5 WEBSITE MISTAKES MUSICIANS NEED TO AVOID MAKING

As someone who has to trawl through seas of benign websites and whose inbox is chock full of links to less than user/reviewer/fan friendly websites, I feel it’s incumbent upon me to impart a few wise words on the topic of online plugging and the art of creating a snazzy website with on-point, well laid out, engaging content. In this part 1 of 2, I’ll outline the five most common mistakes musicians make with regard to their website.

Now some of you might point out that my own DervSwerve site isn’t exactly bells and whistles – but guys,  it doesn’t need to be. I am selling nothing but YOUR music. I’m not in this to earn a crust or flog any wares other than the musical ones submitted to me.

While many of you have built your own professional websites – some via home-DIY with the aid of YT videos, others with the help of web ninjas – having tech design tools, dev savvy and a relatively blank canvas are only the first step in creating a cracking website.

Design, lay-out, flow and content are key to building a website that will not just attract but win over potential fans, engage current fans, and impress industry gatekeepers.

Having had to cruise thousands of websites over the past two+ years, I’ve noticed the same issues time and time again. Here are some of the biggest web-related mistakes musicians make – mistakes that should be avoided at all costs.

NOT USING PROFESSIONAL PHOTOS

Cardinal sin number 1. When it comes to PR, online plugging and your website, we cannot over-emphasise the importance of using professional photos.

Professionally taken, clear, high-res images are your calling cards. They help create good first impressions on fans, as well as industry and media.

Badly cropped, low res, poorly lit or unfocussed images will hinder rather than help, creating negative rather than the desired positive brand awareness.

If you don’t believe us, just hop over to IG and see the difference in follows and likes on profiles that churn out high res, colour-pop, or imaginative high quality shots vs those that limply flick out uncentered, fuzzy, grainy shots, taken by the bessie on a S5 without any thought being put into them.

If you don’t take your image seriously, people won’t take your music seriously, fact.

Think we’re joking? When landing on any website for the first time, it’s the photos that are the headliners. Attention grabbers, images are what will give potential fans their first impression of you and your music.

Ensure your header and background images act the part and fit the bill. Always ensure your press pack or digital press kit if you prefer, contain variations of high-res images (at least one landscape image and nothing below 250 pixels or they won’t pull onto social media!).

NOT HAVING A MOBILE FRIENDLY SITE

Er? If not using professional photos is a cardinal sin, not having a site that’s mobile friendly is a mortal one. In today’s world of mobile and zing zing tech, musicians need a mobile-friendly website. It’s all about mobile digital media – if it don’t fit, the kids will swipe left!

Your mobile-centric site must:-

Load instantly, be easily navigated, and have clear content, accessible samples of your music and ‘buy now’ tools that are in perfect working order.

Fun Fact! Google-search punishes sites that aren’t mobile-friendly. So, if you want your band to achieve higher SEO search results than a similarly named brand of stain remover, get your mobile act together asap.

NOT KEEPING THE SITE REGULARLY UPDATED

If you go into a newsagents to score the latest editions of your favourite music mags only to find half-stocked shelves containing last month’s issues, there’s a strong chance you’ll leave, right?

Okay, so ditto when someone parachutes onto your site only to find a track released three years ago, a photo of the band aged 18 (you’re now 22) taken at a now defunct festival, and that the last ‘latest news’ is dated Jan 2016. What would you think? That the band has jacked it in? That they’re too lazy to be bothered to do some ‘social’ housekeeping?

The potential for negative impact here is greater when it comes to media and industry. It is a time-wasting pain in the ass for any reviewer, DJ or a.n.o industry professional to arrive at an artist’s website expecting to find bios, tour & ticket info, release dates etc, only to find dust-coated, stale news.

Always have your latest news clearly visible on the Homepage, via Blog, newsfeeds or otherwise.

Other features that should be updated regularly are events calendar, photos, videos, and your music, natch. Embedding social media feeds onto your website takes a lot of the pain out of site maintenance.

Even though other elements of the website may not be always totally up to date, at least people checking out your site will see that you’re still alive and kicking!

NOT ENOUGH MUSIC / NO DIRECT-TO-FAN PURCHASE OPTIONS

At the end of the day, the bottom line is that you are trying to sell your wares.

It’s all well and good having an “I want millions of people to hear my music” mission statement but bills have to be paid, the dog fed and guitar strings replaced. That takes money, so be practical.

The first place a discography of YOUR music should be found is on your OWN website. And a full one at that.

Fans should be able to land on your full music catalogue at the press of a tab. Offering up samples and then ushering them off to iTunes or Deezer is the commercial equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot.

