Behind The Events | Boneyard Promotions

Image credit: BYP

We chat the guys over at Boneyard Promotions about what exactly goes into an event, the uncertainty of it’s return this year and much more!

As we are all painfully aware the live music industry has been on pause for a year now and subsequently floating in limbo. Last summer we saw remnants of what once was with a few social distanced gigs but the truth is we’re all yearning to be arm in arm, pint in hand at full capacity, restrictionless show.

Recently, the UK Government offered a slither of hope with their recent roadmap out of lockdowns, which sees restrictions (hopefully) lifted by July, meaning the return of the live music sector. Not long after the roadmap was released festivals began selling tickets, with most of them selling out in a matter of days. Even so, the Government has still yet to confirm if it will provide insurance to organisers if the roadmap is altered, which is a possibility.

With all this in mind, we wanted to hear from those directly involved with making events happen, we want to highlight all the hard work, the many moving elements, and the general quality of those in our live events industry. Hopefully, we can provide an insight into the many areas of events to give you a wider, more varied insight into the industry as a whole.

In the last article we spoke to Jon Grant of Whiskers, a popular venue in Newquay, Cornwall but this time we chat to Matthew Goodyear and Karum Cooper of Boneyard Promotions, a South-West based booking agency that has become known for its wild shows and its infamous Burn It Down Festival in Torquay.

Throughout our conversation, we cover just what goes into an event, how they’ve prepared for the return of live music, and much more!

Thanks again for taking the time to chat to us, how have you been?

BYP: We’ve been good – just trying to find work in the lockdowns, keeping safe, sane and optimistic for the future!

Why was Boneyard started and what did you want to achieve? 

BYP: Boneyard was started by Matt in 2015 – and he just wanted to reignite the once-bustling live music scene in Devon (specifically his hometown of Torquay) bringing national touring names through the town whilst offering opportunities to the local artists of the area too.

Why was it you decided to call the South-West your stomping ground?

BYP: We grew up here! Karum in Truro and Matt in Torquay – so there’s such a special connection that we feel with the artists, promoters, and other members of the music community down here. It feels very close-knit and friendly. The music scene down here is such a different beast in comparison to other UK towns, it needs a very specific kind of love and attention that we’re more than happy to offer.

So, time for the obvious pandemic question, how has it affected Boneyard? 

BYP: 2020 was set to be our biggest year as an agency to date. We had several really exciting tours, most of our artist roster performing at some of the biggest festivals in the UK, our first couple of European tour bookings, the third installment of Burn It Down Festival and Behave! Festival and many other bits and pieces. Unfortunately, the pandemic put a stop to quite literally all of that.

Check out the highlights to Burn It Down Festival 2019 here:

Do you see there being any live shows this year? 

BYP: We can hope! The lucky part about being situated in Devon/Cornwall is the prospect of having much lower R rates than the rest of the country… so hopefully (even if distanced and/or seated) we’ll be looking at a few shows from early summer onward.

How have you prepared to make a return to live music (if it goes ahead)? 

BYP: Of course, we have! Many of our shows and tours from 2020 have been rescheduled including the 2020 Burn It Down lineup. We have some of our biggest, most exciting shows to date in the diary too. So it’ll be a great way to return to the live industry.

Before the pandemic the south-west was building a strong reputation for live music, do you feel this has been damaged beyond repair or will it bounce back?

BYP: I think we’ll bounce back. Not only is the deep South West used to overcoming obstacles, but I’d like to think we’re all very resilient and determined to bounce back stronger than ever. 

Do you feel the south-west is often overlooked? If so why?

BYP: Unlike many of the bigger cities – we’re all on our own. In an almost separate part of the UK. It’s not like London where you can come and go from any direction – Devon and Cornwall is one way in and one way out. This makes it extremely difficult for agents to route tours as well as for fans to travel to gigs (which is exacerbated by our absolutely terrible public transport network) – because of the lack of footfall in our towns and cities – there’s much stronger competition between locations that otherwise shouldn’t need to compete. For example; Truro and Plymouth are the same distance apart as Leeds and Manchester but would struggle to have two dates of the same tour.

You guys have had extensive experience with running events and festivals, can you explain to us the different processes for each one and the work that goes into it? Do you feel it is fair to say that people are unaware of the hard work and amount of work that goes into events? 

BYP: For sure. This has been highlighted by the government’s retrain/relearn’ campaign, as mentioned above. I think people are so used to live shows and festivals being marketed and packaged into friendly products, they forget how many people work behind the scenes to pull it off. I guess that means we’re doing our jobs right, in a way… if people don’t realise we’re here and just focus on the end result then we can count that as some kind of success I suppose.

I think people are so used to live shows and festivals being marketed and packaged into friendly products, they forget how many people work behind the scenes to pull it off

Boneyard Promotions

What are your favourite elements to your job? 

BYP: Of course, the creativity that is involved in the marketing/branding side of things is a big part of our enjoyment. Creating a cohesive gig or festival lineup that works really nicely and has beautiful artwork for example. We also weirdly enjoy the admin and organisational side of things that come with booking shows/routing tours/organising festival staff etc.

What has been your biggest success so far? 

BYP: It’s got to 2019’s Burn It Down Festival. It was a massive success on all levels. Every band had a great time – there was so much backstage banter that was very enjoyable for both the crew and the bands. and the crowd was absolutely electric! We were only a few tickets off selling out, too. It felt like such an honour to bring something so exciting to a small town like Torquay and pull it off successfully! 

Power Of Press With Karl Johnson – Hard Of Hearing Music

We caught up with Karl Johnson, head of Hard Of Hearing Music to chat about his blog, how music press is changing and much more!

In part one of this article series we caught up with Marcus from On The House, a reputable blog based in the South-West of England. They’re but one example of all the hard working, passionate and diverse bloggers who dominating the music press world. As mentioned previously, the music press world is changing, from PR to actual content creation. The old guard magazines such as Q and NME are now more and other traditional music prints are dwindling. For better or worse, blogs are taking over and the simple fact is that they are the future of music press.

One example of these hard working blogs is Hard Of Hearing Music, which is headed by the multi-talented and ever busy Karl Johnson. Based in London HOHM covers a range of artists through a variety of genres. It’s a slick looking music blog that is consistent with its quality coverage. We caught up with Karl to chat about why he started HOHM, how he feels the music press is changing and much more!

So, explain to us what Hard Of Hearing Music is and what it does?

Karl: It’s essentially a new music platform, with the aim of unearthing exciting new music. Hard Of Hearing has a small team of contributors that write reviews, conduct interviews, and organise larger features about issues that affect music and society. There’s a special excitement in finding a new artist with bags of potential and watching them develop release by release and being there every step of the way. We have a fortnightly radio show (Tuesdays 6-8 pm) on Boogaloo Radio in North London where we play new releases and invite bands in to chat and discuss their music and the industry on the whole.

When did you first start HOHM and what was the reason for it?

Karl: It was about 5 years ago when I moved to London. I was going to 4-5 gigs a week at different venues in an attempt to meet like-minded people and to discover a music community. Hard Of Hearing as a site was a way of keeping a log of all the bands I’d seen and had been enjoying, I love getting down to a gig early and soaking up the atmosphere of a venue, watching the opening band, and witnessing what the whole night has to offer in terms of curation from the promoter too.

How do you feel Hard of Hearing helps artists? 

Karl: We’ve always tried to cover the band’s earliest releases, whether that’s an incredible Bandcamp demo, Spotify release, or a DIY music video. Our radio show on Boogaloo Radio enables us to give airtime to new artists we love and support their releases further, as well as getting artists in for interviews and sessions where possible. We started out putting on gigs at a 40 cap punk venue in Hackney called Blondies, bringing along friends to try to pack the place out, slowly a trickle of new music enthusiasts started showing up who were just as mad about new music as we were. We’d ask the bands we wrote about to play – it was an incredible experience and a perfect way to join the larger music community in London, which is often seen as overly industry-focused or ‘who you know’ orientated, but actually is mostly made up of people who just love music from all walks of life.

Why is it you feel blogs are becoming more popular and being viewed as a more legit music press format?

Karl: I think blogs have never been closer to the music itself than they are now. Also, you’ll find some of the most proficient and passionate music writers contributing to blogs even in comparison to the major UK music publications. It’s because blogs form relationships with the artist at an early stage. The idea of community is huge with blogs, often they operate within their local area and have an input into their local scene, rather than being anonymous and solely a digital presence. We don’t even need to use the term DIY anymore, the major labels have exploited the term for their
own gain.

“I think blogs have never been closer to the music itself than they are now”

Karl Johnson – HOHM

What do you feel separates music blogs from more established names such as NME?

Karl: Often locality, passion for the track they’re writing about, and writing that’s free from restraint separate great articles on blogs to major music press for me. The likelihood of a longevity relationship with major UK press can depend on so many things such as hype, a specific PR company, or a label is attached to a release. Often the song itself is the elephant in the room. With blogs having a closer and more personal relationship with the artist and track, I feel artists can grow an authentic relationship with a writer and a blog more easily from a grassroots standpoint. I suppose the other thing that separates the two is money.

