mat martin | Industry
Sketches, ideas, field recordings, demos and other such nonsenses are collected here, and can be filtered or searched below. Field recordings are often made while someone else takes a picture, and in those cases end with the shutter click.
Readers are reminded that this is an intermittent service and despite all good intentions is often neglected in favour of proper work.
Lou Rhodes’ new album “theyesandeye” is BBC 6 Music’s Album Of The Day on July 26th, as well as getting excellent reviews all over the place right now. Very happy to see the music gathering such great attention and to continue my ongoing relationship with Lou’s solo work as well as with Lamb, especially since this album was co-produced by an old college friend.
Pre-orders of special editions are still currently available from Pledge Music.
The sleeve for the Mary Epworth ‘Dream Life’ 12” made the cut for record sleeves of the month on the creative review website – the amazing photgraphy by Matthew Robert-Hughes does most of the heavy lifting in this design of course, but it’s still lovely to get a namecheck on layout and typography for my first vinyl design.
[ EDIT @ 18/06/2016: As with the post this is an addition to, this was written for specific clients running simple one-page html sites as a central hub for their social activity and hosted media. Bandsintown and Facebook have since become much firmer bedfellows and the interface for inputting and editing shows sits directly within your Facebook public profile now. The API still allows for that information to be called out to another site, and in fact their WordPress plugin also works very neatly, giving a fully customisable (via CSS) interface which can be seen at Grum’s website. Note the option to view local shows as well as all shows. ]
In continually working on getting the website/social media balance right for indie artists using one-page websites, it seems that one particular online service needs to be added to my post of February 12th. big thanks to Danny at Red Eyed and Blue who has been working with me on this in conjunction with The Brute Chorus’ website and who is the source of most of the articles I’m referring to here.
Bandsintown: In my previous article I talked about Artistdata as the one place you could put your shows in online and have them appear wherever you like, including on your website. As a result I didn’t go over the plethora of websites you can ask Artistdata to populate for you. There is one, however, that does require special attention, and that’s Bandsintown.
Initially a listings site like any other, Bandsintown has very cleverly opened its doors to artists as well as concert-goers and is allowing you to take the information it has on your shows and do things with it. they also work using individuals’ Last.fm and Pandora profiles to tailor the shows they pitch, and they offer an app for smartphones. This is essentially why bands in town seems to be becoming the go-to platform for both bands and fans.
There are a pile of articles online introducing Bandsintown and singing it’s praises, like this one (thank you Danny), which I suggest you read so I don’t have to repeat them whilst trying not to copy their content.
Here’s what’s so special from my point of view – Bandsintown seems to do some of the things Artistdata will do for you, only better, or at least differently. And the best bit is that Artistdata populates Bandsintown automatically for you, so you are still only inputting your info once.
Bandsintown and Facebook: this is where the real benefit of this complication lies. Look at the Grum Facebook profile for an example of the Bandsintown integration. It’s much sexier and more useful than the Artistdata version. So, here’s a suggestion:
Go back into your Artistdata account, and disable the Facebook tool. make sure that Artistdata is feeding your info to Bandsintown, and then go to the Bandsintown Facebook app and create a link between your public profile and Bandsintown’s database. The difference to the accessibility of your information is worth the effort.
Bandsintown on your website and other spots: Bandsintown also offer a tweeting service and calendar widget like Artistdata, so you can include all of their info on your site and around and about. Whether you pick one or the other service to do this will simply be a matter of taste, although it would be problematic to have two services auto-tweeting the same info for you, so do pick one. Here’s the other warning I’d offer – if your shows have to go from Artistdata to your site via Bandsintown then you are adding one level of complication, more potential for things to go wrong, and a time lag in getting your info up online.
Artistdata, Bandsintown and time lags: At the time of writing there’s been no response to the support ticket submitted to Bandsintown about how long it would take shows inputted to Artistdata to then show up on Facebook via their platform, so no official numbers on this yet. However, experiments with The Brute Chorus’ dates showed that everything was in place within 24 hours of adding a show to Artistdata.
[ EDIT @ 18/06/2016: This post was written for clients of mine managing simple one-page html sites designed for musicians at a time when the dominance of MySpace in that field was undergoing a significant downturn. The streamlining of these low-budget projects was based on the alternative platforms available to musicians and experimentation with their parallel use and integration. The post doesn’t represent my current working methods or content handling preferences, as my remit and choice of platforms have changed considerably, as has the landscape of web use and development. There are, however some more general points of interest here and there still. ]
The following is extracted from a document I wrote this week for clients having one-page websites built. I hope it can be of wider use, or can generate some responses that will tighten all of this thinking up.
