering, Tour:Smart PLUS!, it is essentially a four year long educational course crammed into one 48-hour whirlwind weekend. It was intense, energising, humbling and motivating. Starting with learning from other band’s mistakes of touring, to learning to print your own merchandise, to filming and editing your own videos, and then what to do with them in the crazy online world of social media. This is as complete a course as you could find, without all the fodder of the ways the industry used to work or hiring other people who then get in your way (and cause you costly mistakes). It is the nitty-gritty of what YOU need to do to propel YOUR career forward; it is about taking responsibility, creating plans and leaping into action.

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There is no magical guide to make you famous in six weeks, the music business is a long and dirty road, but with a hand from Tour Smart you will have all you need to prepare and inspire you to take this road, and start eating up the miles.

As I said, I could not even begin to regurgitate the learnings of last weekend, but here are just a few key snippets that were delivered by Martin in his own passionate way, and how they resonated with myself.

“The Music Business is Participatory...”
As a musician, you have to not only practice and record your music, but promote, network, hack, sell, distribute, tweak, market, deliver and everything else in order to create your own success. Sitting back and waiting to be ‘discovered’? (LINK) I’ll tell you now that it is not going to happen.

“Beware of Smokescreens...”
Hardware or soft synths? Cubase or Logic? MP3, CD, Vinyl or cassette tapes? Getting caught up in these arguments is a waste of time. Use what works for you, make your music, get it out there. Using your music wisely is far more important that the software involved.

“Free is the New Black...”
Giving your music away is pretty much essential. However, you shouldn’t be doing it just because other artists are, but because there is a lot to be gained. Collecting emails in return is often the simplest idea, but so much more can be created and retained, from remix competitions to treasure hunts, all in the name of promoting awareness of your music and your brand. Which leads nicely into...

“Sell the Space Around Your Music...”
If fans like your (free) music, how else would they like to relate to you and how can you monetise that? Live shows? T-shirts? DVDs? Skateboards? Coffee Cups? Music fans often want to be part of a community, and anything that they can wear as a badge to say that they are part of your support will appeal to them. Of course, the individual items or events will depend on your (sub-sub-sub-) genre of music.

“Data Driven Decisions...”
This is not about trial and error. There is something to be said for going whole-heartedly into a project, but you use the data you have to make smart decisions, and then commit yourself. Fanbase details can be collected and dissected in ever-more inventive ways, such as Google Analytics, Youtube Insights, mailing list tracking and good old at-the-venue discussing with fans.

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Although just the tip of the iceberg, each of these points should give you and your career something to think about, and for further elaboration, I can’t recommend enough getting in touch with the Tour Smart Team.

Lee Jarvis.

(Cross-posted at US Music Jobs, the premier online community for US music industry professionals and jobs in the music industry)

Class photos (c) Lee Jarvis 2009.

August 21, 2009

Hey Mr "DJ" / tastemaker / aggregator

Lee Jarvis Hey Mr DJ disc jockey electronic house music

I am a huge fan of Gary Vaynerchuk, and his words have always resonated with what I try to with music and social media. Well, he recently posted a video blog with the title "Hey Mr DJ", describing the way that DJs aggregate all the music that is out there and deliver it to you for one particular time of day or mood or party. He then uses the term "DJ" in a broad sense to describe the way that people are always looking for interesting content (not just music, but videos, wine facts, triathlon information, etc), but with the incredible amount that is floating around in 2009, people also need a recommendation system to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Many online streaming sites have various genomes / genius bar devices, but I believe that music fans connect better with real people, hence the rise of the DJ over the last 40 years. I have been a DJ myself for sometime, and believe that I have a knack for choosing records from the millions that are out there from around the world, and playing them to the right people at the right time. As an extension of that, I recommend albums and artists to friends and strangers via my online social networking profiles (such as Twitter or Facebook). Vaynerchuk takes this one step further, and suggests that there is great scope for those who can disseminate any kind of niche information from the web, and provide a place that people with a common interest can easily discover and connect.

