Friday, 13 June 2008

2 things....

1. I saw Miquita Oliver (of T4 fame) coming out of a health food shop in Shoreditch yesterday. She proceeded to put ONE BAG of shopping in a large taxi, give the driver some money and then walk off. I can only presume she was getting the taxi driver to take her food shopping home for her? Hilarious! She looked pretty hot though.

2. Video of the day -

Seriously - what are these people like? People give money to these people for videos and stuff? Fucking hell. The world we live in is stupid.

Everyone else is talking about Health....

.....and for once all the 'industry' morons and hipsters were correct. Everyone was like 'live they nail it' and 'the drums! the DRUMS!' - and both sentiments are true - live they do nail and the drums are pretty sweet!

This conversion took place last night at a free gig at the Old Blue Last. Also playing were Comanechi (not very exciting) and Awesome Color. Awesome Color had a drummer who looked 12 and had a very squeaky voice. Wrong of me - but it was quite amusing. They just sounded (live at least) and looked like a bunch of stoners/dudes who did loads of acid in California in the early 80s. Pretty boring.

Health however make up for everything. With the Old Blue Last massively exceeding any form of health safety regulations surely (we would all burn in here), the band take a vaguely standard rock band set up of guitars and drums and rip it to pieces, making something that is always noisy as fuck, riff-tastic (in a deconstructed kinda way) and really danceable due to the drum power and drum-duelling. Not bad at all.

Playlist -

Waco Fuck - Paranoia is total awareness
Johnny Truant - No tears for the creatures
Look Back and Laugh - s/t 2 + state of illusion
Lykke Li - Youth Novels
Frankmusik - in step single
Rolo Tomassi - new album

Thursday, 12 June 2008

What Holy Roar does in its spare time.... the case of Ellen, it is dissing Anne Robinson on the Weakest Link -

Just thought I would dig that one up! This week has been characterised by MASS posting of Dananananaykroyd cd/thsirts and Maths/Throats cds/tshirts. I have spent so long in the post office it is untrue. The details are boring, but it was an ordeal. As I was parking by the post office I saw a banged up car of chavs drive into a parked BMW, laugh, then drive off. Nice.

New Holy Roar iMix -

New releases in the shops, Holy Roar mentions and appearances lately in NME, Huw Stephens on Radio 1, loads of Dananananaykroyd press, Maths in NME, article on Breakthroughradio, Articles/reviews on Rock Midgets, Rolos at Donwload this weekend, me in Paris this weekend, all is well. There is probably more.

Monday, 2 June 2008

PhD interview....

.....below is my answers for a PhD interview. I think its the most detailed interview I have ever done. I hope it's not too boring! Thanks to Tough Love Records.

How long has the label been in operation for, where are you based and what was your motivation for starting it?

The idea for the label birthed in Jan 2006, with our first release approx June 2006. We are based in south-east London. The motivation for starting the label was down to several factors –wanting to do more than a 9-5 job; having released a compilation cd in Birmingham and seeing it fail – wanting to try and correct previous label ‘wrongs’; seeing bands not getting the attention they deserved and not being released here; a void in the market in terms of consistent artwork/packaging aesthetics.

How did the compilation fail? Can you outline some of these ‘wrongs’?

The compilation was born out of a webzine I used to run called . The compilation had no theme – it was simply a mixture of local, national and international artists that we liked. It had some nice artwork too, but we had no distribution, pressed 1000 and sold approx 100 max. Which was a good way NOT to start a label in my eyes, in retrospect.

How many records have you released?

A debatable question. Our catalogue is now 15 releases – however 3 of those have been digital singles, and another is a reissue, so am not sure if they constitute full ‘releases’.

That’s an interesting distinction. Why is it that you don’t consider digital singles to be a ‘full’ release, as opposed to say vinyl or CD?

I guess if I think of it in a ’modern’ way – there is no distinction – it is still essentially putting music out there for consumption. However – I still view digital singles as more a ‘curio’ – a fun little thing. It just down to me being a snob I guess and still very much valuing good physical releases.

Is it the intangibility of a download that doesn’t appeal to you in the same way in which a physical record would?

Yes. And the instantaneous ‘fast food culture’ nature of it. ‘Give me the song now’ It’s a lack of patience, leading to lack of attention span, and the possible death of the concept of albums.

How do you find bands/artists to release?