In order to keep your one-page website up to date and maximise its ability to allow people to connect with you in whichever way they prefer, it can be useful to create accounts with and use certain social networks and media hosting services. I also recommend the use of some of these as a way of avoiding having to pay for updates to your site where often-changing items like news feeds or tour dates are concerned.
There’s nothing worse than arriving at someone’s site to see that it clearly hasn’t been updated for months, showing old tour dates and news items that now bear little relevance to the activity of a band. Relying on expensive back-end updates or creating a web presence which needs updating in several places can result in this situation very quickly.
People use social media as a way to organise their lives, share with friends and discover new interests. If you are not present on your audiences preferred network, they could be less likely come looking for you elsewhere. If they love Facebook and they find you there, they will probably click ‘like’, if Tumblr or Twitter is their thing and they are able to follow you there, they will be excited to do so.
Being present in people’s social media feeds means that, provided you follow up with good content, you will never be far from their minds where music is concerned, and they are unlikely to forget that you exist. They won’t have to come looking for you, they have given you permission to come to them.
Your site is where Google searches for your band name will take people. It’s the place you can control and organise to be exactly what you want, and to which all your other web presences refer in content and design. Ideally it would say something clear and unique about your product with its style and design. It can offer select video and audio examples, but these should always link back to a place where the rest of your media lives, can be paid for, shared, connected to or somehow interacted with. Your site is at once a hub at which your diverse networks and presences feed into one another and a springboard from which people can discover you in whichever way they like.
Go to meet your audience. Don’t wait for them to find you.
These are the services I suggest using within a basic artist one-page site:
Artistdata: A fantastic free tool for touring musicians. Enter your tour dates into their very precise system (and it takes some attention to detail, but it’s worth it), and Artistdata will feed out info about your shows to all the places you ask it to, including Twitter (“5 new shows announced!” / “Playing a show tonight at La Scala in Milan 8pm”), Facebook, Songkick, etc etc. Their list of tools is extensive and getting better all the time. They can also provide a calendar widget which sits in your site and pulls your dates in without needing updates.
NB. Artistdata was recently acquired by SonicBids, so if you already have an account with the latter you could look into how to get your shows to feed through to Artistdata from there (sadly at the time of writing this can’t be done the other way around).
NNB. (sic.) see the addendum posted on 04th March for a development to the way in which I’m suggesting using Artistdata, especially in relation to Facebook.
Mailchimp: A mailing list client with a generous free account and options for upgrades if your list gets huge. These guys manage your list(s) (if you are in more than one band, or run a label etc, a single account will allow you several lists), offer you fully editable WYSIWYG html email functionality, mail client optimisation features, sound advice on how to write great updates, customisable signup forms, etc… The statistics and analytical data you can get from them on your campaigns is not only really useful but also very easy to understand. They are a real asset to the independent musician.
Bandcamp: It is impossible to stress how important what these people are doing is. Bandcamp offer a PayPal-powered audio interface from which bands can sell, promote, give away and stream their audio. A clean interface, impeccable metadata management, high quality output (your customers can choose from an enormous number of audio options to download from your single upload), digital packages, physical sales, combination deals, cross-band promotion, and a wealth of tiny details that you never knew you needed make Bandcamp an excellent and fair way to sell music online. Their share options allow for Facebook integration and their embed codes work almost anywhere. Their back-end stats pages are fantastic. They will also provide download codes and allow you to set secret ‘discount codes’ as rewards for fans. They also have no exclusivity deal so selling through them doesn’t preclude you selling in any other way. And they’re the friendliest bunch of people, too. They take 15% of sales, which feels fine for me, given what they do for us all.
Facebook: Everyone knows about Facebook. At least half of the UK population is signed up at time of writing this. It is the one way in which people can connect to you with a single click and stay connected to you with minimal effort on all sides. The biggest mistake for bands seems to be differentiating between personal and public profiles though. Make sure that you have a public profile (you need a personal account to run this from) – you should be encouraging people to ‘like’ what you do rather than ‘friend’ you personally. The public profile means that your personal FBing doesn’t get mixed up with the message you are trying to put out there, it offers plenty of tools (for example it connects with Mailchimp and Bandcamp very well) and loads of really easy sharing options for your fans to tell their friends about you. You can also put a ‘like’ button on your site, linked to your public profile.
