Sunday, 8 June 2014

What I saw in the bar

If you've been following my Twitter feed, you'll know that I recently went to see Casee Wilson perform. It's the first time I've seen her live and it was also the first gig I'd been to in quite a while, as the financial crash meant gig attendance was the first thing I'd cut off as part of the drive to save money.

The gig itself was a free entry and in a pub bar. There were 4 acts in total over the evening, each with a half hour set. I'm not familiar with the pub in question, but given the price of the drinks, its location and the vast majority of its clientele, I'd say it was a student bar catering to the university, as pretty much everyone in the place including the bar staff appeared to be about 20 years younger than me.

Maybe it's the age difference. Maybe it's the thought that not so long back, what I saw in that bar... how I would have reacted..well, that would have been me. And maybe it's the fact that I've just come to the end of a month where I've been absolutely bombarded emotionally by encountering artists still suffering a combination of the financial crisis and just the music industry in general that's made me that bit more sensitive than normal. And this is what makes the observations I made that night a story worth telling.

So picture the setup. I'd got there early and scrunched myself into one of the tables opposite the bar and about halfway along its length, sitting on one of the most uncomfortable bar stools I've sat on in quite a while. I was also maybe halfway down in terms of table layout and the pub itself was quite small, certainly with seats for less than 50 and probably closer to 30 people, although you might squeeze around 100 in the space if most were willing to stand. If you look at me, I'm actually sat more facing the bar, so to my left are tables and the door outside and on my right there are tables and the performance area which in reality is little more than a microphone and temporary sound board/computer set up in a corner.

By the time it was decided the music should start (about 10 minutes later than I'd originally been told), the seats were pretty much occupied and there were a handful of people stood at the bar. From where I'm sat it quickly becomes obvious that there is a pub of two halves here and I am apparently sat on the dividing line. The tables and bar to my left are all sat with their noses in their pints, staring at their mobiles and/or deep in conversation with their respective groups. When the first song ends, only the more attentive group to my right clap while those to my left stay doing whatever they were doing. The applause is polite, expected rather than being through any genuine enthusiasm. The PA system is enough to carry the music over the conversation to my left but what the young guitarist says in between the songs he is playing is much more difficult to fathom because of the conversation in the room.

He finishes his set, there is more polite applause and he actually heads to the table immediately to my right as Casee attempts to get organised for her set. He realises there's an unoccupied stool on my table, asks if anyone is sitting there and I get the expected strange look when I tell him no, go on ahead and take it because I'm in there on my own. (A female on her own nursing a pint of coke in a pub is always something that gets people wondering, hence why I can be sure artists will usually find me even if they don't know me when I've told them I'll be there - I always stand out purely through looking out of place). One of his friends has gone to the bar to get a round in and once their table settles back down, I become aware of the change starting.

Casee attempts a bit more of an introduction and attempt to get some audience engagement than Chris (the previous act), but she's basically already got about all she's going to get. The pub is still effectively the same pub of two halves it was for the first act, only the table to my right is now much less attentive than when their friend was the one in the spotlight. They still somehow manage to applaud despite having only 50% attention at best on the music, but they're as much, if not more engrossed in their pints, mobiles and conversation as they are in the music.

Act three of the four is a couple, and the first noticeable thing is the fact they weren't actually in the room when the music started. They turned up about 15 minutes into the first set and were easy to spot arriving due to the guitar slung over his back. It seems he just plays the guitar while she sings, only she's singing so quietly that you'd think the microphone isn't actually plugged in. The pub itself is also at its peak of customers at this point, meaning that even from where I am halfway down the pub they are just turning into background noise rather than being music that people have any chance of listening to.

It's a couple of songs into their set that Casee's table makes a move. She's never laid eyes on me before, but due to my ability to stand out like a sore thumb I've already worked out that she decided a while back that either I must be me, or she's about to make a fool of herself because I didn't turn up after all. She makes the nervous enquiry and I confirm and she tells me that she has to go because she has a ride home. Whilst most of her group have wandered off, we manage to exchange a few words while one hovers with a definite "come on, COME ON we HAVE to go" aura. It's not much past 10pm and the music only started at more like a quarter to nine. She asks if I'm staying and I say yes and I try and fail to work out how much that is surprising her. What I don't say is what is flashing through my head, and that's something along the lines of "Why would it even cross your mind to ask if I'm staying? I may have specifically come out to this pub in this city on this night to watch YOU perform, but there are also  OTHER MUSICIANS performing.  What do you think I'm going to do? Show them the same RESPECT I showed you by staying and listening, or leave just because you are?"

The couple are now on a cover of "Bridge over troubled water" and the table to my right have just finished the round of drinks that I mentioned earlier. It's now a quarter past ten and lo and behold, they are off as well just a mere 10 minutes or so after Casee and her group of friends. The table is quickly gobbled up by a group who arrived maybe 20 minutes ago at best. They're not here for the music, so I'm now sat in my own little bubble and there isn't even any point in me applauding any more, because the few left who still are are all sat past the end of the bar right near the performers. I can still count them though - there's the host/sound engineer for the evening, a gentleman leaning on the end of the bar who, like me, looks out of place through being older than nearly everyone else in the pub and the group with the 4th performer. Who knows, there might be one or two lurking where I can't see because of the other groups in the bar area but that's pretty much it.

The couple finish their set and the last performer starts to set up for his turn. I'm no expert on instruments, but he's carrying some kind of ukulele or similar other small guitar. A guitar case swings past my view and I realise that the couple who arrived late have stayed until they have performed and they're on their way out already. This is getting truly depressing. So depressing in fact that as it becomes obvious the last performer is now essentially background music (and barely audible at that) left playing to a bar that has no interest other than the couple of friends he brought with him and the curious out-of-place oldsters, I make a decision.

And so to the confession I have. I did something I wouldn't normally do. I left before he had finished his set. Despite the fact half past ten wasn't that long back, I'd seen enough and to stay was just going to depress me further. And whilst I know it's not entirely fair to pass judgement based on the first gig I've been to in a while, maybe this was a one off, maybe because it was free entry and maybe this was the case or that was the case, I have still found myself coming up with rather a lot of maybes to dismiss what my eyes believe they've seen as just a series of coincidences.

Is there really going to come a time when I find myself suggesting to an artist that maybe most of the answer as to why nobody is listening to their music can be found by looking in the mirror? If young musicians are losing (or have lost) the ability to realise that they need to be out there supporting each other first and foremost and teaching their friends the same, then we really are on a slippery downward slope.

And by supporting, I mean listening to and talking to each other, not sitting cooped up in your own safe little friend bubbles that come and go with you and are only there for the spotlight moment. Sure, I'm willing to bet that over 90% of the people you encounter by connecting with those outside your bubble will land up as dead ends, but who knows what you'll find if people remember you further down the line? Fans? Your bandmates? Someone who went on to work in marketing? The guy who has the tip for mixing or creating that sound you've never been quite able to get your head around? Or any one of another hundred reasons I can think of that will help you if you're nuts enough to want to continue with this idea of a career in music.

