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Facebook or Mailing List?

So, it never seems clear which way a musician should go in terms of his or her online presence. For musicians, Facebook is really pushing the "fan page". I'm not so sure. After doing some wrestling, I think that I'm going to approach my various communication structures like so:

  • My mailing list: The mailing list is gold for musicians. This is where a musician's strongest supporters are. If someone signs up for a mailing list, then it means that they don't want to miss when relevant news happens, and want to be emailed. I'm using the mailing list for summaries of recent goings-on, and big announcements. This means that I'll be sending out information about once a month or so. If you follow me in other ways, you should still definitely join the mailing list so you don't miss anything important. (Side note, apparently it's possible to join the mailing list via facebook but I don't remember how I came across that link and how it works, exactly.)
  • My facebook fan page. This is what facebook pushes and recommends for artists, but I honestly still don't really get it. Fan pages suffer from the same failing as regular profiles. If an artist posts a status update to their fan page, there's absolutely no guarantee that their followers will see it. Even if their fans are online at exactly the same time, they won't necessarily see the status update. The other "updates" that fan pages post - no one ever reads those. You have to click in a special sequence and cross your eyes to even come across the "updates" that have accumulated in your inbox. What's nice about a fan page is that as a fan, you'll see updates once in a while, you can leave comments, and - if you remember - you can click over to the fan page to see what you've missed. I'll be continuing to post small status updates to my fan page a few times a week, but I'd definitely prefer it if fans also joined my mailing list or my group. What's my group, you ask?
  • My facebook group is still around. Facebook changed their group structure and I ignored it for a little while, but last week on a whim I re-posted an old piano improv that is one of my favorites, Slow Rain. (Soundcloud link here.) I had posted it to my fan page too where it was pretty much ignored, but when I posted it to my group, I got a ton of positive feedback, including from some long-term fans who had never heard it before. Groups are different now, they are kind of like group mailing lists where members can talk to each other. If I post an update, it will actually get emailed to the members. I can post a message that will get delivered to every member's facebook inbox, too. And if a member leaves a comment or posts to the group, it can get emailed to you too (unless you change your settings). It's very fun. It can also be invasive to some - a musician friend of mine recently posted video blog entries once a day for several days in a row, and the frequency of content and comments drove some members to leave. So I'll be posting to the group once a week or so, usually just focusing on media that people might like to hear, or other announcements - I'll be keeping the trivial parts out of it. Obviously, musicians LOVE feedback, so I really like the group - if you want to feel a bit more included in the fan community, this is the place to join. You can also add your own friends to the group if you're sure they'd enjoy it.
  • My twitter account is just kind of silly. I use it in spurts, actively but infrequently, and it's definitely not limited to music. Follow me there if you want but it's not really anything important.

So, that's it! To summarize, the mailing list is king, please join!! (This is where I will be announcing more details of my next recording project.) If you want to interact more with the fan community on facebook, join my group. If you want to see the occasional trivial status update, like my fan page. (Or just like it anyway, it doesn't hurt.) And for the most trivial and unrelated stuff, you can follow my twitter account.

Hopefully, that clarifies everything!

November Newsletter

There's a new newsletter posted. It's been a few months! Lots of news to report. Go check it out - if you're not already subscribed, you can subscribe here. Have fun!

Site Directions

Well, it's been almost four months since I've launched this site. I've wanted the site to become something akin to a framework, workflow, and representation of my efforts as a musician. I think I've succeeded there. Whenever I create or accomplish something musically, I have a place to put it. So now (and perhaps this is partially because of how me having a cold affects my brain), I'm moved to review and think about how it's all working.

"A place to put it" is interesting. Because if I were to merely keep these things in my head, in iTunes, on a scratch piece of staff paper - they'd still exist, I suppose, but it doesn't feel like any of them have life until I put them somewhere where there's a chance other people might experience them, or perhaps enjoy them.

But everything has a home right now. I have a place for my song drafts. A place for my improvised piano pieces. A place for my jazz standards (although a password is needed there). A place where I can write about what I'm doing, a mailing list where people can sign up, which gives an excuse to summarize my own progress to give myself benchmarks.

So far it's a good experiment - all combined, I've interacted with this site in some way every day since then. It kind of gives me something to react to, which helps me take music more seriously in a way that feels natural rather than disciplined. It's having good results too - I thought up, wrote, and learned I Have A Cold in about three hours. It's a stupid silly song, and I was completely punchy - laughing about it while hopped up on cold medicines - the sort of thing where the mood that drove the creation of the song would have passed in a few hours. Six months ago I would not have been able to capture that complete song in time. (Which, in the case of that particular song, might have been a good thing! :) ) But it's a cool feeling to feel that I am starting to have a more direct pipeline into whatever it is that enables us to write cohesive songs.

I've started to look at the site as a marketing vehicle, too. Not that I have anything to sell at this point, but I have liked the idea of the site gradually attracting readership/listenership. I'm going to use a bad word here. I am currently what is known as a "hack". :) The real definition of a hack is someone who gets their support by people already known to them. I'm basically tracking my "hack quotient" by keeping track of who is on my mailing list. Right now, almost everyone on my mailing list is someone that I already know - family and friends. If I divide the number of People I Know by the number of People On The List, then that means I have a "hack quotient" of somewhere between 91.3% and 95.6%. I am hoping that number decreases over time! I do notice that viewership is increasing a bit, which is encouraging. Some from a couple of links I create, like my sig at an unrelated discussion board I frequent, or a couple of comments I've left over at (my unwitting mentor), but I'm also noticing an increasing number of google searches for "curt siffert" and also for Balancing Above The Air.

