Uncommon Approach

The Music Business blog of Uncommon Nasa, Owner of Progressive Hip-Hop label, Uncommon Records.  This is now an archive as it is a retired blog.  I left the articles up just in case they are useful to anyone.  Check em out and check out my new site www.uncommonnasa.com

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  1. Blogger Fatigue (As Explained by a Music Journalist)

    A few weeks ago I started to take notice of what I call “Blogger Fatigue”.  The Enthusiasm Gap that effected listeners is now starting to, in my opinion, effect bloggers.  I was about to sit down and write about this myself, but then it occurred to me to just ask a true and living blogger to confirm or deny such a movement and get a behind the scenes look at that world.  So I reached out to Craig S. Jenkins (@CraigSJ on the Tweets) who is a noted writer for Potholes In My Blog, Beats Per Minute, Passion of the Weiss and more.

    I’ve been following Craig on Twitter for a few years, I think we came across each other through some sort of random hip-hop debate on Potholes ages ago that I would never remember the root of.  It’s funny to say, that while we aren’t that far off from each other in many things rap related, as a hip-hop label owner and hip-hop writer we probably agree more on rock music then rap.  That said, Craig is a great follow, a good source of information and one of my few sources of somewhat pop related culture on my timeline.  I do tend to hide from that stuff being a giant backpacker and all.

    To some degree Craig seems to eat and sleep music journalism as seriously as I do the music business side of things.  So I have a kinship in that way in seeing how he approaches things and was glad to sit down with him for this interview which shed light on where bloggers and writers are coming from and how artists should be approaching them.

    N - Recently I’ve noted what I feel is a “blogger fatigue”, the whole cycle is wearing on folks.  You can see it.  The nature of how people post music, the reasons why they do it, the speed of it and where the information comes from all seem to have changed dramatically.  Bloggers themselves seem to want more then the constant chase for some new song.  Some for the better, some of them are moving on to form their own labels, promotion companies and more.  Some are just plain quitting or slowing to the point where their sites aren’t really worth visiting anymore.  Is this something you can verify from that side of the fence so to speak?  Do you feel it yourself?  If so where do you think this phenomenon is coming from and what’s to blame?

    C - The game’s in a crazy place because people think that releasing two and three projects a year is required behavior for rappers on the come up. They’re constantly trying to keep their name on front pages, whether it’s for tracks, videos and albums, or trailers and previews of tracks, videos and albums. Hip-hop is in a state of self-imposed overdrive, and as a result, coverage of the music feels the need to keep the pace. Writing about music is like stepping into an echo chamber, with all the music that’s out there, people’s responses to it, and other people’s responses to those people’s responses. I tried committing to it for a couple months back in 2009, but I always reached a point in the day where I hated writing. I loved music and writing about music, but constantly being plugged in, constantly churning out robotic prose made me resent both the music and the writing at the end of it. And the required speed of it did nothing for the quality of my output.

    N - Where do bloggers go from there?  They get caught up in the churn, but what’s the endgame?  Do you personally see fellow writers moving into A & R or Marketing positions, either full time or freelance? 

    C - Either responsibilities crop up, reality sets in, and you quit, or you worm your way into a position somewhere in the industry. I guess the endgame depends on what you’re in it for. If you write to promote, you maybe have more traction getting a job with a label. If you write to, like, yap about what you do or don’t like, you maybe end up at a somewhat respected publication, print or online. All of this assuming you’re any good at what you do. So few of us have goals for what we want to get out of writing about music that it’s kind of a funny question. It’s more of a compulsory urge, writing, than a means to a specific end, for me anyhow. For 2012, my goal is to work better and faster than I did in 2011. So far so good, I think.

    N - As a label owner, the whole process of submission/review/post (which I go through about 4-7 times a year with releases) gets old and tiring.  So even in a best case scenario, where a writer has discipline and tastes, does the repetition of the process of submission/review/post still loom as an eventual reason to give up that space of the internet?

