We caught up with the voice behind Piccolo to chat about how she got into children’s music, the idea behind Piccolo, and much more!
Piccolo Music have been creating music for children for the past 20 years and are primed to release their latest album ‘Sing And Play With Piccolo’. The album is a delightful collection of music that is designed for parents and children to enjoy, learn and play too. An ethos that is strong throughout the Piccolo experience, it’s all about bringing families together and helping children learn.
In the final edition of our DIY Till We Die article series we chat to Blitzcat Records, a DIY label operating in London.
Blitzcat Records is a label run out of the UK’s big smoke, London. Formed in 2019 by Chris and Fil, two music lovers who decided to throw caution into the wind and make their dream of running a label come true. The pair had a dream to promote and help artists who they felt deserved to be heard. In their short time, they have already proven that they have a good ear. Their debut signee Play Dead has had a multitude of coverage from blogs and publications, extensive BBC Radio 6 radio play, and thousands of streams.
In this final edition of ‘DIY Till We Die’ we catch up with the two owners of Blitzcat Records to get an insight into their label, why they started, and much more!
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, how have you been?
F: Yeah good mate! Relieved we can get out of the house now…
C: Extremely sunburnt.
So, when did Blitzcat records come to fruition and why was it started?
F: Clichéd I know, but honestly started out of pure frustration with a miserable job. A realisation of fuck it, “you just got to do something else”. So that, mixed in with the desire to be in and around artists who I thought people needed to listen to, is what drove me to set up Blitz.
C: I tried and failed to get a job in the music industry after I left uni and had always wanted to do A&R type stuff. When Fil asked me to join, it felt like a way I could scratch that itch without having to apply for another 150 jobs. As Fil says, also a bit of a ‘fuck it, why not?’ moment.
Can you talk us through the day-to-day of Blitzcat Records?
F: Chris waits for me to get up, proposes god knows how many things.
C: Basically involves relentlessly hunting down Spotify playlist curators. Really sorry – if your real name is your Spotify account name, I have probably already sent you a Facebook message… I guess it’s chatting to the bands, sorting things out, setting things up, shaping up campaigns, exchanging stupid memes, and of late, working on a few live projects!
When you were planning the label did you have an idea of the artists you wanted to sign?
F: Guess I’ve always been into gritty guitar bands – punk/garage bordering on noise – people like Drahla, A Place to Bury Strangers, mbv etc. You can see some of that reflected in the roster, but I think we both fall victim to all sorts of stuff. Don’t think Chris has got over that Talks song by PVA yet… Suppose you need to have an idea going into it, but don’t wed yourself too much to genres.
C: I’ve always liked labels that were multi-genre such as XL, Warp, and Ninja Tune. Generally, I think a label is more about building a vibe and an identity rather than committing to a genre. I’ve not really answered the question, but I think the short answer is no. We’re keeping our genres relatively narrow at the moment, but we’re always open to dipping our toes into something different.
How do you decide which artists you want to work with?
C: Obviously, the fundamental thing we look for is a pipeline of music that we both like and think will do well. Other things do play a role too, but I think we’re happy to compromise on a couple of things if the music is killer.
How does Blitzcat work and help artists?
F: We help artists focus on making music, while we lead on all the other stuff, which, for a band, can prove to be quite burdensome. So on top of the basic distribution, we handle the press, PR, all the different things needed to best support a release.
“We help artists focus on making music, while we lead on all the other stuff, which, for a band, can prove to be quite burdensome”
Fil – Blitzcat Records
C: Give us ya tunes we’ll make you famous (maybe).
F: It’s fun because you essentially work as a team, label, and artist/band, you have laughs over whats app, beers, zooms – celebrate wins, curse your collective luck at things not working out. I think in particular of Sapphire Blues and the rollercoaster release of “Daydream” back in Jan/Feb. It’s that teamwork ethic that makes it all worth it.
Was the idea to always go down the DIY route?
F: I guess when you go “Let’s start a label”, it’s quickly followed by “…now what..” – So that sort of makes DIY a foregone conclusion haha. But I suppose that philosophy, or commitment to going for it, without giving a toss about cash, just doing it for the love of, is hopefully what aligns us with a lot of artists out there who are up for a bit of help.
C: Unless you’re a trust fund kid with money to burn, it’s basically impossible to start a label that isn’t DIY. It’s a jack-of-all-trades kind of game (hopefully master of some).
