Category Archives: Uncategorized

Can’t be arsed

I’ve had two quite connected emails today one from an artist another from an industry person.

Artist says please don’t remove me from the bill, because in spite of not mentioning the 6-weeks confirmed show on my website I have bought a train ticket and I can start to promote now less than a week before the show. And in any case, I promote events myself and would never expect the artist to do the promoting for me.

Industry person says the argument that PAY TO PLAY PROMOTERS ARE COMPLETE CUNTS doesn’t totally stack up and that given they’re the bank, holding the risk, what’s so bad about promoters trying to protect themselves in the face of a tide of lazy bands who promise 30 mates and bring nobody.

There’s a lot of grey between the two arguments. And to start from either position is wrong.

One thing is certain: when you’re doing a show and you check the acts websites and the show isn’t mentioned, it’s just completely soul destroying. This process could be got through far quicker by just handing out some money to some acts, and not actually doing the “event” part.

Christ, my band used to make our own flyers and posters on top of what the promoters did, and hit the promo *hard*.

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The Marathon and me. Bawling, Therapy, Guilt, Bawling

When I was a kid, the only Marathon I was interested in was the chocolate bar now known as Snickers. Having said that, I was a little chubby kid and didn’t like a lot of foods, and peanuts back then were a no go area. I would hate discovering a nut in my chocolate, and couldn’t stand the fact that nanny and grandad only ever had whole nut or fruit and nut…  anyway.. I digress before even properly starting…

I did start to run as a kid and remember the first times I went out on a run. I knew I was a little fatty, and I wanted to try and do something about it. (today I measured the distance of the first run I did, it’s just over a mile). I felt very self-conscious. I still do at times when out running now. I kept up running occasionally through college, as a smoker, and in 2006 I used running as a way to give up smoking. I signed up for a marathon, and stopped smoking.

The fact I was doing it for The Alzheimer’s Society was down to my mum having been diagnosed. With Mild Alzheimer’s. That’s how you dealt with it. You say “mild”. Like as if it’s any different than if it was really strong. Or like it was going to just be a little brush with Alzheimer’s and then it’ll go away. Here’s the first instance of the symbolic nature of running. Like you’re running away from something. I think always with running, for me at least, I’ve been running either away from or towards something. Depending on how good I am at applying spin to how I’m feeling at the time it could be to/from a bad marriage, a sick mother, a smaller waistline, health, a new personal best.

This guy’s piece in the Guardian about how he HAS to run marathons is a really good example of how training for a big run can be a decent strategy for good health. It takes a good 4 months, a third of a year, to train properly, so it can be quite habit forming and you’re likely to be still benefiting a good while later.

There’s something most existential about running. Not being able to get your head round something and then going out for a run. The Forrest Gump thing. The doing of an activity for the sake of doing the activity. It helps you to breathe, to concentrate on breathing (much like Yoga). I’ve been able to think about the symbolism of a long run like a marathon. How it’s an achievement in life which might be a suitable enough replacement or substitute for no great achievements in work, love, family etc… How it might be symbolic of an understanding of the longevity of things. “A marathon not a sprint” and all that. It can be very therapeutic.

Recently I joked to a friend that his enthusiasm for running was equal only to the guilt he felt in his personal life. This is classic projection really. My own enthusiasm has diminished the further away from a bad marriage I get, and the closer I move, to a decent set up both at home and at work. I do think the amount of penance in the name of charity x or y does come from a guilt position. It’s a very public display of good-doing.

A friend asked on Facebook last week whether anyone else got all teary when watching the marathon and a few replied yes. I was one of them. Given the stuff I’ve covered above I think it’s hardly surprising. Seeing folks put in so much effort with a picture of “dad” on their backs, or similar is very tear-jerking. For me it’s enough just to see people running.


CULTURE.

I gave Maria Miller a chance. I blogged here that the arts should ask for less money just one time in return for more once it had been proven that the arts can be entrepreneurial, smart, and make more money, be less dependent. I thought her speech telling the arts that it needed to prove its value was just the bluster of a new person in a new job (they all say that, or a version of that don’t they). Man, when you’ve given someone a chance and they act with such arrogance. I’ll never forgive her. I gave her a chance.

In broad terms this new chap needs to be given a chance. I’ve read that his dad was a bus driver from Rochdale. I’m proud and glad that Rochdale is just tenuously on the map for more than just some new horror. But I don’t want to speak too soon. Please don’t be *another* reason The ‘Dale is implicated in something horrible. I’m worried, but I don’t think it’s particularly constructive to make snide comments about the art or culture that he likes though, Guardian.

I know very well where I sit on the debate around secondary ticketing, but I am aware of an argument for many free marketeers, of ownership, and then reselling something that you own. It goes far deeper than some surface level argument of course, and Sajid Javid might not have researched it too well. I want to give him a chance. I think he might be more responsive to my suggestion at the top of this piece,of rewarding entrepreneurship. He might be. He has in the past been quite complimentary about ticket touts/secondary ticketing… I do want to give him a chance. He’s not making much in the way of good noises thus far.

