BBC Radio is incredibly important for bands and once you have done everything else, your band needs to submit your music to the BBC -it will be listened to. The BBC is a tremendous resource and if you get played then nice things can happen. But you still need to present it to them properly and even if you do not give a shit about social media and how many likes you have, you should know that they certainly do.
Isn’t trying to get mainstream radio outdated? Do you live in a bubble Mr VoxBox? You do know the internet has existed for a while…
Thanks, devils advocate. But the way the music industry pays artists is still old fashioned. Making decent money from music requires PRS/PPL that you get from proper old fashioned radio play, adverts and getting good live gigs and festival slots. Get a million streams -great! It won’t pay you much but it might help get you on the radio. So streaming/bandcamp/soundcloud etc are important but ignore radio at your peril. That is where every band should be aiming to be. Here is a wee trailer for BBC Introducing:
One thing with the changing of how music is consumed. You know, there isn’t a Top of the Pops anymore. Since 2006, when it fizzled out, there has been no illusion among grassroot artists that you can get a number one at all. Bands turned their backs on the charts when Pop-Idol/X-Factor moved in and, American Hip Hop and Beyoncé took over the world. The significant illegal downloading trend began 20 years ago with Napster and the industry began panicking over declining CD sales. The older executives didn’t know what to do and the kids they brought in to help probably didn’t know enough about music. The big labels became wary about signing wee bands on big advances based on their demo tapes. The money dried up. Kind of.
The bonus to this was that bands stopped trying to write radio friendly 3 minute pop songs. I am sure that to be seen to be trying to be commercial seems bad to some in the Indie scene. However, it has given bands the space to loosen up and take their time; albums full of the extended foreplay of the 5 minute song’s introduction have become more routine which is a turn off for me. I like to be finished quickly… In a Blitzkreig Bop so to speak. Then go again. Erm all night. Sorry for this.
Long songs are more difficult to get played on the radio. When doing our Freshair Radio show, we liked to squeeze in as much as possible. With punkier sensibilities, a 5 minuter was frowned upon but as folkies also, we played this new 7 minute beast by James Yorkston released earlier this year.
I would certainly suggest that bands cut out their long introductions and have a shorter radio edit when sending tracks for people to listen to, to increase chances of airplay. Art vs. commercialism isn’t something new.
The grassroots in Scotland are mostly making art. Why do folk make art? Because that is what they have to do whether they get paid or not. Which is a terrible negotiating position to be in when it comes to asking for money.
I heard someone add to the works of Oscar Wilde “It is only art if you can sell it” and whether you are a work of art or wear a work of art, like it or not, there is a truth there.
Back to the BBC Introducing blurb: “Every week over 30 local BBC Music Introducing shows all over the UK play music they have discovered through the Introducing Uploader. Our family of local shows across the UK are at the frontline of discovering and playing new artists from their area – and it could include you. But it doesn’t end there. Our local shows also recommend the best tunes from their area to shows and DJs on Radio 1, 1Xtra, Radio 2, Radio 3, 6 Music and Asian Network. That means, if you’re the cream of the crop, your music could be heard by a nationwide audience. It all starts by signing up and uploading your best tracks.”
I cannot stress enough how much I love the BBC and how important it is. Every up and coming band should get themselves a profile on BBC Introducing and submit their best tune. But only after listening to Tom Robinson for almost an hour. He starts off talking about the space shuttle and I almost got bored but persevere as it makes sense later on.
This is a really important lecture by the BBC’s Tom Robinson on how the BBC Introducing system works. Every wee band that wants to get played on radio should watch this. He is lovely yet some of what he says is brutal. How musicians can get their music heard:
“There has never been a better time to be an artist to get your music heard” he says. He also says that getting 1000 Youtube followers is more important than a spot play on Radio 1. “And easier to get”! Oooft! Was he serious? Basically his point is that radio can’t help a wee band unless you have done a lot of ground work first. Think the Beatles in Hamburg then the Cavern.
He says gig a lot and build a following. They like to see momentum. You need to be patient. Steve Lamacqs’s advice: How good are you now? How good will you be nine months from now? So when do you want to send the song in? [You remember the Arctic Monkeys overnight success. – 4 years between forming and debut album]
He also says that Radio (my deliberate capital R) is not the be all and end all. It is vital to increase the momentum but can only grow on what you already have.
Other bits of wisdom:
If you send in a track it will definitely be listened to but perhaps only for the first 30 seconds. So you need to grab their attention.
Don’t send in good stuff -send in your belter.
The key to quality is quantity! Lower your standards and write more songs.
Andy Warhol was always saying to Lou he should write more songs.
He says 70% of BBC content is played by computer playing songs from a playlist. 98% of commercial radio does the same. That’s why getting playlisted is so important.
You have 0% chance of getting onto a playlist without a plugger or major label backing. Read that sentence again.
They trust radio pluggers. Some wander around the building handing CDs out.
The gist is that they believe that if someone believes in a band enough to pay a plugger then they are more likely to be a good band than one that hasn’t paid a plugger. He genuinely believes this balls and gives anecdotes. 46 minutes in he tells you a bit about good and bad Radio pluggers.
If you don’t listen to this Tom Robinson thing because “yeahIknow” everything. Then your band are on the road being to the wrong Lou and Andy:
On radio 2000-2002. TV from 2003-2007
Tom says he gets 170 songs per week sent to him and half are good songs according to him. So send your super-charged-full-of-rocket fuel-belter in to stand a chance. The Beeb would playlist anything Bowie released but he is in space already -so the space shuttle analogy at the start makes a lot more sense. That is, it takes loads of rocket fuel to get someone into orbit. But once there, you don’t need so much fuel to move around which is why he could release anything he wanted and get radio play. Or so his analogy goes.
Bowie’s in Space! by Flight of the Conchords
A question that should be asked more frequently:
Why are there so few Scottish artists on the BBC Introducing Stages at major UK festivals? They curate stages at Glastonbury, Reading & Leeds, Lattitude and The Radio 1 Big Weekend. They also sometimes send bands to South by Southwest in Austin Texas once a year. (Also recently Reeperbahn Festival in Germany)
I wanted to find out if this true. Are we underrepresented? BBC Introducing has been around since 2007 and I’ve been interested in new Scottish music since opening the shop in 2011. Something hasn’t been right for a while. So I’ve spent some time and I had a look.
Glastonbury 22 acts on the BBC Introducing stag 2019e. Most from London. A separate issue to Introducing… out of the 122 acts playing the 5 main Glastonbury stages there were 3 Scottish acts. The Proclaimers. Lewis Capaldi and Gerry Cinnamon. How the hell a renegade like Gerry Cinnamon got there I’ll never know. That was a remarkable achievement!
BBC Introducing Stage at Reading and Leeds Festival 2019 27 acts Nada.
BBC Introducing Stage at Lattitude Festival 2019 23 acts One Scottish – Kapil Seshasayee You should check him out.
BBC Introducing Stage at Radio 1 Big Weekend 2019 in Middlesburgh 19 Acts Nope.
BBC Introducing 2019 at SXSW 6 acts You get the idea.
Glastonbury 2018 -no festival
BBC Introducing Stage at Lattitude 2018 23 acts.
BBC Introducing Stage at Reading and Leeds 2018 26 acts. The Dunts are from Glasgow.
BBC Introducing Stage at BBC Radio’s Big Weekend 2018 Swansea 22 Acts
BBC Introducing at SXSW 2018 10 acts One Welsh one NI, no Scots.
BBC Introducing at Glastonbury 2017 9 acts
BBC Introducing Stage at Lattitude 2017 had 21 acts
BBC Big Weekend 2017 in Hull 24 acts
Reading and Leeds 2017 Special 10 year anniversary 36 acts
BBC Introducing Showcase at SXSW 6 acts including Glasgow’s Catholic Action.
Look I didn’t have the time to look up absolutely all these acts, but I looked up a lot of them and let me just say that hardly any are from the Scottish grassroots. You get the idea right?
If my counting is correct that makes 246 UK artist slots over three years of which 3 artists were Scottish. Please tell me there were more! A fair allocation would be another TWENTY or so. Think of the boost your favourite wee band could have got. That was only looking at the past three years but it goes back longer. If you have the time and indignation/inclination, have a look and let me know.
This is a scandal right?
Why are the best Scottish bands not getting picked up by BBC Introducing?
Well there are lots of shows! 32 English “Local” Introducing shows that broadcast every Saturday.
We have one “Regional” show on BBC Radio Scotland. The Welsh have 2 and Northern Ireland one.
There are also 13 “National” shows broadcast to the whole UK.
Remember that there are 10 people living in England to every one person living in Scotland.
I presume that each show gets to put forward a local act or 2 for consideration and it makes sense that Scottish acts put forward by Vic Galloway’s team will be swamped by the others. Perhaps the Scottish Introducing folk are overwhelmed? With a population of 5.5 million, we make up the largest BBC Introducing region.