Tumblr: Arguably the most elegant and simple of the three main stand-alone blogging platforms (Tumblr, WordPress, Blogger), Tumblr is a simple news feed, designed to be more like an online scrapbook than a straightforward blog. It is like an older brother to Twitter – you can follow users who will end up in your timeline, re-blog others’ posts, and are invited to put up not only text but photos, links, audio, etc. Tumblr will create an RSS feed for you which people can subscribe to in their chosen reader and which a web developer can pull into a feed for your home page, again removing the need for regular updates to the back-end of your site. If you’ll be doing this it is important to update your blog in a consistent way so that the formatting looks good at its destination (since that’s where most people will see it first) and to update regularly.
A note about blogs and news feeds: These can be problematic for bands, and no matter which platform you pick if the content you’re generating isn’t engaging people then you’ll be missing out on enthusiasm and engagement from fans. What it is best to post will vary depending on your own style and the preferences of your audience (most blogs will offer you stats of some kind – take a look and learn something about how engaging different posts have been to people), but as a rule I like to try and get a balance of serious, professional fact (“We’re going to SXSW – here’s the fundraiser link” / “Album launch party this Saturday”) and personal opinion / openness (“We had such a great time on tour, thanks for coming out. Here’s a fun story from the road…”). As seems to be true of Twitter, people engage much more if as well as getting what you’re trying to sell them they get the sense that they are getting to know you as a person.
Here are some services I suggest using alongside your site, with ideas of how they can be integrated:
Soundcloud: Even if your audio is hosted on Bandcamp you can put it up on Soundcloud too. Their SEO is great, helping searches for your tracks and band name show up useful links on Google, and their platform will let people share your music with each other. People can follow you here and receive updates when you post a track – they have a great commenting system too. You’ll be able to manage any podcasts very easily from here, and their embeddable players are getting better and better.
YouTube: Love or hate YouTube it is apparently now the second biggest search engine on the Internet. Not only for music and video, but for everything, so it is important to make sure your YouTube content is representing you well. It’s a good idea to upload content yourself to your own channel (even if it’s already there on someone else’s account) – it’s important to keep hold of your assets, and video is one of the most valuable. Make sure that your catalogue is represented and that your music is available, even if it is just with a still image or slideshow. Think about making interviews and organise some live performances in controlled environments which can be done cheaply and give great results.
Vimeo: As with YouTube, create an account and upload your content yourself. Make a channel, too. If you are embedding video anywhere else online Vimeo players are beautiful and work very well. They are also ad-free. I try to use Vimeo as much as I can but make sure everything is doubled on YouTube for those people who go to it automatically.
Twitter: Twitter takes time to get to know. Strange, perhaps, since it is probably the network with the simplest premise. As with your news feed, make sure that you balance your updates between the professional, the personal and the trivial and pay attention to which tweets engender most replies, retweets, follows and unfollows, and adjust accordingly. follow plenty of people and interact with them. It soon goes from being an effort to make to being a fulfilling conversation, so persevere. Don’t forget to link your Artistdata and Mailchimp accounts and your Tumblr blog to your Twitter, too, so that those updates are announced to your followers there.
And finally, here’s why MySpace does not feature in either of the above lists (courtesy of @dubber):
I’ve tried to explain this, but I have never done a better job than is done in the following articles. Please read them. Please quit MySpace.
No.5 [A Live Album] has just been awarded the ‘Best Live Album’ accolade in the Vox Pop of the 10th Independent Music Awards. I played on and produced the album with Kirsty McGee & The Hobopop Collective and a whole bunch of amazing musicians and technicians, and I’m really happy to be able to say that it is appreciated. It’s been by far the most enjoyable project I’ve worked on to date, and the work itself is something we’re all proud of.
I love it when an interview sparks a bit of reflective thinking. I very much enjoyed doing this emailer for the Independent Music Awards after they nominated Kirsty McGee’s last album in their ‘Best Live Album’ category for this year. The interview went up on Kirsty’s blog recently, and should be up on the IMA site soon. It touches on a few of the things my first posts here have done, too.
