Music’s Unsung Heroes- Part One
WITH musicians getting a lot of credit- and being at the forefront of attention- I was keen to highlight those behind the scenes: the managers, labels (photographers and venues) that promote new music; work tirelessly- to get great music to you
Emily Walding- Label Manager with Acid Jazz Records
Hi Emily. For those who are unfamiliar with yourself: give us a short introduction/what you do.
I’m a record label manager at Acid Jazz Records in London. I take music and turn it into a record you see on shelves basically!
You are label manager with (Acid Jazz Records) – based out of East London. It sounds like my dream job. What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part is definitely seeing the whole process through from start to finish. From hearing early mixes from a band or artist when they’re in the studio, to talking about what the album might be called and might look like; to actually making it, hearing it (and then sending it out into shops and going and holding it). I really like finding albums I’ve worked on in HMV or indie music stores
Label managers and promoters tend to be ‘under the radar’- not getting the credit they deserve. With the tendency to push people towards music- rather than management/music journalism- should we be doing more to promote label management/journalism etc.?
Honestly I think not. I think you do those jobs for the love of the job, rather than for acknowledgement. As long as the artists you work for know your name and know you’re working hard for them, that’s enough. I think the only time that it may be beneficial for a manager or journalist to be in the public eye is if it’s within the best interest of the artist, as opposed for personal gain. However, it’s always nice to be acknowledged! I really enjoy it when people find me online and tell me how much they like the records Acid Jazz makes. It’s nice to have that fan-connection.
You also do D.J./radio work (part-time). Music is a clear passion of yours. When did that begin? Which musicians/albums have been most important to you (growing up and currently)?
My love for music probably began aged 6? I used to make my own radio shows on my cassette player pretending to be a D.J . I think when I first saw The Spice Girls I knew I wanted to be involved in music. Even as a 6-year- old kid I thought it was crazy how much their faces were on EVERYTHING. When I got a little older I got into Busted because they played guitars and I thought that was cool. I bought a guitar and stole some of my brother’s records (Green Day, Blink, Staind etc.). I’d talk about music all the time. I drove everyone nuts with it in my household. I was obsessed with writing it, reading it, learning about it. When I left school I signed up to study music and I guess here we are J Looking back on it now I had no idea that those albums shaped me in any way. But I guess they did!
For people (like me) wanting to embark upon a job in management and promotion, what advice would you give- with regards to starting out; the right people to contact?
Contact. EVERYONE. Literally anyone. But you can’t expect a handout. I found people will be more receptive if you’re willing to offer your hours in exchange for gaining some experience. It won’t happen overnight. It took me 20 years to get from my cassette player in my room to the label office!! Never give up though. You may find that you end up working in the industry but in a completely different department than you wanted. But that’s totally okay too!
You are based around Surrey/London. What do you think of the music scene (here); how has it changed the last few years?
I think Surrey has a great scene. The Boileroom has some really good people working there at the moment who are bringing some great people to Surrey! As for London, it’s London isn’t it? It’s a tough scene there and generally a lot easier to be involved with- if you know people in it or if you live in London. It’s not the be all and end all; it’s just that a lot of labels are based there. The north is JUST as important as the south I feel. So many great bands come out of the North.
With that in mind: which new bands/acts would you recommend?
I usually hear about “new” artists or bands through A&Rs or through friends. At the moment I’m enjoying a band called The Jacques. Summer indie rock vibes.
Acid Jazz Records represents- among other- Matt Berry (to my mind the funniest human on earth). What is he like as a person? What attracts you- and the label- to his particular type of music?
Matt was actually with Acid Jazz before I was: he’s been on A.J. for several years now and has released 4 albums with some more on the way! There’s a good photo of Matt and Eddie (Acid Jazz Managing Director) floating around with Acid Jazz (holding a toy gun to Matt’s head whilst he looks scared signing his contract). I think that accurately sums up the relationship between artist and label! As for what he’s like as a person? I’ve only ever known him through Acid Jazz, I’m not too familiar with the world of acting but I know he’s a busy man! And he still finds time to record albums, play shows and stop by to the office. He just won a B.A.F.T.A. so I feel pretty up for gaining him the musical equivalent. Matt said I should have called him a “fluky wanka“. His words, not mine! Maybe include that as a nice little extra 😉
You seem to be keeping busy- with music and your jobs. What does the rest of the year hold in store for you?
I’ve got a couple of albums coming out this year that I’ve really worked harrrrrd on. I’m excited for those. We have this 7″ demo coming out too which I’m not allowed to announce yet but it’s GOOD! Other than that there are tours, gigs, more releases.
Finally- as you work so hard, you get to choose any song (I’ll play here): name it.
Come As You Are by Nirvana because I’m listening to it now.
