Friday, June 02, 2006

Grand theft audio



I just finished reading coverage of a debate on whether the RIAA should sue its own customers that was held a while ago at the University of Pittsburgh. Arguing in favor of continued lawsuits was Geoffrey L. Beauchamp, Pennsylvania state counsel for the Recording Industry Association of America. His opinion as a legal representative of the record industry -- the tired old line 'filesharing is the same as stealing' -- exposes the industry's utter lack of comprehension for its own demise:

'Consider it as if you were a shopkeeper in a bad neighborhood and your grocery store was beset by shoplifters... Instead of calling the police, your neighbors came to you and said, "Don't call the police... you might want to change your business model."'

Let's break this analogy down: The shopkeeper (RIAA) is in a bad neighborhood (the Internet) and its grocery store (music distribution and retail cartel) is beset by shoplifters (filesharers). Instead of calling the police (lawyers and lobbyists), your neighbors (digital music technology innovators) say, 'Don't call the police (DMCA a.k.a. CRAP)... you might want to change your business model (selling little plastic discs).

Hell yeah, you change your business model! Your business model is over! You've already tried to heighten your security systems to deter shoplifters (DRM/CRAP). But you focused so much on restricting people's ability to steal your product that it made it harder to even use your product, which only motivated more shoplifting!

But they kept stealing, so you changed your location (online music stores and subscription servies). But by then it was too late, because the neighborhood you moved into (the Internet) already had bigger, better, more convenient grocery stores (peer-to-peer networks and free music archives).

Instead of changing their business model to succeed in this new environment, the recording industry reached back into the bag of organized crime tricks it keeps handy for situations such as this. Unfortunately, this time they were caught red-handed.

Music retailers conspired to illegally fix the prices of CDs. Suddenly, every RIAA grocery store was selling mlik at ten dollars a gallon.

Record labels used illegal payola schemes to buy airplay for their singles, and radio stations were ever eager to take the bribes. Sure, the RIAA grocery stores stock a variety of products, but 75% of their store consists of the same 20 items.

Record labels even stopped sending some artists their royalty checks, claiming they had lost contact. They used every shady accounting practice they could to siphon money out of the artist's pocket and into theirs. They sold the meat but stiffed the butcher.

The industry sold corrupt CDs with malicious software that threatened the stability of its customer's computers. The RIAA grocery stores were selling spoiled meat!

And even though the brick-and-mortar stores had already been caught price-fixing, that didn't stop the record label-sanctioned online music stores from participating in the same illegal act. Now you could order price-fixed, payola-promoted spoiled meat online!

And yet, listeners still pile into the run-down RIAA grocery store to purchase tainted food, and artists still dream about having their product on display. It has already been shown that the RIAA and the recording industry elite refuse to change their business model. What will it take for listeners and artists to change their shopping habits?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Booking your own band in the 21st century


The old adage, "It's not what you know, but who you know" ought to be embroidered on the inside of every musician's eyelids. In an ideal world, a musician's raw talent would be enough to attract the attention of the masses. Unfortunately, this is ever less the case in the digital age. The media and the marketplace are over-saturated with sonic product and the record industry is hell-bent on stifling the technological innovations that might sort out this cultural crisis. The only sure-fire way to stand out in this crowd is to aggressively (and personally) solicit support from the people who are in the best position to help you.

Musicians make their first important contacts while booking and promoting shows. Their first audiences will be comprised of friends and colleagues (literally 'who you know') and will be hosted at hometown venues with which the musician is probably already familiar. Many bands never make it beyond this point for many reasons, though too often musicians get stuck in a rut by failing to socialize outside of their own clique or scene. You can be the quiet, eccentric artist of few words, but if you don't shake some hands and make some phone calls, you'll be preaching to the converted night after night.