    C - Sure. Multiply the number of posts you send out by the number of labels in existence, and you get a picture of what our email accounts look like on a daily basis. There aren’t enough hours in the day to actually sit, read and listen to everything, so naturally it’s easier to walk away from it all than it is to fight that uphill battle every day.

    N - Why do you think people start blogging about music?  Why did you?  How have the reasons that you do it changed from when you began to today (if at all)?

    C - I got my start in 1998 writing for the high school newspaper. Loved music and writing, so album reviews were a no-brainer. I’ve rarely gone more than a couple months without some kind of music writing since, and I don’t think my reason I do it has changed very much either. In ‘98, it was a forum to start a dialogue about music, and that still remains the case. Now that I’m considerably older and, some might say, a little more experienced, there’s the added element of metacriticism. Cause sometimes these young bucks need schooling.

    N - Do you think writers/bloggers are mostly looking for something new to write about, there by associating their blog with it, or do you think most of them are just looking to keep up with the Jones’ so to speak?

    C - For the right blog, it’s a combination of the two. You want to turn people onto new stuff, and you also don’t want your site to be left out of the conversation when something you didn’t catch at first bombards the internet. Maybe you have something to add to the discussion that hasn’t been brought by other people covering it. Of course, there’s also a huge portion of the rap blogosphere that is just running every song, video, and mixtape all the bigger sites are running, and I don’t know why those people are in it or what their goals are. I hope they’re at least making some kinda money out of the equation.

    N - I understand what you’re saying as far as the “speed of the internet” and everyone creating an echo chamber.  With that said, are there any other reasons why so few blogs and writers skip the more fulfilling work of hardcore reviewing and in depth interviewing?

    C - Cause it’s challenging and time-consuming, and that’s not something a lot of these cats are interested in. For a lot of these writers, blogging is a fast track to internet notoriety, free promos and event invites. Unfortunately that can be achieved without the nerve wracking work that really good interviews and reviews require. Hip hop interviews in particular have fallen off because most sites are more interested in preserving industry connections than hard journalism. Most coverage major rap artists is straight flattery. Dream Hampton called Dr. Dre a bitch in The Source for slapping Dee Barnes. There’s a DJ Screw interview where the reporter essentially asks if Screw thought his slain friend Fat Pat had his death coming. Those kinds of conversations aren’t possible in 2012 because the rap internet is too scared to burn bridges to speak out.

    N - Why do you think podcasting hasn’t become more of an outlet for people that want to promote, discover, critique music as opposed to blogging?

    C - Blogging is faster and has a smaller learning curve. DIY internet radio as a concept is still in its toddler phase compared to other mediums. Once the proper technology has time to disseminate into the culture at large, once it gets easy enough for the average Joe to grasp it, that corner of the net will inevitably explode.

    N - What happens to the next generation of music journalists, the generation that has ONLY known this world of rapid fire churn? 

    C - The new class of writers is encountering rap in an era where Biggie, 2pac, Big L and Big Pun were always dead, Def Jux was always inactive, Wu-Tang Clan as a group was always in disarray, Rakim was always kind of a recluse, KRS-One was always a self-righteous old head who does more panel discussions than albums, and Ice Cube is the Coors Light guy, an era when pop aspirations and lyrical dexterity have long since parted ways. They’re born into a handicap as far as being able to process rap with perspective. So I can’t fault them for the state of rap when they entered the conversation, and I kinda understand where they’re coming from. I got serious about rap in the ‘90s, and I’m still learning about ‘80s rap to this day.

     I do fault them for making excuses. They always groan about how there’s too much music for them to be able to navigate what’s new while also absorbing the classics, and yet they live in an era where the accessibility of music is higher than it has ever been in history. If I want to hear an older song I’ve never heard before, it’s a five second trip to Youtube. I used to have to find somebody that had the album or a store that sold it. If I want to hear a new track, it’s a five second trip to Google. I used to have to stay up late and hope and pray that Hot 97 Future Flavas played it. So while they came into rap at a weird juncture in the genre’s history, they have tools for accessing music that we never could’ve imagined, and they just need to be smarter about their use of time. It doesn’t seem like that hard of a process, and I personally juggle finding new music with excavating older stuff I’ve never heard like, every day.

