From Every Angle: The Current State of The Music Industry
There are always plenty of issues surrounding the music industry; people not supporting the local scene and small venues, artists not making enough money and having to call it a day, oversaturated underground scenes, the list goes on and it can be very off-putting for the kids sitting at home wondering whether to pick up the guitar or not. On the other hand, there are some areas in the UK that have a thriving music scene, and there are amazing new, original and hardworking bands quickly building fanbases. For this piece, I spoke to many well-respected industry practitioners including artists, promoters, managers, booking agents and also some heavy music fans. I asked them what they think of the current state of the music industry, how they believe it can be changed for the better or if they think everything is just fine as it is.
My point of view comes from being or having been a musician, artist manager, music journalist and promoter. For me, there is a crisis and reoccurring theme in the UK of new artists being completely unoriginal and taking every leaf out of the books of other currently rising stars, meaning that for every band that has just signed their big record deal, there are another 10 just like them to follow. In my eyes, this is in no way a positive or efficient system, don’t get me wrong, be inspired and take note, but copy and pasting your new track from the latest big hit isn’t how to do it. It creates long lists of imitative and in most cases unexciting groups with the same sound, with the same branding and lyrical content. In turn, this means that success is no longer about the music.
One more sector I have issues with is the live music scene, for live events to work and run efficiently everyone involved in the cycle of making an event happen needs to be educated and organised. Some new promoters are still organising line-ups based on clearly bought Facebook likes instead of the number of listeners and fan interaction, or the artists pull within the area, this situation alone comes close to blowing my mind. Another thing is in a lot of cases, touring bands are not being paid enough or provided for on a level that makes touring the UK desirable. However, on the other hand, punters don’t want to pay the ticket prices that would make it possible for the promoter to pay the bands what they deserve. This is a cycle that involves everyone, and requires the effort from all parties for it to be successful. Flipping the coin though there have been some huge sell out shows for bands like Holding Absence, Canvas, Loathe, WSTR, Employed To Serve and more over the last few months. These types of events are examples of how it’s done right, an organised promoter with well thought out line-ups including hardworking bands, which leads to the show being promoted properly, and this combination brings in the crowds.
The demand for music has completely changed over the last 15 years due to advancements in technology and the way people consume their music, and quite obviously this has been both a blessing and a curse for the music industry. It’s allowed anyone and everyone to start a band and release their brand new self-produced self-managed record on every available musical outlet. YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Bandcamp, SoundCloud and many more platforms allow an artist to self-promote their music, and in some cases the quality of the production and the record itself isn’t even a deciding factor in whether they can offer their music to millions of people. Is this a good or a bad thing? somewhere in between. I think we’re heading in the right direction, but there needs to be some tweaks along the way.
However, it is not just about the bands, there are many other people that have an effect on the successes and downfalls of the music industry, managers, promoters, booking agents, producers, venue owners, tour managers, the media, of course the fans, and more. Even if we don’t see it we’re all working together and we’re all linked in one way or another. Just in the last few weeks I’ve seen several Facebook statuses and angry Tweets regarding being screwed over by a manager or bands pulling out of gigs a day before their due to perform or promoters not paying artists the agreed amount. I’m sure everyone who is a part of the music industry sees this sort of stuff all of the time, and a lot of us tend to either ignore it or just like a status to show our ‘support’. Now obviously, nothing can be perfect and free of parasites, just like every other industry, but we can definitely work towards positive change in the way we work together and treat others.
On the other hand, there are some extremely hardworking artists, promoters, managers, booking agents that are putting all of their time and effort into creating their brand and reaching the biggest audiences they’re succeeding. It is definitely possible for anyone to be successful in music, but it’s going to be very hard, like anything else everyone and everything has to start somewhere. Everything takes time, and in this industry a lot of effort and work, but the outcome can be extremely rewarding. Hearing or reading someone saying that they love your music, or that last show was amazing, or that 20 date EU tour you just put together is insane, it may not fulfil you but when you put your time into something and you’re rewarded for it, there’s no better feeling.
That’s my contribution to this piece, we’re now going to move on to a wide range of people, from music veterans to brand new bands who have just joined the scene. This is in no particular order of any kind, I’m just going to insert what each person had to say, for some people I asked them a certain set of questions, and others just had their own things they wanted to talk about. This includes positives, negatives and observations about the music industry and UK music scene, as well as some discussion on mental health in relation to music. Read closely and pay attention, because you’re definitely going to learn something.
James Joseph – Musician, Artist Manager (HOLDING ABSENCE, LIFEGRAB IMPERIAL MUSIC)
What you think can be improved on and how and what do you think needs to change?
