Nov 9 2010

It’s All About Bandcamp…

Well we all knew this blog post was coming…

In the run-up to releasing Mandala I spent a lot of time investigating the various channels I could employ to sell the album online. There are myriad ways to get your music onto iTunes, Amazon MP3, and eMusic etc and equally as many routes to selling physical packages online too. But here’s the catch; they all cost you money to set up and you have no control over pricing, availability or branding. Services like Tunecore will put your music onto a variety of digital stores, as well as streaming services like Spotify for an annual fee of $49.99 per album. Reverb Nation now also offers a variety of digital distribution packages ranging between $35-60 per year, per ‘release’ (ie; single, album, EP), but has no options for selling physical CDs and seems mainly aimed at the US market.

Enter Bandcamp!!

Bandcamp is a website that enables a band/artist to easily distribute their music directly to the public, both digitally and physically. It is well worth reading their excellent blog to keep up to date with all the new features they regularly add to the service. It is one of the best new sites to have sprung up over the last few years to embrace the changes in the music industry and the way artists engage with their audience.

Some benefits for artists/bands:

  • Easy to set up. You can have your album on sale within 30 minutes..
  • Integrates with existing website via custom urls, custom headers, design etc
  • Fans can stream the music in it’s entirety, unlike the dreaded 30 second previews of iTunes etc.
  • Offer high-quality downloads in a variety of formats. Also offers the possibility of including an instant download with physical packages
  • Excellent sharing options to place widgets and links on other sites
  • Various pricing options including ‘pay what you want’, set pricing and everything in between. Plus the facility to generate free download codes for promotion etc
  • Receive payments instantly via PayPal
  • Bandcamp only takes 15% commission on sales and has no annual fees

and some benefits for fans/listeners:

  • Listen to full tracks/albums online, so you can try before you buy
  • Know that you are supporting the artists directly when you buy the music (and not Steve Jobs)
  • Easy to share your discoveries via Facebook, Twitter, embeddable widgets/music players
  • Download music in various high-quality formats (MP3, FLAC etc)

I have been a big supporter of Bandcamp since it first started up. I know as a listener I am far more likely to buy an album download from Bandcamp than any other digital store; mainly due to the superior quality of the downloaded files and because I want to directly support the artist when I buy their music. I know of several people that sell their music on iTunes and see a surprisingly small return from sales. Bandcamp is a great resource for independent music.

Over the last few weeks I have noticed more and more artists turning to Bandcamp to sell their music. I have turned several of my friends onto the site this month. Most recently the fantastic pianist Janette Mason has uploaded both her solo albums for download. I also convinced my good friend Steve Alexander to offer his excellent Isometric album on Bandcamp. Artists like Zoe Keating and Steve Lawson have been selling their music through the site for quite some time now, with great success. Both have made use of the ‘pay what you want’ model to some degree, which allows fans to name their own price and pay what they think the music is worth (with or without a lower limit).

This is the pricing model I have opted for with Mandala. At the moment, the digital version is £5 (or more) and the physical CD is priced at £10 (or more). This enables people to pay a little more if they would like to show some extra support for the project and indeed any future projects. I have found that most people do add a little extra than the minimum price, especially for the download. I know that both Steve and Zoe have had fans pay upwards of $100 for albums downloads as a show of support for their music.

Just saying, you know…

Incidentally, Bandcamp have just added Facebook ‘Like’ buttons to their pages, which is by far the easiest and quickest way to share your favourite albums with your friends right now. Please do take a moment to scoot over to my Bandcamp page and click the ‘Like’ button under the album artwork. Even if you’ve already bought it; every little helps in spreading the word! You may have also noticed that I have added my own little ‘Like’ button to this very site recently (it’s at the top of the sidebar on the right), which will magically add you to the small but perfectly formed gang on my Facebook page if you are that way inclined…

So what have you discovered via Bandcamp recently? I’ve downloaded a few corkers recently. Here’s a few recommendations (in no particular order)

Until next time, here’s one of their lovely widgets so you can stream the solo album whilst having a look around. This is the Grande version, in case you were wondering…

Sep 18 2010

Mandala by Simon Little now officially available on CD and download!!

