Some Reasons To Go With In-Ear Monitoring

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I have talked about the importance of monitoring systems in a previous post or two, and how I believe that many bands have it backwards when it comes to where they put their money and thought in building out their live audio gear.  Most immediately jump in to the FOH (Front of House) configuration, pouring all they have into the PA, with the stage monitoring system being an afterthought.  I will probably be writing more on that topic in the future, however I want to take a few minutes to give this neglected subject a little of the attention that it deserves.

The default for most bands and their stage monitoring setup has traditionally been floor wedges and power amps, with maybe 2 mixes being fed by the main mix console (using either a monitor section on the board, extra auxiliary send channel, or a combination of both).  It is the floor wedges and power amps that I want to focus on here.  I have long been a huge fan and proponent of IEM based monitoring systems, having used them for the first time 10 years ago and never gone back to the old school floor wedge configuration.  There are many reasons, but I want to point out a few of them that stand out here.
Good things come in small packages

The first huge advantage of in-ear monitor systems is that they require a fraction of the amount of gear than that of traditional wedge based systems.  Not only that, you do away with the heavy lifting of floor wedges and power amp racks.  In-ear monitors don’t use power amplification, rather headphone amplification that often comes in a 1U rack-mounted unit.  So, it goes without saying that your load in and setup time is reduced to virtually nothing when you implement a well thought out IEM system design.

Another built-in benefit of in-ear monitoring systems is consistent and quality sound.  Now, the old rule "garbage in, garbage out" applies here, but when you figure that your in-ear monitors, or "ears", are your monitor speakers, and that they are set up in the same place every gig (your ear), you have essentially eliminated a huge acoustic variable that floor wedges bring.  This means that what you hear will be fairly consistent no matter what venue you are playing in, whether it’s a small club or a large stage.  Many who use IEM systems talk about the "15 minute sound check".  There are factors that go into that consistency, and IEM systems alone are not the only answer to what it takes for sound checks to be consistently short.  But I will say that IEM’s have allowed my band to go on with NO soundcheck at times, and at the very least they always give us a sense of feeling at home (the consistency) no matter where we play.
You can take the quality factor up a notch with stereo monitor mixes.  While it’s not required, stereo, IMHO, is a big deal. Once you go stereo, and then have an issue that causes your IEM to go mono for an evening–or even a set, you will feel like the depth and color of that sound goes away.  It can be a huge disappointment.  What stereo does is gives you the ability to add a degree of depth and separation.  In my experience, I have found that stereo panning and separation is a huge dimension that actually contributes to the inspiration and energy of the band, in our experience.
Talking a bit more about quality, the isolation that in-ear monitors provide also means that you are going to hear a lot more in your mix, both good and bad.  Now, the bad isn’t really bad, it’s actually good.  You will actually start to hear a lot of the mistakes and subtleties that tend to get lost in the wash of stage volume of floor wedge systems, allowing you to correct and adjust.  I have found even just this aspect of IEM systems to be a beneficial tool in helping me improve my performance and musicianship.
High volume–the musician’s occupational hazard
High volume levels are not only dangerous to your hearing, they can also be dangerous to your career.   Without wedges, again, you lose the stage volume factor out in the house by a good 90% most of the time. With IEM’s, you are able to take the volume of your backline down to a level low enough where the house still has a decent signal, yet the stage volume is manageable. This is a HUGE factor when playing clubs in particular, both for the FOH engineer (who gets to mix without competition from the stage) and the club manager who complains about volume. This has given my band incredible flexibility and the quality of the sound out in the house is incredible.
A good place to start looking at more information about this is Sensaphonics.  According to their site:
Sensaphonics Hearing Conservation was founded by audiologist Michael Santucci in 1985 as a research and development company committed to controlling the damaging effects of loud sound, especially regarding musicians and hearing loss. With the advent of in-ear monitor (IEM) systems in the early 90s, Sensaphonics developed custom-fitted earphones designed to act as hearing protectors, isolating performers from ambient sound while allowing the in-ear monitor mix to be heard more clearly, even at lower volumes.
My in-ear monitoring experience started there and they were an incredible source of insight into educating myself about the health benefits of in-ear monitoring systems.  I highly recommend that you spend a little time taking a look at the materials they have available.
You get to keep your arm and your leg…

