Is It Ever Acceptable To Gig For Free?

UnknownExposure, every musician’s least favorite word in the english dictionary. For those of you that don’t know what this means, allow me to explain: Exposure is the supposed “polite” way for venues and potential clients to tell you that they can’t pay you for a gig or performance – it’s more commonly used in the original music scene rather than the covers circuit because most original bands “just want to get their name out there.”

This word that venues seem to think is a currency does not pay the bills and is a nightmare for those people who have music as their sole source of income and if you ever post a gig listing in a “musician’s wanted” Facebook group with the line “THIS IS NOT PAID BUT”, prepare to get lynched for the foreseeable future.

However, I’ve always wondered something:  Is it every acceptable or beneficial to gig for free?

This is the part where every musician in the entire world is screaming at their screens, calling me deluded and  stupid whilst mixing the two with various combinations of expletives – but I implore you all to stop and think for a moment and allow me to list a few examples that many people miss:

  1. Wedding Fair’s

Pretty much every friend of mine who is gigging professionally appear at a few of these every year and nearly always come out with a few bookings a year which will amount to a substantial amount of their yearly earnings. Weddings pay extremely well and can also lead to more bookings from the wedding guests for other events, if you haven’t given a try, I’d recommend it – one of my friends has been performing at weddings all over the world all year round for the last few years!

2. Open mic’s / Jam Nights

I admit, the chances of getting work from events like this is very rare compared to wedding fair’s and showcases but you do never know who’s watching! I personally have picked up both performance and teaching work through these sorts of nights and had great fun whilst doing them so it was a win-win.

3. Doing a mate a favor

Again, I’ve done this a fair few times and it’s not only led to other work but it’s also helped me build relationships with fellow members of the industry both on and off stage. The way I see it we do this for a living primarily because we love it, the money is an added bonus and there is nothing wrong with doing the odd free stint for your mate! Clients are obviously different though, so make sure not to get the two confused!

There are three reasons as to why gigging for three isn’t too bad. It isn’t something I’d make a habit of but it also isn’t something I’m completely against. For those that are struggling to decide wether to take a free gig, always ask yourself what this person is doing for you – are they lining up future paid gigs that are set in stone and certain? Are there people in the audience that could get you paid work? and lastly, have they done you a favor in the past and simply deserve to be repaid?

It’s a complex and never-ending debate but there are positives to working for free sometimes, just don’t make it a habit, you’re going to want to earn a sustainable living!

 

Does Listening To Music Increase or Hinder Productivity?

This is a debate that’s been going on for as long as I can remember, especially in schools and in the workplace. Everybody has their own way of working of course, some prefer complete silence whereas others want a full on rock concert going on in their office.

There has been test after test to determine what the “right answer” is and it seems like there is never going to be anything completely definitive – the correct answer purely depends on the person and the situation.

For exmaple, I find that listening to music whilst I work helps me focus on the task at hand (like writing this post) and block out everything else around me – l’ve also used music to help my memory when it comes to subjects that I’m rubbish at like Maths. My Maths tutor at college was amazed at the affects music had on me, suddenly something  I couldn’t do 10 minutes ago was as simple as 1 2 3 (no pun intended but feel free to laugh.)

Now seems like the right time to introduce you to an infographic created by WebPageFx, an internet marketing company. I discovered it from an article on the Linkedin Business blog and was both pleased and blown away by the numbers, have a look:

music-and-productivity.jpg

As you can see from the above, the overall concensus is that listening to music whilst you work is the best thing for you to do. Lately I’ve been making the effort to read up on music and the brain and am putting a lot of time into showcasing the importance of music therapy for those with mental illnesses. Music has incredibly positive affects on the human mind – the infographic shows that increased concentration and productivity is one of them.

Of couse there are people that can’t work with music in the background which is fine. Sometimes I have to turn it off because I’ll find my musician’s brain taking over and I’ll start analysing the song, it’s a habit of the job I suppose – but 9 times out of 10, I can’t survive those 2000 word Music Education essays without rocking out to my favourite aritsts!

What does your experience with music and productivity look like? Leave your thoughts and lets discuss!

Album Review: Maggie Rogers – Heard It In A Past Life

Unknown
The album artwork for “Heard It In A Past Life”

Maggie Rogers came to fame after gaining the chance to have her  track “Alaska”  critiqued by Pharell Williams. He was so impressed he got emotional and declared “I don’t think there’s anything I can say about that to make it better.”

