May 22, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Named after a 60s dance, new kids on the block M A D I S O N reign from the outskirts of Glasgow. “Armbands” is the title track and the first of two songs on the band’s premier release.
“Armbands” has all the ingredients for the perfect indie pop tune. The harmonies throughout are pitch perfect and go so elegantly with the intricate instrumentation. Towards the end, various vocals flow together better than ripples in a river.
Track number two, “Like Glue”, takes on a much mellower tone. The band swaps their Guitars for arpeggio-esque Piano. Harmonies are still prominent throughout.
“This song’s for the girl in the red jeans.”
The accompanying artwork is stylish and the still water hints ever so slightly to the title track. Yet to play their first show, it is clear the band will experience quite the response when they do. M A D I S O N fit beautifully into a genre Glasgow is yet to perfect.
May 11, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Before I start, let’s get a few things straight. I’m writing this because I received an email yesterday telling me I’d believed false information and was guilty of not doing my research. My previous post regarding pay to play in Glasgow was NOT a personal attack on Vivien Scotson – organiser of the pay to play protest in Glasgow – but merely an informative post on the proceedings and the background behind them. I felt I wanted to write about the campaign after reading numerous posts on Facebook and Twitter. I rarely post anything on this blog that hasn’t been published elsewhere but I just wanted to vent my concerns to anyone who was interested. The protest was sparking a lot of discussion online, which I loved.
At this time, I had no idea about the “stage ambush”, which I believe subsequently took place before the protest. Jay B Promotions has been running for over a year now and they put on shows everywhere from the Garage to Maggie Mays. The gig in question was at Maggie Mays and Vivien details in her recent blog post how she “accepted the gig but under a made up stage name” and how she disguised herself “I wore a long black wig, glasses and heavy makeup, and adopted an Australian accent”. What I would like to know is why this was necessary? There hadn’t been so much coverage of the protest that without disguise the plan couldn’t have gone ahead.
That was a ridiculously brave thing to do and Vivien managed to encourage a few people to join her on stage. They all sported “Stay Away From Pay to Play” t-shirts and stood by her as she told the crowd about how Jay B Promotions were pay to play and about her planned protest.
Yesterday, I spoke to Jean-Marc Burnett, the man behind Jay B Promotions. I asked him outright if his shows were pay to play and what happened when his event was taken over by the protesters. Jean-Marc didn’t attend the event himself, however he forwarded me a copy of the email sent to bands upon confirmation of a gig.
“Tickets will be priced at £7 and £3.50 from advanced hand sales will go directly to the artists on the night of the show. We will advertise each show using social networks, media gig listings and posters.”
“To sum up, artists make 50% on each advanced hand sale ticket sold.”
“Unsold tickets DO NOT have to be paid for, however lost or missing tickets must be covered.”
From this, it doesn’t seem like Jay B are pay to play to me. Furthermore, the bottom of the page details the GUARANTEED PAYMENT the headline band(s) will receive – a cool £130 in this instance. Real pay to play is when you’re required to pay money to the promoter on the day, regardless of ticket sales.
The only point that could be misconstrued is the fact that Jay B ask bands to confirmed an amount of tickets they expect to sell. This is merely to help gage the success of the night (and discourage time wasters) and Jay B insist that bands are not required to pay if they sell fewer than this amount. In her recent blog post, Vivien claims Jay B require bands to pay money to perform.
“This band was relatively new to the scene, and did not have a demo of their songs recorded yet or steady fan base, but were still being expected to shift 30 tickets, at £6 each, to everyone and anyone who would buy one. The band member admitted to me that he in fact had to drop the ticket prince to £3 so his friends could afford them. So in this scenario, this band has paid money to be able to perform. This practice is also commonly known in the music scene as Pay to Play.”
I put it to the bands of Glasgow that if you can’t meet the conditions required of you – for example the sale of 30 tickets – don’t agree to take the gig on. Simple as! There are plenty of free entry venues where you can play until you have a suitable following who are willing to spend money to see you live. For all those who don’t know, this all came to a head when one of the protesters posted an apology online. Her very heartfelt article can be found at the bottom of this post. I applaud her for admitting that the activity she took part in was wrong.
Today, I spoke to Sarah-Louise Kelly – the protesters who has since apologised for her participation in the event. Sarah-Louise is an aspiring journalist and like all of us, believes pay to play is wrong. When I asked her what happened on the night of the stage ambush, this is what she had to say.
“The woman herself went under a false name, Yaro Smith. She turned up in disguise wearing a black wig and a hat. She went on stage and did a cover of Daniel Merriweather’s song Red and then introduced her ‘backing singers’ i.e me and the two other protesters. She spoke about Jay B demanding that bands sold 20 tickets at £5 each and the artist must cover any money not made through ticket sales. I.e. if a band sells 10 tickets, they need to pay £50 to make up for the other 10 tickets not sold. I may have the numbers wrong but I do know he was being accused of earning around £100 a week. She then went on to say she hadn’t sold 20 tickets and said he can ‘fuck off’ if he thinks he’s getting any money from her, which obviously got a cheer”.
