Category: Carry On Synthpop (Page 2 of 3)

Carry On Synthpop: TEC’s Guide To Electro Gig Audiences

BIG CROWDConcert crowds can be a funny lot to observe at times.

Yes, there’s Drunk Dancing Girl, The Guy Who Shouts and Finger Whistles So Loud Your Eardrums Throb, The Fan Who Doesn’t Know The Words But Is Singing Along, The Mystery Person Smoking Weed and The Bored / Apathetic / Unimpressed Person With Their Arms Crossed, all as outlined in an amusing article recently by Jezebel. But there are more.

Based on true events experienced by The Electricity Club from involvement in websites, events and gigs over the years, here is a light hearted look at electro gig audiences…

Electro Hipster

The one member of the audience who knew the band before they had even formed! He hopes they will not get too big but will actually announce to anyone else who will listen: “this time next year, they’re going to be really big”. But once the band start playing venues like The Borderline and The Lexington, you can be sure Electro Hipster will be nowhere to be seen… he’ll have now turned his attention to a bunch of noise merchants who have promised never to record a note, because doing singles and albums is far too corporate!

Angry Synth Fan

He’s mad and he’s intense: ”Why isn’t this band more popular? Why haven’t they been signed? Why aren’t they played on the radio? IT MAKES ME SO ANGRY!”… calm down dear, it’s only a pop concert!

The Stalker

Not the stalker of the band but your own stalker… he’s come to the gig alone and is desperate for company, yet has nothing interesting to say. He somehow didn’t realise that Mute were not the only label to have released electronic music and is desperate to know your gig itinerary for the next six months… oh well, stalk ya later!

Member Of A Band That No-one Has Actually Heard Of

“Oh, that’s so-and-so from whatsit” cries Electro Hipster… ”WHO?” you go! But of course… he’s dressed like his famous relative! Y’know? The one he doesn’t want you to know about despite the fact that their famous family name has been used in his last three bands’ monikers… oh no, not him again!

The Pub Crawler

There is always one member of the audience who disappears while band are playing their biggest hit only to return and barge his way through with up to four pints of beer unsteadily in his hands… there’s only 15 more minutes of the show left, can’t it bloody wait? And then when he finds his mates, he starts blabbering about football!! There are places where you can drink beer and talk about football, they’re called PUBS! And no, the support band is not an excuse for “more time in the bar…”

Analogue Synth Nazi

He knows about every vintage synth around and will claim it is not real electronic music unless it is exclusively analogue. He will happily listen to KRAFTWERK’s vocoders or GARY NUMAN’s harmonised voice treatments all day but will object to the use of Autotune. He will also tell you how the Dave Smith Prophet 08 is no match for the original Sequential Prophet 5, even though the latter kept breaking down and going out of tune. But then it turns out the only synths he actually owns are a Yamaha DX5 and a Korg Prophecy!!

The Air Synth Guy

This solitary being doesn’t actually own a synth but is always at gigs wearing a faded Moog T-shirt. Totally immersed playing the keys of an invisible Sequential Circuits Pro-One, he will even attempt to play the programmed sequencer passages of the songs by hand!

The Vinyl Bore

“Oh it’s the sound – oh it’s the warmth – oh it’s the artwork – oh it’s the ritual”… ZZZZzzzzz!

The Hogger

He’s met the band many times before and is now “more of a friend than a fan” but will always shove his way into being first in the queue at the aftershow meet and greet. He’ll speak with the lead singer for hours at a time, presenting him with yet another item from his collection for signing but that’s not enough! There’s the photo, then another and then a guided tour of the photos he’s taken during the gig. And all this while it is painfully obvious that others are in-line patiently waiting!

Attendee Seemingly Not From Usual Synthpop Demographic

Yes, say hello to the drug dealer!

The Heckler Whose Witty Comments Actually Make Band Members Laugh

There is always useless heckling at a gig like shouts of “HUMAN LEAGUE!” during a LITTLE BOOTS concert or “you’re cute” when CHVRCHES are playing… but every now and then, there will be a Smart Alec who actually makes the band laugh with a witty, well timed comment. In 1998 at Manchester NYNEX, Boy George introduced all the other members of CULTURE CLUB. “And this is Roy Hay who lives in LA now for some reason…” said The Boy; “THAT’S COS HE’S GOT YOUR MONEY!” someone shouted back! The former George O’Dowd had to turn his face away as he got stuck into fits of laughter!