And that brings me to the friends who get to see you tired, stressed, grumpy and whatever other side effects the attempt to create a career in music at the same time as having money to pay the bills and something approaching a social/family life leaves you with. If you can't make them see the importance of why you're supporting other musicians and what it could really mean for you and your career, even though none of you can quite see how that might work yet, then what on earth makes you think all those other people out there like me who DON'T get to see any of the stuff your friends do are going to pay any attention to you? And are your friends ever going to understand and support you when you really need it if you don't start teaching them now?

And when you finally wake up to the fact that actually, nobody is really listening to your music, how many wasted years and opportunities will have passed while you've been oblivious in your bubble? I've seen this age group of musician do much better than this before. So much so that they actually expanded the area of interested people in the room! It certainly doesn't always happen, but it never will when musicians don't stick together.

As a whole the evening reminded me why I climbed out of the consumer pile in the first place. But when that same cry of "because nobody else is listening" means I'm left wanting to rattle some sense into the musicians themselves (and I can't because they already left), it's not a good reminder. The result is one of those times where I'm left wondering why on earth I bother and why on earth I should still care.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

The pain continues

I really don't seem to be having much luck. The house hunt is continuing after our second attempt at a purchase also fell through. In the meantime the housing market appears to be picking up in our price bracket and we've been struggling to view houses as a result (they keep getting sold and the viewing we had booked gets cancelled by the estate agent). Then on top of that the fact Easter and the first bank holiday in May have fallen so close together this year appears to have meant the number of new houses coming on the market in the first place has been rather slow for the last 2-3 weeks.

The pain continues - all our stuff is still in storage and we're still living in a combination of hotels and staying with friends/relatives with currently no end in sight. Limited availability of internet time (and in some cases speed) is also proving a pain as it is disrupting not only my leisure time and things like this blog, but also my ability to work and even communicate when an email I feel is important comes up.

As a result this is only another brief update with the hopes that our luck will finally turn and I can bring you some more positive news some time in June/July. I am however going to give you a bit of an update on what I have been up to since January as it seems rather unfair to have left you hanging quite this long, when I have somehow managed to at least do something about music despite all the problems.

Incredibly I'm STILL waiting on the actual physical CD from Cubworld, despite the fact these were released more than 6 months ago in August last year. I am now officially regretting buying the parts I spent here, as his funding completion date was well over 4 years ago. I thought his first project with Sellaband would have been a great learning exercise. Obviously I was wrong. I also passed the message about him needing to find funds in order to send the albums onto another of his believers who had contacted me to see if I knew anything, and I don't think they'll mind me copying their response to that information.
Those excuses are a bit lame! What happened to "honor", "responsibility", etc., etc. We traveled from New York to Utah last fall and it seriously crossed my mind to see if he was still a resident of that state .... and track him down! BUT, we were having too much fun exploring the amazing national parks spread across the west to bother .... We've given up - if Jake's CD ever shows up - it will just be a surprise!
The lack of communication and information here has been... disappointing... to say the least, and it's clear I'm not alone and that there are others out there feeling the same way who, like me, will probably now never fund him again even if those albums ever do show up.

Ironically I've recently run into what could be described as a similar situation involving overdue items with another artist but my response to that one has been very different thanks to the reaction of the artist and what is overdue in this second case, shouldn't be for too much longer as a result. I'm basically waiting for them to get back from the holiday I interrupted, which should be within the next few days, so I'm not going to say any more about this one at this point.

Fox Amoore has announced that the "Come Find Me" album I funded last year on Indiegogo will officially be released on July 4th when he'll have copies available to buy at a convention he's attending. Copies for funders are due to be shipped out about a week before, but if you missed the funding you can also  pre-order a copy from him now. He's been releasing snippets of the mixed but not yet mastered material and I already have goosebumps. This one is shaping up to be well worth it.

I have even managed to successfully buy music for the first time using my phone in the form of the EP from Nobody Likes Neville. Whilst it's not something I intend to be doing much of (at least at present) it was still nice to know that I can buy stuff when that's my only source of internet access. Although Brad is the vocalist and lyricist here, it seems this particular project is not one of his but rather is Eric's baby (so to speak). I obviously made someone's day based on the contents of the unexpected handwritten note that came in the package, and that note in turn made mine.

Matthew Ebel finally made the transition of his subscription service to Ziibra. The site itself still feels very beta, although I do find myself loving the high quality of the "meet me" videos (both in terms of the video itself and the content) they contain. Sadly the service seems to be only concentrating on the Seattle area at the moment, despite the website stating artists and creatives from around the world and it's also currently impossible to subscribe to anyone on the site (except Matthew) if you live outside of the USA. So much for the internet being global, and there's already one artist on there who has missed out on me spending money on them as a result. I'm told they may add international support later for (at least) digital goods, but at the moment I'm not holding my breath although it's likely I'll continue to take a listen to new artists in their music section.

I've been taking a read of Casee Wilson's blog whenever I get the chance recently. Whilst there's some stuff aimed directly at musicians, there's also quite a lot of interesting other stuff about her life as crew, individual track stories and her views on the music industry amongst other things. For recommended reading I'd start with this post on paid vs. free music but there's plenty you can spend your time with, whatever your interest in music and knowledge of the music industry.

And finally for this brief update, BONNIE are back seeking funding for their second full length album, this time on Indiegogo. You'll find their project here. I'm seeing a handful of names I recognise from Sellaband already on board and I've joined them. Whilst their music was never something I was that into when they originally signed up on Sellaband, it's clear they have grown musically since I last took a real listen and their sound is developing into something that actually, I might be a lot more interested in. It may only be a lyric video, but take a listen to one of their recent tracks called "Paradise".

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Service suspension

If you've been following my blog, you should recall I've been mentioning a house move for some time now. As you'll probably gather from the large pause since my last post, things haven't gone entirely to plan.

Well, if I'm being accurate they haven't gone to plan at all.

The upshot is that the house we were planning to buy fell through, but the house we were selling didn't. As a result this is now officially my third week without a house! And I have no idea how long this is going to continue. We have put in an offer on another property, but it's likely to be at least another month (and probably longer) before we're living somewhere other than a hotel and I can actually get some decent internet access, rather than a stolen half hour here and there from family and friends, or attempting to do anything with my rather old/slow smartphone in the local shopping centre.

As a result I've dropped by to give you this update, in the hopes I'll be able to start blogging again in April. If not, expect another update around then. I haven't forgotten about the blog post I promised you and that will be my first on resumption, but until we get settled with a new house, I'm not going to have enough access to internet available to finish off that post from the notes I'd started.

In the meantime I'm left waiting to see if my Cubworld CD ever arrives, seeing as it's well over 6 months since the album was released.