I think people need to stop taking live music for granted, however I can understand how it is easy to in major cities as there are some nights where two or even three good gigs with bands I’d pay to see are playing. In every scene I think it is important to establish a sense of community, back in the day people went to gigs regardless of whether they loved the bands, people went just to hang out with other likeminded people and would sometimes discover new bands they like. I think in more recent times people can be very, very picky about who they go and see live. We live in a time where people would complain about a four band line-up if they didn’t like one of the bands on it, instead of just being grateful that bands are playing their area.
Anyone who is willing to risk their money by promoting shows should be supported, of course there are some awful promoters, but the vast majority of promoters that are regularly putting on shows are music lovers who are simply doing the line of work because of a love of music. I do think that some agents need to cut promoters some slack sometimes and think about building long term working relationships instead of ripping off promoters with their commission firmly in mind.
What aspects you think are going well already?
I do think it’s easier nowadays to make lots of friends within the UK scene through social media etc. By being in this scene even the slightest bit you instantly have some common ground with thousands of other people that you could talk to, be it fellow band people, managers, promoters, agents etc.
Are we oversaturated with too many artists and unoriginality?
One thing I have noticed recently is the second a band does slightly well, lots of other bands will look to them for ideas of how they could try and improve themselves. Not that there’s a problem with this, art is supposed to be shared and art should inspire other artists, but some bands just try and straight up copy the bands that are doing well.
Have advancements in technology been a positive thing for music and new bands?
It’s a double-edged sword, you could argue that ‘streaming’ has killed the music industry in terms of music sales. But the exposure that this easily accessible music platform gives the artist is unparalleled. I have found some of my favourite bands through related artist sections on Spotify etc.
Lulu Davies – Artist Manager, PR (INCENDIA MUSIC)
Hi, I’m Lulu and I run Incendia Music – a management and PR agency for up and coming, independent and emerging rock, metal and prog artists.
I think it is safe to say that the UK Metal scene is currently flourishing, and poses a lot of unique and exciting opportunities for new talent coming out across the board. In terms of the live scene, there is always a show happening, particularly in London, and you’d find it pretty hard pressed to not discover new talent being showcased at various live events- be it a music festival, a local show, an opening act for a bigger band or even those who play in pubs.
However, it is safe to say that despite there being a lot going on, there is somewhat of an over saturation of bands across the whole spectrum of the ‘metal’ genre and that can cause a hindrance to particular bands getting the recognition they deserve. There is a lot of competition out there and a lot of people coming through the ranks trying to make it both in bands and in the industry. A lot of the time it is a case of who you know rather than what you know, and this does cause some frustration in particular scenarios.
With regards to touring, having witnessed the progression of my bands performing on what we call ‘toilet tours’ to professionally booked and contracted shows- there is a distinct difference in the quality of work provided by the different levels of ‘promoters’ and ‘agents’ across the board. I suppose it is all relative to the amount of interest your band attracts, the ticket sales they warrant and what you bring to the team working with you to propel your band to that level. Some promoters pay their bands, some don’t. Some promoters provide riders, some don’t. Some agents book a very comprehensive routing for bands that makes logistical sense, others make the bands do a zigzag across the map making band play London, then Glasgow, then back to Southampton, then up to Newcastle….. it happens!
For up and coming bands there are a lot of resources available to assist with promotion in the digital marketing area, however it is imperative that these resources are used properly. One of main quarrels is with Facebook sponsored posts and targeted advertising. I recently worked with a band who came to me with 300 likes on Facebook and left with 15,000 3 months later having not played a single show. I know that wasn’t organic and that they had paid for the likes, because you can easily see the correlation between views vs comments vs likes and on a band’s page with organic growth, you genuinely see fan interaction. I really disagree with this and strongly advise against it for any band. I also hate the fact that some labels base their a&r on social media statistics when it is so easy to warp the numbers. I think it is time to go back to basics and start signing bands on the basis on good music, a good team, and the potential to build a fanbase that has longevity and can generate sales not just through social media, but through live shows and a genuine fanbase. The general ecosystem of the music industry as a rapidly changing place, but overall, I think there is a lot of potential for a band to succeed in the UK should they build the right team and strategise their release and touring the right way. It’s very competitive out there but if you have a USP to promote, then you’ve got nothing to lose. Just maintain integrity and work hard, you’ll inevitably be noticed eventually.