The Bloke Who Shouts For The Song The Band Did Earlier

Shouting for songs is part of the fun at gigs but NOT when the song has already been performed… so PAY ATTENTION! And when shouting for a song, at least get the title right! There is no such song by KRAFTWERK or OMD called ‘Radio’!

The DVD Commentator

This character happily tells his accompanying mate about the history of the band they are seeing… unfortunately it’s during the gig itself!

The Indecent Proposer

You’re in luck, this sexy continental lady has been flirting with you all night even though her husband has been standing there quietly watching the band. But then she makes an indecent proposal to you: “I want you to come home with me… I want you to f*ck my husband while I watch”!

Mr iPhone

Shoving their hands in front of people’s faces, this person wants to flash the fact that they have an iPhone rather than enjoy the actual performance… and then that 44 second blurred, distorted clip ends up on YouTube… now, just what is the point???

Amateur Pro-Photographer

He’ll have been in the queue since 6pm to get a vantage point for the best shots having checked all the venues on the tour itinerary for suitable photo opportunities. Not as annoying as iPhone Man, because he is at the front and stuck in his position, he will not generally impede sightlines. However, he will be disappointed when he realises he’s in the wrong position, so will have just good photos of the faceless session bassist and blurred ones of the lead singer to show for his trouble.

The Little Hitler Promoter

This person will invite selected punters to the gig to prioritise media and blog coverage but will refuse to speak to them on the night of the gig as the job of getting promo has been done. Then, he’ll start handing out wrist bands for a non-existent aftershow party to make himself seem really important.

The Know-All Who Knows Nothing

There will always be Know-Alls at gigs but this variant will taint their credibility with quips like “I am almost sure Enola Gay was a B-52” and “I bet you’ve not been into China Crisis since ‘African & Black’ have you?”. Not to be relied on for insider gossip on a band!

The Womaniser

Usually accompanied by a better looking, musically savvy but less outgoing wingman, the Womaniser has no interest in the band, just the drunken divorcees and singletons who will be attending the gig. However, he does his research and name drops fan favourite albums such as ‘Dazzle Ships’ and sensitive female friendly ditties like ‘It Doesn’t Matter2’ to aid his seduction. His advice to Hopeless Romeos at gigs though would be that it usually helps to get your musical facts right… so there is no singer named “Gary Newman” and THE LIGHTNING SEEDS song which MARSHEAUX covered is called ‘Pure’, not ‘Pure & Simple’!

The Hopeless Romeo

More annoying than The Womaniser because at least The Womaniser will have actually left the gig with his conquest before the headline band have finished performing. The Hopeless Romeo meanwhile will haplessly spend half the night telling an Argentinian Devotee that he’s NOT into DEPECHE MODE as his chat-up line!!!

The 40something Divorcee

This poor lady missed out on seeing most of the Synth Britannia acts back in the day as she was busy bringing up the kids. But now most of these bands have returned to the live circuit and she’s rid herself of that boring husband, she’s making up for lost time. Usually wearing black because it has a slimming effect, she will have got so excited and alcoholically refreshed at the prospect of her first concert for 27 years that she will be snogging a Member Of A Band That No-one Has Actually Heard Of at the end of the gig because The Womaniser has gone off with her 26 year old daughter!

The Human Trafficker with Accessory Girlfriend

He’s seven foot tall and looks like he’s chewing a wasp while she has a poor sense of rhythm having intoxicated herself at Frankie and Benny’s before the show. He will threaten to break the legs of any male remotely looking at his bird while she will be flirting like mad with them… be careful, he’s probably got a gun! Yes, he’s got political asylum in the UK because he was locked up by the penal system in his own country… there was probably a reason why!!!

Off-Duty Copper

He obviously wants to get his own back on Numanoids, so will be waving his badge around and threatening to arrest any passing fan who has their hands in the air for causing an obstruction and enjoying themselves! Quite what he is doing at the gig in the first place is really a police matter…

The Aspiring Musician

This is the person who keeps telling you about their band and to look them up on Facebook, yet has no flyers to pass on to you or actual CDs to listen to… or if they do have any CDs on them, they then can’t actually look you in the eye to pass one over to you.


Text by Chi Ming Lai
20th January 2014, updated 20th January 2019

Carry On Synthpop: TEC’s Glossary Of Terms

The music business and journalism in general is spattered with assorted jargon, terminology and buzz words.

