Archive for March, 2011

Social media and the DIY music scene: Part 2 (the interview)

This may come as a surprise to those in the music industry, but for musicians who’s careers are not based solely on hype, social media is not the most essential tool they have.  For hardworking musicians who write, record, manage, book, and promote themselves, the personal connections that are most valuable to them are made the old fashioned way, according the Frank Copenhaver, Hurricanes of Love.  Frank’s amiable and memorable personality makes it easy for him to make strong connections quickly, and besides being a phenomenal musician, this is probably his greatest asset.  Frank says he does use Facebook to keep in touch with the people he meets on the road but more often than not he will use his cell phone to get a hold of contacts while on the road.  There is something just a whole lot more personal about receiving a phone call and hearing someone’s voice on the other end.  This fits in with Frank’s whole ethic, as described to me by Andy Kruczkiewicz.  “Be involved and be flexible.   You have to use social media to get the word out but it helps to be memorable, nice, and larger than life, like Frank,” said Andy.  Facebook’s events function makes it a lot easier to promote shows.  Frank said there is a Facebook event page for every show on his tour and Frank is usually pretty active on these pages.

Frank cautioned me about getting detached from this process.  He told me a story about a band he played a show with the other night that had a booking agent and all the other “hot-shot accoutrements”.  He said this band showed up to the gig, played their set and left without talking to a single person.  Frank said they didn’t even stay to collect their portion of the donations.  Instead, they had their booking agent contact the guy who collected the money to ask for their cut.  “They were good but they were so detached. They didn’t want to communicate and they expected this anonymous person to collect their money.  It was out of this world,” said Frank. “ It was like a lesson in what not to do.”

Shane Donnelly warned me about getting caught up social media hype.  He said, “A lot of music blogs are super specialized. They might only have about a hundred readers.”  This seems logical when you think about the long tail theory. Shane also said he has met a lot of bands with “blown out egos, that think they’re famous just because some blog mentioned their record…For me, as an artist I try not to pay to much attention to that.  I try to stay in touch but not get wrapped up in the hype,” Shane said.

Shane also noted another peculiarity about the music blogosphere; the fact that for a lot of bands it’s hard to solicit a bloggers review.  “A lot of bloggers don’t want to hear from bands. They want to feel like they discovered the band, not the other way around,” Shane said. “It’s a strange mindset, it’s almost like some music bloggers are just vying for bragging rights.”

All the hype aside, Andy noted, social media does have one really important role to play in the DIY music scene.  “It’s a great way to listen to music if you can’t get a hard copy. Social media is eliminating the need to physically pass a CD along,” said Andy, “and that makes it a lot easier for your band’s music to spread by word of mouth.”

My interview closed with Frank, Shane and Andy all giving me a little sound advice from their experience on the road.  ”More than anything else, you want to connect with people spiritually, you need to get in tune with the spiritual web of life,” said Frank.  ”I bust my ass seven days a week eight months out of the year so I can have the winters off to do this sort of thing and when I’m waking up at seven a.m. on a Saturday during the middle of summer I just tell myself these experiences make it all worth it,” Andy said.  ”The point is, it’s hard work but, if you want to do it you can do it,” Andy stated in summation.

 

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Social Media and the DIY Music Scene: Part 1

For this last blog post, I figured I would share a little bit of my first hand experience with social media and the DIY (Do It Yourself) music scene.  I’m writing this after a late night of gigging and chatting with fellow musicians.  Last night, my played a gig at the Crayola House, one of the few remaining houses in Harrisonburg, VA that still has all ages, no cover, shows several times a week.  The line up was Battery Acid Stories (my band), Big Drum in the Sky Religion, Hurricanes of Love, and Many Mansions.  My band was invited to do the show by Frank Copenhaver, or Frank Hurricane, as he likes to call himself.  Frank is a larger than life character and one of the most genuinely good-hearted people I know.  His solo act, Hurricanes of Love, is a uniquely moving blend of psychedelic, folk and blues.

