To Sign or Not To Sign…
Matt Steady posed a question recently about whether it is better to promote yourself as ‘unsigned’ or as an ‘independent’ musician. I have always been fiercely independent so the ‘independent’ tag suits me down to the ground, yet I am also glad to be part of a developing record label ND4PRM. ND4PRM is run by my super talented producer #HeyGamal who is developing it at his own careful pace. I remain independent as a musician and I feel it is working well. That’s all that matters. I suppose I could describe myself as ‘kind of signed’ but I’m not sure anyone would really get the concept.
‘Unsigned’ carries the ‘why not?’ burden. There are hundreds of thousands of musicians who are unsigned but their reasons for being so are not all the same. ‘Unsigned’ doesn’t reflect quality. In fact there is a huge and under developed pool of quality music around the world, and some of the ‘unsigned would rather retain their independence than sign up to an arrangement where someone else makes all the money from their records and touring. The record label horror stories from the likes of Tom Petty, Neil Young, and other top artistes have provided plenty of warning signs for aspiring musicians to be wary of the music industry beast.
I run my own business outside the music industry, and that helps me to retain independence. I have always been an organiser, which is why I was so involved with the entertainments committee at University and why I have been able to organise my own tours in the last couple of years. I’m not afraid of taking a leap into deep water, and while I am realistic and know that some things I try won’t work out, I do expect to come out swimming. It isn’t borne of arrogance, it’s an attitude of mind. It’s why I am still in business.
But this is just what suits me. I have been round the block a few times and I can mainly afford to do what I do. Many musicians don’t have that privilege, and so part of what I do is to try and encourage collaborations with other musicians, and try to give others a leg up. Last May at The Fuse in Partington I co-organised a 12 hour music day, with afternoon workshops and music instrument demonstrations, where anyone was free to pick up an instrument and play, no matter what their level of competence. It was a successful day and rounded off with seven gigs in five hours, with only one group at that time being signed.
So on 13th and 20th May we are repeating the exercise in Levenshulme and Todmorden respectively, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. Musicians left The Fuse event with professional quality videos and audio of their performances. It sparked a spirit of collaboration that continues to grow. We are being joined in May by two new musicians: Sam Sheppard whose solo blues sets are wonderfully delivered; and Peter Robinson on percussion. Pete is another University friend and will ease his way into playing with us on Saturday when he does his first recording session. Many of us contribute our individual skills to the recordings of others; we mix and match our live performances, sometimes playing as a six piece band, sometimes as solo performers; we support each other’s live gigs whenever possible; and overnight and into this morning I checked through Matt’s ‘Echoes of Albion’ album pending its release.
When musicians or bands are described as ‘independent’ it doesn’t always tell the whole story, because of the support we get from family and friends, other band members, and other musicians. Being independent means we have no ties to bind us, and we can experiment as we grow, find what we do best, and find out what audiences respond best to. So please ‘come along and join us’ as we gig around northern England in May with The Lewinskies, and/or participate in one of our afternoon workshops. Bring your own instruments if you like. If you open a door, more open. If you leave it closed, you will never know the wonders that may lie behind. Independence is beautiful.
Take a look at our gig tab in the menu bar to find out where we are playing in May and beyond.