When I was growing up, I used to love a series of albums called Solid Gold Hits. They were compilations of the hits from the year gone by, and they came out just in time for Christmas shopping. The first one I owned, if I remember correctly, was Volume 11 – and it had Bad, Bad Leroy Brown by Jim Croce on it, which kind of dates me. I was six years old.
I came to like compilations, and gravitated towards ‘Best Of’ albums as I grew older. I wore out my copy of Queen’s Greatest Hits (the first one with their good songs) and even today in my jazz-loving older years, I love a well-curated collection of best tunes from a scene, an era, a label or a single artist.
So in the tradition of the industry whose activities I describe and discuss, and like every good mid-career artist, I’ve decided to compile a greatest hits album.
The purpose of a Greatest Hits is to do three things:
1) to encapsulate and summarise the highlights of a career to date and provide a benchmark document that celebrates past successes;
2) to provide an entree for new fans by collecting together a representative sample of work that has proved popular and thereby give a user-friendly way into exploring the back catalogue;
3) to save the effort of having to come up with any new stuff for a bit.
So, using PostRank.com as my guide, and with a bit of judicious executive producing, what follows is my greatest hits collection, complete with brief liner notes. It’s not a top-10 list and I haven’t ranked them in any order. Think of this as a compilation track listing, and imagine – if these were songs on an album, this is the order in which I would suggest ‘listening’ to them.
New Music Strategies Greatest Hits (Vol. 1)
1. Three Conversations About Music
Just over a year ago, I had three very different conversations with three different stakeholders in the music industries. I turned the people I spoke to into characters and fictionalised the encounters – but only very slightly.
2. Aqua > Radiohead
A member of a Welsh pop group made a passing comment on this site that Aqua was a more important band than Radiohead. I couldn’t let that opportunity pass, and used it as a route into thinking about influence, craft and popularity.
3. Ten Quid Website Upgrade
I spent ten of your English pounds giving this website a bit of a makeover, and compiled a list of things that I had done in order to make it the technological marvel you see before you today. Okay, so it’s a WordPress website with a free theme. I merely tweaked.
4. Make a Wish
I made a website with a friend of mine to see if we could use it to make passive income so that we could go off and do the things we really enjoy. I thought there might be a lesson in that for people who didn’t want the music-making they love to turn into just a job. This sparked a bit of discussion, which to me is always the measure of a post worth reading. Incidentally, the website helps me buy the occasional beer and earns me far more than New Music Strategies – but I’m not going to be quitting my day job anytime soon on this one…
5. Lessig talks at TED
So… how’s this for cheating? One of my best blog posts ever is a video someone else made that I just cut and pasted the code and stuck it on my website. A strategy I recommend – especially when the ideas in the video are so smart, so well-presented – and so bloody right.
6. Hooray for the Music Biz
This year’s Gigbeth conference came and went last week. This particular blog post was a kind of summary of last year‘s one, in which I had interviewed some 14 year-old girls about how they consume music – and then they were pretty much attacked, intimidated and threatened by a member of the audience (from ‘The Music Biz’) which pretty much threw into sharp relief the appalling behaviour of certain sectors of the industry when it comes to this sort of thing.
7. How long should music copyright be?
I love this post. It gets me into so much more trouble than pretty much all of my other blog posts combined. At a time in which so many so-called representatives of musicians and music businesses are trying to lock down culture by extending copyright in blanket fashion without exception or opt-out, I make the case that if it’s not being used as a tool for commercial gain, music should make the leap into the public domain pretty quick-smart. A provocation, rather than a manifesto – but boy, this makes some people cross.
8. Music Like Water revisited
Mercifully, the whole ‘Music Like Water’ thing became deeply unfashionable as soon as it made the leap from being the rallying cry of those who would seek to reform the recorded music industries to the central platform of the RIAA who decided that merely taxing everyone who had the capability of listening to music was a much better idea than having a business plan that involved creating value in the contemporary marketplace.
9. How to use mp3 blogs
Okay, so this is pretty much standard practice now, and everyone these days is bombarding the poor mp3 bloggers with promo tracks. But this time last year, finding mp3 blogs that were predisposed to liking the kind of music that you make and starting a conversation with them in the interests of introducing the blogger and their audience to your songs was still pretty marginal. If you’re not already doing this, it may be too late.
10. What websites should I be on? Part 1 and Part 2
This is a series-within-a-series that I will be returning to, but they’re a good place to start. The first of them raised the issue of ‘noteworthiness’, the lack of which often prevents artists from being covered in Wikipedia. I guess if you want people to be able to remark about you, you need to first be remarkable. The second part is a no-brainer. Get yourself on Last.fm immediately.
11. But if they steal it, how can I make money?
A recent addition to the canon, but a runaway success in the comments. The value of the conversation that follows this one post justifies the entire existence of this blog.
12. Bits and Pieces of Radiohead
Remember when Radiohead’s ‘Pay whatever you want’ strategy was the big news? Remember how everyone said it was either the end of the world, or the dawn of a brave new era? Remember how wrong everyone was? I tried to point to the bit that really made Radiohead clever in a very important way that was not about ‘business models’. It was about understanding the difference between bits and atoms.
13. How many social media platforms?
Coping with all of the different platforms on which people engage with music and musicians online seemed to be a popular topic – or at least a very common concern. In this post, I discussed some strategies for dealing with social media engagement overload.
14. Should I be worried about piracy?
By now, you should know my answer to this one (hint: it’s “no”). Here’s why.
15. Five mistakes you’re probably making with your MySpace page
Wow. This one’s over two years old. And judging by my experience whenever I venture into the badlands of MySpace, it still seems to ring true. I still hate MySpace with a fiery passion, and yet – for the ends to which musicians have put it, there’s nothing that quite competes. Yet. But if you’re going to use the damn thing, at least avoid these errors.
And that’s New Music Strategies Greatest Hits (Volume One). There may be some unfamiliar ones in there, some old favourites and some that are just worth a quick revisit.
I’m curious though – which ones have been YOUR favourites? Which posts have resonated with you or have made an impact on the way in which you engage with music online? I’m thinking about doing a Greatest Hits (Volume Two) as chosen by you – and with liner notes written by you (quite naturally, with a link back to your own site by way of thanks).
What’s your New Music Strategies highlight?