The question is what to do next. It's fun to think about what level of success one can get just by focusing on the online end, but I really don't want to limit myself to that. There are several challenges and possible directions here.

I'd like to play out. I haven't performed for too many months now, although performing for my recorder does at least help a little. The problem is basically repertoire and instrumentation. I'm not a guitarist, so I am not as flexible as a guitarist singer/songwriter. I now have two songs that I can perform as a solo singer/pianist, but they're both what I like to think of as "contrast songs". I need more meat and potatoes songs. I also have two songs that can be performed as a group with a guitarist, although Together would require some thought on how to arrange it. Basically I just need to create more rep.

I do have an instrumentation - I know both a good drummer and bass player who would be psyched to play out with me once we have material. I love the idea of doing some Jamie Cullum crossed with Ben Folds type stuff. And my band Deja Nu is also interested in performing some three-horn arrangements of my stuff too as I write it. So I've definitely got options. It's basically up to me to come up with material.

There's also the option of me pursuing new age piano stuff, although it doesn't particularly thrill me to consider being a new age live performer. But I am currently in the midst of producing a cd of some of the better tracks. It'll be a short run for now, just to get things up and sellable on iTunes.

Beyond that it's about just creating more songs and seeing what opportunities and brainstorms happen. I'm also thinking about whether it makes sense to keep uploading rough drafts of material here. There's kind of a quality point material needs to be at before you'll start attracting the kind of attention that will lower the "hack quotient". :) But for now, I'm happy with the way things are.

Downloads Again Functional

Looks like when I enabled the password-protected jazz standards downloads, I also accidentally introduced a bug where all my other downloads asked for the same password. :) Sorry about that! That's fixed now. All my other music (the stuff I actually wrote) is downloadable again. Have fun!

Jazz Standards Podcast

Hot diggity! After much geekery, I have figured out how to restore my recordings of jazz standards to the website.

As you may recall, I ran into problems with having recordings of jazz standards up on this site. Namely, "it's illegal". Since I didn't write them, you know, yada yada.

So, I've figured out how to password-protect that area of the site and only make it available to family and friends. I already had something informal, but it's much, much cooler now. You can stream or download any of the pieces, or even subscribe to a (password-protected) podcast through iTunes so they'll automatically be downloaded to your iTunes or iPod as I record them.

So, if you have your username/password already (some of you already do), come on over. And if you don't, write me if you think I know you well enough to let you in. (And given that it's mostly friends that are reading this site for the time being, odds are I'll agree.)

Creative Commons License

So, after doing a bunch of research, I've finally figured out how to apply the creative commons licenses to my works here.

All my piano musings have a by-nc-sa license applied to them. That means that you can, without having to contact me and ask, download the pieces, and share them provided my name stays attached. You can also adapt them into your own works provided you apply a similar noncommercial license to the resultant work, and again give me attribution.

All my songs have a by-nc-nd license. That means that you can, without contacting me to ask, download and share my songs provided you keep my name attached. nd stands for "No Derivatives", meaning you can't adapt them into your own works. So it's a slightly more restrictive license.

You can of course feel free to contact me for more permissions on any of them, though. Some of the art musings have already had extra permissions granted to them (even though they are connected to my tunes, I let the artist have commercial purposes for the resultant art). Just contact me, I love to collaborate.

It was fun figuring out the technical end - in addition to each page having a creative commons badge, I was also able to give each song a friendly page name, such as for Phoenix Grace, and even embed the copyright information into the mp3 for each song. That means that as these songs propagate to file-sharing networks, the url for the song home will be spread out there as well, so people will be able to find me.

Recordings of Jazz Standards

I mentioned before that I was having trouble figuring out how to make my recordings of jazz standards available. I can't just put them up on the site for download due to copyright reasons. But still, I should be able to let my friends and family have access to them in an informal manner.

So, if you want to hear or download those mp3s, write me and ask. I've got a password-protected directory on my website that I can give you access to. Right now it's got sixteen songs, most of them of me singing but a couple of piano solo. The way I do it is that when I have a new song, I upload it. And when I come up with a better recording of one of the existing songs, I upload it and overwrite the old one. So it's worth checking back on from time to time.

May Newsletter Posted

There's a new newsletter posted. Go check to see what you might have missed. If you aren't on the mailing list, please subscribe!

New Newsletter Issue

For those that aren't subscribed to the mailing list (hint hint), a new newsletter is posted. Go check to see what you might have missed.

New And Disappearing Songs

Well, part of the process of getting to know my own website is reacting to new information. I was so much in the mindset of having this be a site about my creative process and development of a jazz musician that I didn't think anything of posting recordings of me playing jazz standards, but it is evidently illegal (and I should have remembered that).

The songs still exist on the site, but just in unpublished (not public) form. I can of course send recordings of me playing to my friends. So I will eventually open up the site to memberships, and add my friends (which are most of you) to the list - that way they'll be available by request.

In the meantime, I have posted a new Piano Musing called A New Steeple. I've also posted another one of my originals, As One, to make up for the loss of the standards. I'll be using the Bits And Pieces podcast more for song ideas, roughdrafts, and other original material from now on.

More postings coming soon about the art/music collaboration that Kasey Baker and I are doing.

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© 2007 Curt Siffert. Some audio protected with a Creative Commons license.
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