Artist Interview Wrap-Up    How Artists Interact with their   Audiences Nancy Baym, Social Media Researcher, University of...
Table of Contents <ul><li>How the internet has superpowered fans , by Nancy Baym page 3 </li></ul><ul><li>Changing relatio...
  Bruce Houghton  recently wrote on midemblog  that for all the talk of moving from control to collaboration at MidemNet, ...
We hear much talk and hype about facilitating the connection between musicians and their audiences, but what does it reall...
If you said that to a 16 year old kid now they’d think you were talking about the stoneage!  I mean music’s universally ac...
N. Baym: “Do you pay attention to the communication that your audience has with your audience about you?  “   S. Braithwai...
N. Baym: “What motivated that decision? ” S. Braithwaite:  Well, we have our own label anyways. We’ve been putting out oth...
The folk-rock singer-songwriter Erin McKeown talks to Nancy Baym about her evolution from paper mailing lists to email lis...
I think at the time that was pretty standard, so I think now nowadays if I did a snail mailing list and did a postcard, I ...
N. Baym: “How do you think they’re doing it now?” E. McKeown:  Social networks. I think that’s the main way that people ar...
N. Baym: “What’s frustrating? That the people who are listening to you through unauthorized copies weren’t counted or that...
Steve Lawson, known to many as SoloBassSteve on Twitter, is an independent solo bass player who’s carved out a space for h...
And that was in the forefront of my mind.  I want my site to be constantly evolving.  And what’s what a blog allows you to...
N. Baym: “And then you’re on Facebook.” S. Lawson:  I’m not sure about it.  The jury is out on Facebook.  Every now and, a...
Marillion were one of the first bands to catch on to the power of the internet to change the financial and emotional struc...
Actually, by this point, once they had said all this I was like, “Well I think you’re a bit crazy but if you want to do it...
N. Baym: “So you’ve continued to use fan funding ever since, haven’t you?” M. Kelly:  Yeah, we’ve done variations. It’s be...
Kristin Hersh has been making music with her bands Throwing Muses, 50 Foot Wave, and as a solo artist since the mid-1980s....
N. Baym: “Sometimes the fact that you can have so much communication with your audience on the Internet is a challenge for...
N. Baym: “Yeah, I saw you tweeted that. You said, “You’ve got to stop thanking me.”  And I thought, “Wow. This is not what...
3.     Relating to fans over the long haul The Grammy-award winning Jars of Clay took to the internet as soon as they star...
N. Baym: “Do you still pay a lot of attention to the discourse around you that’s out there?” S. Mason:  Yes, but some of w...
Sydney Wayser is a talented singer-songwriter who’s recently released a critically-acclaimed second album,  The Colorful ....
And then I have a blog which I’m talking about this process of recording of an album.  I’m working on my third record righ...
N. Baym: “Do you feel like it might have been kind of nice to have been doing this 20 years ago when you didn’t have to wo...
N. Baym: “Can we talk for a second about the intermediaries that you have?  So you’ve got Emily White who’s managing you a...
Electronica musician, DJ, label entrepreneur, and multimedia artist Richie Hawtin, also known as Plastikman, feels strongl...
N. Baym: “What are the different ways that you communicate with your audience now besides being out and meeting them when ...
Billy Bragg has had a long and distinguished career in music, and has been one of its most impassioned and outspoken perfo...
N. Baym: “Do you still get letters?” B. Bragg:  Not anymore. It comes down this tube. There’s an address on the website so...
If I’ve said something that’s ambiguous or that’s questionable or I’ve done something that they want to hold me to account...
N. Baym: “At MIDEM a few years ago, Peter Jenner made a comment that has stuck with me.  He said – we were talking about a...
7. « If you make yourself invisible, people won’t care » Interview with Greta Salpeter – Gold Motel After three albums wit...
So that was one thing that our manager told me right when we started. We were playing arena tours opening for Fall Out Boy...
N. Baym: “Were they all on there from the Hush Sound days?” G. Salpeter:  I think yes, yeah, mostly. Let’s see. Twitter wa...
Also, I should add to the second category, the social media, we also have a YouTube page, and like every week or two weeks...
Nancy Baym is a well-published expert in fan community and the author of the blog  Online Fandom  and the book  Personal C...
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Nancy Baym: How Artists Interact with their Audiences - Interview series wrap-up

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Over the past years, Nancy Baym has interviewed numerous artists for midemblog, about their relationships with their audiences and the way they communicate with them.

This series of interviews aims to better understand communication between artists and their audiences from the artists’ perspectives and to discover which tools and strategies help musicians connect more effectively with their audiences.

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Nancy Baym: How Artists Interact with their Audiences - Interview series wrap-up

  1. 1. Artist Interview Wrap-Up   How Artists Interact with their Audiences Nancy Baym, Social Media Researcher, University of Kansas Online Fandom Blog (USA)
  2. 2. Table of Contents <ul><li>How the internet has superpowered fans , by Nancy Baym page 3 </li></ul><ul><li>Changing relationships, changing industries page 4 </li></ul><ul><li>Interview series with Stuart Braithwaite (Mogwai), Erin McKeown, </li></ul><ul><li>Steve Lawson and Mark Kelly (Marillion), Kristin Hersh </li></ul><ul><li>3. Relating to fans over the long haul page 21 </li></ul><ul><li>Interview with Stephen Mason (Jars of Clay) </li></ul><ul><li>4. Building a sustainable career page 23 </li></ul><ul><li>Interview with Sydney Wayser </li></ul><ul><li>5. Building global community page 27 </li></ul><ul><li>Interview with Richie Hawtin (Plastikman) </li></ul><ul><li>The double-edged sword that is the internet page 29 </li></ul><ul><li> Interview with Billy Bragg </li></ul><ul><li>“ If you make yourself invisible, people won’t care” page 33 </li></ul><ul><li>Interview with Greta Salpeter (Gold Motel) </li></ul>
  3. 3.   Bruce Houghton recently wrote on midemblog that for all the talk of moving from control to collaboration at MidemNet, too many in the music business still seem focused on control. As an outsider who’s focused on the fans, not the business, it was clear to me at MidemNet that for all the many exciting things discussed, the dominant discourse still represents online music consumers as thieves or (marginally less insultingly) as revenue sources to be “monetised,” rather than as people who love music and who use the internet to engage in and build the kind of passion that the industry ought to crave. Control is a real issue, but like it or not, those who used to have all of it aren’t going to get it back. The internet has superpowered fans and all the legislation and lawsuits in the world won’t put that genie back in the bottle. Collaboration with music audiences on the internet is not just nice rhetoric, it’s the only vision of the future that offers hope to the business of music. Fans are going to do what fans do. You can work with them or against them. Ted Cohen wrote here that “we need to creative sustainable partnerships & deliver services that address fan behaviour.” True collaboration doesn’t just mean accepting the loss of control, it also means understanding what it is that drives fans to organise and what they do when they interact amongst themselves. When you understand fan behaviour, you can work with those practices to facilitate fans’ attachments to one another and to the bands they’ve gathered to discuss. My talk at MidemNet, Making The Most of Online Fandom, which I am delighted to offer again here, explains online fan behaviour. It’s a topic on which I’ve been conducting academic research since 1991. In the talk, I identified the core practices of music fans online and off, explained how the internet has empowered fans, and suggested guidelines for how artists and those who represent them can foster symbiotic relationships with fans that benefit all. Focus on the money, and you’ll drive away the fans. Focus on nurturing musicians’ relationship with them and their relationships with one another and, as presenters such as Jill Sobule, Mike Masnick, and Mark Kelly showed, the money will follow. 1.     How the internet has superpowered fans – by Nancy Baym Over the past years, Nancy Baym has interviewed numerous artists for midemblog, about their relationships with their audiences and the way they communicate with them. This series of interviews aims to better understand communication between artists and their audiences from the artists’ perspectives and to discover which tools and strategies help musicians connect more effectively with their audiences.
