Sweet Sister Starlight Screed
First, here’s the album…
Putting this album together has been a long road: I started it in 2007, and managed to spend four years faffing about with it until it was finally ready to release. I think it’s hands down the best recording I’ve made so far - this isn’t to say I don’t think there’s things I could have done better - it’s just better than the others are. I’ve learned loads. I’ve also made loads of mistakes that I hope never to make again, and I think developed a more realistic view of where I’m at with things.
I really didn’t mean to take so long over this.
Nothing’s Any Fun Any more was the first tune to be recorded, in …
NB, turns out this post didn’t import into Blogger from Posterous properly, so some text is lost here, wm 2021-01-05
I don’t think it’s that bad, though, for all that someone who really knew what they were doing would have probably made it sound better in a much shorter time. On the other hand, there’s little point having a home studio setup if you don’t teach yourself how to use it, and the only way to do that is to record and mix stuff on it.
I need to do more of that.
The brains behind the artwork was also the pretty face on the cover and back cover - all credit for that should really go to my wonderful girlfriend Brenda. First she managed to coax something approaching a coherent vague idea out of me, following which she sourced the dress/robe thing she is wearing, generally worked out an appropriate look in terms of hair and makeup. Next she sourced and worked with a photographer (the excellent Christina Rossi) to arrange a shoot in suitable location. She had to spend the whole shoot standing barefoot in the mud on a slightly rainy day in October and yet still successfully managed to look as amazing as any professional model throughout. The results were incredible - you can see more in the photos section of the Facebook page. After that the rest of the artwork more or less designed itself. At last, by February this year it was all done, at which point I began thinking about how to release it.
I’m not at all sure I handled the release process very well, but a great dissection of that is maybe a matter for another post. Suffice to say that deciding to have an online release on Bandcamp in March, make up a load of promo copies on CD and send them out in all directions leading up to a full CD release in May may not have been the best of ideas for me at this stage, at least, not the way I handled it.
I definitely need to figure out how to do that stuff better.
On the other hand, I did get some response, for which I’m really grateful. Tom Robinson played a tune from the album on BBC Radio 6 (two, in fact, as I’d randomly submitted Nothing’s Any Fun Any More not long after first recording it and he played that a couple of years ago), and there have been plays on podcasts including Is This Thing On, The Justin Wayne Show, Rathole Radio, Butterflies Radio and Linux Outlaws, with more hopefully on the way. There was a really positive review in Being Beatzine on Facebook. More reviews are in the pipeline from a few music bloggers and magazines.
Also last weekend I got completely shitfaced and sent a ridiculous expletive-filled email to the editor of Stool Pigeon, which he found hilarious and wants to run as a letter in their next issue.
So, yeah, I need to do all this stuff better.
Fast forward to last night’s launch at the Hideaway in Archway.
Last night’s launch at the Hideaway was a great success.
I managed to get around twenty friends to come down, so between them, the eight musicians and soundman, and the maybe five to ten people who came down to see the other acts and the maybe five or so who happened to be in the place that night and came downstairs to see what the music was all about, it didn’t feel empty at all. The Hideaway basement reckons it has a capacity of 80, but it would be sardines in there with 50, so it was a perfect place for an endeavour such as a Fit and the Conniptions album launch - realistically I’m still only just at the beginnings of building up a listenership. I haven’t organised a whole night since my last album launch in 2007 at Cross Kings - that was a great night but that venue was a bit too big for me, really - I don’t think more than about 15 people came - and it felt a bit weird and empty.
The Hideaway was just right for where I’m at.
Brian Charles’ band, David Goo (playing solo, not with the Variety Band) and Sean Taylor all played great sets, and I thought the night hung together well. Brian’s music is a very jazzy brand of prog-rock, David’s material involves rapidfire wordsmithery veering from punk to funk, and Sean plays a very pure and powerful kind of blues; overall I thought this contrasted with and complemented elements of my own bluesy folk-rock stuff, the more so as I was lucky enough to have Brian playing drums with me on my set, as he is on the album. Sean also sat in on lead guitar for much of my set - he played as wonderfully as he did on the album - and I also borrowed the talents of Brian’s excellent keyboard player Jackson Baird. Bassist Paul Tkachenko did a solid job of knitting everything together into groove, as usual, and it was a real pleasure for me to play with such a great band. Andy Moore, on sound, made everything so crystal perfect you could basically forget there was a PA at all and just play. Brenda took care of the door and left me free to concentrate on the music. I had a great night, and the feedback I’ve had from people who were there suggests that so did everyone else.
