The DIY Social Network – Rockin’ Your Own Cloud (pt. 4)

The Garage Punk Hideout is a do-it-yourself social network for musicians, podcasters, and lovers of all things 'garage punk.'

Nowhere is the The Cloud more dense than in a social network.  For most musicians, navigating the world of social media means trying to get the word-out about a gig on twitter, distributing a new video on Facebook, or sharing a  music recommendation link with fans on Tumblr.  Executing a thoughtful multi-platform campaign can mean the difference between an audience of  one or one hundred.

Musicians also have a need to communicate with other musicians. Whether it’s co-ordinating a  three-country European tour or just looking for some new music to refresh the ipod, social networks like Facebook or twitter, no doubt, have a an immense and immediate impact.  But sometimes, a musician may have a need to go deeper into a peripheral social network to fulfill sub-genre musical needs that isn’t as satisfying at the twitter and Facebook-level.  Ning, the self-proclaimed “world’s largest platform for creating social networks” is helping musical sub-genre networks to flourish.

Ning mainly offers users the ability to build a custom social network alongside other users with similar interests.  Whether the topic is cars, gardening, politics or music, a point-and-click social network can be built with relative ease.  With Ning, the technical hurdles of building a social network online are easily overcome with several different page design templates. Also, built-in “social integration” is made easy with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.  The next largest hurdle  to traverse is recruiting other users to help build content, but with the right group of people, the “do-it-yourself” social network could become a vibrant online community.  An example of a musical sub-genre that has successfully burrowed out its own niche in social networking is GaragePunk Hideout.

The Garagepunk.com url redirects visitors to the modest 1114 member network operating on the Ning platform. The Hideout offers musicians a member forum, chat room, band and musician groups, and (my personal favorite) GaragePunk Pirate Radio. This section of the network is a collection of garage punk-themed podcasts showcasing music from bands like The Swingin’ Neckbreakers and The Hydes.  The network also offers submission guidelines for musicians hoping to have their music played on a GPPR podcasts.  The submission policy requires prospective musicians to register with MeVio’s Music Alley to upload their music.  The podcast producers, who are also members at Music Alley, search through the appropriate musical genre (or in this case sub-genre: Garage Punk) for the bands they want to play on their podcasts.  For musician’s protection, the Music Alley submission policy stipulates that musicians and/or labels maintain full ownership of their music.  What really stands out to me about the Garage Punk Hideout is the coverage of the sub genre of the sub genres which can include: surf punk, psycho punk, rockabilly. Another admirable feature of GaragePunk is the idea that it’s somewhat a “musician’s hang out.”  The posting guidelines on the GaragePunk band and musician page claims:

This is the place for bands and musicians to talk shop. Discuss your favorite gear, recording techniques, how to get that certain sound, touring, promoting your band, vinyl pressing services, CD duplication services, etc.

This is just an example of how musicians and music lovers with a DIY attitude can carve out their own place in the social cyberspace.

Next time more Cloud Watching.

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Happy New Year from The Cloud (Pt. Two)

While the SOPA opera continues to play-out in Washington DC, I have become more aware of so-called “music piracy.”  It’s obvious to me that if  bands do not want their music downloaded illegally, they have an option: don’t release any music. No albums. No singles.  Just play live shows.  Unfortunately there is the off-chance that some one could illegally record the live show and upload the recording to the internet for all to “steal.”  Personally, I think bands should be flattered if someone goes to the trouble of recording their shows, but that is going down a long and winding path; I’m here to discuss The Cloud.

I recently discovered that Soundcloud uses a flash video format for embedding audio files onto web pages.  The benefit of the format is that it allows listeners to play the soundclip but it prevents them from downloading it.  Musicians also have the option to “unlock” the audio clip in order to allow people to download it.  As part of the embedded audio/video file, Soundcloud  shows the audio wave form (a graphical representation of sound) while the audio clip is playing.  Here’s a link to an example of Souncloud at work:  Geneva punk grrl duo The Chikitas have embedded the audio clips on the music page of their website.

Many radio stations simultaneously stream their broadcast signal on their dedicated web sites.  If a band is lucky enough to get the station to play their song, then they have successfully had one-play on the web.  Not very significant or user friendly for the fan.  An online alternative, Last.FM is a music recommendation service that uses a process called scrobbling to identify music that a registered user likes and makes playlists and recommendations for the user based on the scrobbling data.  Here’s how Last.FM describes scrobblin

  • Scrobbling is a little note The Scrobbler sends to Last.fm to let us know what song you’re playing.
  • Scrobbling helps us tell you what songs you play most often, which songs you like the most, how much you’ve played an artist over a certain amount of time, which of your friends have similar tastes… all kinds of stuff. By focusing on the music you already play we can help you discover more music.
  • The Scrobbler automatically fills your library and updates it with what you’ve been listening to on your computer or iPod.