Have all your music available to stream. Offer ‘a free download when you sign up’ deal to bag email addresses that will help build your mailing list.

Vitally important for healthy coffers is the inclusion of direct-to-fan purchase options. These will ensure you retain most of the money (85% with Bandcamp), and again, allow you to gather valuable contact information that can be later used in marketing drives.

Once those elements are in place, you can then provide links to external online shopping options and streaming services.

Always bear in mind that despite the fact that they are selling your music, these 3rd party services will, for reasons of Data Protection, never share their customer details with you.

Invaluable opportunities to follow up directly with those fans about future albums, tours, or merch offerings will be lost at the click of a link.

NO MAILING LIST SIGN UP

Too often bands don’t have a mailing list sign up, or if they do, it’s lost in a jungle of content.

It’s imperative that your website has a sign up link (usually placed at the top right hand corner of the landing/homepage). Add in a short blurb or giveaway … “be sure to sign up for new of our upcoming tour/album etc” … “sign up now to get a free download link to our cover of XYZ” …

Why is it imperative?

Your mailing list is YOURS. It is your contact database, one you don’t have to share with anyone else.

Email marketing is 40 times more effective than the power of Facebook and Twitter combined (Mc Kinsey). So, if you want to sell your music, that merch, those gig tickets, you’ll reap more rewards with direct mail blasts than with endless repeat posts on social media.

“If email is not the biggest part of your social strategy, then you are giving the power of communication with your fans to companies who will gladly take them and whose advertisers will thank you to no end for providing them with eyeballs.”

In part two, we’ll bring you the Online Plugging Bible. Tune in next time! DervSwerve

Gash Collective : Moving the Needle to Equalise Music

Ellen King Courtesy of Irish Times

When the line-ups for the three biggest Irish festivals were announced earlier this year, there was universal outrage across social media at the gross lack of female representation. The stark reality is that female artists constituted a mere 27% of the total 2017 line up across the top 3 Irish festivals. We wrote about it on the blog, have a read here.

Ironically this comes at a time when Irish DJ Jenny Greene has never been so popular, with the rise and then some of her uber-super Ibiza Proms-like showcase of trance-classical in collab with the RTE Symphony Orchestra; a show which has sold-out every single performance since its inception for last year’s Electric Picnic.

Tackling disproportionate representation along with other gender imbalances within the music industry, is what Irish based Gash Collective is about. So, in response to club and festival gender bias, whether intentional or nay, this Irish collective, run by women for women (and those identifying as female), has been running a series of curated workshops aimed at encouraging females to get involved in the world of electronic music.

Sponsored by Smirnoff, the workshops provide an opportunity for women over the age of 18 “to get stuck in, in a completely non-judgemental atmosphere”. The sessions focus on DJ and production skills, enabling women to learn how to use Ableton software, equipment such as turntables and CDJs (digital music players for DJing, the most common of which are produced by Pioneer) and how to mix them some musical magic.

Discussing the workshops with the Irish Times, Cork based DJ Ellen King explained, “The main thing is that no experience is necessary. The big thing, especially with CDJs and decks, is they’re very expensive equipment and a lot of people don’t have access to them, unless they know someone who owns a bar etc”.

All equipment – laptops, decks etc – is provided, with training led by female Irish producers and DJs. All the participants have to do is pitch up and immerse themselves in the vibe. It’s all about getting yourself out there with like-minded gals, having a go, enjoying a few laughs, and making a few mistakes along the way.

All of the workshops are now full, but you can still register to receive info-mails about future events. So sign up and go along at nearest opportunity! Remember – She who dares wins!

ABOUT GASH COLLECTIVE: Gash Collective Irish based collective focused on supporting women in the field of electronic music; a platform to encourage women to create, share and collaborate together in the field of electronic music in Ireland. Through safe space initiatives, carefully curated parties and events, as well as production and DJ workshops, GASH intends to shine a light on female identifying producers and DJs in Ireland. 

GASH was inspired by Female:Pressure’s VISIBILITY project and collectives like SIREN London and DISCWOMAN NYC. 

Gash are on Twitter and Facebook. Do show your support and give them a follow! DervSwerve.

 

MFI Series Of London Events To Showcase Irish Acts To UK Music Industry

A series of London-based gigs to showcase up and coming Irish music acts has been announced by Music From Ireland.  The Irish music export office in conjunction with hosts London Irish Centre, will this  month bring the best of emerging Irish talent across the sea to the UK capital for a succession of gigs.  Kicking off on Thursday 29th June in the LIC’s Camden HQ, the series is expected to run until the end of 2017, if not beyond.

