We Are The Animal Farm

The Animal Farm is a forward thinking independent music company whose 360 range of services include artist management, booking agency, record production, record label and music publishing.

Our Studio

Our 20 year career in the music business has given us the experience and global network of contacts to get our artists heard by the right people.

We are members of AIM, the umbrella association for UK independent record labels, PRS and PPL. The hub of our activities is our London recording studio. Check out the work of our producers and mix engineers. New artists wishing to submit music please do so via our demo submission page.

The Animal Farm Blog

Return To The Sun breakout on XFM

Scottish rockers Return To The Sun are Breakout Track on XFM.

Return To The Sun are on tour:

12/ 09 – Edinburgh, Cabaret Voltaire
13/ 09 – Perth, The Green Room
14/ 09 – Dunfermline, Monty’s Bar
16/ 09 – Doncaster, Diamond Live Lounge
17/ 09 – Manchester, Tiger Lounge
18/ 09 – Preston, Mad Ferret
19/ 09 – Barnstaple, Golden Lion Inn
20/ 09 – Torquay, Apple and Parrot
21/ 09 – Bristol, The Fleece
22/ 09 – Bideford, Palladium
24/ 09 – Plymouth, Junction
25/ 09 – Brighton, Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar
26/ 09 – Hastings, The Marina Fountain
27/ 09 – London, Spice of Life (Hog Roast)

10/ 10 – Dumfries, The Venue
11/ 11 – Glasgow, Flat 0/1

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What’s With The Attitude?

When Muhammed Ali threw his gold medals into the river and went to prison rather than obey the man, he showed great attitude. When Keith and Mick were raising hell in their youth, they, too, had a great attitude. Nowadays it seems to me that it’s all the law abiding, well behaved, media savvy artists who get praised for having a great attitude.

The definition has changed as if the new generation was trying to piss off the oldsters by playing music that’s even softer than their parents’ music and by being perky when the sponsor calls, desperate to do the right thing, please the man, play the game. “Oh, we’ve got such a strong work ethic. We’re up at the crack of dawn to do morning tv, then we hit the gym, do press and we’re always ready to pose for photos with fans.”

I prefer what Bruce Springsteen said at SXSW when chuckling about the timing of his keynote speech. He said that having to speak before noon meant that no serious musician would be up to listen to him.

Check out this concert video by Bob Marley. Shot in the late 70s it shows a band with minimal production, just doing what musicians do: playing great music so fucking well and with such electrifying passion that you can’t but get into it.

At no point does he ask people to wave their hands in the air like they just don’t care. He doesn’t ask people if they’re having a good time every fifteen seconds. He’s not desperately trying to be liked.

My old publisher told me a story about Bob Marley, another one of his artists. They were renegotiating the publishing deal and Bob, having become a superstar, was able to command a huge advance. On the morning the deal was to be signed he sent word round to the publisher saying that he didn’t want a cheque, because “it’s white man’s paper, not worth anything”. It had to be cash. The publisher somehow scrambled the significant amount of cash together. At the signing ceremony Bob refused to sign the deal unless it was read out to him first. He listened to legalese for half an hour without batting an eyelid, smoking a spliff. The lawyer, sweating and stuttering, rambled on “notwithstanding the generality of the foregoing”. At the end, Bob just said “alright”, grabbed the suitcase full of cash and left.

I can’t vouch for every detail of this story to be true. But it’s certainly true that it’s a good story.

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Been Around The Block v New Kid On The Block

AIM Startups is a programme designed to help budding music biz entrepreneurs off the ground. I’m chuffed that they asked me to be a mentor. Here’s the blurb. It’s an exciting new thing to get to do.

*****

One of the advantages of having been around for a while is that you know people from many walks of life, who’ve also been around a bit. On my summer holidays I met a high school buddy of mine and heard about his work teaching design to his design students at various universities. At the start of term he usually conducts an informal poll, which more or less “confirms” that everyone’s destined to work for cool global advertising companies and cool global brands. He then asks everyone in class to take a good look around and realise that everyone in the room is in direct competition with one another for that one job opportunity.

