Tuesday, 30 December 2008
Contacting fellow artists via Myspace to compliment their work and enquire about gig swaps and support slots is great, I applaud the initiative. However, before making such bold steps into the world of electronic communication, I plead that you take a second to check the page of your intended recipient to check that they are in fact a band!
Now I'm not quite arrogant enough to believe everyone knows what a Big Scary Monster is, but I am hopeful enough to think that you artists, the truly creative ones in this sordid little industry of ours, have enough ingenuity to be able to tell a record label from a fellow music maker. It's not that I don't like hearing from you, it's just that I don't have the musical talent, time or geographic capability to play a show with you.
The number of such enquiries received this year acts only as further proof that the beloved Myspace model which has seen us all through many a dark night over the past 4 or 5 years is on it's last legs. The spam potential and the shear number of people excitedly happy to take advantage of it has driven the last few 'real' users away, leaving a ghost town occupied by those who refuse to believe the dream is dead, and a small army of ugly girls who like to get their tits out for the cameras and collect friends like Pokemon characters.
So what do we do now? Every band, record label and other musical entity under the sun has a page, and I imagine will do for a very long time still. Google rankings are high, it's a one-stop-shop for information, music and video, but the user interaction of yesteryear is disappearing by the day. Is it really worth pursuing? Is there anything that can be done to bring the interest back?
Our digital distributor will soon be shipping all of our giftwrapped content off to Myspace for sale in their new online store which could prove to be an interesting new solution. With a page currently loaded with content, perhaps a little distractingly so, do we scrap that and go all-out for the 'money for nothing' digital sales cheques? Do we ditch the lot and opt for a page-tall "go to our website, boi" message, pushing everyone to the one small portal? Or do I continue to spend time and effort maintaining a page, mostly for the sake of spammers and a few shortsighted fools who'd like to play a gig with this consistently angry record label? My love for the third idea is dwindling, that's for sure.
Sunday, 28 December 2008
Considering cutting down to a four day working week next year. In a slightly backwards way I think it'll increase my overall producitivity and despite the lesser hours I'll actually achieve more. It's a plan which needs a little more thinking about but I'll talk more about this another day. It may need some more explaining before you see the logic here. That said, there may be no logic at all!
The dangerous combination of flu-battling drugs are kicking in and my fantasy football team is falling apart in front of my eyes. I'm off to crack open a tin of Roses and ponder what to do with 52 extra days off next year.
Here's the front cover for the forthcoming Copy Haho EP. I like it, hope you do too.
Tuesday, 23 December 2008
Monday, 22 December 2008
Today is Monday 22nd December; three days until Christmas. I have but a couple of doors left on my Simpson's advent calendar, my present shopping is complete (pending last minute Amazon deliveries!) and my friends are all off work until early January. Every office in the music industry is filled with exploded party poppers, empty bottles of champagne, a couple of leftover sausage rolls and a sign hanging on the door saying "see you next year." Every office except this one, that is. I'm desparate for a break and determined to take one, but feel bad doing so. Like at school when you have an exam coming up and you'll do anything to ignore revising yet the nagging voice in your head just won't give you a break, this stupid little angel on my shoulder wont shut up. He's painted himself green and is claiming that Christmas is cancelled. Meanwhile the devil on the other shoulder has adorned his little Santa hat and fake beard and is urging me away from the computer. What do I do?
I decide to run a test. It's 12.11pm. If no new emails appear in the next 10 minutes it's officially the Christmas holidays. That's a fair deal. I've already sent about 20 out this morning, chances are someone will reply. God I hope they don't.
12.17pm - email received.
Son of a bitch! The Grinch is grinning. Lets try again...
12.25pm - email received.
Bugger! We're getting closer, that was a whole 8 minutes without an email. Third time lucky?
12.56pm - still no email.
Hallelujah! I'm off out to get drunk. The office is closed.
Saturday, 20 December 2008
If you, like me, are cowering indoors and arming yourself with Home Alone boxsets and the TV remote, here are some bands you should check out, if you decide to give your eyes a moments rest...
