A return to one of my pet subjects for this blog; the relationship between musicians, platforms and audiences. I don't do big gigs; I prefer small events with musicians doing what they love. The downside being, of course, they don't make much out of it. I've previously mentioned, probably a few times, Iona Lane and she's written a song that sums it up perfectly. It's called “Living Life Out Of Pockets”, from her latest EP Pockets, and I'm sure it's a CV for itinerant musicians everywhere.
'Pack up your guitar the gig's over now, roll out the venue and walk to the car.
Key in the ignition the petrol gauge is low, but you can't afford to fill up any time soon.'
But how do I get to find these musicians, particularly somewhere like London where there are dozens of venues putting on music every night of the week? That's where the platforms come in and the spark for writing this blog. A few weeks ago I was listening to Ian Freedman's “Readifolk Radio Show” right here on Blues & Roots Radio on a Friday night. It's a great show and forms the first of three from the UK that make a perfect start to the weekend, with four hours of music. There's quite a community that listens in, and joins in on the accompanying chat threads, and it's one of my fixtures of the week. On this particular evening he played a track by Heg & The Wolf Chorus
(http://www.hegandthewolfchorus.com/), a band I'd heard of but not experienced before. They sounded different and exciting and certainly whetted my appetite, so I headed over to their facebook page to see what I could find out about them and discovered, to my utter delight, that they were playing in one of my favourite venues in London the very next night.
The Harrison is one of those places you should visit if you ever get the chance and only a few minutes walk from King's Cross and St Pancras Railway Stations, so is very easy to get to. Upstairs is a proper pub with good beer and food whilst the music is in the basement, in a cosy room that sits maybe forty. It isn't big enough to have a “Green Room” so both the band and their support act, Julu Irvine, were in the auditorium and they made full use of it. They were moving around talking to people they knew, and people they didn't, really getting involved with the audience, making us feel welcome. This isn't a review of the night so suffice to say the music was fantastic and I came away with two CDs then booked a ticket to see them play again as soon as got home. That's how musicians have to build a following; sometime one person at a time. Of course, I'm also writing about them and hopefully that will encourage somebody else to explore their work.
There are some key messages for people here. We really do want to listen to your music, and show hosts want to play your music so you have to give us a chance. Ange Hardy has built a great resource on her website (https://www.angehardy.com/folk-radio-diary) listing shows from around the world, including contact details for artist submissions. That gives the introduction but also make it easy for the presenters to play your music. I've heard several say that either they can't get music out of somebody, or it comes with no information at all. At the very least send a bio and web link and try to build a relationship with them. Listen to the show, join in on the chat threads if they have one.
The same goes for your audience, live or through the merch link. We're all busy and an artist probably doesn't have time to talk to everybody on the night, what with setting up, sound checking, warming up and so on. I try to remember that I'm relaxing with a pint in my hand whilst they’re at work, but a smile and wave just makes that connection. When sending out a CD a business card with a hand written “Thank you” slipped into the case can make all the difference.
I saw one person who got it wrong. To be fair they probably weren't at their best, feeling a bit ill, but they didn't try to break through. At the end of the set we got “I've been and you've been and all that stuff. Yeah” and they walked off. It's not that I won't name them, I just never bothered remembering it in the first place. On the other hand the support act I got chatting to in the bar I now follow on facebook and his album will be ordered when it comes out.
That's my side of the deal. If I want to listen to your music in the future then I can't just sit here passively. Not only do I want to buy your albums and see you play live, I have to do it because everyone needs to make a living and we all need to help each other achieve that. Let's keep on supporting each other and enjoying the music.