The video of their masterclass went viral and Maggie became  an accidental star, through the ranks of the industry and eventually getting signed by Capitol Records. Since her life changed forever, she has released her debut album titled “Heard It In The Past Life.”

13474217_1244522335560146_1551025597_n
Maggie with “Happy” singer Pharrell Williams

 

The first thing I noticed about the album is that it is incredibly production heavy, although this wasn’t a surprise to me as this follows the trend of her previous releases. The opening track “Give A Little” sets the tone of the entire album with a really catchy chorus, great vocal production and solid instrumentation.

Unknown-1
Rogers at Capitol Records 75th Anniversary

Having not listened to Maggie for a while before this album, it took me a second to get used to her sound but I immediately fell in love with her music all over again. She is so unique and she’s never been scared to push the boundaries of the norm and express her creativity as she sees fit.

“Heard It In A Past Life” is the perfect blend of “over-produced” Pop and honest, emotive and grab-you-by-the-balls songwriting. Rogers has got a 50/50 balance of the innocence of your typical young, uncorrupted artist and the business sense of an industry yes girl, everything a label could ask for.

This album was long awaited and I was thinking that Maggie been one of the unfortunate cases that fell through the corporate cracks, how wrong I was! She has timed  this release just right, hopefully the first of many!

The debut release of student turned viral sensation screams one thing to me “I’m Maggie Rogers and I’m coming for stardom with everything I’ve got!” She doesn’t have to brag about how amazing she is, her music and work ethic speak for themselves.

I feel like I know Maggie personally after watching her shoot to the top and I couldn’t be prouder of who she is and the work she is putting out.

If you want something fresh but comfortable, go and listen to “Heard It In A Past Life.”

 

My 2019 Playlist (So Far)

images.jpegI’ve always had an extensive and varied music taste. From Jazz, country, rock and everything in between, its something I’ve always been able to use to my advantage as a session musician because I am comfortable when it comes to playing different styles and genres. I thought I’d give you all an insight into the music I listen to with a quick overview of my playlist for 2019.

  1. Back To Life – Rascal Flatts

I became a Rascal Flatts fan about four years ago when I discovered their song “I Wish.” In fact, it was this particular group that got me into country music in the first place. I was very pleased to discover that they had been released new music (although I’m a fan I don’t actively seek their releases) and found “Back To Life” on the list of new songs. I played it, and I loved it, there’s so much joy and emotion in the song and I really connected with the lyrics.

2. Home – Nickelback

Nickelback are one of those bands that are much like Marmite, you do either love them or hate them. I am one of the people who don’t have a bad word to say about their music, it’s intense and high energy and really gets you in a pumped up mood. The same can be said for this song, it has a great balance of intensity and calmness in the instrumental and vocal arrangement and really gets me riled up whenever I have a big day ahead.

3. I Only Have Eyes For You – Jamie Cullum 

If you know me, you’ll know about my obsession with Jamie Cullum. Jamie has been one of my  biggest musical influences for a long time now and I can never get enough of his music. His take on this classic standard is nothing short of a masterpiece, he respects the integrity of the orignal track whilst putting his own unique twist on it, something that Jamie has been great at throughout his career.

4. Lingus – Snarky Puppy

Go to most music universities and pretty much everyone you ask will have heard of this song and better still, be aspiring to play it note for note on their instrument – I’m still struggling to even touch that monstrous keys solo from Cory Henry, I will get there one day! Lingus is definitely my favourite instrumental track, it never gets skipped when it comes on and watching live videos of it gets me drooling like a baby. If you like weird time signatures and dirty solos, Snarky Puppy are the band for you.

5. Everything She Wants – Wham!

Wham or George Michael usually fall onto the guilty pleasures list for most, not for me. The arrangement and groove of this track really get to me, it’s a massive 80’s banger like most George stuff but I just keep coming back to this over and over again. Ironically, it’s one of the songs NOT in the set list for the George Michael tribute band I’m in, might need to sort that.

6. Lose Yourself – Eminem 

One of the first Eminem songs I heard and still on the playlist today, this is the perfect track to get anyone out of the dumps and give them a fresh burst of motivation. In fact, the lyrics of this one are what frames my drive and desire to not give up when working my way up the industry ladder, or  when having a tough day at uni working through my degree – I even put it on before a show sometimes to get the blood pumping.

