Everything comes to an end, Betamax lost out in the battle to Video which became subsumed by DVD which is becoming slowly taken over by boxed sets stored on TV hard drives.
( Believe it or not I have just discovered the last Blockbuster video store exists in Bend Oregon and is still going strong)
I’m old enough to remember the 78 record the crackle and hiss of plastic discs which eventually gave birth to the 45 in tandem with the 33 LP ( for those too young to remember plastic discs the number refers to the RPM, revolutions per minute, that your chosen disc would play at, was when placed on your turntable )
There are strong parallels between film and music here. I don’t watch much television probably a couple of hours a month, preferring to listen to music or play and sing it at Acoustic nights.
There is a great joy and release in singing and playing, for myself and some of the people I play music with its the simple pleasure in the singing of the song but equally important is the community of singing and the discovery of new singers as they haul out their battered instruments and sing.
On many occasions I’m at a music night and the most unlikely of singers turn up and play and quite often are stunning and we all look at each other and say where have they been all these years.
I recall seeing Steve Cartwright the well known folk musician from Leicester at Wymeswold acoustic night some 18 months or two years ago. His songs were entrancing, fluid and resonant, he sounded as though he had been writing for centuries and was still looking for that elusive song. His dark dark song “Its Very Nice” is my favourite. Last nigh at the Guildhall Leicester he was in fine form.
I listen to his music on CD and in the car but nothing can beat the sheer joy of listening live to Steve and many others who make the live music scene in the East Midlands so joyous. It’s sounds good on CD\record but to me listening live with other people is the killer.
And so, for me so it is with film. I personally don’t think you can beat going to a cinema and seeing a film in the company of others and enjoying/hating the film with them and then afterwards in the bar or coffee shop dissecting the whole thing, the bits you liked hated and so on. For me its not the same as watching it in the quiet of your own living room.
Eventually Netflix will give way to some other format that you can watch films on, but it made me think that it would be incredibly ironic if the last film ever showed on Netflix before it closed was the wonderfully sad and elegiac Peter Bogdanovich film The Last Picture Show.
Last week I
had a message from Chris asking if I’d like to join the writing team at Roots. Whilst
I’ve become a bit sick of late night dissertation writing marathons this year,
a head scratch lasting about 0.5 seconds led me to say ‘absolutely mate!’.
Although I’ve always felt slightly uncomfortable bragging about my own
artistic/producing ventures, I could rattle on infinitely about the talent around
these parts. Before doing that however, I thought I better start off with an
introduction to myself, what I do, and what I love about music.
Like many, my musical career started by telling people I could play guitar when I was about 10. Unfortunately for me (and my impending school talent show) this was a complete and utter fabrication of the truth; the truth being that I spent most nights pretending to be Angus Young in front of the mirror whilst blasting classic rock tunes stolen from my Dad’s CD collection. After being caught in the middle of a ‘duck walk’ too many times to brush off, it was put forward by my parents that I could actually try and learn to play guitar FOR REAL. After some apprehension, I agreed and set myself a goal: learn one ‘sick’ guitar solo which I could impress people with, and then retreat to playing the Xbox and picking my nose.
At this point however, I was introduced to an eccentric guitar teacher who unquestionably changed my life forever. He taught me all of my favourite songs with a focus on enjoyment instead of theoretical aspects like reading music, and before too long I was hooked. No longer was one solo enough – I needed more. Much more.
I was lucky enough to have parents who encouraged me every step of the way, and a teacher with patience and passion: though not essential, in my opinion these building blocks are invaluable in any music community.
The teacher’s name was Phil Brock and although I’ve lost touch with him a bit, I still see his crazy luminous green transit van knocking about from time to time, and I’m sure he’s still a guitar wizard (I endeavour to catch up with you soon Phil if you’ve finally got round to getting the internet!).
Though I need to crank an amplifier to remind myself of it sometimes, the joy I get out of playing guitar is ethereal, cathartic and unsurpassable (apart from scoring a mint goal at 5-a-side obviously). That joy fundamentally drives me to write, perform and produce music and also dictates what I want to do with my life and career. Although it comes in different guises, I’m sure that this same passion is present in everyone involved in the artistic community and it’s why this whole ‘music’ thing is so important for us humans.
“So why are you recording music now Benjy?” I hear you ask.