You can vote for our album in the ‘Best Live Performance’ category right here, if you feel so inclined…
Home Base: Manchester, UK
Describe your music genre: Hobopop – Vagrant music for the New Depression Era.
IMA categories entered: Live Performance
Work submitted: Kirsty McGee & The Hobopop Collective – No.5 [A Live Album]
What other artists are featured on your IMA nominated work:
The Hobopop Collective:
Mat Martin – Banjos, Tenor Guitar, Uke, Vocal
Nick Blacka (Aim, Magic Hat Ensemble) – Bass
Rob Turner (Neil Yates Ensemble) – Drums, Junk
Christopher Cundy (Guillemots) – Saxello, Bass Clarinet
James Steel (The Brute Chorus) – Electric Guitar
Clive Mellor (Richard Hawley Band) – Harmonica
What’s the name of your record label: Hobopop Recordings
What artists and bands are your musical influences:
The Hobos of the last few hundred years in art and literature – see our article for Spiral Earth on the subject: A list might include Tom Waits, Louis Armstrong, Randy Newman, John Steinbeck, Jelly Roll Morton, Harry Partch, Moondog, Captain Beefheart, Grappelli & Reinhardt, John Hartford, John Lurie, Leadbelly, Barnett Newman, Morton Feldman, Sun Ra, John Cage, The Brute Chorus, Sergio Leone, Mikhail Bulgakov, Tom Robbins, Jim Jarmusch, Marc Ribot, Samuel Beckett, Charles Mingus, Kerouac, Bukowski & the Beats…
What’s the meaning of your band name? Were there any other contenders:
Kirsty McGee is her own name. The Hobopop Collective are a renegade and ever evolving chain gang of revered musical vagrants. The line-up of special guests regularly changes so that no two shows are identical. The word Collective reflects this pool of musicians which is larger than the band you may see at any one time. The word Hobopop refers to music of no fixed abode or genre, which falls down the cracks between styles and lands in some beautiful secret places.
Describe your nominated work:
‘No.5’ was conceived as being as honest an account of a Kirsty McGee show as could be imagined on disc. The album was recorded at a single show to a deliberately small crowd, and no repairs, overdubs or alterations were made to the material after that. Selections were made by the band from the whole 90mn show to form an album’s worth of material, based only on which songs they felt came over best. The songs were mixed, and the album was finished. We intended for this first release from the Collective (Kirsty McGee’s previous albums have all been released simply under her own name) to capture the energy of what has always been a live project, and to document our relationship with some of our favourite guests from the previous years.
Why did you choose to submit this work the 10th IMA’s:
Mostly because we are enormously proud of this record, and still very excited about it too.The IMAs are the only awards we have submitted to for this project. We are an independent band, with our own independent label, following our own noises. Most awards concentrate heavily on marketing and commercial factors, whereas the IMAs seem to have a healthy respect for the truly independent approach. So far our desire to make the music we care about has outweighed our desire to consider the commercial collateral of our work. We still believe that by doing what we do very well we can reach people who will have a longer and more meaningful relationship with us. The IMAs may help us acheive that.
Did you use any unusual effects or instruments in this recording:
No unusual effects or recording techniques were used, but you can hear some unusual instruments on parts of the album. Fretless banjo and saxello (an early relative of the soprano saxophone, with a wider bore and slightly curved shape) are used on several tracks, along with a tenor guitar made from recycled timbers (old furniture, a bar handrail, and a board from a dancefloor in Memphis, TN). The album opens with a drum riff played on a washboard and two watering cans.
Were there any happy accidents while in the studio, or did everything go as planned:
Nothing goes as planned with a live recording! This is why it is an exciting project – you only know how it sounds when you play it. We were dependent on a good, responsive and quiet audience, on just the right amount of rehearsal, and on an engineer we could rely on completely. All of these factors really helped to make the record come out as well as it did – the audience were just perfect, and so generous. Were we to record again we might have fixed the creaky floorboards you can hear in places on the album, and maybe used the space differently, for more separation upon mixdown. I am looking for an answer because you asked the question though; the point of an album like this is that it is a document of how it did happen, not how it should have happened!
Did fans help you fund this project:
In a roundabout way. We don’t really believe in direct fan-funding as a sustainable way of making records. The audience bought tickets to the show (which cost the same as the CD would later), the money from which went back into the recording budget. Each ticket holder was then sent a copy of the finished record two weeks before the release date, with a signed letter of thanks for their support. We wanted it to be a good deal for them.