  4. 4. We hear much talk and hype about facilitating the connection between musicians and their audiences, but what does it really mean to artists to connect directly with their audiences through all the means available now? What has changed and what has remained the same as the channels for interaction have been radically reconfigured? What works for them and what doesn’t? How does it change what they think they need from industry professionals? This series, which shares its name with a talk I gave recently at Harvard looking at the relational complexity of the new music economy, will continue to explore these questions and more. In this interview, Stuart Braithwaite of Scottish band Mogwai, talks about how the coming of MySpace opened up new possibilities for their audience to contact them, bringing new kinds of rewards and opportunities, but also challenges they’re still sorting through.    N. Baym: “Have there been ebbs and flows of connection to your audience over time?”    S. Braithwaite: When MySpace became popular and people could write straight to a band, I think a lot of people had never considered that you could just email a band. When that first started we got a lot of correspondence through MySpace from people I don’t think would have considered sending us an email. I remember one guy, an American soldier guy in Iraq, sending an email about how he’d listen to our music to try and escape from his dreadful day to day existence. I can’t see that guy having written us an email.    N. Baym: “As a band that had been together before there was MySpace what was your reaction when you started getting this increased flow of direct messages? ”  S. Braithwaite: I guess that it was kind of good. And it’s another way for people to hear music. I mean I remember when if you heard a song on the radio you had to go around to every record shop and maybe have to ask them to order one in to hear it again unless you taped it off the radio.  Interview with Stuart Braithwaite - Mogwai     2. Changing relationships, changing industries
  5. 5. If you said that to a 16 year old kid now they’d think you were talking about the stoneage!  I mean music’s universally accessible. Every single piece of music practically ever you can find in five minutes and listen to and buy if you want to. That’s also helped our band, because we’ve become popular in places that if it wasn’t for the internet, people wouldn’t have heard who we are, just because either people wouldn’t have the money to buy the music or there just wouldn’t be any promotion. We can pretty much play anywhere. I don’t think that would have been the case 20 years ago.  I think we would have sold more records 20 years ago just because people bought more records then, but we wouldn’t have been able to go places that we go now, like really unusual places like Chile or Indonesia or these kinds of places. I don’t think our music would have reached those places before.    N. Baym: “How do you feel about that tradeoff of selling fewer records but getting more global interest and opportunity?”   S. Braithwaite: I think I’m fine with it to be honest, because I think that in our case it’s balanced out because we tour quite a lot. Tickets cost more now as well. They probably cost three times as much as they did when we started out. So from a business standpoint, we’re probably making about the same amount of money and also getting more experiences. I like going to places.    N. Baym: “How do the online interactions you have with your audience compare to the face-to-face ones? ” S. Braithwaite: We don’t really meet people face-to-face anymore because the places we play all have dressing rooms behind the stage so we don’t really get out among the people. That happened at the same time the internet became popular, so it’s hard to say what was what. It’s different. I get annoyed at people online for leaking records or making stuff up and I don’t think that happens offline. I don’t get annoyed at people offline.    N. Baym: “Do you feel like you have a responsibility as a musician to interact directly with your audience?”   S. Braithwaite: I don’t know if it’s a responsibility, but it definitely helps. I think that people like to feel connected to the people that make the music. I definitely think that people appreciate that.   
  6. 6. N. Baym: “Do you pay attention to the communication that your audience has with your audience about you? “   S. Braithwaite: Yeah. There’s a Mogwai message board and I know the guy that that that runs it, so I’ll look at that quite often and see what people say.    N. Baym: “It’s a fan board not an official board?” S. Braithwaite: Yeah. I don’t think we would have the time to moderate that, although they do a good job, so maybe we could just get them to do it for us. But I think it’s better that they should have their thing because I think if it was our own board, I don’t know, you kind of feel tempted to have no one say anything negative and that wouldn’t really be fair.    N. Baym: “Does it bother you when you see people saying negative stuff on there?” S. Braithwaite: I don’t really mind I think if it’s fair. If someone doesn’t think you’ve played well or doesn’t think our record’s very good, then that’s fine. I think that, not so much on boards about our band, but I think on other people on other random boards, I’ve seen people say things that are kind of unfair and maybe just a bit swingeing. Obviously no one likes that, but it doesn’t really bother me. If the worst thing that’s happened to you is someone saying they don’t like your band on the internet, then you’re doing ok.  N. Baym: “Now that you can do it yourself do you feel like the role of managers has changed?” S. Braithwaite: I think there’s maybe some more aspects that there didn’t used to be. People don’t just have a publicist they now have a web publicist, so that’s another job. It used to be each band just had a lawyer, a concert agent, and a publicist and record label. So maybe there’s more to do. And there’s also the issue of records leaking, so you’ve got to kind of try and work your way around that. Either embrace it or think of a way to try and stop it. So I think there’s more to do. And less money to make.    N. Baym: “Do you still think there’s a place for record labels? ” S. Braithwaite: Well we’re not staying with our label for our next record. We’re going to do it ourselves.   
  7. 7. N. Baym: “What motivated that decision? ” S. Braithwaite: Well, we have our own label anyways. We’ve been putting out other bands records, so we had the infrastructure. And I think just looking at the math it just doesn’t make any sense. But to be fair there is a place for record labels and if it wasn’t for the record labels we’ve worked with over the last whatever it is, 15 years, we wouldn’t be in a position where we could do it. Because record labels’ primary purpose is to publicize the band and make the band known and now we are known so we can do it ourselves. But I think if it was a brand new band — I mean I remember what we were like, we were really naïve and really wide eyed. It would take a very savvy young band to become popular without a record label.    N. Baym: “Is there anything about thinking about how you’re supposed to get to your audience through the internet that you find yourself of going back and forth or struggling with or not sure what to do?”   S. Braithwaite: Well I’m not very technological. For our live record and film that’s coming out we organized a thing where if a fan sent the trailer to someone on Facebook then they got an mp3 then they got on the mailing list and all that kind of stuff. And I wouldn’t be able to do that. No way. I mean maybe someone else in the band could, but I’ve not really talked to them about it. I think it would probably be a lot of work and we might make a mistake. In fact here’s an example, we actually did that ourselves and Craig, our label manager, sorted it out and he did a good job. But the system he was using could only download 1,000. So the first 1,000 people got it and then afterwards people were getting errors. So we did try and do it and we kind of made a mess of it. So there’s a place for people who can do that kind of thing.
  8. 8. The folk-rock singer-songwriter Erin McKeown talks to Nancy Baym about her evolution from paper mailing lists to email lists to MySpace to Facebook and Twitter. N. Baym: “I wanted to talk about your communication with your audience over time.” E. McKeown: I’ll give you kind of an overview. When I started playing music of my own in high school I wasn’t aiming at it in terms of a career. I didn’t really know that was possible. I just liked doing it, and I liked performing and the more I did it, the more I liked it and so I just kept finding ways to do it more. I don’t know when the idea of a mailing list got presented to me. But at some point someone said to me “you need to have a mailing list so that people if they come to your shows if they like it you know how to find them again.” N. Baym: “Email mailing list or snail mail?” E. McKeown: This was in 1995 and 1996 before I got internet. I may have started it at the end of high school. I know that I was collecting names and addresses by the summer between high school and college. And then I went to college that fall and it had begun to dawn on me that I might want to be a little more serious about this. I still didn’t know that it could be a career but I was definitely interested in doing it and I started building a mailing list in Providence and started including email on it. But for the first couple of years 96/97, even into 98 it was snail mailing. I would collect together anywhere from 5 and 20 dates in a certain area and I would make a postcard at Kinkos and I would try to make them each different and creative in some way or another and I would mail them. And it just got to the point where it was too expensive. But it was also working. People were still getting a postcard in the mail from me that had a bunch of dates and they would come to them. Also I found it actually just really creative and fun. It was like getting to make tour posters, you know. I used to do that too at that time. Interview with Erin McKeown
  9. 9. I think at the time that was pretty standard, so I think now nowadays if I did a snail mailing list and did a postcard, I think I might get more feedback like “oh hey that’s cool” because people don’t do it anymore. For me it felt like a chance to establish a visual aesthetic. There’s a certain way that my posters and my postcards looked at the time. I built my first erinmckeown.com in probably 1998/99 and I tried to carry the same aesthetic to my website. And that’s when I started using an email list more. It was already quite large at that time, too large for the email system I was using and I had to do this thing where you had to send it in chunks, you know, and then it wasn’t divided by zip code. Over the years my email list has stayed anywhere between 5-15,000 emails, it’s moved in and out through that. I think there was a time where that was really successful. It was also the time before you had any metrics. I had no idea how many people were opening it, reading it, anything. But in the early 2000s my emailing list was the most successful way that I could let people know what I was doing. And I always tried to do it with a certain style. They were always written in the third person and they were kind of written in a faux kind of vaudeville kind of style like a carnival barker, like “HEY: Step right up! Check out what Erin’s doing this month! She’s playing a fancy gig in San Francisco,” you know. So I tried to do it so there was this visual aesthetic that I was trying to establish with my website and the way my records looked and also an aesthetic to the way I communicated with my fans.   N. Baym: “Do you think they realized that you were the person actually writing them?” E. McKeown: I don’t know, I don’t know that it would even matter. Maybe it would. I don’t know. I always thought there was a tongue-in-cheek aspect to it that kind of left this possibility that it’s entirely possible that it was me and I think even that was part of the aesthetic — sort of riding this line of homemade or not homemade. At some point like in the early 2000s – 2004/2005 – by that time I was too busy and I tried having someone who worked for my manager do the mailing list because I was just slammed with other stuff to do and running a mailing list takes an enormous amount of time. I found that nobody who was working in my manager’s office could match the style that I wanted in terms of the way I wanted to talk to my fans. And so I just went back to writing them and I would write them and then email them in and then they would do the rest of the formatting and sending of them. But also I think in the last 3 or 4 years emailing has become drastically less effective in terms of how people find out about gigs.  
