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On the trying…

April 5, 2014 Leave a comment

It’s too easy to sneer when people try.

Too easy to be the cynic and smile, “I told you so”, when first they fail.

Too easy to dig another in the ribs, pulling them in on the sneer, as the one trying to change things is getting back on their feet.

Too easy to dismiss the tryer, when success appears as if by magic.

Love refuses such disdain.

Love says “go for it, I won’t put my own fears on your shoulders”.

It seems to me this world is full of people who choose to sneer first and love second.

.

Monkey68: Resigned (new song)

April 3, 2014 Leave a comment

Away from my solo acoustic recordings, I make music as Monkey68 – largely on my own in the studio, and with the mighty Craig Johnson and Tony Aliccio live.

When I recorded Sparse under my own name a year or so back, it was always destined to have a sister record by Monkey68, Dense – where Sparse was stripped back acoustic arrangements, Dense would be full on multi-track gorgeousness, featuring updated versions of my favourite demo recordings from the past few years, as well as some new recordings.

With a good headwind, Dense will be released this year, though there’s the small matter of finishing and releasing Grope first, as well as getting my new web service

[myOrgDev.com - the stuff I get up to in my other life]

established.

In the past couple of weeks, some events here pushed me slap-bang into the one of the Dense demos,  Resigned. It was the right song for what was happening, and my mood and muse were in the right place, so I very quickly revisited the parts I wanted to redo, polished up a quick mix and got it to a place where only the final mixing of Dense needs to happen.

This is how I work, fast and energetically. It works for me, always has.

Having recently put the whole of Sparse up on YouTube, yesterday afternoon I grabbed some historic footage from the Prelinger Archives and put together a video for Resigned and, without further ado, here it is.

 

Please excuse me
from this conversation
I’ve nothing more to say
And I don’t want to hear you
say the same things again

I’ve grown tired
of these complications
These things that you inject
And you won’t fight that needle
Piercing your self-respect

Sitting counting time
Holding breath we dive
Following your line
To this task
I’m resigned

You’re not broken
just cracked and complaining
Self-absorbed disdain
All winter chill and aching
Taking waste from the rain

Sitting counting time
Holding breath we dive
Following your line
We’re running out of time
Every day we die
Following your line
Holding breath we dive
But to this task
I’m resigned

So, please excuse me
from this conversation
I’ve nothing more to say
And I don’t want to hear you
Say the same things again

Resigned
Monkey68, 2014

 

The joy of spam

April 3, 2014 Leave a comment

I don’t often do this, but I thought I’d share one of the spam comments I received to the blog t’other day.

Now, I guess the aim of the spammer is to get their link on the page – and said link either goes to a site that sells something, or to a site that host a virus, or a combination of both. Either way, I never click to check out what’s there.

There must be an assumption – and practice – I guess, of bloggers aut0-accepting comments. Not me. I moderate everything, and confess to being a liberal user of the SPAM designation. This prevents me, and you, having to wade through comments such as:

That checklist then becomes the basis for the perfect
boat search. paddling boat category because it takes so much more skill.
Beneteau yachts have conquered regattas each year, including their own-sponsored the Beneteau Cup, which
by the way, are participated by different types of yacht including the cruising Oceanis, Pilot Houses, and the
classy Wauquiez.

Frankly, I have no clue what the f**k they’re selling, or what anyone would make of seeing this comment on the blog.

Come on, leave me a comment that actually makes sense – who knows, I might not even hit the SPAM button!

Vince Sig 131x89

PS:

My personal favourite comment is when the spam-robot links to an audio chapter from Karaoke Criminals and tells me “Wonderful article – your insight reminds me so much of my experience…”

So, really… You’re an exiled London mobster planning the career of an up-and-coming singer you discovered in a Spanish karaoke bar? Really? Please do tell me about your insight (because I think I’ve written a novel about you…)

Words: This stage

March 27, 2014 Leave a comment

This stage
honey pot
iridescent flies
ego-driven bees

Circling
entranced
drawn by
nectar’s promise

“Mine”
they cry
“this stage
is mine”

You see them
spotlit
how dare they
drink?

“Might I
join you,
there’s room
for two?”

