April 20th, 2010

Buy Curious

Squaring unprecedented opportunities for music distro, sobering visualizations, and tweets for mpfrees asks for tricky math. I’m not sure we yet have the tools or the data. But we get more of each every day.

It seems safe to say that the explosion of online tools for distributing music, whether for a fee or free, has allowed independent artists of all stripes to reach vastly wider audiences than was possible just a few years ago. At a moment of turbulence and transition in the mediascape, independent producers appear to be experimenting with and, in many cases, eagerly embracing a variety of platforms and approaches.

The profusion of “web 2.0” style sites for distributing music — including SoundCloud, Fairtilizer, and BandCamp, but also MySpace and YouTube — offers a number of options for those operating outside the traditional “music industry.” These services generally provide tools for facilitating “discovery” (or, the use of social networking features to help one’s music find listeners, and vice versa), distribution, robust forms of tracking, and in some cases, sales.

It’s clear — simply scanning my inbox — that lots of artists and independent labels/collectives are employing mixed methods for distributing their work and attempting to seek or share compensation with audiences and “peers” of all sorts (including DJs, bloggers, and journalists). It would be quite a feat simply to enumerate the various channels/methods now available for circulating musical recordings (and various related artifacts, from stems to videos); it’s another thing altogether to attempt some sort of analysis.

Given that so many tools are now available, what’s really missing from any such analysis is data. I’ve seen some stats and heard some hearsay, but I’d love to hear from the thoughtful enthusiasts & practitioners who drop in here from time to time, especially independent artists and/or labels. Anyone have strong preferences for one of these emerging methods/sites over another? Success stories? Surprises? I’m not asking you to divulge your brilliant strategery or anything, but I’m keen to hear about what’s working and what’s not, which features appeal and which don’t, etc. Got any anecdotes or pithy quotes? Major or minor figures you’d care to share?

I’m sayin, especially if you’re one of those folks who’ve sent me a link to your distro site, how’s that open-exchangey thing workin’ for ya?

(Incidentally, I’d love to hear from “purely” listeners’ perspectives too, or from bloggers, journos, etc.)

& feel free to hit me offblog: wayne at wayneandwax


  • 1. Canalh  |  April 20th, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    hola Wayne, I have been on soundcloud for less than a year; and it had immediate results for me in various domain. I have been using fairtilizer but it did not catch me so strongly. You’re right we need some more stats… as I said… Well, the combination Soundcloud Blogger/Producer/dj is a good cocktail. I am now working with producers/Dj/Bloggers from Spain, Québec and France from home, Medellin Colombia. People, without I had to ask, begin to send me music for blogging (and I am everything but a very famous blogger !! :). Finally, I had my first official remix requests.

    I love the “moderated group” feature on soundcloud: it’s a lot of work; I open one “cumbia group” and one “reggaeton alternativo” (you know my “still to release” conscious mix…). Well I dedicate time for the cumbia group and it worked, this group lives, it’s a great one, great people from all over the world are connecting. I didn’t dedicate time on the other one and… it’s dead (but reggaeton’s not dead !!).

    I think the new means, new tools work, if human beings put some life behind and hard work behind it. Otherwise, it’ll simply die.

    It’ll die the same way if we do not care about music: fucking spammers can kill the fun. But soundcloud is hard with them since the begining… There a bunch of techno/house/minimal people following thousand people, without regards to musical genre to get some audience and spam. That’s not about music, their stuff is about, less effort, maximum return, just like in Wall street. So, I did, just for me and for fun, a “SIQ” “Soundcloud intelligence quotient”: it’s evident that you can not really follow (I mean seriously…) more than, let’s say… 500 artists at a time. So you divide the number of followed people by the number of followers, you got SIQ. SIQ 1: beware ! SIQ > 2: on his way to become a spammer… I should think of a more precise scale…

  • 2. goldbug  |  April 20th, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    I’m strictly a listener (and dj, but I’m basically down to 1 mix per year) and as I get older I spend less money on music. Good old mix tape club (ok, CD club. ok, download club) has been my main lead me to purchases recently. Outside of that, I’m astounded at the amount of new music the likes of you explores and talks about. Sure, that’s your career and you’re an artist yourself, but I can’t even come close to that level of music fandom. For social media, if I’m allowed to feel like I’ve discovered the music on my own, I’m more likely to buy it. I’ve never bought anything in the iTunes store, but I just dropped some ¥ on reissue reggae records that are promoted through a podcast. But that’s a really good podcast – Heartbeat’s use of the same tactic a few years ago fell flat on my ears and pockets. Music made by friends is a big exception to all of this. I will always download and will usually purchase music made by someone I know (this is mostly rap, folk music, indie rock, or combinations of these).

  • 3. nina  |  April 21st, 2010 at 8:48 am

    A week or so ago I hooked up with a guy on FB, he has a latin website with weekly podcasts that I use to keep up on new songs I may need to check out. Friended him and the DJs. One of the DJs posted the link to his new mix on my FB page. So I downloaded it and will probably spread the word via my FB, Twitter and website.

    I’m supposed to be interviewing a few of them, IF and when I do, I’ll make sure to add your questions to the list.

