Gowalla SXSWi Breakthrough

The SXSWi themes this year were mobile and games. The keynote by the SCVNGR kid got me dreaming of how I might use a location based service to augment gigs, possibly in remote settings. My mind has been reeling with ideas for mobile apps and ways to use location to enhance, reward, share, and show what I’m doing musically.

How can I use location based mobile enhancement when I'm playing by a creek?

So I was thrilled to find this panel today, Rockin’ the Check-in: Location Strategies for Musicians, where the Gowalla music dude (@jimcaroll) testified to what a huge, wide open potential there is for collaboration. Here are my notes and some clues for where to begin.

  • develop a custom badge
  • give fans status/rewards for check-ins and more check-ins
  • musicians, indie artists aren’t using LBS, huge potential
  • a few have: Josh Grobin, Weezer, Jimmy Eat World, Better Than Ezra, Old 97’s
  • integrate with Soundcloud and Hipdigital
  • Weezer offered a download for checkin at concert, best price on album, millions of views, chance to win trip to concert
  • OYA – Norwegian Festival that utilized completely (700+)
  • The National offered an album for a checkin at a record store
  • make a map of artist’s favorite places (to play, to see music, to eat, etc.)
  • create an experience (the digital natives expect it)
  • develop using the API, lots of potential for combining available data in cool new ways
  • the MP3 is dead, long live the API!
  • links available at http://www.delicious.com/clroyal/rockcheck
Gowalla Mural
I need to put some natural settings on Austin's music map. What better way than Austin's own Gowalla?

Narrowing In On A Niche

I’m trying to ask all the hard business questions about where I fit  in the music world. I try to continually remind myself that the goal is to find a niche, and better yet, to define a niche.

The Only One

So here’s the current hypothesis: My niche is palm-tree poetry. Good lyrics, upbeat, laid-back song for enjoying warm weather outside, a sunny day by the water.

What is the need?

I am the anti-dote to fast, frenetic, noisy songs that leave you with nothing: no memorable lines, no sweet melodies. You can’t hear the singer, the lyrics are crap, and there’s too much going on. The need is for classic songwriting, easily heard and understood. The need is for music outside the box, outside noisy venues, outside on a gorgeous day.

What is my answer?

Laid-back literate reggae, roots, and soul music, with horns and backup singers. The message is mystical, thankful, thoughtful and loving.  The answer is for a break from the noise, the job, being inside, being busy. The need is for nature, celebration, community.

Who’s in this space?

  • The international laid-back reggae, soul, folk-rock scene:  Ziggy Marley, Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson
  • The local reggae, soul, world/folk scene: Grimy Stiles, Suzanna Choffell, Killer Bees (Papa Mali), Dan Dyer?
  • The outside, outdoors, beach music feel: Bob Marley, Jimmy Buffet,
  • The doodling poet: John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Jason Mraz, Hugh MacLeod, Austin Kleon
  • The local channels: Flamingo Cantina, KUT, KOOP, KGSR, The Chronicle, Flipside

Pressing FOK DUB

Today I turned 38. My birthday wish is to make my second album, FOK DUB. We went into the studio yesterday and laid down some nice drum and bass and we’ll finish up tomorrow.

I’m taking pledges for the next 38 days at Kickstarer from anyone who wants to hear the album and support my music. Check out the video, drawings, and custom art I’m offering. Pledge now for your CD and Tshirt!

Kickstarting “FOK DUB”

Here is the first draft of a video I’m submitting to Kickstarter.com, to use their service to get the support I need to press my second full-length album, FOK dUb. The video is rough, and has no titles, text, but I think it gets the idea across.

Kickstarter is a brilliant idea that creates an interface for artists and supporters to work directly together. Direct engagement is exactly what I’m always reading I should be doing, and Kickstarter inspired me – with it’s endless catalog of interesting, funded projects – to use it to try to explain to my fans exactly what I’m trying to do and why I need their support in the clearest value proposition possible.

I discovered how much better it feels to ask people to fund a project than to buy a product. I want to believe in it, not feel like I’m bugging people. It’s a better application of the Obama campaign communications code.Fok Dub

I still need to do some creative thinking about what I can offer for various levels of support, but basically I’m going to start with

  • $1 gets you the digital download
  • $5 also gets you the CD
  • $10 also gets you the t-shirt
  • $50 also gets you a custom song
  • $100 also gets you a house concert

I don’t know what the right goal is, but I’m thinking somewhere between $500 and $1000.

Originally conceived of over the last year as “Folk Dub,” I’ve spent this year refining the set and the business behind it, into “fOK DUb,” an acoustic-soul reggae-remixed album of ten songs.

I’ll record the album at Tonehaus and ask fans and friends to remix the tracks, dub-style (or however they want).

There is a funky, syncopated feel and frequent beach/water theme running through the songs below, making them a perfect set to subject to a reggae-remix production.

  1. I Can See You -  reggae soul
  2. Mi Estilo Es Tranquilo -  reggae tejano
  3. Un Momento Perfecto – folk samba jazz
  4. All The Above -  pop folk rock funk vocal
  5. Speeding1 and Speeding2– reggae folk rock bluegrass
  6. God Has Been Good To Me1 and 2 -  gospel funk
  7. Sat Morn (video)
  8. Nobody Knows What It Means – soul pop horns and harmonies
  9. Lake Rules  –  reggae kids fun
  10. Dub Lub – stone cold reggae jam (needs lyrics?)

That’s FoK DuB. Over the next six months I will make an album out of these songs with full band, horns, and backup singers while at the same time asking friends, fans, and the public for feedback and colaboration. As I post songs please make sounds of your own, send to me to remix, or remix yourselves. fOk dUb.

Cracking Obama’s Campaign Communications Code

After trying to crack Obama’s communications code, I’ve broken my philosophy down to the following five principles.

  1. Truly believe in your cause: Nothing is more important than making and sharing great art, song. This year I need to make a great album, site, and share it with Austin (DC, New York, San Diego…) and the world.
  2. Spread the word: I am a songwriter who cares about lyrics and poetry. Non-disposable words and a palette of folk, funk, soul, jazz, latin, rock and reggae. Everyday J making poetry pop.
  3. Make it urgent: Countdown to the next album: 6 months. It’s been 4 years since my last album and I’ve got scads of unrecorded songs. I’ve been in Austin for 13 years and am almost completely unknown beyond my friends. The time is NOW! Make a great album, show, site. Get on the map in Austin, at the very least.
  4. Give the power to the people: Solicit feedback and collaboration on everything I do. Create ways for fans to easily share with their friends. Be accessible to fans, creatively reward. Always offer clear opportunities for engagement.
  5. Report from the front-line: Keep doing cool stuff, trying new things. Don’t sit around. Keep pioneering innovative approaches to writing and playing;  bring your sketchbook, recorder, camera, and guitar and get some good footage for the folks that can’t be there live.