Also, although BBC Introducing is promoted as a way that acts such as Ed Sheeran, James Bay and others have become famous. The reality is that many bands that break a few years after being showcased were already signed to a major label before getting the Introducing slots. It is too easy to be cynical but some acts do get signed as a direct result of Introducing (Jake Bugg comes to mind). So it is vitally important. These slots are written about in the Music Press, Music Week, Local and National Newspapers and are also broadcast on TV. This kind of exposure is potentially worth thousands of pounds to the artists.
Perhaps London is too far away. There is a 3 day networking event called BBC Introducing LIVE. A glitzier version of Wide Days or Xpo North. Tutorials, Q&As and Networking for those starting out in the music business. Here is last year’s trailer.
The purpose of this blog piece is simply to say: The music made here in Scotland is of an incredibly high standard. I love the scene. The Scottish Album of the Year Award has been going since 2012 and they longlist 20 Scottish bands per year but as far as I can tell the unsigned (to major labels) bands rarely get support outside of Scotland. It is high time that this changed, not just for SAY Award nominees either. Perhaps the SAY Award organisers, the Scottish Music Industry Association could exert some political pressure?
There is a huge economic cost to not getting a fair share of the BBC airtime and the ensuing publicity. As this persists for years on end, artistically there is a void. Economically we are suffering too. When bands make money, any spare gets reinvested in the scene.
If a major label found out that BBC Introducing was aware that they have underrepresented Scottish bands for years and wanted to redress the balance, they would send someone up to have a look. IT IS ALL ABOUT THE MONEY. Things must change as until the BBC figures out that there is a problem, this will just continue.
Until things change, when you upload your band details to BBC Introducing, say you are from Devon and Cornwall (population 550 000, 1/10th of Scotland’s). As things are, I worry about the psychological health of our artists trying to make a living out of music.
BBC 6Music is the best hope for emerging bands…
Or is it?
Next week an analysis of 6Music’s playlists.
Enjoy SAY Award Winner 2019 Auntie Flo’s album Radio Highlife.
As we are beginning to approach the end of the year, we will soon be deluged with the inevitable lists of the best albums of 2019 and then the lists of the most exciting acts coming up in 2020. The BBC has been doing “Sound of…” for about 20 years. In their words The Sound of… lists the most exciting rising stars for the year ahead”. Here is their video montage for The Sound of 2019.
The Sound of 2019 list has a total of 10 artists headed by a chap called Octavian; a “Drake-approved, genre-defying rapper”. I turned 42 this week and it shows. I do dip into this music from time to time and at the risk of sounding like the parents and politicians that criticised acid house in the 1990s for being repetitive, I just don’t like the music these kids are making. -The production makes them all sound the same to my ears and I just can’t even take them seriously. That autotuned balls that they have been doing since Cher’s Believe which came out in 1998 is still a thing. 20 years of samey-ness. For those in a certain age group that remembers Victor Meldrew. I don’t believe it! I also don’t know or care to know what it means for a rapper to be “Drake approved”. It is all very Radio 1 and with every tick of the clock I am getting further from their targeted demographic of being a 15-29 year old.
Although I do not care for this stuff, I have noticed for many years now the lack of Scottish acts that populate these lists. That includes the NME’s 100 100 of which only 1 band, Free Love are Scottish – from Glasgow. Thank Christ for the Lewis Capaldi bomb. Otherwise the Scottish stats would be terrible. As it is they are… Well they are still terrible despite Bathgate’s finest properly swaggering onto the scene at Glastonbury earlier this year. Lewis Capaldi made it onto the list of 16 artists on the Sound of 2018 with a lot of help from his record label, Universal who had been waiting to drop the bomb for a few years. A lot of time and money were invested to create the lad’s overnight success. Good luck to him, he seems like a nice chap.
Here are links to all of The Sound of… lists since its inception in 2003. I have noted all of the Scottish artists that I could identify. If there are any that I have missed, then do let me know.
10 in 2019
16 in 2018 Lewis Capaldi (Univeral)
15 in 2017
15 in 2016
15 in 2015
15 in 2014
15 in 2013 Chvrches (Universal)
15 in 2012
15 in 2011
15 in 2010
15 in 2009
10 in 2008 Glasvegas (Columbia/Sony)
10 in 2007
10 in 2006
10 in 2005 KT Tunstall (Relentless Records -distributed by Universal)
10 in 2004 Franz Ferdinand (Domino)
10 in 2003
So there have been 221 acts on the Sound of… since 2003 and of those, 5 were Scottish. To put this in perspective, there are 10 people living in England for every person living in Scotland. So if 200 acts were from England, we should have 20. If 100 acts were, then we should have 10. Although the lists are supposed to be “International”, by far the majority are based in England, of those, mainly in London and thereabouts. I didn’t look at the number of Welsh or Northern Irish or the specific English regions but you can be sure that the numbers for the other UK Countries and many English regions are likely to be on the low side.
For example, from 2003 to 2008 inclusive, we had 3 acts out of the total of 60 which is large enough to not feel ignored but still probably a little lower than it should be. In the following 11 years we have had only 2 acts out of 161. This is not a blip and as long as the major labels are not signing many Scottish acts we can expect it to continue. Older folk like me naturally do not care too much about Radio 1 and what they play and this is a mutual indifference between Radio 1 and us older listeners. Older people do however have a little more power and hopefully wisdom and with that in mind I do care about why young musicians in Scotland are struggling to be heard and have wondered if anything ccan be done about it.
As Marvin would say. What’s goin’ on? Well music trends do come and go but as far as the Music Industry is concerned London is where the trends begin. There is a lot of talent about and if there is plenty on your doorstep why look any further? All of the money is in London and the major labels don’t often venture up here to find talent. But this does matter, as when the decades pass there will be both a gap in cultural legacy and a significant economic gap too. The music business in the UK has been consistently worth £4.5 billion per year and we need a bigger piece of that pie.
Gross value added of the music industry in the United Kingdom (UK) from 2012 to 2017, by thematic grouping (in millions GBP)
So there is a lot of money in the music business. In order for more to make its way North, we need some help from the BBC in finding and promoting our best talent. This is an enormous and difficult task and will ultimately need political support from all parties. I am approaching this from an entirely non-party political stance. Too many musicians I know have thought of calling it a day due to the difficulties of getting heard but then feel compelled to continue. They are artists so this is what they have to do. Make art, get it out there. I have long wondered why it is so difficult to be heard and have been doing some investigating. This blog post is the beginning of an exploration of the difficulties faced by the Scottish Music Industry. There are many inter-related Music Industry things that I intend to write about in the coming weeks and I hope something constructive can come from it.
Criticism of the BBC’s Sound of… is nothing new.
Some sentences from Wikipedia:
It has been commented upon that the Sound of… survey, together with other polls, creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. Guardian critic Kitty Empire wrote in December 2007: “Many of us are editors commissioning, and journalists writing, our own ones-to-watch forecasts. In order not to look like idiots, we tend to tip acts with records coming out rather than some lad with a tin whistle we found on MySpace.”
The same issue was again raised in 2011, upon the publication of the longlist for the Sound of 2012. The Daily Telegraph’s Joe Burgis wrote “the Sound of 2012 project faces criticism that it is too heavily weighted in favour of mainstream performers.”
The head of music at BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra response to the question was “The list will inspire debate for sure, but most importantly, it will lead to discovery of artists and musicians trying to stand out from the ever-expanding crowd, and that can only be a good thing”.
The Head of Music’s response was of course bollocks. Here are the pundits that picked the 2019 list. 135 names. I know 4 are definitely Scottish and that they will almost certainly answer a tweet or an email. But looking through the others you can see why it might be difficult to get nominated for the Sound of… list without pretty significant Industry (with a capital “I”) contacts that really only come through major-label backing. To see if I am right, until you are signed to a major label, just send a link to your music with a short bio to the Head of Music at Amazon, MTV, YouTube and the Chief Executive of the Official Charts Company or even the Music Booker for The Graham Norton Show or Made in Chelsea and you will maybe, just maybe, make it on to the 2020 list. More next week.
