From: Lottie Naughton-Rumbo <lottie.N-R@princesstv.com>
Date: 30 May 2012 17:37:48 GMT+01:00
To: Chris T-T <email@example.com>
I hope you don’t mind me contacting you, I saw your details on Singer/Songwriter.com I’m form Princess Productions – the production company who make Love Machine, T4 etc.
We are currently making, back to back, two series of our new dating show and I was wondering if it was something you would be interested in?
The premise of the show is as follows:
8 men upload videos on themselves singing a verse and a chorus of their chosen song and our female picker chooses her three favourites. She then chooses a duet and the three males record the male part of the duet. She has prerecorded the female version. She watches all the duets back and picks a winner. She and the winner then come into our studio – where we make t4, love machine etc, and it is dressed like a recording studio, and they meet and record the duet together with a professional voice coach.
We are looking for people who are interesting, can find the fun in these sorts of things and can sing, not matter to what standard.
It’s a SKY LIVING new show and most of the filming would involve webcam uploads and our crew coming to you, until the final part which is filmed in our studios.
The link to apply is: https://princesstv.wufoo.eu/forms/sing-date-application-form/
If anything I thought it could be a good platform for you.
but feel free to get in touch via phone or email for more info if you would prefer!
Our turn around is tight and if you know anyone else who fits the bill please forward on my details.
email – firstname.lastname@example.org and phone – 0207 985 1772
Look forward to hearing from you,
T: 0207 985 1772
M: 07903 433 043
Third Floor Whiteley’s Centre,
151 Queensway, London
Here is an exceptional resource, if you just started gigging and perform solo. Recently Tom Robinson ran this workshop for BBC Introducing and now he’s written up a full-length guide, in which he really digs deep into first steps of developing solo stagecraft.
Obviously any guide like this is a template not a rule book. But I’ve simply never seen such a brilliant piece, that covers this much ground and includes so much good gigging sense.
I had four additional thoughts (read Tom first though):
1) When you’ve got your friends in…
If you have a room full of strangers but there’s a group of your mates somewhere down the front, it’s very tempting to aim your set at them, or even more riskily, get involved with in-jokes or banter, especially because they’ve come to support you. Resist this as much as possible: the first thing that happens when a performer focuses on friends is that the rest of us, not being part of that, feel left out. Think of it like this: your mates should be the last people you need to win over.
2) Refer to the audience in the singular as much as possible…
This ties in to what Tom says about saying “you” instead of “I” and in fact it’s a trick I learnt as a kid from Phillip Schofield back when he presented Children’s BBC in the broom cupboard with Gordon the Gopher: talk to your audience as if they’re one person. So: “It’s good to see you, thank you for coming,” is better than “It’s good to see so many of you, thank you all for coming,” as subconsciously each person feels directly addressed. You can’t always do it but it’s worth getting into the habit.
3) Have a few ‘stand-up’-style put downs in your pocket…
You will get heckled at some point. It may be cool, it may be nasty. The easiest solution is always to laugh and be nice in response but with a funny line, remembering you’re up onstage with the power of the microphone (and you can say you’re the one “getting paid” to be there, even if you’re not!). However you might want/need to get nastier and remind them what you did to their Mum or Dad last night. But again, be careful not to get caught up in banter. If you focus on one group or person too much, you leave out everyone else.
4) If the gig is very small, don’t be afraid to ditch the stage altogether…
If you’re playing acoustic guitar, in a tiny room holding, say, fewer than 40 people and you’ve got their attention, you may make more impact performing unplugged. People enjoy that extra closeness and somehow think of you as rebellious for eschewing the gear. It’s also still seen as a special talent (or ‘braver’) to play unplugged, where in truth it sounds a lot closer to your rehearsals at home and you can hear yourself better. Only works if the room’s quiet though.