There are many inaccurate perceptions about the cost of in-ear monitoring systems thinking that they are extraordinarily expensive.  Especially today, this is not the case.  Sure, you can knock yourself out and drop a load of jing on a system, but you can get into a very reasonable system that will sound great for the same price, if not cheaper, that a wedge based system.  When you get rid of the wedges and power amps that are required, and replace them with a single headphone amp and a pair of ears, the price can go down dramatically.  As for stereo, you may be thinking, "…but stereo is a lot more expensive…"  Depending on how many of your rigs are running stereo feeds to begin with, it won’t necessarily cost any more to run a stereo monitor mix, provided all of your lines are mono.  Keep in mind that IEM’s, i.e. the ear buds, are stereo to begin with as opposed to most standard wedges, and most (rack mounted) monitor boards have stereo configuration capabilities built in, so the only additional cost would be in channels required–again, how many of your rigs are running stereo feeds? If none are, then you require no additional channels.  All of this without throwing out your back.

So, to wrap up, the net/net of all of this is that an IEM system can be put together for the same amount of $$ if some creative thought is put into the design of the rig. In-ear monitors have been an integral part of my band’s overall technical design and have been a major factor in the continuous improvement in our live performances as well as the musicianship factor. Again, along with the hearing protection benefits, you actually start to hear everything–including all of your mistakes. This can help you to make corrections and tighten up even more. Lastly, IEM’s give you a consistent mix in your ears, regardless of where you are on the stage, so you are free to move about and not lose your "zone" while performing and interacting with the band and the crowd.  At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.



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Leveraging Technology

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It’s not news that technology has leveled the playing field for bands–both musicians and crew alike.  Two huge examples are the emergence of the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) and its impact on the accessability of professional recording tools, and modeling and DSP technologies which essentially give you an array of high-end boutique amplifiers, guitars and processing gear in the form of software.  Both of these examples are similar in that the prices for these items, both hardware and software, are so low compared to the original units, that quality sound is within reach of the average musician.  

However, along with the proliferation of these technologies, we have been flooded with an overwhelming quantity of choices that can be paralyzing, or confusing at best.  You need to filter through the endless list to find what you are looking for, which is a challenge in itself. With so many options, it doesn’t take long for your rig to become overly complex, making it easy to fall into a trap of spending more time on managing (read messing around with) the technologies than actually performing.  These things are supposed to make your life as a musician (or engineer) easier and even more enjoyable, not more difficult or complex.

The idea is to reduce complexity and streamline the experience of playing and performing.  Complexity translates into distractions.  So, technology can either be your best friend or your worst enemy, depending on the thought you put into the technologies and tools you choose, and why you are choosing them.  This is where creative use of technology, backed by a simplified design of the way it’s used.  Linking your devices via MIDI and storing configurations as patches is an age-old example, yet often underutilized even today.

These complexities also easily detract from the experience of the performance, both the audience’s as well as the band’s.  Leveraging technology is about supporting and improving the art, yet it can be easy to cross the line between art and mechanics.  Technologies and tools are only as effective as the one wielding them.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, the concept of knowing the “why” behind your being in a band also applies to the choices you make when leveraging technology in building your rig, and can make the difference between ending up bogged down in complexity or having a simple, streamlined setup that you don’t need to put much thought and effort in using.

That said, it’s safe to say that there is probably a bit of “gearhead” in all of us.  There is a certain cool factor in the different technologies that tends to hook us and reel us in.  It’s important to realize this and not simply get that new piece of gear for the sake of its technology if it’s really not going to fit into the flow of your routine.  This can be even more challenging for those genres that have a heavy foundation on technology.  

The long and short of it is to know why you are choosing a particular piece of technology, gear or tool.  Make sure it has a purpose, even if it’s as simple as the potential to inspire new and different tones and ideas–as long as there is a purpose besides simply adding a few more cool LED colors to the glow on your pedal board.  The idea is to leverage technology to allow you to focus on making and performing music, and growing and improving your craft.

Why Do You Play?

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The past several posts have focused on a lot of non-technical aspects of life in a band.  While this has been a departure from the technical bent of the Smart Musician, bear with me for a bit–I am going somewhere with this.  Promise.  At the core, while what it means may be different for each of us, we all desire, and intend, to succeed.  In order to do that, we need to ask a simple question:  why do we play?  Why are you in a band?  Why do you write, record or perform music?  Why do you mix sound?  Why do you design and run lighting?  All of these are really one and the same…Why do you do what you do?

