To me it is a no-brainer—there are exponentially more possibilities available to the double bassist using the digital toolboxes provided with blogging and podcasting systems than there have ever been in traditional print and audio distribution. Here are some reasons why:
Ability to communicate globally—quickly!
Even the most prestigious double bass print journals (Double Bassist, Bass World) only come out a few times a year. There simply isn’t the market to sustain a more frequently distributed print journal/magazine…. in traditional media, that is. That is why I believe that blogging will eventually beat up and take the lunch money of print media in just about all niche markets. The economics don’t make sense for niche producers under old models of content production. Print costs cash, and the size of the publication and frequency of distribution are severely curtailed by this reality. High production costs require a lot of advertising supported revenue, which tends to make the content within bland and mass-market oriented. Like fast food, print content seeking to reach people on a daily or weekly basis must cater to the lowest common denominator to ensure enough advertising and purchase revenue to support production costs.
Niche content can never generate the requisite advertising base needed to enable widespread distribution on anything more than a monthly basis. Print content producers run into a ceiling on distribution frequency. There can’t be a 25 page newspaper about, for instance, skateboarding that is distributed to every household in the world every single day. The numbers don’t add up. It can’t happen in print. And if it can’t happen with skateboarding, do you think it could ever happen with double bass?
But it can online….
Lower Barriers to User Participation
Think about it—Bass World comes out once every four months. I make four double bass posts a day on my blog. If you want to submit to Bass World, you must:
- Compose and print up an article
- Type up a cover letter
- Mail these items to the ISB World Office (paying for postage, etc.)
- At best, wait many months to even hear about the possibility of your item being published
Even if it is published, how many people read it? Let’s be honest. How many people actually read every article and submission in every Bass World? I don’t, and look at what kind of a bass geek I am!
Also, when (or even if) your submission is published, that’s it. It goes on the shelves or (gulp!) in the trash of bass players, with a low probability of being easily referenced.
Submit something to my blog, and it goes up the next day or two. You get credited, and any links to your website, e-mail, school, a biography, or any other such information is included. As of this writing, thousands of people read the blog each week, and that number keeps going up and up. Your content will be read by the bass blog community.
Submitting is quick and painless (an e-mail with a link, something you composed in Word, an audio track, etc.), and your work lives online forever. Due to good Google juice for my blog (and that is thanks to the great submissions I keep getting), when people search for the subject you wrote about (bows, fingerboards, bass strings, repertoire), your submission comes up.
The same is true for any popular website featuring a niche topic. This type of system allows the masses (and not a publisher) to determine the merit of submissions. Popular submissions get links from other websites, get e-mailed around, and float up even higher in the search rankings. We all collectively determine the merit of submissions.
Also, there is no size limit or page limit that I need to worry about when putting up submissions. That is one of the cool things about blogging! The blogging engine neatly files away all old content but allows instant access to this content. This is not a luxury that print publications have! Bass World needs to limit itself to 100 pages every four months (with much of it taken up by advertising). I can put up 100 pages of content every day if I like, and the blogging engine handles it with ease.
I am not ripping on Bass World. I have been an International Society of Bassists member for 16 years. I have old journals stacked up on shelves all over my music studio (I do NOT throw them away!). When I was an undergraduate at
The same scenario is true for any magazine or journal, even mainstream publications like Time and Newsweek. As a long-time subscriber to Time Magazine, I have definitely noticed ever-greater references to Time.com within the print magazine. The print magazine almost serves as the tip of the iceberg to a whole world of online content through Time.com. The same is true for the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, CNN, NBC, and any other mainstream media publication or news service. It’s all moving online. Print—even daily newspapers – becomes more archaic with each passing day.
I happen to be a person who enjoys print media. I subscribe to newspapers and magazines, and I like reading novels. I read print media all the time, and in many ways I prefer sitting down with a crisp newspaper to clicking around in my web browser.
But that’s the way things are headed. And we niche-content aficionados can take a cue from our big-media brethren. The possibilities on the page are limited. Four corners stapled together, delivered by mail or bought on the newsstand, printed and mailed at a substantial cost to a select number of subscribers. Compare this model to the infinite connections across all cities, countries, and continents that the internet provides, information zipping back and forth at incomprehensible speed. A blog entry can include video, music, interviews, text, photos, and links to other information. Try doing that with a page of text in a magazine!
I love knowledge and I love information, and more than anything I love easy access to information. THAT is one of the things that propels me to maintain and grow this blog, and it is the reason why I started the Contrabass Conversations podcast. When we come together as a community, whether it be a bass convention, recital, or even us all over the world sitting down with the latest copy of Bass World, we all learn, grow and become better musicians in the process. But Bass World only comes out once every four months. Conventions only happen once every two years. Bass recitals happen in disparate locations all over the world. We need to bring this material together as a community, because we all learn from each other. The tools are out there to do just this, and that is what I am trying to do with this blog and with Contrabass Conversations.
Bringing performances, interviews, downloads, educational resources, and daily news into one place with access barriers is the wave of the future, and we bass players have all the tools at our disposal to create and grow just such a community. Future generations will witness the democratization of content. Rather than accepting one content producer’s information blindly (whether it be NBC, the New York Times, or any other news source), we help to create content and let the greater community of users decide its virtue. The social news site Digg.com is a prime example of such a community, and I am trying to do the same thing (albeit on a much humbler scale) with the bass community here on this blog.
Building a Body of Work
Knitting the Bass Community Closer Together
By keeping production costs low, blogs and podcasts have the luxury of creating content that is not interesting to the masses, but it highly interesting to a select slice of the population. This is significant. The wider a net one tries to cast, the more content needs to be watered down for the widest possible appeal. When Tide detergent wants to run a commercial in traditional media, they’re looking for advertising opportunities that reach the most eyeballs possible. The dumbing down of content necessary to assure those big numbers inevitably produces content that is somewhat interesting to a lot of people. The more specific and niche a topic, the harder it is to attract advertisers. High production costs and lower advertising revenue make regular production of niche topic programming quite prohibitive in a traditional media environment.
Blogs and podcasts provide another path to audience engagement. Costs are low. Expenses can be recouped more easily. An audience of thousands that is highly engaged can ultimately be just as appealing for advertisers as is a larger but only modestly engaged audience.
Even producing a journal for a few thousand members costs a fair amount of cash, and this cash must be recouped through membership fees. This cost also limits the number of publications possible each year. The nature of digital distribution and the low cost of blogging and podcasting allow for daily content with no membership fees, subscription requirements, or any other such barriers to entry. The purchase of supplemental materials (sheet music, T-shirts, calendars, etc.) and advertising revenue can ensure a profit for the content creator, and the social nature of such distribution methods encourages more audience and reader participation and, ultimately, a more satisfying and engaging experience.
I would love to hear reader’s thoughts on the impact of technology in the world of the double bass as well as music in general. I think that we are entering an exciting era for music, and adaptability to new circumstances is paramount for us to move forward in this new media environment.