Due to the Coronavirus uncertainty and limits on personal time, I decided to not order any RSD records this year -for this weekend and also the next RSD Drop in July. This year was the 10th anniversary of the shop opening and I am glad of that and would have loved to celebrate with everybody that has followed us on a wonderful journey.
We are still a Record Store Day shop but if you are after the Official RSD releases, there are other shops in Edinburgh that will be stocking them. Underground Solushn and Assai.
I’ve been slow in getting new releases in but will work on that in the coming months. Thanks for the patience. VoxBox will have the usual event next year if things settle down. It will be the best in the UK.
The Skinny wrote a nice piece after interviewing record shops about RSD. I always say about RSD that with 500 releases, you are not meant to like most of them. And that every one will be special to a tribe of people. When queuing, remember that even with a queue of 100, everyone could easily be looking for for something different.
After I bought out my business partner in 2013 or so, I was still doing part time hospital work and I needed someone to work a few days at the shop.
Nigel was a regular customer and total enthusiast. I had met him when he was volunteering at the Oxfam Music shop on Raeburn Place and sometimes he would offer to do a shift if I was ever short staffed. So when I needed the help I didn’t advertise. It was just, hey Nigel would like some paid work?
And he slotted in perfectly wth VoxBox Andy. The shop has never been so Rock and Roll since those days.
Google has us pinned as a “quirky shop for vinyl”. Sometimes I’llbequirky- for 40 year old Simpsons fans… and I always have been attracted to the unusual. Nigel had an unusual appetite for music. Nothing fazed him. And he was a bit unusual. God broke the mould after making Nigel. There aren’t any others. And boy could he talk! Many rode into St Stephen Street to come record shopping with us and left with a bag of vinyl but having to carry their horse up the road.
Have you heard the one where he was kissed by Marc Bolan!
Nigel walked out of a Led Zeppelin concert more than once due to overlong soloing.
Or… “I couldn’t stand Jim Morrison but I loved his music” I don’t think they ever met but I think Jim would have had his work cut out with Nigel.
He had that thing. It’s often called a love of or passion for music but that doesn’t convey it enough. Better described as he totally gave a shit about music but with no prejudice in taste. It is a joy to be in the company of someone that has this spark. It is so important to care about something. Admittedly, he enjoyed some music that I don’t care for and chartier stuff too and he helped me broaden my musical tastes -both in what I like and for the music I now know I don’t.
Add to that an encyclopaedic knowledge of Reggae, Dylan and the Grateful Dead. He was the perfect employee. Inspired by the VoxBox Vinyl Show on Edinburgh Student Radio he sought out a show of his own and found one and totally outdid us recording ninety (90!) two hour episodes on Glasgow’s SubCity Radio. All vinyl.
It can be a lonely world until you meet others that feel the same as you do. Between his life absorbed in music and latterly his work at Oxfam, VoxBox and his radio show, I think he will have made connections with a host of people and enriched the lives of many. How many customers became great friends?
He quit VoxBox one day. I think he liked his freedom more than any job.
He still came in and asked about the family. He was glad the shop was doing ok.
He was moving house with his immense music collection and would be further away so wouldn’t be able to pop in as often.
He was our John Peel for a while and I cherish the time he spent with us.
I last saw him when I was working a set of night shifts doing my other job in Edinburgh’s Western General Hospital last year during the first wave of coronavirus admissions. When looking after someone else on the cardiology ward I had been surprised to see his name on the computer map of the ward and I wondered if it could be him. I was aware of some medical complaints he had. So I went to visit at 7am. I was hoping it would be another Nigel. Sorry to other Nigels out there, but I was hoping it was you with a mild ailment, rather than my Nigel.
My Nigel was awake and in good spirits and we had a wee catch up. I planned to come back to see him the following morning at the end of the shift. That wasn’t to be due to a busier following night and feeling like a dirty rag at the end of it due to exposure to coronavirus. No-one wants to kill their friends.
I’ve forgotten to do a lot of things this past year and I regret not sending him a message since then.
I heard he was poorly last week and was able to get a few paragraphs to him.