The Web is nothing if not a communication revolution, and there are plenty of digital resources at the independent musician's disposal. Now it's easier than ever to jump into new social circles without all the anxiety of face-to-face encounters. You'll still have to make the personal connections, but the modern tools of the trade should put you within one degree of separation from almost anyone you need to reach.

I'd like to draw your attention to four of the most useful booking resources which no independent musician should be without:

MySpace - An obvious one, for sure, but the utility of MySpace for DIY booking cannot be understated. The first step is to find your sister acts -- other bands that are stylistically similar to your group, and who are friendly enough to swap shows. Using MySpace's search tools, it's easy to find bands by genre, location, popularity -- you name it.

You can start contacting other bands and promoters inside MySpace, though I suggest you get email/phone info right up front and maintain a more personal rapport than sending IM's back and forth. I've known bands that have booked entire 2-week coastal tours on MySpace alone. Since you're dealing directly with other independent musicians who share your same goals and tastes, MySpace is the perfect place to start booking.

Later on, when you're dealing directly with promoters and venues instead of other musicians, it still comes in handy to fill in those hard-to-nail-down dates in between your bigger shows. Using MySpace to promote your events to your fans also couldn't be any easier.

IndieBandManager - Musican and database designer Charlie Cheney has created the ultimate tool to manage one's booking and promotion activities. IndieBandManager is the program that every hard-working independent musician has been waiting for -- the ultimate convergence of contact and project management, mass personalized emails, event coordination, invoicing, accounting... if it's part of the business of being a musician, it's in there.

To sweeten the deal, IndieBandManager is already loaded with great contacts for booking, press and radio, and additional contact databases from quality sources can be purchased at ridiculously reasonable prices. It's also extremely easy to input your own contacts and import them from other sources.

Surprisingly few bands realize how important it is to have this kind of tool at one's disposal. It may be overkill for the weekend warrior, but for those of you who truly aspire to have a music career (or at least aspire to live above the poverty level), you absolutely must get organized. Until recently, this meant running separate programs for your contacts, calendar, accounting, etc... IndieBandManager puts it all in under one roof. Do yourself a favor and download the demo -- you'll wonder how you ever booked a show without it.

These last two resources are more genre-specific, but will come in quite handy if you're a punk or a singer/songwriter.

Book Your Own Fuckin' Life - This site pre-dates Napster, and it recently got a much needed overhaul after a long span of lying dormant. For punk and indie rockers, this is a great do-it-yourself booking resource. As the name implies, it's up to you to do all the work; BYOFL is simply a listing site. Though it is moderated by a team of dedicated volunteers, anyone can post new information to the site and update existing information. That means you'll have to wade through a lot of crap, which can be challenging since the search tools are very basic. The upside is that you will find diamonds in the rough, true gems of people whose hearts are in exactly the right place. You won't get thousand dollar guarantees, but much of the time you'll be taken care of with food, shelter, and a generous cut of the door.

Just Plain Folks - Last year, I had the pleasure of meeting Just Plain Folks founder Brian Austin Whitney at an open mic night in my hometown. Through e-mail and word of mouth alone, he somehow got 23 singer/songwriters to show up and pour out their hearts for the audience and for each other (photo here). I had never really witnessed anything like it -- Whitney had found a way to unite the national circuit of independent singer/songwriters under a common banner: Just Plain Folks.

The musicians weren't just there to play -- the event was part of a national networking tour which got artists socializing with each other, strengthening their regional scene. Sure enough, as the years went by, Just Plain Folks grew into a community of over 40,000 performers and music professionals. They even have their own awards ceremony that dwarfs even the Grammys in size and scope.

Though anyone can join up as a member, I especially urge all singer/songwriter solo performers to get involved with Just Plain Folks. All it takes are a few clicks, and you'll instantly be included in this inspirational, unifying independent musicians' network.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Media freak-out: The beginning of the end for MySpace?