    I also have a few artists on my FB, Yaviah is one I like esp because he seems so organic. His promotional methods seem quite homespun and he seems to have a real relationship with his fans. The vibe you get is that he’s just a guy who happens to make music and likes to talk about his activities, concerts and so on with his peeps. I can totally see him selling his music on his own from his site or basement.

    I was thinking about this from a marketing perspective a few days ago, how the social web changes the relationship between the fans and artists. I kinda want to write about it, except all I have is questions no answers.

  • 4. Zarathustra  |  April 21st, 2010 at 9:09 am

    Anyone read the n plus one webism piece?

  • 5. wayneandwax  |  April 21st, 2010 at 9:16 am


    (not online; didn’t read)

    would be curious to check it, tho. one reason i put ‘web2.0’ in quotes up there is precisely b/c of a healthy skepticism i have wrt ‘social media.’

    still, it seems pretty significant how much the (media) promo/distro game has shifted to these private(ly owned) public ‘platforms’

    (more on that soon — if i can ever finish that ‘platform politricks’ post i’ve been promising)

  • 6. carmen  |  April 21st, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    fm first, its just easier

    datz hitz, caribbeanfyah, choice, radioUn, for all things caribbean

    WICN, WHRB or streaming from WKCR/WBGO for jazz

    r_co for sets, dissensus for podcast links..

    WHRB/WZBC/WMBR for indie weirdness…

  • 7. Stinky Jim  |  April 21st, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    Ahoy Wayne
    I resisted commenting on my experiences DJing with miller/spooky some years ago (suffice to say ….. tosser!) as it only echoed other voices, but happy to chip in on this.
    For my label I’ve found bandcamp to be the most effective and worthwhile outlet of the many who clog up my mailbox etc, over the last year or so. Apart from the fact that they still don’t have any provision for labels rather than individual artists (a constant bugbear with these platforms) and it’s not great searchwise – it’s straightforward, punters like it and while we don’t do huge sales anywhere it runs an admirable, and sometimes close second to iTunes for the ‘bigger’ acts and is #1 for the smaller ones.
    As a DJ/broadcaster/writer etc soundcloud is increasingly giving blogs competition in the music discovery stakes, especially with the help of folks like Canalh who surely must live on soundcloud with his prodigious, rapid, supportive commenteering ( a doff of the Kangol to you Mr Canalh).
    For my money they both work because they are simple and fast, with an emphasis or provision for high quality files. I’ll selectively grab the free stuff but if there’s a purchase link to other material etc, I’ll check it, and if it’s crucial – my virtual paypal wallet is opened.
    I hear a lot of tosh about ‘forging meaningful online relationships with fanbases’ etc etc in the industry and from internet commentators, usually that just means find ways to exploit them and spam, but with soundcloud particularly, I feel that does go on, and it can be enthusiastic, passionate and fast moving. I’ve played tunes on air that have been posted up while I’m doing my radio show, within minutes of someone on the other side of the world posting them and the email going out to followers, I think that’s as direct as it can get and well exciting.

  • 8. zarathustra  |  April 23rd, 2010 at 11:33 am

    the webism piece is fine- it spends more time retelling the problems of the nytimes on the web than of sort of affirming the others media they set out, it seems, to chronicle.

    plenty of good gaffs in it about the expanding space of advertising, paid/’free’ content. the coming kindle ads, the year of depend adult undergarment (hahahah), blade runner adspace. but they are talking about the nytimes and wsjournal. i mean i think youtube was mentioned once and myspace not once (!??!?!?!) i mean this is when i was thinking jeez wayne really should have written this.

    the part that i guess gave me the greatest pause is about video gaming. since i havent played a video game really since joe montana football in 1993, but have been in plenty of internet ‘cafes’ (hahahha) in china with hundred and hundreds of gamers, this felt the ‘freshest to me’. and i think the sort of ‘social participation’ that they are talking about- about control of both state and self- really lit some lightbulbs for me.

    its fair to say that their reading of the russian revolution could use a bit of work. they write about this webist that says ‘its not a revolution if no one loses’. and i think that is precisely the sort of perspective that is perhaps mistaken about ‘revolution’ or whatever. mhardt says something great about this- he says ya everyone is always saying who the hell is ever going to make revolution (in us/europe) i mean the rich folks have too much to lose and they hold the power so they’ll never let it go. and MH says well you know it doesnt have to be about loss/deprivation- it can be about gain- about reformulating social relations. so ah no, you do call it revolution when people gain. i mean thats sort of the point. i guess the snafu comes from the gaming idea or simulated life/non being…. but this needs more time to stew

  • 9. redmonk  |  April 28th, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    If you’re looking for a well-documented look at releasing free music, bassmusicblog.com do a really good job with their ‘diary of a free album’, which follows the story of id and baobinga putting out an album for free (check the latest installment here: http://bassmusicblog.com/diary-of-a-free-album-part-13). Covers pre-release promotion, launching on bandcamp, giving away track parts for a remix competition, and some solid graphs and numbers.

    thinking of using bandcamp for releasing web eps for my label, I’m trying to convince myself people will donate money if they’re already familiar with an artists work (or know them personally, as is usually the case in dublin!)


I'm a techno-musicologist, internet annotator, imagined community organizer.

I left my <3 in the digital global, but I reside in Cambridge, MA, where I'm from.

I represent like that.

wayne at wayneandwax dot com

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