Oct 24 2008

Is MySpace finally dead in the water?

Thought I’d draw you into the conversation with that provocatively titled post…!

I made the decision last last to finally upload one of my solo bass tracks (the most recent post on my Solo Bass Podcast, Calling Out) to my MySpace page. Until now, I’ve used MySpace purely as a promotional tool for my work as a session player, ie; the bulk of the work I do playing for other people. My music player therefore featured tracks by various artists I’ve recorded with over the last few years, including Clare Teal, The Divine Comedy, A Girl Called Eddy, Chris Difford and Ian Shaw. I thought it was time to introduce more elements from my solo project. I’m getting closer to wanting to start work on the actual finished album, and once I have a product to sell I’m going to need as many people to know about it as possible.

Which brings me to my first dilemma. I have quite a few ‘friends’ on MySpace (3,452 is todays count). My current music profile has been active for almost two years now. Most days I get a few friend requests from various bands and solo artists who seemingly have no relation to what I do and more than likely have never heard me play. Very occasionally they attach a message introducing themselves, or saying how/why they found me which is always appreciated. I make a point of sending these folk a little thankyou message/comment, as I believe these are the people I’m really aiming to engage with online.
I’m guessing that most of the MySpace ‘promotion’ tools that other bands use to contact their friends are via the blogs and bulletins. I stopped using my MySpace blog a few months ago in favour of this Blogger site, which is both far more interactive and has myriad sharing/subscribing possibilities thanks to Feedburner. I found that virtually nobody would read the blogs on my MySpace profile; but the minute I posted the same blog on Blogger, various people would start subscribing and leaving comments. Which is the whole point of blogging; engaging in a conversation. I seriously doubt whether the majority of people that visit my MySpace page actually hang around long enough to read the blog, let alone listen to all the music.
The bulletin system is fundamentally flawed as a promotional tool. Once a user has more than 1,000 ‘friends’, they no longer receive bulletins. Which is entirely sensible. Before I got to that stage, my MySpace home page was something akin to my junk mail inbox, littered with a variety of messages inviting me to “Come listen to my new song” or “Check out my new video”. Frankly, I don’t have the time and if I was that interested in your band, then I would have made the effort to check your page under my own steam. I do make a point of visiting several key MySpace profiles regularly to see what new projects are on the go. In fact, the ability to receive updates from selected users only (starting with your top friends as default) has been incredibly welcome navigationally. Thus, if I was to send out a bulletin on MySpace informing my friends of a solo show or a new release, chances are that 90% of them would never see it.
This is my main issue with MySpace. It’s complete lack of interactivity and flexibility. My Reverb Nation page has become the hub for all my various social media dabblings. My blog is imported straight into Reverb Nation, as are my status updates via Twitter, which means that the page is kept alive and vibrant without me even having to log in every day. The music player behaves exactly as it should, making sharing my music clear and simple. Unlike the MySpace music player…
Last night’s uploading was a fiasco, let me tell you… My good friend Eddy was on the phone to me last week in a panicked state over the demise of her music player on MySpace. It had disappeared entirely. A little investigation concluded that her page was not the only one to suffer this glitch. As I uploaded Calling Out, I had the distinct feeling I was in for trouble. although the track uploaded properly, the associated artwork didn’t (and it seems still hasn’t, despite two subsequent attempts). And the fact that I designated the track a free download has been totally ignored. Nearly 15 hours later, the track still cannot be downloaded and plays with no artwork. Rubbish.
The plodding user interface is a nightmare to navigate and frankly I’ve had enough. My most recent gripe with the site (and judging by the plethora of similar exclamations on Twitter) is it’s insistence on plaguing users with drop-down banners which completely obscure the page you’re viewing. And more worryingly in the last few weeks it seems that several of the links you click on to navigate around the site suddenly transport you into another page entirely, loading up some promo clip. Now, this is really not something I would have expected from a ‘social networking’ site. Over the last few months MySpace has been almost entirely overrun by corporate nonsense and it is undeniably getting worse every day. I give it another couple of months before all those bloody awful ‘Adult Friend Finder’ type ads start encroaching on MySpace. Seriouly, it wouldn’t surprise me. We’re 3/4 of the way there already.
A few days ago I sent a MySpace friend request to a band called Nohno, a fantastic industrial-electro/ambient duo from Newcastle. I don’t remember how I came across their music (although I suspect they cropped up on Last.fm), but I really liked the sounds they were creating and wanted to know more. I received a message back from them yesterday asking me to let them know how I found them and basically to confirm I was not some kind of MySpace friend-gathering machine. So I replied and the conversation began. This is a rare occurrence on MySpace and I took the opportunity to point Dean in the general direction of Reverb Nation.
I don’t think it’ll be long before more musicians become as disillusioned with MySpace as I am, and will start to investigate other avenues to engage with their audience. And I think Reverb Nation will provide the most effective template.
Anyway, enough of this ranting. As Stephen Fry says in his last excellent Podgram, an angry article writes itself. And I shall duly leave it there.
So how have the changes in MySpace over the last few months effected your perception of the site? Have you, like me, been forced to migrate elsewhere? I’d love to hear your thoughts…
Until next time.
Simon x