And if you're sending me anything, don't worry if the address is care of a solicitor - I haven't died (yet), it's just our current forwarding address for mail for anything the redirection isn't taking care of.

Wish me luck on getting a new house sorted. It's beginning to feel like I really need it.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Review of the year 2013

It's time once again for my review of the year post where I share with you my favourite tracks and albums of 2013 as well as bring you up to date with various stories from the year.

Favourite Video of the year

As I usually start my posts with video of the month, it's only fair that I start you off with video of the year. Some may call this one a bit of a cheat as it actually uses a Walt Disney short as its basis rather than being something created from scratch, but something about it reminds me of the Tom Petty video for "Running Down A Dream". Enjoy "Matter of Time" by Dommin, which you'll also find in my favourite track listing for the year.

Favourite Songs of the year

You'll find most of these in the attached soundcloud track listing at the bottom of this section of post along with a few that didn't quite make the cut. With over 70 minutes of music in the playlist, it should give you more than enough to listen to while you finish the rest of this post. As usual, I have allowed no more than one track per artist and whilst the vast majority were actually released in the last 12 months, there is the odd track that was released earlier but which I've only come across in the last year.

1. All of Me - John Legend
2. Song For Someone - Vertical Horizon
3. Should've Said No - Katie Thompson
4. Hot Damn - Ivy Levan
5. Everything I Love - Katey Laurel
6. Carnival of Kings - Matthew Ebel
7. 'Til Infinity - IYES 
8. A Night In Hell and a Sunday Morning - Skitzo Calypso
9. The Shore - Fox Amoore
10. Time to Live - Remi Miles
11. Bullet for a Broken Heart - Dillon Hodges
12. Matter of Time - Dommin
13. River Runs Dry - GD Allan
14. Heads Will Roll - Mary at Midnight
15. Broken Record - Little Boots
16. I Like Flowers - Reluctant Dragon
17 My Sky - Jaani Peuhu
18. Down Like Hip-Hop - Fiction 20 Down
19. Medikation Nation - Future User
20. The Call of Mektoub (Secrets of The Book) - Dirk Maassen with Sleepingenius

I was all poised to give the title to Vertical Horizon this year when I ran across the video from John Legend that I posted in my last blog post. Whether it's a consequence of getting older or what has happened to me over the past year, I don't really know, but in general it seems I've been heading more towards a mellower choice both in terms of songs, and more particularly favourite albums this year. In terms of some of the more unusual and unexpected choices, the two main standouts that made the list would have to be "I like flowers" by Reluctant Dragon and more particularly "Down Like Hip-Hop" by Fiction 20 Down which those who know me would have expected would be one of those tracks I'd run a mile from.

Favourite Albums of the year

1. Echoes from the Underground - Vertical Horizon
2. Calypso - The Traps
3. The Diving Board - Elton John
4. Nocturnes - Little Boots
5. Colours in the Dark - Tarja Turunen

Despite being overdue, the Vertical Horizon album definitely proved it's possible to get a place in my heart if the music still manages to hit the spot. A long time favourite of mine, Elton John also just failed to hit second spot from a fairly recent discovery in the form of The Traps. I'm not sure how the newcomers will stack up longer term though as I felt they had already released their strongest tracks from the album before I got hold of a copy.

In terms of what I'm looking forward to next year, there are only two albums I'm currently aware of at the moment. The first will be the new Poets of the Fall album, which won't be along until later in the year as they only just finished touring and so still have to decide which tracks they'll be finishing off and recording for the new album from all the scraps of ideas they've come up with since the last one. As they operate on a one year touring, one year recording basis there's even a chance it will be more like Christmas or early next year before it actually gets released.

The second album I'm waiting for will be "Come Find Me" by Fox Amoore. This got pushed back for release into next year as, after he blasted through his original IndieGoGo target and got nearly 4 times the initial funding request, the recording dates moved to the end of January due to the extra enquiries and arrangements required to get a real orchestra and guest vocalists involved. He has the English Chamber Orchestra on board for the album and I've been watching him stream live as he sets up the actual orchestral arrangements for songs ready for when they record in January.

Heroes and Villains
Given the movement with Sellaband this year, I was really hoping I'd be able to say in this post that I finally have what I paid for, more than 4 years down the line both from when I last bought a part on Sellaband and from when the last artist I bought parts in actually hit their target. Unfortunately that's not quite the case. I'm finally down to waiting for just the one CD. Whilst Cubworld released his album in the summer and it was made available for download on Sellaband back in August, the physical copies have still not been shipped. The last contact I had with Cubworld on the issue said that he'd run out of money and couldn't afford to send the CDs out until he'd saved some up. He's now officially become the second artist I bought parts in to have passed the 4 year mark since funding completion but where the CD hasn't arrived.yet. Ironically, I'm willing to bet it would have been possible to get a physical copy from somewhere by now if I hadn't funded on Sellaband, but instead bought the finished product when it was released in August. I believe I said in a previous blog post that I thought he'd been left to fend for himself as an artist too soon (as a result of the changes to Sellaband putting the artist in control rather than them controlling the budget etc.) and this situation looks to be confirmation of that fact.

Revenue from Sellaband has also basically dried up this year. Some of that is down to the fact that a lot of the artists I bought parts in are now out of the 5 year agreement, but there's been no revenue seen either for any of the late artists whose releases have been turning up slowly in the interim. In total, I've had just 2 sets of revenue credited to my account this year, the first in April and the second in the middle of December. This second one was a mere one eurocent, and both payouts combined wouldn't even be enough to buy half a chocolate bar. I suspect this is probably close to (if not THE) last revenue I'll see from the site.

With Sellaband now down to around one artist signed up for every day of the year, only around 10% of those with at least 1% in budget raised and when adding up the visible money on the site and coming up with a figure of less than 25,000 euros, I'll be pretty surprised if the site makes it to 2015 in its current form. It's definitely now not far from the point where the little remaining money could land up being moved to just the top few artists to clean up and close the site with very little adverse effect or reaction.

It hasn't all been bad news though. The rest of the items I'd been waiting for from Sellaband finally arrived, including the Lori Greco album which was the other one that took more than 4 years. I also finally got the Vertical Horizon album I'd been waiting for for well over a year from Pledge Music. But the whole experience with crowdfunding to date has left me somewhat more reluctant to spend compared to my early Sellaband days.

It was therefore somewhat of a relief to find that my faith in Poets of the Fall was rewarded. Whilst their live DVD was released a month later than originally planned, they still managed the shortest turnaround time of any artist I've crowdfunded to date, from the time the project went live for funding to receipt of the goods. And whilst I think there's a little too much chopping and changing of camera on the finished product (it feels like the director thinks the camera needs to be in at least 2 places gathering action at the same time), I'd say this still feels like the best music purchase I've made in the last 12 months. Definitely the heroes of 2013 where it feels like so many others have been villains.

