Technology will save the world and/or we're all doomed

On my list of things to do this week was an audit of the Toronto Downtown Jazz website. I'm far from a web designer - I have the basic skills that allow me to design basic websites - so this was more about content and usability than anything else. One nice thing about thoroughly going through a website every once in a while is how it really makes me think about what should be on a particular page on a particular website. It's a good exercise that I sometimes feel is not done enough - there are a lot of bad websites out there (and who knows - my websites might be among them...).

Speaking of online presence, I decided a couple of weeks ago to kill the MySpace page for my big band, the Toronto Jazz Orchestra. Between the numerous (and useless) updates to their layout, frustrating ad clutter, slow loading times, and the inability to complete simple tasks, despite following the exact steps outlined by MySpace help, I decided it wasn't worth the effort to continue using the platform. And, rather than have an outdated MySpace page out there in the cloud, I deleted it. Just like that. (Well, sort of - for a few days there the "delete this page" link wasn't working...of course...)

So I've been thinking - exactly what kind of online presence does a musician need these days?

In just a few short years, we've gone from websites being the one and only way to pass on online content, to having options like Facebook, Twitter, various blogging platforms, SonicBids, SoundCloud, BandCamp, and many others. It's now relatively easy to create a mostly professional-looking band page with a bio, great photos, sound clips, links to purchase music and more. But by the time I update my website, Facebook, SoundCloud, Flickr and hit all of the online listings for an upcoming gig, I'm spending more and more time online...and feeling like I'm getting less and less accomplished. Is it worth it?

From the independent artist standpoint, I know that yes, it's worth it. I want people to find out about my band, where we're playing, who we are, what we sound like, where to buy our music, how to make a donation, etc...and I feel as though that information needs to be on each of the different platforms. In the marketing courses I've taken, I've learned that customer service (and that means the customer's overall experience) must be number one - so it has to be easy for a customer to get from one piece of information to the other.

From the standpoint of an Artistic Director, my needs are somewhat more straightforward: I want to be able to read your bio and hear your music. And usually, that's it. So I find it frustrating at times that I have to sit through flash presentations before I can choose to enter your site; or that music starts bombarding me as soon as I arrive at your site; or that the site is so graphic that I can't tell which button I'm supposed to push to read more about you. (Ambrose Akinmusire is one of the more important emerging trumpeters...but his website drives me nuts!)

As the most popular applications become easier to use, and are used for broader purposes, integration between applications is becoming more common - I can create a post on Blogger and have it appear automatically on my website and on Facebook - and time-saving methods are emerging. But marketing remains a vital part of the independent artist's business plan...so how do we capitalize on advances in technology, and the development of new applications, without those same advancements and developments becoming an even bigger drain on our time?

As I mentioned earlier, I'm far from a tech genius. I don't have a Twitter account. I'm not LinkedIn. My Blackberry is made of paper. But I'm doing my best as an artist to figure out where it's best to spend my time, and as an Artistic Director I'm quickly forming often crotchety opinions on which new technologies I like. (Anyone else remember Salmon Run, the game for the Commodore 64, whose software was run off of a cassette tape?)

What do you think - how has technology worked for you? What drives you crazy?

Josh

P.S. - Just because I like almost everything that he's ever done, I invite you to check out The Oatmeal's take on a web design gone horribly awry (rated PG-13 ish)...

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