Sell your music using Bandcamp

Right, time to make good on the promise to introduce our dear readers to some of the latest ground breaking web services out there to help you all discover new art and even better, be discovered yourself. In today’s installment we are going to take a look at Bandcamp a slick new way for musicians to get distributed and found on the web while retaining control of how much or how little you want to charge/give away. Oh yeah, it’s free.

There is probably little in the way I can do to improve BandCamp’s own video introduction explaining the basics, so here it is. Have a look and I’ll see you on the other side.

Neat.

And so to  summarise:

Bandcamp is flexible. Once you’ve uploaded your album you can decide what you want to charge for and what to give away free. The free option can be tied to the user supplying you with an email address, allowing you to add it to your mailing list so you can let them know when you’re touring, news on new releases etc.

Downloads can be offered in a range of formats including mp3, Ogg, Apple Lossless, FLAC amongst others. You can choose to offer lower quality formats for free while charging a small fee for high quality tracks, it’s up to you. What’s more Bandcamp will take care of the encoding for you, you only need to supply the raw files. In addition Bandcamp will make sure the files are all tagged with the correct metadata so when imported into a media player or onto a music device it will look all flash with album art and such.

bandcamp
Bandcamp offers a variety of tools for artists to analyse which tracks are being listened to, where people are coming from to check your band out and even where your band is being talked about on the web. They allow easy embedding into websites so you can continue to use your existing site/blog/myspace and you can  point your personal domain to your Bandcamp profile.

All this comes in a very slick and easy to use package.

Personally, my favourite feature is the one that allows you to generate download codes. These codes allow those that possess them to download specific tracks or albums for free. You could give them away with tickets and t-shirts, offer them to those on your mailing list or place them in balloons and release them onto the gentle breeze allowing them drift into the lives of potential new fans. A brilliant way to offer dedicated fans added value when they come and support you and great example of being able to be flexible when you own your own releases.

In all, Bandcamp is a flexible, professional and extremely user friendly way to distribute music at virtually no cost.

On the downside, you do have to have a PayPal account to purchase any music. Although this makes it easier for the artist to receive money without the considerable hassle of a full blown e-commerce system, it may restrict impulse buys from people who for whatever reason don’t have PayPal and will need to sign up. Once you have an account though it really is easy to get the music you want.

Also, the ability to search for artists through the site is restricted. They are either listed in alphabetical order or descending order, recently released at the top. I think that offering some sort of tagging system would be useful to at least get a gauge on the type of music to expect.  There are  few ‘big name’ artists registered but this is hardly surprising, this site is part of the new paradigm the big labels are yet to embrace. Del Tha Funky Homosapien of  Gorillaz is down though (and giving stuff away).

Be that as it may, I think Bandcamp is a revolutionary new way to release and distribute music. I’ve used variations on the phrase ‘you can’ all over this article for good reason. Bandcamp allows musicians to be in total control of their releases and if used in conjunction with other web tools such as a blog/twitter/facebook/myspace and of course Loud Thought, it greatly increases the chances of winning new fans and having your music heard. After all, that’s why you do what you do, right?

A Good Teacher is an Artist

Life without knowledge is death in disguise.
Talib Kweli

An inspiring teacher is a gift to the world. I know that when I was at school, one of the most crucial elements in me ‘getting’ something was the way in which a teacher was able to capture my imagination. Unfortunately, I had my fair share of uninspiring professors whom in several cases put me off their subject for life. I was never really seriously interested in science until I started reading science fiction, then I wanted to know all about artificial intelligence, biological engineering and time travel, but it was too late, my time in the academic world was over. Now though, the learning need never stop. Over the past year a number of video websites have been popping up featuring free educational videos from some of the world’s top scholars.

Academic Earth has the purported goal of “giving everyone on earth access to a world class education”. The site is a growing collection of lectures and talks from some of the world’s top scholars and speakers, organised into categories. In some cases there is an entire university course worth of videos. Ahhh, Introduction to Robotics, just what I was looking for. Better yet, here’s something that might be of more interest to our members:

FORA.tv takes a slightly different route  offering videos from foreign policy experts,  politicians and other experts on the ‘people, issues and ideas changing the planet’. Sounds fascinating, and it is. And it’s free too.