Follow (Acid Jazz Records):
Diane Sherwood- Manager for The Updraft Imperative
For readers of this feature: tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
The concise answer would be – “an English woman living in Scotland promoting a band in Australia for free- trying to hold down a day job to pay the bills.”
The Updraft Imperative are taking up a lot of your time. As a manager, how much of a demand is it looking after a band?
The band themselves are pretty low maintenance. Apart from Josh. He’s the diva of the band and is very demanding. I’m kidding. They are all very low maintenance and hugely supportive and appreciative of the work I do. Which means it doesn’t really feel like work (don’t tell them!) One of the many things I love about being part of T.U.I. is the relationship we all have with each other. There is a huge amount of trust between us all. I’m very much empowered to make decisions and I know that the boys will always have my back – which is both reassuring and encouraging and in turn makes it less demanding… there is also a lot of ‘band banter’. No-one escapes the ribbing, but Muz does seem to cop more than his fair share for some reason.
In addition to (the stresses/hard work) there must be a lot of goods. What are the most rewarding things (about managing a band)?
Nothing beats the feeling I get when an email pops in my inbox with news of a new station playing us, an interview offer or a blog/review. It can be frustrating at times – because for each of those great emails, there will have undoubtedly been a hundred or more emails or phone calls made- but getting that one response makes it all worthwhile. Knowing that I’m helping to share the music that I’m passionate about with new audiences is why I do what I do. I touched on the relationship I have with the boys earlier, and that’s a massively rewarding part of what I do. Knowing that every minute I spend working to promote them is appreciated is reward in itself.
For those looking to go into the sector- and manage an artist- what advice would you give- with regards making the biggest impact?
I’m no expert, but there are a couple of thoughts I can share. Possibly the most important thing is don’t stop being a fan. If you love what you are ‘selling’ your passion shows through and you are more likely to bring others on board with your enthusiasm. You have to believe in what you are promoting. Being a fan you know what it’s like to be captivated by a band and their music and you can relate to those who support them. Fans are the key to any bands success and being one you know that better than anyone. Never forget that you are in a privileged position. The second tip is to develop a thick skin – but don’t completely desensitise yourself. Y ou will get a hundred times more knockbacks than successes, and a thousand times more non responses. It can get demoralising, and persistence can sometimes pay off however; this is where it’s important not to desensitise completely. Going at it like a bull at a gate will undoubtedly get you noticed – but for all the wrong reasons. You have to remember that you are representing a band now. Your actions don’t just reflect on you anymore. Remembering your manners- seems such a simple thing- but it goes a very long way. It’s really hard – but don’t take the knockbacks or bad reviews personally. Remember what a boring place the world would be if we all liked the same things. You just need to keep searching out the (better 😉 people like you who do love the band you love – and you’ll need your energy to do that, so don’t let the negative Nellies sap that from you!
You are based in Scotland (in West Lothian): what is the music scene like there; are there a lot of up-and-coming acts/bands?
It seems to be pretty healthy. There are a host of pubs and clubs in Edinburgh and Glasgow giving bands a platform to share their music with the masses. Although between work and the band I have very little time to get out and support them I’m ashamed to say! One particular band I do know to look out for is Edinburgh 5-piece, The Indos. They have been doing great things with the support of Scottish label Twin City Records- and I’m sure they have a bright future ahead of them.
You were involved with The Bedroom Hour- who have sadly disbanded. One of my favourite bands (of the last few years), what first attracted you to them/their music?
The first thing that attracted me to their music? It’s the thing that still gets me today – the intro to Shadow Boxer! T.B.H. will always have a massive place in my heart. It’s because of them that I am here doing what I’m doing. They had (blind) faith in me, and gave me a fantastic opportunity to develop the skills I have today. I’m as devastated as you that as a band that they are no more, but I am incredibly proud of what we achieved together (when I managed them) and the friendships that we have. We had the most amazing time and I have many, MANY incredible memories of the T.B.H. days – and it was all thanks to a chance encounter on Twitter…!
Which bands/musicians/albums have meant most to you- either growing up or at the moment?
Well I wouldn’t have started what I’m doing if it weren’t for T.B.H., and I wouldn’t still be doing it of it weren’t for T.U.I.! Both have been massive influences on me for very different reasons. I often wonder how different my life would have been without them…which then makes me extremely grateful that I’ll never have to find out! There isn’t really a single band that has meant most to me growing up. I have pretty diverse taste when it comes to music. I’ll listen to pretty much anything, but if the words and the voice touch me – I’m in! I have some killer ‘guilty pleasures’ though which I’m not prepared to share – not even with you Sam!
Of all the new acts (coming through) in new music: which/who are impressing you most?
I haven’t listened to anything new for a while…although there’s something reassuringly familiar about This Modern Hope….
You have a busy 2015/’16 ahead: what do the coming months hold for you (and The Updraft Imperative)?