Do you feel the increase in blogs and ease of starting one has lowered the quality of writing?

Karl: Not at all. People should be free to express themselves – if every music writer had to have a background in English literature or journalism it’d be a poor state of affairs. Skills can be developed and writing nurtured; for me, it’s a passion for music and importantly bravery to approach tabu topics and offer coverage and representation to more cultural issues that really break ground and turns heads.

“I feel artists can grow an authentic relationship with a writer and a blog more easily from a grassroots standpoint”

Karl Johnson – HOHM

Why do you feel more artists are wanting to be featured in blogs? 

Karl: I think party because of the regionality of it all, you can send your music to a bunch of blogs in each city and each corner of the country, which is good to grow a fanbase outside of your hometown. As merch and physical music sales are so important to artists, you can do a lot worse than attempting to get new fans in different places. It’s good to bear in mind as well that the people you are connecting with will often have
more than one project, it can connect you to live promoters, grassroots radio, labels, or other bands. News about really exciting music travels fast.

Why do you feel that traditional print journalism is failing? 

Karl: I think it’s the idea that print journalism has been free for so long and at times has lacked a connection to the grassroots community. If it’s free and sitting in stacks on a sticky table in the pub with the face of the next major label star on it – jammed between pages of irrelevant advertisements – it will likely be used as a coaster. I personally think that a blog putting out a zine with a community connection to what they’re doing and writing about has so much more value to it. It’s kind of the same thing as free gigs on DICE, you ‘sell’ the tickets but is anyone going to show up?

Do you feel a blog can exist in print as well as online? 

Karl: Absolutely, I think a print edition can compliment an online blog if done in the right way.

Lastly, how do you feel blogs will develop as time goes on and what’s the next logical step?

Karl: I think quality over quantity will be recognised as more important in the future. We’ve reached a moment with technology – especially with being stuck at home in the pandemic – whereby people are taking time out and screen time is being more limited as a consumer. The detriment to our mental health has become clear, we’ll have a heightened respect for the outdoors and human interaction come Spring, making more community-focused outlets and quality-conscious articles something to cherish.

DIY Till We Die: Copper Feast Records

Image credit: Copper Feast Records

We caught up with Callum Pope to chat about his experience running a DIY label, how he helps artists and much more!

After speaking to a variety of DIY and independent artists we were eager to get to know more about the many labels that support these artists. With every DIY scene that emerges there is normally a DIY label supporting the artists in that scene. So far we’ve spoken to Beth Shalom Records, Eeasy Records, and Spinout Nuggets. In this edition of DIY Till We Die we catch up with Callum Pope of Copper Feast Records, a London-based psych/garage rock indie label that has a global reach. They’ve also featured notable artists such as King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.

Callum talks to us about how his label supports emerging and independent artists, how he achieved a global reach, and much more!

Thanks for taking the time to chat to us Callum, how have you been?

Callum: I’ve been well thank you! Fortunately, I’m currently based in Sydney, Australia at the moment where life has returned to relative normality, so I’m definitely counting myself lucky on that front. Otherwise, we’ve been super busy so far in 2021 as a label and that’s only going to continue for the rest of the coming year, which I can’t wait to see develop. 

So, when did Copper Feast Records come to fruition and why was it started? 

Callum: We started mid-way through 2018 with the release of our first LP, Right Shitty’s Bachelor of Arts which was kind of the culmination of a long-held ambition of mine to start a DIY label in my spare time and was spurred on earlier that year having discovered that Bachelor of Arts, which was one of my favorite records of the past couple of years, still hadn’t received any form of vinyl pressing. I’m a big record collector myself so I guess I figured that if I want to have this album in my collection, why not press it myself and start a label at the same time, realising that dream.

I also made the decision that we would aim to operate in a way that was fair to the artists as well as pledging to give a share of our profit on any release to a charity which we continue to do to this day on every release.

Can you talk us through the day-to-day at Copper Feast? 

Callum: As I run Copper Feast part-time and out of my bedroom so to speak, there’s not so much of a day-to-day operation at the label as it tends to vary depending on what needs to be done at the time. That will cover getting through a heap of emails in the morning and coordinating shipping of vinyl orders with our hub in the UK. Once I’ve got my day job out of the way, my evening may involve setting up our latest presale on Bandcamp, arranging promotional material with press, putting together some visual assets for both vinyl art and social media, and packaging up any orders that are shipping from Australia. There are also loads of other things which need taking care of as and when they come up, like arranging our new releases with bands and the pressing plant. It’s more or less a one-person operation here so there’s not a lot of day-to-day stuff that I’m not involved in, which has led to a real learning curve over the past 3 years.

You’re based in London but have hubs around the world, how did you go about setting up this global network, and what were some of the challenges you faced? 

Callum: So we began in London back in 2018 while I was living there and have since moved out to Sydney for my day job, which is where I operate the label currently. Meanwhile, my brother Charlie has kindly been stepping in and packing all our orders from outside Australia until I come back to the UK at the end of 2021.

Aside from those rather simple circumstances helping us grow abroad, it’s mostly been down to making connections with a lot of great like-minded people around the world who believe in what we’re doing and are keen to help us grow. The really exciting news is we’ve just signed up with a fulfillment partner based in the EU, who will ship all our European orders to make sure these customers can avoid the taxes that are now imposed on records coming into the EU from the UK post-Brexit, so I’m really keen to see how that relationship develops.

We are also on the lookout for similar opportunities in North America and when I leave later in the year, Australia so customers in these locations can save on shipping our records out to them, cause I know from buying LPs myself, worldwide shipping rates can e a huge blocker to a potential new fan taking the plunge and buying one of our records.

One route we’ve had success through in the past is by setting up a two-way relationship with a like-minded label in the same genre space but in a different territory, whereby we both offer fulfillment on each other’s merch. Ultimately, there are loads of different solutions out there if you’re creative enough and are able to go out looking for the right people to help you.

Did you have an idea of what artists you wanted to sign before the label was born?

Callum: Aside from that first Right Shitty album, I went into it with absolutely no plan for how the label would grow or which artists would be signed next. I essentially just looked at it from the perspective of which artists did I want to hear on vinyl, whenever the time came that we had the financial capability to release something new again. Our first perhaps 12-18 months mostly just relied on the success of the previous release to be able to release the next record so we couldn’t make concrete plans too far in advance, which was of course quite a risky strategy to hedge most of our funds on one release at a time. Thankfully we’re starting to make it out of the other side of those fairly risky first couple of years and are now able to run a number of releases concurrently and go into releases with a bit more of an expectation of how records will perform commercially.

Looking back at the artists we’ve managed to sign over the past three years, I’m really pleased with how the roster has unfolded as well as the breadth of styles and sounds our artists represent over our usual umbrella genres of psychedelic rock, stoner rock, and punk rock.

How do you choose the artists you work with?

Callum: It all comes back to my tastes generally and what bands or music I’m enjoying at the time. One thing I really look for before deciding whether to work with an artist is that they’re somewhat unique and bring something new to the table in the space they work in.

I’m also looking for artists that are willing to get stuck in on their end and be an active part of the decision making and release process to make it a truly collaborative experience between the two parties, rather than perhaps a ‘typical’ artist/label relationship where the label is calling the shots on various aspects of the release and the artist has no choice but to follow.
It goes without saying too that I want to work with people I connect with on a personal level, so I try to meet the bands where I can to sink a few beers and get to know them a bit beforehand, which has really helped set the tone for the project to come and kick start our working relationships with a better understanding of what each party is looking to get out of the project, besides the obvious. 

Check label signees School Disco‘s RouteNote Session here:

How does Copper Feast help and work with artists?

Callum: One of the key things we try to do is offer a deal to our artists which are balanced on both sides and gives them fair compensation for their work while still allowing us scope to grow and release more music. We offer a fair share of profits on physical releases with our artists which entitles them to half of the profit on a release with no expectation for them to stump up money upfront for a pressing, nor to buyout any unsold stock. Physical records are essentially our only revenue stream, as in these early years of the label, we redirect 100% of digital sales from both Bandcamp and streaming service royalties to the artist without taking a cut on our end. Regarding master ownership, all our releases are licensed from the artist, with them retaining 100% of the ownership of their records. 

“We redirect 100% of digital sales from both Bandcamp and streaming service royalties to the artist without taking a cut on our end.”

Callum Pope – Copper Feast Records

Away from the financial side of things, we’re trying to foster something of a community spirit within the label to try to allow the bands to support one another, both domestically and abroad, and for fans to find more of a link between all the artists on our roster, in an attempt to bring new fans onto bands they otherwise might not have listened to. One of our main goals for 2021 is to run a couple of label showcases here in Australia, as a means of showing these bands off and giving them a chance to play together and really launch the community aspect of the label. With any luck, we’ll be able to live-stream them too to our wider audience around the world, which would be incredible.

