Dec 6 2012

New Trio Record Preview Track!!

Hello folks,

Yesterday I got together with Jez Carr and Mike Haughton to work out what we’re going to do with the trio project.

We’re going to release an album very soon. It’s going to be called Foreground Music, Vol. I. As soon as it’s mastered by Jez we’re essentially good to go so watch this space for the release announcement. We’re going to put it out on Bandcamp. As it stands the album runs at about 72 minutes of freely improvised music over eight tracks. We’re all so pleased with the way it came out.

So, what does this music sound like? I hear you ask. Well, as a special treat for you all here and on Facebook and Twitter, here is a little preview track from the album. It’s mixed but not mastered. This will be the closing track from the record and is a lovely piano/saxophone feature. Not much bass on this particular track boys and girls but fear not; there’s all kinds of bottom end action to come.

Also, you’ll be glad to know that Jez has recently rejoined the world of Twitter and is now fully tweetable (!). You can find him at Jez Carr. He has also added his wonderful duo album with bassist Steve Lawson Conversations to his Bandcamp page. You should all check this out while you wait for our trio record. Here’s the handy player so you can have a listen…

So watch this space and Twitter for the release announcement. It could be as early as this weekend if it all goes to plan. Exciting times. Hope you like the preview folks!

Until then…

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…

Oct 5 2008

Down and Out in Paris and Denmark (Part II)