Lastly I want to add Ted.com a site Jake has linked to in the past. This site offers thousands of hours of inspiring, educational talks and performances from a truly broad spectrum of people, from zoologist / author Richard Dawkins to  novelist Isabel Allende. It is a truly valuable resource for those of us searching  the depths of human experience.

I spoke to Jake about these offerings and he offered his  insight into why these services matter.  I’ll leave him the last word.

“Sites like these seem to relate more to “discovery” as opposed to “creativity”. But is there a difference? Is what we call creativity (arts etc) merely a beautiful way of explaining our discoveries? Perhaps an artists first mission is discovery, experience and knowledge and their second is to express it- describe it in a sublime way.

What can this pool of knowledge and ideas and the sharing of experiences do for our Us ? If expressed the right way, through our artists and writers and musicians and film-makers ( a good teacher is an artist like a good artist is a teacher), this information can penetrate so deeply into our collective mind that we can cause real change. And that’s what this world needs,  isn’t it?

Talib Qweli told me, “Life without knowledge is death in disguise”. I challenge you, everyday, to learn something and describe it.”

Academic Earth
FORA.tv
Ted.com

April 2009 Loudthought Newsletter.

LoudthoughtOk, I think it’s about time for a newsletter. Our intial few months since launching the website have been awesome, big thanks to Omar for helping Loud Thought get this far. We now have 60 members, hundreds of verso subscribers and about 3 twitter followers. What have we learned so far? Well, don’t spend thousands of your own dollars distributing posters and flyers throughout the country. It doesn’t work, so use tax-payer money instead. I’ve also learned that writing a newsletter is harder than building a website.

I haven’t yet experienced anything as rewarding as kicking my salary at one of our largest financial institutions and trading it for an empty wallet. Banking sucks. Nothing gives me goosebumps on the back of my neck quite like thought of dealing with impatient zombies, except perhaps the rats-tale I have since grown. Writing heaps of lines of website code sounds tedious and boring but add a cone of Wellingtons finest to the deal and it becomes more thrilling for me than playing Grand Theft Auto with the weapons cheat on. If it wasn’t for naked ladies and virtual reality, this would be the most exciting thing I could do.

Trying to avoid sounding like Tony Robbins here, I would like to say that as creative people, we all have an unprecidented opportunity to escape (or at least minimise) the drudgery of ‘working life’ . That is the beauty of this technology we now have and that is the inspiration behind this website and the resources we aim to provide. There are so many bad-arsed things the internet can do for artists. We want to bring them to you.

So of late I have been working hard behind the scenes, making our website shine. I’ve built a few new features and polished some of the others.

Here’s some of the details.

Updated Events guide

The main feature people have been asking for is the ability to promote upcoming gigs/events/exhibitions. Thus we unleashed it. Now members can share and promote their upcoming events using our billboard.

If you or someone you know is playing a gig, running an event or has an exhibition coming up – steer your ship to “upcoming events” (under ‘profile’ in the navigation menu) and tell us about it. Like damn near everything else on Loud Thought – It’s free! and rediculously easy.

We also have a premium feature where you (or anyone) can upload a promo poster for a gig or event, for 10 bucks a week. Just like on the walls of your city except they won’t get ripped down and plastered over.

How the hell do I use Loud Thought? A quick primer

If you’re not too sure about how this Loud Thought thing works, how’s about I brush over a few of the details.

Your Profile:

Fill in this information depending on your situation- you might want to find work, or want to find people to collaborate with or you may simply want to promote your art. Either way, exposure is your best buddy and this information is valuable to anyone on the hunt for your talents.

Let me illustrate with a few examples- you may be an illustrator wanting to meet with authors, a drummer looking for a band, producer looking for a rapper, band looking for an engineer, film-maker looking for a soundtrack, photographer looking for models, actor looking for roles. Painter looking for commissions. And of course – vice versa.