Hair Traffic Control
Joe from Tubelord has been harking on about these for a while now. If you're into the 'lord, This Town Needs Guns, Minus The Bear etc, give these a spin. Upbeat math-pop done right, even if they do have a stupid name. www.myspace.com/hairtrafficcontrol
Yep, so I've mentioned this one a couple of times before, but seriously, do yourself a favour and buy everything this man has ever recorded, let alone released. All of the tracks on his Myspace player are absolute winners so that's a good place to start. www.myspace.com/kevindevine
The Tupolev Ghost
As seen at the BSM Christmas Party in London last week. There's a real buzz starting to surround these guys and it's easy to see why when you hear their clever and interesting mix of all of your favourite DC bands. Ones to watch in 09 for sure. www.myspace.com/thetupolevghost
If you're thirsty for more (spot the Home Alone reference there), the latest episode the BSM Podcast is up online now. It features very drunken interviews with Blakfish, Pulled Apart By Horses and Toby (Shoes And Socks Off / ex-Meet Me In St Louis) along with music from all of those and loads more. The whole thing clocks in at just under an hour and is the best Christmas present you'll be getting from us tight bastards this year! I hope my Mum's ok with that.
Friday, 19 December 2008
The Pinnacle saga is still dragging on. Late last week Shellshock signed a new deal with SRD (Southern Records) which means that our records will be back out and in shops exactly as before (good news, for any of you still buying from the highstreet) and the financial issues are being addressed at the moment, hopefully with a welcome resolution to follow. Its been a cause for constant stress lately and for someone as impatient as me has resulted in more new grey hairs than nights of solid sleep.
During this difficult time I've been following news of labels packing up their belongings and departing the sinking Pinnacle ship, leaving them with very few clients and the chance of a buy-out seeming more and more unlikely with every passing day. How's anyone going to make any money from a distributor with no stock? Since the announcement of administration some two weeks ago we've had a number of rival distro's contact us offering their services, which although flattering does worry me slightly, not for our sake, we're ok where we are, but for the sake of others who are being forced into making a change.
Pinnacle carried over 400 labels. 92 of those left immediately and I'd imagine a lot more have since followed. Lets assume that by the end of this year three quarters of Pinnacle's clientbase has left, and the rest are either undecided or simply giving up. That means 300 labels are moving home. How many options do they have? The big distributors are already packed to the rafters and the small ones are limited by their available resources, yet judging from the emails we've been receiving, are keen to pitch in and help where possible by picking up as many new labels as they can. That's awesome. It's great to see so many people willing to help and you have to applaud the sense of community spirit, however, my worries lie further down the road. In 6 months time, when these small companies have doubled (or even trebled) their roster but cashflow dictates that they can't hire any new staff until some of these new labels begin to sell records, how do they cope? How do they handle the workload without (a) a loss of quality in their service? (b) some labels being kicked off of the roster and once again being left without a means to reach their customers? Or (c) going into administration themselves and taking everyone with them? Maybe there's more to it than I realise. Perhaps there are revenue streams and potential to become profitable in ways I haven't even considered. Or maybe, just maybe, things are going to get worse before they get better.
Thursday, 18 December 2008
Today I'm continuing my binge on mailorders. We've had a ridiculous amount over the past couple of weeks which is as flattering and appreciated as it is difficult and worrying. Threats of yet another Royal Mail strike in Oxford are hanging over and the postmen aren't exactly known for their speed at the best of times. Another thing lurking over me is my end of year tax return. An annoying form which needs to be completed by 31st January every year, so that the Government know how much tax I owe for the previous financial year. The year ends in March so I have 10 months to do the calculations and fill in all of the necessary details, yet that's never enough when there are so many distractions around. And when I say distractions, I obviously mean absolutely anything I can possibly do to avoid spending a single minute even contemplating starting work on this stupid bloody form! I'm starting to make a list of resolutions for next year and pushing for the top spot right now is hiring an accountant to handle this crap for me.
One week to Christmas, hey? Better get another visual aid in to help with the seasons greetings. These puppies can sing! Someone pass me the phone, I've just found the latest addition to our roster...