Hello folks. Thanks to all of you that left comments and messages on Part I, it’s always good to know that you’re enjoying my tales of rock & roll calamity. And also thanks to all those of you who have subscribed via Feedburner over the last week or so. It’s great to see so many people getting involved in the blog. I had 25 new subscribers today alone (this is a record for me, I usually average around 15), which is very encouraging.
Thought it was about time to compose Part II. My memory is notoriously crappy in these situations and if I don’t get it down soon, I will have forgotten all the details. As it is, the Danish extravaganza was quite literally a whistle-stop tour and I’m finding it rather tricky to work out what happened where… I think it’s about time I started blogging whilst on the road. Expect something of a running commentary on the Duke Special Irish tour in November…
I finally arrived in Denmark late morning after the aforementioned Journey From Hell (including 1 taxi, 1 bus, 2 planes and the joyous overnight stay in the bus shelter). I was expecting to be met by Chrys and the band with our splitter van at Billund airport. As there was no sign of the van I gave him a call to discover that our van hadn’t even made it past Willesden Green. Chrys had spent a lot of time making the van more comfortable and had installed a little flatscreen TV for some on the road movie action (Pimp My Van style), but sadly the van decided it would break down before even leaving London. It turned out they had to hire a new van at Brent Cross, and Mark and Steve had to hire a car when they arrived at Billund earlier in the morning. I was met by our Danish promoter Bent who drove me the extra 90 minutes to Holsterbro. 
We were playing at the Kielgatan in Holsterbro. This is a great little venue and they looked after us really well. Which was lucky; I’d already been up for two days by this point. The stage was a bit of a squeeze, so we had to set up the wrong way around, ie; bass and keyboards stage left instead of stage right. For some reason this buggered me up no end on the gig. I seem to stand stage right in pretty much every band I play with. It’s incredibly strange to me how such a simple thing as where one stands on stage can totally throw you during the performance. I’m making too much of this really, to be honest it just threw out all my rock and roll moves which didn’t really work pointing the wrong way! The gig was really busy; it was a seated audience but plenty of people were standing so there was a good atmosphere.
We moved on to Sonderborg on Thursday. We were staying at the same great little hotel we were in last time. Don’t ask me it’s name, I have no idea. But it’s by the sea and has a windmill attached to it. We were playing at the Sonderborghus again, which is an artsy theatre-type gig in the centre of town. I do have a tendency to remember gigs on the quality of the food (shallow? yes) and this one was not a disappointment! A great little bit of buffet action was a welcome change from the deluge of cheese and speckled ham I’d been subjected to thus far that week. 
I’d had more than my fair share of technical issues during this trip, with virtually every one of my leads crapping out on me at some point and my pedal board performing it’s obligatory “I don’t like European voltages” hums and buzzes all through the week. My setup comprised almost entirely borrowed and stolen leads by the end of the run.
The show went down a storm, so much so that we were forced to bung in a second encore of Family Man at the last minute. Much to the surprise of our keyboard player Gordon, who had never played it before! Luckily, it only has a few chords…
After the show we found ourselves back at the hotel in that classic post-gig scenario we always seem to face in Denmark; the bar was shut. I really cannot fathom why hotel bars in Denmark insist on closing at around 11pm. We seem to end every night during the tour sat in some lobby or passageway nursing whatever spoils we had managed to liberate from the rider earlier on. It’s hardly rock & roll now, is it?
Which brings me on to Gadstrup. We arrived in Gadstrup (which is apparently near Roskilde) the following afternoon to met with the least glamourous of our hotels thus far. To put it mildly, they looked like what can only be described as a poorman’s Butlins chalets, directly facing the noisy railway line in a small town in the middle of nowhere. In fact, I found myself compelled to take a little photo to show you….
Oh, the glamour! Horrible, stinking, spider-infested shithole. The complete polar opposite of the previous night’s accommodation. O well, we thought. Onwards and upwards. Anyone who tells you that touring is all glitz and glamour is frankly talking shit. You can show them this picture if you like…
I got instantly bored after we checked in and went for a stroll around ‘town’ in search of a decent coffee. Fat chance my friend. It was one of the most bizarre towns I’ve ever been to. The centre essentially consisted of one main high street which had a small supermarket, one cafe/restaurant, two charity shops and five (yes, five) hairdressers. Why a town that small requires five hair cutting establishments is beyond me. Christ knows what these people spend their time doing during the long Winter months, but you can be sure none of them will be in need of a haircut.
We played a show at the Ramso Musichus up the road. This was one of those venues, apparently quite common in Denmark, which are run by a committee who get together and hire a band once a month to play in their own venue. I really like this idea, it’s something I have yet to come across in this country. Basically, they all club together and decide who they’d like to see, then approach the artists themselves. Because they owned the venue, they took great pride in the upkeep and had hired in a great sound system. 
It’s always a little odd playing these small folky clubs with Maggie. We are not the quietest of bands and it’s always a bit tricky playing the full-on show in such confined spaces. The room was laid out with a series of long tables set out for dinner, like some kind of masonic luncheon. I jokingly said to Maggie just before we went on that they were having a raffle in the break, and maybe a quick round of bingo. Unfortunately, Maggie didn’t quite realise I was joking and wished the audience good luck in the raffle just as we left the stage at the end of the set. Oops. The show was small but fun. Both the audience and the band had a great time and were very appreciative.
The biggest show of this little run was at Train in Aarhus (“In the middle of our street”). Train is a fairly large venue, which is very popular on the Danish music scene. It’s one of the places everyone plays at and it was good to finally play somewhere with a decent capacity after all the smaller shows we’ve been playing of late. You can tell almost instantly when you walk into a venue what sort of place it is. Train even smelt like a proper rock and roll venue (ie; it smelt like stale beer and sweat, but in a good way!). Nice big stage, fat PA and good lights. We knew as soon as we arrived that this was going to be the best show. It was.
We played the full-on set this time (we tend to tone it down quite considerably for the smaller venues) and loved every minute of it. Maggie’s show works best when we can stretch out with the dynamics. Which kind of requires a bigger venue. Train was definitely the highlight of the Danish run and I’m looking forward to playing there again soon. It turned out that after the show, Train turns into the clubbing venue in Aarhus with literally hundreds of people queuing around the block to get in. We made our escape back to the hotel (bar shut) and watched the carnage unfold outside.
These were the last shows this year with Maggie. Hopefully we’ll be back on tour soon in the new year with a new album, so watch this space.
Since I’ve been back I’ve been busy rehearsing with Jonathan Jeremiah and Duke Special. I’ll be touring Ireland with Duke Special in November promoting his excellent new album I Never Thought This Day Would Come, which will be released in Ireland on October 17th. The dates are all up on my MySpace page. 
As soon as I get a chance I’m going to go into solo bass overdrive as I’ve just got my hands on a new bass. It’s a Warwick Thumb NT VI (my first sixer) and will from now on be known simply as ‘The Beast’, because quite frankly, it’s a monster. I’ve just got it back from Martin Petersen at The Gallery who has worked his magic and given it the perfect setup. Let me tell you folks, it’s been a challenge putting it down long enough to write this blog post. Make sure you subscribe to my Solo Bass Podcast to keep up with the veritable deluge of new tracks that will inevitably come through in the near future!
On another note, I downloaded the new Lawson/Dodds/Wood album Numbers a couple of days ago and it’s the best thing I’ve heard in ages. Go forth and purchase people. If you order it now, you get the download version with a bunch of excellent bonus tracks, and then when the CD is released in November, you’ll receive that in the post too. Such a great idea. You can order the CD from Steve Lawson’s online store here.