WITH the closure of live music venues such as Sound control and Roadhouse in recent years, unsigned artists are struggling now more than ever to get discovered.
This week, music venue Antwerp Mansion have announced their impending closure, which causes an issue for new up and coming talent in Manchester, as it means that there are, yet again, less places for them to play.
However, Manchester holds a stellar reputation for bringing out iconic artists, with the likes of The Smiths, Elbow, and The Stone Roses to name a few that hail from the city.
Still holding a number of performance spaces willing to be a platform for those without record labels, Manchester’s unsigned scene has become one of the most respected in the country, as competition has brought out the best in a number of bands.
Cameron Meekums-Spence plays guitar in the Mossley based band Freeda.
He said:, ‘We’ve been at it for about a year now, so I suppose there is still time but the thing is with us, we don’t have a manager, we don’t have a record label or anyone like that to take the load off us either were spending most of our time outside of work trying to promote the band, putting a lot of effort in.
‘When you start off gigging you’re making a loss really aren’t you, for god knows how long, until you hit that break really. When you hit it, then the money starts coming in I guess but we’re still some way to getting to that point.
‘In the past when I’ve been with bands I’ve always loved it but never really known how to go about it. This for me is giving it a proper go.
‘I’m in my early twenties, I’d say this is my last chance. I work in a call centre, which is a little bit mundane but it gives me my weekends, so I can do the gigs and whatever else comes to us which I would have been able to do otherwise.’
Alex Walker, presenter of ‘Flip the disk’ on Forge Radio, is a former member of Manchester band Wilson.
He said: ‘It’s a saturated market, for every great band there’s about fifty decent bands that have fallen by the wayside.
‘It’s hard to try and stick out amongst the crowd and to get exposure and get people down to your gigs, especially with the decline in gig venues which is not exactly helping.
‘I think because there are so many great bands from Manchester it can be a blessing and a curse – if you’re a band from Liverpool you’ll be compared to The Beatles, its not like that here, but it is so hard.’
ESTABLISHED musicians from Britain have been commenting on the unsigned music scene.
In the UK, acts from all genres have to make their way as unsigned artists, before finding a fan base and eventually signing to a record label that can provide them with the resources to help them succeed in the industry.
The road to the record label is known as being incredibly difficult, as competition from other performers and issues with funding can get in the way of success, leading to band break ups, as members go in search for steady work.
Former Kaiser Chiefs drummer, Nick Hodgson released his debut album ‘Tell Your Friends’ independently on his own label.
He said: “Doing things independently is total freedom for me. I love being able to make instant decisions about things without having to go through a dozen people.
“It’s a lot of hard work though. For unsigned bands it’s always been hard but now is a particularly tricky time to get signed.
“If they’ve got great songs and refuse to give up they’ll make it. I believe that.”
Folk musician, John Smith has been successfully recording albums on his own for years, as he opts to remain unsigned.
He Said: “I think the music industry has changed a lot. I’ve been a professional musician for twelve years and it’s changed a lot in that time. There’s so many more people who have access to an audience.
“Now, any numpty with a guitar can make a record and put it out there. Some of it is frighteningly good, but some of it is terrible, so the competition is so much bigger and so much more diverse.
“People send me stuff and it sounds amazing and these people would never have had a platform a few years ago, but making it in any arts industry is never going to be easy.”
I walked into Brudenell Social club and left confused – in a good way.
Despite the pretentious hipster crowd that the club has adapted to, I really love Brudenell. It’s one of those places which, with it’s various quirks, has always brought a feeling of warmth and comfort to a Mancunian pub lover like myself.
Prior to the gig, I had heard absolutely nothing of the two support acts, so I came into the small gig room (on the left when you enter) with fresh eyes.
It started off with a modest crowd for opening act, Soham De; an acoustic guitarist with a voice that managed to be both smooth and gritty. Although evidently still awkward on a stage ( which was made obvious by thanking the crowd after every song ), he managed to impress the early birds with his heart-felt melodies. After his set, i spoke to a woman in the fag shelter, who claimed she and her friends actually shed a tear, because of his conviction to his lyrics.
After Soham, I was satisfied, but I wanted more. The next act gave it to me.
Female fronted FOURS are what indie-electro-pop is all about. Remember when Paramore stopped rocking, and swapped to the way of the synth? They’re like the British love child of that and Haim, beautifully mashed into a band.. They are like a confident, overwhelming combination of so many different artists out right now, but better.
The crowd enlarged song by song, as the singer danced around the stage like my ex, care free and loving every second.