All artists have a target audience. Peers, Fans, Clients, The industry, Customers… Tell us about your skills and your experience and interests and most importantly- tell us about your creations and we can help you make valuable connections with other creative people and the various support channels for creatives in New Zealand.

Uploading stuff – building a showcase:

We also let you upload examples of your work. You may have seen these features on Rupert Murdochs cash-spinner “Myspace” – accompanied by a disgusting littering of advertising. Loud Thought helps you prepare a pristine, elegant showcase of your music, pictures (photos or traditional art), videos or literature. Or ALL of them.

Showcase albums/songs or samples you’ve produced, photos you’ve taken, paintings you’ve …painted, films you’ve directed or written or videos of your gigs / performaces, stories or articles or poems or novels you’ve written. We select people who have a model profile to be featured on our homepage, for even more exposure.

You can also link to your other websites and profiles around the web. Ths feature can be found under “Links” in your profile menu. These will also randomly appear on the homepage. So share them round.

We also have a built in messaging system so you can get hold of each other if you don’t want to make your email address public.

We’re Looking for contributors

Aspiring Journalist? Writer? Devourer of online media? Know of some cool shit? Have an opinion? We’re looking for people to contribute articles to our e-zine at http://loudthought.co.nz/verso. We would love to have a regular flow of informative and entertaining information about all things Arts, Media and Culture.

If you feel like you’ve got something to share, we will give you the audience- go ahead and email us.

Tell your mates

Spread the word for us. Find us on Myspace, Facebook and Twitter and then tell your cuzzies about us, or dont find us on those websites and just tell ‘em anyway.

Tell us what you want

If you have an idea for features or anything really, that could help your fellow artists- email us. Don’t be shy. What are your challenges as an artist? Tell us and we’ll do our best to provide the resources to help. Help us create the tools you need.

Our goals

We know you might already have 10 different profiles on 10 different websites. Awesome. We want you to use them all. Like I said earlier- exposure is an artists best friend (unless of course your art is self-fulfilling) We encourage you to use all the different resources available to you online.

We want you to use Loud Thought as the local connection between them all. Link your face-book, link your myspace, your twitter, amplifier, deviant art, flickr, cd-baby, Heck- link your own website. Everywhere. Use Loud Thought to create a no-bullshit online profile linking all your online media channels.

Stay tuned and keep it real.

Jaap.

Elizabeth Gilbert: A new way to think about creativity – Ted.com

Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses — and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person “being” a genius, all of us “have” a genius. It’s a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.

Smashing Magazine

Smashing Magazine

Smashing Magazine

Smashing Magazine is an online world which is constantly updated with informative and incredibly inspirational design and photography resources. The site is worth a whole article in itself- they update very regularly, produce excellent tutorials, have a huge community and foster really good discussions. They also offer plenty of regular freebies.

Basically Smashing Magazine will be a huge asset to any designer or photographer who graces their pages.

Here are a small sample of their great articles. Note: they love the word ‘beautiful’.

25 Beautiful Examples Of Macro Photography

Beautiful Black-And-White-Photography

50 Beautiful Movie Posters

35 Beautiful Album Covers

Enough from me, go have a look for yourselves.  SmashingMagazine.com

10 Ways to Take Design Action and Make a Positive Difference in the World

As a follow on to our Power to the Poster article (which everyone seemed to love) – This article called 10 Ways to Take Design Action and Make a Positive Difference in the World by a great design resource called psdtuts.com shares some awesome ideas for doing some good with your design skills.

I know as well as anyone that artists have to pay the bills, but there is a lot to be said for using your skills to help contribute positively to our world (even if only for our egos)

Take some time to read the article and see if any of the ideas put forward pique your interest.

As always, feedback and discussion is welcomed.

