Jul 17 2008

New Exclusive Solo Bass Track For Reverb Nation Fans

Hello folks,
Hopefully some of you who read my last blog will have checked out my new Reverb Nation page, where I’ve been posting tracks from my Solo Bass Podcast.
Today I posted a brand new solo bass track on the Reverb Nation page. This will not feature on the podcast and is an exclusive download for my fans on Reverb Nation. All you have to do is click on the link here and sign up to the mailing list to receive this exclusive download. Alternatively, you can sign up right here on the blog page; just go to the Reverb Nation widget in the sidebar and fill in your email address to sign up to the mailing list.

Jul 15 2008

Spreading The Word: My Social Networking Dabblings

As regular readers will know I recently started up a Solo Bass Podcast. With a view to producing an album of solo bass material later on this year, I wanted an outlet to post new ideas and hopefully gain some feedback. The second and possibly more important reason behind starting the podcast was to begin to build some semblance of a fanbase to whom I could promote the album on it’s eventual release.
I am a session musician by definition. ie: I make a living playing other people’s music in other people’s bands. As a musician in my own right, very few people know who I am or what I do. As a result, making myself known to a few people has become quite important. I’ve trawled the internet to find the most appropriate spots for me to have some kind of presence, and have started up profiles on a few key sites. As you will all know, my MySpace page has been up and running for several years now, but I’m finding the lack of interactivity and endless friend requests from obscure housewives-turned-jazz singers quite frustrating.
My first port of call was Last.fm, a fantastic music streaming service that I have been using over the last few months as a listener. For those of you unfamiliar with the site, Last.fm begins by collecting data from your digital music library (in my case iTunes) and can then recommend music based on this information. The ability to use the software to discover ‘similar artists’ has been the most fruitful for me. Each artist registered on Last.fm has an associated wiki page where users can contribute biographical information, pictures and videos. Artists also have charts showing their most popular tracks and shout boxes in their page for listeners to post their comments. I really liked the interactive nature of the site and wanted to get more involved with the conversational nature of the profile pages. So I signed myself up, created a profile page and uploaded all the podcast tracks. Of course, this may well drive some of the traffic away from the Podcast site itself, but the fact that I can see exactly who is listening to my music on Last.fm should eventually prove far more valuable when I actually have a product to sell. The other slightly embarrassing drawback is that (of course) I am my own top listener. I suppose we are all our harshest critics and my repeated listening to check what I’m posting all counts towards the total scrobbles. O well….
My second little project was to start up a Facebook Music page. This, to be perfectly frank, turned into a bloody nightmare. For some reason the whole process seemed frought with problems. The uploading of music/pictures etc was fairly straightforward, but there is almost no easy way to add functionality to the page. Maybe I’m just used to the MySpace system, which is initially incredibly complicated once you start editing HTML but once you’re used to it becomes almost second nature. I’ve lost count of the various applications and add-ons I’ve added an then instantly removed from the page. The features that really drew me to the site were the ability for listeners to share your music on their own pages and the availability of daily statistics for page views etc. Creating a buzz online is essential in trying to build a fanbase and it is only with the help of listeners/fans sharing your music and recommending you to their friends that the snowball effect can begin. This aspect is one of the things missing for me with MySpace, which has become so inundated with sub-standard music that finding something truly inspiring has become more than a rarity.
At this juncture I should probably mention that I also started up an iLike page, mainly as an add-on for Facebook. This has proved wholly disastrous and a complete waste of time thus far. I am apparently the only person who ‘likes’ my music and the page seems to have disappeared into the ether where nobody can find it. My advice if you are thinking about dabbling with iLike: don’t bother.
Which brings me to the latest addition to my online marketing adventure. Reverb Nation is proving the most valuable addition to the buzz-generating arsenal. Reverb Nation takes all the best qualities of the various social networking sites and presents them with an incredibly clean and user-friendly interface. Uploading the songs, pictures and biography couldn’t have been simpler. I loved the fact that you can import data from other sites to be viewed directly on your profile page. I was able to import my Blogger blog directly… In fact you may well be reading this very post on my Reverb Nation page! Ingenious thinking. I really have neither the time nor the inclination to post my blogs separately on all the various sites that I maintain and the ability to import the blog from Blogger and have this automatically update is a true blessing. The same applies to being able to import status updates directly from my Twitter account.
Reverb Nation has, for me, two additional benefits over the other social networking sites. Firstly, you have the option of making your tracks available for streaming or download, and the further option of making these ‘fan exclusives’. This gives listeners incentive to sign up to your mailing list in order to be able to download specific songs. In fact, I’m soon going to post a couple of tracks which will indeed be exclusive to Reverb Nation (ie: not ripped from the Podcast), in a vague attempt to bolster the numbers on the mailing list. The second huge advantage with Reverb Nation is the ability to place widgets from the site on other social networking pages, to spread the word even further. In fact, your fans on the site can do the same which is a massive bonus. This is exactly the sort of interactivity I’ve been looking for and precisely how I envision the ‘buzz’ may well be created.
I only created the Reverb Nation page a few days ago, so it hasn’t had many hits thus far, but I’m sure this will improve in the near future. The fact that the widgets appear on some of my other pages is already driving some traffic to the Reverb Nation page, and presumably some of these people will be coming to the site for the first time. This should theoretically get more people to sign up to the site and in turn allow them to discover more exciting music from the recommendations I make on my profile page. I posted messages on Twitter as each of these pages were initialized and a few key supportive members (who have also been listening to my podcast) were always the first to sign up. Thanks guys.
I got significantly more hits after solo bass master and social media guru Steve Lawson recommended me on his Reverb Nation Page. Which proves how the best form of buzz comes from direct recommendations, especially from such highly regarded artists. Incidentally, Steve has been incredibly helpful and supportive since I started my podcast and I’d like to give him my thanks and tell you all to go and check out his music. Steve also has a fantastic blog which he updates far more regularly and eloquently than I; well worth subscribing.
The biggest influx of traffic to the podcast itself (second only to when Steve posted a message on Twitter saying that he was listening) was after I posted links on the Warwick Forum about a week ago. I literally doubled the number of hits. Which just serves to prove that targeting your audience directly is always the most effective solution.
But I do wonder how many of these listeners will go on to sign up to the mailing list on Reverb Nation, or become a fan on Facebook? So far I’d say none of them. The next phase of my online adventure will be an attempt to further tie together all the various pages and services in order to build up a more cohesive and measurable fanbase. I would say that is where the true secret to success lies….

