Category Archives: social media

Awesome New Things: Bombay Bicycle Club Video, St. Vincent Single

Bombay Bicycle Club releases video for “The Shuffle”
There was a while there where I listened to Bombay Bicycle Club’s “The Shuffle” fairly obsessively. Who can blame me, really–it’s damn catchy, and it’s the only offering so far from their anticipated third album, A Different Kind of Fix (out August 29th). The video shows them in their mega-star touring mode, using footage from various recent festivals. Needless to say that when I saw them in London a couple years ago (at the Old Queen’s Head), it was a wee bit different.

St. Vincent releases “Surgeon”, first single off Strange Mercy
Rest assured, I’ll be writing more about St. Vincent’s social media campaign for Strange Mercy. For now, I’ll just give you the link to stream/download the ethereal track “Surgeon”. Enjoy!
Strange Mercy is due September 12th, along with a billion other albums (Laura Marling, Peggy Sue, Slow Club), which basically guarantees that my headphones will have to be soldered off my head.

My First Spotify Playlist

It’s taken me a bit to get going on Spotify. I’m currently enjoying the benefits of the free service, and so far I’m liking it. I can see why so many people switched to the paid service within a couple days, though–I want to use it on my damn phone!

In honor of the fact that Klout was giving out free Spotify accounts (it crashed the site, but that’s another story…), my first Spotify playlist is related to something about which Klout thinks I’m influential: fitness. Apparently I tweet more about the gym than I thought I did, and I suspect most of it has to do with my admittedly unorthodox workout tunes. Yes, I have the requisite Gaga, but I also have the Mariner’s Children, Bob Dylan, and Tune-Yards. Probably not typical.

To jam with my weird-ass workout music, check out my rather substantial Spotify playlist here. And I promise, the Lowly Knights really do provide good elliptical tunes.

Also, check out the new Girls single, “Vomit”, here. It’s great and gives me massive San Francisco pride. Local bands represent!

Spotify Coming Tomorrow?

According to Mashable, Spotify is making its US debut tomorrow morning. While the free version will be extended to users via invites over the next few weeks, people can sign up for both paid versions ($4.99/month for unlimited, ad-free service or $9.99/month for premium mobile service) tomorrow. Read more at the Mashable link above.

For those of you looking for a good explanation of Spotify (as well as a screen shot), head to One Thirty BPM.

Spotify FINALLY Coming to the US!

I’ll likely write more on this later, but for now I’ll just leave this screen shot here… because the days of drooling over Spotify from afar will soon be over. No details have been announced yet about things like pricing, or even timing, but keep an eye on the Spotify site (link below).

Click here to sign up for an invite.


It’s the Community, Stupid: How Terra Naomi Got the Picture

By now, we all know the tale of Justin Bieber: baby-faced preteen posts videos on Youtube and croons his way to superstardom. It’s the Web 2.0 Cinderella story, where L.A. Reid is Prince Charming and Usher is the fairy godmother. But before the Biebs and his hair won us over, another singer successfully used Youtube as a promotional platform: Terra Naomi.

The singer-songwriter launched a ‘virtual tour’ from her Hollywood apartment in the summer of 2006, back when Myspace was the king of online music and lonelygirl15 was all the rage on Youtube. The video of her song “Say It’s Possible” did indeed lead to a label deal, but that wasn’t Terra’s happy ending. Her story, once again set on the social media frontier, is still being written–this time, with the help of 2010 iPhone App of the Year Hipstamatic.

Terra realized very early on that participation trumps broadcasting. The narrative she developed through her ‘tour’ was part of groundbreaking shifts in music discovery, consumption, and promotion. Youtube became an outlet not just for struggling artists, but for fans–the original recording of “Say It’s Possible” generated hundreds of covers in just the first several months (see some diverse interpretations of the song here). Terra’s raw, unedited Youtube videos inspired fans to collaborate in her development as an artist and personal brand, and she was able to create a loyal following. In other words, she built a community.

This dialogue between artist and consumer is one of the things we all love (and to a certain extent, take for granted) about the social media age. Consumers increasingly yearn for ‘realness’: it’s why we watch intimate performance sessions (like these), why we flocked to the Coachella live stream, why folk music flourishes in an increasingly electro world. We want to know there’s a real person at the other end of the ethernet cord (or wireless router), and we want that person to speak and listen. Terra Naomi has taken that ethos to heart—indeed, her sophomore album, To Know I’m OK, was funded entirely by fans through PledgeMusic (see more of my posts on PledgeMusic here).

So where does Hipstamatic come in?

We all know Hipstamatic as the driving force behind those awesome analog-style photos; Instagram was just an ickle baby when Hipstamatic was winning Apple’s iPhone App of the Year. The self-described ‘art kids from Wisconsin’ were on the same page as Terra long before they ever met: they gave users a creative way to express themselves and engage in the brand’s development. They also value authenticity, letting the vintage camera metaphor guide usability choices and the app’s aesthetic. Hipstamatic, like Terra Naomi, has a story—and they encourage users to help write it.

Terra sought out ‘Director of Fun’ (seriously) Mario Estrada and the rest of the like-minded Hipstamatic team to be involved in her album launch, and they heartily agreed. Not only did they again collaborate with photographer Ben Watts (they’d previously worked with Watts on the Bondi Hipstapak) for her cover art, they also broke new social media ground. Terra and the Hipstas created the first ever app-based, crowdsourced music video for “You for Me”, using submissions from a Hipstamatic contest.

