You might remember the name Bob Crain from our recent article The Top 39 Annoying Things Venues Do.
Bob and I have had some in-depth conversations about the plight of the indie musician – you know, the average joe like us. Those who make up the musician “working class”.
We have discussed everything from the disconnect between local venues and local artists to over-hyped marketing by technology companies which results in profiting off of naive artists (we were all there once). Bob is highly involved in the Melbourne indie music scene and he will go into that in this interview.
The interview is one of our longest yet so for those that hate reading; we have broken it into 2 parts AND we will have streaming audio available soon through our podcast and video channels. Mr. Crain shares decades worth of experience, knowledge and valuable insight in this interview.
You’re a man that wears many hats. Let our readers know a little bit about the things you are involved in.
Well besides being a family man with a wife, two kids, three dogs and a cat … that almost sounds like a full time commitment itself, but I do tend to cram a lot in to the standard 7 day week. To support my habits I have a job as a consultant which does afford me some flexibility and enough funding to get by.
Musically I wear quite a few hats mostly because I choose to do so and am too stubborn to know better. I am a solo songwriter/singer/guitarist in that order, I have just recently registered my 50th song and songwriting is foremost in my mind as a musician. I have a gigging band called Ashbury Medicine Show which is a flexible entity moving from duo to five piece depending on who happens to be riding on the medicine show wagon at the moment.
I am an advocate and supporter of what I refer to as the “working poor” musicians here in my community of Melbourne, Australia.”
I am an advocate and supporter of what I refer to as the “working poor” musicians here in my community of Melbourne, Australia. That is those of us at the very lowest end of the music business food chain, independent original music artists slogging their gear in and out of the dives, bars, clubs and pubs night after night with little to show for our efforts except for tired eyes and an achy head as we shuffle off to our day jobs the following morning.
How do I advocate for this tribe, I am constantly battling the forces of evil in the music world although at times it seems that it is the musicians themselves being their own worst enemies that are the toughest nuts to crack? How do I support, I push where ever I can I have had a running battle with our Artist Rights Organization APRA to try to get more financial and general support for the “working poor” which has been somewhat like talking to brick wall.
I have advocated for the working poor on Musician Pages and Sites wherever I can and I don’t hold my punches when it comes to doing it. I speak out about thieves stealing our gear, about venues taking advantage of musicians, and the band eat band world we exist in sometimes.
A couple of years ago I thought maybe the best way to keep the gig calendar full, for us down here in the working class, is to work as a group with similar artists, I got together with a couple of other original trios and formed The Tasty Trios and that was the start of what tends to be my major support effort which I am sure I will get a chance to expand on later in this interview. Besides all of that I breed and train working English Setters, play a bit of basketball and watch a lot of ice hockey on TV at the moment…go figure.
What’s your favorite part of the Melbourne music scene? What do you think makes it unique?
I suppose my favorite part is the variety and breadth of original songwriters and musicians that live here and work the live original music scene. The original music that is being written in Melbourne covers everything from lullaby to hip hop not leaving many genre stones unturned.
I think what makes it unique besides the songwriting is the fact that it is generally considered the “Mecca” of music in Australia … once you have conquered your city, town or region the next stop is Melbourne to hit the big time and the bright lights … unfortunately most were blinded by the light and soon come to realize that there is a lot of competition here and you are right back at the bottom of the heap despite your reputation in Bendigo, Adelaide, Newcastle or Brisbane.
In many ways you could compare it to Nashville as the “Mecca” of Country Music or Hollywood as the “Mecca” of the acting game…and I suspect the level of disappointment is much the same when you find out that everyone else is here battling for the few good parts that are left.
That may sound pessimistic but that is where the passion has to click in at this level because if it doesn’t all is lost and you might as well return home.
I’ve had the honor of sharing some in-depth conversations about social media and digital marketing with you. What’s the biggest challenge us musos face in the era of social media?
Yes it is a much different world than the one I was brought up in musically and it seems that the changes both technological and business wise are coming faster than one can keep up with, as soon as you get something under control and working for you the rug is shifted if not pulled out all together.
I suspect I could off the top of my head list 50 things in the music and music biz (two different yet sometimes related things music and the music biz) that did not exist 15 years ago but are just standard stuff today and probably another 50 that were outdated in the interim … Myspace would be an example of what I am talking about an extinct dinosaur of the music world.
