Daily Dozen – Musicians

Today is a dreary and snowy day here in the Boston area. Driving to work I was thinking what would brighten things up an decided music would be just the ticket. I love music and go out to see performances as often as I can at my advanced age. My wife and I are fortunate to have her sister close by and wonderfully willing to keep an eye on the kids. It means we get to go out more than a lot of people we know.

That’s probably too much information but what can I say? On to the topic at hand: music. Looking through the 1000faces there are a lot of photos of people singing and playing. Many of them are really good but most of them aren’t making their living with music. Today I’ve tried to keep it to people who do music full-time. As was the case yesterday, I’ve added links and info in case you’re interested. And now, it’s on with the show . . .

Jonathan Richman
Here’s Jonathan Richman. He’s a native son of my town Natick. I’ve listened to him for more than 20 years but it wasn’t until 2011 that I finally had a chance to see him play. It was wicked good.

Matisyahu Stage Dive
I was a little torn about adding this photo since you can’t really see Matisyahu’s face; but I really like the picture. He’s jumping into the crowd and his arms look almost like flapping wings.

Beats Antique - hair
I saw Beats Antique a few months ago and was blown away. Their performance was completely mesmerizing.

Stephen Marley sings
Here’s Stephen Marley. Wendy is crazy about reggae and this was a show she really wanted to see. It was totally fun.

Face - Joao Brasil (@joaobrasil) at #FoE5
This is Joao Brasil at MIT. He’s very fun and funny. He does Techno Brega. His song L.O.V.E. Banana is something.

Mighty Mystic
Here’s Mighty Mystic, from here in Boston. Excellent.

This is Nossan Zand out on the streets of Cambridge. I’ve seen him here and there. My pal Adam (Nossan’s brother) turned me on to him.

Sometimes I curse myself for not taking better notes. This is one of those times. This woman was really good. She opened for Mighty Mystic and was fun to watch and listen to. Of course I have no recollection of who she is . . .

Face - Erin McKeown (@erinmckeown) speaking at #FoE5
This is Erin McKeown. I didn’t see her perform but rather speak at MIT’s Futures of Entertainment conference. It was really interesting to hear from an artist who’s taking creative approaches not only to their music but also to how they relate to their fans.

Face - Filastine
Filastine opened for Beats Antique and was really good.

Creek River
This is the Creek River String Band. I play old timey music myself and one of the fellows I play with is brother to the accordion player so I went to see them a few months ago. (That’s pretty convoluted, isn’t it?) They were great and I had a good time taking photos. I photographed them a second time but am making really slow work of processing those photos. 😦

Face - Zee Avi
This is Zee Avi. She is fantastic. One of my most favorite musicians around. I’ve seen her three times and wish I could see her more.

No Cameras, No Recording Equipment, No Sense

Last night I saw Gorillaz at the Agganis Arena at Boston University. The show was amazing. It’s really easy to find really terrible examples of mixed media performances but when you see one that nails it . . . well, it’s just an amazing thing to see. From the first song – which featured a video of Snoop Dogg on vocals to the last pounding encore Gorillaz wove sound and light and video into an intense narrative.

Even within each media type there were so many elements and styles and tones and textures that it could leave your head spinning. So given this commitment to flexibility and quality and creativity around content it was weird to see that old tag on my ticket “No Cameras, No Recording Equipment.”

Now if that were actually enforced (or enforceable) I *might* be able to understand it. Sure, every artist (or production company or record label or venue) would like to have full creative control of the content they make or produce or distribute or present – but that isn’t possible any more. Here’s a shot of the crowd at Gorillaz:

Every little light is a camera or recording device . . .

There were dozens and dozens of people photographing and recording the show. Guess what though? Photographs/video/audio captured with an iPhone or point-and-click camera aren’t great. Here’s an example that’s actually better than most:

Even though it’s good for the genre, the quality isn’t that good.

Here’s another – this was was made with a proper HD video camera and the difference is evident. It’s still not great but it’s a step in the right direction:

Here’s a third example that shows what can be done with two cameras and editing:

There are big differences in the quality and experience of the content in these three cases. It makes me wonder, “what’s the logic behind the ban on recording?” Is it to protect the original content? to boost record sales? sell merch? fill clubs? Does the ban – or its unintended fallout (poor quality content) accomplish these things? I have no idea but am curious. For me personally, quality fan content makes me want to experience the band and its content for myself.

What about poorly produced fan-generated content? If anything, it may have a cooling effect on someone’s desire to experience a performer. I think of it this way – the low quality content functions as a souvenir. It allows the producer to say “I was there” but rarely conveys much about the quality or experience of a performance. Of course the quality experience is exactly what you want to be conveyed. That’s what builds and excites a fan base.

Encouraging fan-content is nothing new. The Grateful Dead managed to become pretty successful not in spite of fan recordings but in part because of fan recordings of their shows. Artists who include their fans in the process of creating a strong content-based community can and do thrive. The best way to create a strong content-based community is to allow fans to create strong content – NOT to force them to create sub-standard content with outmoded restrictions.

The idea of not just tolerating – but actively encouraging – content creation shouldn’t be limited to artists. Virtually any brand can benefit from strong user-generated content. Some brands do this well, while others try to exercise control. Control is gone and has been for a while. People will say what they will say whether you want them to or not. The only control that can be exercised is how easy you make it for people to make quality content.

Aiding and encouraging content creation (and recognizing quality content) helps connect current fans/customers more tightly to the band/brand/movie/etc. It can also helps attract new fans (how many of you have checked out a band on YouTube based on a friends recommendation or because you’ve heard they’re coming to town?).

By putting content restrictions in place all that happens is that poor quality content is produced. These restrictions squander the opportunity to build an engaged fan base, add additional content to multiple channels and reach new people. It’s time for these types of restrictions to be lifted so more people can participate in a positive content experience.

What do you think? Do limits on content creation help or hurt?