Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The 10 Mile Radius Tour ~ Review

Well, I played the last show on my tour tonight, so I thought I would give you a run down on how I felt the whole thing went. I'm prepared to be completely honest, so I'd love to hear what you make of this. Get in touch in the comments below, on Facebook or by any other way you know how :)
So has the tour been a success? Sort of. Before I started I set myself a list of goals I wanted to achieve by the end of the tour, and some of them have been met. For example, due to a great showing at Coven Beer Festival on Friday night the tour has ended up in the black financially, as a lot of people bought CDs and merchandise. This is a goal that frankly I didn't expect to achieve, so I'm really happy about that. I know it's not all about money, but as a quantifiable way to gauge how the whole thing has gone, it's great to be able to tot-up my total ins and outs and come out with a positive number.

I also discovered two great new places to play that I can definitely visit in the future in Pelsall Folk Club and Bloxwich Bookmark open mic. There is even a chance of me returning to Pelsall as a featured host for an evening in the new year, which would be really nice.
There were, however, some failings to this tour. Firstly and least significantly I wasn't really able to attract people to come to watch me perform in gigs I had included in the tour. I say that this is least significant because getting people to shows was not one of the goals of this tour, it was more about getting me exposed to new audiences rather than trying to attract people who already know about my music. That said, a number of people at Coven Beer Festival on Friday night did say that they had come specifically to see me perform, having either been recommended by the brewery running the night, or seen the posters advertising my performance around the village.

More importantly in terms of my own goals, I did not achieve the increase in exposure to new fans online that I had targeted. I had set myself what I thought were achievable goals for increase in online activity and mailing list sign-ups for the duration of the tour, but these were not met. I have considered that this may be due to the following factors, but if you have other ideas, you know how and where to get in touch;

  • Cancelled Shows - Unfortunately for a variety of reasons I had to cancel four of the gigs I had planned for the tour, three of which were venues I had not visited before and therefore would likely have contained people who have not heard my music. 
  • Open Mic Nights - another potential reason why I might not have met certain goals was due to only really playing at open mic nights. I host open mic nights on a regular basis and have been to great number of them in my time, so I know how it feels to attend one. It's not really somewhere where a lot of people go to discover new music (in my experience). It's often more about musicians having somewhere to try out new things and the players there, while listening and being respectful, are usually busy planning their own set and 'sizing up' the competition. As great and necessary a tool as they are, they are therefore not really suited to a tour where the main goal is to increase exposure.
  • Online Goals - I think (or at least part of me hopes) that one of the problems with the goals I set was that I based the fanbase related ones around online services like Facebook, Twitter and my mailing list. It's safe to say that not all fans of musicians interact with them online. There are hundreds of bands that I love, but I don't subscribe to all of their mailing lists, tweets and Facebook updates, for example. I know that the reason I did this was so that I could easily quantify them, but it gives something of a singular view on my exposure during the tour, especially when you consider that one of the most successful tour gigs was at a folk club, where the demographic was slightly older and possibly less prone to using social media, at least in that way. The fact is I cannot begin to put a number or word to the level of exposure I gained throughout the tour or the number of 'fans' I gained. But then, who can?
  • Proximity - Yes, the final possible reason why the 10 mile radius tour was not as successful as it could have been could in fact be because it all happened within 10 miles! There is a reason why acts on a UK tour only play one show in each city or region, because the more gigs in close proximity they do, the more they spread out their fanbase. I put this one last because although it's potentially a valid reason as to why some shows were not too well supported, it doesn't effect the goals relating to exposure to new audiences.
So to conclude, the tour succeeded where I expected it to fail and failed where I had hoped it might succeed. So what do you call it overall? Considering that the visiting gigs I played were all very well received and a number of musicians expressed an interest in attending some of my open mic nights, I would call it a tentative success. If I were to do it again, I would look to book more gigs rather than just visiting open mic nights and set myself separate goals for the differing types of shows, concentrating on promoting my own nights while at open mic nights, and myself while at booked gigs. I'd also like to try and create more content to go up online, such as videos, photos and recordings, to try and bridge the gap between real life tour and virtual tour.

