Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Open Mic Story - Part One

Maybe it's because I've been teaching all day, but I've come home and decided to write a history blog. Don't worry, it's not the Tudors or Stewarts, and there won't be a test, but I just thought I'd take you on a little trip down memory lane and talk about how I first got into that staple of my gigging diet over the past four or five years, hosting open mic nights.

As I said above, I started about four and a half years ago. Truthfully, the only way I remember how long it's been is to try and count up the amount of Christmas Special open mic nights I've done at The Woodman. I think it's four.
Though The Woodman in Bilbrook is my longest running venture, and the first venue I had all to myself, it wasn't my first ever taste of hosting. That came at The Bird in Hand, Tettenhall, where I took over a fortnightly slot filling in for Andy Turner, who wouldn't commit to weekly events, after attending a few times and deciding it didn't look 'that' difficult. I can't take all the credit though, it was mainly my dad's idea. As we both played in bands at the time, and as such knew at least a small amount about buying and setting up a PA system, we at least had some insider knowledge, and so we both invested (half each, as I recall) in a simple Carlsbro vocal PA, costing around £400 for two powered 12" speakers, a four track desk and the cables to connect it all together. Over the years I have added to my collection of sound re-enforcement equipment, but I still use these speakers on a regular basis.
Not long after that I approached The Crown in Codsall, then named Butler's Bistro, about putting on a music night there. The first night on my own terms was a success, with friends and fellow musicians coming down to help me out and see what all the fuss was about. We didn't get chance to do many more before the manager left and the pub closed once more.
Not to be discouraged, I moved on to The Woodman in Bilbrook, a pub just 2 minutes walk from my house (though longer when carrying speakers, a fate I encountered only once after falling out with dad and him refusing to take me!). This has become a fixture of my open mic diary, and a relatively well supported night with a loyal local clientèle. I started off here playing for nothing more than a free meal and a stage to showcase my songs, as well as those of a growing list of friends and musicians. The Woodman has always been on the last Thursday of every month (except December, when we usually move the night to make it into a Christmas party) and I believe that this regularity has helped the night survive above other nights I have hosted.
I started back at The Crown when it was taken over by a new landlord, who turned it back into a pub. The first open mic back there was a roaring success, with many people coming to perform in the bar area. The night before I was attending a friend's gig at The Little Civic in Wolverhampton when I got a call about the open mic, asking if I was providing a drum kit. I don't own one, so obviously that was a no, but the gentleman asked if he could bring one. I agreed and the next night we had two local lads turn up and rock the place! It all finished with an impromptu performance of 'Summer of 69' with about eight people on stage, and me on lead vocals. The whole place was bouncing. I'll never forget it.
Thus started the most fruitful chapter of my open mic career. Hosting monthly nights at The Woodman (now paid), The Crown and The New Inns in Brewood, an ill-fated venture into a pub that didn't want to advertise the fact that an open mic was there in case someone came who wasn't very good, and a fortnightly open mic at The Bird in Hand, my calendar was filling with music events and as part time jobs go, it was the best I could possibly wish for. I;d only ever had a paper round before that!
I'll finish off this part of the open mic story by talking about one of my most successful nights to date, a night that is still talked about by music aficionados of the Codsall area. As the open mic at The Crown really started to take off, we moved the stage setup from the bar area into the main function room, which came complete with a stage. I would book a band to finish the night's entertainment, and had applicants from far and wide. On one occasion I had a message on MySpace (showing my age there!) from one Kev Fox, a solo singer/songwriter from Manchester who was looking for gigs to complete a touring circuit of the Midlands. I invited him down to The Crown after listening to and enjoying his haunting music.
The night came and so did the Manchester touring act, Kev Fox and his support. And to my delight so did the people of Codsall! For a mere open mic night we suddenly had acts from a different county and over 100 people crammed into the function room at the back of The Crown. I still keep in touch with Kev, now playing frequently in Poland and Germany, and he remembers the night fondly.
Thus ends the first part of my open mic story. Keep an eye out for part two, which includes new songs, venues, ventures and a list of some of my favourite acts from across the years.
See you in a day or two,

Saturday, 28 January 2012

From The Vault

As some of you are probably aware ( at least I hope you are!), 'The List' was not my first album, but rather, my third. My first two albums were called 'Bard Song' and 'The Rumour Mill' respectively. I produced them myself  at home and burned the CDs as and when people wanted them. These albums were accurate depictions both of my songwriting and performance ability at the time of recording and my ability behind the desk and mixing.

But now I feel I have improved. My own knowledge in the studio, and my collection of gear has grown substantially in the last few years thanks to college training and frugal upgrading, and with many of the people who are fans of the music I have made recently having never heard my older material, I think that now is a good time to revisit it. I am therefore happy to tell you that I've started work on an album of tracks taken from the first two albums, as well as tracks from other EPs and even a track I played live a handful of times but never recorded.

BUT THAT'S NOT ALL! I'm also taking this opportunity to name the track from 'The Rumour Mill' that has until now remained 'Untitled'. I'm not announcing the new title until the album comes out, but rest assured and after much deliberation, I have finally come up with something I'm pleased with. It's only been four years coming!

Like I said before, I've not just improved behind the desk, but in front of the microphone as well, and that's why I'm reworking and re-recording all the old songs, so even the people who have heard them all before will find something new in there to enjoy.

