Saturday, October 03, 2009

Scott Kirsner of Fans, Friends & Followers: The Well-Rounded Radio Interview

Somewhat unintentionally, a number of the last handful of episodes of Well-Rounded Radio have been about what may well be the future of the music business, with interviews featuring Michael Bracy of The Future of Music Coalition, Ariel Hyatt of Ariel Publicity, Jeff Price of TuneCore, and Joshua Boltuch of Amie Street.

As more and more power has been taken out of the hands of the traditional music industry and put in the hands of musicians, it's feeling like the goals are no longer a major record label deal, massive amounts of commercial radio airplay, a hit video on MTV, or the cover of Rolling Stone, even if those things are still all very welcome.

So what's next, for both musicians and music fans who want to discover their next favorite band or recording?

Certainly it's going to be a more direct relationship between them than ever before and, at least for the near future, will entail the artists or their "people" closely managing these relationships through tools like email, texting, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace,, and an ever-growing list of online technologies that are helping us all to connect.

Scott Kirsner's new book Fans, Friends, & Followers looks at how some pioneers are using the internet to connect with their audience, grow that fan base, and turn it into something profitable without the traditional infrastructure in the music, comedy, publishing, and film & video industries.

Kirsner is a journalist for Variety and The Boston Globe and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter, Wired, Fast Company, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, BusinessWeek, and Newsweek, among other publications.

Kirsner writes the CinemaTech blog, which explores the way technology is changing the entertainment industry. He is the author of Inventing the Movies, a technological history of Hollywood published in 2008, and The Future of Web Video: New Opportunities for Producers, Entrepreneurs, Media Companies and Advertisers, first published in 2006.

Kirsner is one of the founders of the Nantucket Conference on Entrepreneurship and Innovation and Future Forward events. He also speaks and moderates regularly at entertainment industry events, including the Sundance Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival, and the South by Southwest Film Festival.

As some recent success stories like Jill Sobule, Issa (the artist formerly known as Jane Siberry), or Amanda Palmer (hear the Well-Rounded Radio interview with Palmer) are proving, artists can also go direct to their fans to help fund recording or visual projects as well.

Kirsner's book approaches each subject as a question and answer session, featuring such Internet music successes as Jonathan Coulton, OK Go, DJ Spooky, Jill Sobule, Richard Cheese, Chance, and the Coverville podcast, along with a look at new business models in video, visual arts, and narrative writing.

The episode features music from many of these artists as well as a number of musical artists who I am friends with or follow or are fans of on things like Facebook and Twitter. I essentially sent out a note to a variety of musicians that I am connected to and, to Scott Kirsner’s point, I basically crowdsourced the majority of music in this episode in a matter of about five hours. Many of these songs are new that have not been released or demos, which I think is a great example of how the internet has changed how musicians, online media like me, and audiences like you are all now interacting.

I sat down with Kirsner at his office in Beacon Hill in early Summer in Boston to discuss:
* why he decided to write about a book about this subject now
* how all these changes in connecting are changing how musicians are behaving
* some ways to use the internet to better engage your fans--and find new ones

Music featured in the episode includes:
1) Pressure Cooker: Without Purpose (in preview)
2) Zoe Keating: Walking Man (in preview)
3) Lovewhip: Love Electric
4) John Haydon: Blue Van
5) The Jescos (including Timothy Bracy of The Mendoza Line): Movable Feast Blues
6) Lagoon: Blind
7) Song Sparrow Research: Colored Paper
8) Hallelujah the Hills: Classic Tapes
9) Jonathan Coulton: Code Monkey
10) Jill Sobule: Nothing to Prove
11) Amanda Palmer: The Point of it All
12) John McGrath: Some Holy Ghost
13) Preacher Jack: I'm in Love Again
14) Richard Barone: Girl
15) Dear Leader: Barbarians
16) OK Go: Here it Goes Again
17) Young Tremors: Pebble in My Sea
18) Bodega Girls: She's Into Black Guys
19) Jenn Vix: The Fire
20) Richard Cheese: Gin and Juice
21) The Sissormen: Maddie Sweet Maddie