Even The Electricity Club has taken to introducing some of its own language with a handshake, big smile, good guy profile. So to clarify exactly we and other blogs are possibly going on about, please find here listed, a glossary of terms with The Electricity Club’s not always entirely serious definitions for the amusement of our readers and casual observers alike 😉

TEC wishes to acknowledge The Word Magazine for providing the inspiration for this article.


80s : That decade between 1980 to 1989; but term commonly used by lazy, uninformed journalists to describe any synth based music. Please note, not an instrumentation style or a genre of music…

Abba-esque : Reference to any Scandinavian act who uses a two-part vocal melody. See also: Nordic

Acoustic : Term used by OMD fans to refer to a stripped back duo performance by Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys, despite very obvious use of laptop and Roland Fantom X8 Workstation

Analogue : Signals or information generated by continually changing quantities of electrical current. Great sound when quality equipment is available to handle it, less noticeable on budget systems. Please note, not a genre of music…

Ambient : Electronic music with no beat, popular with insomniacs

Artful : Pretentious

Audio-Visual Experience : Live performance with a Powerpoint slide show

Blokey : Scruffy male member of band out to steal vocal limelight from attractive female lead singer with a far superior voice

Bluesy : American sounding

Cerebral : Best listened to while on drugs

Chav Rave : Aggressive, speeded up club music… popular in Doncaster!

Chill Out : Dance music that clocks in at less than 118 BPM

Chromatic : Eastern European sounding

Cinematic : Music that sounds like it has been produced properly

Classic : Old

Cold War Chic : Romanticised term to describe post-war Eastern European fashions and cultural reference points without referring to Communism. Please note, not Brezhnev’s answer to disco…

Contemporary Electro : So-called modern electronic music but actually features no synthesizers

Darkwave : Loud electronic music with doomy gothic vocals

Deadpan : Spoken

Deep House : Jazz Funk produced using technological means

Devoted : Nickname for long standing DEPECHE MODE fans, usually dressed in black with outstanding Facebook friend requests to Alan Wilder

Digital : Signal or information generated as a series of numbers in electrical signals. Less tactile than analogue but certainly not the death of music as we know it.

DIY : Recorded badly

DJ : Person who presses ‘play’ button

Dolls House : A house for dolls, not to be confused with ‘House Of Dolls’, the controversial book by Polish born Jewish writer Ka-Tzetnik from which JOY DIVISION got their name!

Drum ‘n’ Bass : Frantic, off-beat variant of dance music characterised by rhythm that sounds like it’s come from a drum machine that’s been thrown down the stairs and switched on again

Dubstep : Freakish bass driven form of dance music based on half step patterns popularised by SKRILLEX, sounds like a skipping CD!

Duranie : Nickname for long standing female DURAN DURAN fans, usually still very glamourous and with a penchant for standing on the left hand side of gigs

EDM : Short for ‘Electronic Dance Music’, what Americans call ‘rave’…

Electro : Loose categorisation used by London club nights actually meaning ‘R’n’B’. Please note, this includes themed evenings named after classic No1 synthpop songs… what d’ya mean “you were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar”?

Electroclash : Failed early 21st Century attempt by Ministry Of Sound to combine dance music and DJ culture with synthpop and New Romantics into one centralised entity. Please note, record labels still persisting in centralisation attempts today with promotional campaigns such as Electrospective… Mussolini was another one who was into the idea of centralisation!

Electronica : Electronic music that’s not synthpop

Electropop : Generally accepted term used to describe electronic music with a tune. See also: Synthpop

Electro-Industrial : Industrial with less shouting and more of a synthpop element

Electro R‘n’B : R’n’B

Electro Swing : Jazz produced using technological means

Emotive : Will make you to want to slash your wrists

Experimental : No tunes

Folktronica : Acoustic songs accompanied by a drum machine

Future Pop : Dark synthpop

Guitar Solo : Similar to premature ejaculation… you know when it’s going to happen but there’s sod all you can do about it!

Hauntronica : Slow, brooding electronica made by moody female musicians pretending to be witches! See also: Witch House

Hipster : Obnoxious music fan, usually with beard and ironic sense of vagrant fashion who jumps on anything new and claims it to be the next big thing… but will disown it if it actually does become the next big thing! Considers promotion to be corporate prostitution

Industrial : Loud electronic music with shouting

Influential : Always being ripped off!

Interpolation : Piece of music analysed, then manipulated and passed off as the creation of another!