    N - Where does all of this leave the artists?  How important is blog coverage in your mind to an artist anyway?  What SHOULD artists be doing in your opinion besides filling your inbox?

    C - Blog coverage is and isn’t important. This Chief Keef kid out of Chicago had a dedicated fan base before any of his music got covered on the usual rap blogs. Odd Future blew up without the blessing of the big rap sites to the point where sites they openly ridiculed on their albums 2-3 years ago for refusing to cover them are now begrudgingly running all of their new releases. Blogs are great for increasing visibility, but they are by no means the only way of getting heard. Playing shows, meeting people, cultivating a personal website with interesting original content, networking on social media, throwing your own tracks on Youtube, Soundcloud and Bandcamp, all of these are great avenues for growing an audience. Blogs are notoriously resistant to certain kinds of rap and often need to see that an artist has an organic following before they’ll give them the time of day, so I don’t think anyone should be relying on them as the main way to get their music out. Especially when a lot of the time, what we see or don’t see in our inboxes is damn near a roll of the dice.

    N - Forget for a minute that you are an active music writer since you are also obviously a fan and supporter of music as well.  Put that hat on and tell me what it is that YOU want from the internet in terms of music discovery and journalism?  In a perfect world, you wake up in the morning, thirsty for something new, what is it you see that leads you to that?

    C - I need writers giving me well written, deeply considered, fair and balanced music writing. I need writers who think outside the box and don’t have boring, predictable biases that taint the way they view and discuss music. I need writers who care about their craft and the craft of making music so much that it shows in everything they do. I need writers who are cool with not running the latest track by the biggest artist cause it ain’t up to snuff, who can stick a microphone in front of a platinum selling artist and ask a question that might get them kicked out of the room. I need writers knowledgeable enough to tell me something I don’t already know. I need creativity, individuality, and fearlessness. I have a dedicated list of sites I follow that tick off most or all of those criteria, so whenever I get that nonspecific new music urge, I check one of them. 80% of rap writing in 2012 is glorified PR and not to be trusted, so my little nerdy rap corner of the net is very necessary.

    N - With that said then, can you tell us some of those sites you think are at least coming close to this vision, regardless of genre?

    C - Aside from the sites I write for whose visions I obviously respect, I really like Hip Hop Wired for their mix of social commentary and music coverage, Complex whenever they publish their more inspired, in depth features and lists, The Mad Bloggers & I Heart Dilla for their commitment to pushing the envelope and promoting artists you don’t see on every other site, Rappers I Know & Producers I Know cause Frank and Dart know more about hip hop than I probably ever will, the Mostly Junk Food kids cause they’re funny as hell, Metal Sucks for metal because the tone of their writing is totally sarcastic and self-deprecating where others are deadly serious, the guys at A Closer Listen for holding it down with the avant garde, electronic, instrumental, and ambient music, Absolute Punk & Alternative Press for carrying the torch for music the indie press is too cool to support, and, to be honest, Pitchfork cause hate em or love em, they’re the Steinbrenner Yankees of the indie rock blog community. Those are all sites that I can sink twenty, thirty minutes or more into reading and whose content is put together carefully by people who care about the music and the writing and aren’t just turning over whatever PR emails they’re receiving. I know I’m probably forgetting somebody… Shout out to any and everybody slaving over laptop keyboards for the love of this shit.

    N - Thanks again to Craig for taking the time to do this.  My thoughts on blogging also manifested themselves in this post a week or so ago if you’d like to check that out.

     
     
  2. Critical Thinking

    There are many things in music that I have never really become comfortable with.  Things that I dwell on and that can tear at me all the time.  I’ve discussed many of them on this blog.  One thing that I’ve gotten used to is criticism.  I’ve just become numb to it.  Critique is part of making music, not everyone will like your music, but in 2011 the question you have to ask yourself is how relevant is critique?