Wednesday, 17 December 2008
But lets not dwell on the frosty issues, this is a music blog after all. Here's what's going on in just one sentence:
Copy Haho are waiting for the masters of their forthcoming EP, Toby is working on albums two and three for Shoes And Socks Off, Blakfish jet off to Seattle on new years eve to record their album, This Town Needs Guns have just announced some tour dates for February and I'm still hooked on Kevin Devine.
Done. More one sentence news updates coming soon.
Christmas is just over one week away and my meh (an English dictionary word an old school friend claims to have invented) feeling towards the season is slowly thawing, so here's part two of forcing the issue:
Monday, 15 December 2008
Part one... 'Driving Home For Christmas' by Chris Rea, set to a montage of Christmassy photographs
I'm going to get into the spirit of things this year, even if it kills me!
Despite my numbness towards the forthcoming holiday, the celebrations are in full swing and my ears are paying the price for it. Saturday night saw myself and Jack hit the mean streets of Southampton for a somewhat lonely Alcopop staff party. But what we lacked in numbers we made up for in alcohol abuse, hitting everywhere from Flares (at a ridiculously early 8pm - never again!) to Wetherspoons (where so many horrid old hags crowded the bar we gave up after an unsucessful 10 minutes of waiting to be served). Cut The Blue Wire were playing at Hampton's a small bar with a stage in the shop window, NME pages covering the walls and an audience who don't applaud, a strange experience but the cheap cocktails helped ease the indie hurting. Things got messy after here as Jack applied to drum for a local Led Zeppelin covers band, which resulted in receiving text message threats of head stomping, and we hit a club with a DJ who surprised us both with his ability to play unremarkable indie "hit" after "hit", each one as generic as the last, literally could've been any band from a list of a hundred. We ended up back in our little hotel room around 4am, attempting to call Southampton's "24/7" booze delivery hotline before Jack's incredible snoring and the loud ringing in my ears reached unbearable levels, leaving me unable to hear the snooker commentary on the TV. A disappointing end to a fine night out. Overall I'll give Southampton 6/10, although I might deduct a further 2 points for the shocking amount of rude people (including a taxi driver) we encountered when asking for directions. Where to go next year? hmm
I'm just about to listen through the BSM Christmas Podcast episode, which was recorded live from the house party in Sheffield leg of the xmas tour on Friday. It'll be up on iTunes etc later today or tomorrow. I'll post the link asap.
Shoes And Socks Off album is out today. At £4 it's the perfect present for any loved one. Don't let them down!
Friday, 12 December 2008
Thursday, 11 December 2008
Tonight the tour hits Oxford and a venue (The Cellar) within walking distance of my house, which is delightful news considering my current fragile state. This Town Needs Guns, Secondsmile, House of Brothers and the excellent up and coming local lads, Cat Matador, are playing this one, with DJs spinning massive hits until 3am. My major organs are arguing over who is more excited about the prospect of a night in tomorrow. My head is currently winning but my liver also puts forward a good case.
Awoke to sobering news this morning that my Landlord has passed away. I only met him a handful of times but he was a very nice, friendly, reliable guy and definitely the first good Landlord I've had, so he will be missed. From a selfish point of view this may now mean a forthcoming move to the 4th new BSM HQ in 5 years, which is something I'm really not up for. The idea of jacking life in and seeing out my days hopping trains with a knapsack in Middle America whilst wearing a cowboy hat and chewing on straw gets more tempting with every difficult day, failing distributor, untimely death and crushing hangover.
I really dislike this time of year. Time to hang the expense and put the heating on for a bit. I need cheering/warming up. This might be another time where I need to turn to The Colonel in search of salvation. KFC is for winners. KFC saves.
Wednesday, 10 December 2008
Here's a strange video of some guy reviewing This Town Needs Guns album and talking about why he dislikes noisy hardcore bands...