The platform was developed with the UK industry in mind, as it bids to bring contemporary Irish acts to the attention of a wealth of music professionals ranging from promoters to PRs to programmers.  The project is supported by Culture Ireland, the government subset of the Dept. of Arts, responsible for the promotion of Irish arts worldwide.  Speaking of the showcase series, Christine Sisk, Director of Culture Ireland explained:

“Culture Ireland puts showcasing at the centre of its strategy for international promotion of the arts as by reaching international promoters showcasing succeeds in generating further career opportunities for artists globally. The new quarterly ‘Music From Ireland’ showcase, run by the London Irish Centre in partnership with Music from Ireland offers a great platform for Irish musicians in London to reach promoters, agents and programmers and gain UK touring contracts.” 

The series opener on June 29th will feature three non-Dublin based acts: Cork native Talos, Northern Irish artist Naomi Hamilton who performs under the Jealous of the Birds moniker, and Limerick based Rusangano Family.

Three extremely diverse acts, they make for a broad and colourful representation of the modern Irish music scene in 2017.

Jealous of the Birds is an everything and then some singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who dabbles in myriad sounds so as to render her style impossible to nail into one single classification.  Travelling through the dark into light, her songs are a fine balance of hushed poignancy and electric vibrancy.

Having released her debut Capricorn EP in early 2015, this young songwriter has gone from strength to strength amassing a strong fanbase that includes media from both North and South of the border.  Her leisurely indie-folk meets hyperactive post-punk debut album Parma Violets, was released to broad critical acclaim in April, 2016.

Check out the video of the chanteuse’s live BBC N/Ireland performance Leonard Cohen’s sublime Famous Blue Raincoat; I challenge your spine not to tingle.

Breaking Tunes profile: http://www.breakingtunes.com/jealousofthebirds
• Web: https://www.jealousofthebirdsmusic.com
• Twitter: @jeliofthebirds
• Facebook: @jealousofthebirdsofficial

Cork native Eoin French is the man behind the Talos music project.  With a voice not unlike that of legendary Talk Talk frontman Mark Hollis (there, I’ve finally said it), like his mysterious predecessor, his voice flits through bars of insanely emotive instrumentation. Brimful of the Cork man’s vocal nuances and peppered with stark imagery and keenly felt lyrics, his debut album Wild Alee is a sure fire cert when it comes to best album 2017 nominations further down the road.

Check out the breathtaking visual accompaniment to Talos’s latest single Contra, a devastatingly and beautifully eerie song about loss and death crafted in a delicate shell of hope and light. Shot in the West of Ireland , the film was directed by the singer’s friend, renowned photographer Brendan Canty (of feelgoodlost)

• Breaking Tunes profile: http://www.breakingtunes.com/talos
• Web: http://www.talostalos.com
• Twitter: @talostalostalos
• Facebook: @TalosTalosTalos

Last but most certainly not least, Limerick based Rusangano Family is a triumvirate comprising two MCs and a DeeJay. Winners of the Choice Music Prize album of the Year 2016 for their self-released album, Let The Dead Bury The Dead, this hip hop/rap/Afro beats outfit are at the cutting edge of the contemporary Irish music scene. In fact, they are everything that is good about the rapidly changing, diverse Ireland in which we now find ourselves.

Check out their searingly on-point new single I Know You Know the lyrics for which you’ll find laid out underneath the video on YT and I strongly urge you to read them! Slick funk bass-lines and silky synths blunt somewhat the sharpest edges of the damning lyrics.  A song about depression, place and isolation within society (least that’s my interpretation), the striking visual accompaniment, below, makes compelling viewing.

That’s a ‘rap’.

• Breaking Tunes profile: http://www.breakingtunes.com/rusanganofamily
• Web: http://www.rusanganofamily.com
• Twitter: @RusanganoFamily
• Facebook: @RusanganoFamily

A limited number of ticket for the inaugural showcase gig on 29th June in Camden are open to the general public. Full details and tickets here.

If you don’t go, you are missing one heck of a line up and what promises to be one hugely memorable night.  In the meantime, you can feast your ears on more sounds from the three featured artists by streaming this 9-track playlist which I’ve pulled together from their various catalogues.  Enjoy.

DervSwerve.

 

Jess Glynne & Tom Jones Lead Line-Up For Punchestown 2017

With a stellar line up of stars from every walk of music life, cast across several generations, this year’s Punchestown Music Festival looks set to prove an even more popular draw than its 2016 predecessor.

Running over 29th and 30th July, the two day festival will feature in its line up stars from the ‘60s through to today including Tom Jones, Deacon Blue, All Saints, Lightning Seeds and Jess Glynne.

