Q&A: Cath Aubergine, ManchesterMusic.co.uk
Blog by Molly Jones under Media
Manchester music’s movers and shakers give us their unique perspective on the best (and worst) of working with unsigned acts…
Cath Aubergine writes for ManchesterMusic.co.uk.
Favourite new Manchester bands: Run Toto Run, Plank!, Easter, Blood Moon, King Tree & The Roots
What’s the best way for unsigned bands to approach you?
It varies. Unlike many music webzines manchestermusic.co.uk is still happy to receive unsolicited demos from local bands and, even in the past year, we've found a couple of really great bands like this. Myspace tends to be a little derided these days but it's probably still my main networking tool for music stuff. Don't just send a blank friend request though - introduce yourself in the comment box and maybe follow it up by telling me when and where you're playing.
Often, I just stumble over bands because they're playing with someone I'm going to see or playing at a reliable clubnight. Sometimes it's more random than that - the singer of one fast-rising local band got their first live review by cornering me while I was having some tea in a city centre bar. Mind you, on a different day this might have annoyed the hell out of me...
How can they make an impression?
There are no hard and fast rules. Personally I tend to catch new bands live in the first instance so it'll be a combination of factors: if it's a song-based band then are the tunes and lyrics any good? If it's an instrumental or sound-driven band then are they doing anything interesting or innovative? Are they capable of doing what they're trying to do? Is there a good dynamic within the band?
And if stuff goes wrong, work round it. You'd be amazed how many bands (and not just at unsigned level) have apologised after a "bad" gig that really wasn't. Broken strings, electronics failures or the occasional cock-up doesn't make a gig bad; general all-round sloppiness, unpleasant attitude or looking like you can't really be bothered very much does.
My MM colleague Jon does most of the demo reviews so he'll just be looking for anything that makes you stand out from the pile, whether it's innovative originality or just great tunes.
What’s you biggest bugbear when it comes to dealing with unsigned bands?
Bands that tell me they've got "50 mates who come to every gig" as if this is some sort of valid positive attribute. It's completely and utterly irrelevant - tell me about your music, if it sounds interesting we'll try to come and watch you, if we like it we'll review it and might even help put you in touch with appropriate promoters.
Top tip for unsigned bands:
Don't pay to play, don't play gigs where you have to flog a set number of tickets upfront and hand over the cash, and especially stay clear of commercially-run "Battle of the bands" organisations. These nights are not about music, they're not for music fans, they're solely about making money for so-called promoters. It's the musical equivalent of vanity publishing; nobody will be there apart from your friends and family and those of the other bands on the bill who may not even have much in common with you, and it won't get you your big break. Most influential people in the music scene don't go near these nights, and just having your name on their listings sends out the message that you're not good enough - or not prepared to put in the effort - to get a proper gig.
cath aubergine, manchestermusic.co.uk, manchester music, manchester bands, unsigned bands, unsigned artists