It’s a funny thing this industry and like in any walk of life you meet a whole range of different people. I am lucky to spend time with bands at each end of the unsigned spectrum, the ones starting out and the ones who are just getting their foot on the start of the business side of the industry ladder. What I think is missing from the industry in-between these two levels unsigned scene to signed is three key things loyalty, appreciation and integrity. I tend to write these editorials when I feel strongly about something and although these things are often spoke about amongst the scene they seem to be a bit of a taboo subject publicly. So, in true Rachel Brown fashion, I give my thoughts on where I think things need to change.
Let’s start with the number one thing that really pisses me off in the unsigned industry. Be nice. Simple ain’t it? Appreciate the hard work behind the scenes people are doing for you (usually for free or very little) and for god sake stay away from any negativity, backstabbing and bitchiness. Because do you know what, if you are serious about your band what Tommy said about Bobby last week about Geoff really means absolutely fuck all in the grand scheme of things and contributing to any gossip is not in your best interests. Half of the things I hear aren’t even true. There are always two sides to a story so quit jumping on the bandwagon of things you’ve no facts about. Staying neutral and removing myself from the situation completely is how I set deal with these ‘dramas’. I also never judge people on what I hear from others as rumours spread and take on a life of their own. I was once told to stay away from a person because they’d done this and that and were a nightmare to work with, that person is now one of my best friends, nearly three years on.
Do I get pissed off? Do I think someone’s a nob? Yes, believe you me I do, every single day but I keep it to myself or tell my close friends, I don’t go shouting about it to anyone who’ll listen. The minute I see someone spouting their mouth off to other bands and promoters in a pub, I just think there they go, your committing social suicide matey. Zip it. People talk and it will get back along the grapevine, trust me I know. You are probably thinking what’s she on about, where’s the harm, social suicide? Open your eyes if you are serious about making it in this day and age, you are a product, a brand and look nobody big in this business wants to work or invest money into people who don’t conduct themselves in a professional manner or take their music career seriously. We’re not in the nineties and record deals aren’t what they used to be. ‘I’m keeping it real tho man‘ Kevin take off your sunglasses it’s raining and although you’ve the swagger of Liam Gallagher unfortunately the man from Sony is stood over there so pull your trousers up. It’s the same with bands who get absolutely off their faces at key events ‘Its rock ‘n’ roll‘ Yeah it is Martin, but you’re a small unsigned band from Barking and you’ve played 5 gigs, you are unfortunately not on your headline worldwide tour.
Am I being mean? No, all this sort of thing is fine and at times hilarious but you need to ask yourself how much do I really want this? What am I willing to sacrifice? Am I serious about my band or do I just like the social side of been in a band? However good you we are am I taking up the spot of someone who’s 110% hardworking, serious and dedicated? Being in a band is hard work and this may come as a shock but it’s a career, it’s not all bottles of Buckfast and blowjobs, unfortunately.
Take festivals for example. Ten years ago, unsigned bands rarely got a sniff at a major festival. So, if you are lucky enough to get a spot on a festival stage, remember its highly sought after. Thousands and thousands of bands would kill to play at one of the UK’s top festivals so no matter what your crazy onstage persona is, don’t translate that off stage, the whole point of your band is to be spotted and that’s not going to happen if get wasted and make a spectacle of yourself – well, you’ll get spotted alright but for all the wrong reasons. Also remember to thank the people who choose you to take that spot, a thank you email goes a long, long way trust me.
Look, we’ve all been there, I am no angel I’ve had one or two many drinks at certain key events (thankfully, I kept my trousers up) but I learnt very fast that there’s a line you don’t cross. Learn your limits, you are potentially entering into a business and you never know who’s watching or listening. Am I saying don’t party? No – I’m saying party appropriately for where you’re at and always put performance and professionalism first.
When a band starts getting a bit of momentum behind them, the people at the start of their journey can easily be forgotten about. Who gives a shit about your band as much as you do? Who works hard getting your name out their day in day out for absolutely fuck all or very little? We do. I’m hearing a lot of this recently and I’ve experienced it myself too many times. Loyalty to the people who helped you get a step up is rare. Rare – it’s unbelievable isn’t it? And now-now people if you expect any loyalty your also then seen as a monster. Nothing gets on my tits more than unappreciative people. The smaller blogs who you were quite happy to rave about you day in day out are soon phased out, the reliable photographers and dedicated promoters who have worked relentlessly to get your name out there in the beginning are quickly replaced by people up the ladder. Now listen to me when I say this, this is fine and it’s how these things work, obviously as things grow further expertise is needed, it’s great to have the best writers, photographers and promoters interested in your work, finally they see what we see and that’s what we wanted but it doesn’t mean you have to blank, ignore or give nothing back to these people who helped you grow in the first place either. If you get management be clear about the fact you still want certain people involved, get a booking agent tell them you want to work with certain promoters and don’t tell me it can’t be done because I’ve had people do it for me numerous times. I know big names that stand by the people who helped them in the beginning, years down the line and they get more respect than those who don’t. I’ve also known managers when taking on and working with a booking agent to be very clear about replying to enquires about their band promptly because their ignorance reflects on you as a band not them.
So, if you are doing an interview with the Guardian do one with Barry’s Blog as well, playing a big gig or a nice support slot stick one of the photographers you know on the list for a pass, planning a big tour insist on using the promoter who got you your first tour in the first place or at least give them a few dates, it’s not difficult to give a little back. Did someone help you get signed? Well make a fuss about them and help get them some recognition for their efforts. What bands seem to forget is that a lot of this people in the unsigned scene know a lot of people up the ladder so while they may think I’m too big for them now and I don’t need them (yes, this happens frequently, because again they’ve bagged something very minor in the grand scheme of things and their ego runs riot) when actually that very person could still be the one raving about you to some very important people.
What people seem to quickly forget is the people at the start of their journeys are usually the ones who are doing this out of passion not just out of pound signs and in today’s industry the people you turn your nose up at will be the very same people you’ll be crawling back to if things don’t go to plan. People invest a lot of time into unsigned bands, I know I do, but there are very few bands who actually appreciate it and there are many who get way above their station very quickly. I honestly don’t think people realise the time and effort that goes into what we do. Bands also need to realise that this is a ruthless industry and you can be dropped as quickly as you are picked up so never forget the genuine people who helped you out in the first place because Karma is a fucker. Any decent manager, booking agency or label – who themselves haven’t the ego the size of Africa – knows the importance of the unsigned scene with all the bloggers, photographers and promoters who are helping to initially raise these bands profiles – because music bloggers/photographers have become a vital source of PR these days for bands. They can act as a pivotal piece of making a band prolific and help get their music out there and heard. Many people have developed a snobbish attitude towards bloggers and smaller magazines, but truth be told although someone may not be trained in Journalism, some bloggers are that passionate and enthusiastic about their craft that they are writing better things that those who are and are more effective at growing your fanbase. Did they miss a capital T? Stone them! Forget the 10 thousand people that just read about your band!
Cards on the table, an actual career in the music industry is like rocking horse shit, so bands don’t think by getting a booking agent/manager, playing a festival or getting a few plays on radio that you’ve made it because although it’s all steps in the right direction, you haven’t even got your foot on the first step of the ladder – your literally just approaching it. Even bands who are signed are realistic and self-aware enough to know the hard work really hasn’t even started yet.
Does the cap fit? Lose these massive egos and give yourself a reality check. Because as any band who’s made it (whatever that means these days) will tell you, what goes up also comes down and believe you me people don’t forget.