As a technology-focused consultancy we spend a lot of time talking about our industry specifically but in reality, communications and the use of technology touches every industry and everyone. There’s no escaping it.
So, to look at things from a different perspective, I decided to talk to Michael Linney, AKA The Hedonist about digital channels and all that jazz. After all, the world of entertainment is built solely on communications – where better to start. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: I understand that you are a Jazz DJ in your own time, can you tell me about that and who you DJ for?
I’m a radio show host for UK Jazz Radio which airs my weekly programme known as “Hedonist Jazz”. I’m also an active cloudcaster on Mixcloud where I hold the title of Jazz Embassador. In that role, I promote and encourage the jazz category which is really bringing the genre of jazz to a whole new online and digital audience.
Q: So, tell me how your passion for jazz music came about?
Initially my passion was fuelled by my father who loved the 1950’s-style crooners (Frank, Dean, Sammy etc) as well as others like Buddy Rich, Cleo Lane and Johnny Dankworth. But really it was the jazz funk scene of the 1980’s – I was listening to bands like Brass Construction, BTExpress and Ohio Players and the roots for me began from there. I was always frequenting the clubs in London and the occasional weekender at Caister when I could afford it. This introduced me to the CTI and Blue Note labels – and then the seeds were truly sewn.
Q: So, what does the future hold for jazz music – it always sounds so old fashioned?
I believe the future of jazz music lies in innovation and improvisation. The answer is in its own history. Mixing jazz with RAP, hip-hop and spoken word is updating things for today’s audience. I don’t like to think as jazz as a sound, it’s more than that. It’s a feeling.
Q: What have the new digital channels done for Jazz and why did you choose to work with an alternative outlet for your music?
It’s now so much easier to mix and sample digital music than it ever was on more traditional things like vinyl. For live gigs, I no longer need to load a small mini bus with crates of vinyl, I simply turn up with my MacBook and USB connected turntable and can perform. At live gigs I also use Mixlr for live broadcasting across the net. Today, for sampling tracks, I use WhoSampled which identifies the track used for sampling so I can recognise an artist in a track. For new mixes use Audicity for building a mix which I do by adding samples and loops over traditional jazz tracks which gives the track an updated sound. So, it’s become so much easier. I no longer have to dig for music in second hand shops because sites like iTunes, JunoRecords.com and others allow me to source rare tracks which would have eluded me or caused me to spend hours searching in the past.
I build my shows via Audicity and upload my shows to the MixCloud platform where I have amassed over 20,000 unique followers in the last three years. I usually promote the shows via Twitter and Facebook and MixCloud provides automatic links to do this so that each time I upload a new show, my followers are notified and can listen, share, leave comments, favourite my shows etc. For me, that makes all the effort that goes into building a show worthwhile. I regularly receive positive comments from my listeners around the globe which inspires me to continue and challenges me to be even better at the quality of mixes and shows I put together.
In addition, I voice over the tracks on the show and this has helped me to build a digital personality – otherwise it would just be playing records which anyone can do, without the added value of the information on the music I provide.
Q: Do you think this is the way forward for music generally?
The digital channels and internet radio stations are definitely the way forward; the traditional FM channels are being replaced. We’re seeing music hosting sites being created on an almost weekly and real-time basis. I’m excited by this as it’s really helping to move jazz music and the new jazz pioneers to a younger and more dynamic audience.
Q: Do you have a brand and how have you established and built that brand?
Yes, I thought it would be good to promote that feeling I talked about. The pleasure is all in the mix. So my brand, The Hedonist, is a nod to that.
Through digital channels and this brand I’ve managed to befriend established, well known artists and bands such as Greg Foat, Nialah Porter, Jessica Lauren & Empirical to discuss their work, receive exclusive promo copies of their work and wherever possible meet up for interviews. In terms of variety of artists that I’ve worked with, I’m proud to promote the ecosystem of the industry too. People like B.Lowe (a rapper), Christopher D Sims (spoken word), Jazz Jousters (music producers), Gary Reader (a saxophonist) and Ian Chalk (a trumpeter) are all part of my world.