It just happens. It differs from band to band. Maths – I toured with them and got to know them and realised they have the right ethic (as well as great music). Gallows – Lags from the band bought t-shirts off me on punktastic and that went from there. Bloody Panda – I bought their demo on a whim due to the cover artwork in a record shop in New York and then they saw that I was listening to it on a webzine and they got in touch and that went from there. Many varied tales!

How did Bloody Panda contact? Presumably the whole release must have been organised via email?

Yeah – they emailed me. They saw their demo on my playlist on - and got my email address from the website. It was indeed all organised via email and nothing else – although since the release I have met Josh from Bloody Panda in the flesh.

Would you say then that your relationships with bands mainly originate from ‘real life’ interaction? What role would you say the Internet plays in your discovery of new bands?

Well – with overseas artists the internet has been crucial for finding bands and having contact with them. However – the more astute out there might notice that no bands on Holy Roar have been from outside the UK since Kayo Dot, Bloody Panda and Phoenix Bodies, which were in our first batch of releases. That is not down to our experiences with these bands – rather that we figured we would rather cultivate relationships with bands who we can actually meet, talk to and see if we get along with them! We feel this is crucial at this stage. There is no singular, tangible reason as to why we feel like this, but it certainly works and makes us feel better about it all! But to actually answer your question – we have certainly come across some great bands via the internet, and sometimes this has led to a relationship being fostered with them after meeting them, chatting, seeing them play live etc….

How would you see the label functioning without the Internet. Would it even be possible?

Yes certainly – people had to use mail order networks and had to use record shops. I have no figures – but shops and mailorder probably did better business before the internet. But I don’t know to be honest – Its all very hypothetical asking me to think about a situation that is before my time as a teenager/adult I guess!

What are your long term ambitions for Holy Roar?

To keep on growing by whatever means. To be able to do it fully and not worry about my personal bills. For it to cultivate an image of good music, good packaging. I want it to be a stamp of approval – ‘holy roar = good’ - but never tied to a certain style or sound. Within reason.

Could you feasibly expect Holy Roar to earn you a sustainable income?

That’s the ‘crystal ball’ question! I would like to think so, but I think it perhaps a couple of years work away minimum. Having said that- who is to say we don’t find the next big thing and everything goes mental?

Did/do you go to University?

Yes – I studied Business Commerce at Birmingham University.

In what ways have you applied aspects of your education to Holy Roar?

Just in general concepts of being organised, presentations, marketing, business plans and so on. General over-arching concepts that I could vaguely apply rather than anything overly specific if that makes sense. To be honest I learnt much more (that I have carried on with me into the running of the label) via working in media agencies for 1.5 years after Uni – finances, lots of xl stuff that helps a lot, phone manners, email conduct, professionalism, how to do deal with people, coping with stressful situations etc. I recommend a chunk of ‘real work’ experience over a washy/general degree any day. Not that I am in any way devaluing a degree or tainting all degrees with this brush.

So, you’d advocate a learning by doing approach? And how much did you know about html et al before setting up the label?

Certainly advocate a learning by doing approach. I’ve purely self taught html etc due to necessity from the label.

How many people work at the label and what’s your role? Are there any people outside of the label that help out regularly (booking agents, radio pluggers, PR etc)?

I am the only full-timer. I have a business partner who is 50/50 on everything but is less involved day-to-day. As for others – we currently work with 2 booking agents and 1 PR company.

How do you go about getting press and radio play?

It’s either through PR or by luck – people seeing our bands live or taking an interest in the label and seeing that what we do is actually alright! Or by us meeting people at gigs! Talking to people and befriending them, helps no end – I wish I was better at it to be honest!

Again, ‘real life’ interaction is key then?

If you want to get anywhere and have people be on your side and work for/with you properly rather than distantly – YES. I think its just part of human nature that we are more willing to help out people to our full ability if we know them and can use our knowledge of the person, what they want and what they need to achieve based upon real life interactions. Or something like that!

Who are the most successful acts on your label and how would you define success?

Rolo Tomassi are the biggest band on our label now. We have seen them grow organically from nothing to now being on the verge of singing with a much bigger label. Obviously we released a 7” by Gallows – but they were never ‘on’ the label as such. It looks like Dananananaykroyd will do ok for us, Throats are getting some good gigs now, and CPWK are doing alright and getting good bits and bobs and good press. Success at present is breaking even. Success for our bands is touring hard and making a name for themselves – press and publicity can only do so much without the band being on the road and working their balls off.

Do you think it’s a myth that bands can become successful through, say, MySpace alone?