Intimate venue : Pub

Jazz funk : Tedious fusion of funk and jazz characterised by virtuoso slap bass and endless sax solos. Soundtrack of school bullies during the Synth Britannia era

Keyboards : What Americans call synthesizers

Kling Klang : KRAFTWERK’s recording studio, also loosely used to describe anything KRAFTWERK related or influenced… much better term than ‘Krafty’

Landfill Electro : Similar to ‘Landfill Indie’, a wasteland of ubiquitous but derivative, bland music… only with synthesizers!

Leftfield : Weird

Live Band : Acts like much loved Irish combo U2 who are considered “one of the best live bands in the world” by real music purists, even though they actually use almost as much programming and sequencing as PET SHOP BOYS!

Maestro : Long standing musical innovator still making cracking tunes that put younger acts to shame.

Minimal Synth : DIY sub-genre that does exactly what it says on the tin… minimal tune, minimal instrumentation, minimal production values and minimal promotion. Characterised by off-key vocals… acts can take up to 30 years to release an album and often exclusively on cassette

Mittel Europa : Romanticised term to describe Europe in the first half of 20th Century without referring to The Third Reich!

Modernism : Intelligent, uncluttered design and cultural philosophy largely initiated by Walter Gropius and Bauhaus… that’s the German art movement, not the Gothic rock band led by Peter Murphy who was a key influence on the ‘Twilight’ saga!

Motorik : Beat style formulated by Klaus Dinger of NEU! that actually originated from Native American Apache tribes. Template featured on drum machine programs of countless OMD songs!

Musical Differences : Phrase meaning “Someone in the band wants to use a banjo!”

Nervous Exhaustion : Drug problem

New Wave : What Americans call music with keyboards from 1977 and beyond

Nordic : Loose term used to describe melodic, melancholic music coming from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland as the latter two are technically not Scandinavian. See also: Abba-esque

Nostalgia Business : Economic model based on recycling old material for public consumption. Please note, this includes using archive photos to promote new projects and 180 gramme vinyl reissues which seem to overlook the inclusion of the original album’s inner bag… what a confidence trick!

Numanoid : Nickname for long standing GARY NUMAN fans, usually still seen wearing ‘Telekon’ jump suits from 1980 at gigs during the ‘Splinter’ tour!

Pentatonic : Oriental sounding

Personal Differences : Phrase meaning “the bassist’s girlfriend has just moved in with the singer!”

Programmer : Person who presses buttons

Real Music : Mysterious all encompassing genre much loved of hipsters that does not feature synthesizers or drum machines… banjos and beards figure highly though

Sample : Piece of music taken wholesale from original recording, then manipulated and passed off as the creation of another!

Sawtooth : Piercing waveform used to simulate brass on synths but now ubiquitous in its stabbing spacey variant on horrible Beatport tracks which DJs pass off as electronic music!

Schaffel : Hard, Germanic 6/8 danceable beat made popular in Glam Rock and reutilised to startling effect by GOLDFRAPP

Schizophrenic : Music with two incongruous but simultaneous genre personalities… hang on, who said that?

Soaring Melodies : High register out-of-tune vocals used to feign emotion and sensitivity, often found in ‘Landfill Indie’

Softsynth : A computer program or plug-in for digital audio generation. Can sound ‘analogue’ but isn’t. Please note, not a cushioned head support with a Minimoog pillowcase

Stunning Return To Form : Phrase meaning “The last album was cr*p, the new one is much better… sort of!”

Stuttering : Not in time

Syncopated : Rhythm construction using an accented off-beat that makes music looser and more fun via a teasing, elasticated momentum. Also makes music much more danceable for the ordinary person without the use of drugs, hence the difference between “music you can dance to” and “dance music” which often consists of death by 4/4 and can’t be danced to without drugs!

Synth Britannia : Originally a BBC4 documentary but used as a term referring to the golden period between 1977 to 1982 when the synthesizer went mainstream in Britain and took over the world… briefly! Please note, only three of its six years were part of that decade between 1980 to 1989!

Synthesizer : Electronic music instrument that generates waveforms into tuneable sound. Voltage controlled analogue version developed into a commercially viable proposition by Dr Robert Moog in 1965, FM digital variant made popular by affordable Yamaha DX7 in 1983. Not always controlled by keyboards, synthesizers can sometimes be driven by sequencers, voices, wind instruments, drums and even guitars!