Can you believe it’s almost a year since you reviewed Chair? I can still feel the elation I had when I first read it – which was eclipsed only by the boys’ responses when they read it! That review and the airplay from some U.K. stations was the catalyst for things taking off- in the way that they have for T.U.I. We have achieved so much in the last 12 months, but learnt a lot also. I know that we can (and will) achieve a whole lot more in the coming 12 months, and that really excites me. I’ve been making the most of a little ‘downtime’ recently, because in just over a week’s time- the boys are going back into the studio. That pretty much kicks off ‘crazy time’ for me which will include single releases, more recording, a new album, booking venues, arranging reviews and…oh yeah…going to Australia for a month to promote the album! BRING…IT…ON!!
Managers are often unsung/away from the spotlight- yet work incredibly hard and long. Great acts and bands could not exist without them. In that spirit, name any song you like (and I will play it here).
Jeeze Sam that’s a toughie! I feel like I’m neglecting a child by just picking one..!! However. It seems right that I pick this one because without it so much wouldn’t have happened – including meeting you! Shadow Boxer by the bedroom hour it is then.
Follow (The Updraft Imperative):
Emma Townend- Editor, Bleachandcologne
Hi Emma. For those new and uninitiated- to you and your work- give us an introduction/bit about what you do
Hi, I’m Emma and I write about indie music. Cringey intro aside, I’ve always loved finding new bands and wanted a way to introduce others to them. There are so many passionate musicians out there making great music that deserves to be heard, so I started a website to review and showcase them.
Your blog (bleachandcologne) is one of the best up-and-coming sites- dedicated to finding/promoting the best new acts. Music blogs are on the rise: what motivated you to set one up?
Thanks! I’d always wanted to be a music journalist but life got in the way and my dream remained just that. Then one day I was listening to an album by Talk To Angels – a side project by Embrace’s Mickey Dale. It inspired me to write a review of it, which he loved, and set off the spark in my brain that led to me launching bleachandcologne (named after a line in a Talk To Angels song) to give lesser-known bands exposure to a wider audience.
With the proliferation of bands/acts coming through, how easy/hard is it finding great acts; does it make it harder finding genuinely great acts?
It can be tough sometimes – there are so many bands around, inevitably there will be a few who are clearly talented but want to be just like someone else or have a cocky attitude that turns people off. But every so often you find an act who gives you a goosebumpy (sic.) shiver and you know it’s all been worth it.
Which musicians/bands inspired you growing up?
I was a teenager in the mid-90s when Britpop exploded, I still love listening to it now – bands like Embrace, Ash, Shed Seven, Rialto, Mansun, The Verve and Sleeper.
There are a lot of great musicians about at the moment. Who are the ‘ones to watch’?
Off the top of my head: The Sherlocks, IC1s, No Hot Ashes and October Drift are all rising fast. Watch out for Mouses too, they’re a North-East duo with a really in-your-face, catchy sound.
What does the rest of the year hold for Bleachandcologne?
I’ve had some time off (as I recently relocated from Teesside to Somerset), so the next couple of months will be spent writing reviews and improving the site to bring more news – the site’s Twitter account @bleachncologne will link up to reach a (hopefully) global audience. I’ll also be looking for unsigned bands to review in the South West.
In terms of blogging/music journalism, what is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
When I’ve been to an outstanding gig it’s a joy to write about it. I like to focus on performance and find off-the-wall observations to add a bit of interest. If I can read it back and smile I know it’s ready to publish. Plus, getting messages of appreciation from the band and their fans is always nice!
If you could create your own ‘dream festival line-up’- acts past or present- who would be on it?
How much space have you got?! Embrace, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Royal Blood, The Sherlocks, IC1s, Mouses, Serinette; The Struts, Glass Caves, Carnabells, Marsicans, Darlia, The Twisted Dolls, Polkadodge; Puppet Rebellion, Allusondrugs, Shoot The Poet, Bi:Lingual, Be Quiet Shout Loud and The Purnells. For starters!
With more people becoming musicians (as opposed to journalists and reviewers) should we be encouraging more to go into journalism- promoting acts rather than being one?
That’s such a good question….and almost impossible to answer! Both crafts need each other to thrive. With so many social media outlets these days it’s easy for someone to start a blog and gain an audience, personally I’d encourage these writers to push themselves to greater heights since they’ve had the courage and desire to start the ball rolling themselves. I think you should follow your heart and your ability equally – some have a knack for writing, others have a killer voice. So I would say play to your strengths, look at what’s already out there and decide what you love the most – then take a deep breath and do it.
Finally, and as you do such great work: name any song (and I will play it here).
After much deliberation – He Loves Cilia by Talk To Angels please. Without it, I’d still be daydreaming of being a music reviewer.
David Durant- D.J./New Music Promoter
Hi David. For those new to you/unfamiliar: can you tell us about yourself and what you do?