Abbie McCarthy Broadcaster BBC Introducing Kent/Radio 1
Adam Ryan Curator The Great Escape
Al Smith Head of Music Capital Brand
Alex Baker Broadcaster & Writer Kerrang! Radio, Magic
Alex Critchley Talent & Music Label Director MTV
Alex Hoffman Head Of Music VICE
Alexandra Patsavas Founder Chop Shop Music Supervision
Alison Howe Series Producer Later… with Jools Holland
Ami Bennett Exec Producer Somethin’ Else
Andrea Madden Music Supervisor Made In Chelsea
Andy Copping Executive President UK Touring Live Nation
Andy Malt Editor CMU (Complete Music Update)
Anna Karatziva Head Of Talent & Music MTV Networks
Annie Mac DJ & Broadcaster BBC Radio 1
Azi Eftekhari Head of Music Content Partnerships (EMEA) YouTube
Benji B DJ & Broadcaster BBC Radio 1 & BBC Radio 1Xtra
Bethan Elfyn Presenter & Producer BBC Wales
Cai Trefor Editor Gigwise
Cameron Leslie Co-Founder Fabric
Caroline Sullivan Freelance Journalist The Guardian
Catherine Grieves Music Supervisor Faber Music (Killing Eve)
Chantelle Fiddy Urban Editor Mixmag
Charlie Ashcroft Head of Music & Broadcaster BT TV, Amazing Radio
Che Chumber Music Editor BBC Asian Network
Chris Price Head Of Music BBC Radio 1 & 1Xtra
Chris Sawyer Producer, Greg James BBC Radio 1
Claes Olsen Head of Booking The ØyaFestival
Clara Amfo DJ & Broadcaster BBC Radio 1
Danny Howard DJ & Broadcaster BBC Radio 1
David Coull Group Content Director UKRD Group
David Mogendorff Artist Services EMEA YouTube Music
David Smyth Chief Rock & Pop Critic Evening Standard
Dean Jackson Broadcaster BBC Introducing in the East Midlands
Derek Robertson Editor-In-Chief Drowned In Sound
Diederik van Zessen Content Manager 3FM (Netherlands)
DJ Charlesy Broadcaster BBC Radio 1Xtra
DJ Semtex DJ, Broadcaster, Author Capital Xtra
DJ Target DJ & Broadcaster BBC Radio 1 & BBC Radio 1Xtra
Dominic Wallace Global Pop Editor Deezer
Duncan Allen Head Of Music Programming MTV
Ellie Goulding Musician, Songwriter, Publisher
Emily Eavis Co-Organiser Glastonbury Festival
Emma Swann Founding Editor DIY Magazine
Emma Zillmann Programming Director From The Fields (Kendal Calling / Bluedot)
Eve Barlow Journalist and Contributing Editor GQ, Pitchfork, Vulture and Q
George Ergatoudis Head of Music, UK & Ireland Apple
Glyn Fussell Director East Creative, Sink The Pink, Mighty Hoopla
Greg James Broadcaster BBC Radio 1
Hannah J Davies Writer The Guardian, Q
Harriet Jordan-Wrench Founder Secret Sessions
Harrison Stock Assistant Producer, Annie Mac / Broadcaster BBC Radio 1/ Transmisson Roundhouse
Hattie Collins Freelance Journalist and Author i-D Magazine and ASOS Magazine
Huw Stephens Broadcaster BBC Radio 1
Jack Saunders Broadcaster BBC Radio 1
Jacob Rickard Producer BBC Radio 1
James Cabooter Showbiz Editor Daily Star
James Curran Director of Music Magic and Absolute Radio
James Foley Team Lead, Music Culture and Editorial, UK Spotify
Jane Beese Head Of Music The Roundhouse
Jarri Van der Haegen Founder & Editor Disco Naïveté
Jason Grishkoff Founder Indie Shuffle & SubmitHub
Jeff Benjamin Music Writer and Columnist Billboard, Rolling Stone, Forbes
Jeff Smith Head Of Music BBC Radio 2 & BBC Radio 6 Music
Jez Welham Broadcaster Capital Xtra
Jim Gellatly Broadcaster / New Music Columnist Amazing Radio / The Scottish Sun
Joe Dougan Live Music Promoter Belsonic, The Limelight Belfast, Shine
Joe Gardner Head of Content & Production Grape
Joe Walker Broadcaster, Music Writer Beats 1, Reprezent
John Rostron Chair/ Co-Founder Association of Independent Promoters / Welsh Music Prize
Jon Mcildowie Festival Booker Reading & Leeds
Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson Senior Editor Complex Magazine
Julia Killer Director, Artist & Label Services Soundcloud
Julie Adenuga Host Apple Music’s Beats 1
Kate Davy Producer, Annie Mac BBC Radio 1
Keith Cameron Contributing Editor MOJO
Lana Webb Freelance Music & Talent Producer Remedy Productions, Endemol Shine Digital UK
Laura Snapes Deputy Music Editor The Guardian
Lee Tyler Editor Blues & Soul Magazine
Lily Walker Editor Wonderland Magazine
Ludovic Hunter-Tilney Pop Critic Financial Times
Luke Hood Founder UKF
Malcolm Jack Music Editor The Big Issue
Mark Findlay Group Head Of Live Music Global
Mark Lampo Music Editor Amazon Music
Martin Talbot Chief Executive Official Charts Company
Matthew Schnipper Executive Editor Pitchfork
Maximilian Domma Head Of Booking Reeperbahn Festival
Mel Lewis Music Team Producer BBC Radio 1
Michael Cragg Music Writer / Editor The Guardian & Q / Beat
Mike Walsh Head Of Music / Deputy Programme Director Radio X
MistaJam Broadcaster & DJ BBC Radio 1 & BBC Radio 1Xtra
Nick Grimshaw Broadcaster BBC Radio 1
Olly Alexander Musician Years and Years
Paul Bridgewater Editor-in-chief The Line Of Best Fit
Paul Firth Director Amazon Music
Paul Hourican Artist and Industry Marketing YouTube Music
Paul Malone Music Booker The Graham Norton Show
Paul Pittico Co-CEO Secret Sounds
Paul Scaife Editor-In-Chief Record Of The Day
Peter Robinson Founder Popjustice
Phil Taggart Broadcaster/DJ/Label owner BBC Radio 1 / Hometown Records
Rachael Bee Managing Director ILUVLIVE
Rachel Holmberg Editor BBC Music Introducing
Rafe Offer Co-Founder / CEO Sofar Sounds
Raphaella Lima Global Music Marketing, Partnerships & Supervision Electronic Arts
Ric Blaxill Music & Content Director Bauer Media
Richard Smirke UK Correspondent Billboard
Rigsy Broadcaster & DJ BBC Radio Ulster
Rob Da Bank Co-Founder Bestival
Rob Ronaldson CEO The Whitelist
Robert Meijerink Program Director & Booker Eurosonic Noorderslag
Roisin O’Connor Music Correspondent The Independent
Ross Golan Songwriter/ Broadcaster And The Writer Is…
Rowan Faife Co-Founder & Managing Director Don’t Flop Entertainment
Russ Tannen Managing Director DICE
Sam Ajilore Founder & Editor That Grape Juice
Sarah Beaumont Music Lead BBC Radio 1Xtra
Scott Hastie Founder/Music Officer Student Radio Music Network (SRA)
Scott Lapatine Founder / Editor-in-Chief Stereogum
Selim Bulut Music Editor Dazed & Confused Magazine
Sigrid Artist BBC Music Sound Of 2018 Winner
Stephen Ackroyd Editor Dork Magazine
Talia Kraines Music Curator Amazon Music
Tallah Brash Music Editor The Skinny (Scotland)
Thomas Hannan Editorial Manager Amazon Music
Tim Ingham Publisher Music Business Worldwide
Tim Vernon Deputy Head Of Music Absolute Radio Network
Tom Baker Founder Eat Your Own Ears, Field Day
Tom Connick Staff Writer and Freelancer NME
Tom Cotton Music Producer Absolute Radio
Tuomas Kallio Co-Founder / Artistic Director Flow Festival
Vic Galloway Broadcaster BBC Scotland
Will Hodgkinson Chief Rock & Pop Critic The Times
Zoe Ball Broadcaster BBC Radio 2
At Last! Richard Ashcroft will start earning royalties for his 1997 song Bitter Sweet Symphony. You know the video with the guy walking carelessly down the street? It was so well known that for a few years afterwards I could get a slight chuckle from folk by just saying “I bumped into Richard Ashcroft the other day”.
He had agreed with the owner of the Rolling Stones’ publishing to use a sample, basically 6 notes of The Andrew Oldham Orchestra’s interpretation of The Stones’ classic The Last Time. They would split the royalties 50:50.
Richard/The Verve had not understood that they were dealing with a devil lawyer with little sympathy for artists. The person in control of the song was Allen Klein, the Rolling Stones ex-manager. His company ABKCO owned the rights. ABKCO is the Allen and Betty Kline Company which sounds like a nice family business but he was notoriously ruthless and he crops up in all the autobiographies of artists of the period. He would get you out of a bad deal, get you a load of money, then get you into a bad deal with his company instead.
He argued that the Verve had used too much of the sample and sued for 100% of the royalties. They caved in without it being contested in court and every time the song has been played on the radio, they have been paid nothing and Richard Ashcroft got a little flick on the nuts. ABKCO and Jagger & Richards get it all. Oh, and the Stones ex-ex-manager Andrew Loog Oldham of the old days got a wee bit too.
