[The F**king Music Industry]

This section is intended to serve as a useful insight into the people who work in the British music industry, for those who aspire to work within it themselves but don’t have the foggiest of how to go about doing so. Thanks to all those brave souls who participate. J’eah.

[Interview with Chris Fraser, online PR/bad-ass MC at Theo PR]

Who are you, and what do you do?

Chris Fraser – Digital press shiz at Theo PR.

What made you want to work in music?

My parents. I grew up around music and going to festivals, which must have made an impression at some point. Being in a band was always the dream, until I realised I sucked at that and was much better behind the scenes than being in a band.

 

Chris Fraser: realises he sucks.

How did you get started in the music industry?

By being out and about at various gigs. Then one drunken conversation and introduction later I ended up in a PR internship.

After that I worked for free for 2 years at various places. A combination of little sleep, living off my student loan and focusing on internships ultimately got me a job rather than a degree.

 

 

 

Please summarise what exactly your business does, and what your role is.

 

We’re a PR company, who specialise in print and digital press.

In a nutshell we spend every day chatting to (hassling) various magazines and journalists, using the relationships we’ve built with the aim to get our acts as much print and online coverage as possible.

I do the online side of things. I spend most of my time on the Internet, looking at pointless things like pugs dressed as batman, emailing pictures to people and chin wagging to blogs and websites about the bands I work with.

 

 

Do you have to do anything else to keep your business operational? Or is it completely self-sustaining?

 

It’s completely self-sustaining, as far as I know. However, top banter levels are probably the best ingredients to keeping things operational. That and we’ve been lucky enough to work with several acts, which have helped enhance our reputation.

 

 

Tell us about some of the acts you work with.

 

They’re all babes.

 

KM: That’s some great online PR right there buddy. Let us do your job for you. You just relax mate, it is Sunday after all. Ahem…. CHRIS FRASER RUDDY LOVES BANDS LIKE YES CADETS, BRONZE MEDALLISTS, AND MAUSI. OH LOOK, HERE ARE THEIR CONVENIENTLY-EMBEDDED VIDEOS. LET US WATCH THEM SHALL WE?

 

 

 

 

 

If you could work with any act, who would it be and why?

 

Lou Reed – man, myth, legend.

 

KM: We actually would have said Pavarotti. No word of a fucking lie.

 

 

 

Any advice for the new bands out there?

 

Don’t rush into things, be ready and don’t take things too seriously.

 

 

Finally – is it worth it?

 

100%. Interning can be a drag but it all pays off.

 

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[Interview with Chris Douch, product manager at UMTV and owner/creator of Chris Douch Design]

Who are you, and what do you do?

Chris Douch. I work in marketing and do graphic design for UMTV, as well as being a freelance graphic designer and playing guitar for One Eyed Jacks.

What made you want to work in music?

There never really seemed like anything else I’d want to do – I love music. I’ve played in bands since I was a kid, and after a brief stint at art school decided that I really wanted to be doing music instead of art – now I kind of do both.

Chris Douch – Likes music, likes art, kinda does both. Also carefully crafts his answers so we can’t take the piss out of him.

How did you get started in the music industry?

After doing a degree in music I got an internship doing press at Decca Records (then Universal Classics and Jazz), after that I got a job as a temp in the marketing department at UMTV. A few years on and I’m still here but I’m not a temp anymore, and my job is now pretty different.

Please summarise what exactly your business does, and what your role is.

UTMV is Universal Music’s compilations department – I do everything from designing all the artwork for an album to doing flash banners, press ads etc.

Outside of UMTV, as a freelance designer, I do a wide range of stuff: logos, posters, all kinds – mainly music related. Although right now I am doing a logo for a private defence company that go about shooting at Somalian pirates. Mental.

Chris’ design for Diana Ross’ Greatest Hits album on a massive billboard in London

Chris’ design for UMTV’sPoptastic compilation series

Chris’ design hanging pretty in the Decca Records boardroom

Do you have to do anything else to keep your business operational? Or is it completely self-sustaining?

UMTV is a large arm of Universal, so the business side has pretty much nothing to do with me.

For my own design company I’ve been surprised how much work seems to have just fallen into my lap. I’m lucky enough to know alot of entrepreneurial people who need designs for their businesses. I think that expanding it into a fully-fledged creative agency would be alot of hard work.

KM: Luck has nothing to do with it, Christopher. We’re all rinsing you (Killing Moon included) because you’re clearly fucking good at what you do.

Tell us about some of the acts you work with.

Whilst at UMTV I’ve mainly worked with mainly heritage acts – Ray Davies, Status Quo, Diana Ross etc. People that have spent 40 years or so as artists definitely aren’t like normal people! I have some good anecdotes, but it would be unprofessional to put them in writing…

Working in marketing there’s alot of contact with the artists, management, PRs – really, everyone involved in the campaign. As a designer, there’s quite alot of distance from all that.

If you could work with any act, who would it be and why?

Fuck, that’s a hard one! Probably The Horrors, The Walkmen or Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Mainly because they’re three of my favourite bands and it’d been an incredible honour to do the artwork for their music. Also, I think that the kind of design I favour is best suited to that kind of music. It’d also be amazing to do artwork for one of Kevin Shields‘ projects – although he’s a notorious perfectionist, so could be a tough job.

As a musician, I’d say Nick Zinner and Joshua Hayward as they’re both massive pedal geeks like me.  And Tommy Lee – who wouldn’t want to jam with Tommy Lee!?

Any advice for the new bands out there?

Be relevant. There’s alot of good unsigned bands out there that just sound very dated – no one really wants another band that sounds like Feeder these days. I think it’s important for bands to be part of the current zeitgeist. I’m not saying they should jump on the latest band-wagon or that there’s anything wrong with taking influences from music from different eras; but if you’re a new band then you should sound like something new.

Be a perfectionist and write as much as you can. If a song’s not working, sack it off and write another. Listen to everything – inspiration can lurk in some unexpected places.

Find good people to help you – a manger, a PR etc.

Don’t be shit. Sounds simple but you’ll be surprised how much absolute fucking crap there is out there that the people who create it genuinely put their hearts into.

Finally – is it worth it?

Ha ha, the eternal question! I’m going to take that as “has it been worth working for a record company for 4 years?”, not “is it worth doing artwork for the music industry?”…

To be honest, I’m not so sure. Obviously working in music has given me the opportunity to work on things that would have been difficult to get had a taken the more traditional career route as a designer, but in the long run I can’t say that I’ve always really enjoyed working in the business – I can’t speak for other labels, but it’s definitely not as fun as it was, even 2 or 3 years ago. The whole industry appears to be downsizing (I work in a department of 5 people – there used to be about 12 of us), and a lot of people are fearful of what’s going to happen to music companies in the future.  Maybe ask me the same question in a couple of year’s time and I’ll be able to give a straight yes or no answer… I fear it’ll probably be no though.

Is it worth doing artwork for the music industry? Yeah, it’s one of the best jobs I could have imagined.

Oh, and being in a band is awesome too. I don’t think I could ever not have a band or musical project to work on.

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[Interview with Jeremy Lloyd, creator/owner of Laissez Faire Club]

Who are you, and what do you do?
My name’s Jeremy Lloyd, and I run my own independent singles label and club night under the name of Laissez Faire Club. It’s been operational since 2006 (when the first live night launched) and is also a regularly updated new bands blog. I’ve been known to DJ after a fashion, too, under the LFC monicker.
What made you want to work in music?

I’ve always been fascinated and enthralled by music, despite not having a particularly musical family background. That’s probably the main reason – it’s in my blood. I was always the kid who would be at HMV on release day, merrily buying two or three new albums at a time, and during my university years, it’s probably safe to say I attended more gigs than lectures. I guess it got to the stage where simply going to shows and listening to music wasn’t enough to feed this passion – I had to immerse myself further.
Jeremy Lloyd – Has to immerse himself. Also looks a bit like Ben Lovett.
How did you get started in the music industry?