Knowing
they can’t
won’t
say “no”

Invite yourself in
to drown
and drown
them

Swallowing
gorging
puking
it up

No air remains
for the breathing
you’ve driven
them out

This honey pot
yours alone
for the drowning
finale

This lonely
empty
super-sweet
honey pot

This stage
your stage
it’s all yours
you’re welcome

Drown  and
drown easy
If it brings you
some peace

Glass

March 13, 2014 Leave a comment

A glass
water air
table top
empty room

To the optimist
half-full
yet to be
enjoyed

To the pessimist
half-empty
all too soon
desolation

To the poet
hackneyed metaphor
analogous
easy way out

To the water
constraint
enforced shape
dictatorship

To bacteria
society’s bounds
end of this
tiny universe

To light
refraction
pink floyd
prismatic display

To cycling dust
just one target
among many
for the coating

To the thirsty
salvation
cool cool
hydration

To the whale
a drop
a single drop
no ocean to be found

To the plate
the bowl
the gravy boat
a brother

But to the glass
inflexible
constrained
transparent

To the glass
buried beneath
gravity’s
crush

To the glass
nothing
much
matters

To the glass
everything is
what other’s
would make of it

Do

March 12, 2014 Leave a comment

Do what you do well,
as well as you’re able to do it,
and make sure the people you’re doing it for
know that you’re doing it,
and that you’ll do more
if they just celebrate what the doing
does for them.

Don’t Care Monday!

March 10, 2014 Leave a comment

There’s been a spate of Throwback…

[insert day]

posts on Facebook recently – where people share pictures of their younger selves. Lots of fun, though I haven’t partaken.

Because.

Well, I generally prefer to look forward. Way forward. Like, over the horizon forward.

This is generally a good thing, though it does often leave me at the conclusion of major project – be it a book, record or software release – in something of a postpartum downward spiral. I have a tendency to negate, or at least undervalue, what I’ve produced

[and I've produced a lot]

In the back end of last year, I sat myself down and gave myself a good talking to. Barring a miracle, there is no living to be made pursuing my art. I’ve always known that, of course, but I finally stared that reality in it empty eyes and decided enough was enough.

I stopped work on the new novel, Rufus.

I killed the Asylum short film project just as soon as the Kickstarter didn’t make its target

[which was a bit of a chicken and egg with the decision to stop]

I didn’t record the follow up to Sparse

[though I did record the unexpected songs that make up Grope - yet to be finished and released]

and I turned attention to my business, which had been ticking away in the back of things. I’ve since spent the time coding up a cloud-based service which is up and running, and about to get publicized. Unless you’re into Organization Development, you won’t see it – I think it’s got great potential, but I need to put all my weight behind it to make it successful.

I’ll write again, of course I will. I’ll keep making music, of course I will. And all those projects will find the right voice at the right time.

But, as ever, tonight I’m feeling that postpartum dive of

It’s finished, and no one cares… so what’s next?

I know this. I am this. I need neither sympathy nor kind words

[though a hug doesn't ever go amiss]

I just need to keep moving.

And because I know that in the dive I have a tendency to withdraw, I’ve learnt that I have to make a conscious effort to put myself out in the world.

To that end, I’ve just posted the complete screenplay for Asylum for no other reason than my knowing it’s not getting made any time soon, and I’d rather you read it than it stay locked in my laptop.

I wish I’d had the chance to make it, and maybe someday I will – but for now, let’s just make it my offering to Don’t Care Monday.

It is in the interest of…

January 26, 2014 Leave a comment

It is in the interest of an artist to have access to the audience that is moved by their work.

It is in the interest of a family to have enough food to eat.

It is in the interest of love to be open to the experience of living each day.

It is in the interest of this planet we share that we quit taking and start giving back.

It is in the interest of shareholders to make profit from their fields of endeavor.

It is in the interest to companies to build a sustainable business model that replenishes material resources.

It is in the interest of dictators to silence artists.

It is in the interest of spoiled brats to seek more than the person next to them.

It is in the interest of the accountable to seek visibility for the consequences of action.

It is in the interest of selfish brokers to maintain disconnection.

It is in the interest of our false sense of comfort to deny that things should change.

It is in the interest of tyranny to silence voices of dissent.

It is in the interest of the few to maintain the apathy of the many.

It is in the interest of the artist that she continue to produce art.

It is in the interest of  the audience that the artist continue to produce art.

It is in the interest of a balanced, progressive society that the artist continue to produce art.

So, when you hear that you can’t survive as an artist, that it’s pointless to try, ask yourself where that story is coming from, and take time to finish the sentence:

It is in the interest of…

Fair music? MusicFayre? Play with me…

January 23, 2014 2 comments

I respect musicNot going to write much tonight

[yeah, right...]

but as Blake Morgan gets close to launching IRespectMusic.org and #IRespectMusic, I finally decided to play out the little thought experiment that’s been running in my head for the last few months.

See, as I wrote in Is it time for Tip Jar?, I’m all about looking for solutions in the face of the death throes of the music business. If I really respect music then my challenge today is:

What would it take to make streaming work for those who make the music that’s streamed?

