News at Zen

The Great Escape

Once again we are putting on a show in Brighton for The Great Escape. Little Brother Eli, Return To The Sun, The Onironauts and Hana Piranha will be performing at The Fishbowl from 7pm on Saturday 16th May.

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Write Some Hit Songs, Baby

The advice is always: get a good lawyer, get a good manager. Those giving the advice haven’t thought it through. Lawyers and managers don’t write songs.

If you learn to write songs that get people going crazy, you may be able to offer a lawyer or a manager a job.


Remember that everyone in the food chain works for you. Your ability to offer them a job rests on the ability of your songs to generate enough cash to pay them for the work done.


Write some hit songs, baby.

Here’s one.

While you’re at it. Check out how these cats could play!

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What’s An Askhole?

When I was a kid the band I was with did a TV show on which also a well known Finnish artist performed. My Dad asked me later what, if anything, I had learned from the guy. I said I hadn’t bothered to talk to him because he was nothing special.

Dad was upset with my stupidity. How can a guy who has for twenty years made a living out of the business you seek to enter be “nothing special”? I said I’d rather learn from Quincy Jones and some of the real cool cats. He said, take a look around. Is any fucking one of them in the neighbourhood for you to talk to?

Except he never swore in front of me. Fact. I made up the swearing for dramatic effect.


Eventually I moved into a neighbourhood from where some real cool cats came – London – and met a manager who was interested to meet us. I asked him who he was working with. He named a reggae band I’d never heard of. Sensing my indifference, he said that they sell between 2000-4000 tickets every night. He said they’re a “business” worth managing.

His point was completely lost on a young hot shot.


Twenty years on I’m the one being approached for advice.

Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it. – George Orwell (1903-1950)

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Little Brother Eli in OldSchoolRecordReview

Nice words about Little Brother Eli in Old School Record Review. The band release their EP on our label. We’re very proud of our work!

Read the whole review here.
Check out the band on Spotify!

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Gigs – What Are They Good For?

I remember this from early on in my band career. We had a record out that got some good reactions, the single was R1 Rock Record Of The Week. We toured very hard. The shows were hit and miss, mainly miss. There just wasn’t a demand for our live show.

In our defence, there was no way of knowing if the demand was there, without actually going to the back of beyond, in the vague hope that what little press and radio we had got would have enticed people into the club. Equally, promoters had to take a punt, because they had no way of knowing, either.

In this day and age, with so much data available online, it’s dead simple to see if there is any demand for what a band does. There is nowhere to hide for anyone.

Culture has shifted. We discover new music online, by peer to peer recommendation.

The money a band spends on petrol, food and beer to go play in front of five men and a dog adds up over a year. What if they spent it on a Facebook ad campaign, instead? Perhaps for their latest track, perhaps to people who live in cities close by. Add to the mix some blogs, who discover and champion new music.

You’ll find out very quickly if anyone is paying attention. If the campaign gets traction, you can pinpoint where it’s happening. Then you can book shows in those locations and, who knows, sell a few tickets.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

A small yet significant caveat: the above doesn’t mean that a band shouldn’t tour. On the contrary, they will have to tour hard – at some point. But before you can tour you have to have an audience to tour for. That audience finds you online when they fall in love with a track their mates are getting excited about.

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Illusions Of Reality

I’m reading a book called Get Real about How to See Through the Hype, Spin and Lies of Modern Life.

A chapter on the illusion of reality struck a chord. In my day job as the owner of a music company I often come across illusions of reality. The biggest illusion of reality exists on Facebook where tens of thousands of bands go through the motions of appearing to do productive things with their careers.

The illusion of reality is that everyone feels the need to look successful and busy. As if looking good equalled actually being good.

The reality, borne out by statistics, is that fans aren’t responding with anything resembling excitement to their huge announcements and great looking posters. The venues stay the same, the crowds don’t grow.

Artists in this predicament should listen to Spotify playlists, if just to compare successful records to their own recordings. Artists on Spotify playlists are successful. Again, this is borne out by facts: the tracks made it onto the lists precisely because many people are listening to them. Nobody is forcing them to do so. There is no conspiracy to get people listening to shit. That’s an illusion of reality. It may be convenient to believe this illusion, but that doesn’t make it any more true. Or real.

There are playlists available for many different genres of music, but there aren’t any for meandering, pointless bollocks…

If you have time to read a book, read Get Real. It’s got lots of other stuff about politics, the internet and technology that makes you realise what mugs we all are! ;-)

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Return To The Sun on XFM

If this isn’t nice, what is?

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Tech Crew v Music Crew

A late night drink at the hotel bar in Groningen during Eurosonic got me chatting to two chaps who were in town to sell their new app Dice, a ticketing platform. They’d both been in the music business and could drop seriously impressive names of artists they had worked with.

While the other guy was reeling off the list of names, I was not commenting on any of them, as to say “wow, cool”, because, actually, I was listening intently. It freaked him out, he said later, because he thought that I was unimpressed by his exploits. At that point we had a nice laugh.

Anyway, back to the story.

They said that to them the music business seemed a bit dead in comparison with tech which seems super exciting. They reckoned that the music business might have been as exciting in the 60s or 70s when you could do so many cool ventures and the money just rolled in.

I thought for a moment before saying that, fair enough, it’s great to be excited about something, but I’ve never been that excited about business. I’m excited by music.

The thought of being in a room making chords, words and melodies work together makes me excited. I’m a music guy. Through and through.

If that isn’t nice, what is?

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