Jan 30 2013

Bandcamp For Fans. You Need This!

Whether you’re a music fan or an artist, the brand new fan pages from Bandcamp are really rather exciting.

Now anyone that has bought music via Bandcamp can sign up for a free fan page where they can showcase their music collection and browse the collections of other like-minded music lovers to discover new records. Yet again Bandcamp has come up with a clean, simple and effective system where iTunes has failed. The ill-fated iTunes Ping service lasted all of five minutes with it’s fussy interface and attempt at creating a social network, and now Bandcamp has managed to achieve a fully integrated music recommendation system without detracting from its core values or functionality. Here’s what my fan page looks like today (you can click on the link if you want to follow me!):

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As you can see, you get a really straightforward page showcasing the music you’ve bought on Bandcamp. You can show or hide whatever you like on your page, add reviews/comments to albums and select your favourite track for the player. You can follow both artists (which automatically signs you up to their mailing lists and lets you know when they release new records) as well as your friends and other fans so you get notified when they buy new music. And once you’re signed up as a fan, a little thumbnail of your profile picture will appear beneath any album you’ve recently bought on the artist’s page in the ‘supported by‘ section, as will any comments you’ve added as a recommendation.

This new feature has benefits for both fans and artists…

Fans now have access to a great music recommendation and discovery system for all the excellent independent music available via Bandcamp. Since they introduced the Discover feature last June, Bandcamp has steadily improved the way in which new music can be discovered in it’s vast library. Artists have been able to add up to three albums in their recommended section, which now features on their band page:

Simon Little's Recommendations

Fans can now be notified immediately when their favourite artists release new music or their friends buy a new record. And now you can show off your impeccable taste in your own personal corner of Bandcamp, and publicly show your support for your favourite artists. You can see who else has bought a particular record and explore the rest of their collection. There is also now a wishlist which enables you to save albums you’ve found that you might like to come back to and purchase at a later date. All of these functions are presented in the most straightforward way with an excellent UI. Marvellous…

Artists can now engage more with their fans and other artists alike. Fans are incentivised to pay for your music so they feature on your page as supporters and showcase your music in their collection (free downloads don’t offer these possibilities). Your music can now be found via genre and tag searches, artist recommendations and fan pages. You can expand your mailing list as people start following you and automatically gain access to your fanbase when you really need to; when you release new music.

Bandcamp describes the fan accounts as “a social music discovery system based on the high-friction concept of ownership“. The idea being to involve fans at a level greater than simply pressing a ‘Like’ button or scrobbling plays on last.fm, and thus engage more with a sense of community and support for the artists they love.

So in a nutshell, You Need This!!! If you’ve ever bought music via Bandcamp (and hopefully most of you reading this will have bought one of my records at least!) you should sign up for a fan page immediately. It’s dead easy and it gives you instant access to a whole world of music discovery. I’ve already found a few little gems purely through browsing my friend’s collections and the recommended pages of my favourite artists. The worst thing that could happen is that you end up blowing loads of money on some great new music…

If you have yet to use Bandcamp to purchase music, I shall of course suggest checking out my latest solo release [un]plugged and our new trio recording Foreground Music, Vol. I with Jez Carr and Mike Haughton. Of course. What better way to start your collection and connect with other music lovers? Enjoy…


Jan 28 2013

The End Of An Era? Goodbye To HMV…

This afternoon I did what I quite often do on a day off and headed into my local town centre in Windsor for a wander. I generally do this a couple of times a week. I go for coffee, do the food shopping. And I always have a look in HMV.

Not today though. Because it has gone. I posted this photo on Twitter and it caused quite a reaction…

HMV Windsor

Now I wasn’t particularly surprised at the stir this caused considering who I follow on Twitter and who follows me. There are a lot of independent musicians and fans of independent music who may well have little need of such a chain and probably haven’t visited a branch of HMV for years. But HMV has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember, so I thought I’d drop a quick post here partly to say goodbye and partly so you can share your thoughts too.

When I was learning music as a kid I dreamt of the day when I could walk into a big record store and find something that I was on. Sad but true. Now (well, until today anyway) I can walk into pretty much any branch of HMV and find at least one record that I’m on somewhere. Which is a great feeling. And I don’t get that feeling when it shows up on iTunes; even for my own records.

HMV Vintage Poster

But this is by the by. Obviously the massive shift in the music industry and the change in the way that people buy their music has had a huge effect on the high street. Richard Branson shut down his Virgin Megastores years ago. He saw it coming. They were largely bought up by the European firm Zavvi, which lasted all of five minutes. Fopp (my record store of choice) went bust when they tried to expand and got partially rescued by HMV. So they are doomed too which is a bloody shame as they were possibly the best high street music retailer (even after the HMV takeover) for both commercial and more esoteric music.

