Sunday, 27 June 2010
The intro at the start is new to me, but sounds absolutely amazing. Enjoy.
Thursday, 24 June 2010
Getting your music out there seems, at times, to be pretty daunting and tricky. There are so many avenues you can go down and sadly new bands are often let down by poor distribution. I met Lee Parsons from successful online distributor Ditto Music at GoNorth and his passion for helping new bands struck me as something extremely refreshing for someone so rooted in the business side of the music industry.
Hi Lee. Can you explain what it is Ditto Music does exactly?
Primarily Ditto Music is a digital music distributor, specializing in unsigned artists but we see ourselves more as a record label.
My brother and I originally started Ditto Music because we wanted to release music. Setting up a record label took us several months. Then, we could not get any distribution contracts because we did not have enough content. To sell music online or in a shop you need barcodes, ISRC codes, catalogue numbers etc, and it was all really hard to get our heads around.
By the time we had the distribution and label structure in place, we thought we may as well release music for our friends.
We started using tools like pre-release, SMS bundling and being really chart savvy, and eventually we released Koopa, who were the first ever unsigned artists to break the top 40 singles chart.
As EMI, Warner Brothers and all of the major labels started to crumble we found that more artists were coming to release music with us, these included Prince, Suzi Quattro, Finch, Lil Wayne. They paid a small fee, kept all of their rights and profits and we helped them with promotion where we could.
We can set up a record label for you. We then distribute you to hundreds of great stores like Spotify, iTunes and Amazon and you keep all of your rights. With our partners we then help you collect PRS, get sync and publishing deals and promote your music to the music industry. We offer unique services whereby you get in the charts across the world, go on pre-release, sell via SMS, launch and iPhone app and many more. There are companies like Tunecore and Reverbnaton who just throw your music on to the stores. We develop a relationship with you and act as your record label, helping you promote your music online.
You were on the Born To Be Wide Sync Panel at GoNorth, how do unsigned bands go about getting their music synced?
Well we can help you firstly. We work alongside Sentric Music which is totally free and non-exclusive for artists. Once you sign up you get info on sync opportunities as they come in, we have had artists in Lexus adverts, The Hills and shows like ‘Paris Hilton’s Best Friend’. You get daily sync opportunities sent straight to your Ditto account.
There are loads of things you can do grass roots though.
Firstly, contact independent movie makers near you. There are so many now, especially around universities. Don’t worry too much about getting a massive fee at this stage. There have been some great examples of film makers and composers meeting at university and as the film maker becomes successful it has a knock on effect for the musician.
Get yourself to as many networking events as possible and start building up relationships with people. Go North had an amazing stable of talent that crossed the whole realm of music and film. Join AIM ( www.musicindie.com ). Once you join AIM you get access and cheap passes to all of the networking events around the UK. And if you get in touch with the UKTI you may even get funded to travel to these abroad. Networking is always key.
I felt you had a lot to say to the representative from Microsoft (syncing music for Xbox games). Is it true that games often don't pay bands for syncage?
Yeah, I don’t think I made many friends on that panel but I didn’t want to hear them talk about how they sync signed artists, I wanted to know how they were helping unsigned artists gain promotion in music.
He wasn’t going to give out any numbers but they clearly aren’t paying artists much. The games industry is a billion dollar industry that is making more revenue than the music industry at the moment.
They seem to think that the promotion alone should be enough dividends for the artist. That kind of devalues music though in the same way that music piracy teaches you that your best hope for producing music is that someone will purchase it for free and then come to a show.
And my other point to them was why do the games industry not pay music royalties for each game sold?
Every time you download music you pay PRS, every time a radio station or TV channel plays music you get paid a PRS rate. Even Youtube has to pay PRS. So if you distribute a piece of music to a computer game you should pay some kind of royalty rate to the artist, even if it’s a few pence.
How big is the divide between the sync industry and the music industry and what can be done to solve this?
There is always going to be more content that sync opportunities so I am sympathetic to the sync agents.