  10. 10. N. Baym: “How do you think they’re doing it now?” E. McKeown: Social networks. I think that’s the main way that people are finding music. I use a company called FanBridge who run my emailing list. I’m reaching more people, but I think in general it’s not as effective a tool as social networking stuff. It was a heyday, there was a heyday for direct email mailing list. People still do it because you have to, but I also think it’s not nearly as effective. It’s the same thing, there was a time when postal mailers were incredibly effective and it got expensive and less effective as people moved towards finding more out about music online and now I think it’s just moving again to social networks. Maybe MySpace kind of pioneered this kind of thinking but I think with the demise of retail record shopping — at one point SoundScan numbers were the most important numbers that someone in the music business looked at. If you were going to hire someone for a gig or if you were thinking about signing someone to a record label, you’d want to know what their SoundScans were. And SoundScan is a notoriously unreliable system. But it was still used. You know, so even though you kind of knew, you look at the numbers and you knew they were handicapped somehow.   N. Baym: “But at least they’re numbers…” E. McKeown: But at least they’re numbers and everyone kind of knew the way they were fucked up so you could kind of paw your way through that and find some information about somebody. As an artist who has always sold more from the stage than from stores, as someone who has had some mainstream success but much under the radar success, I always felt like my SoundScan numbers were not fair in terms of giving someone the real picture of the size of my fanbase. So then you add in piracy and SoundScan numbers become even less useful because there’s all these uncounted copies of your music. My experience has been, you know in the last 5 years I get stopped enough on public transportation somewhere or in an airport, disproportionate I think to the number of records I’ve quote unquote “sold.” There’s a bigger group of people who know about my music than are being reflected in those numbers. And piracy is the main reason for that. Which has always been really frustrating.  
  11. 11. N. Baym: “What’s frustrating? That the people who are listening to you through unauthorized copies weren’t counted or that they were listening through unauthorized copies?” E. McKeown: It’s that they weren’t counted. It’s that their interaction and kind of additive presence to what my fanbase is is not able to be known in a system that wants to know that. I don’t agree with that system but that’s the system and it’s just been very frustrating for me over the years. Then these social networks come along and all of the sudden here’s this new number that can be used. So for a while it was like MySpace views or number of friends on MySpace and then it turned into Facebook fans and Twitter followers and I have heard in the music industry “this is someone good to tour with because they have x number of followers” or you know ‘we’re interested in signing you because you’ve got x number of Facebook fans” and in some ways it’s replaced SoundScan. But how does that translate into people in the room? I know people who have really lively online fanbases, many Facebook responses, lots of Twitter followers who draw the same amount of people that I draw in my rooms. There’s this sort of conversion that doesn’t necessarily happen, or you can’t draw a straight line between this artist has 5000 Facebook followers yet still is only drawing 30 people in this city. In some ways I’ve begun to think of it as two different careers, you kind of have your online career where it’s like how do you communicate with those fans and what do you do for them and how do you cultivate that interaction and then there’s also do you give a good live show and when are you coming to this city? I certainly as an artist feel a certain amount of pressure. I was resistant to this social media stuff at the time. I mean MySpace was less about status updates and more about just making music available in your player and kind of collecting friends. But the microblogging aspect of Twitter and Facebook demanded fresh personal content and I have certainly felt the pressure to keep up with that. And that is often at odds for me with the amount of things that I’m willing to talk about with the three or four thousand people who follow me online.
  12. 12. Steve Lawson, known to many as SoloBassSteve on Twitter, is an independent solo bass player who’s carved out a space for himself as a musician, teacher, and writer. He’s been an enthusiastic adapter of social media from the start and speaks and writes often about how independent artists can take advantage of online media in fostering connections with their audience. We spoke while he and his partner were touring America, playing house parties and offering live recordings from the tour for sale. In this third installment of my series interviewing musicians about their relationships with their audiences, Lawson overviews his progression through social media and compares MySpace, Twitter, and Facebook. N. Baym: “How were interacting with your audiences early in your career?” S. Lawson: When I started doing the Howard Jones tour which was 1999, that’s when I first started a blog.  It wasn’t called a blog then because blogging didn’t exist.  But I started to do a daily diary update on my website.  And it was me saying, “Hi. We played in Berlin today.  And we did this and this and this and I went sightseeing.”  And so my news– what had previously been the news page on my site became this kind of ongoing diary of what I was up to.  And I found that –  yeah, it’s blatantly obvious to us now — that was far more engaging than a list of upcoming gigs.  And so I was getting people coming back to the site time-and-time again. I think early on, someone said to me, they would tell me the statistic that said if someone comes back to a website three times and it hasn’t changed they’ll never come back again.   Interview with Steve Lawson
  13. 13. And that was in the forefront of my mind.  I want my site to be constantly evolving.  And what’s what a blog allows you to do, obviously, but at the time it was the news page. And I was a journalist.  I mean part of my skill set as well as playing – making weird noises with a bass – is that I’ve always been a writer.  I’ve always been a communicator and a teacher.  And so it’s the way that the web allowed me to blend all of that into this kind of evolving transmedia narrative, where I was writing about music, playing music without words and teaching people how to do both. And everything was open source right from the start. I never ever wanted the sense that my career was somehow– there was something special about and that’s what made it possible for me to do that.  I always wanted the idea that it was somehow part of a new way of doing a music career that other people could do as well.  The idea of the music world as competition made no sense at all.  And so when social media came along as a terminology and there was the entire sort of syntax and vernacular that was constructed then, what that meant and how it was described, I went, great, this is what I’ve been doing for 10 years, brilliant. When MySpace came along, I did the same thing everyone else did and searched for artists that I liked and spammed everyone that also liked them with friend requests.  And for a while it generated an enormous amount of play– of listenership.  I was getting thousands of listens a day on MySpace. But I found that MySpace had its own internal currency which was friending, but no one would sit in front of their computer on MySpace with a credit card in hand.  And there didn’t seem to be mechanisms for turning that into anything meaningful. The language of it was always about being famous on the Internet. It was always about being a rock star.  It was never about ‘isn’t it great that we don’t need to play those stupid games anymore?’ As the sort of technical tools of social media evolved, I was constantly looking to jump to whatever was going to allow me to have a better conversation.  So I had a forum on my website for years. And I only killed that when Twitter came along because I wanted to take the walls off it.  So as soon as Twitter came along I basically went on to my forum and said this forum is closing, if you want to keep talking to me go to Twitter.  And so now all of the regulars on my forum they’re on Twitter now, and they all talk to each other, and they all talk to me, and they talk about other things as well. Because most of the chatter from the forum wasn’t talking about me because there’s only so much you can talk about one person without it becoming like really bizarrely narcissistic.  Or it’s just dull.  So we would talk about TV and politics and other music.  And, I mean, I still spend nine-tenths of my time on social media platforms talking about other people’s music.    
