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!):


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 15 2013

Instagram: Why I’m Sticking Around…

Over the last few weeks a lot of people have been talking about leaving Instagram in the wake of their recent changes in Terms and Conditions. A few of the people I follow have obviously deleted their accounts and some friends are certainly planning on doing so in the near future. I’m sticking around. Here’s why…

Instagram Logo

For those of you unfamiliar with the service, Instagram is a social network based around a mobile application (initially on iPhone but more recently on other mobile platforms). It allows users to share their photos on Instagram and across several other social networks at once (including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr) and hosts a vast online community of mobile photographers. Many users when they first come to the application see it as an easy way to edit their photos with it’s range of custom filters, borders and tilt-shift type  functions and you can certainly get some great results using it’s basic edit suite.

As many of you know I am  big fan of mobile photography. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you will no doubt be aware of the umpteen photo posts in any given week, all of which would have been shot and/or edited on my iPhone. In fact, the last four albums I put out (including [un]plugged and the new trio record Foreground Music Volume I) have had their cover art created entirely on my iPhone. A lot of the techniques I use have been learnt from Instagram. It is a fantastic resource for mobile photographers. With the plethora of applications available it is great to be able to see how other mobile photographers create and edit their shots and the ability to search Instagram via tags can be incredibly useful. Instagram-based groups such as JUXT and AMPt provide great tutorials and interviews with mobile photographers (professional and amateur) as well as providing curated feeds showcasing some of the best work on the network. Both of those groups now have their own dedicated sites.

Juxt Logo

I have learnt so much about mobile photography and photo editing from my time on Instagram. I don’t feel this would be possible on any other one social network. Rival networks such as Flickr and Tumblr simply don’t have the same sense of community.

The crunch came when Instagram was bought up by Facebook in September last year. In December they released a new set of terms and conditions which, to be fair, could very easily be read to mean that Facebook had the right to sell your photos. It prompted headlines such as this in the Guardian:

Facebook forces Instagram users to allow it to sell their uploaded photos

After the obvious backlash and droves of users quitting the network, Instagram revised the published terms and privacy policy to clarify the situation and take into account users feedback. Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom issued this blog post about the revised terms. The way I see it, the new privacy policy and T&C’s are no different to those of it’s now parent company Facebook. If I post any image online it is essentially public wherever it’s is posted. Whether Facebook, any other site or individual uses one of my images (which I find most unlikely to be perfectly frank) is pretty much beyond my control anyway. There is nothing to stop me taking a screenshot of any image online and using it, apart from the obvious copyright implications. Facebook already uses your profile picture in targeted adverts (ie; “Your friend Simon Little is using Instagram; why not give it a try?”) and they will supposedly/presumably be using Instagram images in a similar manner. Whatever…

Dylan Tweney recently wrote an excellent blog post about how to take back control of your social networks. Virtually all the social networks have very similar privacy policies and terms. Facebook pages have become rather elusive now unless you pay to ‘promote’ your posts. Who can and can’t see what you post is very much under their control and we become ever more reliant on fans and  followers sharing news items to their friends if we want them to be seen. Good old-fashionned bloggery is the way froward boys and girls. This is probably warranting another post of it’s own…

The only preserve of the actual users of any social network is the sense of community that only they can maintain. There is a fantastic and supportive community on Instagram that I would sorely miss if I were to quit. Just as I would miss it if I were to quit Twitter (Heaven Forbid!). I have learnt so much from this community and I learn new things every day. This is why I am sticking around thanks very much…

If you are an Instagram user, come and say hello! I am @simonlittlebass over there. If you’re not but would like to see my gallery, you can do this via the marvellous Statigram, which is a handy web interface for viewing Instagram shots if you’re not a registered user (or even if you are!). I shall leave you with a little gallery of recent shots. Until next time 😉 x

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