We’re also working on split releases between bands on the label, as well as collaborative records where some bands hit the studio together so it’s going to be really exciting to see what comes of that.

“My aim here is to help all of these artists grow and reach their aspirations as a band”

Callum Pope – Copper Feast Records

At the end of the day, my aim here is to help all of these artists grow and reach their aspirations as a band, whether that involves the label growing alongside the band, or Copper Feast being a springboard for one of our artists to be signed onto a bigger label with more resources, both would be counted as massive successes for me.

Was the idea always to take Copper Feast down the DIY route? 

Callum: Yeah, I’ve only ever wanted the label to be a DIY project as much as possible to be able to meet all the plans and aspirations I have. I’ve always had that DIY mindset anyway, long before I started the label and as I mentioned earlier, it was very much an ethos that I took into our first release in terms of taking the leap to press the album for the first time. Running the label in any other way wouldn’t sit right with me and would probably feel like something’s missing.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of operating as a DIY label? 

Callum: It can definitely be difficult just finding the time to do everything that needs to be done around here when you’re also juggling a day job and your personal life. I get by just about but there are inevitably things that we either can’t do or things that get pushed much further down the road than I would like until I actually have time to get them done. Of course, there’s also the financial side of things in that at least for these first few years, it only takes one unsuccessful release to put an end to our plans for the year until we can afford to release something again. We’re still very much reliant on every single order that comes in, so I can never be appreciative enough of all the fans that have supported us over the past 3 years.

On the flip side though, being able to meet and work with all these incredible bands and make the big decisions involved to get their records out can have a massive payoff when the LPs arrive for the first time and all the hard work has a tangible result which we’re all incredibly proud of. It’s also really fulfilling when we can get the records to the bands as in a lot of cases, vinyl is only something they could have dreamed about releasing when they first started.

Has the internet made it possible/easier for Copper Feast to exist? 

Callum: I’ve actually considered this thought a fair bit over the years and without a doubt having the world at our fingertips in the way that it is has made it possible for Copper Feast to exist. Without that resource in terms of reach to bands, customers, scenes, record shops, and other key people in the industry, I’ve no idea where I’d have even begun with starting a label, never mind making it beyond the first release.

When I think about all the labels that came before and made their way without tools like Bandcamp and social media which are so integral to the way we connect with our fans, I definitely feel inspired to try to emulate their ability to reach as many fans as the tools available allowed them to at the time.

Why is it that more artists are seeking to be signed to an independent label?

Callum: This is an interesting one. It’s definitely true that independent artists can go it alone and self-release their record and that’s something I’d definitely encourage bands to try, but I think a lot of them soon realize that there’s so much work involved in doing a release justice when putting it out. They recognize that the value a label provides in managing everything and arranging press, paying for and distributing physical copies as well as all the other stuff is well worth it.

Of course, there’s also the element of being able to link up with other like-minded artists under the same label with that added notoriety and visibility which may come with being signed onto a certain label, compared with self-releasing, which may seem like more of a lonely road to travel on at times.
Working with an indie rather than a larger label, at least in our case, offers the artist far more of a say in how they want the release to go and what they want a vinyl package to look like.

What have been some success stories for Copper Feast?

Callum: I think our 2020 as a whole was so much more successful than I could have imagined, having just moved out to Australia at the tail-end of 2019 and not knowing anybody in the local scene out here. Over the course of the year, we became well and truly integrated into it and have been releasing records from a variety of incredible bands here such as Narla, Kimono Drag Queens, and Zeahorse and helping them grow their name both domestically and around the world.

Looking at a specific release, Kimono Drag Queens’ debut Songs of Worship outsold my wildest expectations having burned through our first pressing of the LP within a couple of weeks after presales went live and the subsequent pressing now almost sold out as well. 

Why do you feel there are so many DIY scenes popping up?

Callum: To me, the number of DIY scenes popping up all over the place definitely has a lot to do with how accessible things like the internet and social media have made them.

Nowadays, labels and fans can find new bands in their city online via Bandcamp or other sites, fans can connect with other like-minded individuals over social media and shop from their favourite label or record store online and artists can put on shows from their living room (as we’ve learned over the past year). All these things amount to reducing the blockers people have to get involved in their local scene and mean the barriers to entry really don’t seem that high at all if you’re passionate about what you want to do within a scene.

What do you feel makes a good DIY scene?

Callum: I think the people are the most important aspect of a DIY scene, for sure. You can have all the infrastructure in the world at your feet but for a DIY scene to really operate cohesively and successfully, it needs enthusiastic people at every level who believe in the same thing. Whether it’s labels like us, artists, venues, bookers, promoters, record shops, punters and everyone else in between, they all need to buy into the same ethos and vision to make it the best it can be.

Lastly, what advice do you have for someone looking to get involved with their local scene or wanting to start a DIY label? 

Callum: When it comes to starting your own DIY label, it’s so critical to make sure you only release the music that you’re passionate about. It sounds so simple but there is a level of having to keep your ego and expectations in check and keeping yourself grounded while putting a record out, rather than driving it too hard from a commercial point of view. At a DIY level, fans don’t respond to any of that kind of stuff so it’s really important to be able to back a record simply because you love it and/or the band that made it.

The other thing would be not being afraid to ask questions or for help. It can be a minefield out there and I started with no idea of what I was doing. It’s the advice and guidance of others in the scene that really got us to the point where the label is today. Small labels don’t look at one another as competition, but as peers and partners, so anyone that starts a label should definitely try to tap into this resource – I’ll always be there to answer any questions for new labels making their way.

Other than that, whether it’s starting a label or getting involved anywhere else in a DIY scene, I’d say go for it! Every scene needs individuals that care enough to nurture the scene for everyone else, and the more people that are involved at every level, the more DIY scenes flourish and become a product of the care and enthusiasm of those that make them tick. If someones interested in getting involved in their local scene enough to take the leap and add something to the mix then it seems to me that they’re already well on their way to being a really important member of the scene because it’s the passion and enthusiasm of the individuals that drive the DIY scenes all over the world!

Power Of PR With Becky Warrington – IS IT PR

Image credit: George Haverson (IS IT PR)

Kicking this new article series off about the in’s and out’s of music PR is Becky Warrington of IS IT PR. We chat about her experiences, how the PR world is changing and much more!.

The internet has allowed artists to create, submit and share their music far and wide, to audiences that were once out of reach. It’s an amazing time to be an artist as you can get your music out to a global audience with ease and cost effectively, if not free in most cases.

However, there will be a point where as you grow as an artist you will need to look towards a PR company or freelancer to help you push your music to blogs, radio stations, magazines, podcasts (to name a few). Although you can achieve this on your own to some extent, a solid PR campaign can elevate your music career to the next level.

They will have contacts throughout the industry and will work tirelessly to create a solid campaign. From the press release all the way through to organising interviews, features, reviews (and more) in a variety if publications etc.

We wanted to get an inside perspective of the music PR world to help you, the artist, navigate the many PR options that are available to you. As well these interviews will give you a direct source of information on how PR works, how it can help and how it is changing.

Kicking things off is the talented freelancer Becky Warrington of IS IT PR who also works for Musosoup.

Hey Becky, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions! How have you been?

Becky: Hey! No worries, thanks very much for having me. Surprisingly, I’m actually doing okay and am feeling really positive about the future at the moment – I think it’s always a scary thing to admit that you’re actually doing well though, especially in a global pandemic. 

So, how did you get into PR and what drove you towards music PR specifically? 

Becky: I had a slightly unconventional introduction to PR actually. I was studying for a fashion marketing degree that I really wasn’t gelling with and a fantastic lecturer asked me if I’d ever heard of PR, as I’d essentially, “be good at it”. It was at that stage where everyone had seemingly settled their degree focus so early on and I was a little lost. Communication had always been my strong suit so when I found out PR roles pretty much revolved around skills like those I wanted to get into luxury menswear PR as that was my interest at the time.

I was getting sent quite a few press releases at the time as well as I was contributing to a fashion magazine in my spare time and they would absolutely fascinate me, as silly as that may sound.

Fast forward 4 years and I’d completed a degree in music promotion and chose to focus any assignments I could towards PR. 

I decided to launch IS IT PR properly last year as a passion project whilst working in the music industry full-time in a social media role. 

How do you feel music PR has changed in the last few years?

Becky: I think this really is the era of DIY, especially when it comes to the creative industries.

I mean this in a few ways in relation to the question, so, firstly a lot of PR now seems to be shifting towards freelance, whether that be due to the pandemic employment losses or individuals’ working preferences.

“PR now seems to be shifting towards freelance, whether that be due to the pandemic employment losses or individuals’ working preferences.”

Becky Warrington – ISITPR

Secondly, bands/artists have the information readily accessible to them to take on the task of PR themselves. There are also some really interesting PR alternatives springing up that take the hassle out of the PR process like Musosoup and HumanHuman for example. 

What makes a good PR person/company? 