Tuesday, 9 December 2008
I've decided to hit Brighton for the BSM Christmas show tonight. I've been umming and arring about it lately, what with all of the distro stuff and whatnot stressing me out, but a trip to the seaside in mid-December seems like a good idea right now. I haven't seen Secondsmile in ages, or This Town Needs Guns for that matter (which is even worse considering they live literally around the corner) in ages and I've been looking forward to seeing The Crowns On The Rats Orchestra play live for longer than I can remember. Anyone in or around Brighton, do come down tonight. Tickets are available on the door (the venue is The Hope, by the way) and I'll be the one drunkenly eating freezing cold chips and clutching a bottle of Pimms in a boat on the beach, if my last trip down there is anything to go by.
Unfortunately Toby's nan has recently passed away and as it's the funeral tomorrow, Shoes And Socks Off will be dropping from the bill of the evenings gig in London. Obviously our thoughts and best wishes are with Toby and his family. Scarily this is the 3rd time someone has had to pull out of a BSM Christmas Party in London for this reason, over the course of the events 5 year history. Filling the beardy void left in the lineup will be one of our new favourite bands, The Tupolev Ghost. Sounding like a cross between all of your favourite DC bands from the past 20 years, they'll blow your nuts off before you can say "they're my favourite new band too, now." Tickets for the gig are available here.
Monday, 8 December 2008
Today has been mostly spent putting up shelves, or more accurately... Watching my dad as he does them for me. That's right folks, your favourite DIY record label doesn't know squat about domestic maintenance work. A spirit level is the point on a Saturday night when you can no long stand un-aided, right? Either way, this little flat is now filled with no fewer than 11 lovely new shelves, screaming out to be filled with boxes and boxes of CDs. And who am I to disappoint?
Lets get this snow on the road! (Christmas puns > normal puns)
Saturday, 6 December 2008
Matthew Horne from Gavin And Stacey (not the fat one, the other one) has claimed that he's too selfish to start a family. Somehow this counts as news. Here's some better news regarding Mr Horne: He's a big This Town Needs Guns fan. True story. He's been to see them play live on a number of occasions including shows in London, Kingston and as far afield as Nottingham, and can be found lurking somewhere in their thousands of Myspace friends.
Last night I won £15 on I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. Don't get me wrong, I despise these shows as much as the next red-blooded male, but having seen a few minutes of an earlier episode it was clear to all that Micky from Eastenders had this one in the bag, so I put a few quid on and have just blown my winnings on lemonade, bacon and a big chicken for lunch tomorrow. Cheers Joe! You dappy idiot you.
I've run out of dumb stuff to talk about. I guess I'm just too damn smart.
Is everyone enjoying their advent calendars this December? Mine had a picture of a bell this morning. Here's something you wouldn't commonly find behind door number 6.
Jack and I had a long overdue Alcopop "meeting" last night. We got drunk, finalised our plans for the staff Christmas party (which will see us two young bucks hitting the dirty streets of Southampton next Saturday - anyone with any suggestions of places we should go?) and watched the Paul Steel DVD through four times. It's a brilliant collection of videos by a number of really clever directors, all rolling into one another to create some sort of Beach Boys inspired animated musical. Check out the video 'Honking On My Crack Pipe', below...
Time to cook my winning bacon and watch a football match I don't really care about. Happy Saturday!
Friday, 5 December 2008
It now looks as though it'll be sometime next week before we know too much about what's going on. Signs are still looking fairly positive for us but I'm not unclenching these tense muscles just yet.
There seems to be a really strange atmosphere around at the moment. Yesterday I was considering how it feels a little like a recent death of a friend or family member, kinda mournful, tired and with a strange, almost anger, towards anyone getting on with their day to day lives seemingly without a worry in the world. After yesterdays AIM meeting, apparently another record label made a similar comparison, talking about the awkward, silent tone from the gathered crowd of nervous record label owners. Through it all there seems to be a real strong unity and 'in it together' attitude bubbling away and I've been receiving many emails and text messages of support, lots of whom having read the below blogs, so thanks again to all of you who've been in contact. Don't go leaving any flowers by the roadside just yet though, we're still fighting and BSM will be around for a lot longer yet. We're not directly linked with Pinnacle meaning we'll hopefully escape this horrible situation intact, so there are 400+ record labels who deserve your support more than we do right now.