Well, Roots readers, my passion for recording started with my first original (and current) band The Fine Art Society. After rising from the ashes of a school prom performance and going through a few members, me and my best mates Matt and Max wrote a bunch of songs. We had no money and were too busy going to ‘Mosh Mondays’ and being 17 to even consider approaching a ‘proper’ recording studio. Max was studying at Confetti and had some basic recording gear, so we decided to record and release our tunes ourselves. We stayed in a sweaty band room for nights on end until the sun rose. We got noise complaints. We smoked too much and tried to sing high harmonies we had no right reaching. The result was a handful of songs which sounded a bit ropey, but contained all the honesty and gusto you’d expect from 3 lads who had nothing to gain; no X-Factor judges to impress, no record deals to gain and no fans to consider. Just the reward of getting OUR songs recorded and out into the world. Like a footnote or a piece of graffiti on a school desk – a little memento that we were here together and we created something we were proud of.
It was at this point I came to the realisation that capturing and releasing a song was an amazing achievement. From nothing, a small idea you have in your head can become tangible. Like catching lightning in a bottle – a little bit of your soul can be kept, shared and enjoyed again and again.
After a few more professional outings learning this dark art became my mission. Over the past few years its led to me spending all of my money on gear (an occupational hazard for us muso’s) and leaving a sturdy office job to study the trade at university. Again, taking this step was much easier with the encouragement of the music community around me.
(a special note here to my girlfriend Lara here who has been forced to listen to more mixes than any human should reasonably be expected to endure and still continues to support me).
Whilst I’ve got a few more skills now (and continue to gain them at a rate of knots) I’m still fundamentally a chubby air guitar champion who loves putting that passion into helping people capture their music. I’ve been lucky enough to record some amazing artists so far and am proud to have founded a pretty cool live session called ‘The Pin-up Sessions’ which showcases some mind blowing local talent. The D.I.Y ethos is strong, and we share a lot of parallels with the roots community:
Let’s encourage and brag about every ounce of talent we have around here and have a blast doing it.
I hope to spend future posts chatting about the artists I get to work with, music I think deserves your attention and maybe even some recording tips to help you get the best results for your budget and demos.
Thanks for the invite Chris and I hope I can write
some interesting bits for you all to read in the future!
Emergency! Emergency! The Maze is closing down! Captain Accident & the Disasters come all the way from Cardiff to this well-loved venue to bring some much needed cheer.
Adam Parsons (aka Captain Accident) sits alongside me in one of the big comfy chairs in the artists’ area. In profile I can’t help but notice he has cheekbones to die for! To begin with, he is a little self-conscious, but visibly relaxes when I tell him I won’t be writing as we talk.
I have been looking forward to this, having fallen in love with their music when I saw the band live at Rock City late last year. (More of that later.)
I discover that there is some truth in my deduction of the origin of the band name. I ask about the clumsiness? Dyspraxia? Adam hypothetically demonstrates his lack of spatial awareness with the corner of a table and a pint glass. Oops! From teenage years, ‘Captain Accident’ became his moniker and he now proudly wears three enamel school ‘Captain’ badges on the front of the hat he wears to establish to his on-stage persona.
In every day life, Adam Parsons is a husband and dad to a young family. He teaches Music (Performance) at an FE college in Cardiff 3 days a week. The studio where he writes and records is in his home.
As the child of hippy parents living in a part of the country which includes the dockland area known as ‘Tiger Bay’, Parsons was reggae and ska savvy from a very early age. His band has supported some huge names associated with the genre: Aswad, Less Than Jake, Bad Manners, The Toasters and Neville Staple; but he is proudest of playing with his personal music icon: Toots & the Maytals, on more than one UK tour! It was in this role that I first saw Captain Accident & The Disasters last year. To have the endorsement of such a great name is a massive achievement!
When I ask about festivals, I am told that current emphasis is on promoting the tour (of which this is Day 2,) but that there is genuine band excitement to be playing Wilderness Festival in Oxfordshire for the first time this summer.
The audience at The Maze know their reggae! With warm-ups from Mat Crosher, Buenos Treehouse and the extremely popular Jimmy the Squirrel, people are already set for some serious skanking when the Captain and his crew arrive on stage.
The 7-piece plays true reggae, dub, lovers rock, rocksteady. Mostly original songs, with the occasional take on a classic, such as The Fugees’ Ready Or Not, concluding their set with a personal favourite of mine: Twenty Pence.
The line-up sees Captain Accident on lead guitar, with The Disasters providing bass, rhythm, keyboards, drums and additional full-percussion section. Together they are as tight as you please, sending good vibrations radiating from stage to audience.