    Dark Weapons.

    Recently I got a really bad review for our latest release at Uncommon Records, Dark Weapons (from Mars) from Adam Warlock.  Adam Warlock of course being a new alias for myself, I also produced the album.  Anyone that has heard it knows how personal it is to me.  It’s about my apartment being robbed and all the emotion that came out of that experience.  It’s also my first solo effort after putting out music as part of The Presence for years.  So one would imagine that someone attacking the record as viciously as it was here would bother me, but it doesn’t.

    [Dark Weapons (from Mars)]

    The whole thing makes me laugh actually.  For one, I am immensely confident.  I’ve been doing this music thing for a long while.  I’ve worked on some of the best records to ever come out of the underground.  I’ve worked with artists that are revered and seen them in their own most insecure positions with their work.  Simply put, I’m an artists artist.  I know what goes into all this art far more then any writer or blogger as it were.  I’m comfortable in my own skin.  I’d be a fool to think that everyone that hears Dark Weapons is going to love it.  It’s heavy as fuck, agressive as fuck and some people just can’t handle that shit.  

    What I’d like to do with this piece is help everyone reading this attain that confidence level.  I shared this review on Twitter and got lots of feedback on it.  Some people laughed, some were confused by some of the huge errors in it or the personal nature.  Some were legitimately angry and they really shouldn’t be.  I worry that some folks that were angry might be angry if they themselves ever get a review like this.

    Internalizing.

    The first thing you need to do as an artist in my opinion is cut off outside input before your music is complete.  When I play my music for someone before it’s released it’s always under the pretense of “this is dope, check it out”.  If I didn’t think that, I wouldn’t be playing it.  I’ve operated this way for so long that my mentality is the same when it comes to reviews.  It really doesn’t matter what’s said, because I know it’s dope.  So saying it’s not is funny to me, because it’s so blatantly wrong.  I actually have gotten more angry about bad reviews given to much more well known artists like Raekwon then I have for my own.

    Relevance Check.

    I think another thing to consider these days is that all these reviewers that are online are not professionals.  In the 90s I really didn’t even consider professionals qualified to review music, not being musicians themselves.  In retrospect most of the people in that era respected music enough that they studied it hard.  Today, in 2011 I put out an album and it’s compared to Dr. Octagon.  Dr. Octagon came out about 15 years ago, if nothing as progressive as Dark Weapons has crossed your ears since Dr. Octagon, then I don’t know what to say.  I can’t be expected to consider that opinion can I?  Of course not.  For the record, while I’m a big Kool Keith fan (up to Cenobites or so), I didn’t even like Dr. Octagon that much and wouldn’t consider it an influence in the least.  Alas, it was mentioned in the above review.

    We Got This, Thanks.

    We recently put out an album from Acid Reign, the immensely talented crew from Los Angeles, CA.  A review of their album found the guy pretty much liking the album but being horrified by the track "Kiss Ass" to the point where he said it ruined the whole thing for him, that it was too vile and disgusting or whatever.  Guess what?  That song is the next single.  We don’t give a fuck.  That’s why we’re the label and you run a web site.

    You have to have that attitude, as an artist and as a label owner.  I mean, this isn’t like opening up a copy of Variety or the New Yorker or Billboard in the 1960’s and dipping into the culture section.  These are dudes online with websites that think they know something.  Some do, some don’t, some just don’t have the proper context for things they don’t like or even things they do like.  But before I end up looking like I’m bashing these folks, most of them just plain love music or they wouldn’t be spending time writing.  I can identify.  I run a podcast because I love music, I just don’t have it in me to sit here and tell others how to make music, I could never get into that headspace.  I play songs I like, say “these are dope, go get em” and keep it moving.  People seem to respond to that.