Lifting the mood slightly... Watch Arrested Development. Easily one of the best comedies I've ever seen, although Youtube is seriously lacking in good quality clips, so here's some Curb Your Enthusiasm instead:
Thursday, 4 December 2008
04.12 - Glasgow, Captain's Rest (Copy Haho) - Tickets
06.12 - Leeds, Brudenell Social Club (Blakfish, Secondsmile, Copy Haho, Shapes, Dananananaykroyd and loads more) - Tickets
07.12 - Nottingham, Chameleons Art Cafe (Tubelord, Secondsmile, Shoes And Socks Off) - Flyer
09.12 - Brighton, The Hope (This Town Needs Guns, Secondsmile, The Crowns On The Rats Orchestra) - Tickets
10.12 - London, The Windmill (This Town Needs Guns, Blakfish, Shapes, Shoes And Socks Off) - Tickets
11.12 - Oxford, The Cellar (This Town Needs Guns, Secondsmile, House of Brothers) - Tickets
12.12 - Sheffield, House Party (Pulled Apart By Horses, Blakfish, Shoes And Socks Off)
13.12 - Birmingham, The Flapper (Blakfish, Shapes, Kong and more) - Tickets
What a day. An absolute rollercoaster. Here's a brief recap:
Woke up this morning with a Wire shaped hole in my life. I felt low, a little sorry for myself, and considered a day in bed.
I got a grip and hauled my arse up, did a few hours of work and then left for London. Sat on the bus relishing the sunny winter morning and coming up with pages and pages of ideas for new releases, promoting bands, tidying things up and ways to improve everyones lives - if your life revolves solely around Big Scary Monsters Records and its little roster of indie bands, that is. My iPod was pumping out the hits and when I left the bus I had a spring in my step as I bounced my way around Marble Arch, bouyed by my brainwaves and our busy 2009 release schedule.
Went to my first meeting and spent a very pleasant hour or so in a nice little Soho cafe catching up on industry gossip and talking about potential future releases. All very exciting.
Laughing I look at my phone to find a text message from Jack Alcopop informing me that Pinnacle (who are business partners with our distributor, Shellshock) have gone into administration.
The laughing stops.
I pay for our drinks. They cost twice as much as I expected.
The sun's gone and it's dark outside. Really, really dark.
I notice for the first time today that it is infact freezing.
Shellshock owe us quite a lot of money, what's going to happen?
I start to lose my voice for no good reason whatsoever. What's that all about? A pain starts to burn through my throat.
Seriously, this is REALLY cold.
What about the un-sold stock? Would we get that back?
I ring Shellshock. They tell me things will be ok but I can't stop worrying. I call some of our label-in-laws and everyone is as clueless as I am. Some people tell me everything will be fine, others say we're screwed. Heck.
My second meeting is a brief, cold affair.
My third is even colder.
I cancel my fourth and make my way back towards Oxford as quickly as my shivering little legs will take me. By this point I'm carrying 100 Get Cape Wear Cape Fly CDs and 50 Shoes And Socks Off album sleeves.
I stop at Kfc and not even their greasy chicken treats cheer me up.
The bus arrives, it's horribly busy. A fat old woman sits next to me resulting in my heavy bags being placed on my lap and my legs quickly numbing over.
The driver announces that there's "heavy traffic" ahead. I want to put my head in my hands but they're being held down by my intrusive baggage. A tear would run down my cheek but I think my glands have frozen over.
I'm pretty sure I hear the woman fart.
I'm a big fan of irony. I really get it. There's something quite pleasing and... I dunno, delightful, about how it works. Today, I'm not such a fan. The irony in this situation, you see, is that in just a few hours time we unveil this, our new scheme. It's something I came up with a few months ago (as mentioned earlier this week) and have since been working on tweaking the concept and designing the site. The thinking behind it is to give the fans a little more than the standard, shop bought, neatly packaged, run of the mill products. I for one was raised on the thrill of limited edition singles, hand numbered sleeves and one-of-a-kind items, and it disappoints me to think that BSM may sink into the depths of 'just another label doing normal label things'. So this is it. This is part one (of three, possibly four - oh you'll see!) of getting a little more out there. We're talking exclusive CDs, signed items, absolute one-off, purpose built "things" and much more besides. At the moment there's only a small amount of content online but there is so much more coming over the next few weeks, including some bits and pieces I almost hope never sell because I want to keep them for myself! It works on a first-come-first-served, once they're gone, they're gone, basis. Many of these items you won't find in shops and that's my favourite part of this plan. The items exist, they're real things for real people to really own, but only if they care enough to come and find them. The punchline here is that if the egarly anticipated news regarding Pinnacle/Shellshock is bad... It won't only be these good which you'll struggle to find. We could really be in trouble.