There is a massive division between the games and music industries. I went to the GDC in San Fran Cisco a couple of years ago which is the largest worldwide conference for games developers. I was the only person from the music industry at the conference. There does not seem to be enough being done to build links between the two industries. I asked the developers where they get music from and they would generally ask friends at work or use sound library music. There is no excuse in this day and age to use sound library music, not when there is so many talented artists out there creating music that is going unheard. Seriously, Sound library music? It’s a joke!
On another panel you participated in there was mention of the benefits of PRS. Explain to anyone who might not know what PRS is and how it can benefit them?
The PRS is the Performing Rights Agency. Each venue has to pay a PRS license to play music. That revenue then goes to the PRS agency.
The PRS then dish out the revenue accordingly to the artists who play in the venues, gain radio airplay and so on.
If you don’t claim for the gigs you play then it will get paid out to the major label artists. So make sure every gig you play you claim! Once you sign up with Ditto we help you with this free of charge through our partners at Sentric Music.
PRS is also covered in things like radio airplay, TV, even online streaming. You can claim back for 6 months so do it. Now!
I met so many bands at Go North who weren’t claiming their PRS. As an example, the band who won the competition to play with Bon Jovi will receive around £20,000. So do it now. Even if it is an open mic night you could be entitled to some serious pocket money
With the sheer amount of music on the internet how can a small band 'stand out from the pack'?
It sounds obvious but the first thing is to be brilliant. If every artist listened to the same amount of demos that we do here I think they would realize the severity of the competition out there. You are pitching yourselves against hundreds of thousands of artists.
Be up on the latest social trends. At the first panel I mentioned a few sites to check out
www.splitgigs.com is a great site where you can exchange gigs all over the world
www.mflow.com is a new site we distribute you to and can be a fantastic networking tool.
www.mog.com Start music blogging and then you can pitch your own music to other bloggers.
How does a band go about getting distributed by Ditto Music?
Ditto Music is the simplest way to handle digital distribution.
Our platform allows you upload music and artwork online and receive free barcodes, ISRC codes as you sign up. You can specify your release date, set up a label and you have access to 24 hour sales analytics. You can choose to become chart eligible, make an iPhone app, sell on pre order, SMS, we have it all covered. And we have skilled people in the office every day to take your phone calls.
Just go to www.dittomusic.com and sign up for a free account. From there you can access the forums, receive news on sync opportunities and of course start uploading content to great sites like Spotify, iTunes , Amazon and more.
Lee and Ditto Music have kindly given me 10 iTunes release vouchers to give away to Have Fun At Dinner readers. So if you are in a band or make music email me at email@example.com with a link to some of your music and I will pick my favourites.Each voucher entitles an artist to a free release on iTunes (up to 3 tracks) with £0 signup, £0 subscription to Ditto Music and 100% royalties. No bad, eh?
Closing date 8th July
Thursday, 17 June 2010
The second day of GoNorth all kicked off at The Ramada for seminars. The first of the day was the 'Do It Yourself' panel organised by Born to Be Wide. Olaf Furniss conducted the panel, even adopting Jeremy Kyle tactics and coming into the audience to hear questions. On the panel was the legendary musician/journalist/TV panelist John Robb, Meursault front man Neil Pennycook, Little Kicks singer Steven Milne, The Debuts singer Michael Lambert and soul singer Carrie Mac. The panel debated the ins and outs of managing a band by yourself. The major benefit was seen to be control and monetary. If you do everything yourself you are bound to make more money in the short-run. The biggest pitfall identified by the panel was dealing with dodgy promoters, however they also stressed that there are an equal amount of good promoters out there. As an impartial party, I took quite a lot from this panel as it gave me an insight to how much work being in a small, self-managed band is. At the end of the day a band is only to get what they put in. It is also essential for small bands to exhaust all possible resources before looking for third party management. If you have someone who can do artwork, use that resource. If you have someone who can book the gigs, use that resource. If you have someone who can do PR, use that resource. Overall, this panel would have been extremely fruitful for up and coming bands looking to make it on their own. A change of pace from the bloated, self-interested panels of the GoNorth Fringe.