Becky: A company/person who has the artist’s best interests at heart and understands the artist’s goals as a whole and how their professional PR input could assist and propel this (as opposed to the artist going down a DIY route perhaps).

It also helps if the person/company has a genuine excitement around the artist, their style and their music.

Lastly, transparent communication between both parties is essential. 

Can you explain to us your process when working with an artist? 

Becky: I guess like most people at the moment, I like to have a meeting with prospective clients via a zoom/phone call where we can discuss where they’re at and what they might need help with.

With IS IT PR, I tend to work with artists who aren’t so familiar with the processes that come after the actual creation of a track/EP/album, or those who have previously released music just for the love of it but now want to see how they can get it out there and gain a more professional industry presence. 

In that sense, I see IS IT as a sort of one stop shop for all artist’s promotional and PR related needs. I don’t think I fit under the industry’s perception of ‘PR’, and could maybe be classed as more of a consultancy/friendly face for advice. I help my clients with copywriting and press assets as well as more in-depth PR campaigns/release schedules. 

What is it that a solid music PR campaign can offer to an artist? 

Becky: I think a good campaign could potentially be make or break for an artist. I don’t think you should ever overlook the promotion process after you’ve worked hard on your music. 

“I think a good campaign could potentially be make or break for an artist.”

Becky Warrington – IS IT PR

You could look at it like baking a really good cake and then not bothering to add a filling or topping to it – does that make sense?

Lastly, what advice would you give to a band looking for PR services? 

Becky: 1. Go with a budget in mind & don’t be afraid to decline pitches/offers that don’t align with this budget or your goals as an artist.

2. Be wary – some companies may promise the world and are happy to exploit musicians, especially those unfamiliar with the PR process. 

3. Ask around – maybe you have other friends in industry who have used a particular PR company/person and had success/a positive experience.

4. Research! Whether this be for cheaper alternatives to PR and DIY methods or researching prospective individuals or companies to handle your PR for you, research is key.

Photographer Highlight | Nici Eberl

Image credit: Nici Eberl

In this edition of ‘Photographer Highlight’ we caught up with Nici Eberl, the official house photographer o2 Academy Brixton as well as an established freelancer.

I first met Nici when I was fortunate enough to photography my all time favorite artist, Ty Segall at the o2 Forum Kentish Town, London. After browsing through her work on the train ride home it was abundantly clear how talented a photographer she was. I was particularly drawn to her portrait and music photography, both of which were very striking. Since that day Nici has grown consistently as a photographer and she has photographed some of the worlds largest artist, including King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard.

During the pandemic lockdown restrictions and social distancing measures made work for Nici difficult but she adapted her shoots via Zoom. An experience, that like a lot of photographers, thought they’d be apart of. However, the shoots bared the fruits of her labour and one of her shots was included in fashion photographer Rankin’s project ‘Rankin’s 2020’, it was also featured on Sky Arts.

With all this in mind we wanted to chat to Nici about her photography, her experiences working within the music industry and much more!

Thank you for taking the time to chat to us, how have you been?

Nici: Thank you for chatting to me, that’s such a great feature you are working on and I love being part of it! I have been alright thank you. It’s just been a strange year but I did try to make the best out of it. 

How has lockdown affected your creativity? I saw on your socials that you have been doing zoom photoshoots.. how have they been going? 

Nici: I am not going to lie, the lockdown at first had immensely affected my creativity and productivity. I literally went from being extremely busy and branching out into new fields to nothing within days. All my bookings got cancelled and I even left the country to be with my family in Austria. It felt all pretty surreal and I remained in a state of shock for a few weeks. Only when I returned to some kind of normality, I knew I needed to do something to stay creative and that’s when I came across photographers doing remote photoshoots. Something I wanted to try so I reached out to some models and arranged a couple of cross country shoots via FaceTime. I was really sceptical at first but they actually turned out to be such a great experience and funnily enough, they felt like real photoshoots and I am still super happy with the outcome. And actually something I’d never dared dreaming off happened – one of my FaceTime portraits of model Rebecca Graham got select by fashion photographer Rankin to be featured in his lockdown project ‘Rankin’s 2020’ and appeared on Sky Arts as well as in the book. 

How was it you got into photography and when did you start? 

Nici: To be honest, I have been into photography since I can think. I got my first own camera when I was still a toddler and I have always been the one taking all the pictures of my family and friends. However, I always saw it as a hobby rather than a profession even thought I started getting my first event and music photography jobs when I was still at school. It just felt wrong that something I enjoyed so much, could be my job. Only when I moved to London in 2012, I slowly started to realise that being a photographer can be an actual career and that’s when I started to really invest all my energy into mastering my it and slowly building my career. I started by shooting club nights and then I believe in 2015 I got into working with venues and doing the house photography for the Mama Group which then led me onto working for the O2 Forum, O2 Brixton, Live Nation and so on. And in order to learn more about it, I have also gone back to University studying photography. 

What drew you to music photography specifically?

Nici: My two biggest passions have always been photography and music and at some point I just figured I’d like to combine them an shoot gigs and I was lucky enough to get a chance to do so. I always wanted others to be able to experience what I experience at gigs or festivals and show them how magical a live show can be and freeze the memories for eternity. Like the images we look at from the 60s/70s, I wanted to portray contemporary times. All the colours, the emotions, the energy,… for me it’s just the most challenging yet also most rewarding field of photography. The feeling when you leave a live show with THE picture of the night is just the best. But music photography is not just about live music, I also love working with artist directly shooting their portraits or BTS features. When creatives come together you are always guaranteed a great outcome and it’s a lot of fun! 

Amyl and the Sniffers by Nici Eberl

Was there a particular photographer’s work or artist that inspired your work and drove you towards music photography? 

Nici: There are many photographers I really like and am inspired by but there was not a particular one that drove me towards music photography. I was just always interested in photography in general and I always loved looking at pictures from the 60s and 70s: Woodstock, The Rolling Stones, Beatles, The Doors and so on and I just wanted to be able to take images like the photographers back then and be able to archive my own experience for the future. One photographer I find particularly inspiring is David Bailey as he did what I aspire to do – he worked likewise in music and fashion and took some amazing photographs. There is another photographer I want to mention: Matthias Hombauer, he was my mentor when I just started out and taught me all the photography basics and helped me believe in myself. Without him, I would not be where I am now. But as I said there are so many other photographers I take inspiration from and whose work I adore.

Does your work in portrait, fashion influence your music photography or do you see them as separate? 

Nici: I do see my photography as a whole and I don’t really separate it into portrait, fashion or music photography. I mean I do label my work but all in all no matter what I shoot, I always take a similar approach. Like fashion is always influenced by music, all my work is influencing by each other. When you look at my photography, you’ll see there are always recurring traits no matter what or who I got in front of my lens. Especially when working at fashion shows, I am always drawn to the designers or models who could be confused with musicians or who’s work is evidently influenced by alternative subcultures.  

You have had the pleasure of photographing some of rock’s biggest names, such as King Gizzard and SLAVES (among many others) how was it these opportunities came to be and did you ever expect to photograph such high profile names? 

Nici: To be honest, it sometimes still feels surreal, that photographing all these artists is my job. I constantly remind myself, that the 14 year old me would have never ever imagined my life to look like this when I am older. However, as simple things sound, I have been working really hard to get to this point and there is still a lot more I want to achieve. I have started by photographing bands in small venues and then just gradually stepped up to bigger venues and bigger bands. It all sounds pretty simple but it involved me shooting hundreds of gigs, spending numerous sleepless nights editing images all whilst I was still working in a full time job.

SLAVES by Nici Eberl

How does it feel when your work is used by a venue or band? 

Nici: No matter how often my works been shared by a venue or band, it is always a great feeling! It’s always exciting seeing your work attached to their name and watching people react to it. I still get really excited when I see my own images pop up on social media and not to mention when I see my work in print or on posters! I think it’s something I will never get bored of. 

Do you have a particular show you’ve photographed that stands out for you? 

Nici: I have one particular show I’ve shot and I’ll never forget again: Korn at O2 Brixton Academy. Shooting this show was a dream come true! Not only was I a big Korn fan when I was younger and shooting them was really high up on my bucket list but it was also the first show I ever shot at O2 Brixton Academy. Another dream that became reality at that night! And to top it all off, it was the show that got me into becoming one of the house photographers of O2 Academy Brixton. 

How do you prepare for a shoot? 

Nici: It really depends on the shoot I am doing. When I shoot a gig, I usually listen to the band ahead of the show and watch some videos of their live shows or look at some previous photographs taken on the tour OR sometimes I don’t prepare at all and let me creativity do its job during the gig. However when I do a portrait shoot preparation is key! Mood boards are always a great idea to translate your vision to your client and ensure you are on the same page. 

Why do you feel photographers are important to the music industry and do you feel they are underappreciated? 