Synthpop : Polarising term used to describe electronic music with a tune. Also known as synth-pop, Synth Pop, electropop, Electro Pop, Electro-pop and 80s…

Techno : Songless repetitive monotony made for clubs… Songless repetitive monotony made for clubs… Songless repetitive monotony made for clubs… Songless repetitive monotony made for clubs…

Teutonic : Less controversial way of saying “would sound great at the Nuremberg Rally!”

Thatcher Era : Metaphor for that decade between 1980 to 1989!

Trance : Dance music influenced by JEAN MICHEL JARRE fused to an uptempo beat

Uncompromising : Unlistenable

Unorthodox : Can’t Play

Unrivalled : No-one has tried copying their sound

Urban : R’n’B

Vinyl Replica Sleeve : Miniature cardboard packaging for CDs much beloved particularly by Mute Artists in order to recreate LP nostalgia for the ordinary listener. Actually defeats object of CD’s superior durability in the first place by encouraging the playing surface to scratch when being removed from sleeve for playing… jewel cases were invented for a reason, even fragile digipaks didn’t cause damage to the CD!

Vintage : Preferred word to ‘analogue’ used to describe a classic sounding synth tone which may actually have been produced using a VST plug-in

VST : Short for ‘Virtual Studio Technology’, the software interface that integrates software synthesizer and effect plug-ins with recording systems

Wanabee : Musician who attempts to gain ubiquity despite limited talent through endless self-promotion via social media

Warm : Incorporates hisses and scratches. See also: Analogue

Witch House : Not to be confused with “Which house?” as in House, Acid House, Progressive House, Deep House, Dolls House, Ambient House, Hard House, Tech House, Curry House, Chicago House, Tropical House, Edison Lighthouse, EDM, Rave, Chav Rave, Techno, Trance etc!


Text by Chi Ming Lai
6th January 2014, updated 24th October 2017

Carry On Synthpop: TEC’s RULES OF BEING A MUSICIAN OR DJ

Are you a budding musician or DJ?

There are some simple rules to adhere to. Based on true events experienced by The Electricity Club from involvement in websites, events and gigs over the years, here is a light hearted look at how following some basic steps could help your musical career prosper…

K-On1 When on stage, Do. Not. Stop. The. Music.

10 seconds on stage doing nothing will seem like a lifetime to an audience, especially those unfamiliar with your music.

So if you are waiting for software to load or a bandmate to swap instruments, learn a few jokes or something. It may seem contrived to prepare for this eventuality but this will help the flow of your show and people will remember you for your music, not how you messed up.

2 If it’s your debut gig, REHEARSE!!!

CHVRCHES spent two days preparing for their debut gig because they were keen to impress and wanted to get everything right. A few years before that, a much lauded duo in blogsphere got their big break with a debut gig in London. Unbelievably, they decided not to rehearse and on the night, the singer in particular gave the impression they really wanted to be somewhere else. That duo never played live again and never got round to releasing their debut album. Meanwhile CHVRCHES got signed to Virgin Records and were invited to support DEPECHE MODE on five dates of their 2013 European stadium tour!

3 If you’re a band about to go on stage, then let the DJ/MC know…

Do not just walk on stage suggesting you’re about to perform, causing the DJ/MC to fade out the music only for you to walk off stage again and then walk back on stage 5 minutes later. Gaahh!!!

4 Turn up for soundchecks!

There are many reasons for soundchecks. One of them, oddly enough, is to check your sound to make sure when you do perform, there is actual sound being delivered to the audience. A DJ at one particular event decided they were too cool for soundchecks and rocked up late – with borrowed equipment to boot. The result? The gig came to a halt while the gear was plumbed in and set up, thus breaking Rule No 1.

5 If you are going to use ancient analogue synths live, make sure you get them serviced regularly as their inherent tuning quirks will cause problems at soundcheck…

There’s a reason why the established synthesizer acts like OMD, ULTRAVOX, ERASURE and GARY NUMAN use laptops and softsynths live…they are much more practical and less time consuming to set up.

Those bands have done their suffering for the cultural revolution so they know what its like… you don’t! Analogue circuitry may be wonderfully tactile but those discrete components also have a shelf life! Using a battered Korg Poly 6 on stage may project a purist artistic stance to your audience but if the thing you rescued from a skip is audably wobbling around and can’t be left plugged in for more than an hour at a time without overheating, then your band will never be ready for your allotted stage time. Yes, we’re back to Rule No1 again!

