Sunday, 26 May 2013

Studio Managers - they're just big softies, really. Aren't they?

Want to get started at a recording studio? Andy Ward at Musoplex has some tips.

I’ve been here before. Where the hell is this place?

I'm parked up on a less than welcoming, dimly lit industrial estate, in the dark, fishing out my phone to call my contact. It’s raining. I’m not rocking up at Abbey Road today to hang with media luvvies - I’m in real-world, value for money territory. Selly Oak, Hockley, Tamworth, Wolverhampton… not a glamorous list. These are where you’ll find working recording studios. Right now, as the M5 rumbles directly overhead, I’m heading for Musoplex in Oldbury. 

A studio is a capital-intensive business. Proper recording kit, not the kind on your laptop, costs money. Yes, it's much cheaper now, but figure in rent, rates, heating, maintenance and rehearsal room instruments, and it adds up. Studio owners who go into this line of trade need their eyes wide open. But, like many other studio owners, Andy Ward has a strong romantic streak. It must give his bank manager nightmares. 

Monday, 20 May 2013

Airplay: a howl of frustration

Busting past the music gatekeepers to get radio exposure. How is it? How should it be? Tips, tricks and opinions
Name's not down, yer not coming in  
Two weeks back, hazily happy after a great day, I joined a brilliant Facebook rant/thread led by a long-standing muso pal, Neil Spragg. At the heart of it was this question: How the hell do you get people at radio to listen to your stuff? 

Lots of people pitched in with comments, sympathies and tactics, both ethical and imaginative... and downright creepy. In fact I have deliberately not included the creepiest one of all in this post. Me? I weighed in as someone who was regularly on the receiving end of demos, pitches, and hustles, back in the day. 

Read this and you'll also see it suggested that musicians might not even wish to try that hard at radio anymore. I still believe that radio has a huge part to play in supporting new and local music, so I found that hard to take; but, equally, I concede it's hard to argue against that view in the present radio climate. 

It was (and is) a great chat thread. It's the kind of thing social media does well. So, with my sincere thanks to everyone who joined in, here's a condensed version, sorted roughly by topic, after the jump. 

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Revisiting Moseley Shoals live after 17 years: Ocean Colour Scene's Simon Fowler

UPDATE: A revised and expanded version of this post 
is included in the new Radio To Go ebook, Survivors 

What makes a band go large? What makes them last – albeit with the odd hiatus – over twenty years, despite managerial problems and some pretty solid contractual brick walls blocking them from playing and recording?

When you try to tot up those Birmingham bands who went REALLY BIG for a sustained period in the past twenty years of so, you get quite a short list. But right up at the top of that list you’ll find Ocean Colour Scene

Interestingly, they're still going, with much of the original line-up. It's an gripping tale of solid songwriting and playing, battling through obstacles, and coming good. Good luck? I wouldn't say that.. Good judgement? Yup, give them that. Hard work? Without a doubt. Good friends along the way? Yes - they played a big part.

As far as most people were concerned, Ocean Colour Scene - OCS - emerged (and how) in the mid-90s. But in fact they were already a big noise in Brum at the end of the eighties. Then it all went quiet, with individual members forming impressive alliances which stood them in good stead when the time came for their proper breakthrough.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Boat To Row: on tour in May, back at Moseley Folk in August, new songs to unveil, and national airplay

The May 2013 Boat To Row tour poster
Boat To Row have been sculling through peaceful waters for some time now. But it hasn't been plain sailing (and that's quite enough boat gags). Time to talk managers, repertoire, accosting national DJs on the street... 

Two or three years back, Boat To Row opened for Goodnight Lenin at a packed Hare and Hounds, rammed with GNL’s mates. That BTR line-up played an understated but highly effective set, swiftly followed up with some early material online, much of which is still current.

This band is astonishingly calm, collected and at ease. They're good company. For all that, there’s been a hefty turnover of musicians, but the current line-up seems stable. And there’s a really rather attractive tour coming up at the end of the month – the Birmingham gig packs in the wonderful Chris Tye, the fast-rising and very appealing Cannon Street and at least four other acts, on top of Boat To Row's headlining slot. And two days ago Moseley Folk confirmed that they will appear on the first day of this year's festival.. . 

And beneath all that sunny affable calm, there’s a good deal of judicious thinking going on.