Initially, I joined a music website called musicOMH.com in 2004 as a staff writer. In this role I was tasked with reviewing loads of new singles and albums, as well as live shows. I’d also interview a large number of artists, both up-and-coming and established (some of these included bands like Franz Ferdinand, The Kooks, Editors and Bombay Bicycle Club). This gave me a great insight into how it all worked, as well as a handful of useful contacts.
When I left university in 2006, I decided to start putting on nights, and being friendly with the US band Five O’Clock Heroes as a journalist, I asked them if they’d headline my first event at The Windmill in Brixton. They said yes, the show sold out and I’ve been doing it ever since! The singles label, which started in the summer of 2010, was a natural progression from the club night.
Please summarise what exactly your business does, and what your role is.
LFC is a relatively simple business model: it stages live events, both ticketed and free entry, and puts out singles, both on 7″ and digital formats. The two aspects, excitingly, do meet on occasions, at single launch parties for bands I’m working with. The company comprises of just myself (for now), and I do everything – from booking venues and bands to dealing with retail outlets and digital distribution companies.

Do you have to do anything else to keep your business operational? Or is it completely self-sustaining?

Whilst LFC has started to make small amounts of money here and there, I do have a ‘day job’ in another industry. The income I get from that enables me to keep LFC up and running.
Tell us about some of the acts you work with.

Since the live nights began in 2006, I’ve had the great pleasure of working with people like The Wombats, Mumford And Sons, Anna Calvi and We Have Band (amongst many others), who all played ‘pub’ shows for me and it’s amazing to have since witnessed their rise to mainstream popularity.
Marcus Mumford at Laissez Faire Club, Old Blue Last – back in 2007…
With the record label side of things, I was extremely excited to work with US band The Static Jacks, who I released a 7″ single for in November last year. They’re a no-nonsense, plug and play rock band who have an incredible amount of on-stage energy, and crucially, some wonderful songs (see “Into The Sun” in particular, which was the single). They’re on tour in the UK next month, and are due to play a show at Brixton Academy with The Wombats (22 Feb), which will be a landmark in the label’s short history.
Other than that, I’ve worked with two great up-and-coming London bands, The Collectable Few and Channel Cairo, as well as a bluesy outfit from Brighton called Ice Black Birds. All worth checking out, of course.

If you could work with any act, who would it be and why?

Like many people in their late twenties, The Strokes and their seminal debut Is This It was a massive inspiration for me when it was released in 2001. Given the fact they’re probably a big reason why LFC exists at all, I’d have to say them. Should they ever want to release a limited edition 7″ single on a bedroom indie label, or play a small show in London, to road-test new material, I’d advise them to get in touch.
Any advice for the new bands out there?

Nothing should be too much effort – from maintaining your social media sites to doing an acoustic session with a local radio station. As we all know, it’s a hugely competitive, cut throat environment for new bands out there, so be prepared to put in the hard yards – or you’ll simply get left behind.
Do your research – it’s very embarrassing to get facts wrong about labels, agents or promoters (or whoever else) when you Email them, and also incredibly easy to avoid. And whilst it is a good idea to Email people, there’s a fine line between coming across as enthusiastic and coming across as desperate. Don’t bug people endlessly – chances are if you music is good enough, people will respond.
Don’t think getting signed is the be all and end all, either – sure, it can help financially, but these days, in the interests of a long-lasting career, you might well be better off creating a self-sustaining business on your own steam and going it alone. Labels won’t stick with you for as long as they might say initially, and will quickly stop ‘understanding where you’re coming from’ the minute the sales dry up. Assess all options available to you.
Finally – is it worth it?

A resounding yes. I opted out of the whole graduate scheme thing post university in favour of this untried and untested path, and I haven’t looked back. I’m a big believer in the need to find one’s passion in life, and whilst I may not be driving a Rolls Royce just yet, there’s nothing quite like the buzz of seeing one of my bands on TV, in the press or on a big stage, and knowing that I’ve been involved in the process of getting them there.

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[Interview with Chris Duncan, Client Relations Manager at The Orchard]

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Chris Duncan and I’m a Client Relations Manager at The Orchard. I can often be found here: http://www.twitter.com/cduncan86

What made you want to work in music?

With music being the love of my life, it seemed appropriate to marry. We have our tiffs every now and again, but there’s plenty to keep me excited.

Metaphors aside, the industry always had huge appeal. Being able to positively influence the people whose sounds are literally coming in my ears every day? Priceless.

Chris Duncan – Likes to influence people and/or things that come in your ears everyday

How did you get started in the music industry?

I, like many others, started out by putting on events while at Uni at the local pub in Kingston and once I graduated, I fortunately managed to get an internship at The Orchard. Juggling a 5-day-a-week unpaid internship and working in a pub during the evenings/weekends was tough, but it was ultimately worth it once I’d finally pestered them enough to give me a job!

Please summarise what exactly your business does, and what your role is.

We’re primarily a digital music distributor, but we offer much more than just getting your music on stores. We dabble our toes in retail marketing, interactive marketing, synch and licensing, video content, collections – heck, even physical distribution! Basically, we do all sorts.

Our clients range from indies (Fierce Panda, Kanine, Hybris, Barsuk, Frenchkiss and of course, Killing Moon Limited!) through to rap (Royce da’ 5’9”, Def Jux) and pop (Kina Grannis, Boyz ll Men) plus pretty much every other genre you could imagine. We also work with large catalogue labels (Cleopatra, One Media Publishing)

My role is to keep people happy and organise stuff. I’m the point of contact for approx. 100 labels and artists, so I’m regularly on the phone, sending millions of emails, pitching ideas, firefighting – that kinda thing! I also occasionally write for our blog The Daily Rind (http://www.dailyrindblog.com)

Sissy & The Blisters – Released on Fierce Panda, distributed digitally by The Orchard

Boyz II Men – Probably Chris’ favourite band

Tell us about some of the acts you work with.

Where to start? Korallreven are really taking off in Sweden, as they are in the UK.

Then there’s a band from LA called Queen Kwong, who I think I saw 4 or 5 times this summer because the live show was so infectious.

We also released Theme Park’s first single this year and the buzz has been extraordinary around them.

Jonathan Johansson’s new album proved that streaming in the Nordic countries can be hugely successful.

Finally, here’s my tip for success in 2012 is Hey Sholay. Their debut album is set to be released by Fierce Panda early next year. Their raucous songs are exceptionally well crafted.

If you could work with any act, who would it be and why?

Purely from fanboy angle, someone like The National, Sufjan Stevens or Death Cab for Cutie. I’m already fortunate to work with plenty of acts who I love – and it definitely helps!

Any advice for the new bands out there?

If you work hard, create great music and surround yourself with the right team, then you’ll succeed with your goals. It’s also really important to build a strong identity and image.

Finally – is it worth it?

Some days you think “I could work in a boring office and earn twice as much” – normally around the time that rent is due – but I love what I do, so yes, it’s totally worth it! I wouldn’t change it for anything. We have a great team.

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[Interview with Rob Chute, manager/press officer at Partisan PR]

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hello! My name’s Rob Chute, I’m 24 (unnecessary level of detail, there) and I do a mellifluous mix of national press, online PR and now management out of Partisan PR.

What made you want to work in music?