We can all see where HMV got it wrong. They failed to keep up with online trends, sporting one of the shoddiest websites around. They failed to compete with online giants like Amazon and play.com and lost out. Perhaps high street record stores were always doomed to vanish the minute music consumption shifted to digital from physical media (even given the supposedly renewed trend for vinyl). But I really thought that there was room for at least one big chain to survive on the high street. And HMV was the last man standing.

Vintage HMV Advert

I suspect that many of you reading this will probably say you buy your music (whether physical or digital) almost exclusively online anyway and won’t be sad to see HMV disappear from our high streets, citing it’s out-moded business models and pricing policies. And you’re probably correct. But I will miss browsing around the stores and finding little gems. I buy a lot of CDs folks, and I buy them in shops. I like to see what’s just come out in the new releases, see what’s on offer. I’ve bought a few albums having heard them playing in Fopp. I’ve even bought a couple of albums because (sharp intake of breath!) I like the cover. Yes indeed. I am particularly good at that it turns out. I like to happen upon things in Fopp and occasionally take a chance on something I’ve never heard of if it’s a bargain. I’ve never done that on Amazon.

I do also buy a lot of music digitally, either via Bandcamp or iTunes (yes I still use iTunes!). I like having the choice. If it’s an album by someone I love, I will buy the CD. I’ll always be first in the queue at Fopp when a new album comes out by someone like Bjork, Antony & The Johnsons or Sigur Ros. But I want to go to a shop. If I have to order it online I will most likely buy the download. It’s cheaper and it doesn’t take up valuable shelf space!

I know this blog post probably makes me sound very old-fashioned and over-nostalgic, but I really will miss record stores. And yes, I know there are still some independent record stores out there, but they are few and far between and even fewer stock anything I’d be interested in at a sensible price. HMV often did. And Fopp always did.

The same argument applies to DVDs too. I often pop into HMV and pick a cheap film to watch later in the evening. Can’t do that anymore. In fact as I walked through Windsor this afternoon the thought occurred that there is now not a single shop that sells music or films. Not one. And I’m sure mine isn’t the only town centre where this is now the case. @PintoDexter commented saying there are no dedicated camera shops on the high street since the demise of Jessops earlier this month, but at least you can buy camera gear in other electronic stores. You’d be hard pushed to go out and buy a CD or grab a film to watch tonight…

So tell me; will you be sad to see Fopp and HMV go? Am I really the only one? Do you think this will have any knock-on effect on the music/film industries? Do post your comments below…

This Store Is Closed: HMV


Jun 11 2012

Help Support Barnardos With The Oldie Composers

Hello folks,

Today is the official release of the Oldie Composers EP. With over 250 submissions, the four finalists had their songs recorded at Maida Vale studios in April (you can check out my photoblog from the sessions) and today sees the release of all four songs on iTunes and the Charity Goods website. I’ve just got home from the launch with Sir Terry Wogan at the BBC and we’re all very excited about the project…

The EP features performances by Anthony Head, FTW, Clare Teal and Andrea Ryder; with a stellar band including Marcus Bonfanti, Nick Mason, Ian ‘Squeezy’ Watson, Steve Rushton, Grant Windsor and Bond. And me on bass obviously…

You can buy a CD of the EP if you prefer from the Charity Goods website (there are a limited number available), but the best way to support the charity is to download from either iTunes or their site. The songwriter with the most downloads will win the Oldie Composers competition so you’ll be voting with your downloading! Although this is a charity EP, so if I were you I’d just download the entire thing…

You can have a listen to the tracks on iTunes (just click this link) and grab a copy of your favourites. At the moment it looks as if FTW’s version of Loves Forever is in the lead, but I’d also highly recommend checking out Anthony Head’s version of Cry by Marina Florence and Clare Teal’s Peace For The Child by Maggie Duffy. Not that I want to influence the outcome of the competition, obviously…

Big congratulations go out to all the finalists. The songs all sound great thanks to the sterling work of our producer AD Chivers. And as always big thanks are due to Hellen Bach (@HellenBach) and Norman Macintosh (@BigNormski1) for all their hard work in making this happen. Between them they have raised millions for children’s charities. You should follow them both on Twitter immediately to keep up to date with their various projects and see how you can help.

So please do share this post, tweet about the EP and tell your friends on Facebook. All proceeds from the downloads will go to Barnardos and we need your help to spread the word. Hopefully Radio 2 will be playing some of the tracks over the coming week so you may well hear us on air at some point too. It was an absolute pleasure to be involved with this project and I hope we can build on it for the future to make this a regular fund-raising event for this great charity.

Enjoy :)