Category - tools

Useful information about tools for conquering the new paradigms

Jon Vezner has an App for That

Another video for your viewing pleasure:

Jon actually sent me this video himself a couple of days ago, and I found it clever and entertaining in a “novelty song” sorta way. But after reading this account in Music Row magazine, I think I’m even more intrigued with the the time, effort — and, no doubt, expense — that went into this particular effort.  Seems there were quite a few hands on this particular project:

The music video, created by filmmaker Louise Woehrie of Whirlygig Productions is inspired by Vezner’s wry humor and deadpan persona. Using a traveling minstrel theme, Woehrie joined forces with co-director/editor Chip Johnson and graphic designer Casey Burres to bring the tale to life as Vezner dons his troubador hat to comment and commiserate with fellow app addicts about life on the cutting tech trail.

I wonder what the budget was, and how it fits into a larger marketing plan.  I mean, where’s the “email for a download” function that would build Jon’s fan base (it’s not on his website) ?

I mean, it’s very clever, but it also seems to to exist in something of a vacuum, marketing wise.   What’s the plan, Jon?  How is this building your audience?  I’m sure there’s a method to your madness, clue me in?

Oh, and if you’re viewing the video on your computer, blow it up to full screen – the HD quality holds up VERY nicely.

The State of the Arts – In the Cloud and At Home

Since I started these blogs about a year ago, it has occurred to me on multiple occasions that if I was going to write about the Celestial Jukebox, then maybe I should undertake a serious survey of all the various services that lend themselves one way or another to that appellation.  Little did I know just how big the job that would have been – had I actually pursued it.  Now I know.

Thanks to a very comprehensive survey that has been conducted by the good digital folks at The Guardian, we can compare more than a dozen different streaming audio services, aka “music in the cloud:”

Click The Image to See the Whole Chart

It is interesting to note that this survey doesn’t even include the “internet radio” (an oxymoron if there ever was one) sites like Pandora, Slacker,, etc.  that offer “push” modeled delivery — i.e. you make one choice, and then the service decides what you hear after that. I’m actually rather surprised to discover that there are so many “pull”-modeled services, where everything is delivered entirely “on demand.”

Whatever you want to hear, whenever you want to hear it… and now — thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices and streaming service apps — pretty much, wherever you are.

Which brings me to a couple more items under this general heading…. Read More

So You Wanna Be a “Musician” ?

Bob Lefsetz is one of the more controversial pundits in the musical blogosphere.  I honestly don’t know what his personal history is.  Former label executive maybe?  Doesn’t matter.  In the past couple of years he’s achieved great notoriety for his prolific “Lefsetz Letter” blog posts in which he beats the dinosaurs further to death with one hand while shedding light on what the new species need to survive with the other hand.  It’s quite a balancing act.  Some readers think he’s insightful, some think he’s a “blow-hard.”

And I figure “if you’re not pissing somebody off, you’re just not trying hard enough.”

To give you some idea of the Lefsetz effect, consider this shot of the “text in your questions”  screen behind one of the panels at this week’s Country Music Summit in Nashville:

There weren’t any other music bloggers whose name came up during the entire two week conference.

All that by way of introduction to a recent Lefsetz post called The Long Haul that has been making the rounds of the Inter-tubes and offers some fundamentals on how musicians can prosper amid the new paradigms.  Bob doesn’t like it too much when other sites lift his material, and I can’t say as I blame him on that score.  I want people to follow the link and read the whole thing from Bob’s own site.  As an enticement I’ll take the risk of Bob’s wrath of posting these three excerpts:

5. You must work live. It’s the best way to connect with people.  You’ve got to be so good, you close the audience. Performing is a different skill than playing in a studio.  Start honing your chops now.  Play anywhere and everywhere you can.  Not focused on the money, but the development of stage skills.

14. Be available on every social networking platform. Of course, Facebook, but a new act could make headway using Foursquare.  Hell, have your fans come meet you at Starbucks!