6 If you want to play a gig, it helps to actually have your own instruments!

Unbelievably, there was a band who stipulated hiring of instruments as a condition of them playing… congratulations, there goes your event budget! Predictably, the band also spent a lot of time fiddling about with their unfamiliar set-up, again breaking Rule No 1!

drums

7 No more than one drum kit per band please!

There’s a reason why many modern bands generally don’t use acoustic drums or even have a drummer… far too much room is taken up in the van for starters!

But a lot of it is down to sound quality with the percussive definition of drum kits often lost in the live mix.

With the limited number of mics provided at smaller live venues, inexperienced but over excited sound engineers with a love of real music often spend a disproportionate time soundchecking each component of the kit, only for things to turn into an almighty mush when played whole due to the rather basic physics of microphone spill! One drum kit is bad enough, but at an event in Clapham, one band brought in two… inevitably, no other act on the bill got to soundcheck!

8 When DJing, do not turn the music down to hear what someone’s request is!

Remember Rule No 1!

9 Do not DJ while drunk…

No-one wants to hear Swing Out Sister’s ‘Breakout’ at an electronic event and when your beer gut moves the faders while you are leaning over to talk to somebody, it’s terribly embarrassing and breaks Rule No 1! Also, venues tend to take a dim view of someone waving their eighth glass of Chardonnay over their expensive Pioneer CDJ-2000NXS decks.

dalek_drum-machine10 Do not argue with the sound guy or promoter…

Turning up to a gig late causes no end of problems as it is, but taking things out on the sound engineer because the red Smarties are still on the rider is the musical equivalent of Hari-Kari! They alone decide whether you will sound good or whether an accidental slip of a knob will have you sounding like a Dalek! And don’t argue with the promoter afterwards when you’ve pulled the PA down off the stage in disgust… they will tell their promoter friends and you won’t get booked again by anyone!

11 If your live performance is to help promote your new album, remember to bring copies with you to sell on the merchandise stall…

If the audience like your music, they will want to part with cash for product… take advantage of that as it is likely they will have consumed alcohol on coming to that decision. Don’t, as one band did, lazily leave your CDs in the hotel room on the night of the gig.

12 If you’re an amateur musician given the unique opportunity to remix a song by a major artist, make an effort rather than be lazy…

So don’t just lob a beat over the original… not everyone can write a song or produce a decent tune but anyone can play a CD though a Roland Groove Box!

13 Stay alert to your bandmates’ personal relationships… your band could be Yoko-ed!

Ah yes, ‘The Yoko Effect’! If your bandmate gets a new girlfriend, prepare contingency plans fast! OK, appreciate his joy because being in a synth band, he’s probably not had any sex for at least four years!

But she may be saying little things to them like “it’s so immature being in a pop group” and implying he should “grow up”! Now that is not wholly worrying in itself, after all you have an unwritten bond with your bandmates.

However, if it escalates to your colleague disowning the band’s biggest musical influence publically and attending gigs with their new squeeze consisting of acts who regularly play Lilith Fair, your days as a musical entity are probably numbered!

14 You’re not entitled to coverage from a website that specialises in your genre…

At the end of the day, music is subjective and in the eye of the beholder. Just because a website covers electronic music, it may not necessarily mean they enjoy minimal synth, industrial, techno, house, dubstep or any number of sub-genres! But face facts, it may be that the said website simply does not like your band!

15 Don’t get angry if a website still hasn’t featured your band after the fourth time of asking…

It may well be that the said website simply does not like your band!

16 If a website does offer coverage, do not challenge their proviso…

Congratulations on being featured; but probably not the best time to then start complaining about being described as a “new act”. You may have been making music for 15 years, but that’s no use if no-one’s heard of you! Isn’t that why you wanted coverage to begin with? And if a website decides to feature your song/video, don’t try to get them to replace it with a different song/video or an album sampler. The reason they have featured you is because they like that song/video. It may not be the coverage that you believe best represents you, but it’s coverage and it’s positive. Would you prefer a negative review?

17 Write a proper accompanying message when pitching your band to a blog or website…

“Listen to my tracks and if you like them post them on your site, And please let me know” simply doesn’t cut it! Neither does “Any chance of a post or review about us?” or “Please consider for your website/blog… Thank You”!

