Sunday, November 8, 2009

Good-bye WordPress, Hello Blogger

After using WordPress for a couple of years, I've made the switch to Blogger (Full disclosure: I work for the company that owns Blogger). I chose WordPress at first because I liked how customizable it was:  the comment field fit the same theme as the rest of the blog, there was no visible header, and I could configure my blog as an artist web site complete with separate pages for my music, bio, videos, and more.

Since then, however, I've gotten much more familiar with Blogger.  What finally prompted the switch was the ability to easily add gadgets, like Twitter, YouTube, Friend Connect, and Facebook to my blog.  I'm sure I can do this with WordPress, but Blogger just makes it so easy.  It was harder for me, personally, to maintain my WordPress blog and to keep it current.  And, given some security vulnerabilities of WordPress that others have noted, I decided that I should just let Blogger do the heavy infrastructural lifting for me.

Switching to Blogger was pretty straightforward.  The only tricky part was that I had to use an export file conversion utility in order to import my past posts into Blogger.  On some posts, there are still some pictures that are missing and that I need to reformat, but otherwise the content has been transferred.  With this new blog format, I've added my Twitter feed and links to my YouTube channel and Facebook page so that the content I'm generating on different services is now easily viewable on one site:  www.lawrencechang.com

Finally, I do realize that I've been quiet for much of this year.  I'll provide more of an update on a future post.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Is MySpace or Facebook better for musicians?

I created my own MySpace profile more than a year ago and despite not really doing much with it, I've gotten over 800 profile views. So I've decided to upload a few songs to MySpace to see if the profile views are real and if they'll actually translate into plays of the songs.

Still, I have far more friends on Facebook than MySpace. So, I've also created a Facebook musician page and made the same songs available there. I actually started creating the page many months ago but just didn't publish it. I had wanted to add a music player first so that people could actually listen to songs on the page. However, the Facebook player required me to scan in a legal form of identification and to send that for approval so that Facebook could authenticate whether I really had the rights to upload the songs. This was a bit of a hassle and so for quite some time I just didn't do it. This past weekend, I decided to look at some alternatives and found out that I can use the iLike music player instead. So I created an iLike profile and added the app to my Facebook musician page. The iLike Song player automatically includes links to iTunes so people can buy and download the songs that they like. The iLike Facebook page also automatically searches for related videos on YouTube and invites listeners to suggest videos as well. Pretty cool.

I haven't found a way to link to iTunes from my MySpace profile, yet. It seems that MySpace should allow you to link up to Amazon -- where my songs are also available. But I haven't figured out how to do this. If anyone knows anything about this, let me know.

Creating a separate musician page on Facebook is nice because it splits out friends from fans. While you may want to keep your list of friends on the more personal side, you may be less sensitive about having your fan base grow untethered. There are a couple of drawbacks, though. First, you may discover that you really have absolutely no fans whatsoever and that your friends don't really care for your music. Although this can be somewhat bruising at first, I think it's better to know this now so that you can starting find the people that do care and avoid spamming those that don't. Second, it's awkward to have to add yourself as a fan of yourself, as Facebook encourages you to do. When you do, you basically broadcast to all of your friends that you are a fan of yourself, which just sounds silly. I'd prefer that when you publish your musician page, Facebook would simply send out a status update to your friends that indicates that you've done this -- and include a link to the page so people can check it out.

One thing that I'm particularly unhappy with Facebook, MySpace, and iLike about is that there's no native support for pulling an RSS feed from an external blog and have it automatically populate each profile. I don't want to have to copy blog posts from my blog to each profile. So instead my only recourse was to look for and add third-party RSS readers to the profiles. None of the readers is perfect, but I've found a couple of decent apps that I'm currently using.

In addition to comparing the organic listener growth (if any) from each social network, it'll be interesting to explore and compare the feature sets and usability of each service as well. I'll write more about what I find out in future posts.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Expectant (McKenna's song)

Regarding the eager expectations and need for more space I alluded to in my last post -- some of you probably knew that I was referring to the fact that my wife and I were expecting. For a while now, we'd been clearing out space for the nursery, researching and buying the baby gear, going to regular doctor's appointments, and so on. Well the big day finally came last week. I'm happy to announce the birth of our daughter, McKenna.

I started writing this song fairly early on in the pregnancy. During the first trimester, we hadn't told a whole lot of people we were expecting, yet. I remember being so excited and just purely happy, but not being able to tell anyone about it. It didn't matter whether someone cut me off on the 101 or if I had a stressful day at work. There was a sense that nothing else mattered -- we were expecting, and within half a year we would be holding our own child. It was like I had a special pair of glasses on that made everything in the world seem brighter and happier. What would these glasses be called? Ironically, "sun" glasses made sense to me, as these would be glasses that would help you see more light and hues -- the good stuff -- from the sun. I liked the divergent meanings of sun glasses and normal sunglasses (which are more appropriately called sun shades, I think) and so the "sun glasses" metaphor used in this song was born.

During the pregnancy, my wife and I would regularly read about the various stages of development of our child. As the pregnancy progressed, we got an increasingly powerful sense that our child was already there with us wherever we would go. We started talking to her, started caressing her by rubbing my wife's belly, and I started singing to her. So when I wrote this song it felt natural to address the song to McKenna while she was still in the womb, to exclaim to her that she was the one that made us expectant, that she was the one that made us feel such happiness. Hence the chorus, "you make me expectant."

Still, I wanted the song to make sense for me to sing to her after she was born, as well. It occurred to me that children can make their parents expectant throughout life, not just in utero. So I created the third verse to address this -- that this state of being expectant is not limited to just nine months, but even beyond that.

As far as the style of the song goes, I've been to Hawaii a couple of times now and each time I've been struck by the joy reflected in the music. And so I wrote something that reminded me of Hawaiian music. Perhaps a future recording of this song should contain a ukulele!

I recorded this song during the last couple of weeks of the pregnancy, when we were waiting for labor to begin. After McKenna was born, I of course sang her this song while trying to calm her down during late night meltdowns. I like to think that she's starting to recognize and respond to the song... at first, I was able to relax her and put her to sleep by the end of the song. But only time will tell. I've noticed that other songs she hears could be having the same effect! As always, give the song a listen and let me know what you think. The pictures in the video were taken the day after she was born, while we were still in the hospital.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Quiet plodding

Since my last post, so much has happened. The economy took a dive, the elections occurred, the holidays came and went, 2009 kicked off, and our new president took office. My personal life has been tainted with unexpected losses, yet buoyed by eager expectations and anticipation.

Through it all, the writing and music making has been progressing quietly in the background. My home studio has been taken down to make way for additional space that we need, so the recording has come to a halt. But I've managed to find some time to write a couple of new songs and to continue practicing some others. Until I find some where else to set the studio up, I'll keep chipping away on the remaining songs in the works and learning to play them. Then, when I do get the studio set up, hopefully the recording will go much more smoothly. That's the plan, anyway.

Oh and thanks to those of you who sent me feedback on Somethin' American. It's always great to hear insightful comments from you and to feel your continued support!