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September 15, 2009

Filed under: music»business

The Laws Have Changed

Steve Lawson, solo bass player extraordinaire, on the relationships between musicians, fans, the Internet, and the industry:

I'd like to call attention to two great points that Lawson makes here. First, he talks extensively about the house concerts that he does, where he literally goes to play in someone's living room, then has dinner with the audience. What takes people by surprise, he says, is that he's a perfectly normal person who is nice to them--by breaking down the barrier between audience and artist (instead of maintaining the fiction that the musician is an untouchable figure), he's able to make a much more rewarding connection.

Second, Lawson makes a strong argument against doing what he calls "thinking aspirationally." Musicians evaluate business models from the perspective of million-dollar superstars, he notes, when most people will never reach that kind of income level (and probably shouldn't want to). The goal isn't to close out a month with a profit, he says, but to not end it with negative numbers on the balance sheet--aim to break even, in other words. From that point of view, the definition of "professional" musician gets both wider (no wedding-band gigs!) and more comfortable (no uncomfortable, money-losing tours!).

You may remember that I mentioned Steve Lawson when talking about Free, and this speech demonstrates why he's such a great example when talking about the levelling aspects of the Internet. To be sure, he's leveraging free social media to build his community--MySpace, Twitter, ReverbNation, Youtube, etc.--but while Anderson's book seemed to concentrate on how free distribution could make your business marketable, Lawson's mainly interested in using new media to do more satisfying work, and to eliminate the parts that he doesn't enjoy. In a world spawning a million Twitter PR drones every minute, I think it's refreshing to see someone using these tools to rethink the basic assumptions of their vocation.

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