7. Hell Above – Pierce The Veil

I was introduced to the world of metal through my younger brother when he was going through this particular phase. It took me a while to adjust to the style of music I had previously dismissed as “just noise”, but I got there and haven’t looked back since. Pierce The Veil are much like Nickelback in the sense that they receive a mixed reception from the metal community, some swear by them and others instantly insult anyone caught listening to them. I’m not a huge metalhead, I just happen to like the agression in their music, don’t ask.

8. Do I Do – Stevie Wonder

Another artist integral to my musical develpoment has been Stevie Wonder. One of my favourite tunes to play is Supersition but by far my favourite tunes to listen to is Do I Do. Like most Stevie tracks, it is less complicated than it sounds when broken down, that keys run is a different story though, will I ever be able to be fast enough to play it? who knows.

9. Phsyco – Muse

I heard this song around two years ago whilst studying music at college. Many of my classmates seemed to develop a Muse obession during the final year and I was introduced to this song through them, it comes on most days when I put my headphones in and takes me instantly back to my college days, some of the best days of my teenage life.

10. I write Sins Not Tragidies – Panic! At The Disco

For years, I heard this song and could never get the name of it. I eventually met a huge Panic! fan and she finally gave me the name of the song, it’s been on my playlist ever since, I doubt it’ll ever be replaced. This one is also the soundtrack to many a teenager’s “emo phase” – I don’t think I had one of those? You’d have to ask my parents I guess.

And that wraps up my 2019 playlist so far! I hope you enjoyed delving into my musical world with me and have hopefully some more songs to add to your playlist!

 

The Importance Of Having A Good Press Pack and How To Create One

UnknownA press pack is one of the oldest but relevant and useful promotional tools in the arsenal of any artist or band. Usually in a word document, it contains all of their information such as bios, pictures, important dates and links to their music – essentially everything a member of the music press needs in order to write a well informed article on a band or artist.

Despite the importance, some bands still don’t have their press pack or E.P.K (electronic press kit) figured out ready for use. From a music blogger’s point of view, it can be extremely frustrating requesting a press kit from a band wanting a review and receiving an email with little information about them, it can be so frustrating in fact, that I sometimes decide not to feature a band on the blog because of the poor quality of their press pack.

Equally, when I first started out and was trying to break out as a solo artist I had bloggers turn my work down because my press pack wasn’t up to scratch. I’m not trying to be a hyporcrite with this peice, I’m just hoping to help up and coming aritsts learn from my rookie mistakes.

Now I’ve given a rather lengthy introduction, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of  how to create the perfect package that all bloggers and music industry professionals will love!

  1. Bio’s – Be detailed but don’t waffle

The bio is the piece of text that gives bloggers a sense of what you as an artist or band are about. You don’t need to provide your life story, just enough info about you for the blogger to give their readers the low down on you! The most important thing for me when reading a bio is that it’s engaging and interesting, if I’m falling asleep whilst reading, my readers will too and this is an instant red mark.

2. A picture speaks a thousand words

If you look at most of my blog posts, you’ll see that there are at least two pictures in pretty much every one. A picture not only gives the reader a break from the text, it can give an even more detailed look into you as a band/artist, put a face to a name and even sometimes encourage readers to look into your music. With that said, you need to make sure that all of the images in your press pack are up to date and of high quality, if the images are of an old line up and/or grainy and pixilated, they won’t make the cut.

3. A broken link destroys the bridge

In this digital age, links to your sites and videos are mandatory – How else are bloggers meant to research more about you and listen to your music? Depsite the obvious importance of links, the amount of links I’m provided that don’t work is shocking. Before providing links to your sites, please make sure that they are correct and don’t take bloggers to a “Domain For Sale” page. This is a major no no and will  put you on the rejected pile instantly. Also, make sure that your sites and social media pages are kept up to date, attractive to look at and easy to naviagte. No blogger wants to spend their time working out where the various pages of your website are.

4. The sound of music

This one is the most obvious, if you’re going to submit your music for review please make sure it is of high audio quality. It goes without saying that you should never upload anything sub-par online and this is a especially true if you want something reviewed. Finally and just for the record, most bloggers will not except downloadable MP3’s, a Soundcloud or Youtube link is your best bet.

That’s that ladies and gents! Provided you follow all four of those points when creating or updating your press pack, getting reviews should be a doddle!

