Lnwy, Another Avenue

October 20, 2017

Say hola to LNWY.co! The music media site is a collaboration between Bolster and St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival (a.k.a. the music event that most aligns with my taste in music).

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Before you roll your eyes (oh good, another agency/brand buying a media outlet), the premise behind LNWY is really refreshing.

Something we noticed at Bolster is that media outlets have moved away from the type of music journalism we grew up with. I absolutely fell in love with music via reading long form articles in grotty-yet-precious copies of Rolling Stone and Q Magazine I borrowed from the local library. This was the only way I had any insight into my favourite bands. Well, that and begging my mum to buy me terrible, unofficial band bios and trawling through dingy internet forums. As much as listicles are sometimes useful, you really can’t delve into the psyche of a band via a top five list of really obvious facts that comes up on Google. A one-sentence track-by-track doesn’t really paint a proper picture of what an album is about. Ten boring news pieces from different media outlets around the same festival announce that all magically mention the same few key words and adjectives smells… fishy. Smells like some lazy interns copying and pasting bits from a press release.

I love that the Bolster x Laneway team brought in the big guns to get the content side of things right. They hired Darren Levin to be the Managing Editor.  (To save you from creepily looking him up on LinkedIn, he’s the former Editor-In-Chief at Sound Alliance, a writer for Rolling Stone and #1 Dad according to his office water bottle.) There’s also budget for content. What the fuck. When I was in the music writing game I got paid in CDs, free tickets and a byline.

The design side has been handled by Nicky Humphries at Bolster, who’s come up with a devastatingly beautiful site. Jake Cleland did a nice write up describing the tasty UX. I also love how most of the photos, videos and illustrations are completely designed and created for LNWY. Similar to the words, the visuals aren’t just pulled out of a Dropbox that every other media outlet is using.

On the advertising side of things, the other different thing is that the site isn’t calling for bands and artists to pay money to get air time. I think we’ve all gotten used to the fact that editorial and advertising sleep together (#ad #sponsored #paid), but there’s something gross about how skewed the portion of paid vs. not paid content on some sites have gotten. (Alex Zacca’s panel at BIGSOUND discussed this in circles.) For contrast, LNWY has zero advertising space on it. Zero leaderboards. Zero MRECs. Zero towers. A music site still needs money, and that comes from really beautifully executed native content, powered by related brands and publicly declared as sponsored.

It kind of reminds me of what I had in mind for Paper-Deer, but up about a hundred notches. For those who don’t know, PD was a completely non-profit music blog I ran for a couple of years in my early twenties. No ads (I didn’t have budget to pay my contributors though, soz, but I also didn’t make money for myself either). I had a strict ‘no copying and pasting’ policy so we would never push out a news article that was purely based on a presser. Everything had to be freshly written or photographed specifically for Paper-Deer for it to go live. You’d be surprised at how many bands and publicists asked how to pay us money (which we didn’t accept) before even sending us music to listen to. PD died in its ass because I was too busy with agency work to give it attention. And also it wasn’t that great. Before you try Googling it, the site is no longer live :P

Moving on… Laneway Fest is one of Bolster’s longest digital clients. I’ve worked across the festival’s digital advertising for three cycles, and am very excited to be helping on the digital strategy and implementation for LNWY around its launch into the world.

If you want some further reading, check out Laneway founder Danny’s piece on it here. And some nice pieces from The Music Network and Mumbrella on the venture too. Have a poke around LNWY or send a like over to the Facebook page.

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P.S. We all had to keep this under our little felt hats for months. Wasn’t easy when select people at BIGSOUND were yelling, “I SIGNED AN NDA ABOUT THE SECRET PROJECT CAN WE TALK PLEASE,” at me. Definitely did not help.