This kind of tastemaking is, in essence, what we are doing here at music jobs. We offer not only direct job opportunities, but also select pieces of music industry news, single reviews, festival reports, UK music events, advice on your music career, being an independent artist, band promotion, the future of music, copyright issues, music marketing tips and much more!

The purpose of this post is not only to point out how we are here to help you with your search for that perfect music job, but to also point out that maybe you can do something of similar nature. Maybe you know everything there is to know about 18th Century string music, and so maybe you could make yourself the go-to source, not only creating your own content, but feeding out to other sources and narrating on similar articles across the web. Think about it - find your niche, and run with it! You can even start off by posting some interesting topics in our forums and see how many views they gather!

Here is Gary, with his video...

Gary's original blog post is here, and if you are into social media and general web inspired banter, then I suggest you watch as many of them as possible!

Aside from our music industry forum and music industry blog, we share a lot more in our Twitter Feed or Facebook Fan Page, so feel free to follow and connect with us on there, for all your music career resources.

Lee Jarvis.

(Cross posted at UK Music Jobs - the UK's premier website for networking with music professionals and jobs in music)

August 17, 2009

The "Death of the Music Industry" (again?!)

The music industry is always being prematurely written off. Thankfully, some people are there to point out that it is still alive and kicking. Andrew Dubber of New Music Strategies recently shared an interesting graphic on music sales. (Image via the NY Times)

Dubber goes on to share that people are dissecting the information incorrectly, that the graph does not necessarily show the end of the line for music sales. (As Dubber states, we will not even go into the wild misconception that the record industry is the same as the music industry).

The issue that it only shows the last 35 years means that you cannot see that music sales started a lot lower than is hinted at. Add to that the fact that music sales are more fragmented than ever before; there always used to be one leading format that people collected, now there are many more options to receive your music fix (CD? iTunes? mobile download?). Lastly, any rate of decline will not be constant until it reaches zero. Of course music sales will never reach zero. It will (and has) plateau off into a more reasonable steady rate. There will be more peaks and other declines I'm sure, again possibly linked to a new format discovery and replacement cycle, similar to CDs in the 90s.

Yes, people use illegal P2P file sharing sites. Yes, streaming is a big reason people may not buy or even steal music anymore. But let's not (continue to) get carried away now. Pessimists and those whom misunderstood the bigger industry have always been touting the "death of the music biz", and yet more artists are making a living from doing what they love than ever before. I've been to see more concerts this year than ever before, bought more CDs and downloads than I have for some time, and am finding more new talent every week. The music industry is going through an amazing transformation, and looking at one partial figure (declining music sales over the last 10 years) is indeed, looking at it wrong.

I totally agree that it's not the industry declining right now, it's the end of an unrealistic spike in physical sales. Much of this past revenue was going to the major labels' fat cats, and their decisions on artistic direction would be to make them further money, not to help the industry or music scene blossom. That is also one reason for the inevitable decline; people grow tired of their bland, commercial, overrated, over-hyped decisions. People needed new inspiration, yearn to discover new sounds, and the answer was the internet! Where we are going from here is maybe uncertain, possibly fragmented, and definitely exciting :)

Lee Jarvis.

August 13, 2009

Lollapalooza Weekend - Full rain and shine 2009 review!

It's my first summer in Chicago, and so my first chance to experience the legendary Lollapalooza. Having recently come back from Glastonbury in the UK, I wasn't to be daunted by the size and scale of the site, but really like the way they maximised the time and space of Grant Park by having two stages at either end, so as soon as one band finishes, the next one has already sound checked and can start immediately after. You could simply shuffle around, turn and face the other stage and not break from the music for a moment if you so wished.