HRH Tom Jones is a legend in his own musical lifetime. Purveyor of swoon-inducing hits such as ‘Delilah‘ and the Prince cover ‘Kiss’, the Welsh vocal powerhouse is also one of the stars of UK TV hit show ‘The Voice’. Jones has sat in the judging hot-seat since the show’s 2012 inception, except for the 2016 series when he took time out after the death of his beloved wife Melinda.

Scots clan, Deacon Blue, were best of indie breed back in the mid-80s, spinning hit after Caledonian hit with songs like ‘Real Gone Kid’, ‘Wages Day’ and ‘Your Town’. Recently reforming as a four-piece for a much welcomed comeback tour, the pop-rock band have gone on to perform at the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony, with 2016 seeing the release of a new album entitled ‘Believers’.

For those willing to take a walk on the wild, whacky or vintage sides, there’s a multitude from which to choose.  Boney Daddy Cool’ M (don’t tell your mother), Smokie of (WTFis) ‘Alice’ fame, ‘a little bit more’ with Dr Hook, and for anyone of a certain age who was swinging around venues like Dublin’s Olympia in the early ‘90s, there’s super ABBA tribute group, Bjorn Again. 

Catering to the younger gen in the crowds will be R&B soul-pop performer Jess Glynne, who coincidentally turned down an offer to join Sir Tom on the Voice judging panel.  The singer has a string of #1s to her name while her track Take Me Home, which you can stream below, was the official Children In Need charity single 2016.

Lastly, for those with a predilection for making random hand signals whilst disco dancing dressed up as a traffic light, there’s the Village People, who may or may not have upgraded to a condo from their 1970’s base in NYC’s ‘YMCA’.

Tickets for MCD’s Punchestown Music Festival will go on sale through various Ticketmaster outlets at 9am on Friday 31st March 2017, www.ticketmaster.ie

Day tickets will cost €69.50 inclusive of booking fee, while Two Day tickets will set you back €129.00.

 

Eurovision Songwriters … This is Louis Walsh Calling!

Louis Walsh and Brendan Murray outside the RTE Studios
Louis Walsh and Brendan Murray outside the RTE Studios

Louis Walsh appeared on the long running Irish TV chat show, The RTE Late Late Show on Friday, to make a surprise announcement regarding the Irish entry for Eurovision 2017.

Speaking to show-host Ryan Tubridy, Walsh announced that he personally had chosen the artist who will represent Ireland in the upcoming competition – erstwhile member of Hometown and former busker, Brendan Murray.  Murray, originally from Tuam, Co. Galway, has been working with Walsh since joining the Irish music legends latest boyband project back in 2014.  It was only recently announced that the members of Hometown were taking a break from the group to pursue individual projects.

Of the change in the selection process, Louis Walsh explained that while he had hand picked Murray as the performer, it was up to the songwriters of Ireland to produce the ‘winning song’.  “We have the talent Ryan” he told Tubridy, “I really want them to send me a love song, a ballad, something between Adele and Ed Sheeran … I really want an Irish songwriter to send me a song!”.

Before performing a live acoustic cover of Irish Euro Winner, ‘Hold Me Now’, originally performed by Mr. Eurovision Johnny Logan, Murray said: “I listen to the likes of John Legend and Sam Smith, so I really want a power ballad, the real deal, key change everything”!

Song entries should be sent to the RTE Entertainment department and entry closes at 5pm on Monday 16th January, 2017, full details below.  An RTÉ appointed panel that will include Louis Walsh, will select the winning song which will be performed by Brendan on The Late Late Show in early 2017.

So, if you think you can pull this kinda tune outta the bag, get your quill n ink out and start penning some words and humming some melodies!  Remember – BALLAD – something with oomph and emo!  And if you do enter, best of luck! x

Submissions be sent to:

Eurovision Song Entries, RTE Entertainment, Donnybrook, Dublin 4.

Sløtface Shine ‘Bright Lights’ On A Dark Subject

Lasse Lokøy
Lasse Lokøy

Earlier in the Autumn, when the evenings were still balmy enough for us to hit the streets without donning the plethora of woollens and multitude of layers with which we are currently swaddled, Norwegian four-piece Sløtface took to the nocturnal streets of Bergen to shoot the video accompaniment to their latest single ‘Bright Lights‘.

