Tuesday, 6 October 2015

The Future Of Single Track Blogging And Soundcloud

With labels such as Sony having ongoing licensing issues with Soundcloud, removing some of its artists from the platform, and the music industry as a whole moving towards the likes of Spotify and Apple Music to showcase new music, you have to wonder what the future of traditional new music single track blogging will look like. Soundcloud (and to a lesser extent Bandcamp) have been the favourites for many music blogs (including this one) to stream new songs, partly because of its simplicity but also because blog aggregator Hype Machine then picks the song up, enabling potentially hundreds / thousands more plays. Plus as Hype Machine links back to the blogs that post the song, it usual gives the blog that posted the song a tiny bit more traffic as well (albeit a relatively small amount).

If (and it's still a big if - but we can see the potential there) Soundcloud becomes redundant as a platform, what will traditional ‘track blogs’ do? And therefore what will Hype Machine do? 

What would be interesting, certainly in our own country of the UK, would be if Hype Machine picked up single song Spotify embeds. It could potentially mean that a track that is played via Spotify on a blog could, by being ‘loved’ a lot on the Hype Machine Chart, find itself gaining enough plays to reach the official charts (as tracks at the top of the Hype Machine chart get way more plays than others), as the official charts now include streaming. This would provide the possibility for bands like Chvrches or Oh Wonder, both big Breaking More Waves favourites and popular on Hype Machine, to have hit singles on the official UK charts rather than just being 'internet bands'. It would also liven up the chart, given the relatively stale state it has been in recently with very few new entries or high climbers each week. It would also enable completely unsigned self releasing artists to get in the charts via blog success and therefore reach an even wider audience.

For now however, Soundcloud still soldiers on; but unless it can sort out its business side of things and satisfy the music labels it's future is less clear and as yet Hype Machine has made no announcements about using Spotify as one of its sources.

The reason we're talking about this is twofold:

1. How Breaking More Waves could change in the future.

Breaking More Waves is a very old school blog in its presentation and way it does things (a lot of it is traditional single track blogging via Soundcloud). However, we do like to (time permitting) write more than just about the song itself. We like to have wider conversations about music, explore concepts, have discussions. A bit like this post. It’s something that if traditional ‘track blogging’ eventually dies we suspect we will do more and more of. We enjoy doing it and as a bonus we seem to get more readers of our discussion posts than just writing about new songs, often through social media sharing. 

2. Because sometimes the music industry surprises us.

Yesterday, potential future pop star Grace Mitchell uploaded her rather excellent Raceday EP to Soundcloud. Why was this interesting? Because Grace has for some time had the EP on monetised streaming services such as Spotify as well as You Tube, so the late release to Soundcloud defies normal industry convention. The normal course of events would be to upload a song from the EP to Soundcloud, generate interest through blogs and websites and then release the whole EP to monetised sites as interest increased. This release strategy seems to be going the opposite way. If anyone could explain to us why Grace / her label has done this, we'd love to know the reasoning / logic. Or is it just a case (as often seems to be the way these days) that the music industry has no idea what it's doing?

It seems odd, but we’re pleased all the same, because it gives us the opportunity to remind you that the EP is truly excellent and even more so, Jitter, the best song on the EP, is a 1010% crazy bona-fide explosive pop banger. If you haven't heard it yet, it's time...

Grace Mitchell - Jitter

Monday, 5 October 2015

8 Things We Learnt This Weekend About Running A Music Festival

Whilst Breaking More Waves home city of Portsmouth is well served for music festivals such as Victorious (a huge outdoor event with some big names and bargain ticket prices) and Icebreaker (local scene multi-venue festival), when it’s longest running new music event, Southsea Fest announced it was taking a year out there was some disappointment locally.

So rather than just moan about it, a bunch of local music enthusiasts, including Breaking More Waves,  got together and decided to run a replacement festival that we called Dials (the name coming loosely from the concept of everyone involved having different tastes / skills - different locations on the dial if you like). Dials was strictly D-I-Y. There was no big corporate sponsor, no advance funding except for digging into our own pockets, and the vast majority of people involved in the team were also balancing busy day jobs and other life commitments that had nothing to do with running a such an event.

