17 April 2011

Wide Days 2011 - The Peenko Review

It's taken me a few days, but I am now just starting to get back to normality after attending last weeks Wide Days event in Edinburgh. For those of you who are in the dark as to what Wide Days is, it's a music industry event featuring seminars and workshops during the day, then showcase gigs in the evening. It's put on by the innovative Born To Be Wide folk, who you might remember me talking about after last years goNorth event.

Meeting a very bleary eyed Pop Cop at an ungodly hour of the morning at Queen Street Station in Glasgow, it almost felt like we were on holiday for the day as we made the trip east through to the Capital for my first ever experience of Wide Days. Despite our inability to read a map, we manage to locate the venue with relative ease.

photo by Dom Holt

The event, held at Teviot House which is part of Edinburgh University, was introduced by Wide Days main man Olaf Furniss who announced that the last time he was on that stage he was naked. Not exactly the kind of image you want in your head first thing in the morning (and the rest of the day). The first seminar of the day was titled 'Making Touring Pay'. Having never been in a band or been on tour for that matter, I was surprised by how much I took away from it. The seminar had focused on the importance of the need for bands to do their homework before they even think about setting off on tour, as when you add up all of the various factors it is really expensive to tour. The general consensus from the panel was that artists should look to their contemporaries and what they're doing, but that the best way to learn is to simply do it yourself. Bands needs to make sure they budget their costs, making sure that the route of the tour makes financial sense. Plus they should always over budget and have a contingency plan in case things go wrong as they often do. When you are budgeting for a tour also make sure you only base your figures on guaranteed fees.
In economic terms, for any Scottish bands thinking of touring south of the border for the first time, it makes more sense for them to go down to London and play numerous shows across the city as opposed to a more financially crippling UK tour.
Also, if it's your first ever tour then you are highly unlikely to make any money, so as you are going to be on such a tight budget make sure you agree terms with promoters well in advance, for things such as technical requirements and the possibility of getting food before a show. If you can, scrap asking for drinks on a rider and ask for things like food or accommodation instead.
In terms of doing your research it makes more sense to think about where an audience might be for your music, using social media tools such as Facebook stats and the like.
In terms of merchandise, this is something that can make touring financially viable. You can often make more money from selling t-shirts and CDs after the gig than you do from the fee for the gig itself. It's important though that you make merchandise affordable.

In terms of royalties I was genuinely surprised as to how important this was, for example bands who have played on the lower stages of festivals (on things like the BBC Introducing stage at Reading) can make thousands of pounds from MCPS or PRS. The best way to find out about these kind of things is to speak MCPS or PRS directly, as they are approachable and willing to help you out.
Also, make sure that any money that you do make is saved and make sure you plan for the future (this almost sounds like the kind of lecture my mum used to give me).

The best way for you to sell records is still by touring. If you have people working for you such as a press agency, booking agent or manager then it's vital that all of these people talk to each other to make sure that everyone is working towards the same goals.

Lastly, even once you have finished touring the job isn't done, you need to continue to work on the relationship with your fans through social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, etc.

I know I have talked a lot about this seminar, but I genuinely found this to be the most informative seminar of the day and the most important one to share with you all.

Following on from this seminar there was workshop with the journalist Neil Cooper, on how to Write A Killer Bio. Seeing as we have our own label I was looking forward to getting a good few tips. In all honesty though I don't think I learned all that much, it was more a case of reinforcing what I already knew. The important points that you need to think about are things like ensuring your press release contains all of the facts, that you have a background story in order to make it interesting and that what you are saying is factually correct. Make sure you include any press quotes about the band and that you note who does what in the band.
If you've got something interesting that the writer can use, then give them something that they can grab hold of. Make sure that your bio is no longer than one page, don't ramble and most importantly don't miss out any practical information like contact details.

photo by Dom Holt

The seminar, Not Just SXSW, was pretty interesting, it was aimed to provide an insight into the numerous showcase events that are held across the UK and Continental Europe, discussing the opportunities that they provide. Outside of things of the Great Escape, Liverpool Sound City and In The City, I must admit that I was pretty clueless about what else is out there for bands. The general consensus seemed to be that Eurosonic in Holland, is a great showcase event, with it's size and also the fact that by playing at it they guarantee you slots on various European festivals. This is similar to what goNorth is doing this year with guaranteed slots at Wickerman, Belladrum, etc. Other events that were of note included Brighton Live, which takes place in October and Belam Festival in Oslo, although this festival is particularly aimed at Scandinavian bands.
One point that was stressed was the importance of being 'export ready', as in you need to have built yourself up back home before you should be thinking about going to any of these kinds of events. You also need to think about what the event can offer you afterwards, how you're going to stay in peoples minds. There is a need to remember that you are dealing with a business audience, so it's important to network and that your job isn't done once you've finished playing, you need to get out there and catch them while they're hot.

When it comes to applying for events like this it was stressed how important it is to complete all of the fields of the application form. That might sound pretty obvious, but from the sound of it you'd be amazed at the number of bands who don't seem to bother to do this.