  14. 14. N. Baym: “And then you’re on Facebook.” S. Lawson: I’m not sure about it.  The jury is out on Facebook.  Every now and, again, I think I’m going to can the whole thing and just leave it.  Because I don’t like the social engineering of it as a platform.  I don’t like the fact that the site itself isn’t honest about what it wants from us. There’s a kind of weird social libertarian aspect to what they’re trying to make us do with the site.  And it’s kind of– you must have more friends, you must have more connections, you must put more information about yourself so that we can harvest it and sell it.  And it’s like, yeah, what if I don’t want to?  I can’t switch off the constant nagging from them. N. Baym: “Is there any platform that works better for you than others? You’re often heard raving about BandCamp.” S. Lawson: BandCamp’s great because it doesn’t try to be anything other than what it is, and what it is is the perfect digital media distribution platform. If you want to put up things for free you can do it with that. If you want to charge for them, it does whatever you want. If you want to take donations and pay in that way, you can do that. It’s a work of genius, I can’t say enough great things about it. But as genius as it is, it’s not trying to be anything else. It’s not a social network. It’s not a band website. It doesn’t have a blog attached to it, it doesn’t have a news feed, it doesn’t do any of that nonsense at all. It’s just about making music. And so the combination of Twitter and BandCamp is really quite potent. I can be chatting about things and go, oh by the way I’ve got a new album on BandCamp and all of a sudden over the next two weeks I have people buying what I recorded last week. It’s that lack of friction between the place where the narrative is being told, which is Twitter, and the way of people getting contact with that narrative, or the immediate contact to what it is we’re talking about. That relationship is really potent. So the things I use most at the moment are Twitter, BandCamp, my blog and Facebook. As much as I complain about Facebook, the actual interactions that go on within it are quite valuable. You know the raw numbers of it are always, always moot. I’ve had conversations with people who have –- I’ve had people with millions of followers on Twitter recommend me and it result in 70 clicks through to my website. And I’ve had people with a couple of thousand followers recommend me on Twitter and it result in 300 clicks. The number of people that are actually listening – you know I could stand on a couple of buildings shouting at the entire town and if they ignore me it doesn’t matter, but I can sit on a park bench and talk to three people and if they’re listening then it can change things.
  15. 15. Marillion were one of the first bands to catch on to the power of the internet to change the financial and emotional structures of the music industry. In this interview, Mark Kelly, their keyboard player, talks about their experiences with fan funding, beginning with a fan-initiated tour in the 1990s through to the lesson learned from not seeking fan funding in a later release.   N. Baym: “I have questions, but if you want to just talk, we can start there.” M. Kelly: Some bands tend to have a very standoffish relationship with their fans I suppose and that’s their choice, they keep a good distance from their fans, they’re not very easily accessible and they don’t hang around after the show to say hello to people that sort of thing. But we’ve always been the opposite of that, we’ve always tried to be as available as possible if people want to come and talk to us or even if it’s just to get an autograph or to tell us what they think or, you know. So that’s something that we’ve always tried to do really. So when the opportunity to communicate more closely with fans came along via the Internet, we obviously thought that was a good thing.   N. Baym: “Even in the days of Usenet you were involved in Marillion discussion forums, am I remembering that right?” M. Kelly: It was a mailing list. It wasn’t official, it was run by a guy in Holland. Very interestingly, the vast majority of the fans on that list were Americans. I think mainly because they probably adopted the whole Internet thing a bit earlier than the Europeans. I just thought it was quite interesting that there was all these fans. I think there was only about 1,000 of them on the list, but just discussing Marillion, Marillion songs, lyrics, what we were doing. And so I signed up to it when I had Internet access or dial-up, you know, and I used to just read it and I was a lurker, nobody knew I was reading it. After a year or two I blew my cover. I can’t remember why but it was probably to correct somebody who said something that was completely wrong (laughs). And so in the process I started to get all the questions from people about why we weren’t touring the States and all that sort of thing. And I tried to explain that we didn’t have a record deal in the States and every time we did tour in the past it had always been with money from the record company. So then there was a guy from Canada said, “Oh well, why don’t we raise the money for you to come and tour?” They opened a bank account and everybody who was interested donated money into it and then they raised about $60,000.      Interview with Mark Kelly – Marillion
  16. 16. Actually, by this point, once they had said all this I was like, “Well I think you’re a bit crazy but if you want to do it. I mean, obviously we can’t have anything to do with it, but if you guys want to go ahead and organize it, we’re not taking the money.” Some guy said, “I’ll set up an escrow bank account and we’ll put it all in there.” Anyway, within a few weeks it had about $20,000 and I hadn’t even told the rest of the band at this point what was going on, so I had to sort of break the news to them how we’d gotten into this situation where if they– I think I said we’d need about $50,000 to make it, break even. Anyway, we did the tour. And oddly enough, because of the story around it we got quite a lot of publicity which meant we sold more tickets than usual because there was– each gig that we were playing there’d be a little local newspaper or whatever would run the story about the tour fund and how the American fans had raised the money for us to tour. So it was this sort of interesting story in itself whether or not you knew anything about Marillion, you know. That was an interesting lesson actually for us: to raise the band’s profile, finding a story that sort of transcends music is a good thing. So anyway we did the tour. And I suppose that was our first realization of the power of the Internet and how rabid fans can change things, make things happen.   N. Baym: “Do you have thoughts about what it was about you guys that made your fans willing to step up and do that at a time when it was such an incredibly novel thing to ask for or to come up with themselves?” M. Kelly: Well, funnily enough, I watched your little video thing you sent me and you were saying about how fans are willing to pay more than the price of an album because they say things like, “Oh well, your music changed my life,” or, “You’ve given me so much pleasure over the years, I really want to give you something back,” that sort of sentiment, that feeling. We get a lot of that so I think that’s it really. There’s definitely a sense from our fans that have been with us, some of them for 25 years or whatever that given the opportunity they’d like to show their appreciation and so preordering an album is on the surface looks like a leap of faith or trust in a band, we could have just run off with the money. But we’ve been around long enough and they’ve grown to know us in a way that meant that they trusted us and also trusted us to give them something that they would like.  
  17. 17. N. Baym: “So you’ve continued to use fan funding ever since, haven’t you?” M. Kelly: Yeah, we’ve done variations. It’s been like a nuclear arms race really because every time we’ve done it we’ve had to up the ante and make it bigger and better. That’s how it’s felt. The first one was a single album with an extra disc with a couple of extra tracks on it, so that was what set it apart from the retail jewel case version and it had a nice booklet with it and everything and it was a little bit more expensive. In 2004 we did an album called Marbles which was a double album, so two CDs of 60 minutes each, all new songs with a hard case and a hardback book with about 200 pages in it, lots of lovely artwork. And then after that we decided that we probably didn’t need to do it again because financially things were a lot better, funnily enough, now we’re no longer with a record label and didn’t have an agent or a manager or a promoter. So we said, “Okay, we don’t need to do this again.” And in fact I felt that rightly or wrongly and I think I was probably wrong at the time, but at the time I said, it feels a bit like when you go to a friend and ask for a bit of help and, “Can you lend me some money?” and they lend you some money and then you go back again and you say, “Oh well actually we need you to lend us some money again.” I know it’s not quite like that, but I said, it does feel like maybe we shouldn’t do it again, it just feels like it might sort of get a bit old with people. So we did a standard album with a standard case, didn’t do any advanced orders, took no money. And it wasn’t as well received. But the other thing we noticed was that people felt that somehow it wasn’t as special. They like the fact that they had this involvement with it, the fact that we had to keep them up to date on what was going on because we had their money, so we felt obliged to say, “Okay, well we’re at this stage now and here’s a few little samples of what we’re doing.” So there was all that stuff which made them feel, one, financially they knew they were financing it and two, they were very much involved with the whole process as it was going along. So there was a sense of disappointment that we didn’t do it. And people said, “Oh, it’s a shame you didn’t do a preorder, we’d love you to do that again.”
