An Independent Book as an Independent Record


(photograph is of trombonist Ryan Porter)

Today independent releases are standard for music. There’s no sense that individual musicians or bands are releasing their own music because of a failure to be noticed and supported by a commercial record label, or as a warm up to being taken on by a larger entity. Bandcamp is both an efficient tool that allows musicians to operate as an effective business and a community.

I’ve yet to be given a dud recommendation and I’m now diving beneath the surface of Bandcamp, finding really incredible jazz. Yesterday it was World Galaxy Records in Los Angeles a grouping of really crisp, inventive jazz musicians including Ryan Porter (all of his albums are now on my wishlist) who I discovered played trombone on “Higgs Boson Blues” on the Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album Push the Sky Away (which I wrote the liner notes for) and Kamasi Washington (who I’m going to see perform at the Sydney Opera House in a few weeks).

These musicians all have a great sense of their own character and provide the references that put their music in context. I love this jazz but I’m also continually brushing up against genres I didn’t think I liked, only to have a growing appreciation for them through how the musicians provide a way for me to understand them. And it’s the musical community that makes the associations richer. I’m not being sold something by a commercial entity, I’m discovering a world.

This type of independence is what characterises my notebooks as merchandise and my printed books. There are a lot of self-publishing services available … a lot of ads find me through the hashtags I use, and they all assume that the end point is being taken up by a publishing company, having my books sold in bookstores and being reviewed in newspapers. The worst of them play to a sense of insecurity “be a REAL writer” and the best have useful copyediting tips but misread the end result. If a book isn’t sold in a bookstore it can’t be a book, they say. But my community of readers is more likely to be found among the people who buy World Galaxy Records albums on Bandcamp and a music merchandising site (Artist First is going to be mine) is a more natural marketplace for them to find me. Connecting with the readers is going to be frustratingly slower (though Instagram is a good starting point) but it’s the way to go.


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