The ensuing discussion about why a company would hire a new designer is not too dissimilar to the one in my racket where for every umpteen bands looking for a career there are umpteen more around the corner. Most just insist that they’re great and the world had better pay attention. Their kind are usually gone by high summer, rarely even realising that they never had the talent to get to first base.

Some are talented and they are prepared to give it a shot if the right opportunity comes along. They last a bit longer, but not long enough, because there isn’t much in this world that is more difficult to come by than the privilege to make music for a living. Rather than being an opportunity that just comes along, it’s a privilege that needs to be fought for in places that are impossibly hard to reach and even tougher to get out of.

The few that do the hard yards that every successful artist ever has had to do, must, in addition to the work ethic, share these attributes: have great songs, great records, be great live, look cool and have interesting stories. These things come first. Only then is a manager able to convince everyone else in the food chain to part with their time, money and resources so that his artist can become successful and give up their day jobs.

Advice that doesn’t directly address the five areas vital to success – the quality of songs, recordings, live show, image and story – is not worth listening to, because whoever is doing the talking doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

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Doing It v Doing It Again And Again

Voracious readers of this blog will know of my dedication to and love for squash, the racket sport. On my summer break I played every day, often doing 3 hour sessions. I must have gone through everyone who owns a racket in Helsinki, my holiday destination for the fortnight.

Back home, my “hobby job” of being a squash coach ( my only professional qualification ) commenced and I found myself being dragged out of bed early in the morning for a coaching session. Following a night when I had been playing league, I was stiff as a plank and wondering what the hell I was doing.

Then I spared a thought for my friends who play squash for a living. They’ve been doing it every day of the year for many years running. Because it’s not a hobby. It’s the real deal. How they put food on the table.

Doing something every day, all the time, without fail is what separates the wannabes from the dudes who do what dudes do to be the dudes they are.

Playing squash for a living is brutal work. Getting to a place where you can do it for a living is hard, as well. Making music for a living is incredibly hard work, too. Getting to a place where you can do it for a living is equally arduous.

The trick is to get up every morning and get to work.

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Hendrix v Nutini

I watched two music shows on TV. One was a documentary about Jimi Hendrix and in the other Paolo Nutini performed at T In The Park. Paolo Nutini, I was surprised to hear, is a very good singer, even if his music isn’t my cuppa. But it struck me like bolt of lighting just how original, groundbreaking and remarkable Jimi must have been in his day. He was so unique that his work blows people out of the water 50 years later.

I had a conversation with a young band about why so little of modern music breaks new ground, a supposition with which they agreed. The unwillingness of record labels to take risks is often mentioned in this context. Meh…. labels don’t make music. Musicians do.

Besides, there are many like us in the business who actively look to work with weird and wonderful new music. So it’s just not true to say that there are no channels for new music to blossom.

This young band, all recent graduates of music schools, said the schools foster a culture of “being professional” that equates to playing it safe, not rocking the boat, being accessible, malleable. With their emphasis on “the business”, these schools may well feel they are manufacturing astute musical entrepreneurs, except that:

 

Notice that bit about taking risks. If you’re unwilling to rock the boat, why would kids wanna rock?

I dropped out/was expelled from my music college for refusing to sing Lionel Richie’s Hello the way they wanted it sung. My small act of personal rebellion aside, the important thing I remember from those days is that there was, among my peers, a big drive to find something new. We’d purposefully attempt to do whatever everyone else wasn’t doing.

It’s baffling to hear so little of this desire in new bands’ demos. It’s as if the competition is to create something that “the market wants”. A lot of them actually ask about it, as if anyone had a clue as to what it wants.

Some say that it’s hard to do anything new and original because everything has already been done. Did you know that in the late 1800s people in the science community declared that science had come as far as it would go?

 

In addition to musical risks, there must be a willingness to take “life risks”, i.e. do things the inevitable outcome of which is that you’ll be broke: something lower than a cockroach on the Richter scale of social status in a world devoted to affluence.