  18. 18. Kristin Hersh has been making music with her bands Throwing Muses, 50 Foot Wave, and as a solo artist since the mid-1980s. She’s recently released a highly-praised memoir, Rat Girl, and the first album released as a book, Crooked (also available as CD and download).  In this interview, she talks about her success with fan funding as a return to earlier days of her career. Update: just after this interview was conducted, Hersh tweeted that Throwing Muses are back in the studio. Fans, rejoice! N. Baym: “You certainly had an audience long before any of us were thinking about using the Internet to communicate with our audiences and so you’ve been through all these changes.  I’d like to ask you to reflect on how your communication with your audience has changed since early Throwing Muses days to now?” K. Hersh: I actually find the way we work presently harkens back to the very early days of Throwing Muses where it was so clear to us that music happened between people. That we weren’t entertainers. Because we weren’t entertaining, but there was something that was happening when we made noise and a room full of people got it.  It was resonating with them, which resonated with us.  We felt like at our deepest, we were the same, as lame as that sounds.  Musically it seems to be almost physically true. And it was quite clear to us that we needed these people in order to make music happen. And around the time when Throwing Muses quit recording I became intrigued by the idea of a global village that you could, rather than describing yourself in terms of a demographic, you could reach out to likeminded individuals across the globe and create a scene that way. And I think it’s because we’re intrigued by the idea of a scene, like, where is it happening, where are people making music happen together.  And that’s essentially what we found on the Internet: that we finally know these people.      Interview with Kristin Hersh
  19. 19. N. Baym: “Sometimes the fact that you can have so much communication with your audience on the Internet is a challenge for some people. You’re sort of faced with that question of, “How much do I want to tell about myself and where do I want to draw those lines?” K. Hersh: That’s true, but I am in control of it now.  In the past, a Rolling Stone writer would live in my house for a few days and write down everything they heard and I had no control over how they heard it.  I could try to have a fair amount of control over what they heard, but not when you have a life.  And I had to trust people to be decent and it was nerve racking. Now I have the time to think and I have time to say what I think is important. And I don’t particularly believe in self-expression.  I just don’t think we need to blather on at each other because we have issues or psycho garbage. But I do think that sometimes people ask pertinent questions because they need to know the answer and I can respect that.  And if I don’t want to answer peoples’ questions I’m silent.  Now I’m allowed to be silent sometimes. N. Baym: “It’s interesting to hear you talk about having greater control over your identity online and what you engage and what you don’t.” K. Hersh: I have a very respectful audience, I think not everyone attracts that kind of a listener.  But I don’t think anybody would ever say anything negative to me or even to invasive.  I have interesting conversations and when I’m not interested or I’m not interesting, I shut up. N. Baym: “You’ve said that giving music away brings in people who want to fund you, and you’ve had success with your “Strange Angels” subscribers. How do you think that works?” K. Hersh: I think it’s balance.  Everybody knows there are extremely rich people in the music business and discerning listeners have noticed that those are generally not the musicians that they like.  So they don’t feel good about handing over money for a CD when it’s going to those people.  But if you can see a band, buy a band’s recordings and know that there is no middle-man collecting, they can’t stop giving.  They see that we’ve given and now it’s their turn to give. And yet that’s not really what it’s about anyway. Really the point is if someone doesn’t have anything they can get it. They can still listen to music. They can still come to a show. Because lots of great listeners don’t have any money. And it’s interesting they — sort of awful — they thank me for letting them be involved.  It gives me a stomach ache.
  20. 20. N. Baym: “Yeah, I saw you tweeted that. You said, “You’ve got to stop thanking me.”  And I thought, “Wow. This is not what I usually hear.” K. Hersh: They’re just letting me do what I live for.  I just live and breathe music, I’m obsessed with it to the point where it’s Gods and devils and monsters to me, it’s so important.  And I know I can play without anybody listening, but it’s unfinished then.  It’s almost like a kid, you don’t want to keep it in the closet.  You grow it up maybe but then when it’s grown up it goes out and makes friends and is effective in the world.  And you’re not done raising the kid until the world has accepted it. N. Baym: “Is there anything else about relationships, communication with audiences you want to make sure you get out before we part?” K. Hersh: Essentially the point is that we do this together and the recording industry got in the way so now we’re doing it together again.  I think it was a necessity for me to pull myself out of my recording contracts, which I did quite peaceably by the way and with their blessing.  And all my companies said, “We’re interested to see how the experiment turns out and you can come back anytime.” And now we’re doing it together again just like when we were teenagers.  And that will create musical phenomena which rise from the ground up instead of major labels and top 40 radio saying, “You will like this,” from the top down to the people. People decide what they listen to now and that’s huge, they’re getting a musical education they wouldn’t have otherwise. And at one time, musicians would say, “You’d have to be awfully brave to try to do without a record company.”  But we didn’t make anything when we were on Warner Brothers. They took everything we had.  Everything we made went to them because they said, “We marketed your record and we spent this much and you made this much so we’re taking it all.”  The only record that made any money for me was my solo record because it was the first one and it cost nothing to make, it was in the black the day it was released.  And then the day I left Warner Brothers they declared it in the red and I never made another dime.
  21. 21. 3.     Relating to fans over the long haul The Grammy-award winning Jars of Clay took to the internet as soon as they started in the early 1990s. I spoke with guitarist Stephen Mason about the significance of connecting with fans over the course of their career. He began by referencing Lewis Hyde’s classic 1982 book The Gift that argues for understanding the flow of art in terms of social and cultural (gift) rather than market economics. N. Baym: “Oh, great.  So we can go right into talking about things in terms of gift economy, if you want.” S. Mason: Exactly.  And that, I think, sees everyone survive, because artists are alive when they create.  And people that consume art are alive when they receive it, and they pass it on and they share it.  And that’s the antithesis of the music industry that we came out of when we signed in the ‘90s. It was bloody, to say the least. N. Baym: “In what sense was it bloody in the ’90s?  Because the recording industry was going into its peak, right?” S. Mason: Yeah, yeah.  Well, that’s the thing.  That’s where the money grubbing went.  There was so much money being made, and yet, access to music was at an all-time low in terms of people being able to access their artists that they loved, that they’re passionate about.  You know, the people they champion.  The only inside track you had was to join a fan club or just basically to spend more money to get any amount of extra news.  And now, I think it’s absolutely laughable that we’re offering those same things every day, hoping people will just listen for free. You know, in terms of Twitter and Facebook. N. Baym: “When you were doing those things early on, like getting on the Jars of Clay fan board on AOL in 1994 or 95, were you trying to overcome those distribution barriers and build a more direct relationship from the start?” S. Mason: Absolutely.  Because we wanted to know what was moving people about the music.  In our case, that was equally exciting and terrifying because the interesting thing about art is what you put out and what people perceive are many times completely different. But it helped us establish– you know, for us, we weren’t pop enough and we certainly weren’t evangelical enough to fit in either camp too well.  So it actually helped articulate our place a bit, the space that we occupied. Interview with Stephen Mason - Jars of Clay
  22. 22. N. Baym: “Do you still pay a lot of attention to the discourse around you that’s out there?” S. Mason: Yes, but some of what we’re articulating is just the maturity of 15, 16 years.  When we first started we were golden kids. We couldn’t do a lot wrong, because things kind of out of the box worked really well for us.  But I think there’s a maturity to knowing how to engage and also walking a fine line because for us, where we stand politically and socially doesn’t mirror everybody that listens to our music.  So there’s a maturity involved in knowing what to put out, how to challenge an audience and then how to just sit back and listen sometimes as well. Twitter, especially, offers that in a way– it’s not one-sided, because people can respond, but we can choose to engage that stuff more clearly.   Twitter is the most vibrant and interactive, I would say, of all [the ways to connect with fans online].  And that might just be what we’ve given ourselves to, because we’re all using smartphones, so we can, in a moment, send something out that’s funny or that’s moving us, or something contemplative. That’s probably our favorite thing, beyond our actual .com site. But honestly, I think it’s all happening in real time so much these days.  Even by the time it would get to the .com site, we’re past it. N. Baym: “Do you have any feelings about some of the more creative but also potentially problematic things that people do on there, like creating fan art or remixes, for example?” S. Mason: Oh, I think it’s cool.  I mean, honestly, it’s people getting involved and interested in finding ways to– in its own way, it’s a response.  These days, it would be foolish to just say anything other than, “I’m excited that people are engaging.” We’re really really grateful for those fans because those are the people that spread what we’re doing in a really specific way. N. Baym: “You were talking earlier about maturing and being able to handle better the kinds of things that you run into with your audience and I assume learning to let go and let your audience do their own thing and not feeling that you have to control it all the time part of that?” S. Mason: I think so. Yeah, it’s finishing something and then letting it go and be what it’s going to be and allowing other people the freedom to write, to engage with it, mess with it, morph it into other things.  That is what helps keep artists viable in some regards. That’s why I’m excited to see how copyright law develops in the future, because anybody with a laptop can do something that way. N. Baym: “But you view that more as exciting opportunity for engaging the conversation than as threat to creative control and livelihood?” S. Mason: I think so because again,  I have to trust in the gift economy idea. Because honestly at the end of the day I would rather be surrounded by people that I know and love that are creative and that are moving and changing cultural currents than isolate myself in the conversation of infringement and the limits it puts on the art. It puts us in the corner that’s not as interactive and that’s not as alive. It’s not as much life in it and that’s the risk.  There’s always going to be that risk. But I’ve been encouraged that there’s survival.  There’s survival in the heart of that instead of the opposite.
