I was doing some spring cleaning the other day. Found some old demos. On a DAT! Go figure… The demos were early Snowdogs stuff, our band of yesteryear. It brought back a funny memory.
We met this big shot manager who’d had platinum selling artists, household names. He was interested in our band. Took us to lunch in Soho. Gratefully received. Manager says that he thinks he can get us a deal with our demos. With his contacts and reputation it shouldn’t be a problem. We lap it up along with the only warm meal we were going to get that week.
Manager starts going to meetings. Weeks pass. At about the 9 week mark, still no offers, I say to Mat: “He must be playing the CD all wrong.”
In other words, our music has a divine right to be popular and if people don’t like it, something/someone else is at fault.
Back to the demos. They were shit. With 20/20 hindsight and lots of water under the bridge, I’m perfectly willing to swear that they were shit. How any sane person could have thought that a label would invest in it is beyond my comprehension. Nobody did invest. Not until we’d got a whole lot better and made some decent music, done a fair bit of touring, made some great recordings.
Another thing, a decade ago, simply because there weren’t that any bands around, you had less competition, so you could, arguably, get away with something less developed.
But in today’s world a person’s ”entertainment mix”, the stuff people spend their free time on, is ever more varied. Music is just a small part of it. With the advances in digital technology there are ever more ideas trying to get in a person’s entertainment mix. But a person has only a finite amount of free time. So, the space afforded to music gets smaller, because there are other things for a guy to do.
With a million bands trying to get heard in a shrinking music market, you really need great product to stand out. By product I mean the song/recording/look/gig/story/manifesto – the whole shebang of what a band is about.
So, if you’re in a band, you have to be very special if a punter is going to invest their spare time into you rather than the funny clip on YouTube or their daily fix of Facebook.
It’s all about quality, quality, quality.
When we got our first deal in England we were so down and out that I had to borrow tube fare from my then girlfriend (now Mrs Leppanen) just to get to the signing. We had arranged for £20 of the advance to be paid in cash because waiting for the cheque to clear would take three days. We had projects we needed to proceed with immediately. Namely: eating.
Asking for cash raised an eye brow or two at our publisher’s. We treated the crew to a drink at the pub. Not because of the eye brows… we felt victorious and wanted to celebrate. There went the £20.
We were on tour somewhere. Had been driving in a leaking van in pouring rain. Hungry. Tired. Promoting a record. We turned up at the venue and started doing our thing. A kid approached us waving a copy of a rock magazine. We were on the cover mount. He asked us how it felt to have made it. We, the ungrateful musicians, thought about our day so far. Indeed, the week and the month so far. Hit and miss tour. Dodgy promoters. No money. A bit of a cold that refused to go away. You get the picture.
The kid helpfully reminded us that we were in a band on tour promoting a record of our own music that was featured in a leading rock magazine. Shit, he wished he had just one of those.
It’s how you look at it, I guess.
We did a couple of festivals abroad. Flew in. Did some TV. On the way back at the airport we got stopped in the duty-free by a girl who asked for our autographs. Getting asked for an autograph at an international airport feels like you’ve made it!
Words of advice
When we first moved to England we met a songwriter/producer called Pete Bellotte. He invented disco music and has the Grammys to prove it. His stupendous mansion in St George’s Hill in Weybridge, Surrey had a swimming pool, a grass tennis court, an apple orchard, a 24 track studio and a fleet of cars in the drive. Leaning against his silver blue Bentley he gave us this advice: always write songs. When times are good, keep writing. When times are bad, keep writing.
I looked at the surroundings and thought I should listen closely.
I think he spotted a fellow music lifer. When Mat and I had to retreat back to Finland because things didn’t work out for us right away, he sent us a xmas card that said: if you quit now you will only have to pay the same ogre twice.