I went to London's Vortex Jazz Club on Monday to catch the launch gig for the new Lawson/Dodds/Wood album, Numbers (pictured left, with guest sax player, Mark Lockheart). The thing is, I'd already had the album in digital form for a month or two — and not (a) because I nabbed a leaked copy off the net, or (b) because band member Steve Lawson (centre of photo) is a friend of mine. I paid the advertised price.
In a move reminiscent of the recent David Byrne & Brian Eno album, a digital download version was available in advance of the CD release. Advance buyers of the download were also entitled to the CD — I picked up mine at the Vortex — and got a further 45 minutes of exclusive material (the unedited improvisations from which the album was constructed) into the bargain. Anyone who's just curious can stream the album in full on Steve's site (via Last.fm).
Byrne & Eno got support from Topspin Media, one of the new wave of net-savvy, post-label music intermediaries, in managing the album release. Steve Lawson, however, adds the roles of label owner, social media man-about-town, and bass teacher to that of musician. I think I'm right in saying he's never put out an album other than on his own label, and generally aims to break even, at least, by the release date. He's put more thought into the uses of Twitter for building an audience than anyone I know: follow him @solobasssteve. In fact his ideas are so good that he once, after drinking a few beers in a famous producer's studio, claimed that I'd plagiarised them. Judge for yourself by checking his Social Media Principles for Musicians Parts 1, 2 and (I think?) 3 (hint: check the dates on these posts).