…Thank you so much Nigel. It’s been a long strange trip.
I’ll hopefully see you browsing in the record shops on the other side…
He died in his sleep, at home with family beside him on Sunday.
Good night old chum.
Nigel’s Sub-City Radio shows survive and can be heard here:
Today Faith Eliott came in to drop off Lucy Feliz’s new album Last of the Sun that came out on her label -Edinburgh based- OK PAL Records on the 28th. It is shimmery dream pop of course, but you know, it reminds me of a nice quiet day walking around a beach house silently holding hands with Astrid Gilberto. So this a lovely thing to have on the shelf just coincidentally in time for Record Store Day. So I though I would give it a plug. Try this!
While I’m plugging projects by nice people I should mention that Jill Lorean sent some signed copies of her new mini-album Not Your First recently. It is a terrifyingly lovely collaboration with Frightened Rabbit’s Andy Monaghan and drummer Peter Kelly. It pounds and aches and throbs and I’m still not even sure what this particular song is about but listen in and you will definitely be keeping your eyes on the bird along with me from now on.
And finally, on the plugging theme, one of the artists below released their second album on the VoxBox shop label just as lockdown started. They are the best band in the world and you should check them out. Answer at the bottom of the page.
Anyway, hello! VoxBox will be open at 0800 on this Saturday’s Record Store Drop Day. To prevent the queue getting large, at 0730 I will give a number to anyone queuing so they can wander about and come back for opening at 0800. We’ll carry on with this numbering over the day to prevent a long queue.
Due to the shop size it will be one in one out for the RSD records. There will be room for one casual browser to look at the normal shop stock but if we see bums rubbing together we will have to put a stop to it.
From 0800 until 1000, those who have been shielding and are worried about being among too many people can call and ask for a proxy to queue for them. They will get the next available number and join the queue and hopefully get a record or 2 when their turn comes. We will call back to arrange payment which has to be through PayPal and a collection time. Over complicated? Maybe.
Shop number is 0131 6296775. PayPal is email@example.com
You know this stuff. Don’t come down if you have symptoms or if you have had possible contact and are self isolating. Masks are mandatory. Keep 6 albums away from others. Be nice, and maybe have fun.
We have plenty hand gel for use on arrival and on leaving.
Biffy Clyro Moderns -Modern Leper/Modern Love x10
Bob Marley Redemption Song
Brian Eno Rams: Soundtrack
Charlie Parker at the Howard x1
Christy Moore Prosperous x1
Cinematic Orchestra The Crimson Wing/Flamingoes
David Bowie ChangesNowBowie CD and LP x10 of each
David Bowie I’m Only Dancing CD and LP x10 of each
Davy Graham The Holly Kaleidoscope
Elton John Debut album
Gorillaz D-Sides and G Sides x4 of each
Jake Bugg Savious of the City
John Lennon Instant Karma
Keane Night Train
Lee Perry & the Black Ark Players Guidance
Linton Kwesi Johnson Bass Culture LKJ in Dub
Mac Demarco Other Here Comes the Cowboy Demos
Manic Street Preachers Done and Dusted x6
Morrissey Honey, You Know Where to Find Me x4
Motorhead Ace of Spades x1
New Order Peel Sessions
Nick Mason See Emily Play
Ocean Colour Scene One for the Modern x4
Paul McCartney McCartney 1
Pink Floyd Arnold Layne Live
Pogues At the BBC 1984
Primal Scream Loaded x6
Ravi Shankar Chants of India x1
Roxy Music Steven Wilson Stereo
Sandie Shaw x1
Shirley Collins & Davy Graham
Supergrass Caught by the Fuzz
Tangerine Dream Phaedra
The Cure Bloodflowers/Seventeen Seconds x4 of each
The Damned Evil Spirits
The Who Odds and Sods
Tyrannosaurus Rex Unicorn
U2 11 O’Clock Tick Tock x4 or so
V/A The Beat Scene/Rock and Roll/Girls/Blues Miracle Glass Company 2 🙂
Here is a very dull post from our Facebook events page. This event page will be the best place to get updates from us about the RSD Drop on August 29th including records available, telephone ordering and Covid-19 precautions etc. https://www.facebook.com/events/edit/653008238901096
Hello friends, casual punters, record enthusiasts, vinyl junkies and anyone who has just casually stumbled across this page looking for something to do on the 29th August as well as those just routinely spying on a friend, their parents or an ex or a would-be lover’s timeline.