I hold the unpopular opinion that despite its current exponential growth, MySpace is nearing the peak of a bell curve that will eventually dip down into obsolescence. Once Intermix (MySpace's parent company) was bought out by mega-media conglomerate News Corp (aka Fox), I felt content in knowing my opinion was becoming fact.

After reading this Wall Street Journal article, I believe we're now witnessing what may be the beginning of the end for MySpace. There are many reasons to be apocalyptic about the social networking giant, but the biggest one is highlighted in this passage:


MySpace has become the focus of criticism from authorities, teachers and parents that children are exposed to risqué content and are preyed upon by sexual predators who meet them on the site. Such episodes aren't unique to MySpace, but the site stands out because of its size -- 54 million registered users, with about 19% of monthly users under 17, according to comScore

In response, News Corp. is scrambling to make MySpace a safer place for young people. News Corp. plans to appoint a "safety czar" to oversee the site, launch an education campaign that may include letters to schools and public-service announcements to encourage children not to reveal their contact information.


Do a Google News search on MySpace and you'll see the crisis reaching a fever pitch.

This recent wave of bad press for MySpace is the equivalent of a parent finding and reading their child's journal. Kids always knew that their profiles were publicly viewable, but now that they know their parents are watching, do you really think they're going to want to continue publicly expressing their burgeoning curiosity about sex, drugs, or whatever?

Currently, the media has re-branded MySpace as a tool for parents to check up on the secret activities and thoughts of their children. And with MySpace taking steps to make it impossible to lie about one's age (see the WSJ article) the options for remaining undetected by authority figures are becoming slim.

While I'm sure MySpace will weather this current media-freak out, I'm convinced that stripping away the image of MySpace as a chaotic and often highly sexualized atmosphere will strip away the very appeal of participating.

Much like AOL (the chat rooms in 1.0 were truly a red-light district), MySpace is compelled to clean up the network and de-sexualize the service as much as possible. Sure, it'll still be a useful tool for musicians and people with stuff to promote, but the exploratory expression (sexual or otherwise) of teens is what keeps its users active and drives new subscribers.

So what will become of MySpace? In my next post, I'll go into some other reasons why I think the sun is setting on the popular portal, and why the MySpace of tomorrow will function much differently than MySpace of today.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

American Idol smokes the Grammy awards


Maybe FOX's American Idol isn't the harbinger of cultural doom that most rational people believe it to be. Splashed across the Drudge Report today was a headline proclaiming, "'Idol' amateurs beat 'Grammy' pros in ratings". The story is accompanied by two photos: an American Idol contestant singing soulfully into a water bottle, and a sneering, dirt-old Madonna standing in front of the Grammy/CBS logo backdrop.

Though I still think FOX's Murdoch is building the equivalent of a mainstream media Death Star, I feel that these ratings bode well for the future of music. The statistics clearly show that the stars have fallen from the proverbial sky, and the first celebrities to hit the ground will be those whose talent has gone stale (Madonna) or those who never had talent (Mariah Carey) -- exactly the kind of celebrity the Grammy awards try and resuscitate each year.

American Idol's success (it's the #1 rated show in the country) proves to me that somewhere deep in the collective unconscious of our home viewing audience lies the fundamental truth that good music is best served by a democratic music industry where the people choose their stars, rather than a corporate filter that manufactures desire for their products with advertising and meaningless awards shows. While past Idol winners clearly prove that Americans have no taste in music, at least the public is starting to question why they need a musical-industrial complex to stand between the consumer and the product.

In a way, this is just a huge backfiring of marketing trends which have sought to treat each consumer, in the words of Chuck Palahniuk, as "a beautiful and unique snowflake," when millions of consumers purchase products in lockstep unison each day. Now the cult of the individual has been given the reigns of the music industry, as evidenced in the #1 chart debuts of Idol artists over the past few years.