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BIGSOUND 2017 Wrap

September 26, 2017

This time last week 💖 Until next time, Brisbane. #BIGSOUND17

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Obligatory BIGSOUND wrap because that’s how I roll. Here are how things went down in the Valley:

  • I got a cold immediately after BIGSOUND, but that’s a given because I always get sick after fun events.
  • Andrew had to play with a very sparse drum kit at our final showcase gig yet still nailed it.
  • The Bolster espresso martini party was a blast, but did not enjoy the fact that the two finger food options on offer were chunks of meat and cheese in cabbage.
  • I found out that I get quite pouty when I’m performing. (Video evidence below.)
  • Everyone laughed at me because I packed trail mix, Special K, brown rice and lentils in my luggage. TBH I’m Asian though, bringing rice on a trip is mandatory.
  • We finally got to play Cinder Bloc live in front of real humans.
  • A Brisbane Uber drive yelled at me for making a super short trip. (My excuse was I had a lot of heavy music gear. He felt differently.)
  • Brisbane weather in September is fucking delightful.
  • Anthony Zaccaria’s panel on data and the independent artist was really interesting, and I did so much live tweeting from the front row that my phone started heating up. Alex Zacca’s panel on the future of music media was also fascinating but everyone talked in Trump-long sentences so it was impossible to live tweet.
  • Pretty sure DARTS managed to get to #7 at one point on BIGSOUND Buzz.
  • I managed to clock 19K steps on day 3 of BIGSOUND. Yeah, I walk a lot when I’m not getting yelled at by Uber drivers.

Until next time Brisbane <3

Pout and about with our very own @tigerburning and @dartsmusic 🖤🎹🖤🎹🖤 #bigsound17

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P.S. Exciting DARTS and Bolster news incoming.

BIGSOUND Itinerary

August 31, 2017

Headed to sunny Brisbane for BIGSOUND conference and festival next week. This will be my third time with the Bolster boys, the second time showcasing as a performing artist and my fifth time ever. Are BIGSOUND loyalty cards a thing?

Excited to be playing two super new DARTS songs* live (see also: nervous). Four BIGSOUND showcases all up. Dates below/over on our site here.

Both Bolster directors Anthony and Alex Zaccaria are doing panels at the conference too. Anzac will be talking about Data and the Independent Artist, alongside the likes of Stu Watters (AIR, Nightlife), Neil Robertson (Music Glue), Jared Kristiensen (Audience Republic) and Tom Deakin (Merlin). Alex’s panel will discuss if Music Can Float In A Flooded Multi-Media Landscape, with Leigh Treweek from The Music and others.

On the topic of Bolster + BIGSOUND, we’ve rolled out BIGSOUND Buzz again. Froth over it. (Our Creative Director Nicky made it real pretty. He makes everything pretty.)

P.S. I say this every year. I’ll say it again. I have terrible eyesight so I have trouble recognising people so please say hi if you see me because I probably can’t see you! And no, I will not get glasses. They gross.

See you (kind of) in the Valley.

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* New songs! Distance = Infinity and Cinder Bloc, out now via Rice Is Nice & Inertia.

New DARTS Songs

August 18, 2017

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Hello, world! Two new DARTS songs out in the world today.

We’ve built a cheeky little clubhouse in Bendigo for rehearsing and songwriting (YES) and we will hopefully have a full album ready over the next little while. In the mean time these songs are a li’l preview of what we have in store for you.

Distance = Infinity and Cinder Bloc, out today via Rice Is Nice & Inertia! Beautiful artwork by the folk at Confetti, and shiny new press shots by James Robinson.

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Splendour Wrap

July 29, 2017

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SPLENDOUR SPLENDOUR SPLENDOUR.

The whole Bolster team went up to Splendour for our annual team retreat in Byron Bay last week. Three days at the festival. Four days of relaxing/trying to do work/getting frustrated by the total lack of internet in coastal New South Wales.