Lifted from the EP, Empire Records‘ itself just released on 18th November, the track is about escapism – escaping self and society. The song is written by frontwoman Haley Shea, who is to Norway what Grimes is to Canada and Ani DiFrancio is to the US. who gives an unusually restrained yet highly effective vocal performance with a much nuanced emphasis on the word “crushed” that hangs at the end of the chorus like a broken arm.  Musically, this is Sløtface at their most understated.  Intuitive guitars make a statement without being overpowering while the percussion takes on a more relaxed style.  This is less punky, rriot, more Blondie style pop with its native intelligence.

The self-made Lasse Lokøy directed visual however, focusses its lens on an altogether darker subject – female vulnerability & safety.  Just how safe the nocturnal streets of Bergen are is not known to me; what is known, and only too well, is how unsafe the streets of Dublin, city or urban, are for women at any time of the day or night.

Opening with scenes from a booze, music and fun filled gathering of friends, the mood of the film quickly shifts from relaxed gaiety to one of tense uncertainty, as the once crammed frame empties onto a deserted street, dark save for the street lights, desolate except for the lone female protagonist.  What follows in this perceptively scripted and directed storyline, is an experience with which most of us females will be all too familiar.

Lasse Lokøy
Lasse Lokøy

The nervousness that automatically creeps in when we find ourselves walking alone at night.  The sense of terror that screams inside when we suddenly find that we are not alone.  The panic that sets in when a dark, hooded figure walks into our immediate space.  The disgusted indignation and feeling of limp frustration at having to ignore midnight, booze-fuelled boors, spouting sexist claptrap dressed up as a neanderthal charm offensive, that rapidly turns into insults when their efforts go unheeded.

Walking with the phone on ‘dial-alert’.  Bracing oneself with keys jagged to the ready.  Taking to the middle of the street under some misguided impression that the midsection is safer than the side because “everyone can see me, right?”. Wrong.

We are not safe.  Not safe from louts. Not safe from thugs.  Not safe from bullies.  Not safe from misogynists.  Not safe from attackers, muggers, rapists, and murderers.  We are women .. vulnerable, open to every form of attack from mental through verbal to physical.  Welcome to our world.

Sløtface have been chugging out singles like JK Rowling spawns fantasies.  The ‘Empire Records’ mini-compendium is the latest in the ever accelerating run up to their debut album, due for release in early 2017.  In addition to their ever lengthening discography, the band have been speeding up and down the gig helter-skelter and not satisfied with having recently finished a whistle-stop tour of the UK, this hyper-energised bunch have just announced another week of UK dates running from 13th – 18th February.

feb-tour-dates

‘Bright Lights‘ is available to stream/download here https://slotface.lnk.to/BrightLights & you can watch the band’s ‘on point’ awareness film right here.

The Clock Strikes ‘Won’ For Robbie Williams

robbie

ROBBIE WILLIAMS’ NEW ALBUM “THE HEAVY ENTERTAINMENT SHOW” GIVES HIM HIS 12th SOLO UK NO.1 ALBUM, MAKING WILLIAMS THE MOST SUCCESSFUL UK SOLO ARTIST OF ALL TIME!

Having landed himself a record twelfth successive chart topping solo album, it looks like the British music buying public have well and truly taken up Robbie William’s 1997 ‘Let Me Entertain You’ battle-cry.

Not only has hitting the top spot with ‘THES’ landed him his latest gong, it has also positioned him just behind the Beatles (at 11) on the leader-board for most number1 studio albums in UK chart history.

This latest record breaking milestone marks the end of a triumphant week which saw Williams joining David Bowie and Elton John to become only the third person ever to be honoured with a Brits Icon Award.

On hearing the news that The Heavy Entertainment Show, his first album on Sony Music UK, had hit the top spot Robbie said: “I’m chuffed that this album is No 1 and I’m humbled by these amazing statistics and facts. Thank you to the wonderful, wonderful team at Sony. I’m as proud of this album as much as any other, and hope that the fans enjoy it as much as I loved making it…this is for the friendlies. I’m very excited to be taking The Heavy Entertainment show on tour next year.”

On June 2nd 2017 Robbie William will embark upon a European Arena tour, kicking off in Manchester’s Etihad Stadium.  So far, there are 31 confirmed dates up to the middle of September which will see the singer take in 18 countries including Russia.

Just how Putin will react to Robbie’s devil-may-care charm & mock Russian partying is anyone’s guess. Expect the next album to contain some references to oligarchs closer to home #Trumpton.

There are still some tickets left for Robbie William’s Irish date at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium 17th June 2017, tickets from Ticketmaster starting at Euro 69.50 excluding handling charges.  ‘The Heavy Entertainment Show’ is available through iTunes, Amazon etc and in physical format via your local record shop.