David Stewart – Blogger, Promoter, Musician (SKIES IN MOTION)
The UK metal scene is strong right now. From my perspective, stronger than it’s been in a long time, especially on the band front. Bands like Architects, While She Sleeps and Bury Tomorrow are really flying the flag high for us, showing the rest of the world what this country is capable of, inspiring hordes of budding musicians to follow in their footsteps. Metal is a genre that I suppose you could say is over saturated with bands, both big and small, of all different genres and sub-genres, and of varying levels of quality. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think that it shows that it’s well loved. A lot of people, both old and young, still use their time to create it. A lot of these people go the extra mile and invest more time and money into their craft; recording their material, designing promotional marketing campaigns to run alongside a release or seeking help to do so, touring the country and playing shows wherever they can. I don’t think that people on the creative side of the industry are a problem at all. The problem, in my opinion, sits on the other side of the spectrum. The audience. Especially in the UK.
Having played a number of shows across Europe, I’ve noticed the attitude towards music in general is completely different out there. If a kid hasn’t heard of your band, and you’re not from their country, they see it almost like an honour to have you in their country, and they come and check you out. They tell their friends, they bring people with them, they get energetic, and they express their gratitude that you’ve come to play a show for them. The same attitude applies to bigger bands too, and venues tend to get packed out regardless of the size of your band. Here, however, it’s a very different matter. Things have changed over the last decade or so. Local shows just don’t get packed out the way they used to unless you have a big (or at least semi big) name on the bill. You used to be able to throw a gig on at the local pub with 4 or 5 local bands and pack the place out. Now you’d be lucky if the regulars that prop up the bar even show up to attend. The problem is the same for bands that are breaking through, too. I watched Polar in a local venue a year or so ago and there was less than 20 people there. I saw Napoleon perform to a tiny, completely static crowd in Nottingham a few weeks ago, just as they came off tour with August Burns Red in Europe. The problem isn’t the quality of the music or the work ethic of the bands, and if I’m honest, it probably isn’t really anything to do with the attitudes of those attending shows. It’s more to do with how music is consumed in this, the digital age.
It goes without saying that you can’t download a gig; live performances will always be a special part of music in all of its forms. No one performance is the same. Everyone at a specific performance will see something unique, shared with a collection of other people, never to be seen again. But music in general can be attained without even needing to leave your bed. At the click of a button, you can have an album in your ears via a number of streaming services, via iTunes, Amazon, Bandcamp and more. Illegal downloads also continue to be a problem, especially for the metal genre. Even my bands most recent album has made its way onto a download site, and we aren’t even that popular. But you know what? I don’t care. And I imagine a lot of bands, although obviously seeing illegal downloads as an inconvenience and a nuisance, also don’t care that much. And that is because of what metal thrives on. Passion.
In my opinion, there isn’t a more passionate genre than metal. Those of us that are involved in the genre do it out of love, because we love what we do. We don’t care if there’s 10 people or 1000 people at a show. We don’t care if we get money out of it or have to put money into it. We do it because we love metal and the community that we are a part of. That’s why I think the UK metal scene is so strong. Metal will never die.
Spencer Finn – Musician (Former DEATH REMAINS)
I feel as if the improvements in the industry are all down to who you are as an individual. It’s a very subjective topic. For example, suffering with mental health issues is a very personal situation that wouldn’t necessarily affect someone else who doesn’t feel the same. If I’m talking from experience then I feel as if people should be supportive of each other’s music and not just “say” they’ll support you? I feel like the industry is very fickle, very ‘cliquey’ and that really does need to change. It’s either “you’re in with a group or you’re outcasted” and it’s sad to see. So as far as I’m concerned with improvements of the scene, that’s my two cents. I’m sure a lot of other artists would agree. The aspects that I think are going well is every single band is continuously striving to better themselves and looking at their bands as more of a “brand” than JUST music? It’s a constant improvement and people keep pushing each other to better themselves and their craft. You need to look at your band as a business, and it’s good to see that young bands are realising that it’s much more than JUST your music you need to sell from an earlier stage. It’s your whole package.
Linda Battilani – Musician, Artist Developer, Booking Agent (HALFLIVES, ANCHOR AGENCY)
Music is a safe place and we all probably at least once found a refuge in it. I think many people who listen to music and many people who write it find a sort of catharsis in it – it helps us go through hard times and feel a bit less lonely in these moments. Of course, it’s also there during the good times – at the end of the day it’s like a friend who’s always by your side. There’s something comforting in it and the idea that this feeling is shared with so many people, whether you know them or not, creates a very strong connection. It’s something I can feel even more when I’m performing and this feeling of belonging to something creates a very unique bond. We’ve received a lot of messages from people who told us our music helped them go through dark days and even though it’s not a direct remedy, it’s been a small relief to them, which means a lot to us.
Skarlett – Musician (SKARLETT RIOT)
What you think can be improved on and how and what do you think needs to change?