Like any good thought-experiment, we have to limit our scope, and put some variables out of play. So, let’s assume:

  1. Profit isn’t the motivating factor
  2. There are listeners who understand what it means to say #IRespectMusic
  3. The bureaucracy of the music business – rights collection, etc. – are waived (voluntarily)
  4. When I say musicians, I’m including the producers, song-writers, etc. who contribute to making the music

So, ladies and gentlemen, our aim here is to imagine a streaming service that works for the musician AND for those listening

[we should definitely all try to use many, many more YES... AND... statements instead of NO... BUT...]

In broad terms, there are two potential payment methods:

  1. Subscription – pay one amount, listen as much or as little as you want – fixed cost to listener [GOOD], non-scaling revenue for musicians [BAD]
  2. Usage – Per play – variable cost to listener [NOT-SO-GOOD but at least FAIR], scaling revenue for musicians [GOOD]

So, given that this is an AND solution, we’ll go with a Usage model

[one of the few times most musicians will accept a Pay-to-Play approach, methinks]

Because we’re entrepreneurs, let’s give our streaming service a snappy name

[not to be found anywhere in the English language, of course]

MusicFayre!

[see what I did there? Though I do reserve the right not to consider whether listeners and musicians to Music Fayre would be known as MusicFairies...]

There are some  parameters we need to set for the sake of the experiment:

  1. A song unit is 3 minutes long – 20 songs an hour
  2. A monthly billing period is 4 weeks long (28 days, without the fast-moving zombies)
  3. Every stream counts, partial or complete, long or short

[trust me, it gets very complicated very quickly if we try and work an algorithm]

Let’s look at a couple of use cases and see where we end up.

Case 1: Bob

Bob

[actually, his name is Robert Paulson, though I'm categorically NOT talking about that]

… anyway… Bob is a pretty hardcore listener. On average, he listens to MusicFayre  for 5 hours every day of every week:

  • 1 hour = 20 songs
  • 5 hours = 100 songs
  • 28 days @ 100 songs per day = 2800 songs

So, Bob listens to 2800 songs.

Case 2: Tyler

[still NOT talking about it]

Now Tyler, on the other hand, only grabs an hour’s worth of MusicFayre on an average day:

  • 1 hour = 20 songs
  • 28 days @ 20 songs per day = 560 songs.

How much might we charge for a song, then?

Well, let’s say that a permanent download at iTunes is 99c – essentially an unlimited single-user license. That’s our upper ceiling, I guess. Though, according to this page

[which is on the internet, so must be true]

an artist gets 9c per song downloaded.

[that's less than 10% for those without calculators]

Let’s call that our floor then.

Now, being a business, even if it’s one that has placed it’s profit motive on hold, let’s say that MusicFayre runs very, very efficiently and only has to take 20% margin to cover operating costs.

[it's a thought experiment, remember!]

If we charge 99c per song:

  • Bob pays $2772 per month, Tyler pays $554 per month

Nope – ain’t happening, even if the musicians do make 79c per song.

So, let’s look at the other end of the scale – 9c per song:

  • Bob pays $252 per month, Tyler pays $50 per month

That’s high, even for Tyler – and remember, of that 9c, nearly 2c is going to operating MusicFayre, so musicians are making LESS than they would for a downloaded song at iTunes. With traditional radio free to listeners, and streaming services willing to go much cheaper, simply by starving musicians, the barrier-to-entry for MusicFayre seems just too high. There’s altruism, but it’s a big ask to believe our listeners are THAT altruistic. Bob, especially, is likely to raise a sardonic, cynical eyebrow at least…

You know what? I’m going to make this a series of posts, because this is already getting long

[warned you at the start, right? RIGHT?]

but let’s summarize where we’ve got to, because even with some pretty ballsy assumptions, the thought experiment tells me:

A streaming service that works for BOTH listener AND musician is unlikely to succeed based upon a listener usage model

See you in the next post…

Vince Sig 131x89

Is it time for Tip Jar?

January 9, 2014 1 comment

It’s pretty clear to anyone who’s paying attention that:

  1. the music BUSINESS was a short-lived phenomenon surviving for less than a century, coincident with the developments of industrialized manufacturing that enabled wide distribution of music beyond the performer
  2. the music BUSINESS is experiencing tumultuous change, either that or a long, slow decay/descent into irrelevancy

[and/or Simon Cowell's knickers]

It’s also clear to anyone who understands what’s really happening:

  1. musicians have always made music, and will do so even when not paid – and, prior to the late 20th century, were paid largely based upon a voluntary/philanthropic model
  2. a good chunk of the power structures are reliant upon the suppression of artistic expression in order to maintain control – so perpetuating the “it’s broken” is in their myopic self-interest

[otherwise, we might see a... um... pussy riot?]