Don't get me wrong, American Idol is as much a sham as the Grammy awards; both shows use the hypnotic glow of the television to artificially hype artists that consumers wouldn't be caught dead listening to, if only they had a choice not to. Digital music represents that choice, but only if the new music industry embraces democracy over corporate greed (see ArtistShare for a great example of this.) In fact, the pessimist in me knows that American Idol is the ultimate representation of everything that is wrong with our culture.

But the optimist in me sees America's superficial music fans taking the first baby-steps toward asserting their true power as masters of their own cultural consumption. Just as former smokers regain their sense of taste, so too must consumers be weaned off the billowing clouds of crap being cast forth from the music industry. Only then will they be able to taste the freedom of musical choice. In that sense, American Idol shifts listener's habits from Marlboro to Marlboro Light. A little healthier? Yes. Still killing you? You bet.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Artist awareness, Web 2.0 and the amateur music industry


"What is noise to the old order is harmony to the new." - Jacques Attali, Noise: The Political Economy of Music

ACKNOWLEDGING ARTIST TYPES

In the world of music, there are six types of Artists, each characterized by the particular music community they are a part of: Amateur, Aspiring, DIY, Independent, Professional and Star.

Every Artist starts as an amateur. The dictionary definition of an amateur is “a person who engages in an art… as a pastime rather than as a profession.” At this stage, an Artist is learning her instrument, and in the process, learning the songs of other artists. She may even begin writing originals. When performing, her audience consists of mainly family and friends. An Amateur rarely records her music, and if so, it is usually a low-fidelity recording for personal use.

At some magic point -- and most musicians will know what I'm talking about -- the Artist makes a serious commitment to playing music. She starts looking for an audience that wants to listen. Not yet a full-fledged DIY Artist, she takes some but not all of the steps towards establishing her identity as an Aspiring musician. For instance, she may have a demo but no gigs or vice versa. She may have a modest but undeveloped catalog of original material. In any case, she is musically active but not yet a member of a musical community beyond her close associates.

Those who see their passion through will usually arrive in the DIY Artist community. At this level, the Artist has finally developed some sort of audience and found a niche to fill in the local music scene. She has established a musical identity by networking with other local musicians and music fans. All efforts to record, perform and promote her music are her responsibility and hers alone.

This is where the ride ends for most musicians, and sometimes Artists will remain DIY until the day they die. But if the Artist's local music scene catches on in the broader regional or national music scene, they have a shot at becoming Independent. Though this transition is usually characterized by being signed to an independent record label, many Independent musicians are still DIY, just on a larger scale. With a support network and audience that reaches beyond her local scene, the Independent Artist can go on longer tours, put out more high-fidelity recordings and occasionally even make a buck or two.

When a DIY or Independent Artist possesses enough skill, talent and experience, they may make the ascension to the Professional level. Earlier in her career, the musician had to supplement her music-related income to make ends meet or otherwise adjust her lifestyle as per the success (or failure) of her music. As a Professional, she makes a sustainable amount of money from the music industry so that little or no supplementation is required. These Artists work directly with the music industry. Many literally work for the music industry. Professionals are eager to make both music and money.

Finally, the Professional musician gets her big break, or perhaps some major label executive 'discovers' her when she's still DIY or Independent. All of the sudden, she's making a healthy living and people know her name. She's on tour, her album is in stores and her song is on the radio. She's a Star.

NOTES AND BILLS

When your average music listener thinks of the terms ‘Artist’ or ‘musician’, the image conjured is usually that of a Star or Professional – a successful performer with albums, tour dates, merchandise, groupies, etc. – when, in fact, these Artists are the minority elite. Most Artists are Amateurs or Aspiring musicians. Those in the DIY and Independent communities comprise a smaller slice of the pie. Very few Artists will ever get signed to a record label, let alone go on a tour or even sell a T-shirt.

While these distinctions may seem obvious, the true nature of the Artist community at large has been virtually ignored by most literature geared towards musicians. Numerous books, magazines and websites cater to the Amateur and Aspiring musician with information regarding how to establish oneself as a Professional or Star. Fewer publications help guide musicians in the DIY and Independent music communities.