As many of you will know already, due to Covid-19, Record Store Day will be spread over 3 days this year. They are Saturdays; Aug 29th, Sept 26th and Oct 24th and to be honest, a few weeks ago we had not expected to be in a position to take part. The shop’s wonderful longest serving employees VoxBox Andy and VoxBox Mike have left for pastures new and there has been a lot of uncertainty around lockdown and so on. To be honest, social distancing in a small shop like ours and most of the small businesses in Stockbridge will always be pretty difficult.
Our annual RSD event had grown over the years to become maybe the largest in the UK which is something that we have been very proud of. It is an annual collaboration of the VoxBox record shop and the bands we know and the labels we love (Looking at you, Gerry Loves Records xo). But alas, this year is so very different and a large event, street party and the shop afterparty lock-in singalong is the last thing we want to be involved in. A total bollocking from Nicola Sturgeon is an event we do not want to be a part of either.
Most importantly, we just don’t want to be involved in helping the spread of this coronavirus. As we all know, people infected with it can become unwell and die. Especially the frail elderly. This virus is mostly fatal for the original Frank Sinatra and Glenn Miller fans; which could be your grandparents and great-grandparents. Also at risk are the original Beatles fans who will be grandparents by now. Then more of our parents, the original fans of Glam, Disco and of MOJO magazine Rock bands of the 70s. I can think of a few old punks carrying a few extra stone that are also at increased risk.
These are our brethren, our friends, acquaintances and relations and they make up a large part of our regular customers. Although I have not read the book or done an exam on running a business, I suspect that a good business plan is one that tries to keep your customers alive.
I have been torn on RSD this year as I have also been keen to help distributors, artists and labels by ordering and hopefully selling their releases that just now and for many months, have been sitting in distributor warehouses. For many weeks I have also felt that deciding definitely not to take part would help avoid the stress of uncertainty, the additional pressures of ordering records that may not sell and the burdens on my time. I had allowed some of the RSD distributor deadlines to pass.
However, as lockdown has been easing and cases in Scotland have reduced significantly, I decided to order only a very small selection of RSD records from the remaining distributors in fairly small numbers – I will find out the allocation fairly soon and will put up a wee list when confirmed. A little extra money made, after 5 months being closed will be really helpful.
It has also felt really good to be open again these past 2 weeks. Sensible precautions are in place and the customers have been great in keeping hands gelled and bodies distanced.
We are not putting on any music or doing anything else to encourage folk to come down for the day or to hang out. We will be just having a very, very dull day selling records. In the rain probably. Try not to come… We will have telephone ordering for those that have been shielding and wish to avoid queues. More details on this to follow.
Two youngsters, VoxBox Ollie and VoxBox Lewis have just started and I think the shop has entered a new era. As always, we will have friendly smiles -nice big ones that can be seen in the eyes. Celebrating record shops and those that work in them is a really lovely thing to do. RSD is not without faults but overall it is a very positive thing and long may it run. Thank you to all of our customers, musicians, record labels and record distributors in these challenging times.
We are back open on Friday 1200-1700, Saturday 1030-1700 and Sundays 1100-1600.
I was very pleased when I found out that online music magazine God Is In The TV had created an alternative to the Mercury Prize a few years ago -The Neutron Prize- and that Kathryn Joseph had been nominated this year for her album From When I Wake The Want Is. Regular readers may know that I am a bit of a fan.
They announced a shortlist of 3 with a very short deadline for public votes so I retweeted a wee bit and put something on Facebook and mentioned it to the Twilight Sad fan-page on Facebook and Twitter. They are the best and friendliest of people and I think that they probably swung the public vote as there was maybe only 30 votes in it in the end. It was exciting for a while and well I am not sure that winning the public vote mattered too much – I think that the magazine would likely have voted for KJ anyway as the public vote was symbolic and they had retained control over who wins -to prevent someone like Kathryn McKathrynface winning.