  23. 23. Sydney Wayser is a talented singer-songwriter who’s recently released a critically-acclaimed second album,  The Colorful . We spoke about what it means to be a young person seeking a sustainable career in music, the kinds of connections with audience you need to build, and the network of paid and volunteer intermediaries it takes for her to make it feasible.   N. Baym: “What are the different ways that you communicate with your audience at this point?” S. Wayser: Anything from my mailing list to a blog to this website called Indaba Music, which is an interface for people to collaborate.  They have artists in residence where they teach or talk about their life experiences and so on. I’m the singer songwriter there, so I’m the one actual musician, the others are a guitar teacher and a bass teacher and stuff like that and computer programmers.  And I’m the one that is talking about how to be an independent musician. And in other ways, like Twitter and Facebook I am very open about talking to my fans.  I feel like I wouldn’t be here if they weren’t interested in my music so for me to kind of snub them and not give them any time of day I feel like is counterproductive.  I want insight, I want to know what they think and I want to build a relationship with them.   4. Building a sustainable career Interview with Sydney Wayser
  24. 24. And then I have a blog which I’m talking about this process of recording of an album.  I’m working on my third record right now.  And so it’s starting from the beginning, picking the songs to how to work with my band all the way up to asking my fans to pick the track list.  Once we have the songs down, I’ll put them up so people can sample them and they can make their own track list and they can tell me what their favorite songs are and kind of direct artist to fan relationship, asking for their help because they’re the ones that I want to buy the record so I want them to like it. N. Baym: “Most of the people I’ve been talking with have been at it since the ’80s or at least the early ’90s. I was interested in your perspective coming into music at this time what your sense is of what it takes to build a sustainable career.” S. Wayser: I think it’s a slow incline.  I think it’s really about making a fan connection which is more than just they put your record on every once in a while.  These people don’t have to buy your record, they can get it for free.  And maybe they don’t even buy your record, they could love you and love your music and not buy your record.  So you’d stream it for free, but then they go to your show and they buy shirts and they get presale tickets, they will support you if you’ve made that connection.  But you can’t just show up and be a rock star and not put the effort in to showing your fans you care anymore. I feel like before you are able to just be a rock star, be aloof, be a drug addict, go on tour and it was cool, you were cooler for it.  And now I feel like you have to put in a lot of work to keep them interested.  If you release an album every 10 years you’ve lost a lot of people because you didn’t release something then.  Even if you didn’t release a whole album, you know, like Radiohead, but they’re going to release a constant stream of singles, that’s very interesting.  And they’re constantly saying to their fans, “We’re still here.  We’re still here.  We’re making stuff. “  
  25. 25. N. Baym: “Do you feel like it might have been kind of nice to have been doing this 20 years ago when you didn’t have to worry about that so much or how do you feel about that change?” S. Wayser: That’s interesting.  I haven’t really thought about it because it is what it is.  I also, I like knowing who listens to my music, I like talking about just life with them and I like hearing their feedback.  But I can imagine just only having to think about music and having everybody else take care of everything, it’d probably be pretty nice.   N. Baym: “I was interested in your French-American connection and I saw an interview where you said something like “I just want to travel the world being a musician.”  It seems that you’re taking sort of an international stance towards your career. What’s your sense of how easy or difficult it is to frame yourself as an international artist at this time?” S. Wayser: Well, I’ve always kind of felt that France would be really good for me musically.  They love singer songwriters, they love the fact that I am half American and my French accent is clearly an American speaking French — I mean, not clearly, but they know that I’m not living in Paris.  They think it’s cute and endearing, especially when I speak French on stage, they all giggle.  I think Europeans love Americans just as Americans love Europeans.  I think France is a really good market and I’ve always kind of known that I need to do that.  And then Germany just kind of fell into place because of a festival I play there. But as far as what we’re doing businesswise, I think it’s important to have each country have kind of a whole new set up.  Like I have a label in France and an agent for France and I have an agent for German, Austria and Switzerland but we’re looking for a German specific label.  It’s a lot more work for my manager but isolating each country really helps you focus specifically on that country because it’s really, really different from place to place. I don’t think that you can expect to go to Spain and go to Finland and have the same exact marketing campaign. You can’t reach out to your fans and audience the same.  And you need specific people in that area who know because I don’t know.    
  26. 26. N. Baym: “Can we talk for a second about the intermediaries that you have?  So you’ve got Emily White who’s managing you and then you’re talking about having specific agents in specific locations.” S. Wayser: Yeah. I have Emily and a day-to-day manager and then as far as blogs go, I have a blog that I write on once a week and as well as Indaba, I write on both of those once a week. I do everything, that’s kind of like my little responsibility. I do all of the blogging.  But sometimes Facebook posts, like my musician’s page, if there’s a review, Emily or an intern or someone or my day-to-day manager will post it just to get it up there.  Emily’s big thing is content.  So the more content you have — especially on Facebook I feel like it’s actually a really good example, like the homepage, the more you post, the more you’re on the homepage.  And then the more on the homepage, the more people see your page and click on it. So I try and post as much as I can and then if stuff kind of slips through the cracks, Emily and her team are there to post whatever else they can, just like new photos or when I’m back from tour, “Here’s some photos, here’s a video clip.”  We’re still getting videos from our tour. A fan actually reached out and wanted to film it.  So that’s the thing, if you get fans, they really want to help you, they want to be involved and they want to do stuff like that.  They’ll make videos or they’ll make a drawing and send it to you and you could put it on a t-shirt, they could make your album art, they can really do whatever.  They want to help you, they want to send you what they do.   N. Baym: “So you’ve got a lot of people.” S. Wayser: Yeah.  And then I just got a business manager because I have dual citizenship so we’re trying to just figure out the whole tax situation and between anything I do in Europe because I can work in the European Union without having to get all those papers in. So we just got a business manager to help with that, which I’m so glad that I can just send him my receipts. N. Baym: “I think when people think about being a musician they think about playing their guitar and singing their songs and they don’t really think about filing their taxes and getting their visas in order.” S. Wayser: I have to say, trying to be creative when all you can think about is finances is also a really complicated thing.  So I feel like I’m really fortunate that I’m able to have these intermediaries that can kind of do their own thing and having to focus on one– each person focusing on their one aspect makes that actually work better and then I don’t have to think about it, so I can do what I do best which is write the music and play the music. And my blog posts.
  27. 27. Electronica musician, DJ, label entrepreneur, and multimedia artist Richie Hawtin, also known as Plastikman, feels strongly about building connections with his audiences, especially since his music has no vocals and in his live performances he may appear only in glimpses through illuminated curtains and blankets of smoke. In this interview, he talks about how he builds those connections, and the fluid social, creative and national boundaries within electronica.   N. Baym: “How were you communicating at the start?” R. Hawtin: In the beginning, in the early 1990s, we had snail mail lists. Electronica music wasn’t very popular. We were playing in Detroit and just trying to get the word out. People really responded to that and there was always a lot of interaction. The internet didn’t really change anything, it amplified what was already there. If it helps reach one or two more people and they reach one or two more then it spreads globally.   5. Building global community Interview with Richie Hawtin
  28. 28. N. Baym: “What are the different ways that you communicate with your audience now besides being out and meeting them when you’re performing?” R. Hawtin: I post updates to Facebook and Twitter. I post my own updates, other people might post news, but I don’t have any one pretending to be me or anything like that. For the Plastikman tour we built an iPhone app called SYNK for people in the audience. When I perform, at one point I can unlock their iPhones and they start seeing words on their screens and they can manipulate them. As soon as that happens, they start playing with it. It starts making sounds. And at that moment I stop being the performer, they’re performing. In the electronica community, people want to create. The boundaries between producer and creator are more fluid than in other genres. This is a way to play with control. Sometimes I’m in control, sometimes they are and it’s going back and forth. It makes them think about the technology in their pocket being as powerful as what I have on the stage. In the new Plastikman tour we’ve been broadcasting concerts on the web so that people can participate who aren’t there. So I’m doing stream of consciousness chatting with people in Kuwait and Korea while I’m performing. But ultimately what’s most important is to get people to form connections in person, it’s using technology to get them away from the technology and into connecting with each other in person. For example, we set up a chat room for one of my performances. The first day I hung out in this little micro-community where people from all over the world were chatting, and at the end of the day I went to bed. The next day I was busy and didn’t look in on it. And then the next day I went back and looked and it was still going. People were still in there chatting. They weren’t talking about me, they were talking about music and they were exchanging email addresses. Before a show I might post and ask where people are. Like if I’m playing Korea, I might ask “where is everyone” and someone will say “they’re eating salted squid next to the venue.” So I’ll go there and try to meet some people. I travel so much that if I didn’t reach out and make connections with people there it would all be a blur.   N. Baym: “Is the internationalism of your career and the ability to visit so many different nations and build connections with people from different countries part of what appeals to you?” R. Hawtin: Travel is one of the great parts of being a musician, forming those connections all over the world. When I started way back playing in Japan, my friends there – we didn’t even speak the same language – but electronic music, because there’s no vocals, it reaches people at a very emotional primal level and we could build on that to become good friends.  The music industry doesn’t talk about it — they all think about sales — but if you talk to musicians they’ll all tell you that’s a really big part of it, when people from different cultures connect around music that’s really powerful.