I’d say more support for independent bands, smaller bands who aren’t already huge from other agents and promoters. I think it’s harder for smaller bands to become ‘big’ or successful at the moment. To grow, you need to increase your fan base, by doing this you need to support on bigger tours/festivals to play to new people. A lot of bigger bands only want bands who can already pull a good 500,1000 people a show. So, you can get stuck in a circle if you’re not careful.
What aspects you think are going well already, are your shows growing?
Yeah definitely, touch wood, every time we headline our numbers increase. Our last few headline shows have been packed. Such a great feeling to have all those people singing your words back to you. We’ve just secured tours with Toseland and Santa Cruz too so we will be touring our new album later this year to different crowds which is great! The journey has been hard, I admit, and a slow process to grow our fan base but it’s great when you can physically see somethings working! I think the competitions for new bands such as ‘Metal to the masses’ for Bloodstock are a great way of new bands securing bigger festival slots and playing to more people. It’s great that new bands are getting this opportunity to prove themselves.
Are we over-saturated with too many artists and unoriginality?
I think there’s a lot of bands who do the same sort of thing in the metal scene, although there are plenty of good bands too. It’s hard to say what’s original and what isn’t. At the end of the day everything has already been done before at some point. But it’s nice to see bands who don’t follow a specific genre or scene and just play what they enjoy rather than because its ‘cool’ or might make them successful.
Have advancements in technology been a positive thing for music and new artists?
Technology has had a huge impact on music and new bands. It’s so easy to reach out on YouTube and come across a new band by accident, same with other social media outlets. You can easily advertise your show online, although sometimes you can forget about the real world and just think social media will bring people to your shows which unfortunately doesn’t work. You also have to do some work yourself outside of the internet world! I think advancements in recording technology has also helped bands. I know for us, it’s helped us polish our new songs and new music, being able to add piano sounds, synthesisers etc in production.. it enhances the mood of your songs. Everything is very polished now, over having a raw sound.. which is great in a way, you just have to keep up with sounding ‘fresh’.
From a talent perspective, the U.K. metal scene is thriving. It appears that the issue lies with the fact that within alternative music, metal is currently facing a bit of a decline in popularity. We could be wrong in terms of the U.K. as a whole but from a South Wales point of view, it seems that the interest lies in the various forms of hardcore, with attendance at simply metal shows being incredibly poor. Another issue is that bands aren’t really willing to support each other, many bands from all areas of show bills often expect their peers to show decency and make sure that they watch their set (which is to be expected), but at the same time aren’t willing to repay the favour. This often leads to personalities clashing and rifts being caused between certain bands on the scene (which benefits absolutely no one). With money being such a crucial element to success within the industry, it’s easy to see how so many talented artists and promoters fail to keep up with the competition financially.
Adam Ruane – Founder of Riff Media
My name is Adam and I run Riff Media. Riff Media is more than just music journalism it is a record label, tour and show booking agency and band management company. I have spent the last 10 years growing in the music industry, most of which was spent in the metal community. When I first started out as a 16-year-old everybody I knew was part of a metal band in some way or another, the scene was booming, and in some places, highly saturated and in some cases some members were even in multiple bands.
10 years down the line and we now find ourselves in a somewhat depleting scene, recently I have been booking tours and shows and the vast amount of metal bands that were once readily available are now nowhere to be seen. We would often see some bands coming through, being signed, releasing music and doing really well for themselves and some bands on our circuit would often question what they do differently to them, as by this point most of the bands all sounded the same with the same song structures and I feel that these bands expecting instant fame is what may have forced them to give up on metal. I am currently working on a UK tour with a band called Tenements who have really pushed themselves which I feel is a huge part of being an artist in any scene. I feel like there aren’t as many bands fighting for bigger support slots, or pushing their music out there.
I feel the one thing that the UK music scene does well is support one another, there are bands all across the UK continuously supporting one another and generating this kind of family vibe between certain groups, a prime example of this would be the York Pop-Punk family, a small group of around 10 bands all close-knit from the York and surrounding areas. The easiest thing about working in the scene is this family type feel that this country has, everybody is so welcoming and accepting of everyone and supports what they want to do. it’s all about supporting one another in the right way.
Looking into technological advances in music I feel this is in turn both a good and a bad thing. It’s a good thing because it gives bands a way of recording their own music, albeit to their own standard, and it gives them a chance to release the music themselves giving them the chance to be completely independent and not needing to rely on anyone, which can only be seen as a good thing, if you are in a band. However, if you are working in the industry as a record label or studio you may be a little hurt financially as more bands opt to record and master themselves or choose to release music themselves. But this will be a total reflection on the band, if they can’t do the job properly then they won’t be taken seriously.
