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Wednesday
Jan142009

Facebook friendship

Time to revisit what stills seems to be the social network du jour, Facebook.

Thanks to Facebook, I am now 'in touch' with a hell of a lot of people that I haven't seen in a very, very long time. Old school pals, former band mates, general weirdos I don't know particularly well - the list goes on. There's even the odd ex-girlfriend in there, and, hardy har, some normal ones too (if you're reading this in Facebook, you can try to work out which category you belong to).

I'm not sure why, but I tend to accept most friend requests, and befriend most people I see popping up as 'somebody I might know'. It's probably fair to say that I am a textbook example of what is known as Facebook Sluticus - that weird specimen that adds literally anyone, including a friend's friend's milkman, as a Facebook friend. Part of that, no doubt, is due to the fact that I am just nosey about your life, and I want to sell you a CD. (Sorry if I've just devalued our Facebook friendship, dear reader, but there you go).

But despite being reacquainted with all these figures from my past, I don't really have a relationship to speak of with most of them. I occasionally comment on somebody's status, or write a bit of crap on their wall, but that's about it. With one or two exceptions, the only Facebook friends I ever see in real life are the ones I hang out with anyway.

That's not to say for a moment that I don't want to see my 'virtual' set of friends. It's just that, well, it never seems to happen. Plans are made to meet up, but we never get round to it; somebody's pet rabbit dies, they bail out, we don't catch up. I'm not sure why this cancellation nearly always occurs - unless my Facebook friends are trying to tell me something - as everybody involved always seems very keen on meeting up. It just never seems to happen.

I'm not alone in observing this: lots of other Facebook users I've spoken to have described Facebook friendship in exactly the same way. The phenomenon generally consists of getting back in touch with somebody that you lost contact with (and being very pleased to be reacquainted with them), only to then never really meet up, or to have very little contact with them afterwards - online or offline.

The sentence I usually hear straight after this description of Facebook friendship is this: "Oh well, you lose contact with people for a reason, don't you?". And that sentence is usually followed up with an implication that the reason contact was lost was because the friendship wasn't all that anyway.

I don't necessarily agree with the idea that you lose contact with people because they're a pain in the ass. I like many of the Facebook friends I never see just as much as those 'normal' friends that I see all the time. But I do agree with the idea that you lose contact with people for specific reasons. In my case, there are two reasons: geography, and lack of time.

With regard to geography, there are plenty of Facebook friends who I would like to go for a pint with. But they are scattered around the globe. And even when the Facebook friends in question are London-based...well, London's so big that a round trip to see some of them can take three hours.

The other reason I've lost contact with (sometimes dear) friends is because the older you get, the less time you seem to have. Part of that is down to the fact that as you age, you tend to acquire more responsibilities every year (kids, high-maintenance partner, more work - delete as appropriate) and less time for that pint with, say, the Facebook friend. And time seems more precious, because psychologically, the years seem to fly by so much faster. An old work colleague of mine (who incidentally I've yet to encounter on Facebook) maintains that this is due to the "telescopic effect of ageing" - numerically, every year is a smaller fraction of your life to date, and is perceived as being shorter as a result. Anyway, it certainly feels as though the closer you get to clog-popping time, the more everything in your life starts competing more heavily for your minutes...and my guess is that the Facebook friends who you haven't seen in aeons get pushed down the priority list in favour of a curry and Newsnight.

Interestingly, if geography and "time-poverty" are the drivers behind friendship loss, they are the engine of Facebook friendship gain - and explain, to an extent, the success of this social network. Facebook is so good at reunfications (however superficial) precisely because it is accessible globally, and because it saves people time: it would take ages to ring everybody up to see what they're doing. Why bother when it all comes up in a news feed?

Facebook certainly satisfies my curiosity: it is intriguing to see what the class babe looks like ten years on, or to see if the school bully's children look resemble him. Or if that pet rabbit makes it through the night. On paper, though, there's lots of reasons to dislike it - it's clearly a nosey parker's paradise; it trivialises friendship; it was designed for advertisers as much as for individuals...

...But do I like it? I don't know why, but I do. Maybe it's because without it, chances are you probably wouldn't have read this.

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Tuesday
Aug052008

Music by numbers

A while ago, I wrote a blog post about the increasing importance of data to musicians. The gist of it was that in the burgeoning 'free music' era, bands and musicians should aim to capture the details of people who are downloading their songs for free. The idea being that even if artists are not making money directly from recorded songs, they can generate income in other ways by marketing merchandise, tours and so on to fans whose email addresses they have obtained.

There's another type of data which is of increasing significance to musicians, and it doesn't necessarily involve email addresses. It's statistical data.

With the rise of social networks like Facebook, Myspace, iLike and Last FM, musicians now have a plethora of ways to measure how many people are listening to their music. For example, any band with a Myspace page will be able to see how many plays of their songs they are getting; which tracks tend to be more popular; and how many songs are downloaded (as opposed to just listened to). On iLike, there are similar statistics, which again let musicians see how many plays their tracks are getting, and other interesting counts, like how many people are adding a band's songs to Facebook pages and how many people are sharing particular songs with friends.

These statistics tend to focus on two things: popularity of songs, and listeners' behaviour. Both are of enormous interest to musicians.