    I don’t think we should have an industry of yes men, but I’m starting to wonder what the point is of music reviewing in 2011.  I often will call for more people to write reviews, maybe that’s just nostalgia talking.  Maybe we just don’t need it anymore, we can all press play.  It’s all right there, people can stream albums, hear snippets or steal shit all they want.  Either way, for me, when I read a bad review it makes me want to check out an album for myself to see if I agree.  I could name you several albums that I love that got bad reviews and that fact pushed me to check it out.  To protect the innocent I’ll give you a rock example in MGMT’s “Congratulations” LP.  It’s incredible and was panned as a prog rock wannabe pretentious piece of shit.  To me, nothing could be further from the truth, I listen to that album all the time and it owns the record for staying in my Ipod the longest.  Christmas ‘10 and still counting.  

    So I welcome these sorts of reviews, spell my name right, put my purchase link there and fire away.  The people will decide.  I’ve also had the opportunity to be reviewed in a much more crude way over my years.

    The Worst Review of My Career.

    I remember when we put out "We Are, Vol. 1" we got a scathing review from a Canadian publication that I won’t even give the dignity of naming.  The guy that reviewed it played the race card, that crossed the line.  He basically said that “this was a great example of why black people should never create hip-hop with white people”.  As we somehow corrupted them.  The only reason he would know the racial backgrounds of those involved was from opening the CD and seeing our artwork which featured a beautiful collage of progressive musicians from all backgrounds and races working together.  How someone could corrupt something so wonderful I will never know.  The guy had some real hate in his heart.  That shit cut deep, not because of anything musical, but because I felt victimized.  Long story short, I wrote the editor to complain and tore the writer a new one.  Apparently my reply was printed in their magazine version while the original review was only featured in the online version at the time.  I guess I won that battle.  But even that serves it’s purpose.  As long as I’ve suffered a stone like that, nothing can really hurt me now.  I think all reading this can either name that kind of review or should now prepare themselves for it to come.  It only makes us stronger, certainly not as musicians, but as people.

     

    Barometers of Success.

    All of this sort of comes to a head as I seriously question the worth of blogs anyway.  I don’t think it’s a good barometer to judge success on.  It probably never has been.  Sadly, as label owners we search for barometers to success constantly.  How many people have bought it?  How many people have tweeted it?  How many people have posted it?  How many people have opened the email?  What does it all mean?  Maybe we have too much information at our fingertips.  This is the trap you fall into, trying to judge success by what people say instead of what they do.  When I started the Orange Army campaign the overwhelming response told me we had fans out there, all over the world.  People I will never meet and was never aware of.  Capturing those hearts and minds is crucial.  It’s the only barometer.  I said in an interview that it’s not about the amount of press or sales, it’s about the intensity of the response you get from individuals.  Even if it’s a few, if the intensity in them is large you are doing something right I said.  Maybe I should follow my own advice more.  It’s not about reviews at all, but they are funny as hell sometimes.

     
     
  3. Fuck the Bloggers, It’s about Net Neutrality

    So, I’m over here crying tears for all the rap music blogs that never covered us and stole other artists music that got shut down by the government.  Oh shit, actually I’m not.  Yeah, this is gonna be one of those kinds of posts.

    Back in the days, we referred to the major labels and the overall “industry” as gatekeepers.  The powers that be enjoyed that gatekeeper status.  They controlled it all.  How much you spent in the studio, what the video would cost, how the product was sold and where and to who.  If you got a certain amount of money pumped into your project, simple mathematics meant that you had a much better chance to succeed then the next man that didn’t have that money.  Back then being an indie artist in rap, was a Scarlet Letter.  You were marked as not “good enough to get a deal”.  Who knows how many talented emcees and producers we lost the chance to hear because they bought into this mentality.

    Over time, the gate keepers lost control.  Not just from illegal downloading but from technology in general.  From the internet, from social networking, from mobile phones, from the world gradually getting smaller.  Word of mouth advertising, despite any assertion otherwise, was never the preferred choice of record executives.  They wanted everything controlled and parsed out by dollar amounts invested.  This was achieved through radio play, MTV and advertising.  Now we find ourselves in a world where everything being purchased is in some way brought to you via word of mouth advertising.