Wednesday, 3 December 2008
Yesterday I was interviewed by Yorkshire Radio. An hour and a half on the phone which was made up of 5 minutes of cheap plugs and "um"s, the other 1:25 was putting the world to rights, comparing travel stories and slating the media's obsession with 'the next big thing' and bands skipping the vital step of building a grass roots fanbase. The age-old race to 'make it' as quickly as possible needs to end, for everyone's sake.
I've fallen head over heels in love with 'Another Bag Of Bones' by Kevin Devine. You should listen to it.
My bus to London leaves in a couple of hours. I'm in the city for 7 hours and only have one meeting and a couple of collections to make, that's a lot of extra time to kill. My iPod, notebook and freshly bought set of pens have a lot of 'us time' coming up. See you tomorrow with a bagful of new ideas and some cold turkey Wire issues.
Tuesday, 2 December 2008
Over the past few weeks I've spent many an hour daydreaming and planning next March's trip to the US for SXSW in texas. My thinking is that if I'm going that far I'm damned if I'm then going to turn around and head straight back home after four days of music industry overcrowding and missing bands I could, in the most part, see any day of the week. The hamsters upstairs kicked into overdrive and the wheel of opportunity was spitting out hundreds of options, each one more insanely brilliant than the last, every single one of them hopelessly unrealistic. That was until today when it hit me. The perfect travel itinerary which ticked all of the boxes:
Cheap flight into New York? Tick.
A reason to visit friends in one or two cities? Yep.
Sightseeing potential? Of course.
Possibilities of stopping off in Kentucky, the home of my favourite chicken receipe? Maybe.
A fine excuse to write pointless blogs which, for once, might interest others? Damn straight!
A chance of meet a couple of heroes and possibly further my record label? Jackpot!
The idea was formed, maps were checked, US budget internal flight prices consulted and sparks were flying, what could possibly stop me now?!
Sodding airlines sales have ended.
The whole plan hinged delicately on my cheap flight across the Atlantic, the one thing which has been certain throughout this difficult, mind-changing process, and now its been pulled from under me like the dirty little rug it is. You bastards, BA, piss off Virgin, fuck you American Airlines!
So this is me. Dejected and back at my drawing board but with metophorical ink fast running out. What's next? Do I try and scrape together the extra couple of hundred pounds and literally hang the expense for a brilliant trip? Do I downsize my exciting plan, sacrificing creativity and possible glory for the sake of a few quid? Or do I sit it out and wait, poised and ready for any impromptu sales, risking further costs as prices continue to rise over the busy festive period?
Lord, give me a sign. I'm down to the very last episode of The Wire and am already questioning where my life goes after today. Don't do this to me, big man.
Monday, 1 December 2008
Lloyds TSB have sent me a credit card statement for £0.00. This is mostly because I was sent the card three years ago but never actually registered it, let alone using it, which they know fully well as they've called me a number of times to query the situation. So todays statement is the 36th consecutive one to inform me that I owe them no money. And we wonder why it is that banks are suffering! Stop posting so much junk, idiots!
I've been looking forward to tonight for the best part of four months now. It's Reading v Coventry at the Madejski Stadium. A few years ago I moved into a shared house with three friends: two Cov fans and a fellow Reading supporter. As you can imagine battle ensued, which is a pity for Jack and Ian as Reading have gone from strength to strength (minus the small matter of relegation last season, but we don't talk about that) whilst Coventry and struggled to even keep up their form of mid-table mediocrity. If form is anything to go by, tonight should be another celebratory one at BSM Towers. Come on you Royals!