There are many folk putting in lots of time, effort and passion into trying to educate the general public on the situation. A few of note:

and it’s a debate well worth joining, especially if – like me – you fund and make your own art with little hope of financial return. A while back over at MySetlist.co – I wrote a blog post from a business perspective, though never quite got around to extending the series

[because others mentioned above were doing so much better than I - although perhaps this post IS the next in the series?]

But if there’s one thing I believe in my heart and soul, it’s this: when it’s time to move on, move on – don’t waste another second. And, when it comes to music and the internet, I think it’s time to move on.

Now, before I even dive into what I’m about to dive into, let me just state for the record: I am a musician, I make music, I play music for people, I have released music. And, yes, I am so far in the red thanks to buying the gear and services to do so, that the idea of making ANY money from music is a pure fantasy.

To paraphrase The League of Gentlemen:

I am a local musician, making local music, for local people.

Here’s how I see things: up until fairly recently, musicians made very little money and what little they did came on the back of thanks – from patrons, from audiences, from venue owners. Sure there may have been contracts, etc. but the transaction was:

Musician offers to make music => music is made live => music is heard live => musician is thanked for making music

Then that blip of the music BUSINESS appeared for a few decades and we all got seduced by a different transaction:

Musician offers to make music => music is made live => music is captured and becomes product => product is sold beyond the possible immediate reach of the musician => brokers of sale receive cut => musician makes a cut of product sales

All of the debate right now is focused on the second transaction stream and how it’s breaking, thanks to the internet/VC/Simon Cowell.

Fuck that.

Let’s talk moving on. Let’s talk solutions.

Let’s talk the first transaction stream. And particularly the last transaction.

See, we’ve got used to thinking that we give musicians money by way of payment for product, rather than by way of thanks for providing a pleasurable experience of hearing/feeling music.

For years, I’ve had a different question tickling in the back of my head

[it was part of the genesis of MySetlist.co]

How to make a tip-jar work away from the gig itself?

Here’s what I know. Locally, some bands pass around a hat during their set – and make about as much, sometimes more, sometimes less, than they would get via a cover charge, or guarantee. I always pay more into the hat than I would on the door. I also regularly buy CDs from local acts that I listen to once

[sometimes never]

buying them purely because I want those acts to continue making music. In my head, and purchase decision, I’m not buying product, I’m saying thank you. When folk go out on indiegogo/kickstarter/gofundme I quite often pay more than requested, to say thank you. More often than that, I contact them and ask where I can send money directly so that they avoid fees.

I can’t believe I’m the only person in the world who does this – I’m pragmatist before idealist. But if I’m doing it, others must be? Surely?

[they are doing it... And don't call me Shirley!]

And all of the debate on the dying music BUSINESS presumes that everyone wants to stream music for free. Which they may. But there are also those in the audience who would, I’m sure, say thank you financially as well as by turning up at gigs.

Which is where my idea came in. Originally, my plan for MySetlist.co was to build what’s there – a setlist, song and venue management tool for musicians, DJs and producers, including a live gig-view with rearrangeable setlist, lyrics, etc. That’s up and running and has got some users

[though I'm doing this all on a shoe-string so haven't been able to advertise too much - yes, it's another thing I'm giving back to the community]

and my longer term aims were to add a tip jar relating to cover versions, basically:

I played your song last night – here’s something by way of thanks

I still think it could work, but it would take a large roster of musicians in the system to reach critical mass – and I’m nowhere near that at MySetlist.co, so I’ve never developed the functionality.

But, as the debate has widened, so has my thinking on the idea of tip-jar.

I think it’s as simple as providing a place for folk to come and say:

Thank you for making music, I’m glad you’re doing so, and want you to keep doing so, here’s a buck, or ten, or twenty, keep going…

As a build it’s easy. And it would completely overturn the current web model under debate – which is why no VC would consider it – as the musician would get the lion’s share of the donation

[I'm not a VC - and not looking to become the new middle-man of the new music business]

Like MySetlist.co, Tip Jar would be built by a musician for musicians

[or any other artist]

Though, all that said, building it will take time, effort and passion – all of which need to come from somewhere else…

[and I can't let it be the food and drink from my kids' table]

So, what do you think, is it worth my time, effort and passion to build it for you? Would you use it as an audience member? As a musician?

Come on, let’s talk solutions…

Vince Sig 131x89

ps: VC = Venture Capitalist, if you didn’t know :)

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