Wednesday, February 11, 2009

INDIE spirit

So ‘Spirit of Independence’ then?

Once upon a time when I was about 19 and finishing college I wondered what on earth to do… luckily there was a recession going on so nobody gave me a job.
I bartered designs for club nights/ t-shirts/ record-CD-tape covers and backdrops and got free entry and beer everywhere I went.. as my dad was a farmer, he’d visit once in a while a leave sacks of spuds, fruit and veg for our cold store (the corner of my room) life was good and vegetarians always wanted to share houses with me.

So what on earth has this got to do with independence I hear you all cry…
Well in those days the pubs had to shut in the afternoons- weird, but true- so between opening times and court cases (slowing down the poll tax hearings) we had to do something.
Those in bands used our pub for practise sessions and I used the tables to cut and paste magazines together.. a local fanzine was born.. it was fun and good enough to have all of its ideas stolen by the university after the first issue.

But this wasn’t good enough for me and my mate.. we wanted a proper magazine with music free with each issue (this was a time when a tape stuck on Select/ Lime Lizard/ Melody Maker was a thing of joy!) so I designed a dummy issue of ‘flux’ (not the flux magazine that is published nowadays) and sent it off to indie labels the ’world’ over.
We got a great response.. some even payed for advertising!
But the best thing was the records dropping though the door every week to review and CDs –couldn’t afford CDs- we had to steal a CD player after we got so many- the FUN.

TIP 1 for any aspiring label bosses- sending out music to magazines is still good and cheaper now days- but make sure they have published something- indie publishing is in fine health – they need to fill pages, you need publicity- it hangs about in peoples lives longer than a link on a computer screen.
Stack gives you an idea of the different magazines out there that could help:

now I’m not a head honcho of a magazine empire so obviously that failed, but we did still get music onto disc and into peoples lives.. because it’s all about the music right?
Right… and wrong..
Right, because that’s why you want a label and why the bands want you to push their stuff.
Wrong, because people don’t just pick up and purchase any old CD or Vinyl.

TIP 2 fund the bands music.
Get it on an advert!
Or know someone in television who will use the songs as background in their TV shows- this funds a fair few releases- doncha know
neither of these is the simplist of routes and the screams of ‘sell-out’ can be heard across the Indie nation.. so back to my old favourite: T-shirts, (luckily for me- when I’m asked to design them)

‘The kids’ will listen all day at a gig or festival and love your new signings - but wont for the most part stump up some cash- there and then- for a record or CD.. there are some good reasons for this:
1 you could lose the record.
2 you could brake it.
3 it’s a logistical nightmare if you’re lucky enough to get a snog..
(the corners are sharp, there could be an accident. If you bend down to place your purchase on the floor, you could be mistaken and go in for a kiss elsewhere. And Vinyl squeezed between breast and chest is seldom in anyone elses fantasies.

But Band T-shirts are just slipped on over what you are wearing and if you’ve got the T-shirt from the first ever gigs in limited designs the Indie snob is ever so happy.
Also badges –or buttons, to the rest of the world- cost nothing to produce and can be sold cheaply or given away.. all good.
TIP3 The next thing to do is get a venue to let you have a label night (blackmail always works for this one) – this is always fun- getting any bands organised to do anything on the same day is always fun- they will also have to sleep on your sofas and floors if they are not local to you- with cleaning cost and disastrous fly posting you WILL lose money. This is essential. If you don’t have good stories to tell, you are just a machine selling stuff…. If it all goes swimmingly, make things up.
Jarvis loved my friends’ first night, even though there was only 32 people in attendance and my dog bit a hole in the rare groove 12” the DJ was about to play.

Also get to know the local DJs (clubs/ pubs and internet radio) and bribe them to play your stables songs.. this only works if they are dropped into sets seamlessly.. your anti-folk isn’t going to sit well in an Electronic body music set and vice versa.

TIP 4 Be unique… okay, don’t b-unique, that label already exists.. just try something that suits you.
I come at this from a design direction so old style 4AD and Factory had a really strong presence or 2 tones logo: think overall- you hope to have more than one band signed, and they should be individual- but a house style in design or sound can go a long way.

TIP 5 Bloody well love the music and the designs and the late nights and the fact that you’ll have bands kipping on your sofa and you’ll have to cope with manufacturers and petulant artists and shoddy payments and it’ll all go wrong.

My son was about to be born is the reason I didn’t continue in INDIE label adventure- to and fro from Germany and out every night- wasn’t what I wanted to do.
My friends continue in their own style and even though it’s so much work.. they find it so fulfilling. (excuse the plug)
*as I can not distinguish letters the correct way around -this post was started at 2 o’clock this afternoon- I will never attempt a wordy post again- pictures and music lists only.
p.s if you ever want artwork from me- make sure the lettering and sentences are correct- I cannot edit or indeed tell if they are wrong!
The Pooh Sticks
Jeffrey Lewis
LCD Soundsystem
Earl Zinger


steenbeck said...

Ha! Sorry, Shane, my first thought was "that must have taken Shane a long time!" Mr. Steenbeck types 2 fingers at a time...

Fascinating advice, that transcends music. Good tactics for any kind of indie art.

My boys are both wearing monster shirts today--their choice.

ejaydee said...

Thanks Shane!

Japanther said...

Epic post Shane! Great story (I wonder if Steenbeck has a similar film industry backstory!).....and makes you realise all the hassle that goes into getting those little black (or silver) discs we love so much onto the shelves and into our collections, very interesting stuff.

saneshane said...

he he steen..
I type using many fingers.. but spell check can't find out what the words are!!

and I agree with Japanther, what's the story with the indie movies?

Japanther it's the 30MOT that set it off.

EJD no worries..

Blimpy said...

fab post shane- I loved Reading it. I'll comment more on it when I get my laptop back. It's quicker than typing on the iPhone.

Shoey said...

Epic post of almost Toffeboy, or even FP proportions. Think the 'Spill captures the spirit of a good fanzine - informing and enthusiastic, without being overly precious or opinionated. You can go have a lie down now.

saneshane said...

and another link for those interested:

Bearded magazine has some free music too of an Indie nature:
highlight the free music bit and ignore the e-music ad.

grr.. snows melting and the sun is coming out.. I might have to go and do some proper work!
cheers for all the comments.

treefrogdemon said...

Please DO attempt future wordy posts, shane - this was fascinating and a delight to read.

Blimpy said...

LOVE jeffrey lewis!

debbym said...

Shane, I think this is one of the greatest posts I've ever read anywhere!

saneshane said...

oh.. thank you all for the kind words.
makes it worth while.

(now to think about vice.. that's easy.. secret vice, not so simple)

TracyK said...

As someone who seems to share your indie taste quite closely Shane, I thoroughly enjoyed reading all this, well worth the effort! Good music choice too.

saneshane said...

Cheers Tracy.. I did notice one of the RR social compilations you did- that DsD passed on to me- was almost the same as a comp that I'd done for friends!