The inaugural IndieCon was held in London the other week. We attended en masse with our customary zeal. Our delegation was by far the best looking.
IndieCon is short for Indie Conference. Organised by AIM, the Association of Independent Music, the umbrella organisation for indie labels, the hope is for it to become the premier annual gathering of UK indies, where we can discuss the state of the business, meet and greet etc.
Going to such events gets you to think. Listening to other people’s problems – and their triumphs – gives you ideas. When you stand back from your daily gig you can evaluate where you are and, crucially, what you should do next.
The Importance Of Being Earnest
Panels make people say what they think others expect them to say. The point was not lost on a few mates of mine on the management panel, who afterwards said that they perhaps ought to have said what they really thought.
It would be good to do that, actually. There are far too many myths about the business of music leading people to believe things that bear very little relation to reality. But the buzzwords and phraseology sure make everyone feel good!
One misconception is about “the next level”.
An emerging artist will say that they are looking for a manager to take them to the next level, thinking that what the manager does or who he knows is what matters. What the manager knows is that the artist is at a given level because of what they do and how they do it. A manager then looks at what the artist does and suggests a series of actions to help them achieve their desired aim of getting to the next level.
The manager’s job is to affect change so that the artist becomes better at what they do and how they do it and THAT will propel them to the next level.
Put That In Your Book
Back when we were in a band trying to make it we met a manager who liked what we did. He was a big shot with million selling artists on his books. He said that “with his contacts and reputation” he could get us a deal. When after three months he “still” hadn’t got us one, I said to my brother Mat that “he is playing the CD incorrectly.”
For the record, how many different ways of playing a CD are there? I know of only one: put it in the player and press play.
What’s on it is usually the problem.
The truth doesn’t change no matter how hard the manager tries to explain what you meant the record to sound like. In fact, what he says is irrelevant. The battle was between the band’s record and the listener’s heart. The record lost.
The Times They Have Definitely A-Changed
Where I grew up there was one radio station that played rock music for two hours every afternoon after school. When I heard a song by a band I liked the sound of, I would have to get on the bus, go downtown, walk to the record store, buy the CD, get back on the bus and go home… just to listen to the damn thing!
Choice was not abundant. It was rare. And it wasn’t that long ago!
Right now when the world is at the end of everyone’s mouse, just how long do you think anyone will want to listen to anything that’s short of amazing before deciding that life is indeed short and there’s lots of other, more exciting stuff to do online?
Right now when the world is at the end of everyone’s mouse, just how attractive is the prospect of going to a gig in a venue that overcharges for the privilege of listening to a band play a selection of unheard of songs through a worn out PA in an unlit room that smells of piss and beer?
Right now when people express their opinion in 140 characters, how many of them will have the patience to plough through an album’s worth of music? Or this blog, come to think of it.
The Truth Comes Out Of The Mouths Of Babes
We are partnered up, in a very loose sense of the word, with a secondary school in South London, to give a Year 10 student the opportunity to get work experience. Hell, working in a music company is cooler than pushing trolleys at a supermarket, surely.
Over the past two weeks we had someone with us. Amongst other things, she listened to a lot of demos. The interesting find for me was that out of about 200 bands that were on a mailing list from a well known London venue, she picked four as bands of some interest.
Four. Out of two hundred. That’s pretty…. something.
Dig this. Two of them were our productions.
Stuff That Is Fit For Public Consumption
I went to see my little niece perform a street play with her theatre group. She was really cute and I enjoyed watching her perform. In the group were also a lot of adult amateur actors. They weren’t as cute and watching them wasn’t as fun. Their need to perform and the personal enjoyment they got from it was evident, however.
My squash falls into this category. I get a tremendous sense of achievement and pleasure from playing.
But none of this is stuff fit for public consumption. Our mates may, on occasion, turn up to endure our offering, but as for the public… exactly.
5 Reasons To Be Cheerful About Music
I did promise 5 reasons. Here goes:
1. Music companies are full of people passionate about music. They’re looking for stuff that makes them go: “What is this? I don’t get it. I love it, but… what is it?” In other words, be an Artist, with a capital A.
2. There are so many opportunities available to make music and to share the experience of it with other people. They may not all be glamorous and they probably require a lot of work, but they are there for the taking.
3. Radiohead are collaborating with Van Halen on their new record. According to Thom Yorke the band wanted to “put some pizzazz into our music”.
4. People who listen to mainstream radio actually like what they hear. Let them! Music is supposed to be enjoyed, not endured. All music will find its audience, once it’s good enough. Contemplate the meaning of points 1 & 2 and you will find comfort in the fact that pretty much anything is possible, pretty much everything will find its supporters.
5. In tough economic times entertainment has historically done well. Music is a calling to those who make it, but to other people it’s something they enjoy as entertainment. Think about the Enjoy vs Endure issue in point 4. Music that is being Enjoyed by people will spread. Music that is being Endured by people will not spread no matter how much money is spent on promoting it.
I made up point 3. If fans of either band are offended: good. For the po-faced reader I have an alternative 3rd reason to be cheerful about music.
There’s never a better time than right now to pick up an instrument and start creating. Get offline, disconnect from Facebook and Twitter. Forget that shit. Write a song that makes someone go: “What is this? I love it.”