What are the advantages and disadvantages of running as a DIY label?
C: What you quickly find out is that everything costs a lot of money. The plus side of that is that it forces you to learn lots of new skills you never thought you would. I edit videos now. Who would have thought? Not me.
F: Yeah I suppose budgets aren’t high, but the friends you make with like-minded people along the way – artists, designers, writers, promoters, other labels – is banging.
Do you feel the internet has made it easier for you to exist?
F: The first band we fully signed, PLAY DEAD, was only days before the first lockdown. Prior to that, we were just hosting shows in London and Brighton. So as much as being incarcerated has been pretty damn horrible for us all – for Blitz, it did help us just focus on the 2, 3 things we needed to do, without any gig distractions, or looking over our shoulder at who was doing what, to get it to the place it is today.
C: Yes, big up my man Tim Berners-Lee.
Why is it that more artists are looking to be signed to a DIY label?
F: Freedom, really. All labels like us want to do, is amplify what artists are expressing to as many people as possible. The majors try to shape the artist to their liking I guess, with all the pressures that come with that.
C: It’s a super tough industry, and ultimately I think artists are looking for all the help they can get. Whether that’s through a DIY label, management, booking agent, etc. DIY labels, a good one anyway, can satisfy all roles in one – so from that perspective it’s a well-rounded leg up.
What have been some success stories of Blitzcat so far?
C: Fil filing our tax returns. We got there in the end, mate.
F: Tax returns + Lamacq spinning PLAY DEAD’s “Shaun” on drive time.
Why do you feel there are so many DIY scenes popping up and what makes a good DIY scene?
C: Call me a hopeless romantic but it feels like we’re headed for some post-pandemic roaring twenties era (albeit probably shitter than the 1920s one). People just want to have a bit of fun – carving your own way in a DIY scene is a great way to do that. A good DIY scene is filled with good people who are nice to one another.
Lastly, what advice do you have for someone looking to get involved with their local scene or wanting to start a DIY label?
F: Go for it! Particularly if our dear pathogen friend finally buggers off, go to shows, meet bands and show them your passion. Then before you know it, you’re up, up, and away.
C: Even if you’ve got no experience doing anything, as long as you like the music, anything you need to pick up you will.
In our final edition of Photographer Highlight we catch up with the ever talented Jamie MacMillan, a photographer that has captured moments across the UK music scene. From large scale stadium concerts through to the sweaty DIY shows.
I first started seeing Jamie’s work on Instagram a couple of years ago, particularly his striking live photography of bands such as Sports Team, IDLES, and his portrait shots of The Big Moon (to name a few). His photography manages to capture the raw energy that is felt at any live performance, particularly the claustrophobic and intimate setting of a DIY show.
Going through Jamie’s photography you can see his drive, passion, and talent. He always seems to find himself in the right area at the right time. Capturing that special moment that if you’re not looking, you’ll miss. I am a massive fan of Jamie’s work and it is my firm belief he is one of the UK’s most important music photographers.
It was an absolute honour to chat with him about his work and influences, to dig deeper into his mind and find out more. I hope that this article and the series, in general, gives people in and out of the industry a new perspective and appreciation for music photographers.
Thank you Jamie for taking the time to chat with us, how have you been?
Jamie: Good, thank you! Like everyone, I’ve been in a bit of limbo over the last year but managed to find some work away from music pretty quickly which was lucky all around.
So, how did you get into photography and at what point did you get into music photography specifically?
Jamie: I’ve always been ‘into’ it since I was a kid really, my parents always encouraged me with point-and-shoots from an early age. But I was mainly shooting landscape and Brighton city scenes before deciding to take the plunge into live music in 2016. My first proper gig had IDLES as the opening act, and that was it. Sold.
What was the draw towards music photography?
Jamie: I lived 30 miles away from anywhere that had gigs when I was growing up, so for me looking at the live images of bands like Blur in NME was the closest I got as a kid. When I got the chance to start doing it for myself, it was addictive. Being able to capture the energy both on stage and in the crowd, trying to show what it was like to be at the gig, it’s everything.
Were there any particular photographers or artists’ work that inspired you?