The popularity measurement is fairly straightforward. Thanks to Myspace and Facebook a band can put up, say, five tracks on a profile and run an unofficial focus group on which of their songs would make the best singles (depending on how commercial-minded the band is, the tracks that get the most plays).

Looking at listeners' behaviour is more complicated, but extremely interesting. Thanks to social networks (and other sites) you can examine what listeners are doing with music. With a bit of investigation, you can find out who is

  • adding your song to their social networking page
  • dedicating your songs to friends
  • listing themselves as being a fan of your music
  • recommending you as an artist to online communities
  • feeding back on your music
  • talking about you behind your back
The list goes on, depending on which websites a you are using, but essentially, when you look at the data, pictures of behaviour emerge that can influence how bands and artists communicate and build relationships with fans.

All sites are not equal when it comes to music statistics though. Of all the social networks that I've used to promote my music, the one I trust the most for music statistics is Last FM. This is because it doesn't just measure online plays of music - it goes far beyond that. Every time a registered Last FM user plugs their iPod or MP3 player into their computer, it looks at what they've been listening to and uses it to compile statistics; the same happens when a user plays a cd on their PC. The statistics are extremely comprehensive too, with charts being compiled on a band's most popular songs overall, by week or over a 6 month period. And you can see exactly who's been playing your music, and how much.

Crucially, Last FM distinguishes between listeners and plays. This is not the case with Myspace, where you can only look at the number of plays of songs - there is no listener data. This is pretty useless really; generally, once a Myspace page is visited by either a human or a search engine webbot, the play tally goes up, regardless of whether the song has been listened to by the human or, er, webbot in question. And unlike Last FM, none of the data is stored; once you've removed a song from your page, the data goes with it.

In essence though there is a lot to be gleaned from the musical information that the web provides - by looking at who is playing your music, and what they're doing with it, I think it is possible to grow fanbases and understand what makes people tick musically. But it's hard work, and you have to be able to work out the good stats from the bad.

If you want to check out some of my statistics, my Last FM profile is at http://www.last.fm/music/Chris+Singleton.

//

Saturday
Jul262008

Chris Singleton on iLike

This is a post for those of you using iLike - would be grateful if you could 'iLike me' (another weird social-networking verb is creeping into my lexicon).

If you are on Facebook:

  • Visit http://apps.facebook.com/ilike/artist/Chris+Singleton and click the 'Click to iLike' button (you may be prompted to log in / add the application).

  • Then, please dedicate a song of mine to your friends: just scroll down a bit to 'featured songs' and pick a song that you'd like to dedicate. I suggest 'Worry Number One', as your friends will be able to download that MP3 for free, but feel free to choose whichever one you'd like.

If you are not on Facebook:


Many thanks,
Chris

//

Thursday
Jul172008

New track: "Bad Ambitions"

Hello all,

If you go to my Facebook page, you can stream one of the tracks I'm working on for my new album:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Chris-Singleton/6947253243?ref=ts

Scroll down a bit and click 'Bad Ambitions' - it's one of the tracks in the music player. You can also hear it on Myspace but it sounds pants on there (Myspace MP3 compression is rubbish!). Listen to it on headphones, not tinny cheap computer speakers, and play it loud please.

The song features the fantastic drumming of Ben Woollacott, who is kindly helping me out with some tracks at the moment. He's doing some fab overdubs and I'm really pleased to be working with him. We recorded some of this song down in Hackney's Exostudios, and the rest in my own setup.

Assuming you like David Bowie mixed with Blondie, it should hopefully appeal. We still need to tidy a few things up on it, add some more strings and maybe some soulful John Gibbons backing vocals, but it's getting there. Enjoy it while you can 'cos I'm taking it down in a couple of days!

Friday
May022008

Ways you can support Chris Singleton

Hi all,

Here's a post about how you can support my music. Thanks to all of you who already have helped out! Please do as many of the below as you can, as it will help spread the word about new indie music.

1. Download my 'Twisted City' album free
You can get it at www.singletonmusic.com/freealbum.

2. Tell all your friends about the album

3. If you like the album, please consider making a safe, secure donation
You can donate as much or as little as you like using my Paypal honesty box. This really helps finance the recording and promotion of my music. (Note: Paypal pages sometime takes a few seconds to load, please be patient).

4. Play the album to friends, colleagues and family
Play 'Twisted City' to people you know whenever you get a chance - put it on at work, at parties or in the car.

5. Support me on Facebook.
First, put "Chris Singleton" in your favourite music section. Then...

  • Add me as your friend here
  • Become a fan here (and remember to click iLike this artist button)
  • Join my group here.

6. Become a fan on Myspace
If you use Myspace, add me as your Myspace friend. You can also add one of my songs to your page and post a bulletin about my free album to your friends.

7. Support me using iLike
Go to http://www.ilike.com/artist/Chris+Singleton and click the 'Click to iLike' button.

8. Support me on Last FM
If you you use Last FM, become my friend and scrobble me whenever you play one of my tracks on your computer.

9. Subscribe to my blog for news, more free stuff and ways to help
Just go to www.singletonmusic.com/blog.htm for details.

If you do the above 9 things, I can't guarantee you good luck / sex / health (delete as appropriate...) for the rest of your life...this isn't one of those dodgy chain letters!

But you'll be doing me a big favour and helping me to make more independent music available.

Many thanks for your support,
Chris