In a nutshell, my first ever concert-going experience (Steps at Croydon’s Fairfield Halls). Beyond that, like most people who work in the industry, I realised at an early age that I had absolutely no musical talent whatsoever. I can’t sing or play anything (much like Steps), so had no choice but to find some other way of translating this constant appetite for new music into a career

More acutely, I was fed up of (a) watching great bands flop (b) seeing shit bands triumph (c) labels dithering about (d) my friends and family looking at me with a concerned “who??” look, whenever I’d try to tell them about a new act they’d love, if only they had the right platform. I felt the naive need to sort it all out, basically.

Partisan PR’s Rob Chute – He is a lot like Steps.

How did you get started in the music industry?

I’d always dabbled in music journalism, which came to a head at University in Nottingham, where I was editor of a music mag called The Mic for two years. It was a bit like running a business and/or feeding an extremely large and hungry family, but it was 100% amazing, and a hell of a way to become organised.

Begging the PR, management and label contacts I encountered through The Mic, I organised post-graduation work experience placements to fill my summer. I spent two weeks at Rough Trade Records (bit of a disaster, as I’d never seen a Mac before, so couldn’t turn it on), and then a solid month at the Press Office in Atlantic Records. On a whim I emailed a tiny label called Ruffa Lane, and though I only went there trying to steal some demos for the second Lucky Soul album, I helped out running that label for 3 months. The smaller the business, and the more hands-on / muck-in a workplace you can encounter, the better it is for all concerned. The days of firing off pleading letters to a Major, simply to make tea, really aren’t necessary anymore.

Please summarise what exactly your business does, and what your role is.

My understanding (i.e what I’ve nicked from our website) is that Partisan’s been in business for around 3 years now, and I’ve been here for 2 of those. The company was founded by Peter Hall and Rob Dix, who were Head of Press at Atlantic and Head of Online at Warners/14th Floor…before they set up shop on their own. Now there’s four of us.

We try and do Press from the ground up, really: so a mix of online, blog and social media work, leading into extensive Print PR. I’m very keen on getting a band’s narrative absolutely right from day one, so I also write the biogs for pretty much everyone in our stables. Current and former ‘horses’ include the likes of Rumer, Aloe Blacc, James Vincent McMorrow, Damien Rice, The Wombats, Lisa Hannigan, The Milk, Keaton Henson, Swimming…and Peter used to work on Blazing Squad, much to my endless amusement.

Do you have to do anything else to keep your business operational? Or is it completely self-sustaining?

Well we’ve just started managing our first artist, which – whilst not exactly keeping us ‘operational’ – is giving me huge amounts of pleasure. This entails a girl called Ronika, who’s easily the most talented person I’ve ever met. ROLL THE CLIP PLEASE.

There are various other ventures springing from people within Partisan – a print-on-demand merch company called Toto, and the Love Machine club-night – but we’re wholly self-sustained. Well, excluding all that Oil Money my bosses used to found the company, but I try not to ask about that.

Tell us about some of the acts you work with.

In a rare instance of PRs using restraint, I am going to refer to the answers of Question 4. We’re not all bad, see.

If you could work with any act, who would it be and why?

My main passion is finding bands who are as new as possible and helping them out, so it’s probably someone I don’t even know exists yet. MAYBE IT’S YOU. I also admire campaigns that make you perform a 360 on an artist: so the idea of Tom Jones suddenly releasing an amazing country album was a really interesting one for Press. To that extent, I am fucking determined to work on a Gary Barlow solo album, which I will also A&R.

Any advice for the new bands out there?

I love the idea of great songs just tumbling out of bands, but in reality, I would work up a plan, and I would stick to it…because great songs aren’t enough. Make your gigs an event, so don’t perform at all, or at least until there is a demand for it (the days of doing the toilet circuit are LONG GONE). Approach managers/agents/PRs who can help make waves for you, rather than spamming labels yourself. ‘Manufactured’ is a dirty phrase for many, but I really believe you need to manufacture yourself to stand a chance, and also to become the best artist you can be. So sort out all your artwork, arrange for nice photos, tidy up your social media, and put just one (killer) song online. Present yourself as a campaign just waiting to happen: if labels think you can probably do it without them, that’s when they’ll call. And that’s when you can tell them the artist that you want to be.

If that doesn’t work, either continue doing it for as long as you enjoy it (if it isn’t fun, we’ll be able to tell)…or do a “Hurts“, change your name, and try again in 18 months!

Finally – is it worth it?

Totally. We don’t know how lucky we are.

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[Interview with Raziq Rauf, owner/editor at Thrash Hits]

Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Raziq Rauf and I’m the editor/owner of ThrashHits.com. You can and will call me Raz.

What made you want to work in music?

Obviously music is important to me – I dare you to find someone who doesn’t like music – but I’ve always wanted to share the music I love with others. By default I suppose I’ve always rooted out exciting new bands (or new bands while they’re still exciting) and I want other people to be excited by them. When I realised I could actually get paid a very, very meagre some for my troubles, I thought I may as well use the best years of my life having fun.

Thrash Hits’ Raz – He wants you to get excited.

How did you get started in the music industry?

I started out writing for DrownedinSound.com in 2000. I wrote for them (for free or the love of it, if you will) for five years or so before landing my first paid gig. I was writing for Classic Rock and I was fucking delighted. My first review in Classic Rock was published the day of my first and only driving test. My examiner was a subscriber. It definitely helped.

Please summarise what exactly your business does, and what your role is.

Thrash Hits is a website and we write about rock music. A lot of people leave comments like, “How come you’re not writing about thrash? Why are you writing about Enter Shikari?” Those people have never heard of Smash Hits and/or have no sense of humour (two things that are fundamental to the website). We try to be as funny as we are informative with reviews, interviews with new bands and really, really silly video interviews that garner little but abuse.

Do you have to do anything else to keep your business operational? Or is it completely self-sustaining?

I also write about metal for Metal Hammer magazine, prog rock for Classic Rock presents PROG and about the dregs of whatever radio rock is leftover for the BBC music website. I will write for anyone for cold, hard pound coins. Thrash Hits is the one I do for the love of it.

Tell us about some of the acts you work with.

Black Veil Brides painted penises on my face earlier this year at Download Festival…

If you could work with any act, who would it be and why?

Currently, I would probably have to travel back in time to work with a band full-time from the start to make it worth my while. The last great rock band to emerge was Foo Fighters and that was slightly before my time so I missed that boat. Whoever’s next remains to be seen. Otherwise, Metallica. Obviously.

Any advice for the new bands out there?

Stop trying to be massive before anyone cares. What’s wrong with recording a demo in your garage? If your songs are good enough, you’ll get noticed. Also, play gigs. Lots and lots and lots of them if you want people to care.

Finally – is it worth it?

Yeah, just about. You can’t work in this industry for the money but if you’re good at it, you’ll make enough to get by and you’ll meet some of the best people you ever possibly could meet and have the best time you ever possibly could. Money cannot buy this lifestyle.

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[Interview with Charlie Ashcroft, presenter and producer at Amazing Radio]

 Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Charlie Ashcroft. I’m a presenter on Amazing Radio and I also scribble for Artrocker and This Is Fake DIY every now and then.

What made you want to work in music?

I’d grown up in a house where the radio was nearly always on, with plenty of my parents’ tapes and vinyl around too. It was easy to become hooked on music from a young age!

Later on, after finishing my university degree, I wanted to see if I could make a living doing something I loved, rather than take the predictable step of getting bogged down in a job I’d quickly begin to hate.

Charlie Ashcroft – Grew up in a house. Seen here eating fish that looks like chicken and/or potato.

How did you get started in the music industry?

I went down the route of sending letters to record labels and press agencies during sixth form, which resulted in a 2-week work experience placement at Virgin Records when I was 17. That was my first taste. It was great to see how a label of that size operated on a day-to-day basis. They’d just signed Mariah Carey for silly money and there was already an air of slightly aggravated cynicism wafting through the corridors.  As well as stuffing CDs into jiffy bags for the label’s press department and becoming a regular visitor to the photocopier, I actually got to hear some early demos from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Haven, which was incredible.