I think the God is in the TV folk were smitten a while ago. They met her and saw her play. And that is really all it takes. Here is an interview with Kathryn from last year.
It is a long piece but towards the end there is a very honest passage which kind of sums up the financial situation faced by even award winning and highly respected performers.
“It doesn’t feel like you’ve got much time to matter now. But to me it’s like as soon as you feel like you are wanting to make money and you want to be successful, I think you’re fucked.” She points out the difficulties of being an artist in an environment where resources are shrinking. “What’s sad is it feels like there’s just not money support, I am like how does anyone do this? How does anyone actually survive, pay their bills and write music and play music? I am in a middle area of just enough money, and none of the stress of if you are making money then your life is a bit mental. I feel a lot that everyone that’s around you making your record exist is being paid a wage but you are not, you’re the last to get any money from it, how are you supposed to make it in the first place if you can’t afford to eat food? You can’t afford to get to your gig but you aren’t getting money from it. But it’s like a total addiction and it means you will put up with that kind of crap because you love doing it”
One song from When I Wake The Want Is was playlisted on BBC 6Music. On the C Playlist. Which is great really although I wonder if someone more mischievous at the Playlist Meeting might have swapped her with Nine Inch Nails just to see if it could spur on magical things to happen.
On a very positive note, the album was a 6Music Album of the Day, she had a session on 6Music on the Marc Riley show when Vic Galloway sat in and another live session with Steve Lamacq when she was at Meltdown Festival as a guest of Robert Smith. She had a session following her debut album’s SAY Award win in 2015 too. The single’s video has now had 32206 views which isn’t bad at all.
Winning the Neutron Prize is a fantastic thing and a just reward for hard work and I know there have been many pianos humped up and down the stairs over the years. (‘Humped’ is the verb for moving a piano. eg I humped the piano down the stairs, you humped the piano up the stairs, we humped etc -or have I made this up? There is definitely sweaty rhythmic moving, arguments about positioning and who goes on top, plenty of moaning and groaning and an argument about whether one or two extra people are needed)
These things build over time and as more folk realise how bloody great she is… Someone at the top of BBC Music may pluck up the courage to stick her on Later With Jools. She is one of a handful of Scottish acts that could do that KT Tunstall stratospheric rise thing from 2004. Or, even better, do you remember watching Killing in the Name live on The Word in 1993?
37890 views. And yes, I am comparing Kathryn Joseph to Rage Against The Machine, although folk that have seen her with their children sitting around her and the piano will know that she swears more and better than they do. Supremely powerful music in very different ways. You tell your friends about this kind of special stuff.
At the risk of this blog eating itself, here is a weird VoxBox Blog review of From When I Wake The Want Is written while playing the record on repeat and thinking about nature and the seasons last year.
In other news, I will be at Born to be Wide discussing all things vinyl on 3rd October at the Pleasance. Everything you need to know about the format, from getting records/vinyls (whatever your age) made to getting them selt -joined on a panel with some lovely folk, and hosted by my friend Olaf…
You know when you are asked to send a high-resolution profile pic at short notice and all you have is a bare kitchen bulb and a mobile phone and they all come out bad so you start mucking about then send the best one where you think you look fairly serious – you imagine you look like a (very cheap) version of Ian Rankin on the back cover of a book. Then, way after the deadline, you send a cheeky email with one or two of the kitchen photo out-takes just for fun?
Music isn’t a competition of course, except when it is and I do like the fact that music awards exist. Awards are only one part of the competition and only happen for the ceremonies and I think ceremony is important for us humans. The forgotten competition the rest of the time is between the record labels with established bands/brands, the money, power and influence who are getting the A list slots and the true Independent labels and artists getting the B and C slots. Maybe most of the indies are competing for just the C slots? The title of the Nine Inch Nails record is perhaps appropriate. God Break Down The Door.