The Creative Freedom Foundation

I know we’ve been banging on about copyright quite a lot recently but we think it’s pretty important. The issue can be hard to summarise in clear, everyday English, while much of the information out on the web deals with overseas law. Thankfully a new NZ based group, The Creative Freedom Foundation, has taken plenty of the legwork out of researching the issue for you (and us).

The introduction on their website reads:

As the natural world meets the digital, opportunities are opening up for artists to connect with new audiences across the world. However, with the digitisation of media the lines between use and copy have become blurred. Laws regulating the act of copying have failed to keep pace with technology and soon ISPs will be forced to take down internet connections and websites of anyone accused (not convicted) of copyright infringement. Copyright law is now having the effect of limiting artists, restricting businesses, and harming public rights. The Creative Freedom Foundation speaks for artists concerned at this trend and through Our Goals we seek to bring Copyright Law into the 21st Century.

The site appears to have regular news updates regarding copyright in NZ and a good run down of the issues. They are urging people to get involved and are providing a number of tools to do so.

They are particularly concerned with the proposed Section 92 of the Copyright Amendment Act which assumes Guilt Upon Accusation. Under this amendment Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will be able to terminate internet connections and take down websites on the basis of an accusation by copyright holders of copyright infringement. It will be up to the customer to prove otherwise. Given the cost of a legal challenge this could feasibly see many people lose their websites and connections without having been proven guilty. On the other hand there is no punishment for the false accuser. Sounds like the game is stacked in somebody’s favour.

The Creative Freedom Foundation (hat tip to Russell Brown at the always excellent Hard News)

Massive Black Workshops

The 6th Massive Black workshop was held in Wellington, November 13-16th. Attending it was definitely a life changing experience. It’s a privilege to share what I learnt at the workshops for those that unfortunately missed out.

It would be unfair to suggest that Massive Black is merely a film/game concept design company because they also contract themselves out to a whole spectrum of jobs outside the entertainment industry. In fact, each individual artist from the Massive Black team is exploring many different artistic avenues, including their own intellectual property. Collectively, Massive Black has worked on the industry’s top profile projects, and encompasses a team that easily represents some of the best artistic talent in the world. The person responsible for Massive Black is Jason Manley, who is also the
co-founder of conceptart.org, the single largest online community for visual artists.

Wellington being the first venue for a workshop south of the equator, it was an opportunity too good to even consider saying no to. Unfortunately, it was only advertised on conceptart.org and tickets sold out extremely fast despite its high price tag. The experience easily outweighed the cost, as my mate who attended the workshop with me simply put it “I learnt more in the four days of the workshop than in my four years of university.” That statement isn’t far fetched considering the level of industry experience that Massive Black brought.

The workshops are notorious for being organic and free flowing in terms of its structure.There was a general timeline for lectures but it would casually change throughout the day. Lifedrawing was also held throughout the entire day, and we were encouraged to move between lifedrawing and lectures as we please. In this organized chaos, you were guaranteed a chance to meet and talk to anyone. It was commonplace to turn around and find that a world class artist would be sitting alongside drawing as well. Half the attendees themselves were professionals, so striking up a conversation with anyone quickly turned into insightful knowledge.

Every attendee’s experience was therefore unique and what they took out of the workshops was totally up to them. Some attended for exposure, some for technical advice, and some for direction. I attended particularly for one reason, which was to observe the Massive Black artists. Jason Manley put it perfectly in his speech in the opening night “…in the next four days, there is only one degree of separation between these great artists and you.” I was no longer isolated in Wellington, trying to imagine how these artists worked. I could now see how they worked first hand, and further more, I could discuss it with them. I tracked down and opened a dialogue with almost every single one of the Massive Blacks artists. The greatest knowledge I took away from the workshops were not technical advice, but philosophical advice, and this is perhaps applicable to anything outside of painting and drawing.

