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I recently attended a round table talk, as part of Yorkshire’s Digital Week. It was chaired by John Robb of Goldblade and focused mainly on how artists / labels / journalists can actually make a living out of their art, or business, in this ever-evolving digital age.

My thoughts on the issue have been (and still are, really), fairly jumbled. I won’t download music for free, unless the artist has put it there purposefully for my taking. Yet, I’ll quite happily accept a copied CD off of someone. I’m utterly precious about the importance of print media. Yet, since the magazines that I used to write for turned to dust, I stopped buying magazines full stop. I can’t remember the last time I bought a fanzine, yet I will extol their virtues until the sacred cows come home.

Facebook depresses me and I baulk at the idea of using it to share my writing with others (OK, that’s largely because I do a lot of swearing and I already use Facebook for the Day Job) but I’ll happily use Twitter to do just that. Maybe it all just got too complicated. When I started writing about music, about 8 years ago, it was simple: Send article to editor of cool magazine. Hear nothing. Send editor mildly abusive reminder. Land job. And from there, it went on.

Now, it’s as though someone’s ripped down the stage curtain and shoved us all on stage, butt naked, with the house lights up and nobody to hold our hands. Last (wo)man standing. May the strongest artist/writer/critic/label survive… you’re your own editor now. And your harshest critics are a mere click away.

These musings are, however, a mere backdrop to the meat of this piece. During the round table chat, I gravitated towards talking about Kristin Hersh and the way that she has adapted to the change in the way that we consume and produce music, in a really positive and inspiring way.

Recognising the origins of folk music – and harking back to a time before record labels existed, before cats got fat off other people’s hard work and creative output – Kristin joined forces with Cash Music music and started giving her music away for free, for people to enjoy, share, pass on, download, remix, mess around with and re-post their own versions online for other folk to enjoy share, pass on… and on it goes. There’s an online tip jar for those visitors that recognise the need for an artist to eat, feed and clothe her children and keep a roof over her head.

Kristin didn’t stop there. She (with the aid of her manager-husband Billy) carried on figuring out innovative ways to connect to her audience, without a record contract either facilitating, or obstructing that mass conversation. Strange Angels is Kristin Hersh’s subscription service. For $30 a quarter, her strange angels get a new song every month (no writer’s block allowed, I guess!), a guest list to any of her gigs that you want to go to, a free copy of any physical releases and access to extra online material (videos, photos). Oh, and she’ll give you the phone number to her studio, in case you fancy a chat.

It’s real encouragement for anybody looking to harness the benefits of this new digital age that we live in, or striving to connect with people and fight off the isolation that comes with staring at a laptop screen for 23 hours a day.

Look here for her music: http://kristinhersh.cashmusic.org/speedbath/

Search the rest of Cash Music for similar like-minded artists: http://cashmusic.org/

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