Whilst Breaking More Waves’ involvement in the festival was far less than some of the other truly hard working souls who put their names forward, what we did do for Dials (help in booking some of the acts using the contacts that we’d developed from running the blog, putting some money on the table, organising and running the majority of press liaison, and a small amount of marketing and promotion) helped us gain a deeper understanding of just some of the pressures and difficulties festivals are under, some of which don't get talked about very much. 

Here are some of the things we learnt:

1. Cashflow is everything (Part 1 – Punters and tickets)

Stuff doesn’t happen without it being paid for. And when your main source of funding is ticket sales this means that there’s a very difficult balance between what’s going out and what comes in. When you book your ticket for a festival you might think that the money goes straight to the organiser. Not necessarily. Many ticket agencies withhold money they take until after the event has occurred, so that if it is cancelled they can refund easily. So as an organiser your choice of who you sell tickets with is incredibly important for cashflow, as is how you arrange for things to be paid for up front, and as a punter, if money isn't being held back by the ticket agency, buying your ticket early or from local physical retailers can help the festival to overcome the issue of cashflow.

2. Cashflow is everything (Part 2 – Bands)

Dials’ original intention was to pay every band on the bill. However, it quickly became clear after doing the maths and taking all costs into account this wasn’t possible. Quite simply, to put on an event with 45 bands (that’s nearly 200 musicians - roughly a quarter of our total capacity / ticket sales) in small venues, with no big sponsorship and to pay everyone would lead to cancellation before tickets had even started to be sold. Before Dials we’d always thought that musicians should be paid for every show they played, but the practical reality is far more complex. Dials paid every national touring act that performed, and most larger local acts, however some acts, who were generally occupying bottom of the bill slots, playing to just a handful of people for half an hour, weren't offered payment. However we tried to treat these acts as fairly as we could – they were all given a small amount of free drinks and had their festival wristband so they could enjoy the rest of the day watching the music after they had played.

3. Cashflow is everything (Part 3 – Blaggers)

The number of blaggers shocked us. That's blaggers, not bloggers. This wasn’t an expensive festival (£15 early bird / £18 regular / £20 on the door, for an event that ran from 1pm to 11pm + DJs after ) and every band was entitled to a set number of cheap guest tickets at £10 where they arranged them in advance. We also had a number of photographers, press and competition winners who received free tickets.  Yet we were surprised at the numbers of people trying the ‘I’m friends / with such and such a band and I should be on the guest / press list’ approach or people who expected there to be a totally free guest list. Dials wasn’t Glastonbury. It was a small independent festival where every ticket sale counted; not to make money for the organisers, but so that we could pay the people we had agreed to pay; artists, security etc. 

If you went to see a film you wouldn’t expect to get a free ticket from the cinema just because you happened to be mates with one of the actors in it would you? Music festivals are the same. The bottom line is if Dials gave everyone  who thought they were entitled to a free ticket a free ticket, there would be no Dials. 

Likewise the number of bands / their representatives who put down frankly ludicrous requests in their contracts for their riders. If you called a plumber to your house to do a small job that you were paying him say £150 for would you expect the plumber to request a roasted chicken (sliced) and a bottle of spirits in addition to his payment?

4. It’s quite possible to have a festival line up that features as many acts with women in them as men.

Earlier this year you may have seen various articles online asking why UK festivals were dominated by male only bands after Josh at Crack In The Road blog produced a now internet-famous poster showing the acts playing this years Reading / Leeds festivals that contained female musicians. At Dials we were very pleased that nearly half of the acts playing contained female musicians. Several ticket holders commented positively on how great it was to see so many women on stage. It’s sad that they should even have to comment on this, but what we learnt was that: 1. It is very possible to book a festival line-up where women were given as much opportunity as men and  2. That punters will watch music by either sex – all they care about is if the acts are good or not.

5. There’s a lot more to organising a festival than you could possibly imagine. You do need professional help and people with experience.

Despite the D-I-Y approach that Dials had, within the team we had highly professional and experienced people who knew what they were doing. Without these hard working and brilliant people who understand how to run venues, who know the right people to speak to and who understand the stuff that nobody wants to do like financial accounting Dials wouldn’t have happened. These people all put their hearts into Dials for one reason - they wanted a live music event like this in Portsmouth.

