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Twisted City by Chris Singleton - album sleeve

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Friday
Feb292008

The future of rock and roll

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to put out a physical cd in the UK and Ireland recently. Happily, it picked up good reviews, some national airplay and I got on the telly doing quirky gigs on London public transport. But the lack of a marketing budget, big-budget video, TV plugger, print advertising etc. meant that it was going to be very hard to compete with records from established acts. Whilst it's safe to say that the critical reaction to the album was very positive (this was much to my relief), with my resources -- and even with the PR help of a major in Ireland -- I simply couldn't reach enough listeners to sell the cd in big quantities. I hate admitting that, but there you go. I still fly on budget airlines, in other words.

Now that all the singles have been released from the album, I reckon I've sold as many copies of 'Twisted City' as I'm likely to, in the UK and Ireland at least. But I'd still like the distribution of the album to continue in some shape or form, and I'd like to keep introducing the music to new ears.

This is why I've embraced what may become known as "the Radiohead model" of distribution: offering a download of the album to listeners at no financial cost.

Commentators made much of the fact that Radiohead allowed people to pay as much or as little as they liked for the download of 'In Rainbows'; I think they missed the point. Radiohead were after email addresses as much as the donations. Think about it: as a result of their experiment, Radiohead probably now have the means to communicate, entirely free, with their ENTIRE fanbase. And sell future products, tours and merchandise to them direct (which is the most effective way of selling). There are companies who would absolutely kill to have their entire customer base on a database, and spend vast quantities of time and money trying to achieve this; in a matter of weeks, Radiohead compiled a massive mailing list and, incredibly, made money in the process of doing so (through the 'honesty box' aspect of the exercise). Very clever stuff.

With the advent of 'free album' distribution, I can't see paid-for music continuing for much longer. It's so ridiculously easy to copy and share music that paying for it seems arcane. Once somebody has an album, everybody has it. When an album is just a set of files, there becomes no effective difference between a paid-for set of files and a free set of files. I hate thinking of music in these terms, and I always pay for albums, but the reality of the situation is that most people are looking at music in this clinical way.

It means that the income which pays for new music (and salaries...) is going to have to come from other sources. I see two main ways in which artists and labels are going to make money in the future:

1) By selling band merchandise / gig tickets direct using the email addresses gathered during 'free album' releases. Only stuff which can't be 'copied' electronically will be worth selling.

2) By making albums available for free on sites on which paid-for adverts are displayed.

The second scenario worries me somewhat, as we may end up in a situation where, like commercial radio, advertisers dictate what is and isn't "acceptable" (this is why there is so much Celine Dion on the radio).

The bottom line is that musicians are going to have to get a lot smarter about how they get their music out there. In the future, it may be the case that instead of musicians fighting for the attention of majors, we'll fight to get the biggest database, or to get more of our 'free albums' out to people than the other guy. It's going to be as cut-throat as ever, regardless of the internet revolution. That's why I want to get in early with the whole free download experiments.

As for the free Radiohead album, with the exception of one song, 'Body Snatchers', I don't like it. I paid for The Bends and OK Computer; they were much better. Or maybe I just think that because I parted with cash?

You can download Chris Singleton's 'Twisted City' album free at http://www.singletonmusic.com/freealbum/

Wednesday
Feb132008

New Chris Singleton Facebook Page

Dipping my toes into the world of Facebook pages...by setting up a Facebook page (for my musical activities). Will be interested to see how it takes off, compared to Myspace. Will be putting up new tracks, photos etc. as they arrive.

So I'd be very grateful if you could visit http://www.facebook.com/pages/Chris-Singleton/6947253243?ref=ts and click 'Become a fan'. Then click 'Share with Friends' to share the page with the world and his wife.

You may need to log in to your Facebook account before you can become a fan or spread the word. Would really appreciate anything you can do to help promote this page!

Many thanks, Chris

Tuesday
Jan222008

New photos of recording

Have some new pictures of the recording of my new album up at

http://www.myspace.com/chrissingleton (scroll down a bit) or click the 'pics' link.

We've been working in my little studio and also in Exostudios in Hackney. I'll be posting some new songs up soon for you to have a listen to but for now you'll just have to look at the piccies and use your imagination (that sounds saucier than I meant it to).

The record has a much more 'live' feel to it that 'Twisted City' - am working with loads of different musicians, from gospel singers to moody pianists to jazz vocalists and it's great fun.

The recording process has been interrupted somewhat by a nasty cold (can't sing with this little beauty) but it's going well on the whole.

Only problem is a title. I'll be inviting people to give me their thoughts on that one soon.

Wednesday
Jan092008

Magical Mystery Tour?

If you're stuck for something to do in London at the moment, then you might consider this: a 'musical' trip through the city. Here's what it's all about...

'Twisted City' is a record about London. Every song is a stop on the line of a tube journey; the 'Twisted City Tour' takes you on that journey, through streets of London, buses, boats and tubes. At each stop you play the relevant track from 'Twisted City' on your MP3 player. The whole thing is free (bar public transport costs) and you'll get a free album and PDF guidebook to steer you on your way.

It's really easy to take part:

1. You download the album free.
2. You put it on your iPod or MP3 player.
3. You print out the PDF guidebook and follow the instructions for a great day out.

You can get the album and the guide book free at www.singletonmusic.com/twistedcitytour/ - and I hope you enjoy your tour.

(Those of you who already have the album can download the PDF guidebook directly at www.singletonmusic.com/twistedcitytour/twistedcitytour.pdf).

Tuesday
Jan012008

The Radiohead Experiment...An Update

An update on the progress of my 'Radiohead experiment' (giving away my album for free and letting people donate an amount of their choosing to an honesty box if they want).

The average donation so far is £3.90 - however, the percentage of people donating is very small: only 3% of people who've downloaded it have paid for it. As far as I know the percentage of people paying Radiohead for their album stands at 38%...much higher. Easy to understand the difference in percentages though. Radiohead are an established act, and paying punters know that they should be getting a good product for their couple of quid. With a less well-known act (putting it mildly...) like me people are taking more of a chance with a free album - it might be rubbish.

But annoyingly, the net result is that in experiments like these, people are happier to pay millionaires for 'free' music rather than to support indie acts. I suppose that happens in conventional cd sales too...but it's still a pain in the arse. Not that I'm bitter though. And the object of my experiment is to get my music to a wider audience, and in that respect it's working very well.

You can get the album 'free' at http://www.singletonmusic.com/freealbum/ (ah go on, give us a pound).

Happy New Year incidentally!