Late Stories
As you can imagine there have been a few stories and discoveries that have happened since my last blog post.

Firstly 3-Dimensional People for which very little information is available at present except that it appears to be a side-project involving at least one member of Dommin. I'll be keeping an eye out for them and what music gets released under this project name over the next year.

It feels like a lot of musicians I follow have been the target of thieves this year. There have been some good outcomes for a few though. NRG Rising got a laptop back, although their bass guitar is still missing, and Dillon Hodges tracked his stolen guitar down to an ebay listing and has subsequently got it back. Unfortunately these haven't been the only victims and based on this seemingly sudden spike in thefts compared to previous years, I'd suggest that the main New Years resolution for all musicians ought to be to keep a very good eye on their stuff over the coming year in case it too goes missing.

Bambi Monroe of Civilized Tears announced she is expecting a baby. Hopefully they will get the video recording that was crowdfunded done before the birth needs to take centre stage.

Matthew Ebel's move of his subscription service to Ziibra still hasn't taken place. As he is apparently the artist with the largest fanbase to sign up with them so far, those smaller artists already there have found a number of bugs in the system that everyone would rather were fixed before he makes the move.  This means that whilst he has been planning to get rid of the Entourage subscription and reduce it to the same level as the Robot Army subscription when the move happens, he's in for a shock next time he checks his mail, as he should have a mail from Paypal telling him I've renewed at Entourage level. I've done this on the principle that the move hasn't happened yet, so I therefore don't consider the change to subscription tiers to have come into effect yet (also not my problem if his system lets me renew anyway). I'll be interested to see how/whether he reacts to this, particularly as it marks my 5th year of Entourage subscription. I know he's busy tearing his hair out over his main website at the moment due to the hosting provider making a mess of things and breaking his site, so hopefully this will come as a pleasant surprise.

In terms of site discoveries, I've been taking a look at Pitchmystuff. On the surface it appears to be yet another site for musicians to upload their music to. What its true purpose is seems to be pretty much unknown though all the indications I've seen present the site as a way to try and get musicians to part with their own cash.  How you listen to the music that has been uploaded is far from obvious, and I found the search options for finding music in the first place to be rather poor, rendering it too much hassle for the average listener to figure out compared to other sites out there. Instead the site tries to tempt you to log in and has a habit of annoying you with popups trying to get you to buy advertising on the site, copyright your music or persuade you to use their music uploading service to push your music onto Itunes, Spotify etc. which seems somewhat more expensive than other similar services I've encountered. And whilst their Twitter feed seems to suggest it's possible to connect with other fans and artists on there, I haven't seen anything resembling any community features in my trawl of the site other than a section of user images on the main page.

Whatever happened to...?

As is traditional at this time of year, I always mention one or more people or artists I've been thinking about and wondering what happened to them. This year's "I wonder what happened to..." came about as a result of the fact I've actually been listening to Talentcast a lot more than I used to in the days when they were only promoting Sellaband artists. I met Missy briefly at Sellebration in 2007, but after the changes and subsequent mess made by Sellaband to their site, she pretty much disappeared from Talentcast after getting disillusioned with the situation. So wherever you are now and whatever you're doing Missy, I wish you well.

In the meantime, if you are an artist, you may be interested in the fact that Talentcast has expanded from when I first knew them and now broadcasts their program on four different radio stations instead of just one. They are also always on the lookout for independent artists to upload music for them to play on their radio program, so if getting your music played on radio is of interest, you should check out their site as they don't charge you.

And finally... To the Future
I promised you a developing story in my last regular blog post of the year and here it is. Except that you could say it's still developing. You almost certainly won't have been aware, but I've actually had a pretty bad year health wise and as yet, I don't know how much further the story is going to unfold in 2014 or what its effects on me are going to be in the longer term.

It all started with me needing to go to the doctor back in March because I had a period that wasn't just heavy, but in fact just wouldn't stop. It is early for me to be hitting the menopause, but not overly early and it was thought I could be going into the pre-menopausal stage a few years earlier than expected. I got given some tablets and was told to come back either if they didn't work or the problem repeated. I took them and after a break (somewhat reasonable given the volume of blood I'd lost) everything seemed to be back on track. But in the summer, the problem came back only worse. I got given another course of tablets which thankfully also worked and sent to the hospital for 2 different sets of blood tests and a scan. The blood tests came back fine (or at least as fine as they could be under the circumstances) but the scan proved a different matter. Whilst I can't feel a thing, I apparently have a cyst on one of my ovaries, irregular in shape with the dimensions they have given me being 8cm x 4cm x 3cm. They don't think it's cancer, but apparently it's impossible to say for sure unless they actually remove it (and the associated plumbing). As a result it's currently "under observation", which basically means I'm having to undergo regular scans to see how it changes. If it doesn't go away on its own, the tablets stop working, or I start to develop any other symptoms I may have to have an operation, but in the meantime I'm left trying to cope on tablets and supplements for the 2 weeks of hell out of every 4-6 weeks I'm experiencing while they decide whether an operation is the only option. I'm hoping that the next scan due at the end of January will prove to be either make or break on what they decide to do as it's affecting my work, my ability to do things in general and the preparations for our imminent house move due to the side effects which result from high blood loss as things stand at present.

My next planned post is the one I promised you about what draws me to becoming a fan, which I'm hoping to get done before we have an actual moving date set (current expectation is late January - early February for that), as it's unlikely I'm going to be looking for much in the way of music until after the house move now. Until then, I wish you all the best for 2014.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Calm before the storm

If you already know about my rating system then skip on down to the next header, otherwise here's the lowdown.

The rating system
The rating system I use for this blog is somewhat unique. It's not a reflection of how much I like the music itself as much as it is of how far I am along the process of conversion from consumer to fan. So, over time you may well see some of these ratings go up if I mention an artist again. And indeed go down, as musical changes of direction or failure to keep my interest are just some of the reasons that may affect a rating.

Congratulations, you've made a temporary blip of interest on my radar. Now how are you going to keep it?

I've seen enough of you to recognise and remember you, but I'm undecided so I'm not really following you (yet). I may make a spur of the moment decision to check in on what you're up to once in a while, but even that's no guarantee. May also apply to artists I am aware of, but whose music I've decided I don't have enough interest in to want to pursue further based on what I've heard.

I'm liking what I hear in general, but I still wouldn't describe myself as a fan. I will be wandering past your site occasionally, and there is something like a 50% chance I'll be buying your next offering once I find out about it, providing I have the money available.

Now I am a fan, so the chances are I'll be past your site once every month or two at least. There's a 90%+ chance your next offering is already sold, and occasionally I might even be going for something more than the basic package (if you have one)

Reserved for very few, this is about as close to internet stalker as you can get. I am actively watching because I do not want to miss your next release date, tour in my area etc. etc. You may not always be aware of the fact I'm looking over your shoulder to see what you're up to, but trust me, I'm there on a weekly if not more like a daily basis. Depending on how you tend to release your information, I may well be signed to your mailing list as well.

