The Uptown jazz cafe opened on Brunswick St above the Akari Japanese restaurant several months ago (the space used to be Akari’s function room). I had been meaning to visit since they opened and finally got there on the night of Friday 16 January, when the band performing was the Andrea Keller quartet. Keller is a contemporary jazz composer, pianist and band leader.
I didn’t know what to expect because I know very little about jazz or improvisational music (though I do love King Crimson, who do a lot of improvisational music and loved the recent show by Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew at the Corner hotel). I really enjoyed what I heard and Keller was charming in the modest way she introduced the music and the band and described the inspirations for her music.
The interior of the cafe is filled with small tables with lovely art deco dining chairs and the colour scheme is mostly sombre chocolate. It creates a most suitable mood and the wine list is short but well sourced. I had a glass of the De Bortoli Sero Merlot Sangiovese, which is delicious and made with fruit from the King Valley in Victoria. Uptown is a great addition to the Fitzroy social scene and is somewhere that I look forward to returning to, hopefully next time with some friends.
The Uptown website is a single page containing an image that includes text about upcoming shows. It’s a poor way to represent this information as search engines cannot read the text in the image. While my research suggests that Uptown is well connected in the local jazz scene and is mentioned on many other jazz sites, I think it will have to try harder to market itself to the general music loving public and the local community if it is going to be successful.
I want to feature band listings on the new Fitzroy events calendar I have made, but most venues have very primitive marketing procedures and seem to rely solely on the street press. I’ve started the calendar with the aim of eventually listing all Fitzroy events. I’ve listed regular events like gallery opening nights, but want to import into this calendar band listings from all the pubs, bars and clubs in Fitzroy. If every venue produced a gig listing in either RSS or iCal formats then this task would be simple.
The current system of expensive advertising in the street press is not good for bands, venues or music lovers. The artificial scarcity leveraged by the print media is in the process of dying, yet in the Melbourne music scene no one is willing to be the first to break out of the system and do something new.
Street papers Beat and Inpress receive all the band listing data and publish it in print, but not electronically on their websites. They don’t give it away in the form of RSS so it can be syndicated elsewhere. They make money by restricting access to this information. The street press rely on maintaining an artificial scarity of information in order to sustain their advertising based business model.
The street press publishers do not accept the new paradigm, where the commerical value of information has crashed while its intrinsic value has remains intact. If you’d like to know more about these ideas, read hyperlocal media is a bad competitor and the Melbourne Leader – how not to do social media. Many media analysts agree that commercial media’s print based advertising driven business model is dead and the whole system needs to be rebuilt.
Venues and bands can bypass the antiquated print media and communicate directly with audiences by using online media. There is a great opportunity for venues and bands to reduce their marketing costs by changing the way they work together to promote shows.
Bands too can do more. Many use Myspace which is good for sharing music files, but it is a commercial space that does not share its information. Venues that have Myspace pages cannot use them to publish calendars people can subscribe to. Bands and venues need to migrate to platforms that allow consumers to subscribe to feeds and listings about events that interest them. Bring the music to the masses.
Websites like FasterLouder (listing of Fitzroy gigs) and LiveGuide aim to replace the print street press with gig listings but are similarly old fashioned in building exclusive walled gardens rather than inclusive or interactive content. I have contacted both requesting a feed of Fitzroy events and neither has responded. Moshtix sounds more promising and they at least responded and said they are working towards having the capacity to offer feeds at a suburb level. I asked Artabase for the same suburb level feed a year ago and received a response saying that feature was coming soon, then never heard from them again.
Audiences want content. Publishers that provide feeds and other flexible forms of content that suit the needs of their audience will increase their readership. For marketing content like gig listings or exhibition openings, the goal is maximum exposure and awareness. Achieving this requires more openness and more willingness to share content. Audiences now have more power. Some of them will simply no longer come to the publisher’s site. If you want to build an audience for your content, you must deliver it to them in forms they prefer.
When will venues, bands and other marketers get it? I want to provide promotion for events in Fitzroy. My goal is to freely share this information. Why does no one else seem to want to share? Venues that start offering their band listings in RSS or iCal formats could benefit from the syndication of this data and I predict those that start marketing in this way will enjoy increased patronage.
These are not simply my views. While I do not accept the commercial media’s blinkered perception that all media is commercial, the following analysis provides a useful summary that is as applicable to Melbourne’s local newspapers and street press as it is to media corporations in the US:
Another description is equally apt: the data itself is not valuable (commercially at least), what is valuable is how that data flows. Constricting the flow of data used to build value. Not it destroys value. Releasing abundance builds value. In contrast to most media companies, Google has “built a business on managing abundance rather than controlling scarcity“, and it has consequently flourished.