 

Why Sometimes Saying Thank You Just Isn’t Enough … #Blogging

dervswerve

Emailed thank yous that no-one ever sees … discreet little intermittent likes on Twitter … the odd like of a post on FB.  Nothing obvious.  Not so anyone would ever notice. No words or actions that publicly acknowledge, support, reinforce, or help spread awareness.  The key words in that sentence are “publicly acknowledge” – meaning, “to show someone you have noticed them or heard what they have said; to publicly announce that you are grateful to someone for something; to publicly recognise how good someone is”.

Type Irish Music Bloggers into Google and two things happen …

Aside from the omni-present Hype Machine, which imo is a whole lot of exactly that, hype, two links dominate the SEO rankings.  The interesting thing about the top search result, ‘Irish Music Blogs – serenityb‘ is that the latter no longer exists. Having fallen off the Twitter bandwagon in February 2015, it disappeared into the blog-ether towards the end of that same year.

The search for Irish music blogs also yields a link to ‘The Best of Irish Music Blogs’ – a list compiled by the IASCA.  This list however, dates back to 2011 in comparison with the aforementioned site whose list is a little recently clocking in mid 2015. However, the stark reality is that of the 20+ music blogs recommended by both sites, over 50% of them are now defunct.

The sad truth is that the reality tends to be a lot harsher than the passion foresees – endless long hours gnawing into weekends, family, quality and recharge time, a seriously scaled back to non-existent social life, and the relentless allocating of annual leave to far flung festivals.  Not to mention the cost.  We haven’t even got that far yet.  Then there’s the ugly reality – the wake up and smell the one way aroma, wrap yourself around the cold comfort of unreciprocated support.

You see the fact is that unless the support network operates a dual-way system, then one side will eventually become redundant. . Like a pot plant that grows in half-light/half-shade, one side will thrive in the warm glow of attention, cosseted and nourished by a drip feed of positivity, whilst the unattended other, will simply fade and die.

The ultimate aim of most bloggers is simply to write about, nay rave & rant about music they love.  And to help promote it, as best they can.  To have their views, thoughts, emotions, values, and passions reach an audience of any size, age, colour and creed, as long as that audience is appreciative.

No-one likes to be derided.  No-one sets out to be ignored. No-one wants their words to fall, like crumbs off a kitchen table, down a virtual shaft of disregard. Nor do they want their time and effort to be used like newspaper clippings, to pad out a press portfolio that nobody ever reads.  A box ticked, a quota reached, job well done all round.

Which brings me back to the comments at the top of this piece … or, put simply and in the words of Amy Winehouse, ‘Love is a losing game’.  Love is a losing game and blogging is a mug’s game … if you’re green and gauche enough to let them both beat you and mug you off.  I was.  Not anymore.

Days, nights, bank holidays, weekends, holidays.  Time which should have been spent with loved ones, nights when I should have been out having fun, afternoons when I should have been working, Sundays when I should have been relaxing. Hell, even holidays when I hid the laptop in my suitcase, sitting up into the early hours typing reviews.  Why?  Because X had asked me, and if I said no, they might never ask again.  Because I had promised, and I wanted to keep my word.  And oh because it’s such a great song I need to be in on the action.  More often than not the reward was never as sweet as the sugar I was pouring onto the WordPress screen.

How many times have I spent hours, days, working on an album review to get it just so, to make it the best I could, only for it to pass through the social ethernet unnoticed.  How often have I sat hunched over a laptop on a Saturday night while everyone else was out enjoying themselves as I laboured over reviews for this publication and that publication because they operated on a strict 24 hour t/o, despite the fact that they rarely put out their requests before Friday and notwithstanding the fact that they themselves hardly ever worked over the weekend.

Possibly the biggest kick in the teeth you could ever give a reviewer is to ask them to review something and then completely blank it.  The biggest slap across the face? Ask them to review something on another publication, and then completely blank it.

And while I can take the saccharine emails teasing for my opinions, pining for my thoughts on this, the latest artist du jour’s best banger ever, I cannot accept the insouciant ignorance of the musicatti – self-anointed music royalty using bloggers like some free PR vehicle.

Which brings us to the crux of the problem and the real reason why so many of the afore-mentioned go-to blogs listed by their peers as being at the top of their game, have failed, have faded and have died.

Who do you think pays for the site, pays for the time and effort, pays for the music on Spotify and iTunes, and pays for the trips to festivals including travel, accommodation and food?  Where do you think the hours and days off come from?  Have you ever actually given it any thought?

