Monday, 29 July 2013

A new music team programmes at Town Hall and Symphony Hall

Before we get to the core of this post... what exactly does the word festival actually mean? 

Artwork courtesy Sound Lounge 21
The ones that get the coverage are full-on affairs featuring tents, endless mud and excess, often with clear intent to relieve you of as much money as possible. But there are also benevolent and idealistic affairs that stretch the imagination, not expressly commercially driven, like Shambala. Then there are the (relatively) sedate non-residential affairs like Moseley Folk or Reggae City. And that’s not counting classical institutions like Three Choirs or Lichfield.

So, a wide range of definitions. But all of them ask you to pay to get in. When you look at free festivals, it’s different rules. Summer freebies covered on this blog (Simmer Down and Ben Drummond’s Sutton Roots festival) are driven differently. Music and doing something good and right go together much more obviously. What the ‘good and right’ might be varies enormously.

That’s what makes this coming weekend’s Sound Lounge 21 Summer Music Festival really rather interesting. It’s not just the music, appetising is it is; it’s also how the thing came together, and why.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

UB40’s new album might just be a stroke of commercial genius. But they won't see a penny.

Lots of questions to ask about UB40. Where are they after years of turmoil? What's the real story? Brian Travers gets this a lot. He gives some of the answers.

Brian Travers bearing up under the strain
Seems like the only time the papers write up UB40 these days is to report bad news. They’ve had their fair share: bankruptcies, Ali leaving with harsh words about their financial management, the old Dep studios on Fazeley Street now a car park, and dark stories aplenty circulating round town. 

Recently, The Sun newspaper had a lovely time painting Brian Travers as so hard up that he’s had to play with UB40 cover bands. That little ploy backfired, leading to favourable coverage on 5 Live and WM, and even scoring a mention on Radio 4’s flagship Today programme. 

Beautifully timed, though. Next month sees the release of Getting Over The Storm, UB40’s new album, their first in years. If you thought the title might refer to the band’s troubles, you could be right. And the content? Well, it’s Country. I think it works. 

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Getting your music on the air - get the basics right and then work up.

UPDATED as of August 2013: Kris Halpin, who kicked off this whole post, has now scored  favourable reactions from Tom Robinson at 6music

It's never easy to get your new stuff on the radio, but you can do a lot to help your chances.

Plenty of barriers to get round, past, through, or over
I got an email from a muso pal, Kris Halpin....  “I’ve got a new direction. I think it’s commercial – certainly it’s my best chance for success to date. And it’s picked up a bit of local airplay. You’re a radio guy – what do I do next?”   Kris's new direction - and it is indeed well-crafted and commercial - can be found later in this post. 

So what do I tell Kris? Does radio work for musos in 2013? It’s not what it was. I hear that with a few exceptions, big radio is over as a tool to sell records. We don’t need radio to get new music; its importance has declined. 

But I think that the right local music programmed the right way can serve local radio very nicely as part of the mix. So maybe that's where to startBut to do this, to use radio, you have to do the legwork: all of it, consistently, all the time, everywhere. 

I talked to a lot of people about this; here’s a distillation. A basic and incomplete recipe for 2013 progress. It may be what you need; it may be entirely wrong. There's some great tips here – like Toy Hearts’ detailed social media strategy tips, quoted verbatim because they are so good. All after the jump.