It is the righting of a moral if not exactly legal injustice and this is great for Richard Ashcroft who will get some money for his work. Keith, Mick and Allen Klein’s son have agreed to not backdate the royalties earned as that would be the kindest thing to do and cost a small fortune that they can easily afford, but to allow all future royalties to go to Richard Ashcroft as the recognised composer of the song. This is over Allen Klein’s dead body as he died a few years ago of Alzheimer’s disease. He will definitely be birling in his grave as he never gave an inch in life so well done to his son. It has been a bitter and difficult 20 years for Wigan’s finest.
“It’s the best song Jagger and Richards have written in 20 years” said Richard Ashcroft at the time.
Keith retorted with a sentence that could knock you out of your coconut tree “If he writes a better song, he can keep the money”. Whaaat?
Asked about it, Andrew Loog Oldham said he got a very presentable watch strap while Mick Jagger and Keith Richards both got very nice watches. Andrew had actually earlier lost a fight to get the lion’s share of the royalties for the Andrew Oldham Orchestra’s Rolling Stones based songs from ABKCO.
“He’d have done the same to me” Said Allen Klein; which is a sociopathic way of viewing the world but all the same may be true. It is a murky business.
Let’s go back a bit. What even was the Andrew Oldham Orchestra? It was a bunch of session composers, musicians and arrangers put together by Andrew Oldham that knocked out instrumental easy-listening style interpretations of Stones hits. Well, it was also, I think, a way for him to make some money by getting a writing credit. James Last was selling millions of records of instrumental cover versions at the time so the market for this kind of thing was huge. He talks about this honestly in his fantastic autobiographies, Stoned and 2Stoned. He admits to learning a lot of tricks from the great gun toting, wife kidnapping, actress killing, Wall of Sound, BACK TO MONO producer Phil Spector.
For example, when a single is released, the writer of the B-side gets the same as the writer of the A-side on every disc sold. So when Andrew Loog Oldham discovered Marianne Faithfull and released her debut single, the first Jagger/Richards composition; the written while locked in the kitchen by Andrew until you write a song song. As Tears Go By was the result. Like sitting on the wall looking into a convent. He put Greensleeves on the B-side with a writing credit “Arr. Oldham”.
Actually arranged by Oldham, Whitaker and others. I love these old Decca singles
So he got half the money on all of the singles sold even though the song he “wrote” wasn’t even that good. Spector would also put much poorer songs on the B-sides to prevent radio stations playing the other side. That seems odd but I definitely read that somewhere.
Back to the past and Bitter Sweet Symphony.
Andrew Loog Oldham commissioned the recording but the Bitter Sweet Symphony riff itself was composed in my view by a guy called David Whitaker. He is rightly credited as the ‘Arranger’ of the song as he reinterpreted the original work composed by Jagger and Richards.
David Whitaker with a nice cardigan and Andrew Loog Oldham.
Oldham himself got a composing credit of some sort along with Jagger and Richards. Presumably he said okay or nokay to a few notes -that could technically make him a composer. As he commissioned it, it certainly wouldn’t exist without him but that doesn’t make him the composer really in my view. Hey lackey! I want to write a song. So write me a song while I’m out for lunch.
The reinterpreted song is virtually unrecognisable from the original and I would like to think that Richard Ashcroft after celebrating the righting of a wrong might send David Whitaker a bunch of flowers.
To put on his grave as alas he died in 2012. He did alright though, contributing behind the scenes on countless records over a lifetime of work in the music business. He lived to 81 and had a great career composing and arranging recordings by some of the greats like Nico, Vashti Bunyan, Lee Hazlewood, Serge Gainsbourg and loads of others and became well regarded in France for his work with artists based there in the 1960s and latterly with the band Air. He had a nice obituary in the Guardian after he died in 2012.
Jagger and Richards have been notoriously stingy with writing credits in the past. Just ask Mick Taylor who powered the Rolling Stones through a gloriously creative period in the early 1070s but Mick and Keith couldn’t hear him knocking when he popped round to ask for a song-writing credit. He got I think one credit over 5 albums despite mind bending guitar work. Hear the last half of this:
Mick Taylor sued in the 1980s after they released Tattoo You with 2 uncredited Mick Taylor tracks: Waiting For A Friend and Tops. Taylor sued the band for unpaid royalties and this was presumably settled out of court.
This was just something that I wanted to mention and put on to the internet to help set the record straight. And also to remind bassists and drummers everywhere that the funky riff and masterly beat won’t earn you radio royalties unless your name is on the label with your, let’s face it, more handsome and charismatic frontman. So try to negotiate a fair deal early on.
In memory of David Whitaker and with a fondness for the session guys.
“Let me get this right. You plan to put on a day of free live music with a bar so that people can start drinking at 11 am? I am very concerned about this” said the policeman on the other end of the phone.
I had applied for an Occasional Licence so that we could serve alcohol on Record Store Day. By selling the booze we cover the venue hire, stewarding, insurance, paying the bands a little and other bits and bobs including the sound engineer and PA system hire. Having had a licence before for an in-store event, I had not actually expected any difficulties getting another one.
“If word gets around that there is free music with alcohol being served *inhales deeply* well you could be mobbed”. “This worries me” he said, “there could be trouble”. I hope we’ll be mobbed, I thought and I must say, I liked his confidence. “A lot of people could attend. You’re not advertising this are you?”
There is only a couple of weeks to go and the posters have already been designed and were waiting to be printed and sent to the distributor, The Skinny magazine have already highlighted our event as a must see. I have had VoxBox Hannah email all the Scottish music folk I know. The Record Store Day team in London have also highlighted our event on social media and I have an interview lined up on BBC Radio Alba and The Janice Forsyth Show were about to give us a mention on BBC Radio Scotland.
I’ve advertised a wee bit I said. “Hmm”.
“What kind of people do you expect” Said the nice policeman.
Well it’s a family event really. From new-borns and their parents to old punks and their parents. We are generally a beardy lot with young families I tried to explain. People that come to see someone like Andrew Wasylyk in the mid-afternoon are usually in employment, education or training. They aren’t erm, you know… it’s not T in the Park.
“I’m going to speak with my Sergeant” said he as he hadn’t heard Andrew’s fantastic new record. perhaps he was waiting for the repress as it had sold out on vinyl.
There follows a nervous half hour.
“Hello Hello Hello, It’s the police again”. Act innocent Darren!
“I’ve had a word with the guys in the office and they are aware of your past events…”
“I’m going to let this one through”
You beauty! Wait a minute… aware of past events.
OK. For whatever do you mean officer?
The Twilight Sad belting it out on Valentines Day 2015
Scott takes over St Stephen Place round the corner for RSD 2017.
Our past events have actually been so much fun that this year Andy Loves Records (of wee label Gerry Loves Records) and I had a little difficulty getting started. In the past we have had 14 acts on in two venues and also outside on St Stephen Street itself. That takes a lot of organising. Andy said we should consider just not doing anything. Maybe have a year off. Or maybe try to officially close the street and put up a wee stage. Just to try something different on this, our 8th Record Store Day. “You sort out the records, I’ll sort out the bands” said he in 2012. And every single year since.
If anyone loves the annual Record Store Day party more than me, it is Andy, so this was a serious crisis of confidence. We were sitting in a pub in late February still pondering what to do when a mysterious friend suggested St Vincent’s Chapel. He told us that they have been hiring the venue out for BYOB gigs over the past 3 years. So I got in touch and they were free. RSD is usually the 3rd Saturday in April but if that day is on Easter weekend then the RSD date moves forward. This meant that the chapel was available, only just though -we would need to be out by 8pm so they could set up for Palm Sunday.
We will be in. There will be a queue. It’ll get busy then a bit mental hopefully then we’ll be out again. You won’t know we were there. There will be nothing controversial I explained to St Vincent’s very slightly uneasy events man who nevertheless had a twinkle in his eye. “Oh I don’t mind a bit of controversy!” he said. We were on!
Then off! There had been some crossed wires with the other church members- I must have been mistaken about the dates as it was too going to be too close to Easter.
Three nervous hours later we were on again!
Then almost off with less than a week to go…
The Council were calling the Rector of St Vincent’s and are threatening to shut all of the future church events down if they allow us in for Record Store Day. It will be chaos they said, they don’t have the permissions! Threats to go to the press. It was clearly a hoaxer throwing some dirt around but there was still a nervousness. “You do have a licence don’t you?” I was asked again. Their events man had come in to see me in the shop in person. Record boxes were covering the floor as a late delivery had just come in. 240 cans of Innis and Gunn lager had also arrived and a pillar that even Samson would struggle to get through was sitting on the doorstep. As a matter of fact, the Police called asking about the event just the other day… Act innocent. It’ll be fine.
