Swindon says hi

Welcome to Swindon, where the future will be happening soon.

Hi. We’re the music people of Swindon. Let’s talk.

One of the things I’ve noticed about different towns and cities that I’ve visited is that there are (as you’d expect) so many of the same concerns and challenges that you find anywhere else — but even more interestingly, there’s a real local flavour to the overall tone of the music sector.

I visited Swindon yesterday, and spoke at a Borough Council organised event called the Swindon Music Symposium to talk about opportunities and developments in the area for musicians and music business. Now, Swindon doesn’t have a really great reputation as a tourist spot — or even particularly as a hotspot for local music. In fact, as towns go, Swindon seems to consider itself as pretty much an ‘also-ran’.

Now while I’d argue that our inferiority complex in Birmingham is bigger and better than theirs, there’s a real self-belief problem that feeds into and off the general perception of Swindon as a bit of a non-place. But here’s what’s interesting: they’re clearly at the beginning of something big.


Freedom, equality and open wifi

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email out of the blue from a man who claimed to have a globally accessible online professional quality recording facility on his kitchen table. The setup had cost him US$20. Pardon?

Free culture

I have to say, this piqued my interest. As an ex-sound engineer and record producer, I am dubious of any claims about professional quality recording facilities sitting on anyone’s kitchen table. Things like acoustics, trained ears, good microphones, professional judgement and experience all still go a long way in my book.

That said, I firmly believe it’s possible to also create professional music on an absolute shoestring — and this was as far as I’ve ever seen it pushed. I’m very familiar with trying to get good sound out of old technology. Working in student radio in the late 80s made sure of that.

But the cheap kit was just the tip of the iceberg.

Tom Poe, Vietnam veteran living out amongst the corn fields of Charles City in Iowa is an activist for an open source approach to the online environment — especially when it comes to making and sharing music.

He’s the director of the Open Studios project, and a staunch advocate of open wifi networks, net equality, Creative Commons licensing and community-based recording studios.

And I thought that was interesting, so I asked him a few questions.