Yes very much so. Although there is not any real tried and tested formula for success. It can be down to any number of formulas or approaches. Some bands have been wildly successful without myspace, some pretty much depend upon it in order to achieve anything. It also depends on vague target demographics for bands – some will be far more suited to myspace than others.

What bands do you think are particularly suited to it and likewise, which ones not?

A ‘deathcore’ or fashion grind band with stupid hair is probably very suited to it, or a new-school hardcore band – bands whose key demographics are heavy internet users/teenagers/young adults. A free Jazz band – not so suited! Or classical music…etc etc.

On what principles, if any, were the label founded?

Good music, good people, good packaging. No bullshit.

Do you see these values manifested anywhere else in the industry or do you have some bad examples that kind of offer a model of how to not behave?

I cant name names, but I know labels that asking bands to pay to be on the label and purely act as a facilitator to getting a cd in shops etc as well as keying them into this ‘facilitating’ ‘label’ for 5 albums! Our values are best embodied by Touch and Go. I feel exactly the same as this video -

What are your influences, particularly other labels and why?

Hydrahead, Robotic Empire, early-Undergroove were direct influences. Constellation records for packaging etc. That’s about it – we didn’t have many influences to be honest because we felt there was a good gap in the UK market for us.

What does the term ‘independent’ mean to you? Do you consider yourself independent?

We are independent in so much as we fund everything ourselves and receive no helping hand from other labels or bigger labels. If we don’t sell anything – nothing new comes out. It’s that simple. Any other definitions of ‘independent’ are redundant to us to be honest, we are happy doing things as we see fit and we are certainly not into holier-than-thou ‘D.I.Y’ attitudes.

The marriage of commerce with art is an uneasy one, at least ideologically. Does this not represent a conflict for you? Some labels can be quite dogmatic.

It’s not a conflict for me. We present a band we love in packaging we love. People then have a choice to buy into that or not. I guess we also don’t work with bands who might get touchy about how their music is sold (within reason – ie we wont compare them to artists they dislike or try and push them to do things they feel uncomfortable with.) The same goes for a painter selling his painting – if he/she has any artistic integrity they don’t go and change bits of the picture for potential buyers. I hope I’m not misunderstanding this question!

What does digital media mean to you?

An easy way to hear music, and a cheaper way of making and distributing music. But it conveys only a small portion of any artistic feeling/message/intent. It’s soulless.

What makes it ‘soulless’?

The process. It’s instant gratification culture. Fast-food culture. There is no effort involved – therefore less chance of emotional attachment. You cant open the booklet and read along to the lyrics. No physical act involved in the listening process. The definition of lazy. Stupid as this may sound – I hold music in the same regard as I hold food and sex. I don’t want to be drip fed by a tube and I don’t want to achieve orgasm instantly via a machine or something!!! Anyone who is happy to devalue music to purely a digital state is not worth the time of day in my book.

Music culture does appear to be generally heading in that direction, so how do you see the future panning out? What would add ‘soul’ to these digital releases?

I think elsewhere in this I talk about the concept of building sites and interactivity into digital releases, which in part answers this question. Im not sure how far music culture will head into the digital realm before a lot of people realise that what they are getting isn’t very good/as involving etc. I think the future will see a balance between digital and physical or a backlash even.

How do you view the role of digital media in assisting the growth of small labels (or bands)?

It serves big bands really well (radiohead/NIN etc) and can help the ‘buzz’ of small bands sometimes, in some genres. I don’t feel it assists a label like us though, apart from allowing us to releases (digital) ‘singles’ – something we would not have been able to do without digital media, due to lack of funds.

In what ways do you think it creates ‘buzz’?

Well – I guess myspace and other social networking sites are a big part of helping with ‘buzz’ for small bands sometimes. One kid can post a bulletin to 500 and friends and that’s potentially 500 new fans in seconds potentially.

How successful are digital singles for you? What are the difficulties/benefits in releasing them as opposed to say vinyl or CD?

Financially, not very successful so far. But I would say we use them as a marketing tool to draw attention to an artist generally or to their album – which is where money does come back to us. Digital singles have a minimal outlay (at least in production terms) - and if it only sales 1 copy its no loss in terms of (the alternative) having 1000’s of cds or 7”s being returned to you from the distributor because they didn’t sell. So – in this respect, digital singles are a good thing. However you could also argue that a digital single is far less ‘visible’ – its not there in the shop raising your awareness of the band, or catching your eye with a cover. I guess you certainly need pr behind a digital single in order to gain any new fans realistically, unless it picks up an organic buzz via blogs/myspace etc…I think its an endless argument both ways.