18 If you’re going to play live and you actually want people to come to the gig, you need to market and promote it…

Sure that’s what promoters are SUPPOSED to do, but most are rubbish, and you’re not are you? So you need to spread the word. Politely, without too much polemic is good. Be nice. Don’t spam people, but invites to specific people who may be interested, a visually attractive poster, and gentle, good humoured reminders via social media in the weeks up to the event go a long way to making people want to come. A one line “’im playing tonight come if you want” Facebook update is NOT marketing. This ALSO includes when you are a support act – just because you’re not on last doesn’t mean you can just rely on the other bands bringing people down. DON’T be lazy! Oh, and your ‘entourage’ of non-paying mates and girlfriends doesn’t count.

spam519 Do not spam the walls of prospective social media outlets…

The internet is a great tool and has allowed many a musician to have their work heard, but that privilege can be abused. So while posting on a blog’s Facebook wall about your new album will be allowed to pass once in the interests of networking, posting about that same album twice a week for a fortnight on the same wall won’t… it is akin to sticking five ‘For Sale’ signs for your house in your neighbour’s front garden! There is an etiquette to these things so a polite email should be your first course of action. But if there’s no response, refer to Rule No16.

20 If you are going to use social media to promote your music, remember that not EVERYONE is as obsessed about your music as you are…

So ONLY posting about your music even on your music page, is egotistical, self-indulgent, and actually very boring. Break it up with links to other people’s music, to interesting things; videos of cats playing theremins! Anything that gets a dialogue going, because not everyone has a chance to listen to your latest 10 minute noodling demo at work. And if you DO only post about your music ALL the time, don’t sulk publicly on your page when no-one instantly comments back with hyperbole and glowing platitudes…

21 If you are seeking the help of a third party to promote your next project, do not question the integrity of that third party publically in the weeks before your request…

Unbelievably, one musician who had been off the scene for a few years made disparaging comments about a website’s content… but to make things worse, it was actually  on the Facebook wall of the music website they were later trying to gain support from! Now that is a bit clueless isn’t it? But then again, this same character famously said to the singer of an up-and-coming electronic duo some years previously “You couldn’t make a decent dance record if you tried”… 9 months later, that electronic duo had a No1 single in the UK and Germany!

22 If you decide to go down the crowd funding route, please remember you actually need fans for this to work…

Yes, everyone from IAMX, IMOGEN HEAP, MARNIE, KELLI ALI and DE/VISION have been doing it; but each have been around for at least 10 years and although not household names, they have built up considerable cult fanbases worldwide. Meanwhile, your fanbase of Facebook friends is unlikely to cough up £100 for a VIP experience having previously had a drink or two with you down at your local pub! Fans willing to invest in cash rather than kind are essential for crowd funding to work, so it does look rather embarrassing when you abandon a Pledge Music campaign due to lack of interest!

23 If you have absolutely no capacity or talent for singing, then be aware of your own limitations and do not go anywhere near a stage…

People have ears even if you don’t! Autotune cannot save you!

Chvrches blokey24 When you have a decent lead vocalist, do not let a less distinctive instrumentalist take on a share of the singing!

Often called ‘The Ringo Moment’, there have been occasions where a band’s second vocalist fronts their biggest hit eg OMD’s ‘Souvenir’ or CHINA CRISIS’ ‘Wishful Thinking’. But this is rare and usually requires a second vocalist of a reasonable calibre.

So if your prize asset is a confident female vocalist with a great range and the focal point of the band, then do not insist that a droll slice of landfill indie sung by blokey is in the interests of keeping the sound diverse!

25 The lead singer is going to garner most of the attention so get over it!

Throughout the history of popular music, not matter what the protestations are of being a band, the focus will generally be on whoever is at the front of the stage. So appreciate there is enough interest in your music that people want to talk to and be photographed with your lead singer. Don’t get jealous and do what one band member did which was to prematurely end a conversation with a journalist discussing possible coverage in order to check up on the throng around the lead singer! If this condition is not treated quickly, this can lead to the breaking of Rule No25!

26 If you really do not want people to know you have a famous relative, then don’t give away too many clues…

Ok, so you want to make it on your own merits and you don’t want to piggy back on the reputation of your bloodline. Using your real surname is fair enough, but when it is fairly distinctive, then don’t use that famous surname in your band moniker as well and then complain about people highlighting your famous relative, especially when your previous two bands have used that famous surname too! Molly McQueen and I Blame Coco have got on alright by without making their famous ancestry obvious, so why can’t you?