A final note on the industry – I started working in the industry fresh out of college and with nothing else on my mind. In those ten years, I have made so many friends, some of them my closest to this very day. It has truly changed my life, my identity and shaped my future. None of our scenes are dead like some people say, they are just sleeping. And it won’t be long until we see them awake and booming again. The only issue is, will we have any music venues around for the vast number of bands to play in? But I guess that is another topic for another debate.
Tom Gaunt – Music Journalist (INVICTA MAGAZINE, THE ALTERNATIVE OUTFIT)
he issue with most, if not all alternative scenes at face value, is a current lack of them being, well, a scene. It may sound somewhat be sensationalised, but you only need to listen to H2O’s ‘What Happened’ to get a feel of the frustration some feel. A track that itself is nearing a decade in age, with Toby Morse commenting on the alienation he feels towards the modern evolution of the Hardcore scene he’d spent so long in. Alternative music has seemingly gone from becoming a form of counter culture and community away from society’s petty ways, to being who’s got the freshest streetwear and trainers, or who knows who within a scene. It feels as if music is now at the back of why people are in a scene, and even less what those bands are saying. Band’s also seem to feel a need in the modern day to put out records they think fans want to hear, rather than what they want to make, yet on the other hand, you have plenty of bands that ignore what they think may be the best idea commercially, and still come out on top making the music they clearly want to be making.
Ieuan Southard & Dan Phillips – Musicians (CONFLICTS UK)
I think of the music scene as more of a big friendship group rather than bands playing and knowing other bands, we’ve become really close mates with almost every band we’ve played with and we still talk to some to this day which is awesome. After only being in this band for only over a year I’ve learnt that the music industry can both be a very scary but inspiring place to be. I think it’s really helped find our place and shaped us to who we are today. – Ieuan Southard
The UK scene right now is thriving! New bands are coming in and absolutely smashing it! Bands who we’ve had the pleasure of playing with like Holding Absence and Loathe are taking over the UK right now and it inspires people to attempt to do the same. The Welsh scene where we are from, has had its ups and downs but it is getting back to how it used to be and it’s awesome to see people coming to local shows again! – Dan Phillips
Justin Jackson – Promoter, Artist Manager, PR (TRAUMA PR)
I think from unsigned acts to signed acts, something that has changed and needs to change is a sense of real community, especially within London. The closure of many key music venues, London as a city becoming bigger and people no longer needing to even leave the their desk has killed it. As someone who has been within the scene as a fan throughout the last 15 years, the last 9 years as a DJ and the last year as a promoter, I can see a definite void and lack of stability. There is a massive detachment between what goes on within local scenes and big management groups/record labels. We’re in a time where the UK is dominating across most genres and throughout the world but there is no support the grassroot up and coming acts or bands within one of the world’s biggest city.
When I first started going to shows and playing in bands you’d have sense of things not being so far out of reach. You’d see some of your favourite local bands play shows and through gigging loads, general interaction and support from promoters, becoming the next biggest thing. With the internet and platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, in the last 7 years or so we’ve seen how easy it is to become popular through putting in hours on social media and it has inevitably changed the format. Social media has played a big part in how bands develop in the sense that anyone can make music, upload it and people can view or listen to whatever they’ve uploaded at the click of a button. For new bands and artist starting out it couldn’t be easier. The playing field has been levelled out in that sense. On the other hand, with algorithms and without paying for posts you can hit the ceiling with how far you can take things now.
With small local shows not being much of a thing these days within London, a lot bands have developed a warped sense of what it takes to be successful. There’s a the idea that if they can hop on a show with a popular signed act then things will automatically set up their career. These things help in terms of exposure but they’re forgetting all the hard work that needs to go into building up fan base, not only through uploading regular content throughout social media but also by touring and trying to generate genuine fan base. A fair number of bands are openly given this shortcut without doing the groundwork, so I can’t help but feel sometimes the industry are to blame for this perception. Places like London are overly saturated in terms of gigs, there aren’t many middle capacity sized venues and fans generally just want to go to bigger events leaving not much room for local or smaller shows.
As an industry we are screaming for change but there’s not enough people at the top doing anything about it or wanting to. So many see that there is an imbalance and there are recurring problems, though because of how the game of the industry goes they dare not go against the grain in fear of financial loss. There is an unwillingness and inability to change. As we edge into mainstream, the politics behind it now is ruining the artistry and that attitude is why the industry is in a bit of a state.
