Finding your footing in the music industry as a brand new band or artist can be a daunting yet exciting period. Each day someone new takes a whack at it whether-they’re already someone who is established in a specific music scene or not, it’s the start of a journey for them.
There are a multitude of challenges that artists have to face, to climb the seemingly never-ending ladder that is this industry. From gaining exposure to their streaming profiles after endless hard work on one single; to playing as many gigs as possible. Well, not so much these days, unfortunately. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of the industry which feels like it will be forever, is this the last nail in the coffin for the grassroots music scene?
In terms of a wage, if you aren’t selling out tours on the bigger side of things at a big capacity in venues; you aren’t making a fat lot. Bands that are still on their come up are still grafting at full-time jobs, two in a lot of cases – just to put some bread and butter on the table. A lot of these people are still doing the vast majority of things that come with their attempt to bust on to the scene; tirelessly sending their music to anyone who will write about it, designing their own artwork to accompany their tunes, and marketing themselves. Music is more work than just music clearly.
So many challenges face you when taking this rollercoaster of a journey, only by talking to different bands and artists have I truly realised the nitty-gritty, turbulent love and pain they put in to pursue their passion. “It’s all about believing in yourself, working hard, and taking on any advice you are given/Other than local radio shows and BBC Introducing there is limited opportunity unless you have the right PR,” says Jack Cattell. He isn’t wrong either, BBC introducing do a great amount for fresh-faced newcomers with usually giving them their first radio play. Cattell hailing from Walsall recently released a new single ‘London Town’ which has received a warm welcome in its offering. Being someone that knuckles down and pours all his energy in along with his band, they’re a good example of how new independent artists have to be working. The indie-folk tinged tunes mix things up on the Midlands scene, a nice change from these seemingly hive-minded indie bands.
Originality can play a massive piece in the puzzle of trying to get people hooked on your sound, that initial debut single can make or break your first shot at success if you don’t have a tight-knit circle to help your promotion. At the end of the day you can only get so far with local support; whether it’s coming from friends, people in the local scene like promoters, or venues that your band is commonly playing. Again with the pandemic bringing the live music sector to a halt that’s automatically striking one from the list for the time being. But social media is more useful than it ever has been for artists promoting themselves, Twitter especially. Announcing a new single? Tweet it. Oh, you want to drop your first bit of merch that will more than likely skint you? Tweet it.
“Publicity wise, music blogs, websites and smaller radio stations are the absolute unsung heroes of it for a new band breaking through,” says Ben Brandist, from Coventry’s very own Idle Noise with his luscious vocals setting him apart from the crowd, he’s a part of one of many bands from the midlands just bursting with talent.
Taking your music beyond your hometown can be daunting, but a good way to get the word out is to utilise blogs, websites, and smaller radio stations. Meanwhile, you better hope and pray that people start to catch on to your tunes. Words For Music, Madlands Media, and Louder Than War are a few publications that champion new music til’ kingdom come.
Offering reviews of new singles or premiering them, music blogs can spread the word up and down the country, even if someone finds their new favourite new song which is fortunately enough for you, one of yours. Word of mouth still manages to kick in somewhere along the line. Making close connections and becoming friends with blogs, radio stations, etc will for sure result in more unique opportunities – this could be a gig, an interview, who knows? But at the end of the day, something that goes even further beyond marketing yourself correctly is being yourself and staying true to your values as a band. Bands that on the come up need to remember what grass root publications have done for them, I see and hear about tonnes of bands shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to being grateful for something as simple as a review.
Despite the immense amount of support, that baby-faced music journalists give new bands, for free might I add, at some point the reach can only go so far. Of course, there’s going to be a lack of support for the newbies from the behemoth publications, you can’t just drop your debut single and expect to end up on the front page of Crack Magazine.
“We’d love to go on tour with a bigger artist next year and it would be amazing if someone would take a chance on us to let us do that./ most importantly, artists, especially local artists, need to work together to grow their careers together. Collaborating with other artists who are on a similar level is a great way to share audiences and it’s something I don’t think many of us do enough of within the ‘indie’ music scene.” Said James Knott, guitarist for Headshrinkers a post-punk quartet residing in the West Midlands that have found recent success with their past two singles ‘6:41 Sapien’ and ‘Caught Between Two Stools’.
Raising a brilliant point, no wonder genres like grime and rap do so well with the number of collaborations there is. The closest we ever see bands at this level to collaborating is being on the same stage at gigs. Imagine your two favourite indie bands were to team up on a track, four minds turn to eight let’s say and who knows, you could be listening to the next track of a generation.