Video of the month

This month's video is "All of Me" by John Legend. This is one of those occasions when I'll let this beautiful song speak for itself.

Who I've been looking at

With the house move likely to take place some time between January and March as things are moving very slowly at the solicitors, I'm effectively now in the calm before the storm in the run up to Christmas. As a result I started looking around more for new music and artists again than I had originally been planning - I was thinking the move would be underway by now and would get in the way. As a result, I've got a bumper crop for you - more than I've mentioned in one post for quite a while.

But before I get to them, here's an update from my previous post.

Incredibly the CD from Lori Greco has actually arrived. That now means I'm only waiting on the Cubworld CD and I'll finally be up to date with Sellaband, even though I haven't actually spent a penny on the site for nearly 4 years. Will it manage to arrive before its 4 year anniversary of funding completion, meaning only Lori has managed to take over 4 years, or will Cubworld become the second of those I funded to make it past the 4 year mark? With just over a month to go, Christmas approaching and a potential postal strike looming in the UK, this one could be close if it doesn't arrive here really soon.

I got my Poets of the Fall DVD shortly after my last post, making this the shortest turnaround to date of any crowdfunding project from the time I spent money to the goods arriving.

My  Vertical Horizon CD arrived just as I was starting this post, something like 6 weeks after the quoted shipping date. Given it is usually 2-4 weeks maximum from the USA and sometimes as little as 7-10 days based on the large number of CDs I've ordered to date, this one was starting to get to the point I was considering chasing up about it. Their Pledge music page is also starting to fill up with people asking when they're going to receive items so it seems I'm not the only one who was expecting to see something before now given they were supposed to be shipped on 1st October. I do have one confession to make though, and that's the fact that what arrived from Vertical Horizon isn't what I ordered. I didn't order the signed version which cost more than an unsigned one, but it seems I got one anyway. With 11 tracks all over 4 minutes in length (longest is over 7 minutes)  there's nearly an hour of music making it well worthy of a purchase, so it's a real shame the crowdfunding has been such a mess. They're so close to a 4 star rating in terms of how much I like what I've heard of them to date that I'll probably buy their next album, but I can't see me joining in with another crowdfunding project until I can see the lessons have been learned.

Fox Amoore's funding completed recently with over 26,000 euros raised. He's aiming to record before Christmas and release the CD a month or two before the download version. I'll be interested to see what this incredible young talent comes up with now it looks like not only will he be recording in Abbey Road, but will also have most if not all of a full orchestra along too. Not bad for an unknown artist who set a 7,500 euro funding target on just a 2 month timescale. John Williams, watch out.

As so often happens when I start looking for artists after a break, I tend to land up with rather a mixed bag which includes pretty much something for everyone and usually provides a number of leads to other artists (which I may or may not land up getting the time to look at, despite always planning to look at them at a later date). This latest batch of artists seems to have left me with a bad case of suffering from foreign language sites though, making them particularly hard work.

Poets' Corner are one of those hidden musical gems that I found on Sellaband which aren't likely to reach funding through setting a high budget and having both a lack of a decent plan and a seeming lack of fans. I actually think the first track on the Sellaband player is the weakest one they've uploaded and both Hidden Love and the instrumental track Kołysanka being much stronger than this. The only site links I've been able to find for them so far happen to be in Polish, making it very difficult to find out anything more about them.

Dark Princess is a Russian band which belongs firmly in the female fronted metal arena. It seems they have some songs in English and some in Russian, which makes it a real shame that their website appears to be Russian only and hence particularly hard to navigate. Their lead singer Olga Romanova appears to have a page on a Russian metal site and it's there I found music to listen to. You'll find a player with over 20 full tracks about halfway down the page underneath the pictures, and it's possible to download each of the tracks (albeit individually rather than as a zip file) by clicking on the icon for each track which looks a bit like a floppy disk.

Thankfully not all the artists I've wandered past in the past few weeks have non-English sites. Jeffery Straker is a piano based singer-songwriter from Canada and whilst the front page of his website looks rather crowded, in all other respects it's one of those seemingly rare places these days of being an artist website where I can actually spend a few hours and find out a lot (including watching videos and listening to music) rather than playing hunt the needle with the entire internet as the haystack. I haven't found anything that's really grabbed me yet, but this is an artist website definitely well worth a visit.

Emm Gryner is another Canadian singer-songwriter who has apparently released at least 10 albums. You'll be hard pressed to find out much about her though as there's pretty much nothing on her website except a news article about her "best of" album, the Facebook link goes to a private page (i.e. you need both to have a Facebook account and be logged into Facebook to see it) and the only music visible on her site is basically a link to iTunes. Tracking down her soundcloud page is really what you need to do if you want to listen to music. I did notice that she's now part of a female folk trio called Trent Severn, who have a very different sound to the solo tracks I've heard, though there's no actual link from her website to theirs. At least when you finally track down this trio's website you get something a lot more useful to the music lover than the rather poor effort I started at.

Lilly Rouge are a rock band from Australia and don't seem to have a website. Instead, the link I've given you goes to their Reverbnation page where the biography will link you off to various other places such as Facebook and Soundcloud if you want to find out more. The track that initially caught my interest "Switchblade" reminds me somewhat of Girlschool, if you're old enough to remember them, but I'm hearing a different artist in every track I've listened to so far.

A warning for this next artist. If you suffer from epilepsy you might want to avoid the link to the artist's own website and instead head straight to their soundcloud page, as the animated pictures once you get past the intro video on their site are most definitely flashing. Rain Diary are from Finland which seems to be producing a lot of new darkwave artists at the moment. Bizarrely their website seems to merely be a portal to everywhere else, with the music page being their Soundcloud page, the news page being a Facebook page, video being a Youtube page and even the community page being a Tumblr page, meaning you'll be hitting the back button on your browser a lot in order to find your way around.

If you don't mind heavy metal comedy that comes with a definite language warning, then Psychostick are an interesting if somewhat bizarre diversion. They're also currently trying to raise funds on Indiegogo in order to build their own studio and release a new album and are already over halfway to their $30,000 target when they've only set funding to last a month. You'll find a link to the project here.

Finally Koobra is the last of the picks I have for you this time around. Another artist from Finland but this time in the electronic/dance/remix sector. Seemingly has no website so I'm directing you to his Facebook page. Even so I've been able to find out very little information to date other than the music on his Soundcloud page.

The sites I've been looking at

With so much music floating past, I haven't been looking at much in the way of music sites themselves. A news article on my Twitter feed did manage to send me in the direction of Band Of The Day though, as this is an app which will suggest an artist for you to listen to every day. Its current main flaw seems to be the fact you can't tailor it to the genres of music you listen to as every single user of the app will get suggested the same artist to listen to on any given day. Possibly a useful discovery tool if you listen to a wide range of music, but not quite so useful if you're only really interested in one or two different styles of music.