I am a lover of music. From as early as I can remember I fell in love with music and I soon discovered that I got the most pleasure from music by sharing the songs that I liked with other people by recording them on cassette tape. I especially liked it when they responded to my music choice with favourable comments or requests for more tapes.
This love affair continues to this day when instead of making mixtapes or compilations, I present a weekly two hour show on Brooklands Radio entitled Under The Radar Live Sessions, which shines the spotlight on independent emerging musicians of all nationalities and all genres. The essence of the show is to find and discover outstanding independent emerging musicians and showcase their music. All the tracks I play are chosen because they have an undefinable quality which makes my heart beat faster. Essentially, if a track or an artist moves me, I will give it some airplay. Simple as that.
As part of Brooklands Radio, you have seen some incredible talent: which artists/interviews have been most memorable?
Yes indeed, every week I hear incredible talent in recorded form and also in person when some of the artists I ‘discover’ accept my invitation to come to our studios for a chat and a live session. I have been presenting the show for almost eight years and of course there have been some outstanding sessions and interviews, as well as some not so outstanding sessions and interviews and everything in between.
I would prefer not to single out specific artists or sessions because it would suggest that I am favouring some over others, so I would like to say that every session has been special and memorable in some way. I would also like to suggest that readers judge for themselves by checking out these sessions on http://www.daviddurantmusic.com or http://www.mixcloud.com/undertheradarlivesessions where you will find a collection of most of the shows I have hosted since 2008.
D.J.s often get overlooked- when it comes to launching new music- but you have helped a lot of young acts coming through. How does that make you feel (seeing them do so well)?
I get mixed emotions, mostly happy ones of course on two fronts: the first, a genuine sense of happiness that they have finally been recognised, also happy that in a very small way I was part of that success by giving them airplay and the opportunity to be interviewed on radio and play a live session, often for the first time.
I also feel sad and sometimes irritated when I am asked to take down a video or review I did because their new management company wants to create a new image or because their old songs and the way they presented themselves do not fit with their new branding. It’s like denying that those sessions ever happened and quite frankly I feel insulted! It is precisely those lo-tech sessions and raw performances that have brought those artists success so why hide it?
In addition to helping new acts, what is the most rewarding part of your job?
Discovering new music and new artists. I love it when I press play on a track or a video and after the first few bars the hairs at the back of my neck stand on end! Likewise when I go
to a gig or a music festival and I discover a band or an artist I have never met before and their music is fresh, original and exciting!
You have just returned from Glastonbury. What was the experience like?
Glastonbury is a music lovers’ paradise with every single genre of music represented in one form or another. It is a magical event where you can find the unexpected if you bother to look around. It is also very much full-on with music, entertainment and food going on virtually 24/7 during the festival. It was particularly special for us because we were part of the Green Futures Festival Radio crew, broadcasting from the famous Toad Hall in the Green Futures Field which celebrated its 25th anniversary at Glastonbury this year.
For those wanting to follow your footsteps: what advice would you offer them?
Don’t be lazy… go and discover and find the music, don’t ask artists to send you music because you will soon be swamped with endless CDs, emails and download links, and you’ll soon learn that the vast majority of the tracks may not be to your liking or anyone else for that matter! Use social media, blogs and the Internet in general to look for new artists, and also go to gigs and open mic evenings and if you find an artist or a piece of music that moves you, make contact and write about it or if you have the facilities, make a podcast or a playlist and then use social media to promote it.
Social media is expanding and developing. How vital a role does it play (in terms of promoting/helping musicians)?
Musicians are pioneers of promoting themselves through social media so I think it plays an essential role in providing a necessary and valuable platform for finding new fans and engaging with people who may ultimately become superfans.
Crucially, Social Media has brought artists and fans closer together and for the first time fans are able to interact with artists in ways which would seem impossible 15 years ago.
Of all the new musicians coming through, who/which would you particularly recommend?
This is a very hard question to answer as there are many many new independent artists who are worthy of a mention, but in no particular order of preference, here is my list of five who, in my humble opinion have reached the top of their game without the backing of a major label:
- a) Carrie Haber
- b) The Portraits
- c) Jo Harman
- d) Orlando Seale and the Swell
- e) August and After
What does the rest of the year hold for you and Brooklands Radio- any exciting forthcoming bands/developments?
The rest of the year will be more of the same! Discovering new artists and new tunes every week and sharing these discoveries with our listeners and followers. There are a few festivals and gigs we are very much looking forward to attending, and of course we may well be hosting our very own showcase, so keep your eyes and ears peeled.
Finally, as you work so hard, I’ll play any song for you- name it.
Well, that’s very kind of you! Please play Magic of the Sun by Marcus Valance. No particular reason, it was the first song that came to mind. Beautifully sung, expertly produced and it kind of fits in with the warm sunny weather we have been enjoying this week.