Benjamin Wagner 2.0

I need a new website. And I need your help.

I launched my first web presence in 1996, a clunky looking site called (thusly named after my boutique record label, Ubiquity Ltd. Records — a pun — that I was later forced to cede to its rightful copyright owner, Ubiquity Records). I tried to make it look like any other indie label website with streaming audio (remember that?), photos, and tour dates. There was no ecom (this was pre-Pay Pal). Worse, I wrote about myself in the third person as if there was a small team of A&R, publicists, and general infrastructure supporting my fledgling career.

And my career was fledgling. “Bloom,” my debut CD, cost roughly $5000 to record (at a time I was making about ten grand a year). I made a thousand copies and sold them at gigs, and via mail order. Now — even at a time when I was performing sometimes two and three times a week — I was lucky to sell a handful at each show. It was a losing proposition.

A few years later, I read something about a guy named Derek Silvers and his new company, CD Baby. I wasn’t nuts about the name (I’m still not), but liked what he was offering: for a roughly 25% cut of the gross, CD Baby would act as online distributor for my CDs. So I signed up.

CD Baby now generates $25 million a year in revenue and is the single largest digital distributor of music in the world. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

Derek — who still responds to my emails personally — likes to send out advice. And his advice is usually pretty good. In fact, way back in 2000, his advice was spot on, and a few years ahead of everyone else. His advice was revolutionary.

Don’t try and be a huge corporation.

Connect with people as an individual.

Create and cultivate a community.

So in 2000, years before Facebook, MySpace, The Long Tail — all of it — this weird lookin’ bald dude with a pony tail in the back was talking about social networking and niche marketing. Which seemed to make some sense. Moreover, it was a relief; I could stop faking it.

And so, in November, 2000,as I began recording what would come to be “Crash Site,” I began writing a Studio Diary (which is where the photo associated with this entry comes from). I began posting daily shortly thereafter, calling it The Daily Journal in February, 2002. Mostly, I was trying to give people a reason to stay on top of what I was doing day to day so that they would know when new records were coming out, and want to buy them (which is still part of the equation).

Unbeknownst to me, there was a small revolution in personal publishing going on. Through search and aggregates and links I found sites like Gothamist (which has gone on to some fame: founder Jen Chung was in Wired last month) and Laraland publishing in my own back yard (though Lara’s moved back to her native London). I met some of these people (I distinctly recall my mother, who now blogs, telling me she wasn’t sure it was a good idea to invite “strangers from the Internet” to my parties), and learned about this “blog culture,” and made some friends (like Heather and Stephanie) which came to bite me in the ass a little bit. But overall, it became a great way to grow an audience, a — moreover — great creative outlet.

Plus, Derek’s business model (especially the deal he struck with iTunes, et all) made it possible for me to stay in the music making business. I mean, I don’t make much from it (about $3k last year), but it’s enough to keep doing it. And that’s enough for me.

Problem is, my “Daily Journal” isn’t really a blog (as you know). Because I got into it by accident, and did it myself, it’s a hand-tagged, manually updated HTML page. So there are no distinct entries, and there is no RSS feed. So basically, it’s black hole in terms of search engines. It’s completely un-Diggable, and un-commentable, un-sharable, and all of the things that have come to define the Internet, and web 2.0. Here I am banging on podiums at The MTV and I’ve got the most old school web site ever.

And that’s not to even speak of the aesthetic or functionality.

I’ve (obviously) been thinking quite a bit about how to leverage this continuing shift away from Big Media and Mainstream, Blockbuster culture towards niche audiences and “personacasting” to enable me to remain in the creativity business. An excellent article in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine (“Sex, Drugs And Updating Your Blog”) really drove the point home. I keep saying that it’s “go time” at work. Well, it’s go time at home also.

If I’m going to stay in the micro-niche singer/songwriter business (which I need desperately to do for my sanity alone), I need to overhaul Benjamin Wagner Dot Com, which also means finding a way to retrofit five years of Daily Journal posts into a new, more turn key (as they say) blog.

Which is where you come in.

Know any great web developers? Better yet, know any great young people who wanna’ work with me on this project for, yunno’, not an arm and a leg?

If so, please drop me an email. And if not, well, stay tuned…

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