I had meant to finish a piece on BBC 6Music but was overtaken by the Mercury Prize. Congratulations to Dave. (Label: Neighbourhood Records, distributed by Warner. Publishing: Warner-Chappell)
There seems to be a lot of cynicism around The Mercury Prize among those that live and breathe music. It is seen as a corporate entity that doesn’t often reflect the best music that is made in the UK. There is a truth there as the artists that are nominated are usually signed to major labels. Dave, like Stormzy, being on an independent label is seen as a guy that has done it all himself against all odds, but in reality his success owes a lot to the tremendous support from the major label Warner. What it means to be independent these days has become murkier.
The production company which runs the Mercury Prize and which decides how the winner is chosen is fairly secretive but we must remember that the award was set up by The British Association of Record Dealers which is now the Entertainment Retailers Association (representing for example itunes, Amazon, HMV, supermarkets and the 200+ Independent record shops that are involved in RSD every year including VoxBox) and the British Phonographic Industry which represents the record labels and distributors (mainly the major labels but has some representation from the larger independents like PIAS which is a label and a popular distributor).
Like many awards, it is designed to make money for the organisers and to do that effectively and appear authentic, they need to be seen to be inclusive of many different styles of music while aggressively advertising the majority of the acts that will be easier to sell to as many people as possible. Controversy is good and people talking about the award, even critically, is good for business. The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. Thanks Oscar.
In my younger years, I thought that the Mercury was good in that I often had no idea who the winners or the nominees were and I therefore assumed that the judges had found talented urchins and helped shine the spotlight on them. In doing so, it may encourage other talented urchins to pay the £190 plus VAT to apply. After getting older, with baldness and grey hair, two young kids and somehow finding a few minutes to do some digging, I realised that even the relatively unknown acts that are nominated are usually on big indie labels and very often even the major labels. I know many very talented grassroots artists in Edinburgh and beyond that could take off with some UK-wide exposure and wondered if a self-releasing act with no distribution should apply for the Mercury? My conclusion is that the brutal truth is:
Anyway, I took some time to pick out the Scottish nominees and their record labels/distributors to see how Scots fare.
1992 Primal Scream (WINNER Screamadelica) (Creation/Sire/Warner)
1992 Jesus and Mary Chain nominated for Honey’s Dead (Blanco Y Negro -now owned by Warner)
1994 Primal Scream –Give Out But Don’t Give Up (Creation/Sire/Warner)
1995 James MacMillan –Seven Last Words From The Cross (Hyperion Records)
1997 Primal Scream –Vanishing Point (Creation/Reprise-Warner)
2000 Delgados –The Great Eastern (Chemikal Underground)
2000 Helicopter Girl –How to Steal the World (Instant Karma -ex-Warner chairman’s label)
2004 Franz Ferdinand (WINNER with Franz Ferdinand (Domino)
2004 Belle and Sebastian nominated for Dear Catastrophe Waitress (Rough Trade)
2005 KT Tunstall –Eye To The Telescope (Relentless Records/Virgin/now Sony)
2006 Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanagan –Ballad Of The Broken Seas (V2/Virgin-Universal)
2007 The View –Hats Off to the Buskers (1965 Records/SonyBMG)
2009 Glasvegas –Glasvegas (Columbia)
2010 Biffy Clyro –Only Revolutions 14th Floor (Warner)
2011 King Creosote and Jon Hopkins –Diamond Mine (Domino)
2012 Django Django –Django Django (Because Music)
2014 Young Fathers (WINNER with DEAD) (BigDada)
2015 C Duncan –Architect (Fatcat)
2016 Jamie Woon (Raised down south, Scottish mum) –Making Time (PMR/Universal)
The Mercury started with 11 nominated acts, then 10 from a couple of years then up to 12. From 1992 to 2019 I counted 340 and I am also including Gorillaz as they were already nominated before they asked to not be included in 2001. The Mercury mainly features UK artists although it also welcomes those from the Republic of Ireland. We have had 3 winners over the years which is a fantastic achievement and they have all done incredibly well.