Is artist originality an issue? I don’t think there’s a massive issue with originality, with the over saturation and a demand for certain sounds it’s inevitable you’ll get bands sounding a like. I think it’s more that the music industry itself has compromised it. If bands are too far out of the box, for a label running a business it probably won’t make them anything sustainable if the artist is too niche. Although on the other hand, if a band wanted to be the best at their unique sound and reach a ton of people with their music it is very possible to achieve through social media.
Paul Collins – Musician & Session Drummer (MTXS)
Today I personally find the metal / hardcore industry to be very positive and social to be involved with I love it. However, you’ve have to persist and be smart because there are a lot of bands out there.
To be an upcoming band in the metal scene is both a strong and amazing climb. To turn heads, you have to be different. These days you could have the world’s greatest, catchiest or heaviest music that anyone has ever heard however if you don’t have the art, look or social side sorted right from the get go it’s almost impossible to bring yourself to people’s awareness. Years ago, when you could be a band without social media you’d have to go out and make noise by playing as many shows as possible. Now you can play hundreds of shows and still you’ll find it increasingly difficult to stand out and make people want to engage in your performance in the huge arsenal of bands out there. Give your band/artists a unique look or something interesting to catch the eye of the audience. I suppose you could say “but we don’t need any specific look for our type of music”. Seriously even such things as colour schemes or wearing something strange, even a uniform or your own merch helps. Just anything! So many bands do the same thing as other bands out there. Do something different, odd, mysterious, gnarly. To really make those heads turn. Stand out from the rest!
Bands now have access to high quality production equipment. I’m sure anyone can contact someone in any local area that will have some sort of knowledge of how to record. However, it needs to have such a high level of quality to even compete with the top bands out there. So, recording it in a rush without the right knowledge isn’t going to end well take your time, do your research and make sure you’re using the right equipment and have the right producer. I myself prefer a slightly unfinished feel when it comes to the production side of things especially for Hardcore it needs to be gritty, hard and raw. If you get that right, wow it can give a whole new dimension to the material. You get this from recording it in the right conditions with the right equipment. For Tech-Metal it needs to be, snappy, highly mastered and everything has to be heard clearly. In short make sure the production works well with the style or genre of music that it is because bands nowadays are on it, when it comes to recording.
Beside the hard side of things. I personally love the scene for what it is. Everyone is always offering help when it comes to shows, recording or selling music/merch. The more shows you play the more awesome and handy people you will meet thus making your experiences more enjoyable and knowledge ever grow. The attitude towards new metal/hardcore music is always positive. Never negative, as long as you are doing what you love and have fun doing it. People will see that and support it. Whatever message you have, whether it’s letting out that harsh emotion, telling a story or giving a positive vibe, people will listen to you. If it comes from the heart you will never fail. Enjoy the scene and what it has to offer. It doesn’t matter if you’re a big-time band or it’s your first band.
Do it. Embrace it. Love it.
Joel Davies – Promoter (DIAFOL PROMOTIONS)
I recently started my independent promotions company around 2016 after volunteering at Throwfest, Cardiff (Run by Imperial Music) and have been undergoing some fantastic mentoring from fellow promoters, band members, venue owners, booking agents, you name it! One mentor in particular has picked me up from what I call ‘nothingness’ and gave me what I needed to find & use the motivation and ambition I had deep inside myself. He will read this, and I would just like to add a big huge thank you for helping me to turn my life around! Why did I tell you this? Because Diafol Promotions was not only built from my love of our music & scene but also it was built on the help and support of everyone else in this scene so once again, thank you! Without the support and help of fellow Metalheads and those named above, Diafol Promotions would not be a thing and I wouldn’t be in the position of improving my mental health either.
The hardest thing I found about working in the scene is in all honestly, the other people working in the scene. The majority are helpful, supportive and will do just about anything to help you out but there are a small minority who are just in it only for the money and literally nothing else! I get it! Business is business and money is essential to run a business! Let me put it into better context for you! New promoter starts business – books band – booking agent wants a guarantee of £100 over the average asking price (rip off) – promoter makes nothing from the show – booking agent makes some juicy commission – promoter quits due to monetary loss – and again, and again, and again!
Just like all businesses if you go in with your finger up your ass and with naivety you will be chewed up and spat out! And with the way some booking agents are in it for the quick buck, who don’t care about the music, the industry, or the fans but just about how much money they make that week there really won’t be many left in the game soon. Which to most established promoters really doesn’t sound like a terrible thing but with no underground promoters how are freshly made bands supposed to get gigs? Big companies won’t waste their time or energy booking them! How can they gain experience performing shows and build fanbases if there aren’t any promoters left concentrating on smaller artists due to financial reasons?