‘I love what I do!’ Adam Parsons says as we’re wrapping up the interview. Those cheekbones resurface and the Captain’s smile says it all!
Taking you from the hearth of a fireplace to the heart of a rebellion, Nottingham’s own Celtic-punk Ferocious Dog have produced an album that has managed to infuse a healthy dosage of punk-style commentary into its diverse soundscape…
Ken Bonsall and co may not quite be as consistently ferocious here as they have in the past, but it leaves room for more harmonious anthems that will leave a smile on your face and beer on your breath.
Fake News and Propaganda stays true to the sound of Ferocious Dog; Bonsall’s attitude along with the intricate dynamic fiddle work of Dan Booth and the ravaging tones of an electric guitar complete the recipe of this folk-meet-punk genre. Instilled within this hybrid soundscape are ever-changing lyrical themes, whether it be unity in the face of adversity (a concept that strongly resonates throughout the track Cover Me), to the hearty “life’s for the living” message in Yellow Feather. Neither of which can shout louder than Ferocious Dog’s shoulder-worn political commentary.
With the chaos of Brexit and fake news still afoot it’s an exciting time in politics, making a perfect climate for songs like Fake News to have Bonsall striking up a chorus over the conglomeration of mass media chanting. As the latter half of Up All Night brings some ferocity and cynicism to the subject of the infamous EU referendum, it’s a great way to blow off some steam.
Great though it is, there is arguably potential for FNAP to edge even closer to perfection. While I would never want the band to compromise their signature motif, the electric guitar does seem to be limited in providing the underlying growl to tracks in which it appears. Perhaps giving it a little more space to stretch its strings — even for a moment — would add lightning to what is an already exhilarating package.
Nevertheless, looking back to 2017’s Red, this record is evidence that the Celtic Punk rockers from Warsop are evolving, or perhaps maturing their style as their track list construction gives equal amount of limelight to each of their emerging styles. You will see just as much devotion to the balls-to-the-wall tracks in Traitor’s Gate and Bedlam Boys as you will with the heart-string pullers like Justice for 96 and Lacey-Lee giving the record a more well-rounded aftertaste; something that Red simply missed.
It’s definitely an exciting time to be a Celtic-punk fan, and Ferocious Dog have once again shown us why.
For many people live music of any sort is the pinnacle, forget the genre the sheer joy of playing, singing or performing music is enough.The bad news is that music venues are closing at an alarming rate across the country and for varied reasons.
The trend appears to be slower in places like the East Midlands but there is no certainty that we will hang on to our venues, certainly not if pubs often our biggest venue opportunities, continue to close down and be turned into housing (however laudable that might be).
There are some of us, quite a lot in fact who care about live music and seeing it performed, one of those is Roots Live Music another is Live and local East Midlands a free listing for live music within a 25 mile radius of Nottingham which is also available on a printed sheet for handing out at gigs
Don’t have a live venue in your area, then consider starting one. There will be a pub, coffee bar church or village hall, acoustically suitable for music and song and many will be free they will want the business you may bring in . But, if you are starting a live music venue there are pitfalls, which night will you run it, how will you advertise, it what sort of music will be played at it.
Some tips for your consideration, if you are looking at a venue, visit it in the evening as well as the daytime see what the acoustics sound like. A room in a pub in the day which sounds good may sound different at night if curtains or blinds are drawn they may affect the acoustics.
Are the locals going to be happy if your performers play in the only bar. How do you find out, talk to the locals see if they are happy with the idea. A landlord may be happy with a music nights his locals may not. Does your intended pub venue/coffee bar have a separate room where you can go.
What sort of music are you going to have , many venues allow all sorts of musical genres some will only allow acoustic non amplified music.some will only allow 1 type of music eg trad Jazz or trad folk.
Which night will you run, what will the frequency be? On the Live and Local site there are groups that run 1 night a week every week (Melton FC) or once a month. (Wymeswold )
Will you charge admission for guests so you can fund a raffle for a good cause. Some well established music nights invite well know acts and charge entry (The Poppy folk club and also the Carrington Folk club both book and pay well known acts to play and on these nights there are no other players).
However, most importantly your publicity material must be first rate and informative if you want people to turn up and play you have to get your message out there.