17. Release dates are irrelevant. You’re in constant marketing mode.  But the best marketing is a great track, that will be spread far and wide.

The first one should be pretty obvious to anybody who wants to play pick or sing.  The others are more pertinent to the current environment.  Read the whole post.  And while you’re at it, read the posts that follow, Personality Counts and Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You.

And don’t give up your day job.

Is This The Solution to Dwindling CD Sales?

Maybe soon, even "swiping" a card will be old news.

We’ve all heard over and over again that the revenue generated  from CD sales has been plunging over the last decade.  The music “industry” is decomposing dinosaur, even as  music itself flourishes in millions of hearts and venues.  But lately I’ve been hearing anecdotal accounts of declining sales from that final refuge where CD sales actually still make sense — at touring artists’ gigs, where the physical product still has some “souvenir” value.

But in the past few weeks I’ve also been reading about devices  that convert your cell phone (most typically the iPhone, y’all get with the program now…) into a credit card swiper.  The most commonly referenced gizmo is the Square, shown in the photo that accompanies this post.

This morning I’m reading more about the growing popularity of these highly mobile transaction processors:

Light wallets are not a problem for Joe Mangrum, a sidewalk sand painter in New York, who has been using Square to take donations from passers-by and sell copies of his book. Sales have increased sharply since he started accepting credit cards on his iPhone, he said. “I’ve made the sale as opposed to twiddling my thumbs because they don’t have the cash.”

The new services could have the biggest impact on the smallest businesses, like farm stands or house cleaners, that accept only cash and checks because they do not have stores to house credit card terminals and do not want to enter into complicated, long-term relationships with credit card companies.

“…farm stands or house cleaners…”?  How ’bout we add to that list “itinerant troubadours” who rely on the sale of CDs and other merchandise at their shows to support their chosen livelihood?

But wait, here’s an even better scenario:

Brian Kusler, 40, a software engineer, is already helping dollar bills join Susan B. Anthony coins as collector’s items. After he polished off grilled lamb and zinfandel at a San Francisco restaurant recently, his dining companion paid the bill and asked him for his share. Instead of hunting down an A.T.M., the two bumped their iPhones together, and Mr. Kusler wirelessly transferred his part of the bill, about $100.

I’ve got “Bump” on my iPhone and have to say it’s a pretty slick approach to exchanging information.  So let’s ramp the concept up a notch:

Another issue I’m hearing from my traveling troubadour friends is how difficult it is to just carry enough inventory on their travels – especially when they take their show overseas.  Download cards offer a partial solution but still require some kind of monetary exchange to complete the transaction.

So this is what the world needs now:  Let’s call it “iTroubadour” — the artist bumps his iPhone with a fan’s, the dollars are instantly transferred into the artists’ account… and a download is initiated on the fan’s unit that transfers the purchased music to his smart phone.

And then we can all stand around after the show and watch the artists and fans punching each other.  Cool beans, huh?

I hope I haven’t just given away a million dollar idea.  I mean, if it’s occurred to me, surely it’s also occurred to somebody who can actually DO something about it.

Hello, Bump people, are you listening? I want that app yesterday.

Got RSS?

I admit, I’m pretty late to the Google Reader / RSS feed party. I finally figured out the Google Reader about a year ago and now it occupies a central place in my daily media diet.  More recently, I’ve started using an app called “New Rack” on my iPhone and iPad (it’s better at redirecting me to the original posts than gReader, which seems to always want me to stay in the Googleverse).

The acronym “RSS” stands for “Real Simple Syndication,” and while at times it seems not all that simple to implement, it should nevertheless be part of any active communicator’s regimen. Your website needs to have an RSS feed – which is just one reason I am recommending WordPress as the foundation of your web presence these days.

For example: I follow at least two dozen individual musicians; by follow, I mean I subscribe to their individual e-mail newsletters. But that is starting to get tedious and hard to follow. There is no centralized way to keep that input in a single place.