Will of intent. Great things take time and commitment. Do the hard yards by understanding the fundamentals fully. The fundamentals are the basis for a strong foundation to build upon. This takes time and commitment, so learn to enjoy the process and journey. For these artists, it is clear that art is a lifetime pursuit. The only person that stops anyone from achieving anything are themselves.
Omission of anything that is irrelevant. For these artists, art is not just what they do, it is who they are. To achieve the goals you set out, you must create the environment that will cater for success. Which may mean omission of playing video games, or simply cutting down on the hours lying in the sun doing nothing. On the other end of the scale, be prepared to take a sketchbook and draw everywhere.
Community is key. Shape the crowd around you with people that will motivate you to achieve your goals. Use friendly competition to drive you, but share information to mutually improve. Seek and feed off constructive criticism, because this will develop a mental strengthening which eliminates complacency. There is no room for complacency, even for professionals.
Everything is due to the power of thought. Despite artist’s high ambitions, we are also a group of people that is highly prone to immense self doubt. Overcome this by using intuition to make decisions, and follow through with willpower.

Wes Burt and Whit Brachna of the Massive Black team are 22 and 21 years old respectively, which is absolutely astounding considering they are some of the top artists in the industry. You would be forgiven for thinking that they are prodigal; however during my conversation with them, it was clear that it was due to their training in the fundamentals that has accelerated them to the top.
Jason Manley stated that institutionalized art education in most instances is ultimately flawed, not just through university but also through school. This resulted in the creation of conceptart.org as well as the Massive Black Atelier school in San Francisco. Atelier is a long lost 19th century French Academic method which is now starting to be revived, of which Wes and Whit were both students of. Since the workshops, I have buried my anger at the fact that my degree never taught me the basic fundamentals I needed, and have gone back to square one, to teach myself the fundamentals and Atelier.
The workshop experience empowered me, by providing all the information and insights I needed to excel myself to a world class status. I truly feel like my real artistic journey has just finally begun.

The next workshop is in Shanghai, China, and Jason Manley is finding a way to make it free.

[editors note: Thank you very much to Thaw Naing for sharing this experience with us in this great article]

Thaw Naing is an Illustrator / Comic artist. His personal website is www.delusivearts.com. You can also find him on loud thought at thawnaing.loudthought.co.nz

Note* image by Phil Holland.

Interview with Pat Shepherd of Exposure Lifestyles

I first met Pat while he was in the process of creating the first issue of Exposure Lifestyles magazine several years ago, he showed me his to-do list which spanned several pages and some of the amazing photos he’d taken of very talented Kiwi musos. When the mag came out I couldn’t help thinking- this fulla has his shit together.

I wanted to find out how one comes to have such union of their shit.

Pat studied photography in his native Scotland. The southern slopes of NZ caught his eye for 3 winters, after that he found it was time to get back into photography.

“Wellington was the place to be for music photography, so I headed up here, studied for a year and then started my own publication. Now I’m running Exposure Lifestyles as well as doing lots of freelance photography and design!”

Ha! you make it sound so simple. How did Exposure lifestyles come about?

Exposure Lifestyles started out as my final project while studying graphic design. I knew lots of musicians and thought it would be cool to interview them for the project. Originally I thought I would only do one issue but people loved it so much and I caught the creative mag buzz, meaning more issues were to follow. I even thought at first it would mainly be pictures, but as the process started, I realised that the interview was such an important part of the magazine.

Tell us about some of the challenges in trying to launch and maintain a free magazine?

First off if we look at how a magazine with a price tag works: If you want to get it around the country, you need a distributor. They will take a cut from the earnings. You also need to print lots of copies to make sure shops are well stocked. This means huge print costs and maybe 40% of your mags being thrown in the trash once their time is up. That’s not good for my pockets or for the environment. So, free was really my only option!

With free magazines, you can print however many you want or can afford to print and once they are all gone you can sit back and relax. I don’t think you will ever make your millions, unless you are ‘Vice’ mag… Advertisers know that every copy of your mag will be seen which is great but if you don’t put it out regularly that can scare advertisers.

When Blink first launched ‘A Low Hum‘ he printed a really small amount of copies which were snapped up very fast, each issue he would print a few more, it was so limited you were cool if you got a copy, I love that idea! Each issue I have usually printed more copies than the last but have come to realise there is a certain point when it’s too many and it loses it’s special feel, which is why for the most recent issue I went back to 2000 copies!