And finally...

I'm already making preparations for my review of the year post due in its usual spot some time over the Christmas and New Year period, when (amongst other things) you'll be able to find out my favourite tracks and albums of the year along with a story that's developing as I write this post, the impact of which I'll hopefully know more about by then. I'm aiming to try and make the post I mentioned in my previous one about what draws me towards particular artists by looking at some of those I've been a fan of for a while before Christmas, but it depends how the developing story develops over the next couple of weeks as to whether that will happen or not.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Finally forward

If you already know about my rating system then skip on down to the next header, otherwise here's the lowdown.

The rating system
The rating system I use for this blog is somewhat unique. It's not a reflection of how much I like the music itself as much as it is of how far I am along the process of conversion from consumer to fan. So, over time you may well see some of these ratings go up if I mention an artist again. And indeed go down, as musical changes of direction or failure to keep my interest are just some of the reasons that may affect a rating.

Congratulations, you've made a temporary blip of interest on my radar. Now how are you going to keep it?

I've seen enough of you to recognise and remember you, but I'm undecided so I'm not really following you (yet). I may make a spur of the moment decision to check in on what you're up to once in a while, but even that's no guarantee. May also apply to artists I am aware of, but whose music I've decided I don't have enough interest in to want to pursue further based on what I've heard.

I'm liking what I hear in general, but I still wouldn't describe myself as a fan. I will be wandering past your site occasionally, and there is something like a 50% chance I'll be buying your next offering once I find out about it, providing I have the money available.

Now I am a fan, so the chances are I'll be past your site once every month or two at least. There's a 90%+ chance your next offering is already sold, and occasionally I might even be going for something more than the basic package (if you have one)

Reserved for very few, this is about as close to internet stalker as you can get. I am actively watching because I do not want to miss your next release date, tour in my area etc. etc. You may not always be aware of the fact I'm looking over your shoulder to see what you're up to, but trust me, I'm there on a weekly if not more like a daily basis. Depending on how you tend to release your information, I may well be signed to your mailing list as well.

Video of the Month
There really was only one logical choice I could make this month after watching Fox Amoore's fundraising effort get underway at Indiegogo. With an initial target of 7,500 euros, I was a little sceptical of whether it would be possible to reach that in the 2 months the project has been set for, given what I've seen of other artists to date. In fact the target was reached in a little over 2 hours, prompting him to start looking into the costs for getting a full orchestra involved and Indiegogo to feature the project on their front page. With over a month still to run, the project is well on its way to 18,000 euros already, meaning at least part of an actual orchestra is likely to become involved. If you want to join the fundraising, then you can do so here. If you're a music lover who likes CDs then I'd have to recommend the 40 euro package as you'll get 3 albums in addition to the one he's going to be recording at Abbey Road - at 10 euros an album including the postage that works out a pretty good deal. In the meantime enjoy the video that goes with the project to give you a taste of the music that's in store for the album itself.

Who I've been looking at

It feels like forever but I'm finally more or less down to waiting for actual hard copies of overdue items. There's been no sign of the CD from Lori Greco yet and I'm now waiting for the Cubworld one as well, though Sellaband did finally get the digital version of his album up for people to download. On the one hand I'm slightly disappointed with the release, as it didn't appeal quite as much as I thought it might after hearing some of the tracks - mostly because I think some of the better tracks are those that saw the light of day before the album. On the other, it turned out no worse than I expected with just the (seeming obligatory) one rap track to send me screaming in terror. In addition to the tracks "Shaka Laka" and "Life is Music" that I've mentioned before, the obvious standout is "I Found Love". I could quite see some of the tracks here turning up in the TV series "Hawaii Five-O" if the right people were looking.

I also now have the soundtrack from the Poets of the Fall DVD, so am just waiting for the DVD itself to arrive. The latest update has duplication happening on 7th October with it being shipped from local less than a week later. Because the duplication is happening later than the last update had planned, they have also made the video of the concert itself available for download already - all 2.5Gb of it, though not the extras as that would have about doubled the size. So 2 weeks overdue for the digital download and more like a month for the physical copy (by the time it gets here) is certainly something I can live with, particularly given how communicative they've been. No prizes for guessing my experience here has done nothing but strengthen the 5 star rating and convince me I'd definitely fund again.

Even Vertical Horizon turned up with an update.Their album "Echoes from the Underground" was finally made available for digital download on October 1st with the physical CDs starting to be shipped a week later. I'm enjoying the album as much as I thought I would so it's a real shame it's taken them this long to get organised. It sounds like they'd do another fan funded project in the future, but I'd be interested to see how many people get put off from funding another based on the experience with this. I know I'm one.

I never thought I'd be saying this but at this rate there's actually a chance I'll have all my overdue stuff by Christmas (this year)!

Elsewhere, I was wondering how much longer the Civilized Tears funding would still be up, given they'd been stuck on about half budget for well over a month. Seems something gave with their announcement that the funding would only be open a few more days and they wouldn't be able to make the video they'd planned if it failed, as the project gained the other half of its 1000 euro budget within 24 hours of that and with less than 3 days to spare.

I found myself doing a double take at my Twitter feed this month when I found some tweets from someone I didn't remember following. At the moment I have no idea if a marriage or a stage name is responsible but it seems Julia Johnson, who some may remember from Second Person is now going by the name Julia Gray. The link from her Twitter feed to iTunes for her album shows Julia Gray on that page, although anyone reading the reviews posted before the name change is going to get extremely confused. In the meantime her website is still hosted under her old name and gives no indication of what might be responsible for the name change, or even when it happened.

Probably one of the more unusual pieces of music I've run across recently is in Estonian by an artist called Priit Jääger on Soundcloud. My first thought was whether or not it was Catself as the song "Kassi Lugu" (cat story in English) is certainly unusual enough to fit her repertoire.

I think I'm spent up for the year now as far as music is concerned - there's nothing else I've been looking out for since The Traps released their debut album "Calypso" on 30th September and there's the house move costs to think of, not to mention Christmas in there somewhere. I just have the 30th anniversary Howard Jones concert on the live front left and though I would have liked to get down to London to see Caiyo's new material (amongst others) there was no way the budget was going to stretch that far. Might be time to start working out my favourite tracks of the year, though there's always the chance something I'm not expecting will find me in the last 2 months of this.