The funds come from our own pockets, our wages from the real jobs we do every day – banking, teaching, sales, copywriting – and, from our savings.  Heck one 2016 trip even came courtesy of a bank loan!  When was the last time someone took out a loan to pay me to write something? [ B L A N K S P A C E]

The time comes from our holiday leave allocations, our weekends, our free evenings! Everything that’s there – we give it, US, for FREE. The bloggers.  The time, the money, the words, the research …

Now musicians you might counter the argument by saying that you rarely get paid for playing a gig – but at least you’re playing your own music!

If you ask a blogger to review your work or your artists work, if you cannot financially recompense them, at least show them the respect of supporting their blog.  And, AND, if you have enough brass neck to ask a blogger to post a review or make a submission to another site, at least acknowledge the author when you are blowing the trumpet of that very same and usually much bigger site, because without the writer, you and your music or your artist would not be there.

If PRs and musicians do not start supporting blogs in a mutually respectful way, there will be less and less small blogs, leaving a monopoly of a handful.  The big guns who hoover up all the “woo woo premieres” (really guys, they aren’t all that!) – big titles, big soundbites, one quote and no substance.  If that’s what you want, then that’s what you’ll get.  But with everyone competing for space within the limited confines of the few, how will every artist ever get press?

And if the big guys only ever want premieres, then does that not lessen the chances of cross-publication coverage? Because despite what some PR folks think, there can only be one premiere (unless the definition of the word has changed in the past couple of days).

Every time I am asked to post a review on another site, I respond with a simple question: how would you like it if I were to ask you to promote an unsigned band for free and/or your artist/band (tick where appropriate) to play only cover songs?

Just play 3rd party songs all the time there will you?  I don’t care that you write, rehearse, record and play your own songs; I love your voices and the way you play guitar, it’s really cool, but could you just see your way to singing A.N. Other’s songs.  I’d be so grateful. Smiley Fucking Face.

Let’s call a spade a spade.  If the Quietus asked Portishead to do an interview but only asked them questions about Goldfrapp, how soon do you think it would be before the words “fuck off” were used?  If Matt Horton wrote a piece about Taylor Swift stating that he loved her voice but she’d be far better suited to singing Demi Lovato songs, how would that work do you think?

Or, let’s look at it in another way.  You or your band or your artist writes/records/produces an album.  They give a copy to several reviewers whose email response is – wow, that’s super cool, thanks.  That’s it.  All that trouble.  All that effort.  Hardly anyone has heard it.  Hardly anyone knows who you are or that the album has even been released.  You’ve worked really hard, for no financial gain, no return and now, after everything, you don’t even get any kudos for a job well done.

Well folks, that’s us.  That’s blogging.

Every month another blog closes down; because they’ve lost their mojo, or they can’t keep dedicating the time, or they can’t build enough recognition to make any money from their labour.  If music artists and their respective management, PR teams and cohorts don’t actively and publicly support bloggers then why should they expect constant support themselves?  They want bloggers to review their music to help generate awareness of their brand, yet in return, they offer no reciprocal support to the majority of blogs unless the words Best Fit or Clash feature in the title! How does that work?  It doesn’t!

It’s not about the money, it’s not about the notoriety.  Hell no.  What it is about, is respect.  Over the past three months I’ve sailed very close to the wind of ‘give up’.  I’ve toyed with just fucking the whole thing in the bin.  There’s only so much anyone can put up with until they blow.  I’ve blown….red hot wired and blown.  But you know what? When the lava cooled I asked myself why should I give up doing something I love because of ‘the few‘?

From November, I am returning to the blog, with hopefully, the same verve and spirit that I’ve had in the past (or at least hoped I had). This time however, the rules have changed.

If you, or your band, or your PR don’t care to support me, then remove me from your lists.  If you want your music reviewed, please send it to me.  If you are PR and you send me music to review, I expect you to show willing on Twitter or FB.  If I don’t see any mutual love, three strikes and we’ll shake hands.

You see this is my time, my money, my life, my choice.  I started writing 18 months ago because I wanted people to know about so many unsigned bands that were going unheard.  I wanted to shout out about amazing Norwegian music and beatastic Danish Americana.  I wanted to bounce enchantments of Dorset other-worldliness off the moon.  And, I wanted to write about Radiohead.

All of that and more is what I am going to continue to do.

But I’m going back to basics.  I’m going back to basics.  Doing things the way I want to do them, when I want to do them and how. Blogging for the right reasons.  And, for the love of music.

If you’re with me, I’ll cya around.

Derv x

HWCH Unveils Its Hot 100 (ish)

hwch social

Irish music festival Hard Working Class Heroes has unveiled the ‘shortlist’ of 100+ acts (there’s actually 105) that made the final cut for its now annual industry convention and new music showcase.