    Labels also lost their actual tangiable product.  Illegal downloading became prevelant.  Listeners were meeting 17.99 price tags on CDs that were filled with songs that they didn’t like.  They were being taken advantage of.  So as the tide of technology rose, so did the frustration with the old system and the perfect storm that the labels had partly created ran rampant.

    Too rampant for too long.

    That was all a very long time ago.  There are kids that probably don’t remember what Sam Goody is, much less that they charged stupid prices in there.  The new facts are that there is a new set of gatekeepers in town.  They are the “it” blogs that post music against the will of the artist.  You can cry about corporations all you like, that artist signed with that corporation by free will of his or her own and is thus being represented by them.  More to the point, these people are controlling our content more then any major label could have.  If a label put out your music against your will without a contract, you had more recourse then you do against some blog.

    When wars are being fought, the defense for an attack is to point out what the other guy has done wrong.  Bloggers cry that these corporations have taken advantage of artists and consumers for years, and that they are just evening the playing field.  But at what cost?  Artists are now caught in the cross fire.  Most of the music being posted illegally is from independent artists and labels these days.  So you are literally taking money out of people’s pockets and defending it.  And worse, you are expecting me to defend you.

    I ask all of you, if the government came in and stopped you from making music, would these bloggers have your back?  I’m not talking about the celeb music they post, I’m talking about YOU, the up and coming musician.  Helllllllno.

    A lot of folks take exception to the fact that the GOVERNMENT is taking action in the name of CORPORATIONS.  Did you catch those buzz words I threw at you?  What’s actually happening is people that are breaking the law are being stopped.  And finally, the RIAA is not taking it out on Johnny in his dorm room, their doing something smart and going after the real problem.

    I was asked recently when talking about this, “So what is your solution for the future?”  It’s simple and explains a lot about why I take the positions that I do on this subject.

    The future I see is one where all music is digital and all music is paid for (unless the artist determines it to be a free release ie. Bandcamp).  All music is allowed to co-exist evenly in online store fronts like Itunes, as it is now. 

    That’s it.  Not too hard was it?  Did that blow your mind?

    So in my future, I see independent labels less dependent on Blogs OR Major Labels.  It will be about direct interaction.  It will be about Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, your own site and whatever comes along next.  It will NOT be about gatekeepers in any form. 

    It will be what everyone has always SAID they want.  Access, Music Discovery, Choice, Efficiency, Ease and Quality.  Sometimes I doubt some of these things are what some people want.  Sometimes I feel that some people just want everything for free and don’t care about any of the above, sometimes I feel that people are just plain disengenous.  Sometimes.

    Do I think the RIAA or Major Labels want the same thing?  Not really, not exactly.  But honestly, they don’t have much choice in the matter.  So the best service they can provide for me and my vision, albeit inadvertantly, is stopping the illegal downloading that’s out there.  And if we come to a cross road in the future, I will be the first to call them out.  There is a looming cross road and one that should be getting MUCH more focus.

    My vision for the future rests on one thing, and it’s something that is being detracted from with this.  Net Neutrality.  This is where we actually have a reason to fear.  Because if the corporations get their way, my ability to even POSSIBLY reach you with Uncommon will not be as high as the ability of Sony.  Then all bets are off and we’re fucked. 

    Then we can’t compete on an even ground against major labels as indies and then things will TRULY return to the way it used to be.  Please check out this video that explains the effects of Net Neutrality and replace the examples of Search Engines and Voice IPs with Music and Entertainment providers, because you better believe, this will be done in the entertainment field for sure:

    Please read up on Net Neutrality here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_neutrality

    Let’s fight the right war folks.  Let’s build the future that we dreamed of when the internet first started to take hold in the mid 90’s.  When we all dreamed of buying, yes BUYING music in the ease and comfort of our own homes with more choice then we ever had been given before.  It’s possible today to have this world where commerce helps build a community and spread an artform. 