How do you make your digital releases more visible?

Blogs, iMixes, other websites, that’s about it I reckon. PR – physical copies of digital singles being sent out.

What role does digital media hold with regards your label? Is it central to what you do?

Its peripheral. See answer above I guess.

Do you utilise Facebook, Myspace, Last FM etc? How central are they to the label?

We use Myspace quite a lot – that’s what we started on when it was all the rage. We have presences upon facebook and last fm but these are perhaps under utilised. At present facebook still seems quite pointless for bands I think, last fm is awesome though.

So, you don’t see Last FM and MySpace as the label using digital media?

Yes, but to facilitate physical purchases.

What type of impact do you feel ‘illegal’ downloading has had upon the music industry? What is your opinion on illegal file sharing? Do you think it has a detrimental effect on sales?

I don’t particularly like it. Especially when it happens to smaller labels. It probably does have a detrimental effect on sales – but then if the kid downloads it and then goes and buys it then it’s a positive – he might not have bought it without downloading it first. There are positives and negatives, but I think the negatives far outweigh the positives (death of packaging/full artistic intent etc)

What do you mean by ‘full artistic intent’?

I think you do not get the full message (‘full artistic intent’) that the band/artist is trying to convey without having the packaging and the lyrics and the thanks list and all of that gubbins. Digital threatens to remove all of this.

As a small label, are you affected, directly or indirectly, by the problems that supermarkets are generating for record shops, in their undercutting of CD prices?

No, not at all. Mums buy cds in supermarkets – not people who are into our type of music. They only stock top 40 and dance compilations – no threat.

Do you feel any affiliation, imagined or actual, with any of your peer labels?

I guess so – we certainly have talked and worked with other labels. Such as Thirty Days of Night, Midmarch, Undergroove, BSM – those are the ones that seem to come from vaguely similar backgrounds, even if they put out quite different music.

Is there a supportive network, or is it a competitive marketplace?

Competition is healthy – I know for a fact that all these labels copy each other constantly with little tiny things, but none would probably admit it! I think this is healthy – with each label pushing itself and its agenda, any other label worth its salt will want to keep up with and compete with competitors. There is also a vague support network – I talk to people at all the above labels at least semi-regularly and we share double-sided flyers and so on, as well as put our bands on tour with each other and stuff….

Do you think that with the emergence of digital media and file-sharing that it’s become more competitive?

Not that I have noticed with my peer labels. I think whilst digital has made it easier for any kid to sell music, there is still the fact that a record label acts as a stamp of quality in many consumers eyes – rightly or wrongly! If a band is ‘signed’ or on a label they are perceived to have automatically done better than an unsigned band in many instances.

How would you respond to major label incorporation or financial assistance? Would you accept funding in order to propagate growth?

Yes. As long we still had 100% control on packaging and the bands we work with. Not in that order!

Do you think that’s a likely possibility?

Well it’s certainly happened to one of the labels two questions above, if not two. They don’t make a song and dance about it though. I wouldn’t rule it out as a possibility – but I think we generally pick bands that are hard to strictly categorise (CPWK, Rolo Tomassi, Kayo Dot instantly spring to mind) which generally confuses people at the bigger business organisations. With all due respect to Thirty Days Of Night and BSM – I think it is much easier to go ‘ahh that’s a BSM/30DON sounding band’ at present.

As a label, what formats do you favour?

Id love to release just amazing vinyl – but it’s very cost ineffective and can only be done in certain circumstances – so cds it is mostly. But NEVER in jewel cases. I hate jewel cases. But we have done – 7” vinyl, 12” vinyl, cd, tape and digital now. We are always up for strange little projects!

What is it about packaging/artwork that appeals so greatly?

Well, in the current climate, it feels like you are getting better value for money if the packaging is good. That’s how I feel as a consumer anyway and I hope other people think like that about our releases. And we do get a lot of comments about our packaging and artwork – so we must be doing something right. We aren't the most outlandish with packaging – but hopefully we maintain a consistent standard at least. On another level – I’ve always loved art and design and just simply like looking at nice things! I don’t want to be associated with crappy plastic disposable boring product.

How do you marry commercial constraints with artistic ambition? Do digital releases feel like a compromise?