A pillar of Innis & Gunn.
As an added thorn in my side, someone claiming to be “from the press” was complaining to the RSD head office trying to get us thrown out of Record Store Day stating that “pop up shops” are against the RSD rules. I got a ticking off for not okaying it with the RSD office but we all know VoxBox is not a pop up. We are not going away. It just made sense to move the records into the venue. That way, this year I get to see more of the artists I love.
Have you ever heard the plot device of put a character up a tree, throw stones at him then get him down safely? Well I was up a tree with chimps throwing dirt around. How would this end?
I had keys to the chapel from 4pm to set up the day before. 20 large boxes of records and the 10 cases of lager to bring in from the shop and some more drinks stored at home. Some of the late RSD delivery was still not priced or put in alphabetic order. A box of records weighs about 25kg. Who says 180g vinyl is better?
Half way in to shifting a literal half a tonne of music, I was contemplating whether ‘Flexidisc Day’ would be easier on my spine but by 1am the place was looking good. It was time to cycle home. A wee bed was set up in my record room as my parents were in the spare room and my wife would have a long day ahead looking after the boys. I settled down and set my alarm for six am for I would be meeting Andy at seven.
RSD morning -Almost ready to go
Record Store Day this year was a great success. It took a lot of planning and it runs smoothly every year. Band on, great performance, band off. Band on great performance, band off. Behind the scenes there can be a little chaos and a healthy nervousness is there. First you think what if no-one comes? Then as the Facebook event reaches 600 people, what if too many people come?
We are lucky that those that do come are the nicest of people. As I said to the police, we are a beardy lot (not the ladies) with young families. For eight years Andy and I have been organising this thing and every year it feels better than the last. (Almost every year). The records are secondary I think, other shops have longer queues than us too but most important to me are the people that actually make the music. Those who are so often the last to get paid are the ones that we need for records to exist in the first place.
Among the music industry in Scotland there are many small scenes, each with a community believing in and supporting one another. To have the opportunity to join a few friendly congregations up a little for one day a year is a privilege. The happiness is palpable and you see friends that greet one another not with handshakes but with hugs. It is even the one day a year where music fans in Glasgow travel to Edinburgh for an event. Sometimes a tourist comes in an asks if we take part in Record Store Day. I always say that we put on the best if not biggest RSD event in the UK. Browsing the records in the compact shop, I can tell that they seldom believe me. Thomas had his doubts I hear.
There were a few issues but nothing too bad. I overordered some records for example that are now taking a while to shift. Who would have thought that nobody would want to buy the Mad Max 2 Soundtrack? I completely missed one small distributor when ordering and the allocation of some bigger titles were smaller than hoped. Miracle Glass Company blew a fuse but handled the power cut incredibly well. “I saw someone get up to leave and I said to myself, ‘That’s not going to happen'” William Douglas told me afterwards and he launched into an improvised acapella sermon until the power was resurrected.
William Douglas keeps things rollin’
Special thanks to Mrs VoxBox who set up and ran a wee stall with some other FR fans that raised some money for the Scott Hutchison Foundation, now known as Make Tiny Changes. Also to Andy Loves Records as always. VoxBox Mike and VoxBox Andy for putting in a tremendous shift and putting up with my stresses in the run up. All the other staff roped in to help. The artists themselves of course and the labels and the magazines and the bloggers and the Scottish BBC radio. My Freshair co-presenter Dom for DJing on 2 portable vintage Fidelity turntables all day. Basically thanks to everyone who helped out in any way. To the old friends and the new ones made. Thanks to everyone that helped tidy up afterwards and so helping me keep my word to be spick and span and out by 8. This isn’t the Oscars Darren…
After running a bar for the first time, I have learnt that people don’t drink Carlsberg anymore and also that people need to pee in proportion to the amount of drinks sold. (Other loos will be found for next time if there is one). But for one day of the year, if I may be so bold, I do feel that we probably have the best RSD event in the world and that is a credit to all involved in the music scene locally and nationally helping it to happen. Towards the end, I met a retired clergywoman in our makeshift bar area. “Jesus would have loved this” she said. He loved a party!”*
And that is basically what I will put on the Licence application for next year.
Here are a few photos of RSD 2019.
Miracle Glass Company at the finale. The best guitar band in the UK.
A full house -the Record Store Day congregation 2019.
Burnt Paw kicked things off with his Lunar Vortex Incantations.
Annie Booth with an impromptu grand piano song.
Andrew Wasylyk lost in music.
Michael Pedersen kicks out some poetry jams.
SHHE gained a new room of fans.
Callum Easter played his 100th gig of the week and brings the accordion into the 21st century.
Adam Stafford as Y’All Is Fantasy Island. Child friendly event we said. Photo from Twitter.
Aidan Moffat & RM Hubbert entertaining the kids. He said erm bank right?
Obligatory crowd shots.
Thank you all for coming!
Band photos by James at EHsix photography. He is available for band PR shots etc.
Thank you to the team at St Vincent’s Chapel for trusting us and taking a chance. More info/ venue hire here.
Links to all the bands can be found here until next year.
The best microlabel in the world Gerry Loves Records.
Hello and sorry about the delay. Boxes are still expected on Friday so not everything is in hand. Just going through a delivery now. Will Pearl Jam be there?? I’ll update tonight. Sorry -No Pearl Jam.
Records are listed by first name. A THE at the beginning is ignored.
Things that are harder to find are soundtracks which are sometimes under the composer or as Various Artists. Try holding down Control and F and you can search. If using a phone, my apologies, it’s a long scroll. Remember if you queue, it’s going to be cold, so wrap up warm. The RSD records will be at St Vincent’s Chapel. Doors open at 0800 but I’ll try to get the kettle on before then.
13th Floor Elevators
AIDEN MOFFAT & RM HUBBERT
Al Green Box
Art Brut X We Are Scientists
Art of Noise
AVERAGE WHITE BAND
Bananarama (All 3 releases)
Bang Bang Romeo
Billy F. Gibbons (ZZ Top)
Bingo Hand Job (REM covers band) x10
Blind WIllie McTell £££
Booker T & the MGs
Boy George and Culture Club
Brian May (single) He’s also the Mad Max 2 composer
Charlatans LP and singles Box £££
Chase and Status
Craig Mac/The Notorious BIG
Crosby Stills Nash and Young (CSNY)
Curse of Lono
Daniel Pemberton -Black Mirror
David Bowie Pin Ups -plenty, The World of David Bowie- not many and 7″ single with Marlene Dietrich -plenty.
David J V for Vendetta -one!
Desmond Dekker -Pretty Africa
Dexy’s Midnight Runners
Doctor Who – 2 albums
Down to the Bone
Drinking Boys and Girls Choir
Editors/BLANCK MASS -not many
Elvis Presley -official RSD and a couple of unofficial new recordings.
Emerson, Lake and Palmer
Fall A couple of all the live albums. 5 singles Box Sets £££
Fela Kuti and Roy Ayers
Fox Millions Duo
FRANCES MCKEE (Vaselines)
Frank Black (both albums)
Future Sounds of London
Generation X -not many
Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five
HONEYBLOOD -New 12″ single
Hot & Brass Band
Howel, Peter & Fernando, John
Ian Brown -x1!
Jacobites Nikki Sudden & Dave Kusworth
Jaws of Love
JazzButcher x3 releases
John Hiatt & Lilly Hiatt
John McLaughlin etc
John Otway and Willd Willy Barrett
League of Gentlemen
Leisure Society ft Brian Eno
Lonnie Liston Smith
Madonna -both releases
Marc Bolan & T-Rex
Mark Ronson & Miley Cyrus
Monty Python -Life of Brian
Morrissey -not many!
Motorhead -both releases
Mumford & Sons
My Chemical Romance
New Barbarians -Keith Richards/Ronnie Wood
NJE with Adrian Sherwood
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
OST- Basketball Diaries
OST- Brian May Mad Max 2
OST- Howard Stern Private Parts
OST- Lost In Translation
OST- Malcolm X
OST- New Jack City
OST- The Crow
OST- Transformers -all 3 releases
OST- Twin Peaks
OST- Breaking Bad
Otis Redding/Booker T
Pete Rock £££
Prince -both releases
Procol Harum/The Move
Queen Bohemian Rhapsody OST and single -not many
Robert Johnson ££
Rolling Stones -all 3 releases
Rudy Ray Moore £££
Say Sue Me -both releases
Sigus Ros – Both
Six by Seven
Sly & The Family Stone
Smith & Mighty
Sonny Boy Williamson
Specials -not many
STALAWA Glasgow based musician/DJ/On Scotch Bonnet Records
Tangerine Dream -both
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Television Personalities -both
Ten Years After
This is the Kit
Tony Joe White
Townes Van Zandt
Trembling Bells/Alex Rex
Uli John Roth
Los Angeles Nuggets
Mickey Mouse Disco
Music For Dreams
New Orleans Sould
New York Soul
Northern Soul Scene
R&B Style 1964
Soho Scene ’59
Soul Jazz Presents -both
Soul Slabs 2
South Park ££££
Super Disco Edits
This is Ska
You Flexi Thing
Wit and Wisdom of Donald Trump
Suspicion Keith Moon
Not everything we have is listed here.