From a radio point-of-view, I started out in student radio while studying in Bristol, presenting a weekly show to a tiny number of listeners. The small audience meant it was a great environment for learning the craft – if it’s mainly your mates listening, they’ll be honest with you about what works on air and what doesn’t. Plus, if you make a mistake, at least you’re safe in the knowledge that not many people actually heard it!

Please summarise what exactly your business does, and what your role is.

Amazing Radio is a digital station on the UK’s national DAB network. We play new music and underground talent, all day every day. The music we play comes from our sister website www.amazingtunes.com, where artists and labels upload tracks for streaming and downloading. As soon as a song’s been uploaded to the site, we can play it on air!

I present two shows a week for the station (including The Amazing Chart show), which go out Mondays at 1pm and Sundays from 5pm. I’m also part of the production team for the station’s mid-morning show with Chris Martin and the Thursday lunchtime showcase from The Guardian’s Paul Lester.

Tell us about some of the acts you work with.

When you’re playing anything up to thirty new acts per week, it becomes difficult to pick out individuals! However, among the recent highlights I’d go for Les Mistons, who are an unsigned London trio straddling lo-fi rock and stadium-ready synth-pop in a mesmerising way.

Les Mistons – Keep Flying

Then you’ve got Tantrums – a boisterous five-piece from Birmingham who remind me of a slightly dancier version of fellow Brummies Johnny Foreigner. They’ve got hooky melodies, mad beats and punk energy in abundance.

Tantrums – New Ground

I also can’t get enough of bands like Veronica Falls, Mazes and Little Green Cars right now. The indie labels in this country are doing us proud at the moment and it’s heart-warming to see those three signed up by Bella Union, Fat Cat and Young & Lost Club.  It’s also great to see the likes of Dry The River, Alpines and Tom & The Tides breaking through with some major label backing, having being played as unsigned bands on Amazing Radio way back when.

If you could work with any act, who would it be and why?

As soon as Sleeper reform, I will play their comeback single on the radio come hell or high water. While this isn’t going to happen any time soon, I cling on to the idea that it might happen one day.

As for why, they were probably the first band who I believed in enough to recommend to friends. They were great storytellers, all through the medium of powerpop. Even though they clearly weren’t to everyone’s taste, for me Louise and the lads seemed to represent a form of rock ‘n’ roll underdog that I was keen to support, in addition to all the love I felt for their first two albums.

You’ve actually got me reminiscing now – I have this memory of their song ‘Statuesque’ hitting the Top 20 and the band appearing on Top of the Pops the following Thursday. As well as being thrilled that another song from ‘The It Girl’ album was getting some TV exposure, I found myself wondering whether their TV appearance might propel the single further up the charts a few days later. That’s how it works, right?

So I tuned in to Radio 1 on the Sunday, and the longer the chart went on, the more excited I became: “He still hasn’t played ‘Statuesque’! Maybe Sleeper are at Number 1 this week?!” the innocent 12-year-old me kept thinking. The DJ (I assume it was Mark Goodier) eventually got round to announcing the Number 2 record and it wasn’t ‘Statuesque’. I was overjoyed. Then he played the Number 1 song. And that wasn’t ‘Statuesque’ either. Turns out they’d dropped out of the Top 40 after one week. I was gutted.

Any advice for the new bands out there?

Strive to be original, work hard and remember that a press release doesn’t HAVE to reach the second page.

Most importantly – engage with your fans from the word go, to build up some mutual loyalty. Seeing as it’s become harder than ever to make money from selling records, it’s absolutely crucial that you take steps to find out where the majority of your fans are from, so that you can go and play gigs in their area.

Hopefully buoyed by your efforts to play in their towns, your fans will come to your shows, buy your merch, bring friends with them and the word will start spreading. Then it becomes easier for you to go back to the same towns a few months down the line and play bigger venues. Furthermore, the process of seeing your ‘product’ grow on a gig-by-gig basis can be a decent motivating factor as you develop as a band.

Finally – is it worth it?

It is. It gives you immense satisfaction being able to share tons of new music with like-minded people every week and with digital radio said to be on the up, it’s a great place to work.

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[Interview with Simon Morley, owner/manager at Blood & Biscuits]

Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Simon Morley,  I run Blood and Biscuits and manage a band called Three Trapped Tigers.

What made you want to work in music?

I was always well into music growing up, from a really early age. One of my first memories is seeing a saxophonist called Snake Davis at the Leadmill in Sheffield. Think I must have been 4 years old. Not that I enjoyed it or anything; I was just subjected to a lot of music as a kid.

I remember Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel blowing my mind. Still does.

But when it came to actually working in music… I finished uni, felt a bit lost, travelled a bit, felt more lost, and thought, “f*** it, I might as well at least TRY to work in an industry I’m passionate about”.

I know Ishouldn’t start a sentence with ‘but’, so apologies for that.

Simon Morley – well into music; at least tries to work in an industry he’s passionate about.

How did you get started in the music industry?

A friend of mine was interning at a record label for 1 day a week. She mentioned that they were looking for other interns. So she took me along with my CV, turns out they had no idea I was coming in (my friend was a little spontaneous at times). A wonderful man called Chris Baker took my CV (I guarantee he didn’t look at it), and had a little chat with me explaining I’d be doing boring stuff, and that I definitely wouldn’t get a job out of it.

6 months later I was offered a full time position.

I just tried really hard.

Please summarise what exactly your business does, and what your role is.

My business is a record label, essentially. So in a nutshell I find bands that I love, bands I think my previous customers will connect with, then I manufacture, promote and sell their records.

As a 1 man operation, I do all of that. It can be anything from writing press releases; contacting journalists; routing tours; pressing vinyl; designing t-shirts; booking ferries; writing mailouts; structuring campaigns; putting together promo teams… it’s endless.

As a manager… I mean, there is really no way to explain what a manager does for an artist/band. It can be almost everything bar writing the music!

Do you have to do anything else to keep your business operational? Or is it completely self-sustaining?

At the moment I have to do a lot to keep it operational. Otherwise it’d cease to exist. I guess technically it could one day become self-sustaining if I got a big catalogue behind me which would keep selling.

But realistically, and in the short term at least, if I stop, the business stops.

Tell us about some of the acts you work with.

Oooh look, promo opportunity haha! At the moment the roster is small, but strong, like a (strong) cat. I’ve put out records by Gallops, Tall Ships, Three Trapped Tigers, Evil Ex (a Three Trapped Tigers side-project), Teej. Two of those pre-mentioned releases were co-released with friend’s labels.

I’m also just about to release the debut EP by this chap that goes by the name LA2019. It’s like Vangelis meets M83. If you can imagine that? I’m releasing his EP on unique photographs taken by the artist, with download codes. Thought we’d get a bit experimental.

If you could work with any act, who would it be and why?

It would be someone big and forward-thinking: ‘Big’ because that way you’d have the freedom to experiment with everything (e.g. Radiohead’s ‘pay what you want for our album’ was a great idea, but it wouldn’t have worked as effectively if it was a small unknown band), and ‘forward-thinking’ so I wouldn’t be left frustrated by a lack of ideas, or even worse, resistance to my ideas! Ideas are the best, they don’t cost anything.

So examples of those kinds of bands would probably be the aforementioned Radiohead, Bjork, Arcade Fire, Squarepusher (he seems like a nutter, I like that!).

My main aim is to get my bands to a level where we can have more control over how we execute campaigns, rather than the standard procedures. I want to do something different.

Any advice for the new bands out there?

Write good music; don’t be pushy; work hard; and never expect making music to make you a living.

Finally – is it worth it?

I think so. I have a lot of fun with a lot of great people doing what I do. That’s all you can ask for really.