Who’s sitting in your audience:
For this project? People from all over the UK, come specially to be a part of this album. Some friends, of course, many people we had never met before, some long-term fans, some people who took a chance, and some of our favourite local musicians and artists. We are very grateful to them all for the energy they poured into the project. Audiences don’t always see that the energy they give off can shape the show they receive – these guys were right in there with us from the first note.
What makes your fans unique:
The same thing that makes any individual unique I guess. That and their amazing patience for our prefixing the word ‘hobo’ to almost everything (did you know you can now download the HoboPod-Cast from the HoboShop?).
Are there any songs you wish you wrote:
That’s hard… off the top of Kirsty’s Head:
Danny Schmidt’s ‘Stained Glass’
Bob Theile & George David Weiss’ ‘What A Wonderful World’
Randy Newman’s ‘In Germany Before The War’
Jesse Winchester’s ‘Songbird’
What artists are you listening to that would surprise your fans:
Right now we’re listening to a wide variety of stuff – the next album will certainly sound very different again (this happens every time). Our guitar and banjo player Mat just bought a record player last year, after not having one for a while, and our listening habits have changed a lot as a result. We are spending more time than before with individual albums, getting to know them the way we used to. Recent fixtures on the turntable have been Dick Dale’s ‘King of the Surf Guitar’, The Rolling Stones’ ‘Exile on Main Street’, Dr John’s ‘Gris-Gris’, and a lot of Jazz. Old grungey gospel music and New Orleans Jug Bands have just come up on our radar. Oh, and the last Grinderman album.
What is your dream show lineup:
Wow, it would involve inventing a special ‘back from the dead’ syrup for some of the bands, and we wouldn’t want to play, just listen:
The Brute Chorus
Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Moondog & his Honking Geese
Louis Armstrong’s Hot 5 or Hot 7 (depending on how much syrup there is)
What are your guilty pleasures on the road:
Good hot food. Warm beds. Decent coffee. Spas. Shopping for vinyl and weird guitar picks. When in Belgium, excellent beer and chocolate. When in the Netherlands, amazing peanut butter. When you tour as much as we do you soon realise that boring stuff is way better than gallons of whisky and TVs out of windows.
Any close calls or mishaps while on tour:
We’ve been lucky. It’s usually just a parking ticket here or there. We did have an interesting experience getting stuck on a Norwegian island once, while the audience had been shipped to a neighbouring island by mistake. We played in a room big enough for 250 people, to about 7 of them. We were very, very seasick.
Do you have any backstage rituals/routines before you go on stage:
We like to dress to play. Even if it is just changing into different jeans. There is a psychological benefit to wearing your “playing shirt”. Kirsty has a bunch of tiny vocal exercises she tends to do, to open up the voice and get used to making noise. A small beer and an onion bhaji are usually all it takes to get Mat set.
Should music be free:
Ultimately it isn’t up to us as musicians to decide that, but instinctively we would say no. At least not all music, unless of course everything else was made free, too. We do give away the odd single or demo, and Kirsty’s first solo album ‘Honeysuckle’ is available for free at the HoboShop. There is a good chance though that if music becomes completely free the overall standard of quality will drop, and people will have a much less fulfilling experience. Making music at a professional level is a full time occupation, and costs money, and if artists can’t be paid then they won’t be able to go on doing what they do now. We wrote a blog about that a while back. I guess the way we pay for music will keep changing until it settles somewhere that makes sense to everyone.
How has digital affected your career:
Less than the careers of other bands we know, but still noticeably. It seems that our core audience still like to buy CDs. On the one hand, digital is great for us as the production costs are low, there is an unlimited supply of stock, and we can distribute worldwide for next to nothing, but on the other the file-sharers are encouraging people to help themselves with flawed arguments about why it’s OK, and that attitude is affecting physical sales for everyone. It’s a very exciting time though, and being able to offer digital music files as well as physical product has allowed us to engage much more with our audience, and make the things we do want to be free very easily accessible.
Are digital singles vs. full albums the future:
We don’t know, but we would be very sad to see the album die. Songs alone, released in a stream of singles, are unlikely to hold you for any length of time or change your life in the way an album can. We have no plans to stop making albums here in hoboland.
Finish this sentence: The music Industry is…
… dancing like a fish on a line.