Hardwork, class acts

When do you need a man­ager? Should you print CDs? And how to­get the per­fect pic­ture? To coin­cide with Hard Work­ing Class He­roes fes­ti­val, Lau­ren Murphy gets the low down on the business end of be­ing in a band

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC -

THE RE­TAILER

Chris Keena, HMV We ask bands to come to us with a plan: they should have a re­lease date, and we will make a strat­egy around that re­lease date. The prod­uct needs to be ready for re­tail, so it needs to have a bar­code, a cat­a­logue num­ber and all the ba­sic stuff. We ad­vise them to or­gan­ise gigs around the re­lease. We can of­fer them in-stores, ei­ther in their neck of the woods or in one of our big stores in Dublin, Belfast, Gal­way, or Lim­er­ick.

If a band wants to put five copies of an al­bum into 50 shops, we can do that for them – we’ll get it shipped to our ware­house in Tal­laght and then get it shipped out to stores. You have to keep it sen­si­ble, though. I don’t want to tell bands to pro­duce 700 al­bums when they’re only go­ing to sell 200.

It’s 100 per cent worth­while for bands to get a phys­i­cal copy of their re­lease printed up. This week alone, the stats are say­ing that phys­i­cal is up 10.5 per cent, downloads are down 6 per cen­tand vinyl is up 75 per cent com­pared to last year, be­cause there are places like us who are ready to give them a leg-up. Peo­ple still want to buy phys­i­cal; that’s the bot­tom line.

THE­M­AN­AGER Ken Allen, man­ager of James Vincent McMor­row, Jape, Slow Skies As a band starts to get a lit­tle bit of heat or suc­cess, you have a lot of peo­ple ap­proach­ing bands, from press peo­ple to agents, all that stuff. A man­ager’s role would be to pro­tect the band and pick the right team to put around them.

Who ap­proaches who? With James, I’d heard his demo and thought it was bril­liant, so I kind of chased him a bit. The other acts [that I work with] ap­proached me.

It’s al­ways good to have a trial pe­riod where you’d work to­gether be­fore you sign any con­tract: two to three months, maybe. If you don’t know the per­son in ad­vance, you need to get a feel for that per­son and how they work. A lot of the time, a band’s mo­ti­va­tion or end goal might be dif­fer­ent to a man­ager’s. A man­ager might say “I want to get this band on a ma­jor la­bel, I want ra­dio hits”, where the band might have a dif­fer­ent idea and want to be more in­die. In terms of man­age­ment com­mis­sions, the in­dus­try stan­dard is usu­ally 20 per cent.

THE BAND

Ni­amh Far­rell, Ham Sand­wich We used to re­hearse an aw­ful lot when we started out; we had to. Once you start gig­ging and have some gigs un­der your belt, you can kind of re­lax a bit more.

I’d ad­vise look­ing around for re­hearsal stu­dios that you can share with other bands – that’s what we did when we started out, and it worked out re­ally cheap. We had a sched­ule on the wall and we’d go in maybe twice a week. It’s also a place where you can store your gear safely. It’s also a good way of meet­ing other bands and mu­si­cians, who are in the same po­si­tion as you a lot of the time. It’s about cre­at­ing a net­work of mu­si­cians.”

Look around for re­hearsal stu­dios that you can share with other bands It’s a good way of meet­ing other mu­si­cians, who are in the same po­si­tion as you a lot of the time. It’s about cre­at­ing a net­work of mu­si­cians

THE PRO­DUCER Dar­ragh Nolan (aka Asta Ka­pala) When should a band record a demo? It’s prob­a­bly never too early. The process it­self irons out a lot of kinks, mak­ing it trans­par­ent what may be lack­ing in ar­range­ment, struc­ture or melody. If it al­ready sounds amaz­ing as a raw demo, chances are it’s time to record. Un­less the songs are al­ready fully formed – which is rare – the demo process shouldn’t be skipped.

I’ve had the ‘EP or al­bum?’ con­ver­sa­tion with many artists, and I’ve found it boils down to this: are there enough fin­ished songs to make a great al­bum? If the an­swer is no, you should prob­a­bly go for an EP first.

The best bands aren’t afraid to scrap record­ings or songs for the sake of get­ting it right. Hone your craft and ev­ery­thing else will find you.

THE PUB­LI­CIST Emma Har­ney, Or­ches­trate PR A mu­sic pub­li­cist helps bands get heard by me­dia – namely TV mu­sic pro­duc­ers, heads of mu­sic in ra­dio sta­tions, DJs and jour­nal­ists . PRs gen­er­ally have the di­rect ears of th­ese peo­ple; they’ve built a re­la­tion­ship with them over the years, and they know how to ap­proach them so that they get the best re­sults.

Bands and artists gen­er­ally ap­proach us – how­ever, there has been a cou­ple of oc­ca­sions where artists have blown me away and I’ve given them our company de­tails.

The cost de­pends on the project: it can start at ¤750, which would be for a tai­lored in­die cam­paign. Most PR firms charge ¤1,000-¤2,000 for a sin­gle or al­bum cam­paign. A word of ad­vice: be wary of PR firms that charge very lit­tle. As the say­ing goes, when you pay peanuts . . .

Bi­ogra­phies or press re­leases for a young band start­ing out should be no longer than a page: no one likes read­ing waf­fle. A band should al­ways make sure that their name is ac­tu­ally on the CD it­self; jour­nal­ists and DJs have hun­dreds of CDs on their desks.

THE PHO­TOG­RA­PHER Ruth Med­jber, ruth­less im­agery.word­press.com If a jour­nal­ist or blog­ger is writ­ing an ar­ti­cle on the top 10 acts of 2014 to look out for, the ed­i­tor may only have space for one photo. You can be sure that they’re go­ing to choose the band with the most pro­fes­sional-look­ing im­age; they don’t want to fill their web­site or mag­a­zine with badly ex­posed or low-res pho­tos.

I spend a lot of time lis­ten­ing to demos and promo al­bums. If I come across some­thing that I adore, then I’ll con­tact the band and sug­gest a shoot. Oth­er­wise it would be the bands that would con­tact me. I love it when a band comes to me with a load of ideas. Pho­to­shoots are sup­posed to be a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort.

If you hire a pro­fes­sional, you’d be look­ing at any­where be­tween ¤200 to ¤2,000 for a band shoot. If it’s an al­bum cover, ex­pect to pay more.

Another thing to men­tion is live-mu­sic pho­tog­ra­phy. If you play a big show like HWCH, you can guar­an­tee that there will be a few pho­tog­ra­phers at your show who may have seen 40 to 60 bands in the one week­end. Make your­self look dif­fer­ent: bring your own lights, can­dles . . . what­ever matches your sound. Paint a banner with your logo, or neon tape your mic stand? And don’t hide at the back of the stage – let the pho­tog­ra­phers see you.”

Hard at it

Lit­tle Xs For Eyes. Cover: HWCH alumni Le Galaxie. Photographs: Ruth Med­jber

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