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[Interview with Will Blake, promoter at SJM Concerts and owner/manager at Vision Music Management]

Who are you, and what do you do?

Will Blake. I’m a concert promoter at SJM Concerts and I run music management company Vision Music Management.

What made you want to work in music?

You know, the usual things – sex, drugs and rock and roll.  Haha!… No. Actually, in all seriousness, it was the opportunity to play a creative part in the careers of talented individuals. After 7 years of doing this on various levels, nothing  beats the feeling when something you have worked hard on and believed in for a long time finally makes it to the top. How many people actually look forward to work each day? I do, and for that I’m thankful.

Will Blake (with buddy Fred Durst) – looks forward to work every day.

How did you get started in the music industry?

I started my own company putting on DIY concerts and clubnights in my home town. 3 to 4 years later, I was doing shows across the whole south-west  and southern coast of England; up to 300 shows a year. Soon SJM Concerts offered me the opportunity to do this on a nationwide level, which I was flattered to receive, and ultimately took.

Tell us about some of the recent acts you work with, and how you work with them.

I’ve worked with so many acts each, with a different set of requirements, but of late some of the most successful have been Jessie J, N Dubz, Ellie GouldingKaty BFrank Turner Bring Me The HorizonDiversity, and beyond.

Jessie J, Frank Turner and Bring Me The Horizon are just some of the bands Will works with as a concert promoter.

If you could work with any act, who would it be and why?

I guess this would be my turn for the standard interview “cop out” moment…! I’m afraid I couldn’t choose just one (aka if someone I’ve  not mentioned read this, then they will whine).

[KM: Very astute and conscientious of you, William. BUT WHAT ABOUT US?? WE CAN WHINE TOO Y’KNOW]

Any advice for the new bands out there?

If you want to make a living from being a band, you’re going to have to be very, very lucky, or very, very talented and work your ass off. With social media these days there are thousands of bands that have a medium to try and make it, and that inevitably leads to a very crowded and saturated marketplace. The one redeeming factor is, in my experience, if you keep at it, and you are good enough, you normally do make it eventually.

Vision Music Management look after the careers of Futures, Francesqa, Venice, and KM fave Vela

Any advice for new peeps looking to work in the music biz?

Don’t think that University is the tried and tested method for getting the role you want, beacause it’s not. It’s normally the people with experience and that start their own companies that end up reaching the top these days. Manage a band… start a label…put on some concerts… book gigs for your friends band… whatever you think you could do best, just get on and do it! Start small, and try and do honest business. You’ll start making friends and doors will open eventually. If you learn it in a classroom, you’ll find it very hard to reach the top of the industry, where you will have the freedom to make your own path.

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[Interview with Jen Long, DJ/Presenter for BBC Radio 1 Introducing in Wales and promoter at Flux=Rad]

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hello, I’m Jen Long and I present BBC Introducing in Wales on Radio 1, promote gigs as flux=rad and write for a few different publications.

What made you want to work in music?

I think I heard you could get free stuff. I’m kidding. I wanted a job that didn’t feel like work. I love music and I love seeing bands grow from small and unknown to successful or just much loved.

Jen Long – Loves music. Hears about free stuff.

How did you get started in the music industry?

I started out in student radio while I was at Uni. Then I did a lot of work experience for XFM, Radio 1, Wise Buddah – anything I could get my hands on.

I also did a lot of club DJing, wrote for a magazine called Kruger and then a few other sites. I managed a rehearsal rooms, drove bands, did a podcast… Anything.


Please summarise what exactly your business does, and what your role is.

I present BBC Introducing in Wales – I pick the music, sessions, mixes, guests all along with my producer, and then I present the show.

Jen Long has also been known to put shows on in her kitchen. Brave.

Tell us about some of the recent acts you work with, and how you work with them.

Recently we’ve had Samoans, Revoker and Among Brothers in sessions. We try and pick producers we know will get the best out of a band and then they play live and we get to broadcast the results.

If you could work with any act, who would it be and why?

Sonic Youth. I just feel like they can do no wrong.

Any advice for the new bands out there?

Be patient, work hard, be honest to yourselves and nice to everyone else.

Any advice for new peeps looking to work in the music biz?

Pretty much the same as the bands – it’s all about hard work and remembering to be nice to people, even if they seem rude, or bands, even if they sound rubbish.

Finally – is it worth it?

100%

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[Interview with James Moodie, owner/founder of Flatpack Recordings]

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is James Moodie, I’m 23 years old and run Flatpack Recordings, which is basically independent record label and management company.

What made you want to work in music?

To cut a very long story short, I was studying Physics & Aviation at University in London, picked up a book about the music industry out of intrigue, read it in about 2 hours, and dropped out of University the next day.

My Mum was very angry (nobody likes disappointing their Mum!), so I moved to Southampton to study Music Promotion at Southampton Solent.

James Moodie – does not like disappointing his mum.

Boxer – Sleeping Arrangements

Apollo’s Arrows – Dressed As Mexicans

How did you get started in the music industry?

I’ve done loads of internships, some have been absolutely dreadful, I’ve quit 2 before after a couple of days. But I did some lovely ones at The Joiners, Wichita Recordings & Wild Promotions and I’m still interning to this day!

Please summarise what exactly your business does, and what your role is.

I work with previously unsigned artists and try and develop them a bit, get better shows and eventually release EPs, I’d love to do an album one day but that’s finance permitting.  I try and help in whatever way I can, whether it be stopping arguments, drawing up a tech spec or just fighting the bands’ corner.

We are about to celebrate our first birthday with a show in Southampton, a sampler featuring loads of bands & some new shirts, which you can check out by clicking HERE.

The Common – Famous

Apollo’s Arrows – Umbrellas To The Sahara

Do you have to do anything else to keep your business operational? Or is it completely self-sustaining?

Unfortunately Flatpack isn’t self-sustaining yet.  Despite having never made a loss, I’m still interning in the music industry so my cash flow is always horrendously tight!

I’m really lucky to have loads of support from my graphic designer friend Aaron Dawkins (http://aarondawkins.tumblr.com/), and my friend James who helps out with all sorts of stuff.

Tell us about some of the acts you work with.

At the moment I work with 4 bands. First, there’s Apollo’s Arrows who describe them as ‘Retro Surf Math,’ I describe them as absolutely incredible live and the most humble boys you could ever possibly meet!

Boxer, who are new to the label and write really cool indie songs that remind me sometimes of The National, Bombay Bicycle Club and sometimes a bit Radiohead-y!

The Common, the world’s first ‘Geek Hop’ band, imagine the Streets crossed with Rage Against the Machine and then it still wouldn’t describe them, they really are quite different!

The Common – World Is Mine (demo)

Lastly Polio, who are a brand spanking new band formed from the ashes of Fresh Legs and completely changed their style, they haven’t recorded anything yet but are very, very exciting! So watch out for that.

If you could work with any act, who would it be and why?

There’s hundreds, too many to name but I’m really happy with who I work with at the moment!

Any advice for the new bands out there?

Not sure I’m really qualified to give it, but if I had any it would be this – I don’t understand why some bands worry so much about signing to a major record label.  I think new bands should at first concentrate on their music and getting really good live.

Also, there are so many cool smaller and DIY labels now like Alcopop!, BSM, Holy Roar, and Tangled Talk, not too mention other wicked companies like ACDSleeve, Awesome Merch & Vino Sangre!  And of course towns full of awesome promoters who work really hard to make shows work!

Finally – is it worth it?

Absolutely!

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[Interview with Olli Dutton, National Radio Plugger/Owner at Obscene Strategies]

Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Olli Dutton, and I’m an independent national radio plugger. I work for myself, under the name Obscene Strategies.

How did you get started in the music industry?