Yet almost no one acknowledges Amateur and Aspiring musicians in the context of their own music community. It’s always “How to Be a Rock Star” and never “How to Be Yourself.” Most media geared toward musicians stokes their desire to make money and be popular, ignoring the fact that these goals are secondary to the real reason people become Artists in the first place; the goal of every Artist is simply to create music, period.

Of course, no one can prevent the Artist from picking up a guitar and strumming a tune, but this is far from a complete definition of ‘creating music’. For many Artists, creating music also includes recording, performing, merchandise, etc., but those outside of the Professional and Star communities are prohibited by the maxim of today’s music industry: get rich or die trying.

We must first recognize that the majority of Artists (Amateur and Aspiring) do not necessarily have career goals within the music industry; that is, most Artists are in it for the music, not the money or the popularity. Despite their dedication, these Artists are ignored by the music industry and thus inaccessible to listeners.

But for DIY and Independent Artists, there is a drive to establish a sustainable career with music as their primary (or only) job. They are talented, some of them are experienced, and all of them are part of active and supporting music communities. Yet to Professionals and Stars, these scenes are mere hunting grounds for new musical fads. The music industry likewise only seeks to exploit these communities. Meanwhile, these Artists sustain themselves as best they can through an "underground" music industry that shadows the mainstream.

Thus, the vast majority of Artists -- Amateurs, Aspiring, DIY and Independent -- are ill served by the current structure of the music industry. This is why we as Artists must move beyond the rock star mentality and acknowledge the particular needs of each music community. I don't mean to suggest that musicians should not act like a rock stars, only that they think before you act. Once a musician has made the tradition from Amateur to Aspiring, she ought to know what she’s really aspiring to do.

MELTING THE ICEBERG

The metaphor goes like this: At the top of the music industry iceberg are the Stars, the few celebrity Artists that have popularity and money in excess. Below that are the Professionals who sustain themselves with a job in the music industry. The more popular Pros are visible above the water, the less popular are submerged. Further underwater we find the Independent and DIY communities. The vast bottom of the iceberg is anchored by Aspiring and Amateur musicians. Around the iceberg floats a vast sea of listeners.

The listening community mainly sees (or hears) the top of the iceberg, which explains why the term ‘Artist’ elicits the image of a Star or Professional. Listeners must dive deeper to reach the Independent music community, deeper still for DIY, and so on. Amateur musicians are usually too near the bottom to ever reach listeners.

But under the ambitious principles of Web 2.0 and The Long Tail, Internet technology like blogs, podcasts and social networks are beginning to allow listeners easier access to the bottom of the iceberg. Some Web zealots would say technology is “tipping the iceberg”, rendering the mainstream Star system obsolete and returning power to the smaller music communities. At present, a Herculean task such as shifting the massive weight of the established music industry is unfeasible, especially when said music industry is already using its considerable financial and political resources to take back the reigns on Web technology. The Long Tail is powerful, but it doesn’t have enough leverage to lift this entire iceberg out of the water.

What is technologically possible, and possibly preferable, is a “melting” of the iceberg. In this scenario, the various Artist communities of the iceberg melt into the surrounding sea of listeners. How could this happen? If the line between Artist and listener were blurred, perhaps eradicated, then the music industry would melt into the very audience it serves. After all, every Artist on the iceberg is already a music listener, just as ice is just water, albeit in a more solidly structured state.

This scenario has already been painstakingly analyzed by French author/politician Jacques Attali, quoted earlier from the book Noise: The Political Economy of Music. In particular, check out this transcript of the speech Attali gave at a digital music conference in 2001. After putting the music industry in meticulous historical context, Attali offers a vision of this "melting of the iceberg”:

"The future is no longer to listen to music, but to play it... composition would be done first and foremost for ourselves, for each of us, for the simple pleasure of making music. This is significant not only because you do it outside of the economy, for your own personal enjoyment, but because the only person listening to the piece is the same person playing it... the real pleasure of composition would exist outside of the market economy... For when I create something, and I then give it to you, I may have a chance of living in your memory forever."