I missed The Sunn O))) record, The David Sylvian one and The Durutti Column -sorry we won’t have them.
Free Fred Perry bags for the first 40 customers. They seem to like us. Also Free Friels Cider Totes and T shirts. Friels competition records will be hidden among the RSD stock. A couple of very nice prizes to be won. They were sending some cider but it hasn’t yet appeared. Edinburgh’s Innis & Gunn have been very nice and rushed us some beer. The bar is stocked with soft drinks and beer/IPA/Cider/wine/G&T. The Bar and record shop both take card payments.
My friend Dom, who co-hosts the VoxBox Vinyl Show with me on Freshair Radio will be playing pun and power pop singles on old Fidelity record players in between the bands. What could go wrong.
All of the 9 acts playing for us have a new release for sale. This is wee selection of the fantastic array of the talent we have in Edinburgh and from some other bits of Scotland. We are very lucky to have them play. Check out the merch stall and get something signed or drawn on (Burnt Paw!). I have never though that Record Store Day is about the record shops. It is about the artists that make the records (and poetry books). If you don’t get the RSD record you were after in the early morning, stick around -you might become a fan of someone new.
We will have a wee stall collecting for the Scott Hutchison Foundation organised by Mrs VoxBox and friends. I found some The Day Is My Enemy Tote Bags that the Prodigy’s label gave us a while ago. Proceeds from any sold will go to that too.
St Vincent’s is a working church and we have been very lucky to be able to host this, our 8th Record Store Day there. Please respect the building and we may even be allowed back. I’ll maybe tell you a story about this on the other side.
Dom and I dig out some weird and wonderful records from our collections. This fun show was broadcast live on Freshair Radio on March 6th.
A Selection of American Folk Music on Vinyl recorded live on freshair.org.uk on 6th March 2019.
Joan Baez, Buffy Saint-Marie, Doc Watson, Peter Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Ramblin’ Jack Eliot, Stefan Grossman, Jimmy Rodgers, Burl Ives, Melanie, Woody Guthrie, John Fahey, Joni Mitchell.
Disc jockeying: Should HMV be allowed to take part in Record Store Day? So asked a Music Week article the other day.
I had expected HMV to be taken over by a faceless corporation that would close a few unprofitable stores, renegotiate rents by threatening to close shops and borrow some money while siphoning off cash to another company while waiting for HMV to go bust again and then blame “downloads”. See the HMV Money-go-round post. You know, the usual way of working. However, the new owner does have a face and it seems that he will try to run the business the proper way, trying to make a profit and sell lots of music, get involved in the local scene and so on. That is a good thing as pensions will hopefully get paid and HMV will keep on keepin’ on for a while to come.
It was a weird interview in Music Week. He said; “Often we get asked, ‘Are you killing the indies?’ Of course not. You’re not going to be able to kill an indie that knows their customer, that gives that great service. We’re actually a benefit because we’re able to commit to some of the quantities on these albums that maybe would never get pressed without an HMV. That’s the critical piece to think about.”
The last part is absolutely correct and that is also why Record Store Day works -By lots of small shops coming together it makes it worthwhile for labels to make records. It is worth remembering that RSD was a response to the difficulties small shops were having. It was Custer’s last stand in the face of so many record shop closures with Native Americans downloading… Well that analogy doesn’t really work but the shops working together (and HMV selling records again) have helped power the vinyl revival.
Record Store Day done right can pay a shop’s rent for a year. Done badly it could put you out of business. Your profit can be tied up in the records that you don’t sell and that stock is not returnable. We already have a slightly uneven playing field when it comes to RSD. If you don’t order a lot of records from a major distributor over the year, then they just won’t allocate you many RSD exclusives. This means that big London shops will still have Bowie records into the following week whereas small shops will be sold out in a few minutes.
That is not a complaint as I understand why shops that support the major labels deserve support themselves in return. I will argue though, that in terms of servicing the fans it doesn’t make too much sense. For example, if there is only one small shop covering a large population and that shop doesn’t spend a lot on Bowie through the year, I think they should still be given a decent allocation to supply the local fans. And there are not quite enough of some RSD records to go around and a city like Edinburgh may not have that many Bowie RSD records for a population of about half a million. When talking about RSD numbers a friend once said 500 Bowie fans die every day -don’t quote me as he made the number up (do I even have to say that?) Anyway, Bowie is a popular guy.
So based on current practise, HMV would be able to get the lion’s share of major label RSD releases based on its buying power over the year. That would seem fair to them but it takes away the from fact that RSD was designed to support the small shops that were at risk of closure due to aggressive discounting from supermarkets and large chains. These big businesses that are run by accountants, not people.
The new owner of HMV, Doug Putman, does not actually, seriously think that his MASSIVE CHAIN will be allowed to take part in Record Store Day in its current form so I wonder what he is playing at. He has not even officially asked yet but I recall a vote a few years ago among the record shops on whether the HMV owned Fopp should be allowed to take part. The answer was a comprehensive no. He knows what the answer will be if he asks the question so the interview is a wee bit strange and that horrible joined-word passive-aggressive. Is he to be the Teresa-May of negotiators or a cunning-fox of a man? From what I can see he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Or perhaps just a likeable sheep in an undercover policeman’s clothing. It is hard to tell but something is up if you go out to buy a new hooded top to do an interview right? Perhaps Channel 4 are bringing back Undercover Boss.
I think that the title of the Music Week piece says it all -He is probably jockeying for position in the vinyl marketplace. I am not sure a man wearing a new hoodie over an AC/DC T-Shirt surrounded by Smiths and Liam Gallagher is prepared for the future. He has certainly taken bad advice and may even have advisors that use Beverley Hills Cop (1984) as a point of reference for getting down with the kids.
There is a ruthlessness in some large companies and those that run them and they employ marketing people and graphic designers who can make nice marketing posters. I worry about their business model. If all is rosy with HMV finances, why would they want to muscle in on a loose collection of shops? A mole tells me that they are planning to target geographical areas with indie shops that are doing well but that may just be gossip -from an ex HMV manager. It isn’t something that troubles me especially and I’ve no idea why this blog post is so long… He doth protest too much? But we don’t really even try to compete with HMV.
Competing in the record market isn’t really the right term for a little shop like VoxBox. We are just bystanders as Godzilla fights King Kong for market share as an injured King Kong looks to punch down on us plebs who can barely work basic editing software.
For those interested in numbers… A current HMV deal is for £12.99 reissues of Cream’s Disraeli Gears and Amy Winehouse records. They cost us £10 to buy in and selling at £13 makes it hardly worth opening the boxes. Stack ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap. Roll up roll up! It is good to give punters a bargain for sure as a lot of new vinyl is prohibitively expensive for the young in particular. I remember FOPP selling the Led Zeppelin albums on CD for £5 when I was a youngster. Beatles were £10. Somehow, I got in to Led Zeppelin.
HMV is a really strange business as far as any kind of retail is concerned. You can’t sustain a massive shop on profits of £3 per item sold (perhaps they even make a fiver) -Which is why they sell toys and T shirts. They’ve done this since before they went bust the 1st time in 2013. I bought a Mr Stay Puft T-shirt for £4 as a weird memento. And what the heck are these “Pop Vinyl” things?
Is this someone from the band GOAT?
Back in my day Pop Vinyl was Manfred Man on His Master’s Voice. The pedantic may note that I look too young for this to be true and they are correct.
POP 1523 on HMV in 1966
Most shops on the high street can exist because they sell items with a high mark up or don’t pay tax. Look at Lush –it is just soap with some bits of fruit thrown in. £7 a bar. Now that’s a margin! Primark, M&S and the clothes shops importing from China and Bangladesh. Boots and Topshop –don’t pay much tax. There are over 10 mobile phone shops on Edinburgh’s Princes Street, each a relatively small place selling £200 a year contracts. The megastore model is difficult to sustain simply because of the overheads. To rent a massive shop on Princes Street costs around £250 000 a year, council tax is about the same. You need to sell 100,000 records at £5 profit per unit. (274 records per day). Then pay for your staff, pensions, rent, heating and cocaine. -The folk in charge are still living in the 1990s. I could be wrong -Have a look outside HMV and count the number of folk coming out with bags and let me know.