Digital releases are a massive compromise. I would love every release to be terribly elaborate with incredible incredlbe packaging. I don’t enjoy having financial constraints and hence digital singles. I wish they were all out there on cd and vinyl too. There is no marriage, only ever compromise – so we just do the best we can within our constraints at this stage.

Do you think that physical formats will maintain a long term relevance in music industry?

If they don’t – I quit.

With the way the market is heading, how real a possibility do you think this is?

Well vinyl should have died when cds came along surely? But they are selling better now than 10 years ago. So, who knows? But I don’t think it’s a real possibility for the immediate future. Seriously, this is something I don’t want to even contemplate. Actually – I have thought about this at great, pained, length – and I think the only way I would be happy with music becoming a purely digital medium is if each release had its own little ‘world’ online with lyrics, forums, lots of artwork and loads of other bits and bobs – making each album an interactive experience on many levels – with new elements/sounds/songs/ideas being bolted on continually and stuff like that. I don’t mean album specific websites – it would have to be way more interactive and engaging than that. Maybe making an album (or if the concept of album is redundant, then a ‘theme’) more of journey than 10 songs on a disc. I suppose I’m thinking in terms of a vague concept here, I don’t really have the actual ideas in my head to even start to think about putting something like this in place.

Do you sell any label merchandise alongside records? If so, how well does this sell in comparison?

Yes – we have done t-shirts for CPWK and Rolo Tomassi. They sell well, people cant download t-shirts.

On average, how well do t shirt sales compare with vinyl/CD sales? How many copies of each record do you usually sell?

Hard to answer. We have only produced approx 150 tshirts and have sold them all apart from a couple in odd sizes. We would make more, but prefer to put limited funds into new releases, rather than basking in past glories via providing tshirts of bands online. We aren’t provisionally a merchandise company after all.

As for cd/vinyl sales – again it has varied quite considerably from 2000 to 100 approx. Although we do seem to be picking up a bit of momentum which is very encouraging.

Through what means do you sell a majority of your products? Internet, distributors etc…In fact, do you even have a distributor?

We are distributed by Shellshock in the UK – they do some exporting too. But we have small distribution in USA and Italy too. We make most of our money via direct sales though through our site/myspace. However that balance is starting to shift slightly towards distributed copies with our bigger releases.

So, in this sense, the Internet has figured centrally in the success of Holy Roar? Where do you think you’d be without it?

Yeah it has, very much so – especially in the first year, year-and-a-half as a label. Without it – we wouldn’t still be here!

Do you use/would you consider using iTunes and other legal download services?

We do.

What do you feel that micro/independent labels offer that majors don’t?

Freedom in terms of packaging, recording, marketing. And importantly – an actual relationship with the label – the relationship is with me/Ellen, no one else, unlike big labels where you can get lost between people. But we don’t have the money to do everything how we would like, so that’s the downside.

What do you think is the main role of a label now?

I think bands will always need guidance/help with marketing/distribution/recording/artwork and a million other things – it’s a big thing to take on on your own as well as playing in a band and touring. Labels may have to change form and structure and adapt but I think there will always be a need for organisations to help bands out across many different areas.

How do you think labels should restructure and adapt? Have you made any plans to change?

I think the majors will need to restructure and adapt before small labels. They have lots of wages to pay and so on and so will need to look at this before someone like myself. We have no plans to change at present, we have no need to – we are still growing and not seeing slumping sales a la EMI. I do however have my fingers in the ‘band management’ pie, as well as playing in a band – so I guess you could say I don’t have all my eggs in one basket.

How would you say the set-up of Holy Roar differs from that of a major, or even a large indie?

Well from visiting those types of labels – they have offices and I don’t! I have a desk in a bedroom. Apart from that – I guess when you become an employee of a record label rather than running one, you have to put the bottom (financial) line first before anything else and then music doesn’t become the passion, selling records does. I want to sell more and more records, but if I have a release that sells fuck all I only have myself to answer to , rather than facing the sack.

It’s a commonly held opinion that artists may no longer need a label given the opportunities afforded by digital media. Do you see much validity in this argument?

At present I think its valid for very large artists (who will still back it up with physical produce for hardcore fans). I see no way for this to be vialble for new and emerging artists at present. This may change in the future, but this is how I see it right now…

Why isn’t it viable for emerging artists?

Well it is possible, but far far more difficult. Nine Inch Nails have an already installed fanbase to buy from them. So the emerging artist has to prove itself to a whole marketplace/build fans and then sell stuff to them, without a tried and trusted aesthetic, like you would get with NIN or Radiohead.