Friday began... well, wet. Crystal Castles were my first point of call for some electronic-vocoded-rock, and the only reason I left a good set from them was to go and check Fleet Foxes. I’m glad I did, as they put in a great performances, including acoustic numbers and their popular hit 'Mykonos'. After grabbing a few friends, we headed to Thievery Corporation, and the rainy Chicago sky couldn’t dampen the electric atmosphere and carnival spirit from them and their guest vocalists, including the gorgeous Lou Lou. Beer next, and then a strange performance on the Vitamin Water stage inspired us to get over to the headliners early for a good spot. Kings of Leon were my choice, having been a big fan for a while now. Their 'Only By the Night' album shows so much growth within the band, their sound richening and judging by the sales, reaching more diverse crowds and truly breaking them into ‘worthy festival headliner’ territory. A great performance from the whole band, with Caleb’s voice sounding as amazingly gravely as the studio recordings. Although not the official Lolla afterparty, Smart Bar was hosting Dave Pezzner and Mark Farina as part of OM records’ 15 year anniversary celebrations, and so it was our choice of late night haunt. It was also the cause of my late start on Saturday morning, having overdosed on amazing house music til 4am.

I did arrive just in time for the Arctic Monkeys, and just as they were stepping it up a gear, thrashing through their chart successes and getting the (now dry and humid) crowd jumping around nicely. Andy Butler of Hercules and Love Affair was playing a DJ set in the Perry’s garden area. I’ve always been a fan of theirs, and his musical selection was right on the money, with disco rhythms and lush vocals enlivening my tired feet for a while. More friends and more beer led to a sample of Lykke Li and, being a little unimpressed by her, onto Diplo. Diplo blew us away, with his mix of... well, whatever it is people describe Diplo, Switch, Herve and co. as these days. Bass-heavy Fidget, Ragga, Baile Funk, Classic House and more were all thrown into the melting pot to devastating effect on the crowd. With such an epic set, I was ready to head off for a live act, when Bassnectar stepped up to the decks. Within minutes I was blown away yet again, even with the bar set so high by Diplo, the OM Records artist dealt a mixture of rib-cracking Dubstep, Drum and Bass and House to the audience, who were packed in until the very end. The URB warehouse afterparty provided yet more of the same until the wee small hours for all ages of bass-hungry party people.

Sunday saw the sun finally break through, and then beat down on the (estimated) 150,000 Lollapaloozers. The festival organisers responded by handing out thousands of bottles of free cold water, setting up giant fans spraying a fine mist onto public walkways, and the local fire department spraying a not-so-fine mist into the air near the North stages. Top marks for that, and also for the selection of Chicago food available, of which I sampled Connie’s Pizza and Adobo’s Tacos. A great change from the usual greasy fodder offered at shows, and a nice tip-of-the-hat to such a food-loving city. The morning began with the Kaiser Chiefs, followed by a friend’s recommendation of Dan Deacon. Not knowing what to expect was a good thing, as the 30-or-so-piece party orchestra of tubas, guitars, trombones, bongos, laptops and more was a pleasant surprise! Encouraging party games in the crowd during the set was genius too. After getting down to Vampire Weekend, we stayed in the area for a good place at one of my personal highlights, Snoop Dogg. Playing a lot of material from his first album was unexpected, but fantastic for me, being a long-running fan. Getting down gangsta-style with Bert and Ernie was a highlight too. A outstanding hour or so of MSTRKRFT led us into to the headliners of Jane’s Addiction. Being Perry Farrell’s festival, he has played several times over the years, and fully deserves too. He is a great frontman, and Jane’s put on a superb show, each of the band members being talented in their own right. To see them all perform on their ‘home turf’ (they are actually from LA) was a fantastic finale to a blockbuster of a weekend.

Lee Jarvis.

Feel free to check out some Lollapalooza videos at the Lee Jarvis Youtube channel

All photos (c) Lee Jarvis 2009.

(Cross-posted at US Music Jobs, the premier online community for US music industry professionals and jobs in the music industry)