Jul 3 2008

A Busy Couple of Weeks…

Well it’s been pretty hectic in the Little bass world. I’ve been up and down the country with Clare Teal and I’ve just got back from Julie McKee’s album launch at the 606 in Chelsea. I’m sat here suffering with dreadful hay fever (always spoils this time of year for me), so I thought I might use this opportunity to fill you in on what’s been going on. Those of you who have been following my Twitter updates will have some idea of the driving involved if nothing else!
The first gig in Clare’s run was at Iford Manor (is it near Frome?) on the 20th . They put on music throughout the summer in their beautiful grounds, from jazz to opera. We were in the ‘Cloisters’; a very old stone building not much bigger than a double garage with a well in the middle of it. We were playing opposite the Jive Aces who were in a tent up the hill. Apparently the intended vibe was that people would scatter themselves around the grounds with their picnics and would be able to hear/see the live music from wherever they were. But of course it rained. Quite heavily in fact. But in true British style this did not stop the eager music lovers from enjoying the show. We performed in front of as many people as could squeeze into the little building, all in their wellies and wax jackets and everyone had a great (if rather damp) time. The boys even managed to do all their dance moves in the cramped space!
We then moved on to the Taliesin in Swansea. They always look after us at the Taliesin, it’s a great venue (although I can never find it in the middle of the University campus, I was driving around forever looking for signs… there are none). I went down early to meet up with my friend Dan who lives in Swansea now. I haven’t seen him since I was about 10 years old (!), we were best mates at primary school and lost touch when my family moved to Dorset in 1990. We got back in touch via the wonders of Facebook and it was so good to see him again. It’s really funny how some people never really change. He was exactly as I remembered him and we had a great time catching up at the pub down the road. The Swansea show was great and the sound was amazing. The drive home however was a nightmare. Torrential rain made progress very slow. In fact AD (who had decided to go to Swansea on his bike) and I eventually decided to stop for half an hour on the way home to wait it out.
We played a charity gig in Bath on the Monday for Myeloma UK at the St James Memorial Hall. There were a few people there who’d been at Iford Manor and as well as putting on the show Clare donated all profits from CD sales on the night to the charity.
On the 25th we played Stamford Arts Centre up in Lincolnshire. Stamford is a beautiful little town; old limestone buildings and churches, about 100 miles north of London. Well worth a visit if you’re up that way. The Arts Centre is a great resource for the local community, putting on everything from music and cinema to workshops and comedy shows. Again we were well looked after by the staff there and we played in front of a packed crowd.
On Saturday we all drove up to Barton Upon Humber, near Hull. That was a long way. Managed to spend about seven hours in the car that day, maybe eight. In fact, I dread to think how long I’m spending driving at the moment (or indeed how much I’m spending on petrol- is it me or does the price of petrol go up by a penny every couple of days?). We played at St Mary’s Parish Church, a venue we’ve played before. It’s always a tricky acoustic playing in churches (anyone remember The Divine Comedy at St James’ on Piccadilly?), especially with bass and drums. Bass frequencies just disappear into the ether whilst the drums reverberate for days… We managed to get over this as always and had a great show.
It’s interesting to note at this juncture how atmospheric conditions affect the double bass (not to mention my hay fever). A couple of recent shows have been rather damp (to say the least). Even the show in the church was cold/damp enough to have an adverse effect on my instrument. Double basses are far more susceptible to this than electric basses and it’s a constant source of frustration to me. The neck seems to soak up all the moisture in the air, as well as the fingerboard, making the instrument incredibly unpleasant to hold and play. I’ve got a proper outdoor gig tomorrow (the ones mentioned thus far have been technically indoors), and to honest I’m dreading what it’s going to do to my bass. I feel another trip to see bass-repair maestro Roger Dawson in the near future…
Last night was the official launch show for Julie McKee’s new album ‘What A Woman Shouldn’t Do”. Those of you familiar with solo-bass supremo Steve Lawson may well have heard her before. She’s got a great voice and is a wonderful song-writer. We recorded the album a while back at the Cowshed in Bounds Green (a great studio if you’re looking for somewhere to record, I’ve done several albums there already). Last night’s lineup included Nigel Price on guitar, John Blease on drums, Rob Gentry on keyboards and Sam Chaplin on trumpet, with club-owner Steve Rubie sitting in for one tune on alto flute. If you are not yet familiar with Julie’s music, she’s well worth checking out. Her album is available at her official website, as well as Amazon, CD Baby and iTunes. Or you can have a look at her MySpace page to have a listen to some of the new songs.
Well, that’s just about all the news for the moment. If you haven’t already had a listen to my solo bass podcast, you can check it out here. There’s been a couple of new posts since my last blog and as always do feel free to leave your comments and suggestions on the Podbean page.
Until next time…
Here’s a little photo of Colin and AD soundchecking at the Cloisters in Iford Manor