Having 12 acts on the Mercury Prize shortlist is handy as it helps with working out how often we should see Scottish acts. On average, based on population, for every 10 artists based in England, Scotland should have one to add on, the Republic of Ireland should have one and Wales and Northern Ireland should argue about the other one to add on. 13 would actually be a better number but we should see a Scottish band nominated almost but not quite every year. Around 8% (which is 27 out of 340) of the acts should be Scottish. As it is, 5.6% (or 19 acts) are which doesn’t sound too far off.
If the Mercury Prize represented Scottish music more fairly, then there would be another 8 acts nominated over the past 28 awards. It may seem like splitting hairs, but I can think of 8 Scottish acts that could have been helped incredibly by the exposure over the years.
Trying to look for patterns you see that without Primal Scream in the early years of the Award, it would look like Scottish music was in real trouble. Also worth noting that Alan McGee’s Creation Records (Oasis and Boo Radleys were also Mercury nominees on Creation) and The Delgados label, Chemikal Underground are the only Scottish labels that have had artists nominated. Creation went bust and Chemikal have slowed their output in recent times.
That there have been no Scottish based artists in the past 4 years is a little concerning and noted is this article in The National. I have had high hopes that Mogwai’s label, Rock Action, would have had Mercury nominations in recent years with The Twilight Sad, Aiden Moffat & RM Hubbert, Kathryn Joseph, Sacred Paws and the ever productive Mogwai themselves. Rock Action is the biggest and I think, most important Scottish label at the moment and have consistently had great success with the Scottish Album of the Year Award. I am convinced the label is named after The Stooges drummer Scott Asheton who insisted that people call him “Rock Action” for a while. Equally concerning is that there hasn’t been a Scottish record label with a band on the shortlist since the year 2000. Domino do have a great Scottish contingent and FatCat have also signed many Scottish bands over the past 10 years.
Things were different in 1969 OK. The Stooges were signed to Elektra records on a whim based on the recommendation of The MC5 and three songs. They only had three songs.
Perhaps we aren’t entering in decent numbers? Not having many Scottish bands on major labels doesn’t help and the entry fee itself is prohibitive. Perhaps rightly so. Only around 220 bands pay the money to apply. We have plenty of small labels but many of the smaller Scottish labels often don’t have distribution and you need distribution to be sold in HMV/Fopp (although this is changing for local bands -eg Miracle Glass Company will soon be sold in Fopp Edinburgh). I would say that, judging by the history of the award, without a label and distribution an artist has a 0% chance of a Mercury nomination.
The period from 2004 to 2015 is more how it should look and is probably the best that it could realistically look. Artists on or connected to the 3 major labels, Warner, Sony and Universal and then those on the bigger Indie labels like Domino and Rough Trade.
Remember when My Bloody Valentine were ineligible for the award for their self released album M B V in 2013? They had chosen to sell it themselves through their website without a distributor. Read the first paragraph again -who set up the Mercury Prize? Shops, labels and distributors. The rules changed following this so that bands without distribution can apply. And waste their money?
Depressing reading? Yes. But it simply highlights an issue that we have in Scotland. We have a number of great music scenes, but in order for things to change, we must first be aware that there is something missing from the Scottish Music Industry these days. We are not very corporate which is very nice. Those involved in the Indie music scene may well eschew awards altogether as music is not a competition and that is fine. The downside is that when there isn’t much money kicking around, no one has a decent PR budget and the Scottish superstars of the future will be few and far between. A few percentage points of difference is significant when you also take into account that there is a few percentage points of difference in BBC coverage, press coverage, TV coverage and big festival slots and it is important to try to find ways to redress the balance. (The UK music industry is worth £5 billion so one extra percent is worth having)
How do we coax investment in the best musicians based in Scotland? Do we need the major labels to be picking up more Scottish acts? Or should we adapt to the market and start making Scottish grime?
As well financial implications, the lack of Scottish musicians in the music blogs, press and on magazine covers risks there being a lack of inspiration for the young and a gap in our artistic and cultural legacy.
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.
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.