How’s your Christmas been in this strange year? We had our final rehearsal a couple of weeks ago. LSP brought mulled wine and mince pies to Barnstorm for the band, we exchanged presents then we went our separate ways into forcible isolation. We miss playing, especially because all the new songs were coming together so well. Unfortunately, having found a (legal) way to record an album and shoot a video during lockdown number 1, having practised religiously every week since we were allowed out, Tier 4 has slammed the door on our development as a band until further notice. It’s not the end. No way. We haven’t come this far to let a little old global pandemic derail our plans. If anything, life is getting more exciting. The album is coming out on 1 February. One of the tracks, ‘The Fire’ is released as a single on 10 January. We’re in business; and we’ve been writing new songs, probably enough to record another album in 2021. And if that’s not enough, we’re re-releasing our original EP on Ditto Music, also out in early January. And in a few weeks time we will be announcing our two new members, a keyboard player and another guitarist. They’ve been practising with us for a few months. We’re looking forward to announcing them.
I may have said before, but the past few weeks have just emphasised how difficult being an unsigned, manager-less band can be. Any ambitious would-be Peter Grants or John Reids out there wanting to take us on, apply here. In all seriousness we’re not looking to be the next Led Zeppelin or Queen, but certainly the administration and operations of the tiniest, most unknown band is complicated and, I’d have to say, unwelcome. We want to be in the studio, rehearsing, recording, writing. If I can persuade Razz to work on a video that will be a miracle! Let’s say the man hates photo- and video-shoots much more than, I don’t know, going to the dentist. I guess if I’d wanted to arrange and promote an album release or book a gig, I’d have become a manager and even then I’d probably have been fired after 10 minutes. You need very different specialist skills for it, and if you don’t have them, navigating your way through a music distributor’s registration and uploading process is not easy. Plus, we…I took a decision to switch distributor and take down our existing releases from our previous partner. I don’t think you can call an EP and a single a back catalogue without sounding like a complete w***er but we took the decision to move to Ditto Music, principally because they have a really good promotion package, they’re not so big as to be monolithic and cumbersome, and you get responses from real people in a time frame you can work with.
When someone says in a radio interview, “we’ve got an album coming out,” there’s one of two possibilities: 1. They’re signed to a record label, they’ve recorded the album, and their involvement in promotion is personal appearances, interviews etc; 2. They’re not signed to a record label (and in this case they don’t have a manager, see previous paragraph), so they have to do all the above, plus get their music on to playlists, write personal letters to reviewers and radio stations, boost their tracks on online A&R sites, all the while keeping up a constant stream of social media posts. How great is that? Fun, no? No. Trust me, there are people who are really good at social media. They enjoy it. While we love to interact with our friends on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and this blog, in normal times we may not be so assiduous or prolific. Same with promotion. If you have enough financial resources you can shell out the money for a ‘plugger’, someone who knows which radio stations will play the kind of music you make. I mean, we’re not going to be on Classic FM any time soon. But it’s really very expensive and our budget for the album went on recording and production. We want to make music. That’s why we’re in a band. But getting the music heard is all about getting it out there, increasing reach, as the term goes. And for the moment this is what we’re all about. It’s never too late to learn new skills, and as we look towards another month…two months….three months in lockdown what else have we got to do? So if a Facebook ad for Lavender Hill appears unannounced and unexpected on your news feed, be kind and say something nice.
If you want to get your music heard, one of the best ways is to get playlisted and over the past few days I’ve been trying to understand how it works. A lot of unknown artists have managed to increase their profiles by getting their songs on lists, predominantly on Spotify and Apple Music. It isn’t easy and you need a degree in the subject to figure out where algorithms and influencers come in. If you have an opportunity to get on one, you need to jump all over it because it increases the chances of getting on others. There are people and sites who do nothing except get their clients on playlists and trying to do it part-time is enough to try the patience of a …saint? But along with all these other skills, once you’re in the loop it can only be an asset.
As we close in on the release of the single this Sunday, and in spite of trying to be a jack-of-all-trades and emphatically a master of none, we can’t help but feel satisfied at having produced and released our music, in a lockdown under the most difficult of circumstances. The wonder of it all is, we’re getting ready to work on a follow-up album. Don’t they say madness is repeating the same mistake! I’ll take that definition. You have to be more than a little crazy to be in this business.