27 Do not use adopt the surname of a famous musician…

Creating a stage persona is all part of an aspiring career in music but adopting a famous name can give a misleading implication that you are related… it all acts as great viral when publicising your debut album but people are not daft. Google is a wonderful tool and you will get found out! And then people will just scream “stalker”!

28 Have a decent photo taken…

Yes, it’s all about the music but if you are to be taken seriously as a musical force, you will need to play live and people will have to look at you! People want to know what you look like so be inventive.

Slightly maturer in years? Then The Mad Professor look always works! You do not have to look like Chris Hemsworth or Scarlett Johansson to have a memorable visual image… just ask Moby or Brian Eno! BUT…

29 Do not project a humongous photo of yourself on stage when your support act is playing…

You may finally be the headline act and have already commandeered the only dressing room at the venue for interviews to capitalise on your big moment; but is there any good reason to make the support act feel any smaller by having a slide show of your good self behind them while they are performing? They are your guests for God’s sake and they are doing you a favour by filling up the unenviable grave yard slot at the start of an evening! Everyone starts at the bottom, no-one starts playing arenas… remember that because one day, the roles might get reversed!


Text by Chi Ming Lai with special thanks to The Mystery Musicians for their additional input
13th October 2013

Carry On Synthpop: VINYL JUSTICE

‘The Adam and Joe Show’ was a Channel 4 comedy programme, written and presented by Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish which ran for four series between 1996 and 2001.

Featuring a variety of school boy minded antics and sketches, most weeks would see Adam and Joe recreating a popular film or TV show using cuddly toys or ‘Star Wars’ action figures.

But another regular feature was ‘Vinyl Justice’ where Buxton and Cornish would visit various rock stars’ homes to search for criminal records in their possession.

The skit involved illicit and embarrassing vinyl or CDs being uncovered, the owner being interrogated and then humiliated by being made to perform the song to the cameras as part of the forfeit. On one particular week in 1997, Buxton and Cornish knocked on the door of GARY NUMAN. Among the records that Mr Numan is questioned about are releases by BELOUIS SOME and SIMPLE MINDS!

Among the rituals Numan is forced to undertake are trying to play ‘Cars’ on a portable keyboard and passing wind in-synch to the phrase “incontinent” to THOMAS DOLBY’s ‘Windpower’! However, on closer scrutiny, his record collection is not actually that shameful when compared with some of the other musicians featured in the series!

Other victims of the ‘Vinyl Justice’ squad have included THOMAS DOLBY himself, CATATONIA’s Cerys MatthewsTHE FALL’s Mark E Smith  and THE DIVINE COMEDY’s Neil Hannon


‘The Adam & Joe DVD’ is released by Video Collection International

http://www.adamandjoe.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
5th July 2013

Carry On Synthpop: Star Wars In Their Eyes

‘The Adam and Joe Show’ was a Channel 4 comedy programme, written and presented by Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish which ran for four series between 1996 and 2001 featuring a variety of school boy minded antics and sketches.

Most weeks, Adam and Joe would re-create a popular film or TV show using cuddly toys and cardboard sets. Their memorable spoofs included of ‘Toytanic’, ‘The Toy Patient’, ‘Toytrainspotting’, ‘Saving Private Lion’, Fur-riends’ and ’Stuff This Life’.

In a variation to the theme, Adam and Joe also used ‘Star Wars’ action figures to parody mainstream British TV shows. One of the best was ‘Star Wars In Their Eyes’, a send-up of pre-X Factor karaoke talent show ‘Stars In Their Eyes’. With host Chewbacca as Matt-Chew Kelly, characters such as Hammerhead and Darth Vader impersonate their favourite pop stars, but best of all are R2-D2 and C-3PO who rather amusingly and appropriately appear as the PET SHOP DROIDS!!

Several other programmes such as ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’ were parodied, all with Obi-Wan Kenobi amusingly portrayed as a drunken vagrant!

Among the other regular musical segments to the series were ‘Vinyl Justice’ and ‘Baaad Dad’ featuring Adam Buxton’s father Nigel reviewing music videos of pop groups that he obviously didn’t know anything about (best quote: “if this is ‘Song 2’, let’s hope they never get to ‘Song 3!’”), recording with rappers and memorably visiting Tribal Gathering!


‘The Adam and Joe DVD’ is released by Video Collection International

http://www.adamandjoe.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
11th February 2013

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