Thursday, November 14th, 2013

INTERVIEW: SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR TO HYPEBOT, CLYDE SMITH

Interview by Rebecca Groom

In our latest Industry Voices, we talked to Clyde Smith, Senior Contributor to Hypebot. Hypebot is one of the leading sources of music industry news on the web. Updated multiple times a day, the site posts articles, news, and guest posts useful for all aspects of the music industry. They focus on music, technology and the new music business.

Clyde Smith also blogs on multiple other platforms like Crowdfunding for Musicians, and All World Dance. We talked to Clyde about his successful blogging career, and how to decide what is relevant to write about. We also got some input on the crowdfunding trend and the importance of it for bands, other useful sites musicians can be using.

1. To start, please state your name and position with Hypebot, and give us a little background about the company.

Clyde Smith, Senior Contributor. Hypebot is a music industry blog that, since its launch in 2004, has become a leading source of music industry news on the web. Bruce Houghton is founder, publisher, editor and blogger-in-chief. I'm currently the other daily blogger.

But we also have regular guest posts from the extended Hypebot family, music industry CEOs, music tech startup founders, music marketers and others who together represent the most diverse collection of music industry voices you'll find on any one site.

2. You started writing for Hypebot two years ago. How did you come to join their team and what was your motivation behind it?

I launched ProHipHop shortly after Bruce launched Hypebot. We got to know each other via our blogs and, at one point, ProHipHop provided a weekly roundup of hip hop business news for Hypebot and vice versa.

When I sold ProHipHop in 2010, I took some time off and was looking at the possibilities when I saw that Hypebot needed a blogger. It seemed like a good opportunity to use what I learned in previous efforts while exploring new territory.

3. The site is definitely the leader in music industry news. How do you decide what you will write about and what is relevant to the site?

Bruce makes the final call on what goes in Hypebot but I've been focusing on certain areas and paying attention to what our readers respond to. My areas of specialty include music tech startups and DIY music biz with the intersection of the two being a particular sweet spot.

I'm particularly interested in how web and mobile tools and services can allow artists to build their own brands and conduct their own business based on choice and/or necessity. So news related to such topics tends to be my focus.

But I do whatever's needed.

I think the biggest problem in deciding what to cover is that there are always more deserving topics than we have time to hit.

4. The music industry is going through a huge shift currently, especially with the new digital technology that comes out every few months. Digital downloads are replacing physical copies and bands and artists are going back to a D.I.Y. approach. In your opinion, where do you think the industry is headed over the next five years?

Over the next five years I think the biggest issue will be which music tech companies will survive and which will go under. There are a huge number of consumer-facing copycat products in both web and mobile app form and a lot of them just won't make it. Streaming music companies will be falling by the wayside and the major players should become well-established or be acquired.

For musicians, labels and related businesses I expect ongoing iteration as people continue to adjust but also establish processes for adapting new technologies to their workflows rather than the reverse. B2B [business to business] music tech companies should also see a shakeout with the ones that are either best of breed, good enough but really cheap or who effectively combine features to stay in business.

5. You write posts for Hypebot, Flux Research, Crowdfunding For Musicians, Hip Hop Logic, and All World Dance. It is safe to say you know a thing or two about blogging. How did you start blogging and is it your full time gig?

These days I'm mostly blogging at Hypebot, turning Flux Research into a writing portfolio of sorts and getting ready to relaunch All World Dance. Blogging has been my primary focus since 2005.

I got into blogging in 2002 in Austin when I launched Hip Hop Logic to write about hip hop music and culture. That eventually led to ProHipHop which launched in 2004 and became my core project from 2005 until I sold it in 2010.

Exiting ProHipHop led to my blogging job at Hypebot in 2011 which is my main gig though technically it's part-time. But, since everything else I'm launching or considering launching is a blog, I'm definitely a full-time blogger.

6. Being a feature writer on the site, you are probably seeing the creation of a new social media app every few weeks, only for it to fall off the map. In your opinion and experience, what causes an app to have staying power in general and in the music industry?

That would be hard to sum up. In fact, I'm realizing I generally focus on why things might not work or didn't work rather than what makes them work.

But even when I'm discussing a great app that I think should do well, I never really know. There's so much competition and so many reasonable seeming choices that can turn out to be a mistake that it's hard to say how things might turn out.

Honestly, given that I could not initially comprehend why anyone other than an exhibitionist would use Twitter and I now use it everyday, I'm not really the best at seeing the future!

7. As previously stated, you also write for Crowdfunding For Musicians, which is becoming a huge part of the music scene today. How important do you think crowdfunding is for bands, both small and large?

I think crowdfunding has moved from trend status to an established financing option. It's a powerful way for bands who are connected to their fans to fund work that fans want to see happen. Though crowdfunding has slowly been growing for quite a while, I think the last couple of years has established it as one of the most important developments for musicians in this century.

8. Is there any crowdfunding site you prefer (Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Pledgemusic, etc.) over all the others? What sets it apart?

I'm impressed by Kickstarter's status as the leading brand but I prefer Indiegogo as a general crowdfunding site. I appreciate their flexibility and commitment to educating crowdfunders. RocketHub also does some interesting work with partners including nonprofits like Fractured Atlas and for-profits like A&E.

Songkick's Detour is a promising example of concert crowdfunding.

PledgeMusic is a unique case since crowdfunding is more a feature they offer as part of larger album campaigns. When you look at what they do as a whole, I think they're one of the leading music tech companies currently in operation and in a class of their own.

9. Does Hypebot have any future plans to improve or expand itself?

There's plenty of room for improvement but I don't expect any major changes ahead. We're hampered somewhat by being on Typepad which hasn't kept up well with the times. But I think the basic product is simply an iteration of what Bruce started doing years ago and has continued ever since despite his having plenty of other responsibilities.

10. Finally, any tips for bands, artists, or aspiring bloggers you would like to share?

Whatever else you do, be sure to create your own homebase, whether a blog or full-blown site, to call your own. Keep that going for the long term and you'll have a reliable platform through good times and bad.

Check out Hypebot online and, for more of Clyde’s writing, Crowdfunding for Musicians!