After sitting in on what appeared to be a strange orgy on Second Life which I assume was supposed to be some kind of online conference? Whatever it was it was a total panel-libido killer. In stepped BBC Radio 1/Scotland DJ Vic Galloway to tell us to come next door for the Scottish Arts Council run SxSW Panel. So Peenko and I did. The panelists included two reps from the Scottish Arts Council, Vic, Adam (who basically pimps bands to college radio in America) and Jamie (We Were Promised Jetpacks co-manager). Going to SxSW is a massive dream of mine and this panel deterred me slightly. The sizable costs of going over which were quoted were daunting and the Arts Council reps seemed to veer off subject a lot of the time. This was sorted by Vic who always put the focus back on the interests of the audience. Admittedly, I did raise a rather redundant question (in terms of SxSW) as I mentioned the closure of WOXY, the American independent radio station and website. I was met with a very frank 'WOXY will be back'. In the ensuing hours I would learn that a company has stepped in and it is looking as though WOXY will be up and running sooner than expected. I don't know if that is a scoop or not. Fuck it. WOXY is coming back, so I don't care if it is.
The next seminar was a rather star-studded affair as Born to Be Wide had organised a panel consisting of; Keith Harris (Stevie Wonder's manager), Rab Andrew (Primal Scream, Texas) Dougie Souness (Wet Wet Wet), Phil Ellis (Baby Boom Records) and Grant Dickson (The View, Broken Records.) The managers shared stories and dispensed advice on how to manage bands effectively. One of the highlights of the seminar was Rab Andrew telling the story of how he had to bail Mani from Primal Scream out of jail so he could play a festival. Yet he identified that he found this to be fun. He appreciated that you don't get into management to have an easy ride and that he lived for the 'fuck ups' as they were fun. What a top bloke. An interesting point made by the panel is that they do not sign contracts with their acts. This seemed absolutely mental to me, yet it appeared to be the done thing as it shows a give/take relationship based on trust.
Against my appeals, Peenko dragged me to the 'Flash Forward' seminar. He should have listened to me as it was essentially music industry people rooted in an old-school mindset trying to grasp the various new avenues the industry is going down. The main part that got my goat was their view on Spotify, feeling that it should pay artists more, which I think is just wrong. Spotify is a promotional tool. Yet this seemed to be lost on these dinosaurs, so Peenko and I left early to go see the Bronto Skylift album launch.
In typical Detour fashion a group of us were lead to a small clearing in the middle of an island. After a quick introduction Bronto were away. Anger, passion and humour combine into one with these boys culminating in lead singer Niall (who would later threaten to 'push me in the fucking face', but never mind) attacking his guitar with whatever he could find. Mostly branches. My appetite was whetted and this would not be the last time I'd watch them at GoNorth.
Next up were my favourite band of GoNorth, The Seventeenth Century. Having seen them a few times before I knew what to expect but I was no less blown away. Combining euphoria derived from Beirut songs and a sophistication beyond their years, the Glasgow 5-piece delivered. Big time. New single 'Roses in the Park' was a highlight, as the band would find out later from my drunken rambles devoid of all superlatives.
As Peenko was my designated 'daddy' for the week he recommended Fiona Soe Pang. A great curve ball as she combined ambient trip-hop with stunning visuals. I remarked that she sounded a bit like Lamb and she agreed she was a big fan. Lloyd didn't know who they were, even though they were around during his era...
We stayed for the most hyped act of the week, Rachel Sermanni;
I caught up with the very lovely Rachel after her set at both GoNorth and Rockness to have a chat.
Rachel, you are just back from playing GoNorth and Rockness. How did they go?
Is it daunting for a young (Rachel is eighteen) solo artist to play in front of a festival crowd?
