long tail, big problem?

November 26, 2009

I’ve been thinking about the negative effects of the long tail -a recent statistic showed that 4 of the top singles and 3 of the top albums in the UK are associated with X-Factor – a new bench mark of mediocrity.

I wonder what would music look like if “barely mainstream” acts such as Otis Redding or Jimi Hendrix hadn’t had the chance to have a “hit” – hadn’t had the chance to be exposed to a large,mainstream audience who could then adopt the music and advance it? Never mind the other acts of the same ilk who benefitted from a pioneer of the genre (e.g. Pearl Jam’s success after Nirvana’s mainstream acceptance)

It would seem that X-Factor gives us a partial answer – the mainstream would’ve embraced older (read safer) music and embraced the performers of same as role models.

I’m not saying that there isn’t incredible, ground breaking music happening today – there most certainly is. What I’m asking is: does the current climate allow a fringe band to ignite an entire movement of original music to the scale where it has as significant societal impact? Or is the tail now simply too long and too fragmented?

Update Keith Jopling over at Juggernaut Brew has some interesting thoughts that relate to this issue – most appropriately, where and how can bands within a niche connect with those looking for “something different”.

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NIMIC – What’s Next?

November 18, 2009

The only thing that’s seems certain after Monday’s open meeting to discuss the demise of NIMIC, the Northern Ireland Music Industry sector lead body, is that such a body no longer exists.

BBC Radio had a few interviews with folks from the meeting, which you can hear over on the 17/11/09 edition of BBC’s Evening Extra (interviews start at 1hr 12mins in). The interviewer summed it up nicely: “People seemed to be struggling to come up with ideas.”

Should a similar body be formed? For what purpose? Is it even necessary? Or are the various strands of any music industry simply better served by their own representative bodies (MMF, NIRSA etc.)?

My personal disappointment with the passing of NIMIC mainly stems from the (perhaps naïve) view that the presence of a unified voice for musicians & industry service providers was better than a fragmented group of various interests – and not only for the benefits of lobbying local government, but as a representative of co-operation and willingness to collaborate to the wider world.

Work with Un-Convention, the NI Music Meetup (now Open Music Media) and other collaborative, prospective ventures only further deepened that belief.

I’d have to say that recent experience (not just the collapse of NIMIC) has changed that view to a large degree – indeed, the overall consensus is that a one-size-fits-all organization is doomed to fail, as NIMIC did. Indeed, according to what I can see as the currently prevalent idea, even the naming of a music industry body is premature. A music industry, in and of itself; either doesn’t, or to some people’s minds, shouldn’t exist at all here. I’m prepared to reluctantly accept those concepts.

So what’s next? Probably what faces most music industries in most cities – a wide range of organizations with various goals and an arrested knowledge of each others existence; advice giving and network sharing on a smaller scale between members of those organizations and occasional inter-organizational co-operation – lacking in a central point of contact for representation outside of that particular market or support for ideas and endeavor from within. What benefits or negative effects arise from this approach I’ll leave for others, and time itself, to extrapolate upon.

What do you think of the need, or lack thereof, for a central representative body for a music industry? What happens in your city by way of collaboration at an industry wide level and do you think you’d benefit from a single voice such as the one NIMIC has attempted to represent? An outside perspective is most appreciated here!


The end of the Bait & Switch

November 11, 2009

I was listening to a radio show recently that covered Evangelical Christianity’s attempts to convert “sinners” into believers – and the long standing tradition of using the bait-and-switch to bring non-believers into the fold. (I’m in no way religious, so bear with me on this…)

As an example, some churches would invite students to what looks like a regular Spring Break party “with free food and drinks!” without telling them that the party was organized by a local church, then they would not-so-subtly drop in messages about Jesus and the church throughout the event.

But one pastor, Jim Henderson, has eschewed these practices completely in favor of encouraging evangelicals to connect with people. He’s realized that people don’t want to be tricked, sold to or deceived – but that they want to be connected with, listened to and understood.

He broke down his method into 3 steps –

1: Don’t concern yourself with converts or sales.
2: Notice people. Sit and watch how people are interacting.
3: When you do engage with people, actually listen to them and respond AFTER you’ve listened.

These are some of the most basic tenents of social media (hell, ANY social interaction) – this is how social media thrives and how relationships develop in the online AND offline space. When you like someone – i.e. when you connect with them and their message INDEPENDENTLY of outside forces or trickery, the relationship changes.

Essentially, as a label or artist, you’re evangelising too. Jesus is your music :D. You can take the ever-less-effective route of the bait-and-switch – lure people in with the single, switch it up with the filler, focus on the numbers (how many people can I PUSH my CD on tonight?) and get concurrently pushy so you can meet your short-term sales goals.

Or you can realize that it’s not just about getting the CD or the t-shirt sold – that the smart move is developing long term relationships. That it’s about connecting with people, recognizing what they love and value and providing that in some way.

And yes, you need to have FAITH that people will connect with you and your music enough to convert.


Announcing Open Music Media Belfast

November 9, 2009

NI Music Meetup = Open Music Media Belfast – Friday, November 4th 2009 – The Limelight, 6-9pm.

You may have seen a few posts during the year about NIMIM – the Northern Ireland Music Industry Meetup. What started as a casual meetup for musicians, labels, promoters eventually evolved into UnConvention Belfast and a bunch of other get-togethers in 2009 covering a variety of subjects.

As Rich Dale explains:

“Open Music Media Belfast is the new name for the NI Music Industry Meetups. Why? A couple of reasons. Firstly we’re keen to give our participants access a wider network – Open Music Media was founded in London and there will be ‘OMM’ events happening worldwide. Secondly we like the focus, ambition and intent of Open Music Media.

It’s where music is going. The time for lamenting the death of the old regime is over, and OMM is forum for ideas and a meeting of minds that will help shape the future of the industry. Whilst it’ll ask the big questions that affect us all, it’ll also focus in on the new strategies that will help our music thrive and our music businesses prosper.

Yes, we’re all in business, and OMM Belfast will be the friendly, focused and inspiring place where we’re all pulling in the same direction.

The next OMM Belfast takes place at the Limelight on Friday December 4th, from 6-9pm.

We’ll be looking at the mix of music, media and social networks, with perspectives from BalconyTV.com founder Stephen O’Regan and Gawain Morrison, founder of Filmtrip, musician, promoter and pioneer of alternate uses of music in media.”

For those of you on Facebook, the event is here

For more on Open Music Media check out www.openmusicmedia.wordpress.com or follow www.twitter.com/openmusicmedia