When I left university I fired off a load of emails to small labels that I liked, asking for work experience. Lo Recordings were one of the first to get back to me. I started going in every day, helping out with whatever needed doing, and eventually I obviously made myself indispensable as they started to pay me. Not much, but it was still money! I was there for 3 years, and began doing bits of press and radio and steadily built up a pretty good contacts book and made some friends in very helpful places!

Olli Dutton – indispensible.

What made you want to work in music?

I’ve been obsessed with music for as long as I can remember. I then got very involved with the radio station whilst at university, and once I graduated it seemed to be a natural progression to work in music.

Please summarise what exactly your business does, and what your role is.

I take singles and albums on small labels  (and self-releasing artists) to national radio (Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 4, 6Music, XFM and Absolute Radio) and try and pick up spot plays, playlists, interviews, sessions and anything else I can think of! This involves regular meetings with producers, presenters and heads of music, plus constant phone and email contact with all the relevant people. I work directly for the labels (they’re the ones that hire and pay me).

Some of the bands Olli works with include Internet Forever, The Strange Death Of Liberal England, and Tokyo Police Club

Do you have to do anything else to keep your business operational? Or is it completely self-sustaining?

Luckily enough (and very rare in these times), it’s completely self-sustaining.

Tell us about some of the acts you work with.

I work with a broad spectrum of artists, from established acts like The Go! Team, to very promising emerging acts like Tom Williams & The Boat. You have to approach the campaigns in different ways for every artist, taking into account the kind of music they make, the kind of appeal they have, and what support they already have. If you treat every act the same, it just wouldn’t work.

If you could work with any act, who would it be and why?

Ooh, too many to mention I’m afraid.

Any advice for the new bands out there?

Make sure that when you finally want to take your record to radio (even if you’re self-releasing) that it is the best you can possibly do. Don’t fire out half-arsed attempts just because you’re getting impatient, as this could scupper future chances. There’s nothing better than when the likes of Huw Stephens or Steve Lamacq really fall in love with an artist and properly get behind them – this won’t happen if you’ve sent them something a bit shonky and unrepresentative of what you’re actually capable of.

Most importantly, turn up on time and be nice to everyone. That’s everyone. Sound guys, the people making you tea at a radio station, whatever. A bad reputation travels much quicker than a good one!

Oh, and listen to your plugger and press person. The advice they’re giving is usually right, and not just designed to piss you off!

Huw and Steve – you want them behind you, so be really good, and really nice.

Finally – is it worth it?

Absolutely, I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing.

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[Interview with Jen Anderson, artist manager/founder of Euphonios]

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Jen Anderson, and I run Euphonios management and record label.

What made you want to work in music?

In all honesty I wasn’t really into music that much when I was younger; it is certainly something that only started towards the end of school and into University. The thing that actually pushed me to get into the industry was when I did a summer internship at a company in Scotland doing research into alternative energy sources, I had to wear a suit everyday and the hours were really strict. After 9 weeks, I promised myself that I would never do a job where I had to wear a suit and music was the first thing that came to mind!

J’Anderson and her invisible phone

How did you get started in the music industry?

I started in music when I was at University, and I setup a UK street team to do grass roots promotion of artists. I worked closely with EMI on KT Tunstall but also helped out a lot of smaller bands. I then joined DF Concerts in the marketing department before moving to the booking department and eventually became a promoter. When I left University I just went full time at DF Concerts. Whilst there I decided to start managing acts, helping out some small bands and then eventually taking on Unicorn Kid.


Please summarise what exactly your business does, and what your role is.

Euphonios is a management company and record label. As a manager I deal with all day-to-day decisions for the bands and artists that I look after, and this can be anything from dealing with booking agents, record labels, press, radio pluggers, to dealing with visas, trying to get songs on radio, and generally developing the career of the people you look after. With the record label I release music that I really like, and so far I have released a variety of artists from Unicorn Kid and Saint Saviour through to Kid Adrift and Think About Life. I run the company and deal with anything and everything that comes along.

Do you have to do anything else to keep your business operational? Or is it completely self-sustaining?

It is completely self-sustaining. It would be great if some rich investor came along and offered me loads of money to do more advertising, release more singles… however, it isn’t required and ultimately makes you become more creative.

Tell us about some of the acts you work with.

I started managing Unicorn Kid when he was 16 and since then he has signed to EMI Publishing, Ministry of Sound and Ultra Records. We released 2 singles on Euphonios before he signed, and he is currently working on his debut album.

After going into management full time I took on two more exceptional bands, Polarsets and I Dream In Colour. We are currently setting up releases with Polarsets doing a single in April on Kitsune and IDIC doing an EP on Monotwin.

I have also released a number of brilliant bands and will have some more singles coming up.

If you could work with any act, who would it be and why?

I don’t think I’d swap any of my acts for anyone – they are all very different to work with but all extremely hard working and creative people.

The prides and joys of Euphonios will be showcased at a special show at this year’s Great Escape in Brighton

Any advice for the new bands out there?

Work hard; keep progressing your songs; write as much as possible; don’t play your home town too much; don’t hassle anyone too much; and always be polite and to the point.

Finally – is it worth it?

Absolutely.

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[Interview with Jack Clothier, co-founder of Alcopop! Records]

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hello Ach ad Ach’s readers. I’m Jack PoP – co-founder and spiritual healer of Alcopop! Records who proffer forth the finest in indie pop, from the likes of Johnny Foreigner and Stagecoach to My First Tooth and Ute.

What made you want to work in music?

Ever since I went to my first pop concert (Blur on The Great Escape tour 1994)  I’ve been in love with indie music, and something of a devotee in all sorts of different ways. I’ve done my time in “ooh, we’re gonna make it – ah no, we didn’t quite” bands, played countless gigs round the country and in Europe, put out records (in the band) on other indies, spent hours every weekend trawling record shops in my youth, dabbled in promotion, thrust myself to the front of pokey gigs across the land – and now I’ve kinda gravitated to running my own label – which I really love.

It’s not so much I wanted to specifically run a label since childhood, although a schoolpal and I did set up a label 10 years ago called Gregory Pank (as yet, no releases). It’s just I love everything about the music scenes that I’ve been involved in, so it seems inevitable that I would be involved in some way – whether playing, watching or participating in some other way. I just love it!

Jack Alcopop – he just bloody loves it.

How did you get started in the music industry?

I guess for part of this question, see last answer – but in truth I’ve never worked for a ‘proper’ label as it were. For me, being dictated who to work with and what formats I’m allowed to release would be a bit of a drag, and I love the creative freedom running an indie brings. I was lucky enough to happen upon a rented room in the same house as the mercurial (though generic faced) Kev from Big Scary Monsters. We both loved the same music, decided to form a label (my first, his second) – got lucky gambling a small loan from my dad and lo, Alcopop! was born. We’ve been making mistakes but staying afloat and releasing magnificent music ever since!

I’m sure in some ways having no formal training can be a hindrance, but in other ways it allows us not to be tied to tradition and certain ways of doing things. We’re good honest indie kids who grew up  spending our pocket money on mail order records, boring popular girls at parties by insisting everyone listened to the new Bluetone’s B-Side and perennially recording stuff on Tascam tape 4-tracks . I’m showing my age now aren’t I…

Please summarise what exactly your business does, and what your role is.

We’re an indie record label and between Kev and I we do everything we need to do. There is a glamorous side to it what with the necessary partying, drunken A&R scouting missions and coming up with creative release contents, but it’s not all fun, fun, fun. Hours making sleeves, days-worth of mail-orders  and keeping track on finances are all tasks that aren’t quite so fun.

Do you have to do anything else to keep your business operational? Or is it completely self-sustaining?