The sites I've been looking at

There isn't much to see here yet as they haven't officially launched, but the reason I've taken an interest is because Matthew Ebel has been working with them with the aim of moving his subscription site to their platform rather than trying to run it himself at the same time as trying to make music. On the one hand I understand his reasons for wanting to get more away from maintenance and more into actually making music, but the cynical side of my brain is only seeing a problem for the future here. If you saw the video of Matt speaking at the 140 characters conference in 2012, you'd know that he's no stranger to the idea of sites popping up for musicians, hanging round a while and then either disappearing or completely changing what they offer anything from a few months to a couple of years down the line (and the fact he hates getting so many emails asking him to sign up to the "latest greatest" new music service that has barely been launched when he knows they are pretty much all going to nosedive within a few months), so the fact he's looking to make such a big move of an entire website to a startup that isn't even public yet is a little surprising in itself.

Whilst he's been sharing his experiences of running a subscription service with them, so in theory it should work for him, there are a couple of things that stand out. First is the point that in order to keep going long term, the site is going to need to be profitable and for that it will need other artists to take up the service. Yet the question remains as to who these artists will be. Many larger artists are adding subscription services to their own websites (and even some smaller independents) rather than using a third party site. Artists that are too small aren't going to have enough fanbase for a subscription service in the first place. So it seems to me there's going to be a very niche market out there. And there are already other subscription based platforms out there as well so there will be no shortage of competition. I've mentioned Patreon before, but there is also which has aimed itself at small (and often independent) music labels and already has at least one well known name on board in Franz Ferdinand. And that's probably only the tip of the iceberg as this isn't an area I've been actively looking at to date.

The second point is the fact that not every artist is the same. Just because the subscription model that Matt has works for him, it doesn't mean it's going to work for other artists out there. In fact I'd be very surprised if it did unless there was already a similarly committed (and probably in the same demographic) fanbase involved. Whilst I can't help but hope it'll work for him, or at worst he finds some new fans from any publicity they give him, this still feels like a wrong move he'll both regret and find himself having to sort out later. I really hope I'm the one who's wrong here, because this has the potential to get messy if I'm not.

The updated website that I mentioned in my last post finally went live and has turned out to be a big disappointment so far. For starters all links between the user profile and an artist profile disappeared, meaning you were faced with the task of starting from scratch as far as linking artists to your profile was concerned. It also seems they were using an old database copy as well, seeing as several artists that had been added to the old version had mysteriously vanished from the new one. I fiddled around with the new site a bit to see how it worked, but I've found that every time I've gone back since I've found it removes artists I added to my profile claiming I'm not following any, yet bizarrely lists me in their charts as following some artists that I probably wouldn't bother with based on the new direction of the site. That's only the start of the list of things I'm not liking.

The "game" aspect is also gone. Instead you get presented with a Facebook style feed which basically just consists of whatever the artists you follow have posted on their social media pages recently. On the one hand you could say it's convenient to have the information together rather than buried within an entire set of social media feeds. On the other it's pretty pointless as all it's doing is regurgitating information I'm already getting from elsewhere, whether that be the artist's own mailing list, website, Twitter feed or indeed other music sites I visit such as And with a whole load of artists that they either don't have at all or no longer have since the update which I am already getting information from these other channels for, it means the site now has absolutely no purpose that isn't already being done better elsewhere. I may drop in from time to time to see if they add anything new worth a look (and have fixed any of the problems), but with nothing now to make it stand out from everything else out there, it's certainly no longer a site I'll be visiting regularly.

And finally...
I'm thinking of making just the one more regular post before my review of the year, given where we're likely to be with the house move, but if I get the time I'll drop in one of my specials as well - this time on some of the questions I've been asking myself to try and understand what it is that draws me towards particular artists in the first place by looking at some of those I've been liking for a very long time. If not, that'll be a post for early next year

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Positive signs?

If you already know about my rating system then skip on down to the next header, otherwise here's the lowdown.

The rating system
The rating system I use for this blog is somewhat unique. It's not a reflection of how much I like the music itself as much as it is of how far I am along the process of conversion from consumer to fan. So, over time you may well see some of these ratings go up if I mention an artist again. And indeed go down, as musical changes of direction or failure to keep my interest are just some of the reasons that may affect a rating.

Congratulations, you've made a temporary blip of interest on my radar. Now how are you going to keep it?

I've seen enough of you to recognise and remember you, but I'm undecided so I'm not really following you (yet). I may make a spur of the moment decision to check in on what you're up to once in a while, but even that's no guarantee. May also apply to artists I am aware of, but whose music I've decided I don't have enough interest in to want to pursue further based on what I've heard.

I'm liking what I hear in general, but I still wouldn't describe myself as a fan. I will be wandering past your site occasionally, and there is something like a 50% chance I'll be buying your next offering once I find out about it, providing I have the money available.

Now I am a fan, so the chances are I'll be past your site once every month or two at least. There's a 90%+ chance your next offering is already sold, and occasionally I might even be going for something more than the basic package (if you have one)

Reserved for very few, this is about as close to internet stalker as you can get. I am actively watching because I do not want to miss your next release date, tour in my area etc. etc. You may not always be aware of the fact I'm looking over your shoulder to see what you're up to, but trust me, I'm there on a weekly if not more like a daily basis. Depending on how you tend to release your information, I may well be signed to your mailing list as well.

Video of the Month

As I'm still in the process of moving house, it's only really appropriate I feature a video from an artist I've been checking in on occasionally as I haven't really been searching for new music during this time. As Gayle Skidmore is about to release her next album + colouring book project, here's the first video that goes with that album. This video for "Little Bird" has only just been released as well

Who I've been looking at

With the passing of the 4th anniversary since funding completion, finally some news on Lori Greco's album. Firstly I've had not one, but two mails from Sellaband asking me to check that my address is correct so the album can be sent. Of course, this isn't the first time this has happened - it must be a year or two ago now that I was asked to double check my address for Lori and as we know that message was supposedly sent in mistake. This time there is a second positive sign though in as much as it's possible to download some rather dodgy mp3s from your believer dashboard for the album. And I say rather dodgy because it appears (yet again) that someone needs a lesson in creating tracks with proper metadata. All the tracks are apparently coded as track 1 and the artist name swaps between "Lori Greco" and "Loredana Greco" depending on which song you're listening to. Looks like I'll be creating my own copies if/when the CD finally gets here as it'll be quicker than sorting out the mess that's the tracks provided on Sellaband. At the moment I'd be expecting it to arrive by the end of September assuming it actually gets posted in August.

As for the tracks themselves, initial impression is that the music has a habit of drowning out the vocals (though whether this is down to poor mp3 encoding or the reality of the mixing on the disc is something I'm going to have to wait to find out). Songwise the overall album feel is somewhat chilled out and quite a pleasant listen otherwise so "Get Out of My Life" is a rather unexpected change which actually feels out of place compared to surrounding tracks as a result. (Incidentally that track has potential single written all over it). The album is a decent length as well with 13 tracks mainly between 3 and 4 minutes in length. So far I'm liking this much more than I have with many other overdue albums - there are a few tracks which have particularly caught my interest though I think the album as a whole isn't likely to land up as a favourite. I am however, not convinced that this is so earth shatteringly good as to have been worth a 4 year wait (or more like 6 if you consider when I originally bought into the project).