I'll be interspersing my blog posts with studio diaries from the making of this album, so keep reading the updates if you want to know about how I'm getting on. For now, I've chosen the songs, recorded guide tracks and started on some percussion and bass parts. I'm also running through a few different ideas for album titles and artwork designs at the moment, so I should hopefully be able to announce the album title soon!

Until then, I'll say my farewells. I'm hosting open mic at The Hartley arms in Wheaton Aston, Stafford on Monday night (30th) so if you would like to see me play or fancy playing yourself, come on down for a 9pm start. I've also got an exciting meeting with a friend booked to talk about merchandise next week, and I'm performing at Village Coffee in Codsall, Wolverhampton on Saturday afternoon from 2. I'll keep you in the loop.

Thanks for reading. I'll catch you again in a few days.


Thursday, 26 January 2012

No frills - getting my music online.

Being independent in the music industry has always been seen as being either for small bands who can't get a record deal or artists who fall out with their major label partners. In these cases the small bands were just seen to be making excuses and the large band either being greedy or righteous, depending on the public's perspective of them.

Nowadays, with the decline in major label dominance, it has become important for an emerging artist to know how to run their own show. Labels no longer sign artists to development deals like they did in the 50's and 60's, but instead wait to see if they come to fruition on their own or within a smaller label, then either buy them out or envelope the label they are signed to within their own company. But do not despair. With a decline in huge label contracts comes the decline in price for, well, pretty much everything you need to release your own record on your own label.

I say your own label, but I use the term loosely. I am not signed to a record label, even one I have created myself, by name. However, to date I have released 3 studio albums and number of EPs and have plans for a further two albums this year. I record, produce and mix the albums myself, complete all the artwork and send them off to a duplication company to have them pressed and when they are finished they come back to me and I sell them at gigs and on my online store. I could make up a label name and stick it on there, but the fact is it's just me making the arrangements, so I don't see the need for it. I could pretend to be a label when sending the album out to radio or promoters, but that just involves making yourself some interesting looking letter-headed paper, which is easy to do.

So what did I do? Who did I use? I get a lot of people asking we where I got my CDs made or how I got my music on the fabled iTunes. It's actually a lot easier than you might think.

I'll start with iTunes. The thing that people don't understand about iTunes is that it has no quality control. None. Anyone could record three minutes of garbled gibberish and put it up on iTunes through an aggregator if they had £20 to waste. All you need is an aggregator, or a company that provides the service of getting your music to online stores. There are hundreds out there, all offering slightly different deals in terms of what percentages you get from your sales and what you get back for your money. I;ll tell you about 2 in this blog, the one I use, and another I have heard good reports about.

The company I use is called Zimbalam. Their deal is simple. You pay £30 for an album (£20 for a single) and for one year it goes EVERYWHERE. That means all the online stores, from the famous ones like iTunes , Spotify and Amazon downloads right through to some I've never heard of, in every territory in the world. That's right Burkina Faso, you can buy my album online! At the end of the year you either pay £30 to renew the subscription for another year, or you pay £30 to take it down. The take-down charge is a drawback, but  it's a good deal if you want something that's all encompassing and no hassle, and the statistics they give back to you on where and when your tracks were bought or streamed are quite insightful and thorough.

The other company I have often pointed people towards is called Ditto Music. They have a range of bespoke packages depending on what you want, from a comparatively cheap 'get a single on iTunes and Spotify' packages, to a full works with everything including starting a label for you, getting your songs chart registered and using a sister company to collect performance royalties on your behalf (I'd advise against this, I'll talk about collecting your own PRS royalties in another post). The benefit of this is that if you have done your research about where and on what platform you want to release in order to have the most impact (so you have decided Burkina Faso isn't for you!) you can save yourself some money. Another main benefit is that, to my knowledge, they don't have a take down fee, so that's something to consider.

As I said, there are hundreds of other companies offering hundreds of other deals, so shop around. The perfect deal for you could be out there. Leave some links as a comment at the bottom of this blog if you like, I'd be interested to see some more deals.

I'm going to sign off now. Thanks for reading my blog, and for those of you who aren't musicians like me and are not interested in all this, I promise to rotate my content as much as possible, so the next blog either tomorrow or at the weekend will be about something different. Maybe a competition, if I come up with something cool for you to do before then!

Thanks again,


Tuesday, 24 January 2012


So this is my first blog post, and for the benefit of anyone who has stumbled across this by accident, I should introduce myself. Hi, My name is Sam Draisey and I'm an independent singer/songwriter from the West Midlands in England.

You can hear all my music and see my various online presences by clicking on the buttons at the top of this blogs home page. I won't inundate you with links to check them all out, but I won't discourage you from having a nose either!

So what's this blog going to be about? Firstly I'll be talking about my gigs, my recording projects and my general pursuit of work within the music industry. I'll be posting any reviews I get for you to read, and would welcome any comments you may have about anything I do. I'll also be talking about the different ideas and schemes I have for promoting myself, my shows, my merchandise and my overall 'brand'. Those of you in a similar boat to me might find this interesting and even helpful, and again can feel free to share any insight you might have into the subjects of marketing and promotion by commenting on such threads. I'll use the blog to post 'blog only' content for you guys, like guitar tabs, videos, sound clips and photos.

I'll also be using this blog to run and advertise competitions for free stuff to do with my music, so keep your eyes peeled for that!

And finally, like with any blog, I'll be using it to give you an insight into my day to day life and thoughts.

So that's pretty much what it's about, with probably a load of other stuff thrown in that I haven't thought about yet.

I'll post again in the next day or two, but for now, welcome to my blog.