Social Media they now have university degrees in Social Media yet I still see it as a wild and yet to be broken mustang. As soon as you think you have it under control it takes off and bucks in the opposite direction and off you go. Every day I have to make a decision do I get on and ride or do I sit back and watch it run around in the paddock.
Yes you and I have had in depth discussions on the subject and on many occasions we have had to come back the next day and start again from scratch because it changed over-night. But social media and the digital revolution aren’t “music” they are components of “the music business” as I said before two different things whose lines sometimes intersect.
But social media and the digital revolution aren’t “music” they are components of “the music business” as I said before two different things whose lines sometimes intersect.”
It reminds me somewhat of a fellow I used to play with in a cover band some years ago we quite often butted heads as he was of the “it’s about the show” faith and I came from “it’s about the music” tribe” he wore Hawaiian shirts but I wanted the music and the lyrics to be the center point … there is that division between the music and the music business.
Funny a reference to it wound up in the lyrics to a song I wrote some time after that band disintegrated called The Soloist which is on my CD HUMANOLOGY 101 – “clashing agendas or egos who knows…is it the music or is it the show”. Is it the music or is it the show I suppose that is a question each has to answer for themselves and this interview won’t go on long enough for you and I to tear it apart and put it back will it.
As far as what is the biggest challenge I think it is trying to get one jump ahead of the music business. Let’s take for example Sonicbids … Sonicbids in its inception and original practice as a digital tool for independent musicians at a very low cost was to me at the time the best thing since sliced bread.
It had everything you needed to be in the game in a relatively simple format EPK, access to Festivals, music uploads, record keeping functions and I was probably only using it at 60 – 70% when it got blown up. I don’t blame the guy who developed it and sold it for a really nice return, good on him.
Had he known at the time that the only intention of the people he sold it to was to blow it up he may have had second thoughts. The fact is that Sonicbids was providing a valuable tool to independence to musicians and to Festivals and Venues thus cutting in to the profits and shutting out the bloodsuckers from so many musicians and end users.
Unfortunately that is the music business if you can’t join ‘em blow them up. Why I mention this is if I would have had the foresight to see what was coming I would have tried to jump past Sonicbids to the next logical space…but I was old and naïve and didn’t see it coming … I believe I am much more prepared now. Prepared for what you ask … the downfall of Facebook as a tool for independent musicians. The chess pieces are beginning to fall as we have discussed and I believe that a musicians website and Search Engine Optimization are the key to the future for independent musicians in the digital/social media world we live in.
If the video killed the radio star the internet has certainly killed, or at least rendered it helpless the CD, and trying to stay a step ahead of the changes in the music business, digital marketing, the internet, social media is a full time job mainly because it is changing by the minute, there is information overload … and a lot of shysters, bloodsuckers, and scammers out there.
It is really difficult to find the time to sift through the gravel to find that gold nugget when it comes to what is going to work for you in the digital age. I am extremely thankful that though another digital submission source I stumbled in to MTM … or they stumbled in to me.
You guys have proved to be a valuable resource in clearing away some of the fog that surrounds the new age of the music business, the internet, social media etc. I notice you guys have jumped on to a platform called Vidscape which I haven’t had time to investigate as yet but this is the kind of information that one needs to try to get that one new platform ahead … that eventually becomes the next big thing and you got on the wagon early … before the Big Music Money buys it out, forces it in to some legal action, or just plain blows it up.
There are books being written, university courses being offered and entire programs dedicated to trying to fathom the digital, social media, internet business world and how it can be ridden safely in to the future … great but I am a musician, a songwriter, a wordsmith along with the rest of my life chores, the time is not allocated for it so you have to really compress your sources of information to the ones you feel you can trust … so thanks again MTM.
And like one of my songs goes “the roads in rock and roll don’t have no Dead End signs you just gotta run down the road and see what you find” so if you can limit those “roads” to the ones with the best chances of success via research you spend a bit less time “running” and a bit more time doing… if you get my drift.
the roads in rock and roll don’t have no Dead End signs you just gotta run down the road and see what you find”
Part 2 coming soon. Please use the buttons below to share this article and continue the conversation.