It wasn't too daunting. More exciting. We got a bit scared when we did our soundcheck as Danananakaroyd were playing just outside on the main stage and we couldn't hear them. They're great...by what we heard. But we were quite determined to have fun. I danced about on stage and everything. We just let loose and gave all we could give whether we could hear ourselves or not :) It was probably a little daunting as my old school friends were in the front row...and they'd only really seen me singing little cheesy numbers in the school hall...I was keen to let them hear what I've been skipping uni for and working proudly on for the past months!
You worked with Ben from Mumford and Sons, how did that come about?
I met Ben at the Loopallu Festival when they played. We went and had a magical jam with them on a beach at 3am and after that he asked if I'd like to come record down in London. BIGGEST ADVENTURE! I learnt so much. And he showed me that not all my songs have to be sweet and quiet...i could potentially make louder sounds. Since then, I have.
In one song you sing about the childlike notion of being a pirate and in another you sing about how and where your soul meets your body. How do you bridge the gap between quirky and existential?!
I don't think I'm aware of the bridges between topics in my songs...all that I write about is very important to me. I love to explore strange things. And the pirate archetype is intriguing. I suppose that quite nicely links to the idea of the soul. Apparently, every person holds, within them, different archetypes. We all have inside us the 'princess awaiting a rescue' or the 'prince in search of the pathetic damsel'...and then there are the sort of parts of us that make us want to be the goodies...but the one that usually intrigues me the most is the darker sides...baddies and pirates. One of my most recent songs is so dark i have managed to complete lose myself on what it's about..and just get scared.
You have quite a bit of hype surrounding you, is it hard to ignore it or do you embrace it?
I really don't think there's that much hype. Is there? Ha!
What is in store in 2010 for Rachel Sermanni?!
2010 sees us doing lots of Scottish festivals: Insider, Wickerman, Belladrum and Loopallu..and I'm going on a solo adventure down to Wales for the Greenman! And lots more gigs too. I'm hoping to have some recordings to sell by the end of the year too. And the rest is a misty unknown even for me. Which is terribly exciting!
After Rachel's lullabyesqe set, I was off, again, to catch the magnificent Woodenbox With A Fistful of Fivers. I caught a few of their songs, including my favourite 'Draw a Line' and then I sprinted to see the best band in Scotland; Meursault.
Tonight it was just two of them and the crowd was anything but kind. Pennycook had to endure a drunken local whaling all through 'Weather' (one of their stand-outs from sophomore effort 'All Creatures Will Make Merry') and even with his foghorn voice he couldn't drown the guy out. I suppose this exposed some of the downsides to events such as GoNorth as the venue was not ideal yet the sound equipment was top of the range. It seemed as if investment could have been spread about better to ensure optimum enjoyment for all those involved (bands and crowd).
Thursday night was a bit of a write-off. Copious amounts of alcohol were consumed and I offended pretty much everyone. Two things I learnt were 1) to not tell A&R people that no one likes them and 2) that Vic Galloway is an absolute champion who just lives for Scottish music. Really inspiring bloke.
Due to my massive hangover I only made one worthwhile panel, Born To Be Wide's Sync Panel. I'm not going to say too much about it as I have interview Lee Parsons from Ditto Music who was on one of the panels and he will explain sync and distribution better than I am able to (it is pretty complicated.)
In the afternoon Lloyd and I did the Toadcast with Matthew from Song, by Toad. We come across as very useless, maybe because I am useless and Lloyd was hungover.
I managed to catch the excellent Randolph's Leap in the evening. Combining humour and twee-folk via a stack of Ivor Cutler records, they brought a massive smile to my face. As did Bronto Skylift who I caught after. 'A band is only as good as its drummer', if this was the case then Bronto Skylift would be the best band in the world. Pounding away at the drums while Niall screams down the mic while playing angular hooks on his guitar. Great live band.
So that wraps up GoNorth for one year. Worth while, yet ultimately very, very messy.
Photos by Derick MacKinnon and Dom Holt of New Found Sound.