Yeah, it’s been a good year at Alcopop! – and although we’re pumping most of the money back into the label at this stage to make sure that 2011 is DY-NA-MITE, we have a healthy bank balance and the label itself is entirely self-sustaining. However, at this point in time it’s not sustaining me, only itself (selfish label) so I work with other lovely folk to get by.

Tell us about some of the acts you work with.

Where to begin… At the moment we work with  seven lovely bands on the roster permanent-like  (although one is soon, perhaps temporarily, departing and another arriving, though these could be closely guarded secrets maybe) of which the best known to your readers will probably be Birmingham alt-noise trio Johnny Foreigner. For more info, pop over to our website as I could talk about all these bands for hours, but in the interests of brevity, I’ll sum them all up in one  phrase or less.

Stagecoach: Power pop for BMX kids

My First Tooth: Melodic loveliness with hearts of Spring and faces of Christmas

Jumping Ships: Soaring , anthemic pop-rock riot

Screaming Maldini: Sweeter than a barrel load of sugar laced with a bitter lemon twist

Johnny Foreigner: Tru Punx!

Ute: An orgy of rocktacular brazen imagery all rinsed in with subtly delicate melody

Freeze the Atlantic: Balls out indie pop rock from past-masters sounding fresher than ever

If you could work with any act, who would it be and why?

There are a few that spring to mind (Danan, Fang Island, Helen Love and Andrew WK to name some key contenders), but probably my number 1 non-Pop band of choice right now would be The Xcerts. I got myself off to a fairly bad start when obliviously crashing in their house a few years ago at The Great Escape after having a fight with the sea, stinking of salt water and booze… But since then we’ve got on swimmingly. They’re an awesome band, seem to revel in a strong kind of work ethic and have released two killer albums. Aberdeen 1987 is probably my favourite song of ooh.. ages, and I always LOVE them live. They also get on well with most of our bands, and I’m pretty sure Murray (their singer) has a little something going with Michael from Ute….

The Xcerts – Home vs. Home (Skies Remix)

Any advice for the new bands out there?

Be personal! Emails cc’d into 1,000 labels declaring undying love for the artists they release isn’t going to win you any fans… Similarly, target your mailouts appropriately.

We had one press release recently that began ‘Aren’t you tired of all that indie shit you hear day in, day out?’…You kidding me right? Our tagline is ‘Fuckin Indie’ – so forgive me if I immediately bin your particular life-changing brand of “Guns and Roses meets U2 progressive rock”.

But for the bands who aren’t cunts – just work hard and meet as many people as you can. From my experience pretty much all indie labels are really receptive to genuine fans, and people who honestly dig their music – and it’s so much easier to listen to a demo when you’ve met one of the guys behind it. It sounds silly but there are some demos I go into thinking ‘ I really want to love this’, which doesn’t mean I necessarily will – but it’s a good start.

Finally – is it worth it?

Oh hell yes! Alcopop! Has been one of the best things I’ve ever done… Four and a half years in and almot 50 releases down I’m head over heels in love with it as much as I ever was – if not more so. I’ve met some incredible people, had amazing times, released awe-inspiring music… And got to talk to you, Achal! What more could my heart desire?


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[Interview with Tom Leggett, owner and designer at ACDSleeve]

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name’s Tom Leggett, and I run ACDSleeve, a unique and custom music packaging company. We do a variety of CD packaging as standard. We have four base designs – the pop up CD case; double pop out CD case; natural card case; and the basic slipcase. All cases are designed and hand assembled by myself. Some are die cut/creased, some partially machine-cut and partially hand-cut/scored, and others completely made by hand. I also do custom work and other music formats. We’re trying to make short run releases more interesting so people won’t just download an album/EP illegally, thereby making the physical product worth owning.

What made you want to work in music?


Over the years I’ve had interests come and go. Music is the one thing (aside from design) that I’m still actively interested in. I spend a lot of my time checking out new bands/artists and a lot of my money goes on CDs, records and gig tickets. To be honest I had never considered working in music. My degree is in Industrial Design, so I’ve never really thought there’d be much crossover. I guess I was wrong.

Tom Leggett – creating a monster, demonstrating the pop up CD case

How did you get started in the music industry?

It was completely by chance. I got chatting to Blakfish at their shows and became friends on facebook, and met Kevin Douch who runs Big Scary Monsters at a few shows/DJing in Manchester (these two are linked, I’m not just showing off!). In March 2010, when I was unemployed,  I started designing in my spare time as I couldn’t work – I was looking after my brother after he got hit by a car and he couldn’t walk unaided for a couple of months. I was coming up with a lot of computer renderings of lamps, phones, this and that, but then I got bored of not being able to physically make something as I was restricted with materials and tools available at home. I thought about music packaging and how to make it more interesting, using only cardboard and a craft knife, and within a day I’d come up with what is now the pop up CD case. I put a video of the case up on a blog I set up to put design work onto. The manager of Blakfish, Kirk Harrington, saw I’d posted a video link on facebook to one of my friends, and was interested in using it for the re-release of the See You In Another City EP on Big Scary Monsters Records for their final show. I made 100 cases in two days –  before this I’d only ever made one or two of them, so to go from that to batch production was an eye opener! The CD sold really well, and Kev said he’d help out setting up a business from it as he’s always tried to get the music he releases packaged in new and interesting ways…and the rest is history I suppose.

Please summarise what exactly your business does, and what your role is.

I run ACDSleeve. Kev helps out here and there and I don’t think I’d be doing anywhere near as well as I am without him on board. We try to delivery high quality short run music packaging to bands who want a release to be as good as the music they wrote.

My role is everything  – handling emails, managing jobs and orders, helping to organise artwork, on rare occasions doing artwork, getting work printed, designing cases, prototyping, manufacturing cases, photographing work, (pretty poor) video editing, updating the website/facebook/flickr and, in-between all of this, trying to spread the word about what I’m trying to do. It’s a lot of work, usually working 9am-1am. But it beats being on the dole and not being able to get a job.

I think people think that it’s a bigger company than it is, I suppose the pop up and double pop out look pretty professional and don’t give the impression that this is run from a bedroom in a small town in Cheshire. I think that’s helped get other work in, as these are pretty pricey for low quantities but the others are more affordable.

Do you have to do anything else to keep your business operational? Or is it completely self-sustaining?


I’d say it’s self-sustaining for my current situation. I live at home with my family at the moment, so don’t have to pay a lot to live here. I think within the next few months I’d be able to call it self-sustaining as business builds up, although the problem with that is as business builds up it means my days get longer and longer.

Tell us about some of the acts you work with.


There’s quite a variety – from UK labels getting brilliant music out to followers of varying scene (Big Scary Monsters, Holy Roar Records, Blood and Biscuits, Idle Hands Club, Fear and Records, Walnut Tree Records), to bands just starting up and getting their first releases sorted. I like to work with both;  the bands are incredibly motivated to get their material out in something which looks as good as it sounds (there’s a tagline right there!) and working with some labels who have released so many of my favourite records over the last few years is unreal.  I sometimes wonder “Why are they turning to me for this?”!

Also I did a pretty last minute job for Mick Jagger’s son’s band Turbogeist so they had something to sell on tour when they supported LCD Soundsystem in South America, which some people seem to think is the best things I’ve ever done.


One upcoming job is for Ace Enders’ band… you might have read about him on a recent article about bands issues with making very little money and considering ending their musical career to survive (http://www.altpress.com/features/entry/no_money_mo_problems/). His wife Jenn got in touch, wanting to use us for the packaging for the release of his next album to be given away to everyone who donated money to release the album. They raised over $30k, which shows people are willing to pay for music still today. It’s amazing to even be considered to work on such a unique project; it’ll be the biggest order I’ll have made so far, and the first real international order I do.

If you could work with any act, who would it be and why?