Many a wannabe is able to spend a few hundred quid on a holiday, while not wanting to do a gig that costs them £30 in petrol.

I often hear: “if given the opportunity, we’d quit our jobs and focus on the band”. Not one of the victorious German football team got the opportunity to drop everything so they could focus on kicking a ball. All of them had been kicking a ball for a very long time, playing on shitty pitches fighting against tough people who didn’t want them to get one bit of their meal ticket – all this LONG before they got good enough to be able to compete at “the next level”. It cost a lot of money, time and effort to get there, without any guarantee that it would happen. The life risk was huge.

For those unwilling to take such risks, there are some good news: there is a seat reserved for you at your local where you can pass judgement on guys like Paolo Nutini and anyone else who has made it. Fellow experts on how the music business conspires against true talent will strongly agree with you.

In the meantime, a hungry bunch of crazy weirdos are creating something crazy and weird in a rehearsal room that stinks of beer and sweat. I hope they find me. They won’t if I find them first.

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Big Announcements on Facebook

If you recognise your band from this video, stop what you’re doing and terminate your membership of that stupid club.

Once you’ve ripped up your membership card and you wonder what you should do next, try this: for the next month sit down every day to write new songs. You have to come up with a handful of ideas every day. Develop songs out of the ideas that seem to want to progress. Some ideas won’t want to. Ignore them.

Take the songs into rehearsals and develop them further.

At the end of the month, you should have one very good new song. Bin the rest.

Repeat this process for twelve months. In a year you will have a strong setlist.

If in the meantime anyone talks to you about exposure and marketing, better/bigger shows, some PR or whatever else of that nature, ignore them. The world is full of good bands with good songs and they’re all making big announcements on Facebook about something cool about to happen.

And it never does.

Why?

Because their songs are only good and the world demands great.

Spend your time wisely.

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Seinfeld’s Productivity Chain

I was engaged in a conversation with some friends of mine, who are all in proper jobs, about how to be more productive and get stuff done. Someone mentioned the comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity chain. It works like this: if you want to be truly great at something you have to do it every day.

Get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page. Put it somewhere you can’t ignore it. Every day work on the one thing you want to be great at. When you’ve put the time in, you get to draw a red cross over that day. You do it for days on end and a chain develops. You don’t want to break the chain. If nothing else, the chain looks nicer without gaps in it.

That’s how you could, for instance, become a good songwriter, should you feel that becoming one will be of use to you in your chosen field.

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In Utero

In his letter to Nirvana producer Steve Albini makes a few good points about making records.

In our daily business we, too, talk about making records with artists. In Utero often gets mentioned as the kind of non-polished, gritty record bands aspire to make, usually in response to a discussion about budget, I guess, in the expectation that polish costs (which is undesirable) and grit is cheap (very desirable).

In his letter Mr Albini speaks a lot about understanding the band and the kind of record they want, about letting the band’s personality shine through, about the overriding importance of vibe over control, of playing over tweaking, of the band’s sound over stock sounds.

They are great things to aspire to, as most people can wholeheartedly agree.

Not everyone can pull off making music the “old school” way. The band has to be very good, the producer very experienced and the equipment very good. Mr Albini had done hundreds of records, Nirvana many tours prior to entering the studio to record In Utero. Both parties were very good at doing the thing they were in the room to do. They had the best tools of the trade at their disposal. That is why In Utero feels and sounds amazing.

A band who would agree 100% with everything Mr Albini says in his letter may, with a straight face, suggest working in a cheap little demo studio so it “doesn’t sound too polished”. They’re right about that, for sure. It won’t sound polished.

The following applies to project management:

It’s quite a suspension of belief to arrive at the conclusion that an inexperienced band working with an enthusiastic amateur in a badly equipped, often run down studio will come up with anything even remotely comparable to a major milestone in rock history. The most likely outcome is that the record ends up a turd. Which, as everyone knows, you can’t polish. Mission accomplished. ;-)

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