It is likely difficult for most of us to actually express in words the answer to that question.  Now this may seem obvious and you are probably asking “what’s your point? Why is a given…”  The fact is that many of us get caught up in the details, often ending up being driven by them, losing sight of the “why”, or at least spending a disproportionate amount of time on things not directly related to why we are doing what we do.  For example, if we spend a total of 8-10 hours on any given gig–hauling gear, setting up, troubleshooting that buzz in the system (chasing ground loops, anyone??), fighting a “muddy” room, and end up squeezed for time, barely getting the first set going on time, stressed to the point where your performance suffers–you get the point, we’ve all been there.

But when you deliberately focus on the why, you start to strive for tipping the balance of that time and effort toward the activities that directly benefit your performance and creativity.  Gear and the tools of the trade are a given, but they are not the music, rather simply the tools that support the music and allow us to do what we are there to do.  When you approach your band activities from this standpoint, then you have a solid context to frame what and how you design your processes, procedures, tasks, etc…needed to pull off consistently successful gigs. 

So, instead of spending 7 out of the 10 hours at a gig on the technical side of things, wouldn’t it be nice to spend maybe 3 hours getting things set up and dialed in, leaving 3-4 hours for actually playing, and another 3 to focus on the music and your fans?  That is where the value is, and in my experience that value is achieved only when consciously knowing why you are there doing what you do in the first place.

What is getting in the way of your spending the majority of the time spent at a gig, rehearsal, studio session–whatever it may be–on the reason you’re there in the first place? 

Band Operations: The Neglected Focus

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Over the past 1-2 decades, technology has driven several game changing leaps that have not only leveled the playing field, but has been fueling a revolution in the music industry as a whole.  However, it’s not just technology and it’s impact on the affordability and accessibility of gear, which is small compared to how it changed the way music is distributed.  We now have the ability to reach a worldwide audience for next to no cost.  Technology has made it possible for independent/DIY musicians to create great recordings and sell those recordings, bypassing the old-school music industry.  It’s this same technology that gives us unprecedented access to information that helps us learn new things, share our discoveries and solve problems like never before.

As I’ve touched on in previous posts, I see a gap in the focus and activities of bands when it comes to how things are run.  It’s not surprising that there is relatively little attention given to thoughtfully creating processes around how a band is organized from the perspective of what needs to happen before and after the band takes the stage.  These types of activities have a tendency to be easily disorganized and a source of stress and tension that ultimately consumes energy, even creating negative energy, which does not help when you take the stage.  There are definitely aspects of gigging that aren’t fun, but there are ways to limit the impact or effort needed for those activities.

There also tends to be a strong resistance on the part of musicians to approach or even think of what they do as a business.  Many see it as selling out, while others either become overwhelmed or just plain don’t get it…that’s OK–you don’t need an MBA for your band to be successful.  It’s not about selling out or changing what you do, it’s really about how organized human effort works.  Whether your organization exists to make huge profits, or as a non-profit charity, or to simply make great music, there are several roles and activities that all organizations share in common, to one extent or another.

As in most businesses and other organizations, there are several key areas of discipline required to function, much less succeed in reaching your objectives.  For instance, there is production–the actual creation of your product, in this case–music; there is sales and marketing–you need to let people know who you are and try to convince them to buy your music; there is the accounting piece, managing the money that you make (and spend) making your music…there is also the technical aspect (IT) that relates to just that–the technology and systems you use to create and perform your music.  

Then there is what I see as the missing aspect–operations.  I see this as managing the planning, organization, strategy and processes a band needs in place to do what they do.   This is where the execution actually happens.  Managing the logistics, the communications, the coordination of team members (the band and crew) and how things go down on gig day–the mission.  In my experience, this tends to be the area where the least thought is put.  This doesn’t have to be complex, in fact the rule should be to keep it as simple as possible.  Who is responsible for the audio and lighting rigs?  What do those rigs look like?  What about merchandise?  Who is responsible for that?  Who is the representative of the band to the venue your playing at?  While this topic is so large and drives a chunk of what [the] Smart Musician is all about, we’re not going to cover it in detail here.  I am simply attempting to shed some important contextual light on the subject so that you can approach the decisions that you are faced with as a band with a solid foundation.