Nici: I believe photographers are as crucial in the music industries as every other staff. In fact photographers create the visual appearance of an artist and help produce all the marketing material. The way a photographer portrays an artist, is the way they are seen by the world. Same with festivals and any other events, us photographers take the images that help promoters sell their tickets. From my experience I can’t say we are under-appreciated as every one I worked with valued my photography however it would be nice when more people would appreciate how much training and equipment is needed in order to produce high quality imagery and it become a standard that photographers are being paid rather than being asked to work for free. 

“The way a photographer portrays an artist, is the way they are seen by the world”

Nici Eberl

Do you feel visual aid is important for artists during this internet age? 

Nici: Yes definitely! Especially with social media being so big, the visual aid is key. Only with a good visual concept, an artist can stand out from the crowd and successfully attract an audience and in return sell it’s music. The times when music was the main selling point are long gone. Nowadays people want to have the whole package and be entertained 24/7 and want to get to know the artist from every angle. 

Has the internet made it easier or harder for a photographer to be successful? 

Nici: I always say the internet has got it’s pros and cons. It’s made it easier for photographers to showcase their work and get in touch with new clients yet the competition is bigger than ever before and the photography marked same as the music market has become fairly saturated and it’s become harder to stand out. The constant comparison on apps like instagram can be toxic but likewise really inspiring. One really big advantage of the internet however is the big communities photographers have built online. I am part of a few and talk to photographers from all over the world, which back in the day would have been impossible. Whenever I have a question, there is someone ready to answer it. I guess it just depends what you make out of the possibilities the internet provides you with and also ensure you know your limits and plan in some offline time as well. Every artist has its own vision so we should never compare ourselves to others and believe in our own creativity. 

Why should a band work with a professional photographer?

Nici: I believe a successful collaboration between musicians and photographers is the key to success. A professional photographer knows exactly how to represent your band, what works and what doesn’t. It is true phone cameras do take pretty decent images nowadays but with a professional photographers comes years of experience and we exactly know how to create the images you are imagining for the visual representation of your band. Photography is so much more than just taking snapshots. Investing into a professional is always worth the money. 

Lastly, what advice would you give to a band looking to book a photographer and what advice would you give to a budding music photographer?

Bands: When you are looking into booking a photographer make sure you check out their social media as well as website as it gives you a good idea of what their style looks like and you can see whether it would match with your concept. When you want to have all images shot on film maybe go for a photographer who specialises in it, when you want stills and moving images it’s best to look for someone who does both but also remember photographers can be flexible and love to work on new concepts and styles. Also it’s always really helpful when you communicate your ideas and provide example images to ensure the outcome looks exactly how you’d imagined it. And last but not least, don’t add any filters on top of the final edits as the photographer won’t be happy. 

Photographers: Work hard to play hard, trust me your hard work will eventually pay off! And don’t compare yourself to others, your art is unique and it does not have to look like everyone else’s in order to be good. Believe in yourself, stick to your own vision and it will eventually pay off. And last but not least work with each other instead of against each other, being a photographer can be sometimes quite a lonely job therefore it’s really important to have a good community around you and we are all unique artists so we don’t have to compete with each other. 

DIY Till We Die: Spinout Nuggets

Image credit: Spinout Nuggets

The short run label that operates out of Cornwall encompasses the DIY ethos into their label. Making it a personalised and passionate hub. We caught up with founder Lee Grimshaw to chat about his experiences, how Spinout Nuggets operates and much more.

Earlier in this series we covered a variety of DIY artists to get an in-depth and real account of life as an independent artist. It was clear that there were many advantages but also plenty of disadvantages. One thing that stood out was their dedication, hard work and resilience.

After chatting to the artists we wanted to open up a conversation with many DIY labels that exist to support said artists, so far we have chatted to Beth Shalom Records, Eeasy Records and now we speak to Spinout Nuggets.

Based in Cornwall, they are a short run physical only (mostly) label with a global reach (they have shipped records out to Japan). They’re open to all genres but they mostly focus around mod, Indie, punk and power pop.

We caught up with label founder and owner (as well as RouteNote employee) Lee Grimshaw to find out more about his experience running a DIY label, how being based in Cornwall has affected him and much more!

Thanks for taking the time to chat to us, how have you been?

Lee: Thanks for the shout. I’m still breathing! But it hasn’t been nice seeing so much loss along the way, and it’s been a very odd year for us all, but I do try to look to the positives. Everyone has had to adapt in our own ways. I’m usually away at weekends either DJing, supporting label bands or simply attending gigs/events as a punter, so it has been quite a change. But I have been lucky to be able to continue running the label.

So, when and why did you start your label Spinout Nuggets?

Lee: Spinout Nuggets started late 2017, with the first release going out in February of 2018. It was a kind of extension from a weekly online radio show (The Spinout Show) and club night (The Spinout Revue). It was always a dream to work within a record label environment, or even start one up, and it became possible through being accepted for voluntary redundancy following twenty-three years’ service. From a very young age I used to help out in the local record shop, and have been collecting records ever since (for their sound value, not their pound value), spending a lot of time in the record shop environment, so to actually help stock up those shops is a very nice feeling indeed.

Spinout Nuggets is a physical record label, and always will be, but we did start with a digital back-up early last year, due to some demand. Either the label or the bands will organise the digital side, and naturally I suggest using digital distributors such as RouteNote.

Would you say the label focuses on specific genres?

Lee: There’s no specific focus, and we’re open for anything, but historically we seem to be based on mostly Medway, Garage Punk, Indie, Mod Garage, Hammond Jazz, Jangle and Power Pop, with everything around those too. Mostly, DIY and passion are the main ethic. If it’s too polished, it’ll slide away.

I personally have a broad musical love, and always open to hear something different. I just guess the way it’s gone so far is what feels right, and I’m very lucky to know a fair few talented people, so what’s released is based on a friendship in one way or another.

A lot of those talented people have been in some of my favourite bands along the years – now in my current favourite bands of course!

Why does your label focus on short run physical releases?

Lee: The short run philosophy is purely based on keeping things fresh, not to make it for a chosen few, or anything else. If we sell out of the first pressings, then we’ll repress another lot if we can. Hand-numbering the sleeves makes it feel special, and I always liked that in the 90s buying the Indie/Brit Pop stuff, although they would usually be stamped at the pressing plant.

Check out Spinout Nuggets artist Armitage Shanks here:

I think for every release, we are already discussing the next one from the same artist/band, so the shorter runs assist with a continual flow. There is of course the saying ‘well, they had a chance to get a copy’.

How has vinyl’s recent increase in popularity affected you?

Lee: The recent interest hasn’t affected my side of things too much, as a lot of it is people buying back the records they got rid of years ago, but in remastered form, even though the first issues are still about. I guess in line with that, they are buying the new releases too. Most of the people I supply have never stopped buying records. Vinyl has always been the norm to them, like me. It is nice to have a bit more on offer, allowing new artists to push out physical formats, even cassette tapes.

Does running the label from Cornwall, an often overlooked county hinder Spinout Nuggets at all?

Lee: Quite oddly, of all the places in the world, Cornwall is the least supportive of the label, probably for no particular reason. I’ve tried to make it a prominent thing in Cornwall, but failed. It’s not an issue, but would be nice to have some localised support. I had planned to arrange a weekender of some sort with label bands and friends, potentially to be held in Cornwall, but the virus put a hold on that.

As well as having a UK distributor and a European distributor (also distributing to other countries such as Japan), I do sell direct through my own website, and other marvellous re-sellers in the UK too. I used to do all the pushing out, but would take up too much time. It’s nice to see releases advertised and available in far reach places such as Japan.

Has the internet made it easier for your label to exist?

Lee: There’s no doubt that the internet has helped in many ways. I do make sure I try and keep a human interaction with as many suppliers, customers, artists, etc as possible, but sending/receiving the ‘1’s’ and ‘0’s’ is a huge help.
Fortunately, mags like Shindig and Record Collector are very supportive, and are still in print, and it’s always nice to see a feature/review in a hard-copy. Equally, an online blog/review is very nice – I keep a record of what’s happened where, and always do my best to share through social media.
One thing I’ve learnt through doing the label is how to set up a website, with a Woocommerce plug-in too. Every day is a school day, and I’m constantly finding new things that the site has to offer. The site itself can be time-consuming.

“Every day is a school day, and I’m constantly finding new things that the site has to offer”

Lee Grimshaw – Spinout Nuggets

Was the idea always to have a DIY approach?

Lee: It always has been, and always will be a DIY approach in many respects. Not denying that a little ease wouldn’t go a miss, but the down-to-earth, low level approach is something that’ll be held. It’s not about anything else but the passion. There’s only so much I can do, and a little help in order to get more done would be good, but that’ll come in time. Everybody seems to want to only do things for money these days, but all the label money goes back into the label.

Naturally, the label has grown in the last three years, and it would be nice to be able to grow furthermore, but always keeping grounded.
It’s important to remember that both label and artists should share any promotion and sales with the other half in mind too – label to promote band, band to mention label.

What have been the advantages and disadvantages of operating as DIY?