Jul 29 2008

Maggie Reilly Slupsk Festival: A Field Report

I’ve just returned from my first ever gig in Poland. In fact it’s the first time I’ve been to Poland at all. The Maggie Reilly band once again ventured out into unknown territory to perform at the Rock Legends Festival at the Amfiteatre Dolina Charlotta in Slupsk. This really is a very beautiful corner of the world and I can highly recommend a visit. The festival site was situated on a huge lake, in the middle of which sits a wonderful floodlit guest house and restaurant. In fact, here’s a little piccy I’ve swiped from their website….

The band flew out of Luton airport on Thursday. I didn’t. I had a duo gig at the National Theatre with Julie McKee that night and had to fly out alone at a rather ungodly hour the following morning. Flying out later did allow me to not only do Julie’s gig, but also dash off to attend Steve Lawson and Lobelia’s wonderful gig at the Perseverance later that night. I had a great time Thursday night and also met some of the lovely Twitter folk. It also helped me stay awake in order to catch my plane!

As those of you who know me well will know, early mornings are not my forte. And the chances of me getting any sleep knowing I had to leave the house at 4.30 were, to be frank, slim at the very least. So I decided to pull an all-nighter and go straight out to the airport. I’ve had to do this a number of times in the past to catch early flights and have a number of cunning rouses to stay awake and alert. Having dinner at midnight is always a winner: an attempt to fool my body into thinking it’s much earlier than it really is….

I arrived in Gdansk at midday, to be met by the son of the festival manager. We had to wait another hour for the backing singer from Chris Norman’s band to arrive from Germany (she was also working the previous night), so more coffee was eagerly consumed (I was starting to feel the effects of the all-nighter at this juncture). The 120km drive to Slupsk took far longer than it should have because of holiday traffic. Apparently we were heading in exactly the same direction as Vladislavova, a popular Polish holiday destination, so you can imagine the traffic on a Friday afternoon. What should have taken an hour or so eventually took three hours.

I arrived at the festival site just as Chris Norman finished sound-checking. Interestingly, nobody from Maggie’s band had called me thus far to see where I was… I would discover why shortly.

As I fitted some new strings to my bass and stepped up onto the stage to organise the hired backline, our lovely German promoter Earnst appeared asking me about who needed what on stage gear-wise. When I told him I wasn’t sure whether Stuart was going to be playing any guitar or not he abruptly turned to me and said “Stuart isn’t here. He’s broke his arm”.

What? I swear this was the first I’d heard about it. The rest of the band then arrived from the hotel (I didn’t get to the hotel until after the show, by which point I’d been up for over 40 hours straight). Chrys’ friend Gordon was depping on keyboards and guitar. He’d only got the call a few days previously and had been feverously working out the parts with Maggie back in Glasgow. 

As a result, our sound check turned into a full on run-through of the show, encores and all! Under normal circumstances this wouldn’t have been a problem. But I was trying to save a little something for the actual show energy-wise, and it was 29 degrees out there and the stage was positioned facing directly into the blistering sun! Let me tell you, I have never been so hot in my life. We must have been up there for a good couple of hours and by the end of it we were all soaked through and mildly sunburnt. Possibly one of the most unpleasant soundcheck scenarios to date?

After some great food at the restaurant on the lake, we were on. I have no idea how many people were at the gig, but I would guess somewhere between 1500 and 2000. The Amfiteatre was a great layout for a show like ours and the crowd were fantastic. The onstage sound was probably the best we’ve had so far (until the end when the radio mics started picking up local talk radio!) and Maggie went down a storm. Gordon shook off his earlier nerves and put on a fantastic performance. We even got a number of ‘Las Vegas intros’ (where the crowd start clapping about 8 bars into the song when they recognize the tune!). In previous shows these only really occur on the hits (Everytime We Touch, Moonlight Shadow, To France etc), but this time we even got them for tunes from the latest album Rowan. I think this bodes well for future shows in Poland….

We had a great time in Poland. A great show,great food, a lovely hotel and some great people. I’m hoping we get invited back to so the Rock Legends festival next year, and hopefully we’ll have some more Polish dates in the near future. 

The next show with Maggie will be at the Somersted Festival in Denmark on August 9th, before our run of Danish shows starting September 24th. Check my MySpace Page for more up to date gig info.

In the meantime, those of you who haven’t yet had a listen to my Solo Bass Podcast, just click on the link and download to your heart’s content. And don’t forget to sign up to my mailing list at Reverb Nation to keep up to date with progress on the solo bass project. Just sign up as a fan and you’ll be automatically added to my mailing list and will also get access to the exclusive download ‘Gentle Rain’.

Until next time….

Simon x

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.