  29. 29. Billy Bragg has had a long and distinguished career in music, and has been one of its most impassioned and outspoken performers. When we video-Skyped recently, he reflected on how the internet has created new challenges and opportunities for musicians while killing the recording industry.   N. Baym: “Could you start by giving me your sense of the arc of your relationships with your audience, or where you started?” B. Bragg: The big leap for me in audience terms came when I was featured on the John Peel radio show, which was a national radio show in the UK.  And that allowed me not only to get gigs outside the area that I lived in, where I was sort of knocking on doors asking for gigs, but it also made people write to me.   N. Baym: “Write letters?” B. Bragg: Yeah. So being the conscientious pen pal I tried my best to respond to them, but after a while it was just crazy. And Tom Robinson, who is an English singer/songwriter, said to me that real fans would rather hear your new song rather than get more letters from you so you should concentrate on writing on something not worry about that.  So I suppose I’ve always been someone who’s tried to make myself accessible to people.   6. The « double-edge sword » that is the internet Interview with Billy Bragg
  30. 30. N. Baym: “Do you still get letters?” B. Bragg: Not anymore. It comes down this tube. There’s an address on the website so people write to me to tell me that stuff is happening politically, because there’s a whole dimension about what I do. People write to me to tell me how much they were moved by my songs. People write to me to tell me that I should shut up and stop doing politics and just concentrate on writing songs.   N. Baym: “Do you do your own Facebook?” B. Bragg: Yeah, I recently posted something about a protest going on in the UK, about a British billionaire avoiding tax. Tax-avoider protesters were occupying his shops so I posted a link to that.  For me, at my stage in my career, it’s how I communicate what I’m doing to people. When I was first performing when I was on John Peel, there were three weekly music papers in the UK – three weekly music papers – and they kind of covered what you did, if you wanted to say anything you would say it there.  If people wanted to know about me they had to read about it in the New Music Express . And that, at its peak, was selling you know 100-150,000 copies. Well, some of the things I post on Facebook get seen by 150,000 people. And they all want to know about Billy Bragg, they’re not people just buying the NME to you know look over the little bit about Billy Bragg. So potentially, you know, there’s a much greater potential for me as an artist to be able to tell people what I’m doing, where I’m gigging, to make a living selling them shirts, records, stuff like that. It’s a real tool, the internet, for putting stuff out. And particularly for someone like myself who has a political dimension to what they do. It allows me to riff on stuff. And if you look back on my Facebook page you see me there, not just posting stuff but arguing with people about it as well, and learning stuff from them, and putting ideas out and forming ideas. When I do a gig I want the audience to go away and feel as I’ve talked to them like I’m talking to you now – looking them in the eye and speaking to them about issues that I care about.  And it’s the same with the internet.  And the thing about internet is that it does allow me to speak directly, not necessarily in visual terms like this, but in terms of answering comments, to respond immediately to comments that people make and to join in the debate and make sure that people understand where I’m coming from.
  31. 31. If I’ve said something that’s ambiguous or that’s questionable or I’ve done something that they want to hold me to account for.  If I’ve said something and they think that’s questionable, I think I should make myself available to explain. Not to apologise, not to back down, but at least to explain where I’m coming from if they want to carry on having a go.   N. Baym: “How does the young artist who doesn’t already have a readymade audience like I did, how do they do it?” B. Bragg: Because this was easy for me.  I just plugged in on Facebook and there we were 10,000 people overnight, now it’s 55,000. So it’s never been a problem.  But how does the young band who nobody knows? That’s the real question for my industry. It’s a double-edged sword the internet, because you are on your own, by and large, but then again you always were. But equally you know you have this incredible resource there, and how can you use that resource to communicate to people? And how can you allow the openness to not undermine the thing you’re trying to do? Because if you do stick your head above the parapet, people are going to have a go. That comes with it, you know that’s the reality of it, and I’m not complaining about that but you know at least in my case people have a go at my politics. If you’re a young band who just play guitar and people just don’t like you because of the way you look or because they you know whatever.  You can’t afford to waste time getting angry about that shit, you just keep doing what you’re doing because what you do and true to it. It’s a brilliant thing but it’s a double edged sword.  I mean that’s the thing about the internet – its potential for the artist as an individualistic idealist. And not about politics, just about themselves and about their music. It’s a brilliant, brilliant tool. But it also does allow the world to come in and have an opinion of you.  That’s what fame is though, that’s the nature of fame.  Everybody’s got an opinion of you whether you like it or not.  
  32. 32. N. Baym: “At MIDEM a few years ago, Peter Jenner made a comment that has stuck with me.  He said – we were talking about all the issues around money and downloading and all of that stuff – and he said, “If musicians can’t get paid there will be no more good music.”  What is your take on that?” B. Bragg: Well, you know you’re sort of bringing together slightly different things there. At MIDEM you’re in the record business.  The record business is dying, record businesses might be over.  The music business, that’s carried on, and as long as people can step up, play a song, make some money, people will continue to write songs.  I think that whether or not we continue to make much money from recorded music, enough from recorded music to make a living, I think that’s questionable. It may be that the albums become like videos were in the ’80s.  We spent huge amounts of money making them but never expected to make any money back. They were purely promotional.  And records might become like that. You know, they’re a promotion for you to go out and do gigs.  I mean the last year I probably recorded six or seven songs. I’ll do one more before Christmas which I’ve given away for free. But I’ve also sold, you know, made six t-shirts which I’m selling for £15.99.  But my ability to go out and do gigs has been enhanced by the internet, by the changes. So I think, you know, people will make great music still because you can experience a download, but you can’t download an experience.  Standing in the dark with a load of people listening to a voice singing a song that touches your heart is not the same as streaming it on YouTube. So I don’t worry so much about that.  I think it’s being able to get out there and sing songs and do gigs is going to be the key. Not to be massive but to make a living doing what you want to do.  The main way to do that is through gigs.   N. Baym: “Do you have thoughts about how the issues of making money connect to the issues of connecting with audience that we’ve been talking about?” B. Bragg: Well there are different ways of doing it.  The main way is that you obviously you got a target audience for your advertising.  You know if you got a lot of people who come to your website who like what you do and you can get their e-mail addresses, you can send them out information about when you’re touring, about when you’re putting a new record out. When I made my first record, it only sold 1000 copies.  I had to get a record in every single record shop in the country, in the UK.  So I needed a record label to do that.  Now if I make a record, you know, give me a laptop I’ll find a thousand Billy Bragg fans in an afternoon, probably less. What we need to question is whether it can ever be more than a cottage industry.  I don’t worry if it’s not more than a cottage industry.  If I’m still able to play to a thousand people in Kansas City in 10 years time, I’ll be doing really, really well, I’ll be really pleased.