So that's it. Brutally honest maybe, but those are my thoughts. I'd like to hear yours on the subject, should you choose to share them. The 10 miles radius tour is over, but let's be honest with ourselves. The tour never really stops, does it? ;)
See you soon!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Spotify ~ Hero or Villain?

There have been a lot of blogs, articles and the like flying around recently about streaming services such as Spotify and whether they are dangerous to musicians due to their low royalty payouts. I read a lot of arguments from both sides of the fence, and thought I would share my views with you guys. Leave a comment with your thoughts at the bottom of this post, I'd love to hear what you think about the whole thing.

As an independent musician, I don't think Spotify is ever going to make me any money. That doesn't mean, however, that I think it is a bad model. The idea of the royalty payouts by Spotify is that you get paid a tiny amount of money every time one person listens to one of your songs. For me as an independent musician without ties to a record label who has a deal in place to collect 100% of my royalties, I get about a third of a penny per track play, so if someone listens to 'The List' from start to finish (12 tracks), I'd make about one and a third pence!

It sounds like nothing, but I'll put it another way. Imagine how many times around the world in different people's personal stereos, car radios and MP3 players 'Dark Side of the Moon' has been played. Millions? Hundreds of millions? More? Now imagine if all of those plays had been on Spotify, which in the future will be possible as they branch their service out to mobile devices so you can take it with you wherever you go. You are looking at millions and millions of plays, each being paid a third of a penny or more as the music is so popular. At a third of a penny per play you would need just 334 million plays of individual songs to make a million pounds. For 'Dark Side of the Moon' as a whole, it would be under 33.5 million plays. Considering sales of that album are estimated at 50 million worldwide and not many people listen to an album just once, you can see how it mounts up. And it would be growing all the time.

So Spotify is just another service that's good for the guys at the top and rubbish for the guys at the bottom?

Well, sort of. I use Spotify's player to play the music on my Facebook page and on this blog. I don't think of it as a way to make money, but rather a way to advertise my music to anyone and everyone that wants to hear it, for free, through a trusted medium. And if they like it, they might just go and buy it. Or at least it might get them interested in my music enough to come and watch me play.

So that's my view on Spotify. If you write a great song or album that people keep going back to, it will pay you in the long run. However, if someone decided to listen to my album 'The List' solely on Spotify rather than buying it, they would have to listen to the whole thing over 385 times before I got the £5 for the CD!

That is why I don't use it for financial gain, but rather treat it as an advertising expense. What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know :)

Monday, 12 November 2012

The journey so far.

I thought that after completing my first week on tour, I would write a little update for you about how things are going so far.

The warm up gig at Katie Fitzgerald's on Wednesday was good fun. It was quite quiet, but the people who were there seemed to enjoy my set, and the other musicians (Luke Turner and Rhiannon) were both very good. I really like playing in the venue. For those who haven't been before, it's a little Irish themed music pub with a venue downstairs, though I've only ever played at the acoustic nights in the bar. Add to that the fact that this was the night that Celtic beat Barcelona! I good night to be in an Irish pub!

Thursday the tour really kicked off as I visited Pelsall Folk Club. I'd never been to a folk club before, having always been rebuffed or put off by the attitude towards my enquiries with members in the past. I've always been given the impression that 'I'm not 'Folk' enough', or even just plain not good enough. I've let this get to me in the past, but I thought for this tour, I'd give it one more go. I'm really glad I did.

I doubt I could have picked a more accommodating club for my first time. The room was quiet during performances but not intimidating, and the music from other performers in the first half was varied enough to settle me into thinking that I might be ok. I did, however, still have to decided what cover I was going to play.