I was once on a late bus home from Finsbury Park. A full one. I sat downstairs at the back, in the corner, and a boozy fella sat down next to me (I think I might have been a bit boozy too). We got chatting. He was a scouser. He’d been to see The Coral at Brixton and had a great time. He told me he was a tout and had done ok that night. He touted at gigs he liked, and went to them too. It was hard not to see this as a decent little bit of enterprise from a loveable rogue type character, and I certainly didn’t get on my high horse and attempt a reprimand. I wanted to give him a chance.

When the entire arts/music/sports industry roundly condemns something it’s going to be hard for our Sajid to stand tall. But it’ll be just one bit of his job. I’d like to give him a chance. Please don’t fuck it up Sajid. For music’s sake, for arts sake, for your dad’s sake.

I’m not into open letters too much. This one is a good one. But I do want to give him a chance. After Maria Miller, I’m going to be watching this closely.

 

 

 


Welcome to the party… BBC… ART ON TELLY!

I remember a meeting we had one time when I was at the Arts Council, where we were brought into a presentation about Arts Programming on the telly. It was being suggested that the rafts of crappy competitions on early evening prime time Saturday slots was a reason to be giddy about arts programming. There is was… THE ARTS… on PRIME TIME TELLY!

I have to say I was a little skeptical and I probably said as much (my voice wasn’t one which was often listened to given I wasn’t in that kind of role there). It might have got a little more collegiate since I’ve not been there but them in charge definitely are in charge in the classic sense.

I’m not totally against these shows (I hardly watch them but the dancing ones are alright I guess) but they can no more be called arts programming than that one about diving be labelled a sports programme.

When I saw the headline that the BBC will be giving the arts a central role from now on I got most excited. In a week when I read about how chastening it is to be reminded the distance most people are away from the arts, I thought it was timely that our major broadcaster be doing its bit.

A little underwhelmed by some of the suggestions of shows.. looks like the usual suspects in many ways, doing the usual stuff for the usual people… Someone needs to get the people from the shows I allude to above and FORCE them to think of an exciting arts based show which DOESN’T involve people being humiliated, or any kind of contest at all.

If they want some ideas on any music programmes they can always give me a shout.

I’m mostly very very pleased with this announcement and look forward to some of the shows!

 


Education, networking… reveries!

I’m not really qualified to do what I do. There aren’t qualifications to do it really. There will be… as things progress there will be more and more courses which prepare folks to be just like me… but my own education at present has only prepared me to be a badass at speaking French, a bit of an expert in language and communication and WAIT! That’s what I guess I do… sometimes maybe quite well, sometimes not so well… but still – trying to get a message across.

When I first graduated I taught EFL in London. I would make the effort to identify with, to empathise with students. Often sharing an anecdote like:

“you know when you’re standing outside a shop and working out what to say to the lady in the shop and working out what she is going to say back to you and then full of the courage you’ve mustered you walk in, ask for you packet of fags or whatever, and she comes out with some kind of savage stuff you hadn’t expected and you almost run off without your fags it is so stressful and embarrassing…”

That pretty much actually happened to me in Paris on a sixth form trip – I was buying cowboy boots (honest) and the shoe shop man, after we’d got as far as my telling him I was English he said “tu es anglais d’ou?” (where are you from). I had understood “tu es anglais doux” (you’re a softy) and I was quite scared he wanted to fight me and got out of there ASAP!That kind of anecdote gets a really good reception in a language class, as there are invariably a bunch of people just shitting their pants in there feeling like they are the only folks on earth with no confidence speaking in another language. It’s a relief to discover that they’re not alone.

And so I discover it’s useful to talk about feeling a drea of having to go out and talk to people in a networking kind of way.

Recently I find myself as a visiting lecturer and sometimes guest lecturer at a couple of universities. I teach at Foundation Degree level and have spoken at BA and MA levels. Sure, there are varying levels of competence (but not as marked as you might expect). And (as you may well expect) there are varying levels of confidence among the cohorts. Some synthetically cocky and others quietly brilliant, and everything in between.

Common across all the levels however, is a real need for a network. Almost all of those I have come into contact with want to be introduced to someone. Some don’t realise it. But not many. Some – feeling like they’ve been introduced – are confident to come and speak and to ask after I’ve done a talk. I get emails after these guest events asking for work. Sometimes they don’t think to send a CV. Sometimes they’re just chatting. It’s good to know someone who works in music. And sometimes maybe I can help a bit.

I hate saying some things can’t be learned but I think networking is close to that. That’s because you already know how to do it, and you can totally get better at it cos it’s actually fun. I think *everyone* has to take a deep breath sometimes and walk into a room, knowing that it’s a bit daunting, and just go ahead and talk to some folks. If you fuck it up that’s ok too. Just go home and go back the next time.

I found this blog here by Marsha Shandur who has had a pretty decent career in music (understatement!) and talks about networking in a very exciting, interesting and cool way. She reckons she was once a shy and shrinking violet. It’s hard to believe when you see her vids and talks. She offers TRAINING in this shit. But just reading her stuff is really useful anyhow.