Jamie: You’ve got the classics, like Pennie Smith (that shot of The Clash), and a distant cousin of mine, David Corio, who did loads of black and white work with U2, Bob Marley, and the New York hip-hop scene in the ’80s, were big early influences. I’ve always been drawn to black and white, it’s more impactful and emotional I feel.
You have photographed some of the UK’s best up-and-coming artists, in particular Sports Team, how do these opportunities come about and how does it feel to have your work shared by these brilliant artists?
Jamie: It’s just about getting yourself out there. I shoot (in normal times) 2 or 3 gigs a week, and the vast majority of them are unpaid and done out of love/excitement/interest. But without putting yourself ‘out there’, then it’s hard to strike up the relationships with artists that you might want to work with. Sports Team came from me tagging along on one of their infamous bus trips to Margate on behalf of Dork Magazine, falling in love with their nonsense pretty much instantly, and eventually becoming friends with them. Seeing one of my photos on their Forum billboard was amazing, every time something like that happens it is just a tiny little validation that I might be ok at my job haha.
“Being able to capture the energy both on stage and in the crowd, trying to show what it was like to be at the gig, it’s everything“
Jamie Macmillan – Photographer
Do you have a standout moment in your music photography career so far?
Jamie: I’m going to cheat and say two. I took the cover shot for Lucy Rose’s album ’Something’s Changing’ whilst hanging out with her and her producer (who’s also now my brother-in-law, Brighton’s that kind of town). The second is this whole crazy Sports Team journey, from shooting them at the Tom Thumb Theatre in Margate to nights at The O2 in a couple of years. Mental.
You dabble in live music photography and portraits but which one do you prefer and why?
Jamie: Live all the way. If you were at the gig, I want to capture the best moments of your night. If you missed it, I want to give you massive FOMO and make sure you see them the next time. That’s why I will always get in the crowd to take photos when I can, it’s where the energy is. Portraits are cool, I enjoy doing them but I will always prefer spontaneity.
How do you prepare for a shoot?
Jamie: The amount of times I’ve forgotten my SD card, and even a battery, is unprecedented amongst professional music photographers. So probably just double-check them. I might check out what a band does in the ‘first 3 songs’ if that’s all I’ve got, but other than that I’m pretty loose on habits.
Do you feel photographers are an often overlooked and underappreciated group within the industry?
Jamie: Totally. Not by everyone obviously. But there are just so many of us, I think it’s easy to underestimate what a really good music photographer can do, and what they can add. The very best capture an entire night or tour in one image, and can change perceptions about what a band is like live.
Do you feel visual aid is important for artists during this internet age?
Jamie: Yeah totally. Visual is still everything, all our social media is still largely based on images and sharing of them. It might be cool to build an air of mystery about your act, but eventually, people are still gonna want to see photos of them!
Why should a band work with a professional photographer?
Jamie: Because they can trust them to get what they need without asking. They’re not scrabbling around looking for a half-decent photo taken on an iPhone (as good as they are these days) from someone in the crowd, or wishing that someone had managed to get all four of them in focus in the same shot. Or caught that nice moment backstage when guards were down or caught that wild crowd surfer moment. And if they are their own photographer, it becomes second nature. They’re part of the team, just as much as their sound engineer.
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?
Jamie: For bands, make sure you can trust them and make sure they do the style you want or need. And please, if you can afford it, pay them a fair rate. It’s their job.
For budding photographers, be everywhere. Shoot every gig you can. Email band managers to see if they need anything. Don’t worry if you don’t hear back or get ten rejections in a row, it happens to everyone. If you can get a photo pass, chat with the other photographers – it’s a small world and having friends in the pit is good. If you can’t get a photo pass and it’s a small gig, buy a ticket and shoot from the crowd. Shoot from the places where other photographers haven’t spotted, find a cool angle. Don’t be afraid to not get paid most of the time, most of us don’t. Chat to artists, send them the photos, tag them in it. If it’s someone whose music you love, tell them. Have fun. That’s the most important thing. Have fun.
We caught up with the Glasgow based DIY label Double A-Side Records to chat about their experiences as a DIY label, why it was started and much more.
In the past few months, we have spoken to a variety of DIY labels to get an insight into their motivations, the struggles they’ve come across, and much more. In this weeks edition of ‘DIY Till We Die’ we chat to Angus, the founder of Glasgow-based label Double A-Side Records. Like most people involved in the grassroots music industry his passion, commitment, and dedication to the label and music scene around him are extremely admirable.