Elsewhere Cubworld's album release party is showing on his Twitter feed as 30th August and on his Facebook page it says the tracks should be available to download for Sellaband believers before then. He actually posted an update on his Sellaband page a few days ago saying he'd sent them the information, however nothing has actually appeared as of yet and there are only a few days to go before the release party.

As I mentioned last post, the Poets of The Fall DVD I'm waiting on from Pledge Music is behind schedule, though hopefully not too far based on the updates. It was originally due for release at the end of August, but much in the same way a CD goes off to be mixed and mastered, the raw material is currently booked in to have its final editing, colour correction and audio mixing etc. done starting on 10th September. There looks to be about an hour and a half of extras included on the DVD from the latest information provided. It also looks like the copies for pledgers are going to be even more exclusive as the plan is to manufacture and ship them from Finland rather than waiting for the original plan of getting duplication done in Germany (which will still happen for the shop copies) as that would take longer. In the meantime there's a rough version of video for one of the tracks available to pledgers only. And it's not often I get to say this, but if the rest of it is even half as good as the rough version when completely finished, this is definitely going to be the best music purchase I've made this year. And like I said when the project was first announced, I was expecting it might not quite come out on time, so I have no worries about the delay so far.

If you were thinking of getting your hands on one of these, you're unfortunately too late as funding recently finished with nearly 300% of target reached so you will just have to wait until it hits retail. It looks like it's going to be well worth your money based on what I've seen so far.

Once again, it's more than 2 months since the last update from Vertical Horizon on how that album is coming along and that particular project is STILL open for pledging nearly 18 months after I made my pledge (when they'd already reached target completion several months before that). Comparing this project to the Poets of The Fall one has been like chalk and cheese to date.

I'm still waiting on news about when exactly Fox Amoore's project for an album recorded at Abbey Road studios will go live, mostly because it seems he's still on the tour circuit at the moment. It does appear that it's likely to happen on IndieGoGo, will be called "Come Find Me" and some time in September though, so hopefully I'll have more information for you in my next post.

Coincidence or did someone read my last post? Aly Cook dropped her project total to the 18,000 euros I suggested in my last post and managed to complete the project before its deletion deadline as a result. Given she managed it with several days to go, I actually wondered if a 18,500 or maybe even a 19,000 target would have been possible or whether that would have been considered too much for a last minute rush.

Civilized Tears haven't been so lucky. Their project still appears stuck around the halfway funded mark, though it did move very slightly since my previous post. I did see a Facebook post from them asking what incentives people would like to encourage them to spend money on the project but at the time I looked it hadn't had any replies and I haven't been back to check up on it since.

With the main set of funding projects that I've been keeping an eye on dealt with, it's time to move onto the artists who have caught my attention for other reasons.

In terms of the "blast from the past" category, there have been a few names from the early days of Sellaband that have managed to catch my attention in one form or another recently. First on the list is Darren J Claxton who signed up on Sellaband once again recently. Whilst I think the songs have improved both in terms of quality and songwriting since his last failed attempt, it's clear the fanbase is still missing which means he's had even less attention on the site than the last time. He even sent me a message asking how to get more followers, believers and plays on the site, so it seems he hasn't realised the site is a very different place to when he originally signed up.

Next is SupermassiveQuazar who still seems to be putting out music left right and centre and according to the odds ought to have made something I really like by now but somehow still seems to be failing on that score.

The other name on the list is Mike Nealis who some of you may also remember from Sellaband as being part of the band Private Nation. It seems that he's currently involved with a new band called Martian Soul, but there doesn't appear to be any music online to listen to yet. So far all I've been able to find is a Facebook page and a very recent and barely used Twitter profile but no website. Their debut album is apparently supposed to be out some time in the Autumn.

On the new discoveries front, Christopher Battles caught my attention with his rather interesting mailing list offer. At first glance you'd think he's offering the standard "sign up to my mailing list and get a song in return" deal, however there appears to be what can be best described as an affiliate offer available as well. In essence you get a spreadsheet to download and fill in with contact details of others you've passed his music onto and in return for the number of different people you send back as willing to join his mailing list you can get various different incentives such as personalised notes, free skype concert or even a free house concert (amongst others). You'll find the full details of the deal here.

In one of my rare trawls of the new signups on Sellaband I came across an artist called #22 who are from Poland and the rather catchy track they have posted caught my attention. Unfortunately it looks like they're using the site as a promotional tool rather than being serious about any kind of funding attempt. I'd quite like to hear more from them based on what I've heard so far, but it seems they're not the easiest of artists to find music or indeed much other information for.

The sites I've been looking at

The web version of this site has had a number of bugs for a few months now and there has been no sign of when they might be fixed. As a result I haven't been using the site much, thinking they'd be fixed in the "August update" , which now appears to be happening mid-end September instead.  However I'm now left wondering on whether there's going to be a lot more than just an update given a Twitter conversation between a fellow user and the site itself, where it's being described as a "2.0 version". He's assuming that means a complete rewrite (possibly even a pivot) so it looks like it will be a case of watch this space to see what exactly happens with the site.

Following on from the conversation about Tastemakerx, I landed up looking at this website which appears to also be heading down the "music discovery as a game" route but which is still in beta. The "how it works" video on the site makes it seem rather interesting, however there's no way to see how any of it works in practice without signing up and currently that's only available via Facebook (which I don't have and wouldn't use to sign in anyway even if you paid me). I may revisit the site if they make it more accessible than it is at present.

It's been over a year since I last requested a payout from the site, so I decided I'd drag out the current balance (what little of it there is, given there have been only 3 small eurocent revenue payments added in that time). And it seems that the message about Sellaband updating the payment system that's been in the automated withdrawal messages since the previous management is (you guessed it) still there. This is the smallest amount I've requested from the site to date, so I'll be interested to see what happens with it.

The number of artists on the site itself continues to drop slowly although the number of artists with at least 1% of budget does appear to be remaining stable or possibly creeping slowly up. It will be interesting to see what effect the changes to the terms and conditions have on the figures as it's too soon since their introduction for anything much to have been done yet and only a small fraction of the artists currently on there would appear to fit with the activity required by the new terms.

Pledge Music
I've recently been asked to take part in a survey about the site so the ad agency they have employed can obviously issue some recommendations and help them promote it.. I'd kind of like to be a fly on the wall when someone reads what I've sent in as it includes both the good and the bad (much of which you've read at least something about on this blog), and I'm half expecting some more questions to come my way on the subject based on what I've sent. I've also been offered a free download of any artist on the site for my help, so the next problem is going to be who to pick.

And finally
Looks like the house move is going to take longer than originally planned, so I should get at least one more post in before things get really hectic. You can therefore expect the next one in about a month.