Whittled down from a longlist of 700 names, the A-Z of who’s new in Irish music was selected by a panel of judges comprising national and international industry names.

Running from Thurs 6th to Sat 8th of October across a plethora of Dublin venues including hotspots Odessa and The Chocolate Factory, the festival-cum-networking event will see tech meet music meet business in both formal and inform settings over its three day span.

In addition, HWCH has announced its inaugural Conor Walsh Memorial Bursary, in honour of the Swinford musician who tragically died earlier this year.  The task of choosing “the act who most embodies Conor’s talent and bravery among their number” will be afforded to the participating centum, whose votes will determine the act to be awarded the €2,500 bursary, which will fund recording or touring costs.

Some of the names to make the HWCH hot one hundred are Wyvern Lingo, Talos, Bitch Falcon, Evvol and PALE RIVERS.  Check out the full line up here.

Tickets for HWCH are on sale via DICE.FM (mobile app), with costs broken down as follows:

Weekend Tickets €45.00, Nightly Tickets €20, Individual Venue Tickets €10

ToY – ‘Churches’ : We Are One But We Are Not The Same

Rainbow

This is dedicated to Jo – a gorgeous, funny, loving, loved and immensely talented person I am very proud to call my friend.

Sometimes artists are led by their head but more often they are led by their hearts, their instincts, or both.  Still, it’s not uncommon to find lyrics, that start with a gut reaction, but are fleshed out with both rhyme and reason.  Rather than drifting on a sea of emotion, they square up with a quiet, refined resolution, to address the difficult or compromising situation in which the artist finds themselves.

Let’s face it, we have all at one time or another, found ourselves in a challenging situation – one that prods and pokes both psychologically and emotionally; maybe even physically.  Many of these situations are caused by perceived differences and notions of social grandeur swept with disdain like cashmere pashminas over the shoulders of the various ‘castes’ and classes within our tribes, parishes, communities, workplaces and/or organisations.

But just what makes someone different?  Who sets down the criteria?  What defines beauty and why is it that external scars are considered ugly in comparison with the internal scars that so often go unseen or unnoticed? Who set the bar for normal and why is it that nonconformists should be compelled to conform and by whose rules?  “We are ONE but we are NOT the same!”*

We are all of us born free from bias; it is both the culture and society and in which we grow and evolve that taint the innocence of our childish hearts and minds. Put a child in a playground with other children, and they will, after time, take the hands of those around them.  They will trust them, laugh with them, play with them, tumble with them.  They do not see colour, or creed, or gender – they see other children. Other children just like them.

So why is it, that we as adults, cannot emulate our children.  Why can we not see past the prejudices that surround and chip away at our daily lives, and just let others simply ‘be’.  There is no right or wrong, superior or inferior, perfect or imperfect.  We are all flesh and bone, with none of us worth more than the other, so why is it, that we cannot accept that?  Why is it, that we try to put people like pegs into holes that we have fashioned for them?  That we try, against the might of nature, to make people something or someone which they are not.  And, when some have the very gall to stand up and say, “I am not a fit for your standard, I do not want to be that person you think I should” then we shun, cast off, criticise and ostracise.

I have my beliefs, you have yours … you live your life, I’ll live mine.  But we can still be friends.  We can still drink, laugh, dance, flirt, debate and argue.  We won’t always agree – that’s what makes us humans different from other animals and, makes our lives so varied, interesting and colourful.  Fundamentally speaking “We ARE ONE, BUT we are NOT THE SAME”*.  It’s time we all accepted that fact, and, each other.

Photo: @GetInHerEars
Photo: @GetInHerEars

To take us out, you’ll find the Soundcloud link below to ‘Churches’, the latest track release from Winchester duo, Temples of Youth, comprising Paul Gumma and Jo Carson. Specialising in lo-fi electronica wrapped around subtle, evocative guitar and soft, percussive beats, theirs is a sound defined by its refined understatement.  Reserved yet moving vocals translate perfectly the striking prescience of Jo’s lyricism.  ToY’s music has received the undisputed support of team BBC6 Music from Tom Robinson to Huw Stephens through Steve Lamacq to the moderati at new artist support hub, Fresh on the Net.  Temples are currently on the gigocircuit and having done Blissfields, Birthdays and Brighton, they are short listed to live’n up the Joiners, Southampton, on 10th August: details of this and all other gigs on their Facebook page.

All proceeds from the sale of Churches is being donated to the Equality Florida fund, and you can stump up to the bumper here on the Temples’ Bandcamp page.

*Quote is from “One” Written by Paul Hewson & David Evans and performed by U2.