An Independent Book as an Independent Record

AN INDEPENDENT RECORD RATHER THAN AN INDEPENDENT BOOK …

(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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