In Search of...: The (not so) Secret Diary of a Band

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

So this is where we are…

A while ago we got a new flyer done to take to gigs. It said "New album due in 2011". Well that has now turned out to not be possible. Not for lack of trying. It simply hasn't been possible. We finished recording the album in December of last year and then spent the next couple of months back and forth to Wiltshire to mix the record, do the odd spot of re-recording and get a mastered version ready to fulfil our commitments to Bowers and Wilkins.

Steve Osborne making our album sound sexy

Since then, we have been presented with the seemingly impossible question of how best to proceed in getting the album 'out'. By what means, in what format, and with what type of support. We're clearly not the only ones to find this interesting, as it has actually already been the subject of a blog by journalist Emma Hartley. Indeed this question is not ours alone. It could be argued that right now is one of the most difficult times ever for an emerging band to make an impact, or gain the industry support necessary to give yourself even a fighting chance of turning a 'glorified hobby' into a career.

In the last few weeks EMI, one of the oldest and biggest record labels in the world, completed its long and painful disappearance, as it was broken up by its owner (Citibank) and sold off to other members of the big 4; now 3.

Nevertheless, the attached article by pointing out that Adele, the biggest artist in the world in 2011, is signed to an independent record, XL. Now, while it may be true that XL are "a label that has bucked the trend for gloomy music industry stories over the past decade", this doesn't tell the full story. Adele's record contract is with XL, but her publishing is held by Universal Music, and her music is looked after in America by Columbia Records, which is part of Sony Records. Moreover, when The Guardian published their Music Power 100 in May of this year, number 1 was "Team Adele" - containing representatives of her label, her manager, her publisher and her plugger.

While, I don't think Urusen are going to be 2012's Adele, I use this example to give an insight to what we're faced with. We have no label, no manager, a loose affiliation with a publisher that was swallowed by EMI earlier in the year (so where that leaves them now even we don't know!). When we put our single out last month we enlisted the help of a radio plugger, and we are currently in talks with a 'booker'.

Managers, pluggers, bookers…What are they? What do they do? How, when and where do you get one? And in what order?! All questions we've been trying to get our heads round over the last year, whilst making sure we maintained our presence on the gigging and festival circuits. And paid our rent. Bit of honesty for you here, we haven't written 1 new song this year.

But we've still got this amazing record. A record that we know people will love. A record we believe offers something unique and special and that has the potential to, if not sell as many copies as '21', then at least allow us to turn this band into a viable business venture. That's not meant to sound cynical; it's the reality of what we want to achieve.To do this, we have to work out these chicken and egg situations and make some hard and risky 
decisions about where to commit resources (both time and money) and in the right order. Everyone we have spoken to in the industry has stressed how important it is to get people around you who both believe in what you are doing and can help you do it, and then just throw everything you've got at it. In short, that's what 2012 holds for us.

At the moment, the proposal is (this isn't meant to be a 'scoop' and it could change!) to release the album (title and tracklisting almost decided upon) ourselves in spring of next year. In the lead up to this, we will be enlisting the services of a booker to ensure that we are doing what we do best, gigging, in/at the right places and times whilst also paying for pluggers and PR companies to get some "buzz" around the band. We'll be paying for all of this through a variety of methods, one of which will be pre-sales to our lovely fans. There should be more details on all of this as we get/decide them. All of it has to be timed properly as there are required lead-up times and so on so people can do their jobs. After a year with it under our hats, we're not going to rush things now.

So, there's no big cheque from mr. industry man. There's no plans for a nationwide billboard campaign or celebrity endorsements (though we were told that Lenny Henry is a fan of the band after hearing our music in Mr. B's bookshop in Bath!) It's going to be us 5, with some help from some small, dynamic, companies who specialise in offering particular 'label services'. But we'll be doing it on our own terms, in the way that we've always done things. To be honest, that suits us just fine.

On Thursday, we're playing our final gig of the year at the Star of Kings for the London Folk Guild Christmas Party. LFG involves some of our favourite promoters, Continental Drifts and The Magpie's Nest. It should be a really good night, with lots of great music and dancing. Would be lovely to have some friendly faces to see the year out with. Hopefully see you there. x

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Just a quick one...

We're away this weekend doing a couple of gigs in the south west. Today, 3 of us played a little acoustic gig in Warminster at a cracking little record shop called Raves to the Grave. They have a bigger store in Frome too (where a cool band called Ahab played last week - Urusen recommended!). We have never actually done an in-store before but really enjoyed it. There should be some videos and pics of it on the way so we'll post them when they arrive. We were invited by Reuben who works there, who's band Port Erin are playing in Bath tonight at the latest Bath Burp launch party. Ben and his mum are contributors to this wonderful independent monthly arts magazine. Reuben will be doing an interview for the blog in the coming weeks about the store, as well as maybe a bit about his band, who recently were recording in the Wood Room at real World, where we were this time last year! Also in attendance today was Rick Wakeman's granddaughter!

'Raves' does LOTS of vinyl, it's a lovely site to see. I spoke to Reuben about this, and we were discussing an article in this month's Mojo magazine about the resurgence in vinyl sales - encouraging to hear when you've just released your 1st 7 inch! The article is a very interesting read, as are the two below which I spotted recently. I will probably make a habit of posting stuff like this (in a tumblr style) - probably with the odd bit of comment thrown in for free!

From pitchfork: I really hate examples of people just taking money out of the industry with no benefit for musicians or people who listen to it. Always nice to see when, even in small ways, some of this is taken back. It reminds me a bit of the action to try and get back the illegal bank charges for overdraft fees from a couple of years ago. Maybe it would be an idea to legislate to say organisations such as ticketmaster are not allowed to profit from these aspects of their services - rather than simply forcing them to disclose that they are doing this? Just a thought.

Via the guardian: Interesting more general article about the internet age and the 'digitalisation of life', with particular references to the music industry. An area I intend to come back to in the blog is what Simon Jenkins refers to as the "potency of experience", ie what the internet and free downloads can never replicate, the feeling of seeing a band live.

Anyway, bed for me now. For the record Port Erin were great, a bit like a psychadelic Radiohead with Jack Bevan from Foals on drums. We're off to Bristol tomorrow for our debut at Communion in Bristol. The original Communion night was setup in London by Mumford and Sons, so I think we're in good company.