Mark Bult Design: San Francisco, CA, Established 1988

Web design and development for small and large business, e-commerce, b2b, b2c, SAAS, and community websites. User experience design and usability testing.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The music business has changed for independent artists

When I was 18 I started a rock 'n' roll newspaper called Western Front News which covered local, regional, national, and international music news. This often including industry news, such as the (then-)trend away from vinyl toward CDs, or the latest innovations in CD packaging and marketing.

Some of our focus was also on educating the musicians, the B- and C-list performers, the local rock bands who all too often sent in a demo tape but failed to send in supporting materials like the standard bio and photo. We wrote articles and columns about how to market your band, how to get your demo heard, and who were the top recording studios and engineers in the Bay Area.

I sometimes wonder how the Western Front News would fare today. Back then, the Internet didn't exist. There was no iTunes, there were no MP3s, no MySpace, no online CD or ticket sales, and no blogs or means for someone like me (or the readers, or the bands for that matter) to self-publish to the massive and broad audience that the Web enables today.

If you wanted a T-shirt featuring your favorite band, you had to go to their concert or down to the local "record store." If you wanted to hear their music, you had to hope they were popular enough for radio airplay, or you had to physically go somewhere to buy their CD (or tape, or record). How did small bands, bands nobody'd ever heard of and who didn't have a recording contract, ever get heard?

Today we have online distribution of music (legal and otherwise), hundreds of MP3 blogs that feature downloads from and posts about musicians that you'd otherwise never hear of, and the ability for any band — no matter how big or how small — to create a MySpace page or website and communicate directly with their fans, even cutting out the middleman (record companies) and selling their music directly via downloads or independent CD fulfillment companies like CD Baby.

The music world has transformed. And it's only early days.

Here's a great New York Times Magazine article about independent musicians and how they're innovating and changing the music industry using the Internet.

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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Invasion of the little people

There were all these little people at work today.

Am I being politically correct? What's the correct term? Age-challenged individuals. Rugrats. Kids.

It was Bring Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day (their emphasis) at CNET, so a slew of kidlets were being ushered around my floor, where all the funtime activities were happening. Pizza lunch and a screening of The Incredibles (I would've gone, but I possibly would've felt slightly out of place).

Interestingly, most employees who brought their kids brought very small children. It seemed to be a lot of toddlers, a few tweens, and one girl who was maybe 11.

I remember when I was a kid and I used to go to my mom's work when there was a school holiday like Parent-Teacher Conference Day or whatever. Or spring and winter breaks.

I used to look forward to it so much. I'd help around the office, filing and stapling and doing lots and lots of copying. I always loved doing the copying, maybe because I got to use this big ol' machine, and whenever it jammed or refused to work, the adults seemed amazed that I could actually unjam it.

When I was a bit older I had an ulterior motive. By the 7th grade I had started my first publication, an Ozzy fanzine called "The Fellowship of the Blizzard." I hadn't even read The Fellowship of the Ring, but my friend Rocky Mullin suggested the name, and I thought it was awesome.

I was collecting scads of Ozzy ephemera. Clipping photos and stuff out of magazines like Circus and Hit Parader, and writing everything for the newsletter myself, and "typesetting" it (it would be years before I'd hear that term, though) on a typewriter at the public library after school, where you had to put quarters into a timer to rent the IBM Selectric.

I'd take the magazine pictures and the cut-into-columns articles and paste (well, sellotape*) all of them together on a sheet of letter-sized of paper. I had no clue what a halftone was, and no idea about any other production techniques (like not using tape, for example) until much later in my "career."

After a couple months, I'd have enough pages put together and I'd be anxiously awaiting my next school holiday, when I could go to work with mom. I'd spend half the day photocopying my little newsletters, collating, and stapling, and at the end of the day I'd head home with mom, my backpack bursting at the seams.

[image to come]

I did this from 7th grade through the middle of high school, and I think I made about 40 issues. I actually had a few subscribers, and I had a couple of stores that actually sold them. "Rock shops," as we used to call them. Not where you buy crystals. That craze came (and went, thankfully) later. A rock shop was where you got your Def Leppard T-shirts and your Whitesnake bumperstickers. Don't laugh. I was 14.

Anyway, The Fellowship of the Blizzard was the precursor to my eventual four-year career as an indie newspaper publisher of Western Front News. But more on that some other day.

All I can say is, I seriously doubt that my mom's places of employ ever knew how instrumental they were, being patrons to my burgeoning career as a self-styled newspaperman/boy. But they definitely foot the bill for a decent amount of paper and copier toner over four or so years. And for that, I thank them.

(* So disappointed that my xPad spellchecker doesn't recognize the word "sellotape". Not to mention "bumperstickers"!)

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