Social media sites, fliers are all good but remember whilst your Tuesday night session has no live local sport competing with it you will have the competition of people wanting to watch TV, go for a drink /curry/ film etc etc so make it snappy promotional material.Most libraries will advertise events some free newspapers take local listings. Fliers in music shops and on notice boards are good. If you can’t do social media yourself get someone that can help you (Usually a 7 year old kid will have the knowledge you need😉
Make sure that you are fair to all the performers that turn up. There will be all sorts of players from 65 year old men who have been playing 55 years and can sing any song you name to novice nervous players just starting out.
if you have 6 performers playing give them 3 songs each with a break in the middle don’t under any circumstances give one player more songs than another because he/she is a better player/singer. This will always cause resentment. It may get tricky if a band/group turn up will they expect to have more playtime than the solo players because either are 4 in the bandit they have travelled a long way with a load of instruments that’s a decision you will have to make.
Most of all make it enjoyable for all including yourself.
Not all gigs are created equal: how to get the right gig for you
So you want to play more gigs.
It seems like other artists you know are performing all the time, so surely there must be a secret formula to getting gigs. That, or all the other musicians up on stage are friends with the venue owner or have a manager getting the gigs for them, right?
Maybe. But nine times out of ten the singer up there on stage has no insider information, no manager, and no friendship with the venue owner whatsoever.
So the burning question is….what is the Secret Formula to booking gigs?
I could reel off a few quick bullet points to whet your appetite, but to be honest that wouldn’t help you very much and here’s why: if you came up to me tomorrow and asked me how to get gigs, the first thing I’d say is, “What type of gig do you want?”
You see, not all gigs are created equal. Some gigs will pay well but won’t help you build a following; some gigs will pay next to nothing but will be massive fan builders; and some gigs… well they don’t get you fans or money but can still be valuable if used properly.
Confused? I don’t blame you.
You see, before you can get gigs you need to understand the type of gigs that are out there and what each one can do for you. Once you understand this, it makes going after gigs a whole lot easier because you can look for a gig that is going to help you with your business (yes, you are a business) and is suitable for where you’re at in this phase of your career.
Have a look at the Gig Matrix below. These are examples of just some of the types of gigs, placed into a matrix that works on a scale of high versus low pay and high versus low fan building.
Note: This works for any musical genre; you just have to rename the gig slightly. For example, the musical theatre equivalent of an ‘Open Mic Night’ is doing a community theatre show for free.
Bear in mind that this is not an exact science. The music industry is highly unregulated and I know that some musicians have done very well with ‘low pay/low fans’ gigs like busking if they go on a regular basis, however this is not always the case. To make things even clearer, let’s take a look at each of the areas of the Gig Matrix and find out what the benefits of each category can be for you.
Low Pay/ Low Fan Gigs
If after looking at the Matrix you thought that you would scratch Low Pay/ Low Fan gigs off your list straight away… well, think again. Every gig in the Matrix has its purpose and each is more accessible to you depending on what stage you are at in your music career.
For example, busking and open mic nights are a great way to test out new material or to gain performance practice when you are just starting out, and they are the easiest gigs to obtain; you can busk in most places by obtaining a simple busking licence and open mic nights take pretty much anyone.
In fact, I personally use both of these types of gigs for this very purpose. I’m currently working on some new folk material and am playing guitar for the first time (I’m usually a jazz performer and play piano and sing) so when I’ve got my material ready, I’ll hit up an open mic night to take my new songs and skills for a test drive.
Similarly, if you are in musical theatre, the best way to grow your resume is by doing free community shows. You’ll meet people in the industry and can work on your performance skills while you hunt around for new opportunities.
High Pay/ Low Fan Gigs
On the flip side of the Matrix there are High Pay/ Low Fan gigs. These are what I call ‘Bread and Butter’ gigs because basically, they pay the rent. For contemporary singers, these might be bar/ club cover gigs where the venue pays you to play music their clientele will like, which usually means well known covers.
For me as a jazz musician, these are corporate gigs at some stuffy legal firm’s cocktail client night and I’m there to provide background music and look pretty. Yep seriously. Why else would they hire a band if they just want background music? It’s all for show. This is definitely not the place to pull out my massive banner, set up my merch stand complete with flashing lights and plug my CDs at the end of every set. You’ll be lucky if you get to hand out a few business cards during the break and get a quick thank you from the head honcho.
Use these gigs to fund the Low Pay/High Fan building gigs that we’ll have a look at next… and make the most of the free canapés while you’re there.
