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Alexandria Maillot Releases “Time”

maillotOurStage member, former MTV ‘Needle in the Haystack’ winner, and pride of British Columbia Alexandria Maillot just dropped a new single called “Time (On Your Own).” It’s a hypnotic, groove-heavy heavy-groove adorned with sweet and airy harmonies and a single reverbed-out guitar and maybe a baritone guitar riding a riff over the beat. It’s deceptively simple and kind of perfect for mid-summer evenings. She’s got it up on Bandcamp for free or pay-what-you-like download. Get it now.

More like this:
Needle in the Haystack Follow Up: Alexandria Maillot
Teen Spirit
Press Shuffle: Songs To Tell The Future To

Exclusive Interview: Ben Sharp from Cloudkicker

For many artists, music is about “making it big” and living the proverbial “dream” but not for Ben Sharp, solo artist behind the DIY instrumental post-rock/metal project Cloudkicker. In fact, Sharp is comfortably living his own version of said “dream” from his home in Columbus, Ohio. While his career as a musician may seem like more than just a hobby, with eight impressive releases available on Bandcamp and a considerably large international fan-base, Cloudkicker remains as such. In fact, his music is even available for free online. It was only within the past few years that he started to accept payment for downloads, with a humble “name your price” option. This started in 2010 with the release of his breakthrough album, Beacons, a full-force bludgeoning of rapid instrumental and musical proficiency that would bring any musician or metalhead to their knees. Upon first listen, one might expect this to be the next big band of skilled musicians to take over the world of post-rock and metal (or “djent” as some music fans have called the genre), but upon more research you will find that it is just Sharp’s sole ambitious and talented efforts. I had the pleasure of speaking with him about the comfortable and fortunate position he has found for himself in the music world, as well as his thoughts on the music industry, how the Internet is changing the way ideas and music are shared, what his journey has been like so far, and what lies ahead for Cloudkicker. Continue reading ‘Exclusive Interview: Ben Sharp from Cloudkicker’

Industrial Revolution: MySpace – The End Is Nigh

Oh MySpace. I don’t think I need to delve into your sad story because it’s a familiar tale. Even if you don’t know the details of the rise and fall of the Internet’s first smash hit social media site, you still know the story—assuming you studied ancient Rome in grade school or have watched literally any rock bio-pic film ever made. Humble beginnings, spectacular rise, crucial missteps, steep decline, public shame, optional drug overdose, likely death.

The ending is yet to be determined, of course, but demise seems inevitable. The prescient 24/7 Wall St. blog has released their yearly “Ten Brands That Will Disappear” list for 2012, and while the inclusion of such stalwarts as Sears and Kellogg’s Corn Pops might surprise many, the appearance of MySpace is no shock. But it is the first official time-of-death call, and it’s from an observer with a pretty good track record of predicting these things (for example, the disappearance of both T-Mobile and Blockbuster). Their summary is concise and worth excerpting in full:

MySpace, once the world’s largest social network, died a long time ago. It will get buried soon. News Corp (NYSE: NWS) bought MySpace and its parent in 2005 for $580 million which was considered inexpensive at the time based on the web property’s size. MySpace held the top spot among social networks based on visitors from mid-2006 until mid-2008 according to several online research services. It was overtaken by Facebook at that point. Facebook has 700 million members worldwide now and recently passed Yahoo! (NASDAQ: YHOO) as the largest website for display advertising based on revenue. News Corp was able to get an exclusive advertising deal worth $900 million shortly after it bought the property, but that was its sales high-water mark. Its audience is currently estimated to be less that 20 million visitors in the US. Why did MySpace fall so far behind Facebook? No one knows for certain. It may be that Facebook had more attractive features for people who wanted to share their identities online. It may have been that it appealed to a younger audience which tends to spend more time online. News Corp announced in February that it would sell MySpace. There were no serious bids. Rumors surfaced recently that a buyer may take the website for $100 million. The brand is worth little if anything. A buyer is likely to kill the name and fold the subscriber base into another brand. News Corp has hinted it will close MySpace if it does not find a buyer.

Indeed, just one buyer remains a possibility at present, and that is the Chairman and CEO of Activision, Bobby Kotick, who heads an investor group interested in having a stake in the company, rather than purchasing it in full (theoretically, News Corp would retain 20%). Word is that even if this investment somehow goes through, it ain’t gonna be for no $100 million. [Late-breaking update: Sure enough, News Corp. has reportedly made a deal to MySpace for $35 million to Specific Media. News Corp. is expected to retain a 5% stake.]

Rude.