Here’s a li’l wrap of my #blstrretreat highlights:

  1. Chilling with the Bolster team in beautiful Ocean Shores (evidence: above photo)
  2. Booking (and paying) for a massage ten minutes into the future, and somehow getting distracted by Peking Duk within those ten minutes and completely missing my massage
  3. Really enjoying Peking Duk’s ridiculous DJ/live/DJ set (much talent, what babes, etc. etc.)
  4. Re-booking my massage for the next day and missing it again
  5. Making up for it by getting a free massage at the Moshtix Splendour party
  6. Having the same taste in food as Sigur Ros
  7. Trying to act cool meeting Father John Misty (while internally not being so cool)
  8. Getting the one room in our Airbnb that looked like a brothel (hint: purple everything plus a very stained couch)
  9. Being blown away by The xx
  10. Being even more blown away by Josh Homme and friends
  11. Finding a kitchenette on the site and treating myself to peanut butter toast all festival-long
  12. Getting to watch LCD Soundsystem side of stage with a cup of Lempsip
  13. Taking some really creepy portraits of my co-workers at the airport.

On a more serious note, it was also really awesome working on the Splendour advertising campaign from start to finish this year, and being able to see the whole festival in action. Until 2018, Splendour <3

Going Main… Stream

May 6, 2017

ARIA has just announced that song streams will finally count towards the ARIA album charts, starting with next week’s top 50.

Why is this change important? It’s great because only counting physical purchases and (legal) digital downloads changes the shape of the ARIA album charts. Especially now that streaming has won the hearts of Aussie music consumers, evidenced by the fact that it’s a key income source for the Australian recorded music industry. (Here’s some info from ABC News and Music Feeds if you don’t believe me.)

Before CD burning was a thing, when you could only buy a CD, tape or vinyl from a physical retailer, everyone had to purchase music this way. It was a fair way to judge music consumption. (Except for enthusiastically hovering over your tape deck, ready to press record on the weekly countdown radio charts, except the presenter would invariably talk over the intro and do a back announce over the last chorus. Worst.) This meant that album charts pretty much represented all album sales across the board except for artists with fans prone to shoplifting (I’ll save those stories for another time).

Fast forward to 2017. CDs normally bear a price tag of $20 and vinyl records go for at least $40. And hell, the average iTunes album comes in at $16.99. You might as well splash out an extra gold coin to get a fucking CD for the liner notes. Counting only digital and physical purchases mean that you’re not looking at music consumption realistically.

Here’s why:

  1. It changes the demographic we’re looking at. So acts with an older, less tech-savvy following (ahem, André Rieu) or have fans with more disposable income (a.k.a. the valuable teen fan girl dollar) get a leg up. Or bands with listeners who like to collect expensive things. Radiohead fans, I’m looking at you.
  2. It changes the kind of releases we’re covering too. The releases on the charts all tend to be from well-established artists. Debut albums that crack the charts usually belong to major label acts with impressive marketing budgets or winning contestants from game shows. It doesn’t reflect hype acts that may actually get way more streams in week one compared to physical-heavy bands.
  3. The charts are skewed towards labels that take physical distribution risks. This is completely anecdotal, but I’d wager that some indie bands have fans that would stream an album but would only hand over money for a physical product if it was special (e.g. beautiful packaging, extra songs, collectible liner notes). The problem with this is that physical distribution is incredibly expensive if you misjudge how many units will be sold (regardless of whether the distributor purchases a small quantity of stock from overseas, or manufactures a larger amount locally). If you get too much stock on hand and the album doesn’t sell-through, then it’s an expensive estimate. If you underestimate and the band blows up out of nowhere, then fans can’t buy the album and you’ve potentially missed out on a lot of ARIA-counted would-be sales. (Psst – here’s are my thoughts on record labels.)

It’s wonderful that the ARIA charts will now reflect streams in their counts. While it took us a while to get here, it’s useful that we have real-life case studies from European countries that have adopted a streaming conversion model for a while now. (Here’s how ARIA are calculating it. Hell yeah, math.)

It’ll be interesting to see how this changes Adele and Ed Sheeran’s long domination of the charts, and whether newer albums with a strong streaming presence will push them down ever so slightly. Have a look at what The Music had to say about it all.

(P.S. If you are a fabulous person who still purchases physical product, I’m selling a very decent CD and cassette micro hi-fi for $50. This is a serious thing. Please buy it off me.)

The Smith Street Band!