     
     
  4. Jealous One’s Envy

    I’m going to be honest.  I spend most of my days online staring at Twitter and then reading through blogs.  It’s a blend of being a businessman and being a fan. 

    My philosophy is that print magazines are an endangered species.  90% of our promotion effort here is aimed at blogs.  When I say blogs, I mean websites designed like magazines, like this one, all the way to that guy in his basement that loves music and only posts like 3 times a week.

    Gimme Mine
    Maybe it’s me, but I still can’t help getting, well, jealous.  Sometimes I take out this frustration on my Twitter feed (@uncommonrecords).  Sometimes I shrug and sometimes it burns.  I’m convinced this happens to every musician and every label owner.  But is there a point where your jealousy or envy is valid?  I’m sure there are dudes that have rapped for a month that want this and that.  But I’ve been at this on a professional level since 1999.  I’ve been running this label since 2004.  I’ve worked on classic records as an engineer, a producer and as an emcee.  Some of which are staples of Ipods around the world.  So where’s mine?

    Getting “there”
    Maybe I’ve gotten mine already and I just don’t know it yet.  What frustrates me the most is I feel like I’ve assembled some of the most creative people on the planet and I read about random ass cats that are making the same record that could have come out ten years ago get blown everywhere.  It’s petty I guess, but hey, I am an artist right? 

    At the same time, my quest to constantly get to “there” is what drives me and therefor my label.  The fire never stops burning.  I think we’ve gotten way more attention then we did 4, 3 or even 2 years ago.  Each year that passes we are growing.  More people know about us then ever and I’ve gotten to meet lots of really great people through doing this.  I even get to do stuff like this. 

    Their “there”
    I tell my artists all the time, “It’s not a talent contest”.  Sometimes I have to remember that myself.  We will all get “there”, but we have to remember that someone somewhere is looking at Uncommon Records and we are at their “there”

    Someday I want to see Japan.  That’s all I’m saying.  One.

     
     
  5. Selling & Giving Away Free Music at the Same Time

    This year is a busy one for Uncommon Records.  It’s funny, I’ve run this label since 2004, but I almost feel like in 2009 I really restarted things.  Basically started a second chapter that is in it’s infancy now.  Last year most of the label work was put into networking, developing a strategy for the future and rebuilding the label website from absolute scratch.

    All those things being complete here we are.  I’d like to say we planned it this way, but with a few projects falling through on us, that’s just the way it happened.  Now in 2010, we’ve just dropped our latest album from an artist named Taiyamo Denku.  It’s called‘Articles of Mind’.  I wanted to give some insight into what we’re doing on the promotional side along with the ups and downs.

    Getting Help
    In 2010, I put out the call for interns, because one man can not do it all.  Trust me.  I got a response and have brought some very helpful people on to help with one of the most crucial aspects of promotion and that’s follow up.  As a label we’ve taken the approach that bloggers are now the press.  If you’re a blogger and you get free music from us, then we’re going to check in with you early and often to make sure you got it, see what you think and if you plan on covering it.  Honestly, if you don’t like it, then unsubscribe.  There are limits, obviously some smaller audio post blogs we’re not going to get after, but if you write, you’ll hear from us.  Time will tell how this approach works out.

    The End of Print Press
    At this point, I don’t put much effort into print press.  We have print press people on our lists, but I feel like they are over run with music submissions and have less and less space to print reviews or features due to the economic shifts in that industry.  There are also a lot less options.  I can really only name about three magazines that I’d be jazzed to have our stuff featured in right now.  Where as when we started out in ’04 that number would have been around 10-12.

    Lost Thoughts
    What we did with the ‘Articles of Mind’ project from Taiyamo Denku is we dropped a FREE bonus LP the same day called ‘Lost Thoughts’.  Lost Thoughts is available on Bandcamp where as AOM is for sale on Itunes, Amazon and the like.  We feel that this accomplishes a few things.  It keeps bootleggers online from justifying their posting of our for sale items for free as “promotion”.  Fuck that, if I needed their help I would have asked for it.  As far as consumers go, if you don’t have loot right now, we’re saying-“Here, take this free LP and let this sit in your Ipod for a while.  If you feel Denku enough, you’ll pick up the full length”.  At the same time, to our loyal purchasers that will automatically buy AOM, we’re giving them a second album for the same price.