By identifying those areas where your band could use a solid (and repeatable) process to meet a particular need, you allow yourselves to get rid of one more thing that otherwise distracts you from performing at your peak.  The idea is to be efficient–don’t over-engineer the process or solution (read over-think) rather keep it as simple as possible.  This means that it is good to leverage technology where it makes sense, but definitely avoid using technology for technology’s sake.  This is the focus of [the] Smart Musician, the intersection of creative application of technology and technique to make your band’s operations as smooth and friction-free as possible.  

In my experience, this allows energies to be focused more positively on the core objective of your band, and the reason why you showed up to the gig in the first place.  By having a more relaxed environment, the quality of your craft will thrive, and synergistic growth of your creative strength will develop.  This is the ultimate win-win cycle to get into.  Like anything of value, it takes effort and imagination, but it will definitely pay off.  It’s about creating and performing great music, and doing anything you can to make it so the majority of your energy goes into doing just that.

The Importance of Mission

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There is one thing I can point out that made all the difference for our band, and that was that we knew exactly what our objectives were.  When it came to how we organized our operations–the “what” and “how” surrounding our execution, we had a simple mission:  

To create the best quality sound possible with as effort possible through creative design and the leveraging of technology.

This gave us a crystal clear view of what we needed to do, and made building our production virtually effortless.  It also took any guesswork out of our gigging activities and put us on a very confident and repeatable path, allowing us to be consistent in every aspect of our performances.  This was our edge.  This allowed us to reach a point where our setup–front of house, monitors, stage, instrument backline–everything took no more than 20-30 minutes.  There are so many other benefits that stemmed out of our deliberately identifying our objectives, our mission, which are a major part of what The Smart Musician was founded upon.

Everything starts with the basic question “why”.  Ours was to play good music with great musicians and to share a few hours during the weekend evenings with people who wanted to have a good time hanging out, dancing a bit and listen to live music.  We also had many years–decades, in fact, of experience that taught us that gigging is a lot of work, and like the majority of other bar bands, we were all holding down regular day jobs and had families.  This meant that if we were going to continue gigging, we needed to do it smart.

Starting with a clear sense of why we were doing what we do, and by having a clear mission we had solid parameters around how we operated, allowing us to pour all of our energy into our performance, which was massively improved because of how we approached our design, fueling our energy and drive even more.  It was like being a kid in a candy store, but it all started out with knowing our “why”, and intelligently building our operations on the solid foundation of our mission.

Working Smarter

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Contrary to what most people who don’t play in bands think, it’s a lot of work.  Hard work.  The fact that most of us don’t receive our primary source of income as musicians or playing in bands means that we’re probably holding down a day job to pay the bills.  Add a family into the mix, the idea of playing in a band can be a distant dream.  You need to have a high level of passion to act as motivation to get into this second job because the money (what little there is) alone isn’t enough.  Even with the passion, at some point you will end up asking yourself if it’s worth the effort, and for what?  We’ve all played gigs in front of a festival crowd more than a few times.

What I have learned over the years is that we have a tendency to make too much work for ourselves when playing a gig, for example, or even setting up to rehearse.  One thing that I have noticed is that there seems to be a big gap in how bands focus their time and energy;  it’s focused on the music, the marketing and the performance.  What about the band’s operations?  What is that, you ask?  Well, I see operations as everything besides the music itself or marketing or playing gigs.  It has to do with how you do what you do, and I don’t mean play your instruments or sing your tunes.  It’s about how the group is organized, how you plan and how you execute those plans.  This also encompasses logistics, gear configurations, technical strategy and where the focus is as far as money and complexity–and countless other things that, in my experience, most bands seem to lack.

However, when this gap is filled, the amount of effort that goes into actually making music goes down dramatically.  The next several posts will discuss various fundamentals of band operations and how changing the way your band approaches performing, either on stage or in the studio, can have a seriously positive impact on the quality, enjoyment and reward that comes from your music.  When you reduce the effort it takes to get on with the show, you start spending most of your time actually doing the thing that you’re actually there to do.

New School Year, New Projects

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There is something about the beginning of the school year, and officially bringing the Summer to a close, that sets the tone for getting back down to business and firing projects up that have been waiting patiently over the past several months.  There are 2 said projects for me which have a lot in common, and will both fuel each other to one degree or another.