April 16, 2017


Congrats x a million to The Smith Street Band for scoring a top 3 ARIA chart debut with their new album! Such an incredible feat, and wonderful to know that indie music fans in Australia really still do buy music and support local talent.

I was so lucky to work on the album at Bolster via Remote Control and their management agency Little Giant (who, coincidentally, are “desk neighbours” in our office building). I’ll leave you with the following little video because CONFETTI CANNON:

Awkward, You Didn’t Check The Date

April 2, 2017

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Yesterday the Bolster crew pulled an April Fool’s PR prank that, um, didn’t work. We put up social media posts and a blog post about starting a new arm of the business… specifically a doggo club in Collingwood, by the name of WALKIES.

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I thought our pun-filled blog post made it pretty clear that this was a pisstake. Come on, ‘Courtney Barknett’? Apparently not.

A whole bunch of mates and clients messaged us to tell us how utterly excited they were. Sorry guys. It’s not real.

But not all of the blog post is wrong. We are moving office very soon, and the Collingwood converted warehouse in that pic is where we’ll be setting up shop very soon (albeit minus the Photoshopped WALKIES branding). Update on new office digs shortly!

The Austin Buzz

March 10, 2017

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SXSW is almost upon us! While I’m not headed over to the States for the music/tech/film conference, Bolster is still in on the action with another ‘buzz’ site.

This time round, the Bolster Creative team have created The Austin Buzz, an unofficial social media hype site. If it looks familiar, it’s because it’s the same technology we used for last year’s BIGSOUND Buzz app.

The Austin Buzz pulls together social media data around all the music acts trying their hand at South By this year, with info being drawn from public Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts. User mentions/tags are also weighted according to the authority of the social media post’s author. In other words, a Pitchfork mention has more gravity than your mum on Twitter, sorry… There’s a nice little write up on The Music Network if you want to read what Alex Zacca had to say about it.

Kudos to the design team for their top notch graphic design work, which you can check out on this very monochromatic Instagram channel.

Side note – very pleased to see some amazing Aussies musos representing our fine country in Texas this week, including the likes of Kučka, C.W. Stoneking and Alex Lahey.

2016 Year In Review

December 27, 2016

2016 was a very weird year for everyone involved. Hey there, Brexit/Trump/Bowie/Snape/Malcolm Turnbull! On a more personal level, I had some shit things happen to me too (i.e. having my flu misdiagnosed as meningococcal and getting sent to the ER) but otherwise, some pretty sweet things happened to, including:

  • Celebrating an entire decade of calling the world’s most liveable city home.
  • Running a BIGSOUND Conference workshop with Alex for Bolster that ended up being the most popular workshop at the whole conference by far.
  • Getting to play five shows at Canadian Music Week with Darts, and successfully navigating LAX with 22kg of music gear.
  • Back on home soil, getting the chance to play some amazing Darts gigs this year, including opening for Tiny Little Houses, Bully, Bleached and Polish Club, plus playing Volumes Fests in Syd.
  • Finding a FREE HAT.
  • Figuring out what I sound awful why I try to sing. (It’s to do with my breathing, apparently.)
  • Heading over to Singapore in November and eating all the foods.
  • Successfully doing a webinar on digital advertising.
  • Speaking at the 8 Percent conference panel around the place of record labels in the current music climate.
  • Watching The Cure play Splendour In The Grass.
  • Completing a 100-day healthy challenge where I had to eat cleanly for 100 days. I accidentally found out that not eating processed food for over 3 months cures adult acne. The more you know.
  • Learning to knit!
  • Getting the chance to work with some absolutely phenomenal clients at Bolster, including Iggy Pop, Adele, Flume and more.
  • Finishing an online course in best practices for copywriting for web and learning some new things too.
  • Travelling more than I ever have in my entire life, with a record of 22 flights over 12 months. No flights booked for 2017 though and that makes me so happy.
  • Learning that I will never be satisfied with whatever headphones I own. (Currently on the Aiaiai TMA-2 Studio Presets which are okay, but HMU if you know something better.)

Happy New Year, guys!

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