There is another handful of musicians whose RSS feeds I subscribe to.  Their stuff is all in one place, and the Reader tells me immediately when there is something new to open and read.

So if you’re not already familiar with RSS, have a look at this video:

Click the screenshot to play "RSS in Plain English"

Then, if your website is not already configured to provide an RSS feed, make it so.

Oh, and, a generous and grateful nod to Ariel Hyatt for posting this to her CyberPR blog this morning.  I, of course, received word of it through her RSS feed….

E-Mail: What Else Have You Got?

It’s pretty much a given that effective e-mail contact is an indispensable part of growing and communicating with your fan base.  No news there.  But now that everybody is onto that game (let me see now, how many e-mails am I getting from musicians every week?  Too many to count…), it might be worthwhile to take a moment to review some important points re: maintaining an effective – and regular – e-mail campaign.

I ran across this item from the CDBaby “DIY Musicians” blog (which I follow regularly with my Google Reader), and one point struck me in particular, so I’m posting it here as well:

2. Give them something – Don’t just send them a bunch of words on a page. Give your fans a picture, a YouTube video, a link to download a live song, b-side, or demo. Heck, even a picture that relates to your topics or catches their attention is better than nothing.

The rest of the post is pretty straightforward, maybe even obvious (“Don’t spam!”  Well, duh!).  But that point seems worth noting.  Your messages should be more than “I’ve got these shows… I’ve got this new CD… please send me some of your money thankyouverymuch…”

The central principal of the new paradigm is “contact and engage.”  And that means doing something more than listing your shows.  If you’re going to contact your audience, make sure the contact is as worthwhile for them as it is for you.  Even if it’s just sharing a photo that one of your fans posted to flickr.

Lessons from the Road

Tom Kimmel

My old (in both senses of the word) friend Tom Kimmel spends a fair amount of every year wandering around the world, singing his songs wherever two or more are gathered.  In a recent e-newsletter he shares some of the invaluable lessons he has learned from those many days on the road:

10. Winter is a good time to play in Florida.

9. The Kansas City airport is a hundred miles from Kansas City, and the Denver airport is actually in Nebraska.

8. Fly Southwest: book ahead, pay for early check-in, carry on your guitar, and bring your own sandwich.

7. Avoid the rooms by the indoor pool, the ice machine and the elevator.

6. “Urinal farthest from the door… has the least pee on the floor.”

5. Unless you’re a masochist, avoid your GPS’s “dominatrix” voice setting.

4. The Highway Patrol officer is not interested in your story.

3. Check in, put a towel over the television and go to sleep.

2. Truck stops have the best gizmos, but never take a shower at one.

1. There are good people everywhere, and they’ll help you out if you give them a chance.

“Social Media” ? Give It a Minute…

…or more like a coupla/few of months.

I’m always intrigued when somebody professes to be an expert in “social networking” because I figure an “expert” is somebody who’s been at something for a while — you know, like, years — which is really longer than “social networking” has actually been around.

But in the endlessly evolving environment of digital media, an “expert” is really somebody who knows…. just a little more than you do.

Bill Seaver

By that (admittedly low?) standard, Bill Seaver is somebody who has lately focused his attention as a marketing expert on social media, so it warrants our attention when he says:

In my experience it takes three or four months for most people to begin to see positive results in any of the above areas. By they time they cross the six month mark, however, they tend to feel like they really have momentum going for themselves and the sky is the limit.

Amen.  The post is worth reading — but bring with it the understanding that there is going to be a lot of diligent “hand-cranking” of these “high-tech” tools before you’ll see any meaningful results.  It will take at least four months, maybe six, maybe more before the effort pays off.  So add the word “patient” to the expression “hand-cranking.”

And don’t be surprised if the skill sets you acquire at the outset of that period are entirely different from the skill sets you wind up with at the end.