Here at [the] Smart Musician, I have been working on laying a foundation for something I could feel, but not put a clear description or design to.  What I have known, and still do, is that I have a lifetime of experience(s) that I have wanted to share with other musicians, who are striving to practice their craft, in order to hopefully help make their experience doing so a more pleasant one.  This is the first project.

The second project is my first recording project in over 20 years.  A lot has changed in that time, including both styles, inspirations and technology.  This is an exciting venture that will bring with it a new learning curve as well as new possibilities.  Aside from using the metaphorical musical muscles that have not been exercised in a long time, getting my head around the details and use of the current recording technology has been proving to be another area where I am re-learning the process of recording.

The Smart Musician podcast started earlier this year with several episodes in an attempt to build momentum as well as deliver value, however that, too, just didn’t have that “thing” that I could put my finger on.  After several months, and over the Summer, I have put more of a focused context in place for those podcasts, as well as this blog.  Episodes will resume shortly under a new title: The TSM Music Technology Podcast.  The focus will be on just that—music technology.  This will also be the initial focus of the blog as well.

So, to get this all started, I will be sharing my experiences, thoughts, reflections, etc…as I go through the recording process from start to finish.  This will be a completely different experience from my last project, which will also provide another angle of contrast/comparison between recording technologies circa 1991 and 2011.  I am excited about this venture and am eager to share this relatively new experience with you all over the coming months.

What projects do you have in the works?

Talent Alone is Not Enough

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The landscape for musicians has changed, there’s no doubt about it.  It’s just crazy—on the one hand, the accessibility to the possibilities of a great sound (and not your Daddy’s demo-tape kinda sound) are within reach for just about, well, anyone…but on the other hand, however, the music industry as we have known it has been turned on its head, shaken, beaten and all but left for dead.  What amazes me is that in the middle of all of this, we still hear whining—probably more whining than in the past.

Why?  Well, this is where I give my observation (ok, opinion…) of what I see.  The fact that one is talented does not inherently demand that a living be provided based on that merit alone.  In fact, there is a concept that goes right over the heads of many, and I daresay possibly most, musicians who look at a full-time music career as a God-given right based on the virtue of that talent.  The fact is that it takes more than talent in the craft, but also skill in the art of running a business.  We can’t ignore the “business” part of the music business. 

I grew up in a family of business owners and entrepreneurs, and one of the key lessons I have learned is that most businesses fail within the first 2 years, if they’re lucky to have lasted that long.  This is not because they didn’t have a great product or service, but because the business of selling that product or service was not executed, or even planned in a manner which is required for that business to remain viable.  The music business is no different, and in fact, in my humble opinion, demands a greater degree of diligence in order to succeed.

Another lesson I have learned, and lived by, is to surround myself with those who are smarter and better than I am in the roles and performing the tasks that are required for success.  This can particularly challenging for many musicians due to the sheer amount of ego that tends to accompany the talent behind the enterprise.  You see, what I am driving at is that your band—your act—provides products and services; without a sound business structure and plan, chances are likely that it won’t provide gainful employment.

Having talent and skill in music alone is not enough—there’s more to it all than just music.  Technical skill is required for recording and the delivery of live performances;  money management skills are necessary for managing the budgets; marketing and advertising skills are necessary for getting your products and services sold and to market; sales skill is required for getting gigs; management skills are absolutely critical in order to ensure that there is coordination, cooperation, etc…among all of those involved.

So, unless the talented musician has been endowed with the same level of talent (and skill) in those areas as well, there will be gaps through which opportunity and necessary activities will inevitably fall.  So, for all of the musicians out there expecting to be paid a living wage for their music, and not getting it, it’s time to quit whining and start approaching their goals and activities as a business.  This is not selling out, it’s survival. 

The fact is that I don’t think there is anyone on the face of this earth that doesn’t want to make a living doing something that they love to do.  I love what I do, and it provides a means to support my family, my obsession, passion and habit known as music, and an opportunity to learn necessary skills that I can apply to the execution of my business of music, which brings me to my final point: for all of you who think that not making a living off of your music means that you’re not successful or that you are wasting your talent, or that you don’t have a music career: your wrong!  There are a couple of individuals that were mentors of mine who imparted to me the key lesson underlying all of this, both of who are incredibly successful in the national music scene.  Neither of them are full time musicians, per se, yet they took their passion for music with them and elevated it to a place where they would never have gotten to by writing and performing music alone.  They are incredibly successful professionals who taught me this: find a career that will provide good (if not great) income in order to support my musical ambitions.