I decided to open with 'Where We Came From', my protest song that comes as close to traditional 'Folk' as I think any of my songs do. But what cover to choose? A number of options floated through my mind as they drew the raffle in the interval and ate sandwiches (I know, they laid on food at half time! Something I could think about for my open nights?!) Eventually I decided upon 'The Boxer' by Paul Simon, a crowd favourite and someone who even devoted 'Folkies' seem to admire.

My set went down really well. The audience even joined in for 'The Boxer'. My worries about militant folk fans were eased, and the congratulations I received from fellow players and members of the audience helped even more. I have been invited back, and I will be returning when I have a free Thursday night. I advise anyone who likes a relaxed atmosphere and good acoustic music to do the same.

Then on Friday I went down to Bloxwich Bookmark Theatre for open mic night. I had no idea what to expect, especially after I arrived and saw that it was also a library, but after bypassing the man on the front desk, I was directed to a small theatre room complete with stage where a few guitarists and poets were sitting. I went on first, played 20 minutes of my tunes and again was very well received. I then sat and was entertained by an eclectic mix of poetry, instrumental and comedy music, with some pop songs thrown in for good measure. The whole night was really good fun, and again, I'm glad I went. I was asked to go back up at the end and play a couple, so I did 'The Sound of Silence' by Simon and Garfunkel and 'The Blower's Daughter' by Damien Rice. Once again, these were really well received, and I would definitely like to go back there should I get stuck for something to do on a Friday.

With Saturday my night off, I headed out again on Sunday night for open mic at The Albion. I usually don't get to play many of my own songs here, it's just not that sort of gig. I'm not getting many performers there at the moment, and the people who come to watch would rather listen to music they know. That said, my friend and fellow singer/songwriter David Young (https://twitter.com/DYOfficial) decided to join me, so I had at least a small section of the audience who might enjoy my tunes. I decided that as this was a tour show, I would do my own songs for my first set, and I thought they actually went down pretty well. Something to think about in the future! I went back up after David's brilliant set and a cameo from Bill the local harmonica player to play some covers to finish the night off.

So that's the update for now, I'll do another one after this week's escapades. My next stop is Sandpiper Folk Club at The Pigot Arms in Pattingham on Wednesday. It's a local one for me, so I hope you can come and say hi.


Thursday, 8 November 2012

Ready for launch?!

Today is the day, in many respects. Firstly, my album 'Anthology' launched today on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify etc. You can listen to both of my albums now by using the Spotify widget on the right hand side of this blog page. Isn't that cool?! If you like what you hear (I wouldn't expect you to buy it without listening first!) you can download it from iTunes here. If you don't like downloads, you can always come and visit me tonight and buy a CD copy :)

And that leads me nicely onto the second launch of the day. After a really nice gig last night at one of my favourite venues, Katie Fitzgerald's in Stourbridge, I kick off 'The 10 Mile Radius Tour' tonight at Common Folk in Pelsall. It's at Pelsall Cricket Club. I've never been to a folk club before and to be honest, whenever I've enquired in the past, the people who run them have been very stand-off-ish. But I thought I would take the plunge for this tour and so I emailed ahead and for the first time they didn't seem like elitist 'folkies'. I might be wrong, but I'm hopeful all the same :)

If you are from Pesall or know anyone that is, why not give them a nudge tonight and come down and say hi. Would be great to see you :)

See you on the road!


Friday, 2 November 2012

Anthology Online!

To coincide with my '10 mile radius tour' that I blogged about before, I'm very happy to announce that I will be releasing my album 'Anthology' online to all good retailers! It will launch the same day as the tour's first gig, so you can get it just in time to come and see me in Pelsall!

Is iTunes your thing? Do you prefer Amazon? maybe you like streaming on Spotify? Or maybe you use a provider from your phone like Nokia OVI or Orange SFR? However you get your music, wherever you are, there will be a way for you to get hold of it from the 8th.

And of course, if downloading isn't your thing, you can still have a CD!

See you on the road!