I sold 2 CDs.
I can’t complain about that.
Firstly everything is online to download anyway - and there has been a steady, if slow, trickle of downloads since the online launch in March. Secondly, many of the people who were there already had a copy, either because they’d downloaded it or because I’d given them one of the promo copies I made up. And thirdly, I’ve a gut feeling that, generally speaking, getting about 10% of the people who turn up to a gig to buy a CD is pretty reasonable for anyone at any level.
If I was playing to 500 people, selling 50 CDs would not, I think, be a bad night: if anyone reading this is involved in acts playing to 500 or more people and knows what CD sales levels might be like there, please feel free to tell me whether or not I’m talking totally out of my arse here.
However, it is possible that I shouldn’t even be bothering to sell CDs at all at this point. The band has just over 100 ‘likes’ on Facebook, and when I bring 20 people to a gig it’s a special occasion. I don’t know if I’m really ready to be selling CDs.
Giving away downloads for free - or at least on a pay-what-you-want-including-free basis - has worked well for me. Currently about one in four downloaders choose to pay for it, but one in four of not very much is still not very much, and it’s much more important to me, at this stage, that people who like my music get to have it to listen to and hopefully share with friends.
I’ve been wondering whether I ought to try the same with physical CDs when I gig - I’ve read a couple of blog posts about musicians finding that they actually make more money from CDs when they do pay-what-you-want for CDs at gigs - but these are musicians that have followings and listenerships, and I’m still trying to build one up.
Pulling some more numbers out of my arse for a moment, I suspect that the average band with an established Facebook page - depending how well they promote themselves - can probably get between 1% and 10% of the number of Facebook ‘likes’ to show up to the average London gig.
I don’t really know what life is like for those with numbers of likes over 1000, though I’ll note that Ed Sheeran, who has around 100,000 likes, is currently selling out 1000 and 2000 capacity venues. Martha Wainwright, at around 10,000 likes, seems to play lots of places holding between a few hundred and a couple of thousand. Acts with between 500 and 1000 likes turn up regularly at the same kind of places I’m playing, only they pretty much always seem to bring between 5 and 50 people there to see them. Acts like me, with less than 500 likes, seem to regularly bring anything between 0 and 25 people, and at that kind of early stage, whether it’s more 0 or more 25 has a lot do with specifics of how those gigs are promoted - and not by the promoter but by the musicians themselves.
I’ve not been doing a great job of this and have been regularly bringing 0 people to gigs for five years now.
At the same time, the fact is that just over 100 people other than myself have chosen to click ‘like’ on the Facebook page, including an increasing contingent of people I’ve never met. With friends it’s always hard to tell whether a ‘like’ is motivated by politeness or by actually liking the music - sometimes it may be both but perhaps not always - but when people you don’t know start clicking ‘like’, this won’t be politeness and must count for something.
Either way, to be honest, I’m grateful.
If I’m ever to achieve my crazy dream of making the music I want to make, as well as possible, and earning a living from that - is it so crazy to want to do that? - I’m going to need to find more than 100 people who like my music enough to say so on Facebook. On the one hand that’s going to involve me continuing to work hard on my music: this new album is a definite improvement over the live CD, which was itself, I thought, an improvement on my first album. On the other, it’s also going to involve me figuring out how to find those people who like my music, such as it is, along the way.
I’m still very much towards the beginning of the road.
Another mistake I think I’ve been making over the last five years is not that I have been gigging too much, but that I have not been gigging enough. At the level I’m at, I can’t guarantee to bring anyone to a gig ever. So it’s pretty pointless when a promoter tells me that they don’t want me to play any other gigs two weeks either side of their date - it’s not going to make any difference. Acts who can guarantee to bring 30-40 people to a gig might find the two weeks either side rule applies to them - I don’t know - but if you know you can’t guarantee anyone will turn up at all - and why should they, when so few people have heard the music or like it - the answer must surely be to go out there and gig every chance you get, within reason, so more people do hear the music, some of whom will like it.
So I’ll be gigging as much as I can for a bit, within reason - details are on the music page and gigs page linked above.
If you read this far - wow. Thank you. Please do have a listen to the album. If you like it, download it - pay whatever you think it’s worth including zero - share it with friends, come to a gig if you can.
Meanwhile I’m beginning to think about the next album.