Net, Blogs and Rock’n’Roll

Congratulations to David Jennings on the publication of his book Net, Blogs and Rock’n’Roll. I read the proofs earlier this summer and can recommend it as a highly readable, smart, and interesting look at music discovery. I’m a wee bit jealous that I didn’t write it myself.

book on shelves

But on Monday I’ll have a link to a nice little brand spanking new online publication of my own…

Band Promotion on Facebook. Or not.

Adam Shahbaz has written a thoughtful and entertaining post about how Facebook has changed for him since his time as an early user connecting with his friends, through the minifeed, to an era when he has to friend his boss (hi, Brad!). Embedded in it is his report on trying to use Facebook to promote his LA-based band. Short story: it didn’t work:

Facebook became a great marketing tool for my band, rejn (pronounced “rain”). Now users would get our concert messages even if they had yet to join our global group. The group, by the way, jumped from a paltry 200-something local members to a growing 600 global membership of “devout” Facebook users in a very short period of time. For the effort (little) and the cost (free), we seemingly got a great deal.The original, more local fan group, however, allowed us to engage our users. People clicked on the band members and checked out our pages and saw the parties we played at and whether we passed their litmus test of coolness. They checked our individual pictures: bass player doing a keg stand, lead singer in mid-back-flip.

Things were looking up.

With the new global fan group, the one that killed the original, people commented less. For every message we sent, our fans became more resentful of the influx of spam. We had to resort to older techniques to get people to come to the shows. After all, with a small band as with a small business, local means golden. But the announcements became worthless.

We even paid for 30,000 flyers to be distributed exclusively on the University of Southern California Facebook network. At the show, I asked around and did not find one person who even saw the flyer, let alone anyone who found it compelling enough to come to the show. I never expected a big return, but I figured at least one person would have seen it. We were back to good old word-of-mouth.

Facebook has a ways to go toward being a meaningful way to promote bands (despite ReverbNation’s bold efforts to make it easier). The problem of notifications coming too fast and furious on Facebook to digest and therefore seeming more and more like spam is a big one. The very weak support for groups — there is no easy way to see if there are new messages in discussion threads, for instance — is another. FB groups, like so many on other social networks, seem to be serving far more as identity badges than meaningful ways to interact or build community.

Stupid Things Part 2: Elton, Meet Ramesh.

The other day I posted a long rant about Voxtrot leader’s anti-internet rant. Now Elton John wants in on the internet-slagging action. According to The Sun Online, Sir Elton

…claims it is destroying good music, saying: “The internet has stopped people from going out and being with each other, creating stuff.

“Instead they sit at home and make their own records, which is sometimes OK but it doesn’t bode well for long-term artistic vision.

[...]“I mean, get out there — communicate.

“Hopefully the next movement in music will tear down the internet.

“Let’s get out in the streets and march and protest instead of sitting at home and blogging.

Same rant applies. Key points:

(1) There is no evidence that people who spend time online spend less time communicating with others. To the contrary, research strongly suggests that people who spend time online are MORE likely to spend time communicating with others than people who avoid the internet.

(2) Marching in protest is not mutually exclusive with blogging. Bloggers also march in the streets. People can do both. Indeed, the internet and blogging are being used every day to organize physical protests and marches and even… parties! If he has a beef here, it’s with digital music production, which is a separate issue from the internet.

(3) If you’re worried about the spread of bad music, quit making it!

Has anyone seen any studies about live music attendance since the dawn of the internet as a music-oriented space? I’d love to see some stats that support claims that it is suffering on account of the net. My guess is that if it’s suffering at all, it’s on account of the insane ticket prices people like Sir Elton demand. My sense is that smaller local shows are attended as well as they ever were. Certainly the hot acts sell out around here.

Fans vs Pranksters

I’m sure you’ve all been breathlessly following the Spice Girls reunion news (to say nothing of the nonstop drama of Posh and that husband of hers moving to LA), but maybe you missed this little blip:

The five-member skank-power band has asked fans to vote online to decide which city will be added to their 14-date world tour and promised they would play wherever got the most nominations; however, they probably weren’t banking on the fact that a huge number of Spice Girl haters would get in on the fun, nominating them to invade the war-torn city in Iraq.