Note: Some musos only want these types of gigs. This is when it’s not so much about building a name for themselves than it is making money as a musician without having to leave their local area (Which is totally fine by the way. I know plenty of very good musicians who make their living this way) — but for those of you who want to make a mark, raise your profile, and reach for what can happen when you do start becoming known (i.e. a higher charge rate, better gigs, a deeper connection with fans, getting your message out there, and all the possibilities that come with being a person of interest) then read on.
Low Pay/ High Fan Gigs
I love/ hate these gigs. I know they are going to be good for my profile but I also know I’m going to run at a loss and as someone who relies solely on income derived from music, the costs involved can bite.
Many support gigs with better known artists will fall under this category (initially at least.) As anything in the music industry, there will be exceptions but when you have no fans apart from your rent-a-crowd mates then you don’t really have much value (in terms of business dollars) to add to a gig and the opportunity to perform with a band that does pull a crowd is a good opportunity for you, because it means you get to play for fans of a similar sounding band. If they like that band, then they may become your fan too. However, it’s not such a good deal for the venue or the band with the bigger name.
The reason is because these type of gigs usually operate on a pay by door sales basis. If you have no fans then your ability to help with the door sales intake is going to be minimal and therefore you shouldn’t expect to be paid for something you didn’t provide. The catch here however, is this: if you are a singer who uses an accompanist or session musicians in your band, then you still have to pay your musicians and you will have to fork out of your own pocket to pay them. It is easier if you have a band dedicated to doing any gig they can to ‘break in’ but for singers, this is frequently not the case.
The good news is that if you make the most of these gigs, you should start building fans from the first gig and it does get easier. That, or you can do a heap of advertising to get people through the door… but that is a topic for another blog post.
The bad news is that every time you want to break into a new market (location) you will have to repeat the support gig process, unless of course you have a major radio hit and venues are clambering over each other to book you… and we all know this is definitely not the norm.
However, playing support gigs is the fastest way to go from zero to fans and get you one step closer to the juicy gigs we’ll have a look at next.
High Fans/ High Pay Gigs
Ah yes, now we reach the realm of the Rich and Somewhat Famous and I can hear you thinking ‘Now we’re talking. Ok just tell me how to get heaps of these gigs, really well paying and in front of heaps of fans.’
My answer? “Patience, Grasshopper. They are not YOUR fans… yet.”
I’m not saying this to hold you back by any means because on average, festivals and promoted shows with advertising money behind them are hands-down the best way to get your name out there as an artist. The gig in itself would be enough, however most Festivals are accompanied by advertising money to spread your name further and have media salivating over the opportunity to get you on their interview list. Yes these are the best gigs to get, but they are also by far the most competitive.
Festivals are expensive to put on and so the Festival Promoter needs to ensure they will attract an excellent turnout each year. They do this by booking artists that they know will draw a crowd, which means that you need to be doing pretty well and have a solid following to get one of these gigs (that, or be good friends with whoever is in charge.)
Don’t worry, there’s a catch to Festivals which is your secret way in. Create a list of the Festivals that support your type of music in your local area (and beyond if you can afford the travel costs). Most bigger Festivals don’t even accept artist applications so scratch those off initially. Your best bet is to target smaller festivals and then build up from there.
Keep an eye out for contests to play at bigger Festivals but realise the competition is going to be fierce. Some Festivals do offer busking opportunities which you can snap up if you perform solo and acoustic, then make the most of it; get your banner out, play loud and promote, promote, promote!
The other type of show that can sit either under this category in the Gig Matrix or under the Low Pay/Low Fans category is a show that you put on yourself. You hire a venue or agree to a split of the door sales and then it’s your job to book the support acts and get people through the door (this is where that rent-a-crowd friend base comes in handy).
These gigs are great for a reason to promote yourself in the local media and can be decent earners if your door numbers are solid. Do a good job and your rent-a-crowd might actually become true fans and bring more friends along next time.
So let’s go back to the start and revisit our original question: how to get gigs. Now that you can have a think about the type of gig that you want, doesn’t that make it easier to know where to start looking?
My advice is to pick the gig according to what your needs are as an artist. If you are just starting out, go for the Low Pay/Low Fan gigs where you can get some performance practice singing in front of a crowd. That way, if you stuff up, it’s not going to be such a big deal. If you’re past this stage, then have a look at the bands gigging in your local area that sound similar to you and reach out for a support gig.
Whatever the stage you are at in your music career, go for the gig that will benefit you the most… and once you have it, make the most of it.