By removing the prime impetus of today’s music industry (money) and replacing it with a more positive goal (communication), the industry can be democratized. Thanks to Web 2.0, the Amateur music industry is at hand, and it's teeming with non-profit sole proprietors. All that is missing is community awareness among Artists. Once musicians recognize that the power to build the new music industry is in their hands, once listeners realize music is theirs not just to hear but to remix and compose, the heat will be on. The iceberg will melt, allowing safe passage for all sailors of sound.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

How to not be a rock star


In speaking to an audience of musicians, it's important to be realistic. They're dreamers. This is a fact exploited by the majority of popular literature and media for musicians. Looking back at my music-themed bookshelf, I see way too much "How to Be a Rock Star" fantasizing and not enough reality.

The more mundane (but supposedly indispensable) "Everything You Need to Know About Whatever" books quickly collect dust once the lay reader stumbles upon the percentage of gross mechanical royalties the producer receives before recouping. Say what?

But even the cooler, more down-to-earth books, like the ball-busting classic Confessions of a Record Producer, are still geared towards a musician's lust for rock stardom. The book details the many ways in which unsuspecting young artists can be viciously exploited by the money-hungry recording industry, but it's nothing more than recreational reading for the vast sea of musicians that will never see a recording contract.

It's not that the fantasy of rock stardom has a wholly negative connotation; both Kurt Cobain and I rocked out on our cheap guitars in front of the mirror facing thousands of imaginary fans. Even rock stars have rock star fantasies. Whether you're a celebrity or an amateur, being a musician is about communicating with people on a level that can't be reached by any other means. It's the same for every artist, from Sony Records to the sidewalk.

Fame and fortune signify to many musicians successful communication. This is a media and industry distortion. The quality of music must come before its quantity. Successful communication -- "good music" -- is about quality. Quantity (album sales) should follow from popular acceptance of "good music". Instead, quantity follows from public demand that is just as manufactured as the product being sought. Quality is an afterthought; it's an extra bonus if less than half the album sucks.

And that brings us full circle. Ask any musician and they'll tell you that music, on the whole, sucks these days. The "music" they speak of in the general sense is whatever's "popular" or "mainstream" or "selling millions of records while the rock stars bathe in champagne and I eat Ramen." Aspiring artists hear the media conglomerate broadcast pipe vomiting plastic pop at the supermarket and, fortunately for us, reach for the guitar before the gun. They make music to create noise in the system and interrupt the bland frequencies that listeners are inundated with.

It's no surprise, then, that musicians can be a conflicted, bitter bunch. The majority of them carry unfulfilled dreams of becoming rock stars. Paradoxically, the reason they keep playing music is because rock stars suck! They hate the mainstream yet yearn to direct its current with music of their own.

I think a lot of musicians subconsciously recognize that their rock star odds are low and even if they do get lucky, the house always wins. It only takes a few days on the road to realize you've gotta pay to play. But it's time for musicians to bravely confront the world beyond rock stardom: the real world, where the majority of musicians are independent and struggling to realize their dreams.

This world bears no resemblance to the set of American Idol. It looks more like your local music shop, VFW hall, suburban basements, cramped rehearsal rooms, music college campuses, open mic nights, dirty 15-passenger vans and small clubs.

This is the audience I want to write for. It's who I am, and it's who I want to reach out to. In the world of music, we are the creative majority. It's time to drop the rock star myth. We're over that. If it happens, it happens. Being a rock star is no more of a career choice than being a racecar driver. You only have to prove you're good and get a few lucky breaks. Winning is secondary to playing.

