Whale Blubber

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As you may have gleaned we are not so secret geeks when it comes to social media as a way of having fun, and meeting others who want to do the same, so when we happened upon Ben Denison and Hope and Social we knew that no matter what the music sounded like, we would want to experience the unique way they go about things. Ben tells us a little more about how they are creating memorable experiences and making a decent living at the same time!

When Brian Eno says “recorded music equals whale blubber”, I give thanks to the Gods of metaphor.

Of course Mr Eno was referring to the business model of selling records, and not debating the artistic merits of popular music.

If “The record age was just a blip.” then what next for musicians?

The internet has enabled musicians to bypass the traditional gatekeepers of music culture. With a bit of know how and not an inconsiderable amount of effort, artists can choose to produce, distribute and promote their music direct to fans without the need for a record deal, or even paying independent producers, publishers, distributors, pluggers or booking agents.

Exciting services like Bandcamp, Pledge Music and Artist Data which support the direct to fan model are popping up all the time, add to that the power of social media, and some clever community thinking, and a new model has emerged. Replacing one which was wildly profitable for an elite few artists at the expense of the rest, with one which could be viable and sustainable for the majority, free from financial burden and artistic compromise.

While the major labels and big media fight hard to maintain some semblance of control, independent musicians are enjoying the opportunity to connect with fans and other artists, to see what else whale blubber is good for.

Working with the band Hope and Social, we have synthesised this new model into a simple formula:

Have fun + Make art = The Way We Roll

Blissfully naive isn’t it.

But with solid thinking behind it. You may notice its similarity [hut hum] to Mike Masnick’s blissfully naive, but now well established formula:

Connect with Fans (CwF) + Reason to Buy (RtB) = The Business Model

I assure you its evolved.

Have Fun

How do you “connect with fans”? Well, you don’t. You connect with people. You never know who will become a “fan”, and being fanatical is no basis for a meaningful relationship. Besides, you are going to need more than just fans. You need to build a ship of creative like minded people, with a variety of skills, who get what you are doing. You also need to keep the wind in your ships sails.

In my experience the best way to connect with people, and stay connected, is to intend to have fun in everything you do. By doing so you inherently go about things in a more inclusive way. After all, there is only so much fun you can have on your own, and to keep the ship sailing, there is nothing like a second helping of fun.

Of course being honest, interesting, talking about others and not yourself, being a trusted advisor to people in need, giving without expecting to receive, all the things which have always been valuable human traits (which have some how become Social Media traits?) will help. But where fun goes, these traits tend to follow.

With Hope and Social we currently have a music and video project running called Marching On Through. We invited fans to participate in the creation of a song and a video using twitter, a blue jacket and a stamp. Its a fine example (IMHO) of having fun while making art as a group.

Having fun creates positive shared experiences, and that is the good stuff you are looking for.

Make Art

The world is craving distinction. People are looking for that something a little bit different, that can’t be replicated, and makes us feel special. This is the premise behind “reason to buy”. If music is free, or pay what you want, what do you sell? The answer is to make a product or experience unique and therefore desirable.

The good news is that by committing to the first part of the equation, you will already be creating unique experiences. While writing their new album Hope and Social had a song they felt needed a waltzy French bistro feel. We decided to turn our amazing studio The Crypt into a French bistro for a night to try and bring that feel alive and to have some fun.

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We invite people to Come Dine With Us. The band waited on and serenaded diners as they ate. At the end of the meal we recorded people singing, playing instruments and an full Wine Bottle Orchestra. It was an incredible experience for all involved.

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See me and my wife above by the end of the evening. Having fun and making art as a group as part of a unique experience. Priceless.

The other way to make things special is to make art and only art. I blogged about why here and an example here. And where possible you should involve people in the creation of your art. This changes it from a produce/consume relationship to a much more meaningful and ongoing one with no definitive “sell” point. Oh, and its also fun. Its a vicious and exciting circle this new model, that isn’t actually new, but just back to how it should always have been.

The Way We Roll

There is a theory that says you only need 1000 true fans to make a living wage. There is another theory that says you can only connect meaningfully with 150 people. So where does that leave us?

We have a saying at Hope and Social: “I get paid because of the music I write, not for the music I write.”. We all still have day jobs, mostly freelance, which are constantly enriched by what we do with the band; music production, photography, music mentoring, running a theatre company, conducting, art and design, solo music, social media consultancy all benefit from the Hope and Social ship.

As long as she floats, we will be having fun, making art, and getting to know really cool people.

Not bad this whale blubber.

Hope & Social • Come Dine With Us [Behind-the-scenes] from 3B Media on Vimeo.


  1. Democratisation of publishing! It’s great that people can now make new music, share with friends and (with a bit of luck) reach a wider public. Check this out – local lads from Leeds, recently packing in the crowds at Seven arts centre. If you buy the cd, u get handmade packaging with great design too.


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