Changing the game for artists

July 25, 2012 | 3 comments

Contrary to what you may have heard, the web creates all kinds of new opportunities for artists – as long as they choose to engage with their fans and markets. Making money is about business, after all, but the positive thing about choosing to engage yourself is that you get to decide where the line between art and commerce sits. Everything is put in your hands.

My sister is a local-scale musician. She streams her work-in-progress songs for free from Soundcloud, sells her album from Bandcamp, promotes via Facebook and Twitter.

She’s also an ecologist by profession, which means that her music can afford to be a little quirkier (and occasionally strays into diurnal migration strategies). Uncommercial? Not necessarily: a Facebook app called Hear It Local allows anyone to book her for a house concert:

Of course, you might not have the resources to book a band to play in your living room (although I note that Hannah’s decided not to list a minimum amount). No matter; you can crowdfund the gig, and build attendance in the process:

These grassroots tools are a natural fit for the web, and change the game for smaller artists like Hannah. They can use them to power their own gig-related campaigns, or they could build a fanbase that could invite them to come and play in a particular location. (I know that the Canadian startup Sceneverse intends to take this to the nth degree; they’re worth watching.)

Just as there’s no need for all startups to be the next Facebook, there’s no need for all artists to be the next Madonna. These kinds of tools serve the spectrum in-between, allowing smaller, riskier artists – the ones that might have had to compromise to be picked up by traditional mass-market distribution methods – to earn good incomes from their art. That can only be a good thing for all of us.

Edited to add: Josh Russell pointed out that Artspotter seems to have a similar mission. What similar services are out there? Let’s make a list.

Ani DiFranco’s crowdsourced video for “Which Side Are You On?”

May 9, 2012 | 1 comment

It’s nice to see my favorite musician embrace social media a little more:

Here she is on Twitter and Facebook. I came to the project late, and I’m not sure how the photos were contributed; there’s a site at, but it’s not hugely inspiring. Nonetheless, the song is, and it’s a great start.

Hannah’s album, and why Bandcamp is awesome

November 7, 2010 | Leave a comment

Hannah, my sister, set up shop on Bandcamp this afternoon in order to sell her album, Pre-Apocalyptic Love Song. I set up for her and put together a simple header graphic based on something she drew a while ago – and in the process, totally fell in love with Bandcamp. This is how a music service should be. Here are some reasons why:

It makes it easy for fans to share. I bought the album, of course. I also shared it with my friends on Facebook and Twitter from her page. And now I’m sharing it with you – literally – by embedding it here in my post:

It’s simple and cheap. Upload your music; choose a price; yield 15% to the service (or 10% once you reach $5000 in sales). The only downside is that you have to upload your music in a large, raw format, but this allows for the next major benefit:

Customers can download music in the format of their choice. MP3 is obviously the default option, but OGGs and FLACs are present and correct for the audio geeks, as well as AACs for the iTunes-bound. (And of course, they can preview the music as a stream for free.)

The analytics are great. It’s a couple of steps short of being Google Analytics for music, but the stats section updates in real-time and lets you know which songs people are listening to all the way through and which songs they’re skipping past. That’s honest, aggregated statistical feedback that no friend will ever give you.

And for extra geeky bonus points, the stats have a “defender” mode. I wasn’t sure what this meant, so clicked to find out:

Yep, that’s Defender, superimposed over Hannah’s album stats. (It’s day one, hence the massive peak.) That’s the kind of easter egg I love.

It’s easy to customize. Configuring DNS is never going to be the world’s simplest process, but Bandcamp’s instructions were just right. Of course, this is my bread and butter, so I know what I’m doing, but I feel confident that anybody could follow them and make the process work.

I can’t sing, play an instrument or write music, but if I could, I’d have signed up already. As it is, I’m content to keep checking Hannah’s stats and find new technological ways to bring her music to a wider audience. Bandcamp is the best way I’ve seen for independent artists to set up shop on the web.


January 31, 2010 | 2 comments

Rock IIMy sister is a singer-songwriter. Her songs are great, and you can find them in the usual locations: MySpace Music, and Facebook. Interestingly, though, she’s decided there are different purposes to each:

  • Her page contains more polished recordings.
  • Facebook has those too, but also contains more rough-and-ready demos, ideas and experiments; it’s also updated the most, probably because she spends more time on it than on any other site.
  • The MySpace page seems to exist because you’re expected to have one.

I wonder how common this is? Any other musicians care to comment? Is there one best place to promote yourself as an independent musician?

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