I think more support from consumers is up there on the list of things that need to improve! Why spend £3.00 OTD on a young band who want to so badly impress you and spend money out of their pocket to travel to and forth gigs when you can setup a price plan for a meet & greet to see 30 Seconds To Mars? The excuse ‘ Why would I spend £3 to see a band I don’t know and have never heard of?’! What happened to people going to shows not just for the bands but to be there to support the local scene and venue! We didn’t used to care who was on the line-up we would just pay what was asked and enjoy the night, socialise, have a good mosh and who can forget going up to the vocalist drunk with sick down your shirt to tell them ‘ sick set man’. To summarise, the music business is a business and the function of a business is to make money, but the music business is founded on talent if the business does not encourage new talent it has no future.
However, on the other hand, something that is great about being a part of the music industry is when our venues, bands, or fellow metal heads are threatened we act, we make things happen and change, we defend our culture & music. A perfect example would be Saving Womanby street in Cardiff and fighting against the local council and other chain companies! Now down to that victory Cwlb Ifor Bach is now getting a venue expansion! Fantastic! But to summarise, the music business is a business and the function of a business is to make money, but the music business is founded on talent if the business does not encourage new talent it has no future.
Bam Roberts – Musician (FROM INSIDE)
For me personally, the music industry has changed a hell of a lot over the last 13 years of playing in bands. The first EP I released was recorded by sticking a digital camera in the corner of the room and filming the practice session, then going home and extracting the audio from the tape it was recorded on using Windows Movie Maker and then burning the separate tracks to a CD with the basic media player. We then used to walk around the shows we were playing asking people wanted to buy our CD and they did. These days, music and bands are now so disposable it’s hard enough to get one of your mates to watch or stream a new single you have released.
The internet has changed the whole industry and it’s hard for me to say if it’s in a good way or not. On one hand we can now purchase software, learn online how to make a mix of a song and put it on the internet for someone to hear, which is obviously amazing. On the flip side there are so many bands out there who are right under your nose on social media, unless you have something really special it will be tough for you to get noticed, not just by label but by a listening audience. With music being so disposable these days with it being free online for streaming or illegally downloading, it’s so important to reach out to your fans so they care about your band and your personalities otherwise you’re just another band in the metal scene.
Another member and I were saying just the other day that it’s so strange that years ago you wouldn’t know what a ‘rockstar’ was up to on a daily basis, you wouldn’t hear back from most of them if you sent them fan mail, everything was so secretive unless it was in the media. Now the only way to get noticed is physically reaching out to fans and interacting with them so they will check out your music, continually updating your social media so they can see what sort of things they get up to or even sharing their fan mail online, so they know it’s appreciated.
I don’t believe you do need a label these days, there are plenty of bands out there who do everything themselves and are doing big things. The internet in that aspect can be used as your strongest weapon, you just need to learn how to market yourself correctly.
Joshua James – Promoter, Musician, Artist Manager (DEADWEIGHT PROMOTIONS)
What you think can be improved on and how and what do you think needs to change?
I feel improvement wise a lot of bands could be more supportive on the promotion side of things. Obviously, that’s my job but seeing the bands push the shows hard makes things a lot easier. In terms of agents/managers sometimes there is lack of communication where there are days in between replies but I understand people are busy and don’t have as much time as others.
What aspects you think are going well already, are your shows growing?
Deadweight has grown so much since its birth earlier this year. We have made great contacts around the country with some big names such as; Loud Noise and Artery Global to name a couple. The shows are going excellent and we get better offers for shows as the days go on.
Are we over-saturated with too many artists and unoriginality? Have advancements in technology been a positive thing for music and new artists?
I feel sometimes there are a lot of bands/artists trying to do the same thing but it’s great to see people following what they love and giving it a go. As for feel technology has been so great for the music industry but also very destructive. With platforms such as Spotify where the artists are not getting paid fairly what so ever but it’s great for getting your band’s music out there for the world to hear.
In regard to mental health in relation to heavy music and the music industry, over the last few years mental health awareness has grown so much and that’s beyond fantastic. Nobody should suffer in silence or be afraid to share how they’re feeling with anybody.
SAM MACHIN – MUSICIAN (ARCAEON)
At a glance, metal music represents a tiny portion of the market in terms of record (digital and physical) sales throughout the world, let alone the UK. This year alone has seen a leading 48.6% growth in rap and hip hop in individual song consumption, with pop and R&B coming in at second and third place. By no means does this make our genre any less significant, or as beloved.
I think the attraction to most is that the metal music isn’t riding along the same wavelength, it’s an alternative and underground genre. Die-hard fans search deeper into the cracks for more obscure artists to support, and though the amount of incredible music is somewhat saturated, there is plenty to cover a plethora of tastes, and it keeps evolving. As for musicians playing in these bands I think the illusion of grandeur and success sometimes obscures what the main aim of the game should be. A love for what you do, not what income you make from it.
