Three albums in. I have now been prodding and poking the business side of music for four years, trying to figure out how it works. What a mysterious beast it is! Having spent 25 years in the relatively normal world of technology (yes, really – normal) I was reasonably confident at the outset. I have (at last) realised that the two words that should not be associated with the music business are ‘music’ and ‘business’. The term ‘Music Business’ is meant to be amusing and ironic. A bit like ‘Military Intelligence’ or ‘Customer Service’.
The good news is that the music business has had little impact on the things I love about what I do. The sex and drugs …. I mean the writing, recording, rehearsing, travelling and playing. I also love the intricate and creative supporting activities: recording technology, musical instruments, graphic design, video production and tour management. And I love the musicians (well, some of them anyway) who combine amazing talent with Zen like calmness in the face of their challenging career decision. It really is hard to make a living doing this. And I love the moment when someone (anyone!) I do not know responds to something that I have created.
A great deal of my early confusion came from ignoring the difference between software and music. Music is a matter of opinion. It is not just about how good the music is, or how hard you work to reach the audience who may like it: the music that gets played and broadcast is filtered through a very small number of taste makers and gate keepers. This is particularly true in the UK where radio is monolithic, narrow and seems to focus only on two markets: the callow young and the nostalgic old (with the honourable exception perhaps of radio 6).
And yet everyone I know loves music. Including all the people I knew before I was a musician. Most of my friends from my previous life simply do not know that there is any new music that they may like. How would they? Following blinding flash of inspiration on the road to Wolverhampton or perhaps Derby during the Huey Morgan tour, I saw the error of my ways and have made some decisions about how I will approach the next stage of my musical adventure.
To that end I have teamed up with some raw talent and joined Shady Tree Music. We plan to carve out a little space outside the business. I will no longer listen to radio pluggers who tell me what people want to hear; or record company executives who ask when the chorus is coming after 20 seconds; or PR advisers, worn out promoters, or any of the rest of the teeming ‘I used to be in a band’ army of music business professionals. I wasn’t in a band when I was young and I never made it in the music business, because I wasn’t in it – and I now realise that my lack of scar tissue is my greatest strength.
So, I am going to do exactly what I want to do and, with the team at Shady Tree, we are going to create a home for like minded song writers, lyricists and musicians. We will organise gigs and events; get the music on stage at the right festivals; release music and generally get on with creating. I hope that people come along; I like playing to at least one person – but I would rather play my music to one person on my terms than dance to someone else’s tune in the hope of reaching a thousand.
I am glad I got that off my chest. Come and join me under the Shady Tree.