It’s official, my debut solo album Mandala is now available on CD!!

In fact I’ve just heard that a few lucky folk have already received the copies of the album I sent out yesterday afternoon. The postal system is obviously improving somewhat. I picked up a motherload of CDs from the lovely David at Key Production yesterday lunchtime and am so happy with the finished product.

The CD is exclusively available on my website (click here for a shortcut!). It comes lovingly packaged in an eco-friendly recycled card sleeve designed by my friend Symeon Cosburn with photos by Ary Vidot. The CD version also includes immediate download of the digital version of Mandala in whatever format you prefer (FLAC, 320k MP3 etc).

I keep getting asked about the record; what sort of music is it? Is it really just bass? So here is some of the info I’ve started sending out to give you some background…

Simon Little releases solo album Mandala

Having been experimenting with live-looping technology for the past few years, bassist Simon Little has now released his debut solo album Mandala.

Best known for his work with The Divine Comedy, Clare Teal and Duke Special, Simon has appeared on numerous recordings and this is his first release under his own name.

The entire album was recorded using solely his Warwick Thumb VI, a wide array of effects and a Looperlative LP1. Simon uses live looping to create ambient soundscapes as a basis for improvistion. He explains:

When I was 17 I was listening to the Weather Report live album 8:30 and heard Jaco perform his solo live-looping piece ‘Slang’. It changed the way I thought about playing the bass and so began my obsession with making music using the bass as a solo instrument.

Whilst I was studying at The Guildhall School, a friend introduced me to the fantastic Eberhard Weber album Pendulum. This album really opened my eyes to the possibilities of using live-looping technology to create vast soundscapes and textures as a basis for improvisation.

Mandala is the culmination of my ongoing experimentation with looping technology. Each track is a live improvisation using the Looperlative LP1.

Mandala is available now on CD or digital download via Bandcamp at Simon’s website

Some lovely people have also been asking how they can help promote the record and spread the word online. As you can imagine this is incredibly important for an independent release and I am a great believer in the power of Social Media. My best suggestions for anyone who likes the music is simply to tell your friends, tell your colleagues and tell your family via whatever method you prefer. I use Twitter and Posterous to share new musical discoveries and recommendations. Some people prefer Facebook or Delicious. Some people even prefer MySpace (!). One great way to let people hear the album is using the embeddable player from the Bandcamp page itself. Just click the Share button to copy and paste the code onto whatever page you’re using. Easy…

Big thanks to everybody that has bought and downloaded the album already. I’ve had some great feedback and hopefully will be getting a bit of press coverage in the near future.

Hope you’re all enjoying the music…

Simon x

Sep 14 2010

Duke Special at the Shanghai World Expo 2010

Hello folks,

As many of you will already know from my last post, I’ve just got back from a week in Shanghai at the 2010 World Expo with Duke Special. The Duke was invited to play three shows at the UK Pavilion last week and we jumped at the chance. This was the first time any of us had been to China and to be honest the reality of the situation didn’t really hit any of us until we were being driven from the airport to our hotel in Shanghai and Richie turned around exclaiming “We’re in China!!”.

The expedition began on the Friday night at Electric Picnic in Ireland. We were headlining the Cosby stage. Annoyingly, we were on at the same time as Roxy Music, The Eels and Public Image Ltd, but it didn’t seem to matter in the end as we had a huge crowd waiting for us when we went on stage. We had a surprise cover lined up for the show and we were joined by the marvelous Mr Phil Jupitus for Ian Dury’s Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll (I’ve linked to a YouTube video here, the quality is a bit ropey, but you get the idea). We did have some time to wander round the site this time. Managed to catch a bit of Hurts and Laura Marling’s set, but unfortunately didn’t have time to see Jonsi (although did see him wandering around backstage, which was almost as much excitement as I can take… until John Lydon turned up!). The show was great fun and afterwards we drove back to Dublin to catch our epic flight the following day.

