Monday, April 28, 2008

Whazza widget?

[UPDATE: I sorta hate the way this widget clings to the right side of the main blog column -- but I don't seem to be able to do anything about it. Hmmm... I bet it looks better in a reader.]


Wow. This intersection of music-on-the-web and social networking is expanding like a motherfucker.

We all know that the Internet is not analogous to TV (or a series of billboards). It's a set of environments. But it's also a marketplace. For musicians, MySpace and Facebook were only the beginning (actually, was the beginning, but in web time, that's ancient history). There are now oodles and scads of these "social music sites," or Music 2.0 sites, or whatever you want to call 'em -- here's one list, and it's certainly not complete or definitive. All are competing to be the (or at least a significant) place for web denizens to "hang out," share music, interact with other fans (or other musicians), etc.

Here are a few of the ones I've been fiddling with lately:

IJG on
IJG on
IJG on Amazing Tunes
IJG on mTraks
IJG on Virb

Some of these are kind of cool. Some are more "eh." Most are pretty easy to use. But all beg an important question: at this (still very early) point in the emergence of a digital music economy, is the most sensible game plan to disperse your work into as many of these new listening environments as is humanly possible?

Consider this (cryptic?) comment from Bruce Warila:

...the number of [online] places digital music consumers hang out already challenges your ability to REACH listeners; this challenge is also part of the solution (hint).

I think most artists have gotten over the paranoia that accompanies the act of giving away mp3s (then again, maybe not). But does that mean we go whole hog in the other direction, and just carpet-bomb the web with free music (as if it isn't already a jungle out there)? Such a strategy requires a significant time investment, after all. Who knows how long any of these sites are going to be around? Maybe it's better just to wait and see which of 'em grow legs...

On the other hand, if you do decide to disperse widely, how do you do it, exactly? Does it make more sense to simply replicate your Site A (e.g., MySpace) content onto Site B (e.g.,, and then Site C, and then... ad infinitum? Or is it better to vary things from site to site (i.e., different blogs, different freebie tracks, different videos)?

Certainly it's a hassle to have to maintain separate fan communities (if you're lucky enough to have them spring up) in different virtual locations. Plus, you don't want to make your fans work harder than necessary to follow you -- in this increasingly digitized world, many people are hungry for convenience just as much as they're hungry for new music (usually more). Doesn't it make sense to have everyone "gather" in one central place (whatever that place happens to be)?

Of course, what's convenient for one person (someone who loves MySpace will find your MySpace page convenient) is a pain in the ass for someone else (what about all the people who hate MySpace?). Let's face it: the indie musician's reality is that most of the time you are reaching out to other people instead of having them come to you -- a fact that argues for the widest dispersal possible. Additionally, why not "reward" early adopters of a given fledgling 2.0 site -- make 'em feel special somehow (while taking advantage of a potential big-fish-in-a-small-pond situation)? Besides, given the basic multi-tasking dynamic that I think accompanies most web browsing, I suspect there is an added value to keeping your fans constantly engaged -- even if that means asking them to travel to a new site once in a while.

I personally have no idea what's the best move here. In music as in life, things are typically much more complicated than they seem. But, as you know, I'm open to experimentation.

* * * * *

As I was saying...

So far, my favorite of the new music sites is ReverbNation. I found it through Steve Lawson, who, like Warila, has this whole Music 2.0 thing far more in the bag than me. (Would that make these guys Mu2Gurus? I'm assuming so, since neologisms seem to be the name of the game.)

Anyway, taking my cue (i.e., blatantly stealing this idea) from Steve (whose music you should check out, by the by), I'm gonna go ahead and offer the above "widget" player of our music as it is being cataloged over at RN. I've included samples from nearly every album; so, unlike our MySpace page, this playlist makes for a sort of "IJG greatest hits" experience -- if you can imagine such a thing -- and a nice documentation of how much the group has evolved over the last eight years.

I've been exploring this site for a few weeks now. Even before reading the current post, you may have noticed our little blog-sized Industrial Jazz Group ReverbNation player off to the right there (those of you who use a feed reader will have to click over to the blog to see what I mean). That little player, however, doesn't include the "fan exclusives," which the above widget, like our ReverbNation page itself, does. The musicians among you might appreciate the fact that "fan exclusives" are "special" tracks that people can access only in exchange for a mailing list sign-up. (After my recent bitching about bread, it is worth pointing out that "mailing list development" is one area I'm trying to focus on.)

For the moment, I have included an old tune of mine, "Bajaja," as one of the "fan exclusive" tracks on Reverb Nation. It's an out-take from the Industrial Jazz a Go Go! sessions, featuring Joe Berardi on drums, Aaron Kohen on bass, Cory Wright on bari, Damon Zick on soprano and tenor, Jason Mears on alto, Kris Tiner and Phil Rodriguez on trumpet, and Shaunte Palmer on bone. Blast-from-the-past alert... this was recorded in 2004. In style and mood, it's a far cry from all the YouTube videos I've been posting. And for the moment, ReverbNation is the only place you can get it.

We'll see what happens. Feel free to let me know what you think.

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