6. Successful bands aren’t just good musicians. They go about their jobs professionally.

If you’re a musician and you’re due to play a festival and your stage time is 1.30pm, turning up late or even worse not at all because you’ve been waiting for a taxi / are hungover / didn’t realise what time you were on and not phoning the organisers to let them know is not a way to impress either the festival management or the punters who have decided to come and watch you rather than someone else. To be fair Dials only had a small amount of these instances and they were from local artists lower on the bill who probably lack experience – all of the more well known acts were absolutely professional in their approach. In fact our main headliner was the first band to arrive!

7. Everyone wants their name on the top of the bill.

We suspect this is more to do with bands agents than the bands themselves (who generally don’t seem to care and just want to play) but everyone wants their name nearer the top end of the poster that’s advertising the event. Maybe the way to go is just to list all bands from A-Z, then there is no room for egos, only the alphabet.

8. Being part of running a music festival carries some level of stress, but with the right team, it can be an absolute blast.

To say that we were on an incredible high after the last band had played at Dials is somewhat of an understatement. Seeing bands like Black Honey (one of our choices / bookings for the event) play to a packed sweaty room, watching another of our choices  Alice Jemima, who we have been championing for some time, playing to a warm and attentive crowd and clearly enjoying herself, getting namechecks from stage for the blog from at least 2 of the acts that played and meeting many of the artists that we have written about over the last few years who without exception were lovely, seeing so many positive comments about the festival on social media after it was all finished and just being part of it all  was way more than we could have ever expected when we started this humble music blog back in 2008.

And the thing that we’ve learnt the most? That old cliché about teamwork being the best way to get results. That truly was the way with Dials. 

*This post is the opinion of Breaking More Waves Blog and not necessarily reflective of the opinion of all of the Dials team.

Friday, 2 October 2015

George Cosby - New Waves

Here’s a song to knock your socks off. Ritual Bush by newcomer George Cosby is a tune that really wants to be something. It's absolutely full of grandiose ambition, No, correction, it’s a song that really is something, not just wants to be. One listen will confirm that as it stomps its way in, kicking down every door before it; like great sex it will leave you breathless and wanting more, even although it’s given everything. Unlike great sex it only lasts three minutes and thirty seconds. Close your eyes and you can almost imagine a more indie version of Samuel T Herring  of Future Islands, with added guitars, crooning away with huge gestures.  It’s an undeniably great start.

After working his way round many of the festivals that Breaking More Waves attended this summer (Great Escape, Bushstock, Somersault) Crosby’s debut EP is to follow in November. If it in any way matches up to Ritual Bush it will be the music writers equivalent of a sports commentator yelling 'he's just played an absolute blinder'.

George Cosby - Ritual Bush

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Iris Gold - Color Trip

If big hair was a guarantee of big success (we’re looking at you Rae Morris and Ella Eyre) then Iris Gold would be a dead certainty. Alas the rules of pop are far more complicated than that; although good hair is nearly as important as good songs - there's so many cases of an artist getting a bad haircut and never recovering creatively or commercially. 

However, irrespective of Moby like baldness or her current big afro, and irrespective or commercial potential or not, we’d be writing about Iris Gold’s Color Trip, because it’s one of those slightly chattering, trippy sounding pop tunes that’s just infused with cool. If you’ve ever heard Q-Tee (she rapped on St Etienne’s song Calico from their 1993 LP So Tough and had one minor hit single a few years later with Gimme That Body) or Ms Dynamite (surely she needs no introduction) then you might be inclined to compare the delivery style to one of those. 

Color Trip’s already been picked up by a small handful of blogs and pretty much all of them will have already told you something about the lyrics which mention incense, crystals and flowers in the hair. This is good because we’re often appalled by the lack of attention that blogs pay to lyrics -we wrote about that on this post linked here. Alas in this instance it probably has more to do with the press release feeding this information, but still, at least people are enjoying Iris’s hippie-hop vibe.

Iris Gold - Color Trip