  33. 33. 7. « If you make yourself invisible, people won’t care » Interview with Greta Salpeter – Gold Motel After three albums with her band The Hush Sound, singer/pianist Greta Salpeter has a new self-released EP out with her new band, Gold Motel. She is one of many younger musicians who’s come up in an age that takes social media for granted. From the start, as she explains in this excerpt of our interview, she was concerned with talking to her audience, and she’s got a very clear sense of how she wants to connect and why it matters.   N. Baym: “What I’m interested in is how musicians communicate with their audience, what they get out of communicating with their audiences, what challenges there are in that, and all of those things. So I guess the first question I would ask is, what are the different ways that you interact with people who listen to your music?” G. Salpeter: Well, I would say the first and most important one is actually meeting the audience in-person. Like it’s something – when I started my first band – in the Hush Sound, we were part of this community. The record label was called Fueled By Ramen, and there were about 20 or 30 bands, and we really, really had like a very successful niche in the music world, and I think that was because all the bands on that label really made an effort to reach their fans. Everyone did signings after every single show. We were a younger band relating to a younger audience, and so everybody felt very connected.
  34. 34. So that was one thing that our manager told me right when we started. We were playing arena tours opening for Fall Out Boy, and she said “Every single night, as soon as you’re offstage, have your techs take care of all the equipment onstage. You go right to the merch table and sign for an hour at least and just like start meeting people.” And it’s been interesting, because some of the people who are coming to my shows now are people I met four years ago, and a lot of it has to do with like that handshake, that personal connection, the one joke that connected each other, that kind of thing. And they know I feel the same way. Like, you know, if I meet someone and feel a connection with them, I’m more inclined to support them. I’m more inclined to follow their work in the future. I’m more inclined to kind of keep up with them. And we always did it in a very genuine way. It was never like “Oh, let’s go to the table and sign so we can sell a bunch of stuff.” You know, it wasn’t – we were kind of kids when we started, and we just thought like “Oh, cool, we get to meet people from all over the place. This is so fun.” And that’s something I still do now, is just like every night going out, signing autographs if people want them, taking pictures, telling anecdotes, just talking to people. And I think that’s one thing too – in being a musician, we travel so much when we’re touring that we kind of have to have a sense of purpose as a traveler other than just our musical career, because otherwise it’s just – you know, it’s too much work. So my kind of sense of purpose as a traveler is talking to people from all these different cities and sharing stories and learning as much as I can about different parts of the country and different parts of the world. So that’s the first one, just actually shaking hands, meeting someone in-person. The next one would be all the social media sites on the Internet. So there’s MySpace, mostly used for people to hear our music, to see the photographs. You know, it’s like a basic template where the audience knows where to find everything, the photos, the music, the blogs, the whatever. So MySpace is a huge one for people to discover bands. Twitter now is hugely important and made such a difference. Like I started a new band. I was in a band called the Hush Sound for four years, and I took a year off between and just started a new band. And one of my difficulties in starting this new band has been trying to reach the entire audience of people who liked the Hush Sound. So the Hush Sound sold like 200,000 albums and, you know, God only knows how many more people downloaded it for free beyond that, and we were selling-out tours when we headlined in the US and that kind of thing. And so when I started this new project, at the time I didn’t have a manager, I didn’t have a record label, I didn’t have a booking agent. I didn’t have anything, but I wanted to get the project rolling, so I started calling around and booking our tours. I started emailing venues who I had a good relationship with and booking shows. And I really used Twitter as the way to let the whole audience know where to find me, because at that time, you know, I had no publicist, there’s nobody working for me, and I just really wanted to get this band off the ground. So Twitter was like the best way– I happen to be at like almost 5,000 followers, something like that, but it really adds up.  
  35. 35. N. Baym: “Were they all on there from the Hush Sound days?” G. Salpeter: I think yes, yeah, mostly. Let’s see. Twitter wasn’t really in action during the Hush Sound’s career. It was kind of during that year off I took, I guess. Twitter probably really caught on in like the end of, you know, or mid-2009, last year. At least that’s when I kind of started being aware of it. So a lot of people found me, and that really was how I said like “Playing a show in Los Angeles in two weeks, come meet me there,” and 100 people would show up. And so that kind of thing has been really amazing to see, that like the power is really in the artists’ hands if they’re willing to adjust to the new technology and the new era of music. So that’s been excellent, Twitter. The other one is Facebook, and like I’ve talked about this with a lot of people in the music industry. It sounds nerdy to say “Facebook is so important in a music career,” but really people are so busy that if you can’t find a way to sneak into their daily routine, they’ll miss your show. They’ll forget about it. You know, kids don’t read the newspaper anymore, people aren’t buying as many magazines anymore, and there’s so many advertisements constantly surrounding concertgoers. There’s just so much advertising that it’s hard to actually find the artists you like and get to their show. So Facebook is a way. Like, you know, I’ll put out an invite for a Chicago show and invite 800 people, and when they all say yes that they’re going, then all of their friends will see that they’re going, and their friends will tag along and that kind of thing. And you can just see this sort of like breaking-point effect happening, where one person finds out, and because they’ve posted it, someone else finds out and someone else finds out, and then the show will be full, that kind of thing. Let’s see. So Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and then I guess the next way, probably the most distant way would be through interviews and blogs and that kind of thing, you know, like where somebody interviews us, and we’re allowed to put our opinions and our quotes and our feelings out into the world, and then the audience reads them. But that’s not nearly as personal. That’s really like them reading about us and at kind of a disconnected level. So I would say like the first way is in-person, most important. Second way is all the social media, MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, that kind of thing. Third way is through the press, where the audience can see where we’re playing, when we’re playing, how we feel about our new record, that kind of thing on blogs. They can see videos of us.
  36. 36. Also, I should add to the second category, the social media, we also have a YouTube page, and like every week or two weeks, we put up like a funny video from tour, that kind of thing. And that type of content is really interesting, because, you know, rock stars in the ’60s and ’70s were untouchable. It was this kind of like exclusivity complex where you couldn’t really know anything about them, and that’s what made it so interesting. And today it’s changed. It’s like if you make yourself invisible and you make yourself exclusive in this modern music age, people won’t care, because we’re so used to being able to look into the depths of someone’s life and know what’s going on. And so that’s one reason we use YouTube, and we kind of give people like a hint of what our touring life is like. And it’s just like silly videos to show like we’re normal kids too, and we’re just hanging-out on this road trip all over the country where we get to play music. And the audience, I think, really connects with that.   N. Baym: “What parts of it do you feel like it’s important for you to do yourself? You mentioned your own Twitter stream. Are there are others that you feel like “This has got to be me, I can’t have an intern do this part”?” G. Salpeter: Yeah. I wouldn’t want someone ever pretending to be me. Even when our management writes on the band page, they’ll sign it like parentheses “Team Gold Motel” so that the fans know that it’s not actually the band, it is the people working for us, that kind of thing. Yeah, I feel like, you know, they kind of go in that order. The most important thing I can possibly do is meet the audience in real life and really try to connect with them at the shows. And then after that, you know, keeping my Twitter is important, and then, you know, thirdly most importantly is like doing the press, actually having that be me, you know, having these real conversations with writers. Even if it takes an hour instead of a 15-minute interview, to get like my real– the essence of the music and the essence of the personality out there, then that’s more important.
  37. 37. Nancy Baym is a well-published expert in fan community and the author of the blog Online Fandom and the book Personal Connections in the Digital Age . Since the early 1990s, she's been watching closely as fans form communities online. She provides understanding of how fans, artists, and labels use interactive media to connect with music and one another through her scholarship, teaching, consulting, speaking and blogging. She is a Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Kansas (USA).   Online Fandom Profile Online Fandom is the blog, consulting and speaking service of social media researcher, fandom expert, and university professor Nancy Baym. Online Fandom provides ongoing analysis, insight and inspiration about the changing relationships amongst fans, artists and industries in the digital age. As a lifelong music fan with over twenty years of experience analyzing audiences and teaching how to build successful relationships online and off, Nancy Baym is uniquely positioned to help others gain perspective on the changes afoot and develop strategies for building rewarding relationships with audiences. About the author This report is brought to you by midem midem is the place where music makers, cutting-edge technologies, brands & talent come together to enrich the passionate relationship between people & music, transform audience engagement & form new business connections. midem takes place every 3 rd week of January and brings together 6,850 professionals from 77 countries. Contact us: [email_address] Visit midem’s website - www.midem.com Follow us Download midem iPhone App http://road.ie/midem

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