My two main passions are technology and music, so I'm always on the lookout for ways to combine the two. The area of music that I most love is hunting down new artists and giving my support to those who I think have the talent and dedication to make a big impact on the music scene.
When you're starting out as a band, you have a daunting task ahead of you. You have a bootstrap problem. People need to listen to your music to know that it's great, but they also need to already know that it's great in order to pick you out from among the tens of thousands of other bands. Traditionally this is where a record label would step in. They have the capital to combine with your talent. They are prepared to invest hundreds of thousands - to recoup millions, of course - and catapult you to stardom on the way.
For many bands without their own capital, which is, sadly, the usual state of affairs as those investing their time earning money have less time to spend on music, this has often been the only route to creating a high quality album. You have to spend the money making the album before you can sell it and recoup the costs.
Well no longer! Tech startup Pledge Music (www.pledgemusic.com) allows you to sell your album _before_ you make it. You can put up a song or two, explain about the band and put a price on what the album would cost if you were to get enough support to be able to make it. You can set this limit yourself and when fans sign up to buy the album, they are only charged when the total money "pledged" reaches the limit that you set.
One of the nice touches about Pledge Music is the fact that in addition to just selling a digital album, you can also configure a range of extra options for hardcore fans. For a lot of bands, it's these options, rather than the basic ticket price, that generate most of their revenue. Extras I've seen include a physical copy (CD or vinyl), your name in the liner notes, album themed t-shirts and jewellery and even private gigs in your own house!
The poster boy for the Pledge process is Ginger Wildheart, most famously of 90s rock band the Wildhearts but with many other credits to his name. His first album 555% (named after the % of the Pledge target reached the day of release) was such a success that he has carried straight on with a further two pledge projects (currently live at http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/gingerwildheartmutation). Brit-pop Jackdaw 4 have just closed their campaign on a whopping 366% and I've personally pledged for Roberta di Francia, a beautiful singer-songwriter and favourite of my new music Shoreditch Radio show.
If you're a band looking for a new audience, or a music-lover who wants to support the best in new music, get over to www.pledgemusic.com and put your money where your mouth is.
I've been looking forward to two things for ages - finally making a technology TV show to combine my day job and my outside interests, and running a technology event where all the cool people in the tech industry can meet up.
The first episode of Tech Talkfest TV launched on 4th September. I'm super excited about the cool guests that came to talk to me - Maggie Philbin (of Tomorrow's World fame) about her initiative to get young people (especially girls) interested in technology at the crucial age before they pick their GCSE's and Julian Matthews of Tiger Nation, who founded a tech heavy tiger conservation website, known in inner circles as "Facebook for Tigers".
You can see episode 1 here - if you have any comments or feedback let me know! We should be starting on episode 2 shortly for an October release - you can also ping over any tech news or ideas.
Or if you'd like to give me your feedback in person, why not come along to the first Tech Talkfest event, which will take place at the fabulous Shoreditch House on 22nd October. More details available on the website: http://www.techtalkfest.com/next-event.html.
I've recently signed up to Dalton Caldwell's new advert-free Twitter-equivalent, App.net. Launched in February 2012 with go live conditional on raising $500,000 (which is 10,000 users buying in at the yearly registration fee of $50 - met ahead of schedule) App.net is an online community with a difference. The latest user numbers are high tens of thousands and of these a significant proportion are app developers. Whereas Twitter and Facebook allowed applications to connect in only as an afterthought, App.net has been set up to be developer friendly from the start. This raises intriguing possibilities about where the network will go. "In the long run, App.net will become whatever apps developers build, and whatever apps members use", says Ben Friedland on the App.net blog.
But what has struck me most about joining App.net is the way that it strips the concept of a social network back to basics. Developers have already created applications that can scan your Twitter followers and the users that you follow to find out who is on App.net. Of the 400 or so people I'm connected to on Twitter only three were on App.net - Professor Brian Cox, who posted three times on his first login and disappeared back to Twitter, Stephen Fry and a fellow software developer from Softwire UK. Everyone starting on App.net is in the same position, which mean that just like when you start at university, it's easy to make new friends.
Celebrities who are drowning in followers on Twitter welcome the change of pace. It must be a relief to be saved from the near non-stop spam and chatter from fans. "*Hides under the warm welcoming skirts of ADN after causing a DDoS-style server outage on a friend's site*" confides Stephen Fry, reveling in the lower follower numbers on App.net (2,300 vs 4.7m on Twitter).
So will it succeed? The skeptics point out that people almost never pay for something that they can have for free, even if they claim that they would. Bitter articles about low cost flights from companies like Easyjet and Ryanair abound, yet these companies are driving higher cost, better service airlines out of business. App.net does have one advantage over rival free sites like Google+. Charging for a service gives it a higher value, at least psychologically. It's hard to imagine people who've paid $50 or $100 (for developer access) not giving the new network a good go before writing it off - I know I will be. The crunch time will come in about one year when people need to renew their subscriptions. If numbers aren't up substantially by then it may well signal another nail in the coffin for the advert-free model.
I am a classic 21st century girl. I like clothes, but I don't have time to shop. Back in March 2011 I reviewed the ShopStyle app for the Girl Geek Chic website. I still think it's a great app, but it has one serious downside that no-one could have predicted - too many clothes. It turns out that if you're too busy to shop, you're also too busy to wade through pages and pages of bargain mini-dresses. You'd rather have choice of a smaller number of items targeted at you.
That's where Style Nibble comes in. Founded by Heather Bird and Nigel Whiteoak, both previously with online site ShoeDazzle.com, Style Nibble aims to provide you with a manageable number of fashion recommendations to suit you.
The site works using a combination of automated matching based on previously revealed preference, and selection by a real-life stylist. The results are rather good.
You start by taking a simple style quiz. Don't worry, this isn't a difficult questionnaire where you need to enter your measurements, body shape and countless other pieces of information that you don't have to hand. It takes about 3 minutes and all you have to do it to look at some pictures and say which one you like best. Ooo, I like the Reese Witherspoon look.
Once you've finished the questionnaire you get assigned to a stylist, who has their own facebook page, twitter account and email, where you can ask them questions. I'm with Olivia.
I signed up a few weeks ago and I've been very impressed by the results. Aside from picking trousers that I really liked and a dress I already owned, the site recommended me a comfy below the knee skirt that I wouldn't have thought to get otherwise and which I know is going to be a perfect addition to my wardrobe for Autumn/Winter.
The site is still very new, and there are some annoyances, such as having to repeatedly log in, even when clicking through from a recommendation email, but even so I think this fills a much-needed gap in the market. Viva la Style Nibble!
Managing Director of Softwire, technology and backgammon presenter. Plus a little bit of new music radio.