I've never seen a royalty check, but I'll still play the guitar in front of the mirror, imagining 1,000 screaming fans. 999 of them won't be at my show tomorrow. I'm playing for the one who will. Maybe they'll tell a friend. Maybe they'll buy a T-shirt.

If all you want to do is be a rock star, you'll spend thousands on musical equipment and years of your life to reach semi-unemployed creative purgatory. If you acknowledge your humble role as communicator and accept the responsibility of taking care of yourself... you might sell a T-shirt and the band can go out for pancakes after the show.

What's it gonna be? Purgatory or pancakes?

Monday, October 10, 2005

"Can you imagine? States of mind have sounds?!"

Today I found a great blog via the The Association of Music Writers and Photographers (AMWP) newsletter. This BeatnikPad post titled "Cool musicians who blog" was an eye-opening look at the fiercely creative minds of some truly visionary artists.

I was hooked the moment I entered David Byrne's online journal and read the following conclusion to a post on the philosophical implications of Japanese linguistics:

Can you imagine? States of mind have sounds?! Concepts have sounds!? Who’d ‘a thunk it? It this a kind of synethesia? So therefore a musical composition (musique concrete, most likely) COULD be a real map or analogy or model of a progression of concepts —a sonic map of a progression of thoughts… sometimes proceeding one after another, in traditional logical fashion, and sometimes overlapping, rushing onward, and sometimes happening simultaneously — as sounds certainly do, an maybe thoughts too? Each sound corresponds to an idea or concept, and then logically (or not) leads on to the next… eventually arriving as some sonic/psychic conclusion. Or merely an ending. Who needs philosophy? Who needs books? We have sounds."


Right? Crazy! And the list goes on... There's the photo-rich blog from The Doves and Tony Levin, the megastar modesty of Radiohead's journal or the spiritual outlook of Ben Lee. It was encouraging to note that the blogs, for the most part, were genuine and authentic attempts to a) connect with their audience and b) satisfy the uniquely postmodern, Digital Age appetite for content. Not coincidentally, the all, for the most part, make amazing, original, authentic, moderately popular music.

The blog strikes me as a standard feature of an artist's arsenal, both to unsigned and independent musicians and those on indie and major labels alike. Yes, occasionally these blogs become acts of admitted self-obsession, such as Rivers Cuomo from Weezer (on MySpace no less) or celebrity political rants from Moby (though he at least deserves credit for being one of the first musician-bloggers.) But in the general sense, the blog in an indispensable if not only for the fact that is so free and easy to use and pays large dividends in the attention your music will receive if your fans are involved on a more personal level.

If music is about communication before it is about profit, then the music with be better and the profit will thus grow larger as listeners buy more music. But if music is about profit first, all the communication manipulation in the word (i.e. marketing and promotion budgets) cannot restore the creative and aesthetic luster of the dull, repetitive, derivative, mass-produced sonic product that dominates the marketplace today. Besides, musicians promoting each other on their blogs edges out the authenticity of, say, Macy Gray wearing a dress to the MTV Music Awards that says "Buy My Album in July".

The musician blog is one step forward into what Jacques Attali (author of the book that I'm currently reading that's rocking my whole world -- Noise: The Political Economy of Music -- more on that in a future blog) referred to as a new phase in musical development, a methodology based on composition in which music listeners are also the musicians themselves as the musical experience becomes interactive. The blog is a harbinger of this trend as it opens a direct line of communication between musician and listener. As is seen in MP3 blogs, independent authors can thrive in extremely small niche communities. For musicians, this can mean an instant connection with listeners and industry people, which translates into greater musical and economic prosperity. With greater prosperity comes greater participation, and those who have important musical contributions to make to our culture will gain new opportunities in communication and remuneration.

My advice to serious musicians of the 21st Century: you have two instruments at your disposal... the one that you play and the one that you control with a keyboard and mouse. Individually, they are the two most powerful weapons of change in the known world. Together, you are unstoppable.