The musician and his worst enemies

Following up on a discussion that was started a few days ago on a group dedicated to Allan Holdsworth on The Book Of Faces, here are some things that cross my mind. The text below is largely speculative, and serves as a basis for discussion rather than as canon. 😉


We know how much Allan Holdsworth sucks at self-promotion… but he’s not alone. Quite a few non-mainstream musicians would rather just follow their heart and make music without having to bother with filling in forms, actively promote themselves, or seeking for ways to enhance their exposure in a changing media landscape. Quite a few artists are actually shy, and not very willing (or capable) to engage socially. In that respect, I recognize a trait that they share with engineers: they just want to do their thing. My guess is that, for many artists, actively communicating with their fan base is a chore, rather than something they aspire. Some deal with this better than others, and some seem to actually like it (or at least put up a good show of liking it), but that’s not a universal trait.

Yet, it seems as if, in the changing media landscape, that would seem to be just what the doctor ordered for non-mainstream musicians. Why?


The average consumer is not interested in supporting an artist. This goes way further than I thought – I know a guy who plays guitar himself, but admits without shame that he will only listen to Youtube playlists, and hasn’t bought any music since dust was invented. Yes, that came as a shock to me too.

I think people like him may well turn out to be their own worst enemy, for if that attitude would persist, he would, within decades, be listening to a mix of Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj and Pharrel Williams.
So, that’s not the type of consumer the average Richard Hallebeek would be aiming at – nothing to see here, please move along.

There is, however, a small base of people who realise that there is good karma to be gained from supporting your favorite artists. The question for the artist is: how do we find them and get their money?
Seriously: this group has 2.726 members. I don’t think there are as many Pledgers as there are group members.

One thing the Unreal Allan Holdsworth group thrives on is the opportunity of meeting people who are just as mad as you yourself are. But let’s admit it – most of us really like it that Louise​ has joined us, and occasionally serves as a link between us, the hysterically-screaming horde of fans, and The Master Himself. Being just a bit closed to the Object Of Our Admiration is quite satisfying.

This brings us back to my earlier question:
Why should the musician reach out to his fan base?
Well, the record company surely isn’t doing it anymore – mainly because, for many independent artists, there is no such thing. In a way, this seems like a Good Thing(TM), because that’s one less party that can screw the musician. We’ve all heard the stories.
But on the other hand, when John Coltrane was under contract with Atlantic, Ahmet Ertegün was apparently a Good Guy, and Atlantic made sure that John got sufficient exposure. With the demise of the traditional distribution model, that’s gone down the drain.

As the traditional distribution model crumbles, new opportunities arise. Bandcamp is a good example for the indie artist. They charge a marginal fee, so most of the money does indeed go to the artist – and in fact it goes into the artist’s pocket rather rapidly.
However, just putting your album on Bandcamp and then sit back and wait isn’t going to do you much good – you will still have to drag people in. Either you do that yourself, or you find someone who will do that for you.

The question remains: where, and how, do you find your audience? It appears that I, as a consumer, have been a bit too optimistic about that. I recently made some noise about a few albums from . While this attracted quite a few likes, it did not result in any sales on Bandcamp. And yes, you do not have to have artist access to see the sales numbers on Bandcamp…
So, it seems as if liking something, and even commenting on something with great enthusiasm, does not always equal actually putting your money where your mouth is. Okay, that sounds a bit harsh, I admit. Winking smile

But to the musician, the net result is the same.

So… how do you musicians think you are going to get my money? Let’s throw some ideas around.

Yet Another Alternative for The Blue F

A week or so ago, I stumbled over tsū (don’t worry, you can spell it tsu), which is, much like Ello, an alternative to The Book Of Faces, or the Big Blue F-word.

It’s not the same as Ello, though. It’s less pretentious, and, more importantly, it works like a charm, in a browser as well as with the Android app.
Also, the Android App doesn’t come with four (FOUR) pages of permissions it will claim (like the Blue F does).

But also, tsū claims that, if your posts create ad revenue, they are actually going to reimburse you for it! There have already been (unverified by yours truly) reports of people cashing in on this, but these seem exaggerated. I don’t think you can retire on it.
For me, that is utterly unimportant – my rants won’t generate much traffic. But it would mean that, if you are, say, an artist, and you attract sufficient views, you can actually make some money off this.
Update: don’t expect much off this. It sure as hell won’t cover your retirement.

Funny thing: it seems to attract quite some attention. Mainly photographers, graphic artists, the odd musician.
Anyway: I’ll have to do some more digging around.

The really funny part is: Facebook seems to be really, really worried about these guys. Try posting a link to in a Facebook post and see what happens:

If Facebook wants to make itself unpopular with the geek community, this is the sort of crap that will make them succeed.

I’m hoping that this doesn’t go the same route as Ello. But since tsū is less pretentious (and therefore less intimidating), and it actually works very well, this might have a decent chance.
Currently, they only accept new members by invitation.
If you read this, and you know me, consider yourself invited (click).

Why I don’t use the Facebook app on my phone…

I admit, it is (believe me) very nice to ONLY get Facebook notifications when you want them. I have also, for that very specific reason, switched off email alerts for Facebook events – if I want to know what’s happening in Facebook, I will open their web interface.

But, first of all, because the list of things Facebook reserves the right to access and even modify on my phone is so insane, there is not a word to describe it.

Facebook wants to read all my SMS/MMS messages, it wants to call phone numbers AND it wants to be capable of read and even write my call log (thereby potentially removing calls it made itself from my call log… think about it), it wants to read and modify my calendar items and send emails to guests without my knowledge, and it wants to be capable of using my camera and microphone whenever it pleases.

It also wants to read, modify and delete the contents of my internal and even USB storage, it wants to be capable of reading and modifying my contacts, it wants full network access and change my network connectivity, and it wants me to allow it to set my wallpaper (full-screen ads, anyone?). It also wants to be able to create accounts and set passwords.

Oh, and it says that updates may automatically add additional capabilities.

Seriously. Selling your soul to the devil is probably a better idea than agreeing with this.

“Your privacy and security are important to us, and we want you to feel confident that you can use the application freely.” Sure… that’s what I’d say too, because, otherwise, how would I get you to allow me to give you access to all this data?

I wouldn’t be amazed if running this app alongside your mobile banking app would violate the terms of service. And if it doesn’t, it bloody well should.

Maybe it’s about time we get the opportunity to deploy folder level security on our smartphones…

Coincidentally, just today I discovered Yet Another Alternative for the Book of Faces, but that is material for another writeup.