If playing insane tech metal in 7/4 is your jam, great! but don’t expect it to pay the bills, especially not with the tens of thousands of other artists doing the same. (and more than likely better than I can!) Even at the top of the ranks, labels will only be able to support only so far due to current sales climate, most people I know in successful bands are constantly freelancing (see below) or work part time jobs to keep things in check. Treat yourself as an individual, and work like one, if you start pigeonholing yourself into the “I’m going to get signed and tour the world and make tonnes of money playing metal” mindset, then you will more than likely fail, it’s that simple. Add strings to your bow, teach your art to others, branch out into song writing and composing for different genres, (video games are a massive indie industry making all kinds of offers to talented musicians and freelancers at the moment) be as versatile as you can. That kind of dedication is what counts to you as an artist. Not to say there aren’t some fantastic labels in the UK for metal music, (Basick Records being a longstanding, reputable favourite in terms of their work and roster) and if you are a tech head like myself, there is a wonderful community of listeners and bands that is enough to be able to launch from in the UK if you want to get serious, complete with a close hub around great industry contacts, and a number of “UKTM” events being held every year. Have fun, aim high, and be versatile.
Jonny Barker – Musician (REVEALER)
I’ve been playing shows in and out of various bands now for roughly ten years, I’ve noticed a few recurring themes and trends I feel need to be mentioned and also some incredible once in a lifetime moments that I will share with you in this article. Some people may believe the current UK metal scene to be massively oversaturated with countless bands all doing the same thing. However, I beg to differ. It is teeming with fantastic and vibrant music from all genres within metal; weird and incredible live performances that encapsulate the feel and emotion behind the music while remaining as tight as the live record. As diverse and brilliant as the scene may appear to be, there is inevitably a side that I do not agree with. Be it bands hiding in the back room, only showing their faces to play their set and then upping tools and scarpering. Or openly mocking other artists or even invaluable audience members that have turned up, despite the countless other things they could be doing with their evening, these are the things that are single-handedly killing the scene as we know it.
Being realistic is a huge part of performing as any band in the modern scene. I’ve lost count of the shows where nobody has turned up. It is a depressing but essential experience for any modern working band. But at those shows where the planets seem to align – the room is full, and the line-up is huge – these are what keep you going. Nothing gets you more stoked than looking up from the stage and seeing a room full of attentive faces enjoying your band’s songs or even that one drunk guy getting totally into what you are doing. That for me is the single most rewarding part of being part of the scene today. Ironically, it is also the most challenging thing to achieve, as it seems like nobody cares the other ninety percent of the time. People have busy lives and often can’t make weekly shows, and it is important to remember that, hence why being realistic is key.
Another massive part of the success of bands is their attitude towards other groups. A shining example of this is Dock 83 from The Netherlands, with whom we were recently lucky enough to be offered a weeklong UK tour. The first show kicked off in Hull, we arrived knowing only what equipment to bring and where to be. We were immediately greeted by their tour manager and introduced the band, we got along like a house on fire! The whole week was jam-packed with smiles and laughter, even the show that nobody attended (not even the support bands showed up) was a blast!
It is essential for bands to communicate with each other and do their utmost to get along. The Dock 83 tour was the greatest week of my life, and they made the shows so enjoyable that on the last day I was genuinely sad to see them leave the venue for the last time. We are all grateful for the opportunity to support Dock83 on their UK run, sleeping in my car, parking fines, hangovers and traffic jams set aside I will never forget that week. In conclusion, I believe the music scene to be a thriving and hugely productive place. A vast amount of work takes place behind the scenes in every band. It’s all too easy to flick between various music videos on YouTube and forget that potentially years of graft went into making each one of them. We must remember that. We must all work together within the music scene to keep it alive.
So, there we have it, the opinions and observations from people dotted all over the music industry. As with anything there are positives and negatives to look at, and in the case of music, there are sectors that are booming and others that aren’t so much. Almost every person I approached had something to say about this topic, which didn’t surprise me, to make it in the music industry you have to be passionate about what you do. Which is another reason why this piece ended up being so gigantic, everyone had something valuable to say. I hope this piece has educated or has at least been interesting for anyone who gave it a read, and I’d like to say another big thank you to everyone who got involved and contributed to this project, please spend some time to check out their bands and businesses. Share the word, and voice your opinions, without a voice there isn’t change, and nor is there praise. Support your peers, help your friends, keep an open mind and continue to strive for success.
HOMETRUTHS, INVICTA MAGAZINE, INVICTA ARTIST MANAGEMENT