To their credit, they say Baghdad is in the running and if it’s a top vote getter, they’ll go there. Of course, they may have to play acoustically given the electricity issues there, and I’m not sure it’s right to inflict them on a country already so devastated, but on the other hand, setting cattiness aside, the good people of Baghdad deserve some fun, years and years of fun, and if this happens and brings them a little bit of it, then the pranksters will have done more good than they meant to.

It does raise the issue of how to manage online voting in ways that get fans involved without feeding the antifans. There’ve been a lot of efforts to solicit fan input on everything from where to play, to which songs to play, to which songs to be on records, and, oh yeah, which character to kick off the TV show. The things that seem to work best at excluding antifans involve small barriers to participation – a $1 annual fee or registration. But those things exclude fans too.

Speaking of which has everyone been following the DailyKos (free to post) vs Bill O’Reilly ($5 to post) drama? I will steer clear but if you care at all about the tensions between the top down right wing media and political machine vs the bottom up online leftie grassroots, it’s a doozie.

Update: No Iraq for the Spice Girls, Toronto got more votes. Or so they say. Interestingly, this article attributes the Iraq votes to a fan-movement in Iraq rather than to antifans.

Usher Takes Well-Deserved Heat

One of the parts of online fandom that’s sometimes hard for stars to deal with is that sometimes your fans don’t love all your decisions. That’s apparently been the case with Usher fans who, as I understand it, aren’t thrilled with his choice of fiancée. Ok. Whatever. But here’s where it gets interesting.

There’s a fansite called UsherForever. Just stop and think about that title for a second. UsherForever. Could be a group for people who had been ushers at some theatre sometime? “Usher” is not just a name, it’s a word. But anyway. So this fan site’s been going strong for a while, its clearly a slick labor of love by an Usher fan. But when she dared criticize, Usher and the lawyers moved in:

Imagine if someone was happy to work, without reward, building a massive shrine to you and your work. You might be happy to think of all this promotion going on, not costing you a cent.But what if that person then disagreed with you – perhaps pointing out that you were making a bit of a fool of yourself?

It would probably be wise to take advice like that as well-meaning, even if you chose to ignore it.

Not so Usher: After fansite called his open letter to bloggers “petty”, Usher then got pettier, sending a legal demand that the site’s URL be transfered over to his record label.

Even guilty-pleasure site took a break from Lindsey, Britney, and Paris to write a post headlined “Usher F**ks With The Wrong Fan” :

Erika Jackson, webmaster of, tells TMZ that she’s been hit with a full-scale legal blitz from a tag-team of both Usher’s personal lawyer and his label’s lawyers, and claims that the trouble started earlier this year when she refused to turn her site — the self-proclaimed “biggest Usher site” on the Internet — into a sanitized official site. (The legal threats were first reported by the New York Daily News.)

The comments on TMZ are well worth a quick browse and it’s not pretty for Usher. Some excerpts:

Usher is going to lose his fan base if he doesn’t stop this foolishness. So what if people don’t like your fiance!!! The sun’s not going to stop rising and shining because people don’t like Tameka; your world isn’t going to come to an end!!! Geez!!!

He’s going to lose many of his fans over this. What he is doing is career suicide.

…ha ha! usher’s an idiot! nice going, mr. invincible! way to bite the hand that’s feeding you!. know what? there are already too many fish in the pond, too many ushers waiting in line to take your job. bye bye!…

Now there are a few who say that Jackson is using his name to make money (she has ads on the site) and he’s got the legal right to the domain, but I’m looking forward to seeing this play out in court, if it ever really gets there. She is providing something he’s not — a place for his fans to congregate. His music may be copyrighted, but I don’t think that being his fan is something he can copyright. (I’m curious if any lawyers reading think there’s a shred of legal turf for him to stand on, my guess is NO).

In either case, if you want a sanitized site, make your own. Fans get to say what fans want to say. Ha ha.