Sarah-Louise would like to draw a line under this whole situation. Her blog details her involvement and she has received a huge amount of support and admiration.
I cannot stress enough that I believe pay to play isn’t right but shit happens and if bands are silly or inexperienced enough to partake in it, then more fool them and they WILL LEARN from their mistake. I imagine there are only a handful of promoters practicing pay to play in Glasgow and let’s face it – they are hardly operating in the most prestigious of venues.
Music in Glasgow is great; I’m overwhelmed by the passion people have for music here and during my quests as a student, musician and writer, I have met some cracking people. There are literally hundreds of promoters and even more gigs going on every week. Why are we focusing on such a negative, minute element of the scene? The criticism the protest has had online shouldn’t be taken personally. Like I said before, I wrote about it because I absolutely love writing and I found the debate really interesting. We are ALL agreed that pay to play is wrong and should be stopped! Let’s rejoice.
Good on Vivien for raising awareness and for wanting to do something about the exploitation of bands and artists. I still stand by my opinion that she has gone about it the wrong way. With lots of legal jargon flying around, I feel it would be in everyone’s best interests to let this shit lie. Maybe together, we can come up with a much more civilised way of combating this very small, but important problem.
If you want to read any of the other posts surrounding this whole fiasco, you can do so at the following links
“Pay to Play: three little words, one big problem”
“In The Lonely Hours When the Truth Begins to Bite”
“Musicians Vs all the other helpful people”
“An example of what happens to a musician for standing up against musicians being exploited”
The best thing to come from this, for me, is the realisation that I really want to play in bands again. If you require Piano, woodwind, backing vocals or just a cheeky redhead – do get in touch.
Until next time,
April 29, 2012 § 5 Comments
A few comments on Facebook and Twitter direct me to information online on the proposed protest at George Square on April 29th against the “play to play” scheme promoters use frequently. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, “pay to play” is when bands are asked to pay £X to play a show. The promoter can then allow them to keep all or some of their ticket sales money. This is not to be confused with the very popular “ticket split” system that allows bands and promoters to share ticket sale money (not always equally) and there is no set fee for the band to play.
Vivien Scotson is a musician and is the one behind this absolute car crash of an idea. After reading a couple of her blog posts and other online material, it is pretty clear to see this girl is on some sort of crusade. To a casual observer, it seems a personal vendetta and self promotion are what is really going on here.
I couldn’t agree more that “pay to play” is wrong and shouldn’t be going on. However, I don’t agree a protest in the middle of our city, causing disruption and noise pollution is really the answer. Glasgow City of Music describes the day as “a peaceful (but not necessarily quiet) protest against what are known as ‘pay to play’ schemes, where musicians are expected to sell tickets for their own gigs on behalf of promoters, and hand over the money too”.
There are several different ways of promoting gigs. For example, in Glasgow most promoters use a “ticket split” system whereby if a ticket costs £5, and perhaps the promoter will take £3 and the band £2. At more prestigious venues, such as King Tut’s, ticket may be more expensive and it isn’t uncommon for bands to sacrifice their cut in order to entice fans. That is their choice and they are effectively being paid £0 to play – however, 200+ happy faces singing your songs back at you in the best wee venue in town probably makes that worthwhile. In March this year, Jason of The Pop Cop posted an excellent article on this entitled “ Pay to Play – three little words, one big problem”. I recommend you read it if you haven’t done so already.
When I think of “pay to play” there are two guys who come to mind. If you’re at all interested in Glasgow’s music scene, you’re probably subjected to their daily Facebook invites for the gigs of completely unknown and uninteresting bands. In my opinion, the main culprit is Craig Reid. Craig runs the promotions company “Whats the Noise Promotions” (yes, he has missed out an apostrophe in the title). Obviously, I haven’t contacted him to ask how his gigs work but it is alleged that it’s a £50 charge if you sell fewer than 10 tickets. It is also my belief that a further split is then made for ticket sales over and above this. If there are 4 bands on the bill, he’s making in excess of £200 for venues like Pivo Pivo, which you can hire for as little a fee as £50 on some evenings.
So, promoters are making a profit – that’s the point, right? Right, it is, however what isn’t, is the blatant exploitation of (usually) inexperienced and naive musicians who are desperate to get into gigging. Sure, it might be a rubbish deal but the bands get exposure, publicity and promotion, right? Wrong. You’ll be lucky if you get a Facebook event, some generic listing information (on websites such as The List and The Skinny) and there won’t be a poster, flyer or advert in sight.
Only once have I played a “pay to play” show. I think I was 17 or 18 years old and as a band we were required to pay £30 for the show. The only good thing about this deal was we could charge what we liked for the tickets and got to keep all the money from ticket sales. At the time, it seemed like an alright deal.