If you are looking to find out more about the events that are out there then the best places to check are the AIM calendar for music events and the Finish Music Export site.

Some of you will be pleased to learn that around this time we decided to take a break for lunch and more importantly that I stopped taking such detailed notes about all of the seminars and workshops. In the afternoon session we were treated to a seminar that turned into more of a debate on the subject of Digital DIY vs Record Labels. Although I didn't learn too much it was probably my favourite seminar of the day, with the debate getting a bit tasty. It was interesting to hear Stewart Henderson from Chemikal Underground talking about running a label. It was strange to hear how they still haven't really embraced new platforms such as Bandcamp and the like. The main thing that I took away from it was that we are all still learning. Which was quite a comforting thought for someone in my position.

The Music In Films seminar was interesting in that it gave more of an insight into how much money there is to be made from having your music in films and documentaries. The figures varied quite a bit, but it was still well in the thousands. So definitely an avenue that should be worth pursuing. They also emphasised how important it was to have instrumental versions of your songs and that you should try and make sure the BBC know who you are.

Other workshops on Online Promotion and Music Making Money filled out the afternoon, the latter was taken by a fella by the name of Scott Cohen (who manages the Raveonettes and also works for a company called The Orchard) and was particularly interesting as he argued that the idea that piracy was killing the music industry wasn't factually correct. He was able to demonstrate this with various graphs showing that in fact sales of recorded music had actually risen. He pointed out that all that has changed is the way that music is consumed. People are now buying individual tracks as opposed to albums and it seems as if the industry hasn't kept pace. He had a lot to say and to be perfectly honest I would happily have listened to him talk for a lot longer.

The afternoon finishes with a Keynote Q&A with Barry Wright of Regular Music in conversation with Olaf Furniss, in which he retold stories from his 4 decades of experience in the music industry. He recalled stories about how he started running his punk gigs, how he was one of the first people to put on stadium gigs in Scotland, right through to how he started putting on the world famous Hogmanay parties.

It was a fitting end to a fine afternoon, having been to numerous events like this south of the border, I must admit that Wide Days is a breath of fresh air as the compares didn't allow the panellists to go on an ego trip about what they've done. Instead, they asked the questions that are relevant to the audience, taking no bull shit as they go. With the perception that Scotland is continually ignored by the London based industry, events like this are vital in order to educate folk and also for us to show that we can stand on our own two feet and achieve something for ourselves. Hats off to you boys!

After all of the seminars and workshops had finished for the day we found ourselves kicking about afterwards for ages, which meant that we ended up getting to the showcase gigs pretty late. So late in fact that as we arrive at the first venue Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh band Letters are literally just finishing up for the evening. So I can't really comment on them, PAWS however, absolutely blew me away. This was the first time that I had seen them play a full on rock show, the only other time I had seen them they were playing their first (and last apparently), acoustic show. Anything following that had a lot to live up to. Rachel Sermanni who wowed the crowd at the Cabaret Voltaire was next. I must admit that as great as she is, I still haven't heard a song of hers yet that will perceivably break her through into the mainstream. I look forward to being proved wrong though.

Next up at the Cab Vol we have Withered Hand, or the 'visa guy' as he's now more commonly known. This was the first time that I had seen Dan play with a full band behind him. To say that it made a difference would be a massive fucking understatement, as with the help of his friends, his sound was much bolder, the added confidence of having a band behind you really shows, allowing Withered Hand to steal the show out of all the bands that played.

After this we head off down to the Electric Circus for the final showcases of the evening from Capitals and GoGoBot. Neither of whom really do much for me I am afraid, so I soon found myself in a corner discussing We Were Promised Jetpacks new side project, drinking JD & Cokes with my 'new best friends' from Gerry Loves Records and I think I even tried to sign a band at one point. From then on in the night descended into chaos, with me rambling pish to anyone who would listen, laughing at Olaf Furniss dancing on the dance floor, until I finally decided enough was enough and I headed for the warmth of my hotel.
Unfortunately for me, the night didn't finish there as I drunkenly found myself locked out of my hotel room at 4am in just my pants and socks, lets just say reception weren't exactly pleased to witness that site. Wide Days you educated me, you got me drunk, you destroyed what little dignity I had left, butit's safe to say I will be back next year for more of the same if you'll have me.

Wide Days

PAWS - Winners Don't Bleed

Withered Hand - Cornflake

Rachel Sermanni - Eggshells

Letters - Grand National Master

For a more informative round up on Wide Days you should check out the reviews on the Pop Cop, Is This Music and over on Jenny Soep's blog.

thanks to Jenny Soep for letting me use this cracking wee picture


  1. I love how your review starts with the image of a naked Olaf and ends with the image of a semi-naked Peenko. That's some twisted genius right there.

  2. I think the image of me in my pants and socks was far worse. I pray to fuck that the hotel doesn't have CCTV

  3. I love blogging. You all express your feelings the right way..Thanks!