What happened to MySpace? It really is hard to say. The first thing that springs to mind is the lack of a communal space (Facebook’s “Wall”) that allowed users to really feel connected to their friends. Then came the deluge of users and spammers, who were eagerly accepted as friends in order to raise that number. In that way, MySpace was a learning environment, which informed our later behavior on Facebook. We knew, by then, to be more selective, and that the number of friends you had really didn’t matter at all. Without MySpace, all those mistakes would have occurred on Facebook, which would now resemble the gaudy wasteland of MySpace (damn you, layout wizards!).

For many of us, MySpace was attractive as a music discovery site. But unfortunately the music on MySpace sounded like shit, due to their standard low-bit-rate streaming MP3s. When MySpace began to accept that they had lost the social media game to Facebook, they tried to re-focus on just music. But they had blown their credibility on that front, and many other, less tainted and cluttered sites had filled any void left by Facebook’s (initial) lack of interest in catering to music fans (Soundcloud and Bandcamp being the current leaders). The once-hyped MySpace Records has foundered and this year laid-off at least half of its staff, though is still apparently functioning as an A&R operation in partnership with Interscope Records.

The thing is, efforts like MySpace start up and close down all the time. The world gets what they want out of it, learns from it and evolves. The only reason it’s still a matter of interest is because of MySpace’s former ubiquity. It really was the first social media site to pervade the public conscious. It was also the first time artists saw the web as more than just a secondary marketing tool, opening up a world of direct fan engagement. In these ways it was a success. But for the music business, this is yet another object lesson that you need to stay ahead of the game, predicting what’s next, rather than trying to cash in on what’s already working by cobbling it together with your business model. And just like with social media, the deluge hampered the ability of quality artists to connect with willing fans. No one is certain what will happen next and how this latter situation might resolve. But here at OurStage, fan-driven music discovery—where the community evaluates and puts the good stuff up top—is our bet.

[Ed. Note: You can read MySpace CEO Mike Jones' letter to the staff regarding this week's sale to Specific Media here.]

Rock ‘n’ Roll Call: The Lives of Famous Men

Their name is The Lives of Famous Men, and if their career thus far is any indication, they will probably know exactly what those lives are like.

Hailing from Anchorage, Alaska, this five-piece eventually moved to New York City, where they now claim residency at Arlene’s Grocery and at Philadelphia’s North Star Bar.

Vocalist Daniel Hall has a soothing yet expressive tone, channeling a mix between Head Automatica‘s Daryl Palumbo and The Spill Canvas‘ Nick Thomas. The group behind Hall writes with a strong indie pop sensibility (similar to Steel Train and The Format) as showcased on their latest record, Marigold Maxixe. The record is an evolution from the group’s past material, which was more upbeat and jazzy, but shows that the group is both maturing and unafraid to experiment with new sounds.

Like Meg & Dia, the group opted for a more toned-down approach for their new release, which features airy guitars, steady drum beats, vocal harmonies and charming acoustic guitars. Charging electric guitars have been traded in for bells and tambourines, but the change is both refreshing and well-executed.

After performing at SXSW, Warped Tour, MTVU’s Campus Invasion and on Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Lives of Famous Men are more than ready to take on the indie scene. Produced by Paul Kolderie (Radiohead, The Pixies), Marigold Maxixe is now available for streaming and download on the band’s Bandcamp page.

Click here to check out The Lives of Famous Men’s performance on Jimmy Kimmel and hear some of their older material in the player below!

New Music Biz 101: Free Track Giveaways

Ever since the rise of the independent artist, free track giveaways have been a promotional tool rapidly increasing in popularity. Artists are giving away free CDs, MP3s—anything that can get their music to the masses. However, music is an artist’s most powerful asset, so why not use it to it’s full potential.

A lot of musicians are handing out free music like its nothing, just for the sake of exposure. Although this method isn’t completely ineffective, we think there is a better approach.  If someone is interested enough in you as an artist to listen to your music, you’re going to want to know who this person is and engage them as a potential fan.  You need to connect with them on some level, collect their email address, encourage them to join your Facebook artist page, get their phone number, etc. Bottom line: you need a way to reach out to these potential fans in the future. Luckily, there are a few tools out there that can help you with this.

Nimbit, Topspin, and Bandcamp are a few Web sites that help artists make more out of their free track offerings. They provide online tools that allow you to capture user data with every free giveaway. For example, in order to download a free track from one of these sites, a person must provide their email address. With some of the available tools, fans must provide their name, zip code and email address. This gives artists a sense of where their fan base is located which can be invaluable for touring purposes.

When you’re on the road, use mailing lists or download cards to capture user data. Maintaining fan connections for future marketing initiatives is vital to the success of your future releases. For those who don’t know, download cards provide your fans a unique key that they can enter into a Web site in exchange for a download. The best way to distribute these items is to make an announcement during your show that you have free download cards at your merch table, available for anyone interested in picking one up. This way, not only do you only give a download to those who like your show enough to go get one, but you also got the fan to go straight to your merch table.

