Introducing The Garden Gigs Model

I saw this article about how musician Langhorne Slim is creating a new way to make money in this age of Spotify and iTunes. Instead of paying for a ticket, the cost of entry to his latest gig in Brooklyn, New York was his latest CD, which was also available as an LP with MP3 download – $10 or $15 respectively. This ties in closely to an article I read in the Telegraph not too long ago where Noel Gallagher actually played at a mate’s house instead of a larger, more traditional venue. On a similar note, a fan invited Peterborough, UK-based group The Candle Thieves to play in the garden of her communal flat recently. What a great idea – not only are these kind of gigs likely to be more intimate and memorable, they are most likely very valuable PR for bands that have not yet hit big time. 

It’s in keeping with a thought I’ve been having quite frequently of late – find your fans and focus on them, instead of trying to convert people who have no interest in you anyway. Dedicated fans can be retained for a lifetime, as opposed to passers-by who will try you once and probably move on to something more attuned to their tastes. 

Garden gigs are also probably going to be more sustainable as a business model for the music industry than selling T-shirts, as Matt Mason argued here!

Rockjazz music for the soul

I didn’t know quite what to expect on Wednesday when I went to watch Eric Lewis, a.k.a Elew, play at the Bush Hall in London. 

Suffice to say I was blown away. 

With raw talent that is bound to leave a solid impression on any music lover, Elew took a rapt audience into his world of music – a world filled with passion, anger, chaos, and wonder. Watching the man’s face as he plays is an event in itself – he has scored the music for horror movies, which apparently are the kind of films he really likes, and as his face contorts and his eyebrows raise in the imagined horror of something that is not quite there, his music and his fingers bring those emotions to life. Nancy Hirsch, his manager, spoke to us before the performance and said that it sometimes feels like he has six hands – which it really did to me. Elew’s fingers fly across the piano with a rapidity and technique that is impressive, and his stance – during this performance he didn’t sit down once – added to the performance. 

His style of playing may not quite be up everyone’s alley, indeed it may seem a bit too mad – too unorganized – at certain points. Who reaches inside a piano and pulls its strings to make music? He’s unconventional, for sure. But then he segues into another melodious sequence, and somehow it seems justified. Watching a live performance is the only way you can really understand this. 

Elew was part of the Lincoln Center’s Jazz Orchestra and toured with jazz greats like Wynton Marsalis andCassandra Wilson after he studied piano at the Manhattan School of Music, later breaking away to play on his own. Featured by the New York Times way back in 2005 and the Guardian more recently, 36-year-old Elew played at TED in Long Beach, California, earlier this year, an original composition that was intended to be ‘a tribute to ocean and sky and the vision of the TED Prize winners’, as well as a rendition of Evanescence’s ‘Going Under’. He received a standing ovation for both. He is also scheduled to play at TED Global in Oxford, UK, on July 22nd. In the meantime, people in London would do well to catch a performance of his at the Jazz Cafe today or tomorrow. To be honest, his style isn’t pure jazz, or pure rock (‘rock-jazz is what he calls it himself) – bits of rock and pop and jazz all filter in at different points, but that is his selling point. From an interview with NPR last month, he said: 

“The idea is that, you know, I’m taking a piece from the pop culture much the same way that Louis Armstrong played ‘Hello, Dolly’ with Barbra Streisand. You know, just interfacing in a certain kind of way that allows me to express my ingenuity, versatility, virtuosity without hijacking the sound of the genre and at the same time, preserving the elements of jazz, which are central and beloved.”

Elew can’t – doesn’t want to be – put in a box, and if you go to see him play live, you will leave with one thought in your mind, as a friend of mine and I both did – that you haven’t seen a performance like this before. And really, unless you watch him play repeatedly, you may be unlikely to see a performer, and a performance, like his ever again. 

Here is one of my favourite pieces from Wednesday’s performance, Typical by Mute Math. Pay attention to what happens 2:45 onwards.

And here is a performance of his from TED in February.

Roman Coppola directs Sebastien Tellier’s song ‘L’amour et la violence’

One thing I did not know about Roman Coppola (son of Francis Ford and brother of Sofia) is that he directed a few sequences of Love Actually, or so says Wikipedia. Anyway, I wanted to write about the music video he’s directed for Sebastien Tellier’s track ‘L’amour et la violence’. The video starts off focussing on the singer – for what seems like ages – then suddenly moves to shots of his Paris flat. But that’s it. No bigger focus of the video than the singer and his surroundings. You can either think it’s a bit too simplistic or that it’s very poetic.  

And the entire song is composed of these 4 lines:

Dit moi qu’est que tu penses?
de ma vie
du mon adolescence

dit moi qu’est que tu penses?
j’aime aussi l’amour et la violence

But the music, the music…is just beautiful. 

Of brand books and music

Rohit Bhargava’s Personality Not Included had a lot of things going for it to prop up book sales. Some of the innovative things Rohit did were getting bloggers to interview him, starting the Personality Project and having a competition to get a reader to have his/her quote on the back cover of the book. 

But Jonathan Salem Baskin has gone a step further. He’s made the first move towards creating a completely new experience for readers of his just-launched Branding Only Works on Cattle – a soundtrack for the book! He says: “I have aspirations of achieving something like the Beatles fame, only with the lyrics of Tom Lehrer.” He has plans for another two songs, and ‘maybe even an EP’! Presenting ‘The Sock Puppet Blues’:

New artists, and creativity vs. the financial crisis

Last night, I took in a couple of new European bands playing at a small venue in London. One was a German folk/soul singer called Sophie Hunger:

And the other was a Swiss group called Hal Flavin that played electronica:
Along with upcoming London singer Ryan Koriya and comedian Marcel Lucont (his bit on London Transport was really funny, have a listen), it was a departure from the kind of stuff I usually do on a day-to-day basis. 
There was a decent crowd despite it being Sunday evening, and I was wondering whether there has been any impact of the financial crisis on the creative performing industries at all. At the maximum, there may be less people attending their concerts (this one was free, so ticket prices were not a factor, but otherwise, for the non-hardcore fans – see point 4 below – that could be a factor). I think it is an industry that has protected itself well against the fall in the economy’s fortunes overall. This could be because of a few reasons:
– Creative people are less likely to take huge financial risks with their money, especially if they are yet to strike it big, so the downside is also not that bad. 
– They have probably already taken the biggest conceivable risk, of trying to make it big in an industry where individual fortunes rise and fall every day. They’ve seen bad economic times personally already (many of them subsist on things like busking etc.), so they think that it couldn’t really get much worse.
– They are too self-involved to realise the impact.
– Most of their real fans will still pay to watch them or, in relevant cases (where they don’t want to depend on pirated stuff online), will pay to buy their records anyway.
– They philosophize more than act on their philosophy of life. What thoughts they do have, they translate into their work – which goes back to the previous point and is insulated from market impact.
– In the case of comedians, people WANT to laugh in tough times. So there will be, perhaps, an even greater market for their work.