Eleven hours later we rocked up in Shanghai! The first thing that struck me like a house-brick in the face was the climate. It was generally between 31-33 degrees, with 85% humidity. Now, as many of you know, I don’t really do hot. I’m a hat and scarf kinda chap. We soon learnt that the mornings were a time to hide away rather than venture outside and that most people were wandering round like wet rags too; it wasn’t just us.

We did get a lot of attention walking around the streets of Shanghai. The Duke’s  dreads and my piercings were a particular fascination for the locals, but it was Richie and Phil who kept getting stopped in the street to have their picture taken with Chinese tourists. It was absolutely hilarious, especially in the Yu Gardens where we became a little attraction for about ten minutes in one of the squares…

Shanghai is utterly immense. It has a population of over 20 million people (four times that of the whole of Scotland!). Looking around from our base in downtown Shanghai, there are skyscrapers for as far as you can see in every direction. The city really comes alive at nighttime when the temperature drops a little (although not by much!) and the streets really fill up. The driving out there is incredible. Imagine driving around the West end on a Friday night, then speed it all up four or five times! Brilliant. The taxi drivers all honk their horns constantly; not a sign of road rage but instead to warn other drivers that they’re about to cut them up! Genius, if a little hair-raising at times. Definitely better than Alton Towers…

It was really strange having no access to Twitter or Facebook for the duration. I had a look at my website from a Chinese computer and noticed big gaps where Vimeo and YouTube videos had been blocked, my Twitter feed had been removed and any Facebook links turned up blank. As you’ll know I use Twitter literally all the time to stay in touch and not having that connection was pretty bizarre. I guess it was the one reminder that China is still a communist state. In fact, this very blog post will probably not come up in China. Hmm…

Back to the story…

The actual Expo site sits alongside the river and is almost like Disney World. To date they have received over 51 million visitors. Each country hosts it’s own Pavilion, with a vast range of architectural oddities: showcasing local food, art and entertainment, business, design and culture. The UK Pavilion was to be our home for three nights. Boasting an enormous fibre optic light installation on top of an extraordinary building, we were essentially playing on the roof. This will give you some idea…

The organisers really had no idea what the reaction would be from the Chinese audiences. There had been other acts on in some of the other Pavilions and we had several troupes of street performers working the area in front of the stage in the afternoon. Street performance and busking is banned in China so they went down a storm with big crowds gathering around them taking pictures and getting involved in the acts. When we took to the stage we were met with a big crowd sitting politely on the floor. This is what the organisers expected. They clapped politely after the first few songs. But by the end of the set the Duke had them jumping up and down rushing to the front of the stage, singing along (in a foreign language!) and screaming! Oh yes indeed folks, we definitely won them over big time! The Pavilion staff were bowled over with the crowd’s reaction and said they’d rarely seen anything like it from  a Chinese audience. Well, that’s the Duke for you…

We had plenty of time on the Shanghai trip to have a good look around during the day. We visited a few tourist-tastic areas. Amongst the first was The Bund (see above) alongside the Huangpu river, which looks out on the famous Pudong financial district. It’s a big tourist destination and great for photos! We also went down to the Yu Gardens to see some of the more traditional Chinese architecture.

We had such a great time in Shanghai. Great food, lovely people, great city! Big thanks to Tania, Bin-Bin and James at the UK Pavilion for looking after us so well. I promised Katy I’d take lots of photos whilst I was away and now have a big blog surplus, so here they are in no particular order in clickable gallery form. Enjoy!

And for those of you waiting with baited breath for news of my CD release, fear not. The Mandala CD will definitely be ready at the beginning of next week, if not the end of this week. The packaging looks stunning and I can’t wait to see them in the flesh. I shall of course post here to let you all know when it’s ready. Until then, you can still of course buy the digital version on my music page.

Until next time…