The promoters’ argument for this system is that they have to secure a living. What they don’t seem to understand is that promoting is a skill and arranging events isn’t just about making sure you’ve got a line up, a backline and an engineer who kind of knows what he’s doing. There should be an element of risk in the ART of promotion. Guaranteed success and money at the end of the night isn’t what our city’s music scene is about. It isn’t what music is about! Marketing is crucial to the success of live events and music festivals on a bigger scale and it should be the same down in the gutter too!
Vivien appears to have some solid packing from the MU and other musicians from Scotland. I take my hat off to her for kicking off the campaign and raising awareness.
Taking all of this into account and agreeing that something needs to be done, I still don’t believe a protest is the answer. If you don’t like what these sharks are doing, simply don’t use them. Encourage your friends to stay away. Most venues will allow you to book directly, so unless you’re looking for that crucial support slot – book your own shows and cut out the middle man. Small venues in Glasgow range from £0-£200ish to hire and for that you retain ticket money and best of all – you control the line up. Have some respect for yourself and your band and be paid to play.
For full protest details, go here.
March 8, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Review published on February 4th. Record released on February 27th 2012 by Moshi Moshi/Island Records.
“Days” is the latest release from Brooklyn outfit, The Drums. The single is taken from their second album “Portamento” and is the third offering so far. The sparseness of the instrumentation creates a dreary and sentimental atmosphere throughout. Harmonies fill the gaps as Jonny Pierce provides the leading melody and guitarist Connor Hanwick supplies those Spektor-esque tones the band are known for.
This album has taken a deeper and more mature attitude both lyrically and in the more expansive production. To accommodate for the changed, the band have roped in two of their friends to perform alongside them. The Drums have taken away their bulky backing tracks to portray a much more aesthetic live show.
“Days” is out on February 27th and to celebrate this the band will be embarking on a few dates across England including a headline slot on the NME Awards Show at the London Roundhouse on the same date.
February 3, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Review published on February 1st 2012 by Addict Music.
Album out on February 6th 2012 on Fat Cat Records.
“No One Can Ever Know” is the third full length from the boys from Kilsyth, Scotland and with a mysterious yet fashionable sound, this album is the most accessible yet.
Despite this, opening track “Alphabet” is a bit of a washout. It plods along with little interest despite having some interesting and eerie instrumentation. “Nil” is much the same with the addition of Piano and high-pitched synths until a rather 70s/80s-esque ending saves the track from being branded boring. “Don’t Look At Me” is a lot faster and upbeat than its predecessors as is what is to follow on the record. Previously leaked “Sick” is up next where James Graham’s vocals are showcased along with more synthesizers, which are accompanied by looping Guitars and Drums. “Dead City” has a tinge of early Kings of Leon at the beginning with yet more Synth to accompany.
With song titles like these you don’t need to be a genius to know this is a pretty tense and dark record. Penultimate track “Another Bed” is my favourite of the lot and will be released along with b-side instrumental “A Million Ignorants” on February 20th. Closing track “Kill It In The Morning” has also previously been available and displays the new sound the band are venturing down well. The programming driven approach is clear throughout the album and is one they should definitely stick with.
January 28, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Review published on January 28th 2012 by Leeds Music Scene.
Single released on February 20th 2012 on Fat Cat Records.
With the new album “No One Can Ever Know” being released just in time for their UK tour, on February 6th, The Twilight Sad will be releasing penultimate track “Another Bed” shortly after on February 20th.
The two-track release will be the available to download and the album will be available from your usual outlets plus via a very limited edition vinyl.
Title track, and third taster from the new album, “Another Bed” is driven by synth and differs from “Sick” and “Kill The Morning” which have also been released in the run up to long awaited third album from the Kilsyth bunch.
Second track, “A Million Ignorants” takes a completely different tone. This beautiful instrumental makes for easy listening and the best feature is by far the piano that ripples throughout.
Catch The Twilight Sad live in some lovely little venues across the UK next month.
9th – Grand Ole Opry, Glasgow
10th – Ruby Lounge, Manchester
11th – Queens Social Club, Sheffield
12th – Hare and Hounds, Birmingham
13th – Fleece, Bristol
14th – Cargo, London
15th – Stealth, Nottingham
16th – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
January 20, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Anyone who has heard of The Subways before will without a doubt know them for their big riffs, intertwining vocals and energetic performances. Unfortunately, ‘It’s A Party’ is missing a lot of the key things we knew and loved about the band. Although there are some nice vocal harmonies in there, the lyrics leave a lot to be desired. The chorus’ main substance is “It’s A Party, and don’t you know it don’t get much better, we’re gonna make it such an awesome party and you should know it don’t get much sweeter”. Seriously? It isn’t even catchy either.
The band manages to redeem themselves with a couple of remixes and bonus track, ‘Psycho Collective’. Psycho contains some of the heavier sounds The Subways are more commonly known for although it still isn’t very good. The vocals are out of tune at points and the track just sounds empty, like it’s been recorded with one mic in a rehearsal room or something. Who knows, maybe it was.