Lee: Starting from scratch has been a mission, and exciting. I had some good guidance from friends that have labels (relationships formed through supporting their labels), and some contacts passed over too, which I appreciated, and I was able to populate from that.

The natural advantage is that you are able to do what you want, what you like and what you feel people should be listening too. You also get the chance to get something on a vinyl record that you might want yourself.
I’m not sure the disadvantages greater than the advantages, it’s just simply having to put a lot of effort into every little bit, but with passion most of that will be natural.

“The natural advantage is that you are able to do what you want, what you like and what you feel people should be listening too”

Lee Grimshaw – Spinout Nuggets

I looked to my favourite labels such as State Records, Heavy Soul Records, Hangman Records, Detour Records, Sarah Records and Damaged Goods Records, who I have spent many pennies on in the past, not to mimic, but to see what the basic working model looks like.

What are some success stories of Spinout Nuggets?

Lee: They are all successes! Which is very true. For some of the releases, I’ve been able to be part of it from inception, and able to catch the whole recording process in the studio. Being able to sit in a pub with a band and chat about what we’re doing next is always a good feeling. Helping to push the profiles of the bands is always a nice feeling too, even if they don’t need it.

The label’s success is based on the art it is providing – the musical medium. We do what we think people need. Success is when I see one of the releases in a shop, heard it played on a radio show or podcast, see it shared on social media or reviewed in a mag/blog, and that success is down to the bands.
I’ve been able to work with the likes of The Link Quartet, Graham Day, The High Span, Jetstream Pony, The Shop Window, Armitage Shanks, Thee Girl Fridays, Jarvis Humby, The Hurricanes, Billy Childish, The Veras, The Voo-Dooms, The Treasures Of Mexico, Andre M, The Luxembourg Signal and many more, and there is a very fruitful release schedule planned ahead.
Last December, the label did get featured as the ‘Label Of Love’ on Gideon Coe’s BBC 6 Music show, where he played six previous releases in a row. He’s a keen supporter, and we’re thankful for all presenters and supporters of the label. All successes are group successes, not just down to one individual.

Lastly, what advice do you have for DIY artists and those looking to start their own label?

Lee: I always say I’m purely the facilitator. It wouldn’t exist without the music creators. I’m very humbled to be working with so many talented people, many of which are musicians in my very own record collection. I’ve learnt a lot, and continue to learn as time goes on, and I’ll always try something first before I reach out to someone.

If you’re an artist, look around first to see if there is already something that suits your need – they might be just waiting for you! The whole partnership of band-label should be a very enjoyable one.

If ya gonna start a label, do it for the love and passion, not for the potential of any personal financial rewards. It’s time-consuming, and can be an isolated position – whilst looking out for future releases, pushing the current release out to radio stations/bloggers/podcasters, pushing out to social media, updating websites, overseeing the physical manufacturing, arranging artwork, assisting with recording/mixing/mastering decisions, stock-handling, packing/posting sales, arranging release campaigns and probably some other bits, you’ll also be doing something else to pay the bills. That said, with the right artists on board, it can be very fulfilling. It is for me.

Don’t be shy to try something different too if you believe in it – it might just work. Don’t have goals, have milestones!

Lastly, look after those bloggers, reviewers, supporters, gig-goers, record shops, publications, sound engineers, music studios and so on! They’re also needed to make this work!

Power Of Press With Marcus Osborne – On The House

Image credit: OTH

We chat to Owner and Founder of On The House, one of the many blogs taking over music press.

The music press world is changing and the old guard are losing their influence. This is true for traditional press across the board but it’s particularly evident in music press. The 80’s and 90’s saw a boom of music publications, such as Q Magazine and NME, both of which now don’t exist (in print). Although, NME has adapted and remained relevant through its website, others are lining up to follow in the footsteps of Q Magazine.

This is where the change is happening, online, a place that is filled to the brim with music blogs and indie publications. Each one teamed by hard working, dedicated and passionate people (a lot of the time one or two people). They’re often working the same hours as a full time publisher house, handling content, maintenance, emails, social media and most of the time (if not all) they’re doing it for free or for very small amount.

Yet arguably their content is just as good as other, more established outlets. In fact, not being bound to a ethos or company sway they are reporting the most honest and truthful music journalism out there. It’s looking more and more likely that blogs are the future of music press and the industry is changing to adapt to that. PR now emails the same high profile bands to bloggers, traditional and new media now have the same access and in some cases the same reach. It’s an exciting development that signifies a wave of change.

With all this in mind we wanted to chat to various blog editors and owners to get their insight, chat about how it works and how it helps artists. Kicking things off is the ever hard working and passionate Marcus Osborne, Founder of On The House. A community reviewing site that boasts 70+ curators that review music from all around the world and in a wide variety if genres.

Thanks again for taking the time to chat Marcus, how have you been?

Marcus: It’s a pleasure, thank you for giving me the opportunity! I’ve been good, although I think I’ve worked harder in the last year than I have in my entire life rebuilding OTH & working full time, alongside this pandemic going on in the background – it’s a weird time for me haha. All good stuff though!

So, explain to us what On The House is and how it works? 

Marcus: To put it simply, we are a “Community Music Reviewing” website. This a concept we created around 4 years ago after rebuilding the On The House brand from a traditional music reviewing website and started asking all of our cool new industry friends to guest review for us. We had the idea of a light-touch social media style website, where artists can create and manage their own profiles independently and reviewers, who are music industry professionals, would review the artists and give feedback that can be used in their EPKs & for general artist development. We host weekly prize giveaways for any reviewers who contribute that week and put on a little live streamed party for everyone as we draw the names!

In the first 3 years, we amassed over 70+ guest reviewers and 650+ artists just from self-promotion alone. But now we have a new website, launched in early February, that functions exactly how we intended from the start. Which includes the option for artists to ‘reveal’ a reviewers contact details, to get in touch via a ‘reviewer reply’ system and even review & connect with other artists on the website!

On The House Music CIC is devoted to supporting grassroots artists, so by having a free profile on our website, artists are in the firing line for multiple music reviews from reputable sources that they can use to build their credibility. Artists also have the chance to have their first ever physical pressings released by On The House Records (selected by our reviewers and all releases are hand-signed), to play Attitude Festival, or one of our showcase & networking events (also selected by our reviewers) or even feature in our print based mag On The House Magazine which is distributed to social music spaces across the UK!

I could go on for much longer, but it’d probably be easier to post a link now, wouldn’t it? 

How and why did you decide to start OTH? 

Marcus: So we actually started as a normal reviewing platform, but only reviewed music that was up for free download – this was back in 2013 and I was just getting to grips with local music in general and wanted to be more involved. Obviously, this died hard and fast when Spotify became popular and led me to stop for a year around 2015/2016 to rethink what I wanted to do with the brand. In the same time, I had toured loads in my own bands and met more people who showed an active interest to support their music scene further but just didn’t know where to start.

Then I had a lightbulb moment and started working on the new concept – I haven’t stopped since!

Marcus in flight at a local gig

How does OTH help artists? 

Marcus: On the surface, any artist can get a free profile on our website and have their music reviewed by the people who are building the music industry itself as we speak – there’s no more valuable advice than that!

Oh, and we also release local music records, magazines, put on events and curate stages at other events. The only catch is that you need to have an On The House artist profile to be selected for any of our projects! But when it takes just 2 minutes to sign up, who wouldn’t?!

Why do you feel blogs are becoming more popular and being viewed as legit as traditional music press? 

Marcus: I think it comes from something that has been the core premise for how & why On The House has the capability to succeed if approached correctly. Our motto has always been; “A review is just an opinion, it’s only valid if you respect the source” and I think this applies to this scenario. 

“With traditional large music press becoming watered down and samey, the only thing they are good for is promotion these days – not honest critique”

Marcus Osborne – On The House

With traditional large music press becoming watered down and samey, the only thing they are good for is promotion these days – not honest critique. People are turning to smaller blogs for some transparency, because small blogs don’t pander to the artists because they have no reason to, and tend not to have hundreds of writers with conflicting musical opinions. Once you get to know the writer’s tastes and interests, you can actively use their opinion to help gauge if you think you’ll like something. After all, that’s the whole point of a review, isn’t it?

What separates music blogs from magazines such as NME and Classic Rock?

Marcus: Engagement, passion and practice. Paid writers will write what you pay them to write and don’t really have a lot of say if their boss tells them to cater an article a certain way. On the other hand, bloggers and music enthusiasts will write what they genuinely feel with no outside influence because they are the boss. When you are a smaller artist, bloggers are so important to help you whilst honing your craft. Don’t blow your load on your first release, small bloggers are there for you to learn how to interact with these types of publications, so you are prepared for bigger interactions in the future. Some chances can be lost and can be incredibly hard to recover, I’m still paying for mistakes I made 10 years ago in some ways haha!

Why do you feel that traditional print music journalism has been failing in recent years?