I have done that, and I don’t consider myself any less of a musician for doing so.  Consider how many pilots there are—most of whom are incredibly passionate about flying, however they have no reasonable ambition to make a career out of it.  Why is music any different?  We don’t need to make a living from music in order for it to have an impact on the world around us.  In fact, chasing after a full time music gig can leave many spending more time trying to survive than playing music.

These are just thoughts that have been on my mind recently and felt a need to share.  There are all kinds of resources and examples of people doing extraordinarily cool things to further their music and build community around this passion.  Remember, we all have music careers, regardless of whether we make a living from them or not.

Where are the Dynamics in our Music?

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I just caught a very short, but must-see video from the AES over on ProSoundWeb, which explains “the loudness war”.  I’m not going to go into the details of this phenomenon in modern record production, however I do need to make a comment or 2 on its existence and what it says about a fundamental musical construct known as dynamics.

I want to point out that my musical instruction was primarily classical.  I was a cello student and played in performance configurations ranging from solo cello to full symphony orchestras (which is where I spent most of my time).  The concept of dynamics is essentially the range of volume—or loudness—levels expressed in a given piece.  In a piece of written music, the location, if you will, of a particular section on the dynamic scale is indicated by a p, mp, mf or f.  The very fact that this notation exists gives explanation to the role that dynamic range plays in the expression of music.  The fact is that the use of dynamics were of as much importance to the composers of classical music as the notes they used to create their works.  There is immense expression in varying the levels at which a piece is played.

For a classically trained musician like me, who during the early-to-mid 80’s was a high school kid playing in rock bands, the concept of dynamics appeared to be of much less importance, or at least was not as easily expressed due to the fact that we had our amplifiers cranked to 11…whatever the reason, dynamics were not as key to the composition as was the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-solo-chorus-end formula with a hook mixed in.

Fast forwarding to today, there has been a lot of talk about the loudness wars being waged in record production.  To me, this is a reflection of a lack of fidelity to the art on the part of producers.  I could understand if a genre calls for this type of production, however it appears that this practice is style-agnostic.  I have to ask myself whether or not this is maybe even a reflection of a lack of professionalism, musically speaking.  I’m really not sure…I am not part of the mainstream corporate behemoth music machine, however as one who is a native speaker of the language (of music), I can honestly say that it feels, to a degree, like the language is being bastardized in its reproduction, not unlike our spoken languages are today.

I do wonder, however, what role the production phase of recording should be playing, and to what degree the change it introduces into the finished product should be allowed vis-a-vis the artist’s original intent of the song.  In the end, the very nature of music, as with any artistic expression, subjectivity is a major part of its beauty, allowing many different interpretations of the work to inspire new works and creations, contributing back to the fundamental beauty of the art.  It’s just that I would hate to see this process hindered by the loss of a major component of musical expression that dynamics represents.

The New SEO

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In an article over at Music Think Tank, Christopher Davis talks about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and its importance for musicians and their web strategies.  As I was leaving a comment on the article, I felt I had to post here as well.  While what he is saying is still very relevant, Google released changes to their search algorithms last week (or the week before…) that are turning traditional SEO on its head.  This is for a good reason, in my opinion, which is to combat the SEO’d content farms that return mostly garbage and essentially push truly relevant sites down and out of the rankings. 

I have not yet had the opportunity to dig into these changes at any real depth, however the gist of it is that social connections, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc…will play a major part in the results that Google returns for you–your search queries as an individual.  This is HUGE, and is actually an indicator of how powerful this approach is.  Just look at Facebook ads–they are hyper-focused and targeted to the individual with relevance that Google is afraid of. 

With these 2 players in this space, it is important that bands/musicians keep an eye on them as metrics used in determining their strategy when it comes to web/social marketing and reaching greater audiences.  Google has owned the past 10 years, however the game is changing and G’s changes over the past couple of weeks are just more evidence of this shift.

In the end, while there are sites–forum sites in particular–that are suffering (hopefully only for the short term) because of these changes, the seeming paradigm shift is right and good.  For the musician, applying the principles of SEO described in the MTT article is important along with an increased awareness and vigilance surrounding how Google (and other search engines…) determines relevance and what they return in their results.