We wanted to know more about his experiences running the label, how it started, how he decides what artists to work with, and much more!
Hey Angus, thanks for taking the time to chat with us! How have you been?
Angus: Hi there, I’m not too bad, thanks, all things considered. We’ve got a few sunny days here, which in Glasgow is quite rare, it’s still cold though!
So, when did Double A-Side Records come to fruition and why was it started?
Angus: We (my partner, Alicja, and I) started the label in 2017, initially as a platform to help boost and promote DIY shows for my own band, Home Economics, but also to help a good friend of ours (Barbe Rousse) release his debut album.
Can you talk us through the day-to-day operations at the label?
Angus: Right now there isn’t much day-to-day, to be honest, we’ve been taking a bit of a break in operations due to Covid. We both work (multiple jobs in one of our cases) and while we do treat this as a business, it’s all done in our spare time and hasn’t been easy right now.
When the label was born did you have an idea of what artists you’d like to sign?
Angus: As I alluded to earlier, our first release was Barbe Rousse’s debut album. Between that and as a vehicle for my own band there were some acts who we had our eyes on at the start but have aimed to keep ourselves open as tastes can change over time.
Now the label is established how do you decide who to sign?
Angus: We tend (in the before-corona-time) to see bands at local shows who we keep in touch with and keep an eye on. There is a number of local labels up here so we try not to step on any toes either in doing so. We try to have a meeting with bands we like in order to show interest and see what their plans for releases are, other than that we just ask in some cases.
How does Double A-Side help and work with artists?
Angus: We help release and promote albums (and in some cases singles and EPs) for indie artists – in particular helping release their music on vinyl. It tends to be the band’s debut album in most cases, more by chance than anything.
Why did you decide to run Double A-Side as a DIY label?
Angus: It wasn’t a particularly conscious decision to run the label as a DIY venture. If I could take a wage and make it my job, I would, however that opportunity just hasn’t quite come around yet. I once read an article saying “DIY doesn’t mean unprofessional” and we stand by those words. The lines between what constitutes DIY and a large indie label and even a major have begun to blur more and more in recent years.
“I once read an article saying “DIY doesn’t mean unprofessional” and we stand by those words”
Angus – Double A-Side Records
What are the advantages and disadvantages of running the label as a DIY?
Angus: Advantages: Probably flexibility, being involved with some wonderfully creative artists and being part of a diverse and exciting scene. Disadvantages: Budgets! Time!
Do you feel the internet has made it easier for the label to exist?
Angus: Almost definitely, not that it wasn’t doable before, everything was just less accessible.
Why do you feel more artists are wanting to be signed to a DIY label?
Angus: It depends on what they want out of a release and making music. If they want control over their copyright and are willing to put the work in, then yes. If they just want a shot at fame, then there’s an already more established route for them to go down. Not that bands and artists who’re famous don’t work hard – it just depends on a lot of factors.
What have been some success stories of Double A-Side Records?
Angus: Arguably our biggest success has been Play It Like a Woman we released in 2018. It’s a compilation album focussed on female talent, raising funds for Glasgow & Clyde Rape Crisis. We got some amazing artists involved with the project, put on a fantastic all-dayer at our local venue, The Glad Cafe, and so far have managed to raise over £750 for the charity! Other highlights have been the wealth of wonderful artists we’ve been lucky enough to work with on every release and gig we’ve put on!
Why do you feel there so many DIY scenes popping up and what makes a good DIY scene?
Angus: As I said earlier, the internet has made everything more accessible. The information on offer and ways to interacts with fans and your favourite bands are easier than ever now, it was only a matter of time. There are so many small niches of people finding what they love to do for the sake of doing it and they can connect with like-minded people within a few seconds via a device they can hold in their hands.
What makes it good? Support, camaraderie, and friendliness more than anything. That’s probably what bands and artists treasure with other bands more than fans and money (if any) being made.
Lastly, what advice do you have for someone looking to get involved with their local scene or wanting to start a DIY label?
Don’t be a dick.
If you’re doing LPs, make sure you have plenty of room in your cupboards.
Try not to compare yourself to others, it’s hard but remember you’re doing things for YOU.
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.
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.
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“
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!
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.
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!
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.
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 Segallat 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!
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.
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”
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.
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.
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!