I have one complaint – the singer was being drowned out at parts, so it made it hard to make out some lyrics, but all in all, they brought energy and joy to the room, and with that, mopped up any tears Soham De left on the club floor.
I was satisfied, full up on starter courses just as enjoyable as a main – And then came To Kill A King.
Ralph Pellymounter and his merry men waltzed on stage with a hard earned confidence, asking the crowd to come closer, herding them like sheep into a pen.
The second I saw them, I was initially thrown off by their relaxed approach to on-stage clothing, all in the most casual get-ups, as if they were roadies setting up the stage.
They started with three classically indie/ alt. type songs, then taking a strange turn, breaking up the party with a slow, vocal-heavy beauty that gave me goosebumps.
Better live than on recordings, Ralph’s voice is every word you know that describes powerful, hauntingly echoing around the small venue.
They then proceeded with a mixture of songs old and new and followed an odd pattern of three or four high energy songs, then one ballad-esque in between. Although unusual, their tactic worked, as it appeared to pull the crowds in and then suddenly let them free. I was hooked.
Midway through the mishmash of a set list, someone (presumably intoxicated) shouts ‘one more song!’ prematurely, which Ralph replied with a laugh and asked why they were low-balling them, in which the drunkard replied ‘three more songs?’, and then ‘four!’ and so on until he was stopped at ‘eight!’.
By far, the most beautiful part of the gig happened near to the end, however, when the band paid tribute to Cranberries singer, Dolores O’Riordan, who passed away the day before, singing an acoustic version of ‘Zombie’. The moment was genuinely heartfelt, and as the crowd sung along, you could feel the respect gained in the room for the gesture.
The solemn vibe perked up somewhat with the band’s trademark song ‘Choices’. There’s something about an echoing room full of strangers, all swaying and singing together that really brings me joy.
And then it got really odd…
They ended with what could be their new trademark – A song fresh off the new album, called ‘And yet’. Slow, passionate and somehow sexy, the song was feeling like it would be the perfect farewell to an adoring Leeds crowd – until they switched it up.
Next thing you know, the drummer has his top off, showing off his ‘skinny pack’ (if you know what that is), and Ralph has pulled the synth player into the crowd, in which they’re hugging spectators, as the once slow song rapidly gains momentum, into the fastest, rockiest song of the night.
The song ends, three chaos filled minutes later. The drummer kicks his drum kit over and walks off stage.
I was lost for words. My head was mashed. What had just happened?
As I got in my taxi home in the snow I thought about it, and I realised… We were given fair warning for the chaos that ensued.
The acts that went before them – one slow and passionate, one fast and kooky – they chose the support to represent best what they do on stage. It made sense now, the fast then the slow, the beauty and the beast. It was all planned and all meant to be.
The best way to sum this experience up? Planned Insanity.
In my life I have never seen anything like that before – but saying that, it was fucking brilliant.
To Kill A King’s new album ‘The Spirtitual Dark Age’ is out now
Critically Acclaimed Singer-Songwriter, John Smith has completed the First Leg of his world tour in an iconic Leeds music venue.
The ‘Far Too Good’ singer performed at over 30 venues in the UK and Ireland before his final gig, at High and Lonesome Festival at Brudenell Social Club last Friday.
Before the gig, he spoke to Day and Age’s Tom Rogers;
“(Brudenell) Tried to book me a few years ago, and I was in america, and I was gutted to turn it down, so I tried to get it in there. I tried to get it in there last year aswell and it didn’t work out, because my record wasn’t out, so I wanted to wait, and then I would guarantee selling some tickets.
“It just made sense this year, and we just wound it up. We decided the tour would be over by the end of November, and we decided that Saturday night in Leeds would be the best place to do it.
“It’s the gigs up north that sold out. It’s always good up here, and towns around the belt of the M62, I suppose all these gigs, like in Hebden Bridge, are just amazing”.
Midway through his packed out set, John remarked on his tour, and stated “It just had to end here, it had to be Brudenell”.
Fans after the gig explained their respect for his performance;
Hattie, 32, from Armley said, “I can’t get over how beautiful his voice is, i think he’s better live than he is on his album. He spoke to everyone in the crown and made it so much more meaningful.”
Daniel, 22 from Hull said, “I’d never heard of him before, but i’m going to have to put his songs on my playlist. he’s just really good and his music is so relaxed, it’s great.”
John’s critically acclaimed album, ‘Headlong’ is out now, and his European tour kicks off on 7 Dec in Copenhagen.