    Today’s Music Press
    We think this strategy is helping, I think we’re going to tinker with it, but that it’s a model that will be employed on future releases.  I’ve found that with bloggers and websites, you have to give them content.  Whether it’s a free track, a video, a downloadable LP on Bandcamp, whatever.  They need content.  Nobody seemingly writes reviews with text only and the cover anymore.  The web is changing not just music, but how we are told about music and we’re trying to keep up with that with this approach. 

     
     
  6. Hunting & Gathering (Blogs)

    At this point, I’m starting to get the promotional campaign ready for the Agartha Audio release (Produced by Dig Dug called “The Hollow Earth”).  I have to say, it’s been a few months since our last release of a full length (from W.A.S.T.E.L.A.N.D.S.) back in March and even in that short time a few things have changed in the way we need to go about things in our online promotion.

    There’s now a simple work flow for collection of information on who to send records too.

    Twitter > Twitter Searching > Find Bloggers > Scan Blogrolls

    This seems simple and it is.  Right now, it’s the main way I’ve been collecting info on who send music to.  Here’s an example of my typical day when I’m prepping to send out a release:

    The best place to start, if your a musician or a label on Twitter is with the blogs that follow you.  That’s a no brainer, hit them up for their email right away through either an @ or DM message.  They will usually give it up, because they live for free music, if they don’t then fuck ‘em, there are a million of them out there.  Then you start to dig deeper.  Take a look at the Twitter pages of Musicians that you like and that make similar music to you.  Check out who’s following them and who they follow, through this you will get to see lots of other bloggers, writers and even potential listeners. 

    Bloggers
    I can’t officially endorse the “slash & burn” tactic of following people just to get them to follow you, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t employ it at Uncommon. In fairness, I follow those heads for about a week and if they turn out to be interesting I’ll keep following.  But, back to the topic at hand, you’d be surprised how many bloggers that are willing to give your music a spin are on Twitter.  If I were a blogger I would be on Twitter because it’s the best way to get eyes on your website by drawing attention to everything you post.  Most savvy bloggers are on Twitter and those are the people that may just put enough work in to listen to you and give you a shot since they have already proven to be dilligent enough to self promote themselves.

    Blogrolls
    Now that you’ve done that, and found a nice crop of bloggers/writers/djs and collected emails from @’s or DM’s, you can go to the next level.  The Blogrolls of your favorite blogs or sites can also be a goldmine for more connections.  Click through them and you may find more blogs that are down to mention or post your music (with your damn permission).  Legitimate blogs usually have a contact e-mail openly posted, some won’t have that, but will have a link to their Twitter page, and then you just complete the cycle that way.  If you find a blog that is what I would deem, illegitmate, where they just post albums without permission, don’t waste your time with them.  It’s empty promotion in my eyes.  Firstly, the people that go to those blogs will never buy your stuff even if they like it, and second the bloggers there won’t put the time into giving you a nice write up or cross promoting that post anywhere.

    E-mails
    You would be surprised at how many e-mails you can collect doing this and how quickly you can do it.  Don’t bother to add e-mails of people that haven’t given them away freely either on their blog or to you on Twitter.  Almost every “list” I’m on that I didn’t ask for gets ignored, blocked or deleted.  It’s just not a wise strategy anymore, plus there are plenty of people that are down anyway. 

    My list has grown very rapidly since using Twitter as a source of info.  It’s become the epicenter for Blogger Nation, and these days, that’s who you need to reach.  It’s also a great source for finding DJ’s, Print Writers, Listeners and Collaborators.  Don’t sleep and don’t hate.  My e-mail blasts will be much bigger then yours, son!

    I’ll get into our process for actually sending these email blasts and how that too has changed a bit, in a future post.