Sunday 12 August 2018

A fantastic experience playing for Sofar Sounds in Edinburgh…

AN early start (for a Sunday)..we’re up, showered, some work done, breakfasted and on the road by 10am.

First stop is Perth for a session on touring in Australia, New Zealand and China organised by Showcase Scotland and Help Musicians Scotland as part of The Visit – a delegation of promoters, agents and festival organisers from these territories.

The session is informative and useful and there’s time to network and meet the delegates afterwards.

We grab a late lunch then head for Edinburgh where I;m paying a Sofar Sounds show. It’s a kinda secret thing with the venue only revealed to successful ticket applicants on the day of the show. And they don’t know who’s gonna be on the bill!

Tonight’s event is being hosted at Rock’n’Rose – a cool  hairdressers which has been transformed into an intimate 50-capacity gig space. It’s been sold out in advance and, like many Sofar events, had many more folks applying for tickets than there is space. That’s a good start.

We arrive just after 5pm and are warmly welcomed by the organisers, camera and video crew and the owner of the space.

I’m curious to experience first hand how the Sofar thing works. The concept has attracted a fair bit of positive and negative comment, touted in some circles as ‘the Uber of house concerts’. While the performer fees are pretty low – and can be be forfeited in lieu of a professionally shot video – this, in my humble opinion is not the point of Sofar. The big positive here is that the audience don’t know who they’re gonna see, so artists perform to an entirely new audience. I expect them to be pretty open-minded music lovers who are getting to experience new music in a pretty perfect environment….we’ll see…

There’s three other artists performing tonight – uke-wielding, looping songstress Joanna Wallfisch, performance poet Toby Thompson and a solo performance from Steven Milne of Little Kicks. Yours truly is scheduled to be on last.

Although it’s an acoustic event – save for Joanna’s looping pedal which adds some layers to her vocals in places – everyone does a quick soundcheck for the audio/video recording.

Everyone is friendly and enthusiastic, and immediately the first major positive of Sofar is obvious…the acts have been all been well chosen and curated…I suspect the format will be the catalyst for many friendships and collaborations amongst artists.

Doors open at 7.30pm, there’s refreshments on hand for all the artists and Joanna kicks things off at 8pm sharp with a captivating 20-minute set. Toby follows with an intriguing clutch of poems…again, this is another win for the Sofar format – having been scunnered with schooldays poetry I’d never have imagined enjoying this art form but Toby is fucking amazing. And judging by the audience reaction, they agree.

Next up is Steven Milne – an Aberdeen singer/songwriter better known as part of Little Kicks. Another fantastic performance and I’m getting pretty nervous at the thought of following this lot. I’m also trying not to over indulge in the beer!

Then it’s my turn. reservations vanish into thin air and I have a blast playing my short five-song set. The audience is fantastic and more than live up to the hopes I mentioned earlier.

By 11pm we’re packed and on our way home. Would have been nice to go for a drink afterward, but we have a long-ish drive back to East Loch Lomond and an early start in the morning.

Back home I pour a large dram and, both impressed and happy with my Sofar experience, do a bit of research into the operation. I find this is a pretty serious and passionate business…critics of ‘the deal’ should take a step back, find out what’s involved.

These shows are not about the money – not for anyone involved – it’s about audience development, networking and friendship which at the same time gives those lucky enough to attend a Sofar show a fantastic experience. Plus, we’ll have some official photos and video to share soon.

In order of appearance…Joanne Wallfisch, Toby Thompson and Steven Milne.


Saturday 28 April 2018

WE’RE UP early – Catriona’s pal Catherine is coming at 9.30am to start preparing food for this afternoon’s baby shower.

I’ve a load of work to do anyway, so clear out the house after breakfast.

Another pal arrives around midday to help Catherine, then folks arrive around 2pm.

I say hello, go back to the office and finish of some web work then head up the lochside for a walk. I suddenly remember all the GDPR data protection laws coming into force in May and start to panic a bit.

We take privacy very seriously and don’t share any of my mail list data with any thrid party. Also, we don’t keep any credit card or other data on file and really only have names and email addresses for the mailing list. I’m also able to amend all my mail list sign up forms online to that I can prove I have mail list members’ consent….and I can make everything double opt-in as a belt’n’braces measure.

Furthermore, I have no problem with putting together a privacy policy online and sending anyone who asks precisely what information we hold on them as individuals.

So that’s all good and well and I’m in agreement with  privacy and data protection, but…it seems I need to be able to prove I have consent for any EU resident on my mail list. That’s mostly OK for folks who have signed up via Mailchimp as a record of their consent will exist, but what about the folks who’ve signed up at live shows and I’ve manually added myself to the Mailchimp lists. That’s nearly 20 years worth of email list sign ups from gigs that may have to go in the bin. Nearly 20 years of hard work and meticulous attention to detail potentially down the tubes.

