One Beat? Most people know the name from the very successful One Beat Saturday and Sunday day-long gigs they've run summer times in Birmingham, focusing on new local talent. The next One Beat is in July, expanded to a two day bash, this year working with urgently cool on-trend promoters This Is Tmrw. The complete bill is yet to be released, but I expect a speedy sell-out: the mac arena venue is fabulous, if a bit small.
One Beat has a longer history than open air gigs. It's a record company and a management outfit, with one band on the books: Dumb. One Beat's Ian Light has a lot on his hands.
What I didn't know, before we sat down, was your distinguished history...
I started the company with Jon Brooks, who was the drummer in the Charlatans. Unfortunately, Jon died last year but I'm determined to carry on what we started... We started it back in 2007, as a management company, with a band called Arcadian Kicks, from Kinver. Then we started the label in 2010, and got a distribution deal with EMI. We did OK, to be honest, for a couple of years, and then the band split up and they all went their own ways.
What fascinates me with labels - as with bands - is how you can keep the whole thing going, at a time when physical sales are dropping, and everyone expects to get their music for free on the web, or for very little, off Spotify and YouTube... So how do you manage it?
We learned fairly early on that relying on money from sales isn't the best way to survive. Our game plan was to pay for the recordings for each band – we had the use of the Charlatans' studio in Cheshire. And by paying for the recordings, you then own some of the rights
Ah yes – you own the mechanical copyright, but not the publishing
So that PPL royalties come back to you! Our first couple of years were living off our PPL payments. You'd be surprised at how much you can make. It wasn't tens of thousands, but enough to pay for recording the next couple of singles.
Of course. National airplay gets you a decent chunk of change for each play. Local's another matter, but not to be sneezed at either.
Not at all. We also found the payments we put into plugging easily came back to us in increased airplay. So as long as you play a bit of a long game, you can certainly cover your costs.
But Ian, this assumes that you've got an artist in the can that's going to get national airplay on 1 or 6 music or maybe 2. What happens when you don't have that?
You have to work backwards. The best way is to get a plugger on board from day 1. Before you've even recorded the band, you've got to get them involved. I know radio pluggers that actively go out and check bands, and then take those bands to labels.Very interesting. The pluggers that I worked with at radio, back in the day, came to me with their national companies' priorities. I had to decide whether those priorities lined up with what my local stations needed. But of course, that was when there was ridiculous amounts of money sloshing around the industry. Those pluggers didn't get embedded with a label, effectively doing A and R.
But I would say that anyone starting a record label who thinks it's a fast track to millions needs to think again. But I do enjoy it. Birmingham Council appear to have changed their thinking on music recently, and that's a good sign.
I sort of agree abut the Council – well, a bit. At least they're starting to realise exactly how big a local industry it could be. But I don't think they're going to be showering anyone with grants and support in a hurry.
Sadly, yes. I'd love to get another band on board, but right now it's a chicken and egg situation. We have to rely on what we can get from airplay, my time and support. It would be nice to move on with small roster to develop. Maybe signing people to the management arm as well. As One Beat, we want to release band's first few singles, maybe see bands move on from there. That's what I want us to do in the short term.
So let's talk about your current charges, Dumb. How are they doing?
Great. A couple of singles have had Radio 1 play, Xfm playlisting, Absolute Radio... national radio has done OK. They've had a lot of press write ups too. We've just come off a UK tour, and we're planning an EP and vinyl which is a catch-up of all the singles, with a brand new track bonus track.
All being well, we're recording brand new material over the summer for an autumn release . I'm under no illusion that funding a whole album at this stage is probably out of our reach but there are avenues for artists at our level to pick up money from other sources - we recently put in for PRS Momentum Funding which we unfortunately missed out on ....but it is out there!
Sounds great. Tell me - Dumb changed their name a while back. They were the Carpels then, and they had a LOT of fans. Is it the same personnel?
No, I would feel a bit of a fraud if we did that! Two of the Carpels went off to University. So we got a new bassist in, and relaunched.
I do think the new name is more 'grabby' that the old.
Well, the Carpels – we did a couple of singles and got no airplay at all. To keep going back with a band that they hadn't played... it would have been a struggle.Tricky though, especially if you've written great material. I've got to ask you one question, though: when you search online for Dumb, you get a truckload of stupid YouTube videos of people falling over... But I do think the more popular they get, the easier it's going to be.
Yes, but look at Peace... finding them online was nigh on impossible, when they started. But now they're right at the top when you search for them. Things do change. But we like the name! I genuinely think that they are one of the most unique bands in the city. They get lumped in with everybody else, but they are different. We're plugging away, bit by bit.
Then there's the 'fathers and sons' gigs at the Institute – you and Jaws in the Institute Library while UB40 play several nights in the main room.
Jaws are doing ever so well. We're the main support to Jaws on the 19th, and it looks like it's selling out – 600 capacity. So it's a great for Dumb to get on the bill. From a live perspective, at our level, getting on a big show as main support or even a tour support of a bigger band - it's great exposure and something our agent (The Agency Group) is pushing for.
How do you feel about UB40 being in the same building on the same night?
It's very interesting. UB40 were the first band I ever saw live. Birmingham Odeon, Present Arms Tour. I can even remember Night Doctor were support (funny what you remember of your first experiences with music!) Their first two albums are all-time classics – great, great albums. To have them playing in the same building is fantastic for me. It's a nice thing – two breakthrough bands in one room while UB40, stalwarts of the scene for 35 years, play next door in the main room!
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