More importantly, could you tell us about the rewards?

As the mag is free it means I can freely distribute it to whomever I like. I make sure all my friends get copies and I also send it to a lot of industry people around NZ. The response is great, I get so many emails of support and I’ve started to find that people I meet for the first time will have heard of the mag, that’s a pretty cool feeling. The other really important part for me, is having a creative vehicle to approach people whose work I love. I can cold call them, tell them about the publication and a few days later I may end up meeting them for a photoshoot!

What are your plans for the magazine? Do you think you’ll ever run short of artists to interview?

The future, that’s not an easy one as I have so many ideas I would like to do, but sometimes there is no point rushing into them. I find if I wait, really think about them, then the best idea will win and will be the next project. I’ve got about 8 special issues I want to do but I’m just working out which one to do next. As for artists and material, I don’t think I could ever run out. I get many emails a week from people introducing me to their music or their creative projects. It’s so cool hearing what people are up to, I wish I could feature all of them (maybe not all, I have been sent stuff that I’ll say isn’t to my taste…). Some of the talent that exists here is what makes me start a new project. I love what they are doing so much, I do a new issue just so I can photograph and interview them!

You have the opportunity to have relatively intimate conversations with some of New Zealands most talented and successful musicians and arists. What are some of the underlying qualities you seen in these people which have helped them excel.

Great question! I sure have met a lot of creatives now and I still come out of every shoot thinking that that was the coolest and friendliest person I have ever met. They are giving up their time for you and I’m so appreciative of that, but they also love the fact that you are giving up a lot to feature them, so I think it’s mutual respect for each others passions. I think another amazing quality people have here is the ability to be flexible and collaborate on projects. When I first thought about the idea of starting the mag, I met with Barnaby Weir from The Black Seeds and asked his opinion. I find this to be a really important part of my work. Every time I have a new idea, I meet with people that can inspire me and help the idea evolve into something better. It also helps that Wellington is such a small place, amazing collaborations have been born here, just look at projects like Fly My Pretties or The Woolshed Sessions!

There are the obvious challenges we face in terms of size and money, as an artists in a small country. However, what do you consider to be our advantages?

I think the advantages of being based in NZ again link back to that collaboration thing. If you admire someone’s work, there is a high chance that a friend or a friend of a friend may know how to get in touch with them [editors note: or loud thought can help]. Next thing you know you may be working with your favourite band. I love this about NZ, I’ve done so many photoshoots where the artists live two streets away, there aren’t too many capital cities where that is the case.

I agree, that’s very cool. Thanks for taking the time for a yarn Pat, before we let you go- what are some of your favourite websites for design, photography or arts / music.

Let me have a look at my bookmarks… For lighting techniques I love www.strobist.blogspot.com. For a bit of entertaining reading I like www.thewire.co.nz. I think www.ted.com is so incredible for watching amazing speakers but i find it easier to watch the Ted videos on youtube as they load better. That’s some of my favourite sites, I’m sure I have hundreds more! Oh, actually www.resn.co.nz amazing web company!

Power to the poster

Power to the poster is a project which lets artists who use their skills to make comments on political and social issues to submit artwork which can be then downloaded and distributed free by anyone. Not a typical way to distribute art, agreed. The purpose is to let the artwork reach a large audience and act as a catalyst for bringing issues to public attention.

The designs tend to take a bit of a ‘one-sided’ stance (although the messages are hard to argue with) and are probably more relevant to Americans, however there is a little radical in me that says “fucken cool idea!” and some of the artwork is pretty damn impressive.

The idea is pretty simple. Artwork can be downloaded for free as a pdf and you are then encouraged to print the page and post it wherever it may gain the most exposure. Propaganda fo’ the people.

Worth a look anyway. Power to the poster.

What do you reckon? Leaving your thoughts in a message below.

Loud Thought Verso