Some folks might argue that a simple mail out to the existing mail lists asking them to re-subscribe will solve the dilemma and that there’s no point in having anyone who doesn’t renew on the list anyway. Fine if the emails reach them. Or they spot the resubscribe email. Too busy. On holiday. Or just forget.

My mail outs have a good open rate. Well above average. I like to think that’s because folks are on the list because they want to be and opted in rather than being harvested form somewhere else and added without permission. Proving that is not so simple.

The folks that don’t open my eNewsletter are not the same folks every month…there’s a million reasons why folks open or don’t open emails. So my one or two chances to hit folks up to resubscribe may not get through to folks that actually do want to stay informed.

Moreover, it may be that any of us maintaining email lists have to register with the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) and pay £35 a year (£500 for larger organisations). For what? 

The ICO proudly proclaims that half a million businesses have signed up already. That’s a minimum of over £17m in revenue. Sounds like a scam to me. I’m hoping that – as a Mailchimp user – the service provider may have that taken care of, so long as we don’t maintain any copies of our mail list data.

You probably figured that I;m pretty stressed by this whole thing….making a living from music is not an easy thing to do and this kind of legislation could put some of us under.

For big corporations it’s an inconvenience and a short term drain on human resources. For the hobbyist with day job, it could be a major hassle, but it’s unlikely to threaten their livelihood.

Data protection and privacy is important, but some of these regulations are going to cause small, independent operators some grief and while it’s for the common good in the long term, in many cases it’ seems to be a case of using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut.

Tuesday 4 July 2017

THERE’S some work to be done on the local hall website before I head into Glasgow for my hearing test and earplug fitting at LoFi studios.

Help Musicians UK, the Musicians Union and Musicians’ Hearing Health are working together to offer musicians affordable (ie: £40 – or £30 for MU members – as opposed to over £300!) hearing tests and earplugs…well worth checking out!

I meet Geraldine from Musicians’ Hearing Health who runs through the test – seems my hearing is all good – and squirts stuff in my lugs to make moulds for custom hearing protection/earplugs. 

It’s an interesting process and we have a good wee chat before I go on my way. 

There’s a wee diary piece about yours truly in The Herald so I pick up a copy, go to the bank and pick up a bunch of shopping before driving home.

There’s time to get a wee bit more work done on the hall website before we head along to Betty and Joe’s for dinner. We’re joined by some other local pals and have a wonderful night – seems ages since we’ve had a get-together like this. Thanks Betty 🙂

Tuesday 7 March 2017

I DROP Margaret off in Glasgow and then drive to Perth for a music consultancy meeting.

There used to be so many calls from musicians and songwriters wanting to ‘know stuff’ that, despite being keen to help everybody, I just had to start saying “I offer a music consultancy service if that;s of any interest” and directing them here.

As you can imagine, the calls for free advice became less and less, but I do have the odd musician/songwriter/band that does want to take me up on the consultancy side of things.Today’s meeting is with one of those musicians.

The meeting goes great and I leave armed with info and a clear idea of where my client wants to be in the short to medium term. Next stage will to be to make some suggestions in my report and create an action plan.

I grab a sandwich at the petrol station and head back to Glasgow to pick up Margaret who;’s just had a call that Mikey has broken his wrist snowboarding in Austria. Jeez. Hopefully his travel insurance will take care of things, but it doesn’t stop Margaret worrying.

We have a few things needing done before we go to a Help Musicians‘ session to discuss what forms of work they could do in Scotland. The venue – the Old Hairdressers in Renfield Lane – is a poor choice. It’s noisy and difficult to hear folks talking above the ambient noise and we’re all crammed into a little uncomfortable corner upstairs.

Still, it’s a productive session/meeting and nice to catch up with some industry pals.

Tuesday 22 March 2016

ANOTHER day in Glasgow…a couple of PRS visits (the first of the year) and some shopping.

The visits are pretty much routine. I visit PRS for Music Members’ Benevolent Fund grantholders once a year to see if there’s anything they need and check their circumstances haven’t changed. There’s only a handful of grantholders in my ‘patch’ (Scotland and North of England) so it only amounts to about three days’ work a year…but it’s very worthwhile.

So if you know any PRS members who are needing a bit of help point them to the fund’s website – or tell them to contact me!!!

In between times I grab a coffee and get some work done online, and once all’s done I get some shopping, pick up Margaret and we head for home.

There’s some stories to work on and I’ve found a wee bug in my new website which means anyone buying stuff form the shop on mobile needs to have their device in horizontal/landscape mode to avoid problems adding items to the shopping cart.

There doesn’t seem to be a fix for it, so I add a wee note on the shop page toe xplain the process until I find a solution.

Deadlines are looking for the the new EP release…although not ’til June, I need to get artwork finalised urgently and get the promo machine moving….