I suppose any band that I’m into is amazing, and some of the bands I’ve worked with and checked out whilst working on a release I’ve become a fan of. Recently, I’ve been getting a few emails from people who are in or have been in bands I love, and it makes me feel like the long nights cutting, folding and gluing are worth it. If you’re asking for a specific band, I’d probably say Thrice. They’re one of my all time favourite bands and as their sound has progressed, my taste in music has followed. If Glassjaw, Deftones, Radiohead, The Dillinger Escape Plan or Tera Melos wanted some work doing, I’d be up for that.

Any advice for the new bands out there?


I don’t feel I’m really qualified to be giving advice to bands!  But just work hard, don’t just go looking for a label so you can sit back and do nothing and let them do all the work. There’s a lot you can do yourself. I’m someone who buys a lot of music physically, and having a product that looks good will make people want to buy it. If I see a CD on a merch table in a shitty plastic wallet, I’ll assume it sounds as good as it looks; although I appreciate cost is a massive issue for bands. But I’ve already had an instance where someone at a show has bought a band’s CD for which I did the packaging – they actually had missed the band play and hadn’t heard of them, they just thought the case looked good and bought one.

Finally – is it worth it?


Given that, after university, I was unemployed for a year and a half; had to go on courses with people on “how to get a job”; had very little money and therefore unable to do all that much… yeah, the hardwork and headaches are worth it, when I’m getting to do something to help people get music out there, and seeing people appreciate the designs is brilliant. It’s unreal that I’ve only been doing this since June 2010 having picked up the way it has, and we’re only just skimming the surface for UK bands.

_________________________________________________________________________________

[Interview with Tom Beck, founder of Walnut Tree Records and Video Production Manager for Universal Music]

Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Tom Beck, I run Walnut Tree Records which is an independent label from Watford, Herts. I’ve put out 24 releases so far and have also distributed another 15 international releases. My biggest success so far has been with Tiger Please, who have received some excellent press from the likes of Kerrang and Classic Rock, played Download and Sonisphere Festival and are just about to head out on tour with Funeral For A Friend. For every Tiger Please there are also bands like Portman, who never scaled the heights but I still absolutely loved working with them. To fund my label I work as a video production manager for Universal, it’s a large part of the reason I wanted to work with smaller bands…to remind myself that there are bands and people out there that are worth helping.

What made you want to work in music?

I graduated from university with an economics degree and throughout the three years I’d turn up at tutorials and listen to guys going on about how they’ve been to recruitment days for large banks and how they were desperate to move onto a training scheme. I pretty much sat there thinking “Can’t wait to go and see The Starting Line tomorrow night” and while I understood the course and could do the work, the passion just wasn’t there for me. I’d spend a lot of my spare time writing for webzines or helping with merch for local bands and before you know it you’ve worked up a fair amount of experience.

Tom Beck – studying hard whilst working up a fair amount of experience

How did you get started in the music industry?

I was fortunate enough to have a friend on a sandwich course and his year in industry was being spent at Universal Music, and he suggested that I should contact their HR department and see where I got. Within a day I’d heard back and been interviewed for a position at Polydor in their artist relations department – which essentially is looking after the schedules of touring US artists (at the time this was the Scissor Sisters, Gwen Stefani, All American Rejects) and I spent six weeks there before being tapped up by the TV promotions department at the same label. I worked with them for the next five months and it was through my dealings with the video department that I was eventually offered the job as a video assistant for Universal. I’ve since moved onto being a coordinator and now a manager, line managing five other staff members. The work has never been mentally challenging, but you really have to work hard on building relationships and biting your tongue. Knowing who to pick your battles with definitely helped me get where I am today. Almost as soon as I was offered a salary with my full time job I decided I’d start a label and help alternatives bands with my wages.

Please summarise what exactly your business does, and what your role is.

Walnut Tree Records is an independent record label for UK based bands and then a distributor for international artists – and essentially I am the whole organisation. I run the label on my own so I’m the A&R manager, the marketing manager, the account, new media, video and so on. It’s rare for anything to be out sourced these days with the label too, so my jobs are neverending at times. I’d say the label specialises in introducing bands to the scene and then looking to establish them as one of the up and coming  talents the UK has to offer – this is certainly evident with how well we’ve done with Tiger Please. I will organise their releases and pay for the production and distribution of them – I’ll then also looking for press and promotional opportunities for that band. The distribution side of things is a little simplier – I work with releases that I really love but can’t buy in the UK without some effort. I try to remove that effort from potential UK fans and sell the releases for as cheap as I can.

Do you have to do anything else to keep your business operational? Or is it completely self-sustaining?

The releases themselves are starting to be self sustaining – as in I break even before too long, however without my full time employment I certainly couldn’t then afford to live off this label. It’s rare to make a profit as I tend to plough any earnings back into developing that band. I think it’s a great deal for the bands involved if I’m honest.

Tell us about some of the acts you work with.

Tiger Please have been described by Kerrang as “this year’s hottest property” so they are a natural starting point. Five incredibly talented Welshmen who I believe have a lot going for them. They have a huge sound that seems to appeal to so many different groups of people, from punk-rock kids to middle aged women and that’s a very good thing for a band to have. We’ve put a lot of work into their two releases as a group (the band, their manager, myself and our press agent) and also the largest amount of money that I’ve invested into a band so far. It’s exciting to see how far they’ve come and how far I think they can go.

Cuba Cuba are another Welsh band who have a  lot of potential – although they’re more likely to appeal to a slightly different crowd to Tiger Please. It’s much dancier in places and not yet as anthemic, but they’ll get there too. I’m releasing their album this Summer and I don’t see why it wouldn’t set them up well.


Gunning For Tamar are my newest band and I also have high hopes for them. I’ve been looking for a band to become the new Tiger Please in a way and step up, and they’ve certainly got the songs to do that. They’re based in Oxford and are my most progressive band, I love when they smash into a two minute instrumental at their live shows. We’re looking to start fairly small though and earn their growth the right way, just like we did with Tiger Please.

If you could work with any act, who would it be and why?

If I could work with any UK band right now I’d have to pick Straight Lines, although I’m sure their label would have something to say about that. They’re a real band with plenty of passion, commitment and huge tunes and don’t seem to be afraid to put the work in. I love watching them live and the songs are stuck in my head for hours afterwards. Well worth listening to their debut album “Persistence In This Game” right now on Spotify. Do it.

Any advice for the new bands out there?

Don’t expect to be the complete package right away. Have fun being in a band and following your passions, rather than worrying about making it or being signed. I get so many emails from bands who have barely left their bedrooms and it’s sometimes hard to explain to them that they just aren’t ready. If you are fortunate enough to be helped out by a label then certainly don’t think you can put your feet up and relax, the hard work is never over if you want to make a living from music.

Is it worth it?

If you asked me this question 30 seconds after seeing one of my bands play live…then of course it is. If you’ve asked me this question on a Thursday night after stressing out at work and hearing that the drummer from your latest signing has left the band, that you’ve got artwork issues with another release….well…my reply wouldn’t be as positive. It takes a lot of heart to do this at times and a lot of belief in yourself and your bands. I’ll get there!

If you could moon anyone, or anything, who or what would it be?

Hull  city football fans, to return the act if nothing else. I’m a big Watford fan and they knocked us out of the playoffs a few years back and a fair few of them got on the pitch and mooned us. Wasn’t a nice thing to see when you’re 4-1 down!

You’re about to be killed. You get to pick one song to hear before your inevitable demise. What’s it gonna be?

Stand By Me by Ben E King. Easily my favourite song and coincidentally the same title as my favourite movie too.

Killing In The Name Of, or Dark Side Of The Moon?

Killing In The Name Of, but to be honest I wouldn’t buy a CD or pay for a download of either.

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