I first met Frank about four months ago when my other band, Malatese, played a show with him at the Blue Nile.  The booking manager/sound guy, Mark Finks, asked us if Frank could stay at our place.  We agreed to put Frank up for the night and after the gig we hung out for a while.  That’s when I got to know Frank. Frank stayed at our place again when he came through on another tour last month.  That’s when he asked us to play last nights gig with him.  Both times Frank came to Harrisonburg in the past, he played at the Blue Nile, but this time he wanted to play a house show, which isn’t that hard of a thing to arrange, but it was even easier because the drummer in Battery Acid Stories lives at the Crayola House. We secured the venue and informed Frank who passed the word along to Many Mansions.

So around seven o’clock last night Fank and Many Mansions (Shane Donnelly and Andy Kruczkiewicz) showed up at my place. Then around nine o’clock we went to Crayola House to set up for the gig.

On the Facebook event we made for the show it said to arrive at nine, but no one ever arrives on time.  So Battery Acid Stories didn’t go on until about 10:15.  After us, Big Drum in the Sky Religion played an awesome improvised set reminiscent of Bitches Brew era Miles Davis.  Then Hurricanes of love played with Many Mansions providing auxiliary percussion.  Frank’s voice has a soulful quality that really shined on the Crayola House PA, which is a hodgepodge of speakers and mixers in a constant state of decay.  Frank’s set sent chills up my spine several times and really put me in a blissful mood.  After Frank, Many Mansions went on.  Shane operated the sampler, synth, and mic, while Frank and Andy did percussion.  Many Mansions blends psychedelic, afro-beat and soul to create some truly amazing tribal, dance music that had everybody in the crowd dancing, including myself.

Crowd size was about 25 at its peak but fluctuated through out the night.  By the time the show ended, around 1:30, there were only about four or five people left who weren’t in bands.  The donations bucket had a pretty hefty amount of cash and Frank and Many Mansions split it to help pay for gas.  All in all it was a pretty good turn out for a Wednesday night in Harrisonburg.  Looking back now, the Facebook event had 31 confirmed guests so it was a surprisingly accurate indicator of crowd size.  Usually the Facebook event attendance is somewhat inflated because it is real easy to click the attending button and totally forget about the concert when show day arrives.

I left Crayola House around 1:45, citing the amount of work I had left to do on this blog project as the reason I couldn’t stick around and hang out.  When I got home I ate some food and brewed a pot of coffee, preparing for the all-nighter that lay ahead of me.  That’s when I had the idea to interview Frank, Shane and Andy, real life touring musicians, on how they use social media.

 

SXSW and the Future of Social Media

South By Southwest (SXSW) has a history of being the launching point for new social media applications, according to Daniel Terdiman.  Back in 2007, before Twitter really took off, the buzz it generated at SXSW helped bring Twitter to the forefront of social media.  In 2009, location based service, Foursquare, launched at SXSW and garnered a lot of attention.  Since then, the interactive portion of the SXSW festival has been seen as the jumping off point for new social media applications, as well as the proving grounds for existing social media applications.  This should not come as a surprise, SXSW is also a major launching point for rising musicians. Each year, Austin TX is overrun by tech savvy twenty-somethings, and the buzz generated during the festival can make or break the career of musicians and app developers alike.  So the big question is: What does SXSW 2011 hold in store of the future of social media?

Once again in the forefront of the social media discussion are location-based services.  Right now, these services are experiencing considerable birth pangs, according to David Berkowitz.  Services like Foursquare and Gowalla are trying to expand beyond the niche market that a purely location-based application attracts to a wider audience.   During these tentative times, location based services are trying to move passed mere novelty to something useful for a large number of people.  As a result, this year’s SXSW has seen the introduction of coupon elements to location-based applications.  Perhaps these special offers will breath life in to location based services or maybe they will fade into the background, as strictly coupon based services overshadow the hype location-based apps originally garnered.

This years SXSW also highlighted an interesting flaw in the social media design behind Twitter: what happens when too many people use it.

 

As seen in the above video the sheer number of people using Twitter during SXSW may be its only weakness.  In the future, Twitter will need to figure out a way to make it easier for users to access only the most useful information so that they aren’t overwhelmed by the mass flow of information.