Q: What’s next for 2014? Tell me about your idea for a New Jazz Collective?
For 2014, I’m involved in something called “The New Jazz Collective”. Over the last 3 years on MixCloud I’ve met (virtually) some amazing, like-minded jazz DJ’s / broadcasters who share my passion in its many shapes and forms. Julian in the US, Max in Italy, Dick in Belgium, Jake and I in the UK have recently launched this collaborative project where we regularly record sound clashes between us and other invited guests. We also recently added our recordings of interviews with established and up-and-coming artists to attempt to get under their passion for jazz. This collective is all about what we believe to be the future of jazz and these shows are also available via MixCloud to our collective followers and fans. What we are doing is bringing jazz up to the minute. It’s not just for the passionate few – together we have over 100,000 followers and our objective is to build a wider and deeper audience and recognition for this incredible music genre.
The potential for us lies in promoting new artists and eventually launching our own digital recording label.
Q: How popular have channels like MixCloud become?
I could probably list about 100 channels to upload your music to, but unless you have a dedicated promotional team working for you then you’re not going to have much time available to keep 100 different sites updated with your latest news and latest tracks. In my view the top 10 places that are essential for hosting a web presence for your music are these. From our collective digital experience, we have gained the most listeners from this list of sites and therefore we believe they are a must for uploading your tracks. From the top and in no particular order;
- SoundCloud – This site has some great looking widgets which allow you to paste your tracks elsewhere and we especially love the comment system where you can comment on a specific point in a track. Upload up to 10 tracks on a standard free account. If you want more you have to pay. But the free account is pretty decent.
- ReverbNation – While you cannot directly upload your music on Facebook, by using ReverbNation you can easily post your music to your Facebook account using their Facebook Apps. You will probably get some listeners through ReverbNation too and get to use lots of their cool features.
- TheSixtyOne – Upload your music and the name of the track stays hidden for 24 hours. Members of the site will spend their credits on liking your track, if lots of members like your track you’re going to get on the front page. This site is a great way to get listeners and ultimately new fans.
- OurStage – Upload your music into their monthly contest and you will be paired up randomly with other tracks for people to vote on which one they like the best. More votes get you to the top of the leaderboard and ultimately to win prizes at the end of the month.
- Jamendo – This site lists tracks that have been released under a Creative Commons license, if you’ve made yourself an album there’s no reason why you can’t upload a few tracks to promote your other music. Maybe place some of your older tracks on there to draw in some new fans.
- MySpace – I doubt that anyone with an internet connection hasn’t come across this site. It is almost essential to have a web presence here. Upload your tracks into the MySpace player, design your page and keep the MySpace blog updated with important news about your music.
- Imeem – Create an artist account here and you can upload your tracks into their huge database of music. It is also a very social site allowing people to share music with each other.
- Last.fm – People who have the Last.fm application installed can share with friends what they’ve been listening to, but if you sign up for an account you can upload your music and it will appear on your artist page and be discovered when people search for similar musicians to ones that they already like.
- SoundClick – Upload your music to the SoundClick community and you’ll be placed into the charts for each genre, you’ll also get an artist page to link to your other social network accounts.
- iLike – Allows you to upload your music and more, apparently there is 50 million people using the service so it’s a place you can’t ignore. Also allows you to paste your music into Facebook like ReverbNation does above.
Q: How compelling is social media in raising your profile and following for the music?
Digital communication channels have revitalised my love for my passion, I’ve been able to share my work and my feeling for this wonderful music in so many new ways and generate real interest, following and finding new friends through the medium of the Internet. I’m not sure what my Father would think about it all if he were alive today, but I do know that if he’d been able to influence a wider audience and educate them to the magic of jazz, he too would be joining me at my virtual digital decks.