Marcus: I think it’s just not as easy to access or convenient for the consumer. Why pay for a magazine for every month when you could just read it online for free? The only thing that sells nowadays is exclusivity, so magazines that are still thriving tend to have something exclusive about the purchase that makes buying the physical edition more worthwhile. That’s why we catered On The House Magazine strictly to artist advice and support which is exclusive to the magazine itself and cannot be found anywhere online. Not to mention, our magazine has pull out posters, vouchers, discounts on local businesses and also a free gift with each issue, so there’s plenty of reasons to grab a copy! 

There’s also the ecological concerns of effectively ‘wasting paper’, alongside the financial costs of print magazines compared to online media, which can’t be churned out as quickly or as detailed as they would like it to be due to printing restrictions. 

Do you feel the quality of writing has decreased?

Marcus: I think writing has gotten so mind-numbingly boring for writers that they don’t put their full effort in anymore. Or they are restricted in some form either by quotas, timeframes or even linguistic boundaries that decreases their writing quality.

Of course, we all need to study the English Language to be able to understand and write it. But the way we are taught how to write doesn’t reflect how we are as individuals or how we speak – not like it used to. Readers need to connect with a piece of writing, but if you’re following every rule in the book, you’ll be coming across like a Google Translate robot that just ate a thesaurus and readers can’t relate to that. Unfortunately, a lot of reviewers fall into this perfectionist trap which ultimately ruins the fluidity of the piece. People get so caught up in making sure something ‘sounds correct’ because of social pressures that they can’t express themselves in their own tone of voice, which then makes the writer focus on minor details that don’t matter to the average reader rather than just saying what they want to say.

“Also, transparency is desired in today’s culture more than anything, which is why being a ‘faceless’ writer doesn’t really cut it anymore”

Marcus Osborne – On The House

Also, transparency is desired in today’s culture more than anything, which is why being a ‘faceless’ writer doesn’t really cut it anymore. They literally created a whole genre of rap music that celebrates crimes committed by rappers because it’s genuine, albeit graphic and unlawful. These are murderers singing about how they want to murder people, but the public are lapping it up because they just want to see something authentic for once. The fake news era has made everyone a sceptic of everything, so when something genuine comes along they latch to it before its tainted like everything else.

In the age of text-based conversation, we have started to attribute a ‘tone of voice’ to our friends status updates, online conversations and posts across the web. Some people may write in all capitals because they are an intense person, or in all lower case lettering, without any punctuation for a satirical effect. So when you are exposed to this meta-evolution of language, but then are expecting writers to try and connect with an audience using a written language that they don’t ever use or see unless its for professional piece (as well as expecting them to use words they don’t really understand to impress readers who also don’t understand them) just makes everyone confused and uninterested.

Do you feel a music blog can exist online as well as in print? 

Marcus: I do, but again that comes back to exclusivity. People want to feel special. So if you are an online blog planning to release a physical magazine, you need to do something to make those customers feel valued. Otherwise there’s no real point in releasing something physical, unless of course it’s an anniversary, special or limited run of something specific, which then can be marketed differently. 

Can blogs compete with established music magazines? 

Marcus: They are and they will most likely win for all the reasons stated in my last few answers. A faceless journalist for a big outlet may get you national coverage, but if that outlet’s readers are growing up in a culture that values authenticity, writing paid articles that have been handed to you by a PR company doesn’t really scream ‘honest opinion’.

What is the attraction of blogs for writers and the artists themselves? 

Marcus: For writers, it’s a chance to openly and freely express their opinions without manipulation. For artists, they provide an honest critique that is easily accessible.

Lastly, how do you feel blogs will develop as time goes on and do you think there is a next step?

Marcus: I have this feeling we will see worlds collide very soon. Take everything I’ve said into account and then mix that with the fame-hungry influencer and the susceptible young supporters that idolise them. It’s only a matter of time until traditional media is pushed aside to make way for these new, relevant and more charismatic writers who write using their own style that is digestible for a their audience – not an English teacher.

Photographer Highlight | Brian Robinson

Image credit: Brian Robinson Photography

Brian Robinson is one of Cornwall’s leading music and wedding photographers. He is a regular at festivals across the county and is Cornwall Live’s go to man.

In part three of our ‘Photographer Highlight’ we caught up with the prolific Cornish based photographer Brian Robinson. Brian is Cornwall Live‘s go to music photographer, he’s photographed most of the Eden Sessions (where he has photographed Liam Gallagher, Kylie Minogue and Fontaines D.C to name a few). He is also known to flutter around the local music scene snapping Cornish artists such as The Rezner, The Velvet Hands, and Tinnedfruit.

His work has been viewed worldwide and locally he an known figure, with this in mind we wanted to know more about his work, why he chose music photography and much more!

Thanks for taking the time to have a chat with us, how are you doing and what have you been up to?

Brian: Hi Kieran, always good to speak with you! I’m good thanks, surviving and adapting. I was in the process of taking my photography full-time last year when the world changed, so it’s fair to say that the last 12 months didn’t go to plan. But I’m still here and the bookings are starting to come in again.

So, how did you first get into photography and what was the draw to music photography specifically? 

Brian: Music & photography have always gone hand in hand for me and I have loved both since my early teens. (I went to my first gig in 1990, Tina Turner at the Birmingham NEC). 

I got my first camera when I was 11 (a little film auto) and always had a camera with me. This was long before camera phones so everything was on film.  

But it wasn’t until I got a DSLR in 2007 that I started taking a bigger interest in photography. The interest in music and wedding photography pretty much happened at the same time. Wanting to experiment more I began taking pictures of bands around the Newquay scene, and lots of friends were getting married so I’d take pictures there. 

A crowd shot at a local gig by Brian Robinson

Was there a particular photographer’s work that inspired you or perhaps an artist?

Brian: In my early days of stepping up my SLR game, one of my friends back in Birmingham, Steve Gerrard had started making quite an impact with his photography. And I was inspired by his work and approach. I attended one of his photography workshops and have assisted him on a few weddings over the years.

It’s important to be inspired, especially when finding your creative style. Even to this day, I’m constantly inspired by other photographers work, and will sometimes draw from these influences. But only if I can make them my own. Especially as there’s always that controversy of plagiarism. If I am feeling inspired by an image I’ll try to work out how it was shot and play about with it, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.  That’s the fun of learning.

I suppose when comparing it to music, how many songs have been written with the same three chords, but all sound unique and individual to the artist.

Another photographer whose work I love is Andy Ford. He’s photographed some amazing live shows and portraits over the year. His shot of Mogwai is one of my favourites:  Andy Ford – Mogwai Portrait.  

You’ve had the pleasure of photographing some of the worlds largest bands, such as QOTSA but are there any shows that you’ve photographed that have stood out for you? 

Brian: Probably the first big gig that I got to shoot will always be a milestone moment, and that was Cancer Bats. One of my friends was mates with the band and he got me a pass. I felt way out of my depth, but the experience was incredible and left me on such a high and wanting more. The band loved the pictures and I shot them twice more over the years.

The first Boardmasters that I shot also stood out, it was my first huge gig. I’d spend years shooting smaller gigs (many at the Pavilions and Mono in Falmouth) and felt like all the hard work had paid off. It also felt quite surreal as one of the artists on was Primal Scream and I’d been a fan since the 90’s. A real pinch yourself moment, especially looking out over the huge crowd.

And you mentioned, the QOTSA show. This stands out for another reason as it was one of the hardest show I’ve ever shot. It was heavily backlit, with a lot of smoke and strobe lighting. Every photographer’s nightmare (red light aside). That, and we were limited on where we could shoot from, with not much room to move. I remember after the second song, I heard one of the photographer shouting ‘fuck this’ and he walked out. But patience paid off as during the 3rd song the lighting all changed and we were able to get some killer shots!

Did you ever see yourself photographing such high profile artists?

Brian: I’d always hoped so, but in the early days, I was just happy to be shooting. But as my style started to evolve and my confidence grew I wanted to shoot the bigger & well know names & gigs. And as the years have gone on I’ve got to shoot some of my favourite artists.

Your photography is often featured in local Newspapers, how do you make this happen and how did it feel the first time you saw your work in print? 

Brian: I kind of knew Lee Trewhela who was the Editor of the old What’s On section of the West Briton. I got in contact and pretty much asked if there was any chance of shooting a more high profile gig. He gave me the chance to shoot the Wedding Present who were playing the Princess Pavilions in Falmouth and that was it. It was a buzz to see my work in print and still have copies of the paper now.  

It was a buzz to see my work in print and still have copies of the paper now” 

Brian Robinson

I’ll be forever grateful to Lee for that opportunity because without him I’d never have had the chance for the Boardmasters & Eden sized gigs. Plus I’ve made a lot of good friends over the year through shooting the shows.

When it comes to your music photography it’s safe to say you’re more of a live photographer as opposed to portraits, what was it that drew you to this form? 

Brian: Definitely, it’s a bit of a photography cliche, but I love shooting the moment. You’ve no control over what’s happening on stage (both band and the lighting) and you have to react to the challenge. And with the 3 song rule, it always feels like you’ve a deadline to work to and get that shot.