We hope this gives you a better idea of how to better utilize your music to your advantage. Let us know if you have other suggestions that we didn’t mention in the comments section.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Call: Paper or Plastic

As their name suggests, Paper or Plastic are all about recycling. Their newest album Don’t Be Like That shows how this Portland, Oregon group can take the best aspects of old school rock, jazz and soul and transplant them into today’s pop atmosphere.

Crafting sunny pop tunes with saxophone solos and bouncy piano chords, Don’t Be Like That is a quirky and endearing album. Vocalist David Pollock’s soulful croon and honest lyrics add the icing on the cake, perfectly complimenting the instrumentation of each song. Paper or Plastic may cite Elvis Costello and Frank Sinatra as influences, but this indie rock record gracefully places the band among acts like Hanson, Jack’s Mannequin and The Cab.

Paper or Plastic saw success from the get-go, opening for The Tubes and Bowling for Soup while they were still teenagers. They’ve also been rated one of the “Top 10 Up-and-Coming Bands” in the Northwest and were twice named finalists in the International Songwriting Competition.

Check out some new and old tunes below and pick up Don’t Be Like That for free on Paper or Plastic’s Bandcamp page!

Day 1: Future of Music Coalition’s Policy Summit 2010

In 2000, The Future of Music Coalition was formed as “a national nonprofit organization that works to ensure a diverse musical culture where artists flourish, are compensated fairly for their work and where fans can find the music they want,” by Policy Director Michael Bracy, General Council Walter F. McDonough, Executive Director Jenny Toomey and Technologies Director Brian Zisk. Over the last ten years, the non-profit organization has held a variety of eventsincluding its annual policy summitwhich gathers together music industry professionals, musicians, thought-leaders, entrepreneurs, lawyers and US legislators to discuss the music industry and the changes that come into play thanks to the ever-evolving and maturing Internet. For more information, visit Future of Music Coalition.

This year, OurStage is front and center in DC and will be bringing you daily updates, tips and tools from the Summit. Enjoy!

It comes as no surprise to musicians any more that they need to manage their own careers in a different way than they used to. Instead of making great music, then trying to obtain a manager, a publicist, an agent, a record deal, etc., events like FMC’s Policy Summit help educate musicians about how they are going to manage their own careers. To paraphrase Amaechi Uzoigwe of Definitive Jux Records on Sunday, “being a musician today is like running a small business.” At OurStage, we want to encourage musicians to use our platform and various tools to advance their musical career so that they can grab hold of another rung and move up the ladder of success.

This year, FMC’s 10th anniversary kicked off Sunday, October 3rd with a mix of panels and discussions including marketing, copyright, health insurance, analytics data and direct-to-fan campaigns. You can view the full schedule and speakers online, but OurStage also wanted to share some specific links for today’s musician. As they say, knowledge is power, so we want to empower you to take control of your music career!

Copyright and Register Your Work

1) Register your work with US Copyright Office

2) Register your work with Soundexchange for digital performance royalties

3) Learn more about the Music First Coalition

Read and Stay Informed

1) Read Donald Passman‘s book Everything You Need to Know About the Music Business

2) Read daily newsletters and music business web sites like HypebotDigital Music News and Sandbox.fm

3) Join the Pho Listserv

Marketing

1) Grow your numbers on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube and OurStage (of course!)

2) Write a blog about your work on Blogger, Squarespace or WordPress

3) Read Mashable to stay informed about trends and news in social media

4) Capture your audience’s mobile info via services like Twilio

5) Make your music available via services like Soundcloud and Bandcamp

6) Learn from online marketing and publicists like Ariel Hyatt (Here’s an interview with Ariel Hyatt about online marketing and publicity)

Manage Your Audience/Email Lists—and Treat Them like Gold!

1) Reverb Nation

2) Nimbit

3) Topspin

4) Bandzoogle

5) Your Mailing List Provider

6) Mailchimp

7) Constant Contact

Manage Your Projects

1) Remember the Milk

2) Basecamp

3) Things (for Mac)

Track Your Online Marketing and Success

1) Use Google Analytics on your site; it’s free and easy to use

2) Use bit.ly to track click through traffic from your tweets

3) Try and explore online tools such as Next Big Sound, Soundscan and Shopify

4) Track your iTunes numbers

Get Health Insurance!

1) Artists Health Insurance Resource Center

2) Future of Music HINT

3) Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight

4) Federal Health Care Reform

5) Kaiser Family Foundation

We hope this helps you as you manage that “small business” of your own. Stay tuned for news and updates on OurStage.com’s Marketplace, a new suite of tools for working musicians to help you manage your career.

Find more links and insider info on the Summit follow us live over the next two days at The Future of Music Coalition’s Summit 2010.

 


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