Know any bands or aritsts that need help with their press packs? Be sure to send them this article, they’ll thank you for it.

The Ex-Factor: Is Simon Cowell Losing His Grip Of The Music industry?

images
Music industry mogul Simon Cowell

Simon Cowell is one of the most influential and famous music industry moguls in the world. He has dedicated his life to building solid brands such as his label “Syco” and worldwide talent competitions like The X Factor,American Idol and two “Got Talent” programmes in the U.K. and U.S.

The success he has acheived in his career cannot be disputed. However, in recent years it has been no secret that rating on all of his shows have dropped significantly, it even looks like The X Factor UK is getting either axed completely or given a complete overhaul by Simon and his team.

THE X FACTOR: Logo.
THE X FACTOR: Logo.

Well, that looked like the plan anyway. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be gaining the backing that Mr Cowell had hoped for. This coupled with the ever dropping ratings and the recent shocking news of girlband “Little Mix” parting ways with Simon’s label “Syco” really has made me start to wonder if the music mogul is losing his touch and influence within the music scene.

Although he has been known to give stars the breakout they have been waiting for (Louisa Johnson, One Direction and Olly Murs are the top three examples), his shows have also been plauged with negative press, with accusations of fixing and many former contestants  openly speaking about the fact that they had no control over their song choice during the audition process and at other stages in the competition.

Capital FM Summertime Ball
Capital FM Summertime Ball at Wembley Stadium – Arrivals Featuring: Louisa Johnson Where: London, United Kingdom When: 11 Jun 2016 Credit: WENN.com

In my mind, there isn’t really any use for shows like X Factor and Got Talent anymore. The shows have become less about talent and more about commical acts gaining airtime to drum up ratings, Simon has lost sight of what the music industry is about and is ruining careers before they’ve even started in some cases.

Furthermore, musicians and artists are becoming increasingly aware of how easy it is to release their own music without the need for a contract with a big label. I think that this will be the ultimate cause for Cowell’s downfall.

 

He has created success stories I won’t deny that. Equally, he has used artist’s lack of knowledge to take advantage of them during the most crucial time in their career. Simon isn’t the only selfish big name in the industry, but I think he has made too many mistakes and that his time at the top is coming to an end.

I know he won’t give up without a fight, but a fight means doing desperate things and the first thing that’s going to happen is the increase in low-standard contestants being placed on TV for commical appeal to increase ratings. I for one, am not looking forward to the industry being turned into a circus for the benefit of one person.

Has the biggest industry name become an ex-factor in today’s modern music world? I guess we shall have to wait and see.

 

Track Review: 100 – Past Kings

Loyal readers of this site will recognise the name Past Kings, they have been featured on this blog twice. They went quiet for  a short while and I was beginning to get concerned that they’d decided to call it a day.

Thankfully, I was wrong. The boys were just working in silence, writing new music and getting gigs booked. The mention of new music leads me nicely into talking about their upcoming release “100”.

IMG_1010
The cover art to “100”

Recorded at SS2 Recording in Southend, this is the most professional and thought out release I’ve heard from the boys. The opening guitar lick is instantly filled with emotion and draws you in, leaving you wondering what sort of journey will take you on. The vocal performance from frontman Sam Charles is the strongest I’ve heard from him, he doesn’t do too much but he also isn’t timid either. He peaks in all the right places.

100 takes you on a 100 Mile Per Hour ride, showcasing everything the boys can do with even a solo from guitarist Jack Smith making an unexpected yet welcome appearance to close out the track, it could’ve been higher in the mix though! Come on Jack, you’re 6 foot 4, don’t be shy.

Although I have complimented this tune to no end, I have to confess that when I first recieved the track for review, I wasn’t expecting much. Past Kings have always been somehwat of a dark horse to me, they conduct themselves in a way that doesn’t scream talent or confidence when their on stage. However, audience members end up recieving a very pleasent shock to the system with tracks spanning across various tempos and styles and all of them having well crafted lyrics to compliment the tight instrumental backing.

The indie Essex lads have a few gigs coming up, including a performance at The O2 Academy Islington on 2nd March. ticket information for those interested can be found HERE. 

To round off my thoughts on the re-emergance of Past Kings I’ll say this; Don’t ever judge a book by it’s cover, these boys work hard behind the scenes andby the looks of things , its paying off.

100 will be released on all major music platforms on Friday 22nd Febuary, go get it!