I do enjoy shooting portraits, but with weddings and having two young children I’ve had to prioritise my time. I will always do them if I’m asked, but I don’t seek them out like the live work.

Do you feel the intensity and pressure of wedding photography helps your music photography?

Brian: It does, I work better under pressure and as I mentioned above, reacting to what’s happening.  

Although complete opposites, weddings & live music compliment each other with the approach to shooting them.. The wedding ceremony is quite similar to shooting a live show in terms of pressure as you’ve got to get those shots. It’s not like you can asked the band or the registrar to stop and repeat what just happened.

When you go to shoot a show what’s your process and how do you prepare? 

Brian: Be a show or a wedding I’ll always have my equipment prepped and ready. With regards to the show, I may check out past shows online. You can usually find setlists and fan video’s of recent shows so that’s always a good way to be ready for the shoot. Especially if you’ve only got the first three songs, you can have a good idea of what the setup is, and what the lighting is like. Most accreditations will tell you how many songs you have and if there are any restrictions. I’ve had a few Eden Sessions shows where you can only shoot from the mixing desk so I’ve hired a 400mm lens.

Why do you feel photographers are important to the industry and artists alike?  

Brian: As covid has proved in the last year, everyone in the music industry is important. It doesn’t matter if they’re a million selling artist or the person working behind the bar at the venue. We’re all the parts that make up this wonderful industry.  

With online presence being so important these days, having professional images, either live or portrait is hugely important. It reflects the artist and any of the media outlets where the images are used.  

What’s the importance of live photography by a professional? 

Brian: From the live show perspective we are documenting the artist in that moment (there’s that cliche again) and it’s a definite art to making people feel like they were there when they look at the picture.

Lastly, how did you get the opportunities that you have and what advice would you give any budding music photographers? 

Brian: Most of the opportunities have been through chasing what I want, but with having the confidence that I can deliver. The years of putting the time in shooting, learning and improving has got me to where I am. But you never stop learning with photography and I’m always striving to improve.

As for advice, don’t be afraid of failure. You will have those bad days and knockbacks but don’t let it stop you.  

Behind The Events | Jon Grant

Image credit: Jonny Noakes Photographer

We caught up with Jon Grant, owner of one of Newquay’s most popular music venues to chat about the future of live music, the hard work that goes into events and much more.

There’s lots of talks about events, live music and festivals going around at the moment, particularly in the UK. The Covid-19 pandemic and all its wonderful variations has caused havoc on the industry and there is a real concern that live music may not return in 2021, at the very least we may get some social distanced shows at low capacity.

We may not know when the events sector will return to its full strength but what we do know is how hard the industry works. We want to shine a light on the various roles and hard work that goes into creating, organising and running an event.

Through this article series we’ll be chatting to venue owners, booking agents, music techs, artist managers and many more. Kicking things off is Jon Grant, the owner and booker for Whiskers based in the party town Newquay, Cornwall.

Hey Jon, thanks very much for taking the time to chat with us, how have you been?

Jon: Hey Kieran, thanks for getting in touch. I’ve been missing being involved in the music scene. It’s been a great year for me personally, as I had a daughter in Oct 2019, I’ve had all the time in the world to figure out this whole being a Dad thing. Definitely a silver lining! 

So, you’re the owner of one of Newquay’s most popular venues/bars, how did this happen and was it something you’ve always wanted to do?

Jon: Whiskers came about as a live music venue quite organically….literally we started as an organic wine and tapas bar which morphed into what it is today. I’ve always been obsessed with music but the idea of owning a venue wasn’t a goal until our original Manager James Luck AKA Lucky arranged the initial gig. 

How did you go about putting on your first show and do you remember how it went? 

Jon: Cosmo Jarvis was in the area and the bar was empty so he asked if they could jam inside, 10 minutes later the bar was buzzing! Lucky is quite a lovable persuasive chap and got Cosmo to agree to a proper gig the next night. The town was buzzing with the news and the gig was a hot, sweaty banger. 

Can you explain to us the process of booking and running a show? 

Jon: It’s a relentless task of sifting through the 100’s of band emails asking if they can come and play Celine Dion covers to find that original diamond of a band…like Mother Vulture. Then comes the 10-20 email replies regarding agreeing a date, fee, food, accommodation, and gigs in the days around the booking to make it worth their while to come all the way to Cornwall, when most bands stop at Bristol. Then we attempt to coordinate a series of social media posts with links to the event page to drive interest to an original band night with music they’ve never heard before. Once the promotions have run their course, then comes the big gig night when we hope all the band members turn up and play their agreed 2 x 45 min sets plus a 30 min break. More often than not a group of super talented musicians gets booked and give epic performances leaving the crowd begging me to stay open past my licence for more music! (Which sadly I decline!)

What is your main goal when drafting up events for Whiskers?

Jon: In the past we’ve always tried to keep as many events free entry, so I’d look for smaller bands (so everyone gets a decent chunk of the fee) who get the crowd whipped into a frenzy and put a good chunk over the bar. Going forward in 2021 with the government imposed social distancing and reduced capacity I’ll be expanding the genres as gigs will need to be ticketed to account for the loss in bar revenue due to reduced capacity. It will be hard to stay seated with a band like The Big Sets but we will find a way to make it work and still be fun. 

What are some challenges that you’ve faced whilst working in the industry? 

Jon: Definitely difficult to get ticketed gigs packed as we’ve often been viewed as more a bar then venue, some premadonna green room lists and the geographic location of Newquay making it out of the way if the tour doesn’t get several Cornish gigs. 

Do you have a memorable show or one that stands out?

Jon: Newton Faulkner is a stand out for sure! I remember reading the email from SW1 promotions and couldn’t believe we’d have the opportunity to host! It was a free entry special and people were queueing at the door 6 hrs before opening to get a space inside, it was insane! 

A particularly wild night at Whiskers (CLUNK Magazine) by Kieran Webber

Obviously the pandemic has affected the live music and events industries in a negative way but how is it specifically affected you?

Jon: As a grassroots venue we have had the most support from the government through their cultural recovery fund, I feel most for the musicians, sound engineers and stage hands who many have fallen through the cracks. As we lean into the spring and summer season it’s looking less likely that large scale events and festivals will be going ahead.

How optimistic are you for live music and events returning on a smaller scale?

Jon: I feel fairly certain reduced capacity events will go ahead this Summer. I followed the virus patterns very closely, especially considering Newquay was at capacity last Summer and there were near zero cases. I think we can expect a similar pattern to the cold and flu season, leaving us free to enjoy music again this Summer.

“As we lean into the spring and summer season it’s looking less likely that large scale events and festivals will be going ahead”

Jon Grant – Whiskers

Will Brexit affect your events and if so how and why?

Jon: Although I’m completely against the ridiculous, avoidable visa situation for Europe, this will likely encourage bands to develop their domestic audiences and may prove beneficial for a small Cornish venue like Whiskers.

How do you feel the Government has treated this sector and what could the Government do to support you?

Jon: The Cultural Recovery Fund put together by the gov’t has been exceptional for us and we are in the process of using our grant to completely overhaul the venue to have a much larger stage, epic sound system, better toilets and a longer bar. That said I really feel for the promoters, agents, musicians, and stage hands who haven’t had any support and many told to go on universal income. I can’t wait to help get them working again as soon as we can.

Do you think the live music industry can bounce back from this?

Jon: Definitely! People will always crave the social bond of enjoying live music together. It unites people in such a positive way! Now it’s up to us to control its rebirth into sustainable careers for all those who make an event for a touring band possible.

Lastly, what can people do in the meantime to support the live music and events industry? 

Jon: Buy merchandise! Buy records. Follow, like, tag and share your favourite grassroots bands! And most importantly when venues reopen, spend! Buy tickets, buy drinks, buy merchandise! Then share how incredible the gig was on all your socials!

Three artists who saw over 100k monthly listeners from their first year on Spotify

Image Credit: Spotify for Artists

Spotify for Artists interviewed breakthrough artists Jenevieve, glaive and Emanuel about the success from their first year on the streaming platform.

While much of the music industry suffered through 2020, with live shows around the world cancelled, music streaming saw its most successful year yet as millions turned to services such as Spotify to soundtrack their new working-from-home lifestyle.

With this, more artists than ever saw tremendous success on the platform. Spotify reported over 60,000 artists crossed the 100,000 monthly listeners threshold at some point in 2020. 6,500 of these artists had never released music prior to 2020. Among these newbies were R&B artists Jenevieve and Emanuel, as well as teenage hyperpop singer-producer glaive. Spotify for Artists caught up with these three successful artists to discuss reaching the 100k milestone, the songs that helped put them on the map and the most surprising stat from their 2020 Wrapped.

Click here to read “Three Breakthrough Artists Reflect on Their First Year on Spotify”.

Image Credit: Spotify for Artists

Click here to find out how to upload your own music to Spotify for free.