I would do it myself, but I’m way too busy just now. 🙂
We have a special Record Store Day event planned this year as always and with a deep breath I* get through the list, get the orders in, the posters made, the artists booked, the PA and sound engineer, the boxes opened and the cardboard recycled as well as the extra staff. It is exciting and nerve wrecking to organise even this – our 8th Record Store Day as the records are different and we have hired the church at the end of our street for the event this time!
It is lovely to think about the other wee record shops that take part, the new shops and the others that are tucked down side streets. These owners will be experiencing the pressure, the terror of the money spent and eventual euphoria of seeing even a small queue. For one -just one day of the year – your shop, your vision of how a record shop should be, your pride and joy. An extension of your soul if being dramatic… -For one day you might feature not in Music Week, but if you are lucky, in a piece in the local paper.
And someone might comment somewhere “Aye, that’s a good shop!”. Record Store Day is a pat on the back and a wink that lets us know that we are appreciated in our work and everybody needs that once in a while.
Dom and I bring in some contemporary and old British folk music. I collect blue label TOPIC records and I managed to play a couple of favourites here.
We start with the MASSIVE My Mouth Ain’t No Bible from James Yorkston’s new album and Dom’s wonderful definition of folk music which should defo replace Wikipedia’s definition. We move into John Martyn who had offered James a run of support slots early in his career. The magnificent Karine Polwart, The Singing Campbells and The Travelling Stewarts give some acapella traditional songs, Was The Waggoner’s Lad inspiration for Led Zeppelin’s Bron Yr Aur Stomp? -Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, Fairport Convention, The Incredible String Band and some incredibly rare odd German folk thrown in at the end.
Liner Notes: On MacPherson’s Rant
It ends with a weird Robin Hall and Jimmy MacGregor jail ballad including the line “dirty water for your tea” from an EP that suddenly turns into You Cannae Throw Yer Granny Off a Bus which is the best way I could think of finishing any show.
This show was broadcast live on freshair.org.uk on 27th February 2019.
Who else has watched the 2 part Leaving Neverland documentary? It was incredible. Two lost boys able to finally tell their story.
The BAD album came out in 1987 when I was ten and I remember his photo in a frame on my ten year old cousin’s bedside table. I was bamboozled that he would be there. He looked weird and unfanciable and was probably already known as Wacko Jacko in the red top newspapers.
Doing paediatrics at Medical School many years later we had a tutorial on the sexual abuse of children. The take away message from that was that sexual abuse of kids is incredibly common and that children don’t lie about it. That a kid changing their story to say it didn’t happen needs support as it actually most likely did happen.
The Jordan Chandler accusation of 1993 was settled out of court for $23 million.
Then 2005 court case which collapsed it seems due to lack of corroboration with a jury saying afterwards that they thought he was “a child molester” but there just was not enough evidence. Of course there was! The scared boy told the world (and Jackson’s maid had said she saw him showering and fondling a boy and that her own boy was abused too). A trial of a sex offender is lucky to have any evidence and a liar, if the maid was not to not be believed, would surely tell a bigger lie.
I am all for protecting the local eccentric from a vigilante group but perhaps we should at least have kept our distance from him after that point. It felt as if the world took a collective sigh of relief when he was found not guilty and tentatively he was played on radio again and held up again as a genius. The Court of Public Opinion which is so quick to stomp on someone these days had said “…but we like him”. A Scottish jury may well have come out with a “Not Proven” verdict which at least casts a -we’ll get you next time- shadow.
In fact, public opinion was so meh on the sex abuse that in 2009 he was booked to play ten shows at the O2. Then another forty! The Guardian reported an “astonishing comeback for a man who in recent years has been dogged by controversy”. The classier broadsheet papers turned a blind eye too you see. Would the writers of these pieces have left their kids with this “controversial” guy?
Controversial… What a euphemism that was.
We forgot that Jackson was doing these concerts as he was likely skint following $200 million paid in hush money to abused kids over the years (probably an exaggeration but still a load of cash). Who would want to take a chance with poverty and smears testifying against a celebrity multimillionaire if he can make you a multimillionaire and let you disappear?
Bravery is being able to say the detailed things that these two guys have said and feel not one bit of shame. Hey folks, this is it. I loved the guy at the time but this is the truth about what he did to me when I was 7.
I am not frightened and I am not ashamed.
What is a record shop with a Michael Jackson Section to do? Well, what shops should have done a long time ago. We throw out many undesirable records as it is and he has now joined them as charity shop fodder. I feel a little bit for Quincy Jones who produced the greatest MJ albums as well as the many others that were involved in the creation of the music but to say that the work is tainted is a massive understatement.
BAD and the Jackson catalogue are perhaps the Mein Kampf of albums. Things that should only be sold in future with profits going to an appropriate charity. The Hitler comparison is accidental as I don’t think he could moonwalk but it’s the only example I can think of at the moment. I think there is a ban on controversial guys making a profit from their crimes so therefore selling their story is verboten.
Who can listen to album opener I Just Can’t Stop Loving You in the same way. Smooth Criminal? Don’t Stop Until You Get Enough from Thriller. There are a lot of sexual lyrics “Your butt is mine…” and the thrusting and crotch grabbing. Who can listen to and watch this stuff?
I don’t think there is an argument to be made for keeping them. Oh he was a genius… Well, that is not the first thing that goes through my mind when I think about him. He was a manipulator, a predator and a calculating liar. A serial pederast and a bad man. He knew this himself and that seems to me why he kept changing his face. A real-life Picture of Dorian Gray that was not hiding in the attic all along but was hiding in plain sight right in front of our eyes, on bedside tables, bedroom posters and on the front pages of the papers for decades. Hidden for all these years by Francis Bacon’s scalpel, Colonel Gaddafi’s Saturday night wardrobe and the real-life Peter Pan* spiel- a boy who lost his own childhood through fame and touring and who’s father was mean to him and teased him about his nose. A lie that had him left alone with kids just as he wanted. The original title of Peter Pan was The Boy Who Hated Mothers.
The many hours of documentary/testimony has had a powerful effect and I simply can’t bear to look at his face anymore, so I’m taking them off the wall/shelf.
What about Ben? A gentle ballad about a boy and his pet mouse? Those singles turn up pretty often and it is a nice wee thing.
It is not about a mouse, it is about a rat… From the soundtrack to a horror film sequel about a pet rat called Ben.
A lonely boy named Danny Garrison befriends Ben, the leader of the colony of rats trained by Willard Stiles. Ben becomes the boy’s best friend, protecting him from bullying and keeping his spirits up in the face of a heart condition.
However, things gradually take a downward turn as Ben’s colony becomes violent, resulting in several deaths. Eventually, the police destroy the rat colony with flame throwers, but Ben survives and makes his way back to Danny. The film closes with Danny, tending to the injured Ben, determined not to lose his friend.
The BBC website put up a list of the Notable Deaths of 2018 on 30th December.
It was missing Scott Hutchison. Maybe that is a good thing. The list doesn’t seem to be in any order and he could have appeared between Kofi Annan and Geoffrey from Rainbow. Or between Barbara Bush and Barry Chuckle. Maybe he would have liked that. The listing of deaths is pretty crass really. What were your top five records of the year? Top five celebrity deaths? Top five moisturisers? Maybe he wasn’t famous enough for the list of Notable Deaths 2018 although a guy called Lord Heywood of Whitehall was on there. Perhaps they weren’t sure about publishing a photo of someone that took their own life as there are some guidelines regarding that.
But I do think that one is lucky to live a life worthy of an obituary and Scott certainly did so up yours to the BBC list.
A friend once told me he was surprised that when his granny died that it wasn’t on the news. We were in primary school and he was joking. He was my best friend and he died 20 years ago when he was just 21 by jumping from a tall monument. I’ve been trying to write something about what Scott meant to me for a long time but the words are mixed with the odd old feelings about my friend Murray but I will try to put something together that will hopefully make some sense.
A family was in the shop one day near the end of last year when I was in covering for Andy -which is rare these days. I overheard a mother say to a teenage son when she passed our FRIGHTENED RABBIT section. “Oh, that’s Frightened Rabbit; One of them died earlier this year”. She was greeted with a shrug from her son and they continued toward the door. It was just trivia. I felt equally sick and paralysed as they walked outside.
I wanted to say “actually his name was Scott! He’d tell you that at the start of one of his solo gigs even though we all knew it was him. He was the lead singer and the main songwriter of the band which is named after what someone said he looked like when he was wee. He was a song-writing genius! I’ve met him before donchaknow! He played outside the bloody shop to 100 or more people! There was a cat! I wanted to gush out what Scott’s music has meant to me over the years but there was simply too much to say to simply the wrong person.
A newspaper cutting of a photo of Scott appeared on my kitchen noticeboard in 2013 and it has stayed there over the years as clubcard vouchers and appointments have come and gone. Scott staring into the distance, looking all windswept and interesting. My wife is fan too.