It’s always nice to sit in and cocoon oneself away from everyone and everything (right now it’s brill cos the weather is terrible and I can hear the rain) but it can get a bit of an overprotection from stuff you needn’t have been afraid of in the first place. Get out and about and say hi to a few folks. (he said, almost as if to himself).

 


It’s Amazing – notes

I was on this show today – listen in while reading this perhaps!?
It’s pretty tough to keep up when doing radio and so I thought I’d do a little blog to explain better what I thought about the songs.

The Joanna Gruesome song was brilliant. I only say I don’t like the name cos I think it’s a joke name, and it’s totally not a joke band. They WON too, which was cool!

Joanna Gruesome

Joanna Gruesome

I’ve done a bunch of listening to them on the various webs and they’re aces. Proper decent noisy indie stuff. I hope to see them live very soon so I do.

Goodbye Chanel – I like this name less actually. But the song is something I have started to like. It’s like Paul said on the show though, perhaps something which should have happened a few years ago in New York.

Parks Squares and Alleys – I want to qualify that I’m totally aware of how a silly linguistic couplet can very well be dead popular and be seen as some kind of simple genius – see “around the world” “the rhythm is gonna getcha” etc… I think it’d be fun to hear this in Russian still, with perhaps having the chorus kept in English – so as to help him keep the interest over here. English speakers are generally lazy about another language in music and film, but not me.

Banks – Aside from the slow build it’s not the kind of stuff I’d go for. Blockbuster film music is a comment I stand by.  I’d like to hear it with no vocals!

Ski Lodge – like Ducktails who I saw the other night, these are a US band making UK sounding music (to them) and it’s great. Loads of excellent references in there which I like and can’t put my finger on right now…

Ry-X has got me a bit moody. I had said on the show that it came close to my vote but I had meant Ski Lodge… or whatever I meant it wan’t this. I just don’t trust it! I trust it less, having taken a look at the video on the website. Someone said between Sigur Ros and Bon Iver. Well that’s a pretty tight gap these days… and I reckon it’s a very LA version of those two.

It reminds me of when someone really recommended Woodkid to me a while back and I was quite excited to listen. It’s totally stylised and self conscious and not a hair out of place. Like a Blue Man Group version of the above. The thing which makes me moody is that it seems to be making an attempt at a reality, an earthy atmospheric reality and it’s as synthetic as you can get. This is what it feels like to me right now.

Rue Royale’s song is a very good one, and I’ll be going to see them on 10 Sept. So should you! If I have a complaint here it might have been that they DID fall into the rut that everyone making this new folky stuff but this track had more, and I hope they’re able to play a bit more often with a band to thicken out the sound.

 

 

 


Arty Business Futures, Volunteers, and Perceptions of Success…

I have recently been taking my own advice and seeking to make money less from the business I run, in order to help it grow. It’s something I advise new acts I work with to do – get jobs, look for other revenue streams, pay bills, make money. Music is a very romantic game, and it’s tempting to throw everything behind your dream. I do understand this attitude and love the success stories but these are few and far between and I prefer a more pragmatic approach. There’s one “success” story here which is my point.

I love Sir Ken Robinson and his messages (one being that we can and should find what we love doing and do that), but I also love how this piece from The Onion is not so much funny, as pretty sound advice (OK it’s very funny but there’s decent enough advice in there too!).

I went to What Next‘s biggest event in London so far this Monday and came away pretty fired up and excited about a movement which could yet be a model for the way an arts council looks in this country in the future. It seemed less like something being led by a shadowy elite, and more like something which was growing organically. It was nice to feel like I had an open line with some of the finest arts organisations and leaders in the UK.

One of the most striking presentations was from a chap from Voluntary Arts. He made the point about how there are thousands of people who make art and form part of groups on a purely amateur basis and we had a chance briefly to discuss this afterwards. It reminded me of a book I own but have only half read – The Hidden Musicians, a study of folks who just make music for fun, and fulfil all their ambitions in so doing (ie not looking to “make it” – whatever that means). We are preoccupied by employment status in music and the arts (society as a whole?), and somewhat obsessed by notions of full and proper recompense for our/an artists work. What IS success?

I am very positive after listening to and taking part in the discussions of Monday last. I do feel however, that funding from government can dominate these discussions and as a result there is a danger that things become party political. I was heartened to hear more than once, a commitment to not leading this in the directions of party divisions. That said, I think there was still very much an expectation that MORE funding is necessary.

I want to suggest that arts leaders go to Maria Miller with a radical suggestion in response to her request that the Arts and Culture prove their economic value to her: Ask for LESS, and make up the difference by being smart, being entrepreneurial. Ask for a stronger bargaining position at the table next time round. I get the feeling that so many more successful business models were not at the event on Monday. From all sectors, tech as well as the arts, business, banking, insurance, property, whatever. Learning from other sectors is crucial. An awareness of how businesses can collaborate, and co-operate, using technology intelligently will serve the arts sector well. This was something of an exciting beginning I think, with the suggestion of an organic online “grid” particularly exciting, yet a good deal more needs to be done. I’ll be glad to help!