Monday, 14 June 2010
Bottle of Evil is a collaboration between Derek Bates (Evil Hand, Genaro) and Steven McGilvary (Bottle of Steven). Hailing from Lanarkshire the duo make shoegaze of the dream-pop variety. With delicate melodies often erupting into noise-fueled crescendos they are the perfect antithesis my folk-based bletherings. A pleasant surprise from the initial fear of another Biffy sound-a-like or Screamo band which I garnered from their name.
Their debut album is out now via iTunes and eMusic with a physical release due in 'a couple of weeks'.
Bottle of Evil - Conversation
Thursday, 10 June 2010
The panel on management in the industry was industry mainly due to the fact that we had Vic Galloway slating major labels and giving good advice to the young bands in the audience while sat next to representitives from the very people he was slating! His passion definitley shone through as he seemed determined to help up and coming bands. The other panel members seemed to amount to nothing more than one upsmanship. Name dropping, tales of John Mayer tours and how many records they sold. 'You make the artist think they have power to keep them happy' retorted Christian, manager of Faroe Island singer-songwriter Teitur. He spoke about artists like they were pawns which got my back up a wee bit. Baby Boom seemed to want to genuinely help bands, talking about the long and arduous process of grooming bands to be ready for the public.
A main point stressed was the fact that all bands should sign up to PRS to receive funds for live performances. The recent young support band to Bon Jovi made £20,000 alone from one gig due to PRS. So it is worth signing up, then.
I got dead drunk and ended up playing pool with all these industry types, beating Baby Boom due to default. Then I mangina'd Peenko and Alan from Rokbun. The less said about that the better, but they are also covering GoNorth so check them out.
My pick of the young bands playing yesterday was Iglue who sounded like a cross between Bright Eyes and Bombay Bicycle Club.
If you are in Inverness or are in a young band get your arse to GoNorth today. Panels from Born To Be Wide on self-management and on various other seminars.
Lets hope tonight is not as messy as yesterday. Seemingly Bronto Skylift are launching their album on a tiny wee island!
Tuesday, 8 June 2010
For the remainder of the week I will be covering the day-to-day going ons of GoNorth in Inverness.
For those of you unfamiliar with the event it basically curtails Inverness becoming a Mecca for people involved actively in the Scottish media industry. Digital, print, television, film, yet I am interested mostly in the largest part of the convention. The music.
Starting off with the GoNorth Fringe in The Ironworks on Wednesday, there will be seminars and panels on how to succeed in almost every single avenue of the music industry. The prolific Born To Be Wide" team will be conducting panels focusing on issues such as music management and how to self-manage your band and/or music. There are also daily showcases with equal amounts of up and coming and established bands partaking. Find the list here.
You can sign up to attend seminars and showcases at www.gonorth.biz under the delegates section.
Full listing of Born To Be Wide seminars;
Sunday, 6 June 2010
Euan who writes The Steinberg Principle and who is also lead singer of The Kays Lavelle has been arranging a great wee project in aide of Depression Alliance UK. Basically he is getting artists to cover songs by Elliot Smith, Sparklehorse and Vic Chesnutt. All of whom committed suicide. Suicide is 50% higher in Scotland than in the rest of the U.K. I have had first hand experience of this terrible experience both professionally and personally. So it really is worth your time and money. Not only for the cause but because the songs are brilliant.
Contributing artists include There Will Be Fireworks, Rob St John, Burnt Island, Small Town Boredom, Sleepingdog and Keiran Naughton
Get the songs here
Massive props to Euan for putting together such a wonderful project.
You have probably noticed I am an absolute sucker for folk tinged music, but only if it is done properly. I was delighted when I gave this a listen. Previously unaware of James, I was taken by the maturity and majesty of his songs. His emotive voice, building instrumentation and observational lyrics merge together perfectly to produce something simple, yet effective. He reminds me of the sadder moments of Woodenbox with A Fistful of Fivers. It is also free, but I feel Jack James deserves a wee bit more than that for this little beauty of a mini album. Download it here
Jack James -Gathering Dust