We met only a handful of times. The Scottish music scene is compact and he stayed in Edinburgh for a while so that was perhaps inevitable. We weren’t friends as such, I didn’t have his phone number but I think he’d have stuck up for me if I was getting my head kicked in by a bunch of drunk kids on a night out in Selkirk. He would have done that anyway. Saying that, he was a best friend of many of my friends – musical and not and it feels like losing a classmate at school. He was admired. Respected and admired. There was no hint of a chip on the music scene’s shoulder when Frightened Rabbit were signed to the great indie label FatCat, or when they were signed to the major label Atlantic. You know, as he became more famous, lots of people wouldn’t ask him to do favours as they knew he would probably say yes and they knew he was busy.
I have stared at him playing on stage live exactly 12 times as I have counted them all and all the songs I have always loved. Over the years I was drawn in and well, I am basically a fan of Frightened Rabbit. I have met FR fans since that have never seen the band and I now feel especially privileged to have shared time in the same room as the man and the band. Once, when my wife and I couldn’t think of where to go on holiday, we went to Vienna for a few days as we knew Frightened Rabbit were playing a small festival there. Then up to a sweaty loft in Forres for the Highland Tour. The signed tour poster is on the wall of our hall.
Maybe they could do a hologram tour like they did with Roy Orbison. Hologram Scott taking the piss out of a heckler in the audience. I would pay heaps for that!
I am glad he touched my life with the music and THE WORDS. And what words Scott! They hit a deep, visceral place. Then he could just throw out some wonderful lines like “my trousers seem to love your floor” (from My Backwards Walk).
The few times we met, although brief, were special to me. I felt special that he even followed the shop on Twitter. Be careful what you type… Scott might be listening when you are up late at night. And he would probably be up late. He was good on twitter too.
“Woke up, felt like shit. Started doing a song, felt better. #WednesdayWisdom”
The hair on my neck was on end when he came to play on Record Store Day two years ago which happened a few years after a short twitter conversation we had. I had hoped he would join us for a few beers and a sing-along in VoxBox after closing but he had committed to another gig as a favour to someone later in the evening back in Glasgow. That was Scott. He had asked to play outside so his brother’s kids could see. Yep, that too.
I know it is very late but I did make a top ten list of 2018… It was of things I liked about being a fan of Scott Hutchison and Frightened Rabbit. And here they are.
1. The spontaneity. A message would appear on Facebook that Scott was doing a show that evening. We would get changed and go out to places like Sneaky Pete’s or The Electric Circus. His alter ego, Owl John, started appearing I think to bypass the booking agent. Later, Frightened Rabbit would play secret gigs as an unheard of band called Footshooters.
When you would watch Scott on stage the banter was (usually) good. You could see his mind working as his eyes would look up to the side and he would smile to himself. At times it felt like he was trying to make sense of the weirdness of being a performer. Or maybe he was thinking about something he could say but wouldn’t. He had a cheek.
2. I love the cheek. He was sharp and could prick a bubble. I thought he was always a step ahead of what everyone in the room was thinking. In Sneaky Pete’s once he was taking requests and there was a gap near the end of the gig and spotting my chance I called out for him to play The Twist. My throat was dry and it came out “tweeeiast!”. This was picked up on…
3. I love the feeling of calm. Like wearing a comfy pair of slippers in front of a bothy’s coal fire. He would hold his guitar with an easiness that said “you’re all fine, I’m not going to make a mistake and even if I do, I won’t let it bother me so don’t let it bother you”. When he was performing, I loved that assuredness. Call out a song! I’ll play it. They were all at the tips of his fingers. Someone would always call out Snake. He hated Snake but that was an in-joke from before I even knew the band. Here is the story about Snake.
4. I love the guitar playing. He was a lovely fingerpicker too and some of the songs are really quite intricate in terms of rhythm or just a few of the fiddly trills like Paul Simon does to start a song… He could really move around within one chord. There is a great version of him playing Get Out that I keep going back to. It is more than just a guy playing guitar; he keeps you engaged and sounds like he is all the members of a band.
5. I love the simplicity of the songs too. At least that they seem simple on the outside but they are far from that. They feel like songs that can never date. Some musicians can pluck the songs that have always existed out of the air and get them recorded quickly and seemingly effortlessly. He had that and he made the craft of songwriting look so easy. You hear more with every listen and the words set them off. What words Scott!
A few lines I thought I got were “give me the cloth and I’ll wipe my face”. There was a documentary about a relic years ago. A rag that was used to mop Jesus’ brow called the Veil of Veronica. I wondered if he saw that TV program.
A Spanish Boy’s Flannel?
The song Backyard Skulls reminds me of digging in the backyard while living in a council house in New Pitsligo when I was aged 6 or 7. There was a dog skull missing a few teeth. I was excited because I though I had found a fossil.
Swim Until You Can’t See Land reminds me of a scene in the film Gattica.
6. I love the singalong too. How can a song called The Loneliness and The Scream have such an uplifting and po-going sing along? Woah-oh-oh-oooh! I saw him with Frightened Rabbit at the HMV Picturehouse and he played the delicate Poke on his own. It sounded like only the women in the audience were singing. I think he started the song and the audience sang the whole thing with him. It was beautiful, delicate and feminine. No one flinched as 500 women sang the line “Should we kick its cunt in?”.
Ah, I’ve found it!
7. I love the swearing. Fuck this place. It takes more than fucking someone you don’t know to keep warm. You’re the shit and I’m knee deep in it (that’s a compliment right?). There is a C bomb in Music Now that isn’t too obvious and that track has snuck onto BBC Radio. Here is Keep Yourself Warm from the Forres gig in 2012.
8. I love his dealing with hecklers. “Is this your first time?” “You’re not very good at this”.
9. I love his support of the scene. The support of art and poetry collective Neu! Reekie. More spontaneity. I saw him play Cheap Gold at the Leith Docker’s Club which was the venue for the Christmas Songwriter’s Club. Bring a song they said. So he wrote one for it. He was dripping with songs. Stick him in an old house alone or with a collaborator and there would be a mini masterpiece by the end of the day.
I though we had lost him to fame and success when he went to LA after being signed to Atlantic Records. Frightened Rabbit were soon selling out big venues quickly and it was hard to get tickets to home gigs if you weren’t quick. But before too long he was back and playing Tom Petty covers at a Neu! Reekie poetry inspired Christmas event in Edinburgh.
10. I loved his openness. In the songs themselves and the between song chat. The self-deprecating wit and the sense of absurdity. He talked about sitting in a room with some Billy Joel records and whisky at a later Christmas Songwriter’s at The Queen’s Hall. We had a surplus of Billy Joel at the shop and I asked a mutual friend to find out his favourite Billy Joel album. A few weeks later The Stranger.
11. (for there are many more than 10 things). I love the cover versions. I only started appreciating Born In The USA era Bruce Springsteen after hearing Scott’s version of I’m Going Down.
12. When he was getting into a song he did a head bobbing thing and he would usually say “cheers” at the end. I could go on and on for pages and ages until you shake me and say get a hold of yourself man!
But that is the person that I felt I knew. I knew him mostly only from the songs, the interviews, the look in the eye and the enigmatic stare into the distance… and by just being in the audience over the years – even just through that I felt I knew him well and he brought fun and warmth into my life. The gut punch of the news he was missing was familiar and upsetting and I know that this will lessen in time. He leaves a terrific legacy both in terms of creative output and in the tiny changes he continues to inspire in others. I miss him but I saw some people who really knew him last August at a poetry event that he would have been co-hosting. His mum came and spoke. That is something that put the grief that I have felt into perspective. Did you know she would buy Scott poetry books? “I never knew if he read them” she said (I’m sure he did) and she was a wee bit embarrassed at the swearing. What great swearing!
Going back to our first Record Store Day in 2012, I had loaded the car with the few boxes that we had and we headed down to the shop over the cobbled New Town streets and we had Living in Colour blaring on the car stereo. An ipod connected to an adapter cassette that was in the old car’s tape player. Terrified that no one would be there as we turned into St Stephen Street, I was chuffed to see a tiny queue. What a song! We can unpick the lyrics later but it is so uplifting. One of so many mini masterpieces written by Scott and the wonderful Frightened Rabbit.
That’s what I had wanted to say to the lady and her shrugging lad.
My first Frightened Rabbit gig was actually in Peebles in 2011 only a few weeks after I opened the shop and it was really my introduction to the Scottish music scene and I have been hooked ever since. I am so glad that somebody captured the energy of the performance.
VoxBox Music became the newest record shop in the world on May 21st 2011. We buy and sell vinyl and other formats of music. We are independent and sell mostly pre-owned records although we are slowly branching into new vinyl too.