Essentially you build your own radio “station” by adding recommendations to your playlist.  If a musician wants to upload his or her music they simply play it on their ipod or computer and it automatically uploads to Last.FM.  Sorry SOPA.

In the United States there is a similar service called Pandora where a registered user can play musical selections similar to song suggestions entered by a user.  The user provides positive or negative feedback for songs chosen by the service, which are taken into account for future selections. While listening, users have the option to buy the songs or albums at various online retailers. But Pandora does not allow users to upload their music like Last.FM and play of a single artist is limited.  Pandora provides similar music, not a play-on-demand service.

There is still a lot of more information about The Cloud.  In part three, I will be taking a look at a build-your own social networking site and more.

 

Buying In to Sell Out

For bands, making money from music alone is not enough. Sometimes it's all about the merch. (Photos from Kings Road Merch and Indiemerch.)

Taking more notes from Mr. PJ Bond who, as of this writing, is playing his music around the United Kingdom, a musician can not live on music alone.  A lot of the money generated for independent bands and musicians doesn’t come from the sale of their music, but from their merchandise.  Getting from one show to the next means keeping a tight rein on expenses and shilling t-shirts, stickers and posters out of a well-worn suitcase after the show.

Although selling merchandise face-to-face is the most efficient way to turn money into food or gas, it’s impossible for one person or band group to manage a “merch booth” while performing.  Keeping an eye out to make sure money and inventory doesn’t disappear can be handled by a manager but most bands and musicians barely make enough money to keep the tires from falling off the tour van so musicians turn to the internet for solutions.  While a dedicated website is a great way to get information to fans, it can be cumbersome when it comes to selling merchandise.  Also, “official” band merchandise is difficult to keep “official”, in that more popular bands have their name and image re-sold “unofficially” through sites that have no link with the bands, therefore the bands do not receive compensation for money generated on their name.

Online retailers are numerous but some specialize in catering to musicians and bands specifically.  In an effort to find out which merch retailers are used  I have subscribed to some independent bands whose music I like.  Metal/Punk band Valient Thorr uses indiemerch.com. From their website:Indiemerchndising prides itself on relationships and quality… with the industry’s most advanced manufacturing capabilities and distribution services.”  The site is subdivided into the indiemerchstore section which allows a band to sell their merchandise through a web-based secure interface (indiemechstore.com)and another section specializes in manufacturing the merchandise whether its t-shirts, pants or hats (indiemerchandising.com ).

Indiemerch.com also offers a value add service by allowing bands to customize the look of their site in order to brand their retail page alongside their merchandise.  From the band-specific page a band can place links to their official website, latest blog updates, and the site automatically lists the best sellers.  Here’s a look at Valient Thorr’s indiemerch page.

A more popular indy band, Social Distortion, uses Kings Road Merchwhich offers similar services but has a larger distribution network throughout the world. (Social Distortion’s kings road merch page.)  King’s Road Merch offers merchandise production, tour supply, design, online stores, and retail distribution but doesn’t allow the same page customization as indiemerch.

There are countless merchandise sites that perform similar services but may not cater specifically to musicians such as: grindstore.com; zazzle.com; cafepress.com; rockabilia.com; scrappyapparel.com; bandwagonmerch.com; bandwear.com

Still there’s many other sites that cater to musicians merch needs and if you know of any that need adding to this post or to my research please send it along.

Start Me Up

Greetings to those of you who have found my little corner of the blogosphere.  I am taking on an endeavor that, on the surface, seems quite daunting but will hopefully shed some light on the music industry’s rapidly changing (r)evolution.  The idea is to explore the ways in which bands and musicians communicate online, whether it be through social media, multimedia, or “what-have-you.”  For the sake of simplicity and brevity, I will refer to these channels of communication as “new media.”  This exploration will also be supported by a paper which is for a class that I am taking at the International University of Geneva.  Since the world of music is vast and deep, I will restrict the discussion to bands and musicians that either I enjoy or serve the purpose of defining or explaining my point(s).

Tonight I will have an opportunity to travel with three solo artists from Geneva, Switzerland to their gig in Lausanne, Switzerland in order to get their insight on how they use new media.  I will use this information to catapult into the ever changing world of the music industry.  Wish me luck.