The 10,000 photo submissions answered the question ‘What do you love?’, further illustrating that people are using digital tools to express age-old emotions. The chosen images, selected primarily by the Hipstamatic community itself, were woven together by director Alex Albrecht (Diggnation, The Totally Rad Show) into a thoroughly modern piece of collaboration. While crowdsourcing for music videos is becoming increasingly prevalent, this particular contest/creative effort is truly unique. It’s not the virtual choir created by Eric Whitacre, or the fan video contest recently launched by Junip. It’s not even the Michael Jackson tribute video released earlier this month. It’s somewhere in the middle—sweeter, simpler, and much more inclusive. And again, it was created using an effing iPhone app.

On June 21st, the Haus of Hipstamatic hosted Terra’s album launch party, which included the inaugural episode of their Summer Sessions concert series. Following the premiere of the “You for Me” video, Terra’s live set was streamed on Hipstamatic’s Ustream channel—proving once again she and the Hipstas hadn’t forgotten the extended virtual family that got them there. The live stream bridged the gap between digital and actual, much as the Hipstamatic app does itself, and brought together the various forces that made it all possible.

Hipstamatic launched a creative form that champions a ‘social media’ mentality, encouraging others not just to participate, but to continue to engage (Hipstapaks are the new Pokemon cards: gotta catch ’em all!). Places like are similarly changing the game, bringing established sites of interaction (DJing, clubs, chat rooms) together to form something entirely new. At the heart of all these digital endeavors, though, lies two quintessential human desires: expression and connection.

One of the biggest criticisms of the digital era is that it isolates us. We never need to leave our houses, let alone strike up conversations in line at the grocery store. But years of experience on the web have told me a different story, and it’s one that Terra Naomi has helped create. The key to success in the modern age—especially when it comes to art, music, entertainment, and all kinds of innovation—is to include others in your growth. Maybe you’re not (yet) selling out the Fillmore, but you can start getting to know the people who’ll one day buy advance tickets.

Trying to break into the 21st century music biz? Take some pages from Terra Naomi’s book:

Communicate, communicate, communicate.
By ‘communicate’, I don’t mean ‘talk at’. Instead, be an authentic person who genuinely wants to nurture conversation with listeners. If I get an auto-DM from a band I’ve just followed on Twitter, I’ll click that ‘unfollow’ button real fast. If everything you post ends with the URL for your Bandcamp page, ditto.

Embrace new platforms.
Facebook and Twitter are the tips of the social media iceberg. Look for up-and-comers like, or sites like Tumblr that are continuing to expand. Don’t forget to check out other useful tools like Bandcamp and Topspin, and get a BandPage for your Facebook. If you really want to bypass the labels, look to PledgeMusic to fund your music-related projects. (And if you’re in the Bay Area and want the heads-up on all the buzziest music tools, head to September’s SF MusicTech Summit. Tweet me in advance or come find me—I look like my logo—and say hello.)

Ask for help.
I remember reading Hardball by Chris Matthews for a Berkeley political science class and being a bit puzzled by one of his main points: “It’s Better to Receive Than to Give”. Turns out, this mantra works for more than just politics. Whether you’re asking fans for money on PledgeMusic or just giving them the opportunity to enter a contest, people like to be engaged. On a different scale, Terra asked the Hipstamatic team to get involved, and they did—in a big way.

Let other people write part of your story.
Social media needs to be organic. As a brand or artist, you can only facilitate so much growth on your own. The beauty of the Hipstamatic fan base is that it operates largely independently: these fierce brand evangelists contribute because Hipstamatic gives them an outlet for self-expression. Terra Naomi didn’t ask anyone to post a cover on Youtube, but her fans chose to engage with her in a (then-)new way.

New-Folk Family Tree

Folk* Connections

Just a funny little image I saw in my Tumblr feed today. Illustration courtesy of Joe Collins. What’s hilarious to me, nerd that I am, is that this isn’t at all a complete look at the interconnectedness of the London new-folk ‘scene’. Nearly everyone in this picture has denied the existence of said scene, but–really? If it walks like a duck….

Update: just discovered that Joe Collins is a writer for For Folk’s Sake. Which I also occasionally write for, and just generally love. Small world!

Arcade Fire Knows Where You Live.

Apple taught us that a tech company can launch a music career. Their well-placed song selections have sent Feist and others to semi-superstardom; Mashable calls it “the Apple Effect“. And while promotion is a two-way street, it’s much rarer to find a band launching tech (product placement in Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” video notwithstanding).

Uber-hip Canadian rockers Arcade Fire have done exactly that with the release of The Wilderness Downtown, an interactive film supporting the new single off their album The Suburbs. “We Used To Write” provides the background and content cues for Chris Milk’s innovative video project, which uses HTML5 and was designed for Google Chrome. It’s certainly the most compelling endorsement of a web browser–well, ever, and utilizes the popular Google Street View to create an individualized user experience. The nifty effects and touches not only highlight the potential of HTML5, but the seemingly limitless possibilities for future music videos and other experiential music projects. Furthermore, Arcade Fire et al definitely get Internet buzz generation: not only has The Suburbs already been dominating the blogosphere, participants in The Wilderness Downtown can share their personalized films and digital postcards with their friends and networks.

Arcade Fire and their web developer friends are part of the music industry’s rapidly shifting landscape. If a music video doesn’t even have to be (entirely) a video, what’s next? Maybe I should give MTV a little more credit for switching their programming away from actual music. Perhaps they just saw the writing on the wall–or, in this case, computer screen.