Finally, the one part of Tom’s guide I find myself (mildly) disagreeing with, is when he discusses onstage monitoring. I’d argue that Tom’s own vocal power and experience means he doesn’t rely on monitoring as some singers do (me included). I personally would never ditch the monitors and rely on the PA, or ask for the FOH mix to be in the monitors. I also think it’s not so important to bring a sound engineer to small pub/club shows and can sometimes be detrimental: the house engineer who works at the venue is likely to do as good a job, since s/he already knows the room. And, especially if you’re a support act, it can piss off the house crew, if your engineer starts messing with the desk. Yes, you’ll occasionally find duff / moronic house engineers but gigging on a budget, how good really is the friend you’re bringing? I find it of more value to have someone smart with you for soundcheck, who simply knows how you should sound – but doesn’t want to play with the desk. Your friend can listen from the floor and give suggestions.
Anyway, that’s my 2p for now; even having done almost 2,000 shows myself over 15+ years, I found reading Tom’s piece useful and cringed at a couple of basic errors I still make. So I hugely recommend it.
Before I kick off this entry, a quick plug: if you’re going to Brighton’s Great Escape 2012 as a delegate, I’m pleased to say I’ll be a panellist again this year; contributing to the Focus On DIY panel. It’s on Thurs 10 May at 11.15am. Come down and say hello.
Two contrasting descriptions of songwriting / recording processes are doing the rounds this week (in very different musical circles), so I thought I’d post them both:
First, the New Yorker has John Seabrook’s fascinating profile of top-line hit songwriter Ester Dean, as she works with production duo Stargate to put together smash hits for pop superstars. Dean wrote Rude Girl and S&M for Rihanna and Turn Me On for David Guetta, so you can get a feel of her style; filth. Funnily enough, I’ve long thought of my friend Tim Victor (who wrote Ass To Ass and Juicing Down for Skins) as an undiscovered UK Ester Dean. Anyway, the piece really prises open the top-line process (adding melody and lyric to a beats track in the studio, sorting the arrangement at the same time), if you aren’t already aware of it. For example there’s a great story about how both Beyonce and Kelly Clarkson got the same basic track written by Ryan Tedder and each one added top line melodies/lyrics, resulting in Halo and Already Gone. Clarkson realised the error when she heard Beyonce’s Halo and tried to pull her own single, thinking people would accuse her of copying. Luckily fans didn’t notice, or didn’t care – well worth a back-to-back of those two tracks:
(clearly, one’s ‘just’ a hit, the other’s a smash…)
Some comments found the New Yorker piece disheartening, because it shows vividly how ‘box ticking’ (and carefully constructed) this kind of songwriting is, prioritising craft and arrangement over art. But I found it reassuring: you still can’t write a smash ‘to order’. You know instantly, as a feeling rather than a thought process, when you have one. And I especially liked how fragile these guys’ world is; that they end the piece nervous about Adele’s global success, fearful that it may usher in a whole new style to replace their multi-hooked R&B sex pop.
And funnily enough, on the latest episode of US musical series Smash (*spoiler alert!*), the Broadway director (Jack Davenport) proposes adding some of this Rihanna-ish songwriting style into the show’s Marilyn musical. It’s a disaster. Coincidentally Ryan Tedder plays himself in this episode (and I bet he wrote the song they use).
Secondly, Ron Aniello, producer of Springsteen’s new LP Wrecking Ball, did a US radio interview that unpicks the fresh production and cunning new sonic ideas that he brought to the project:
One gem from this interview is that Aniello added Clarence Clemons’ (final) sax solo to Land Of Hope And Dreams without actually telling Bruce, by transposing and subtly editing the solo from a previous recorded version. They reached the mixdown before Springsteen heard it. Must’ve been an intense moment.
He also addresses the key torture of being a Springsteen producer: working hard on a record, being very proud of it, then having to witness the E Street Band knock the songs into a different dimension live.
I’m very proud to say I have an essay in the first New Public Thinkers book, available now. Edited by Dougald Hine and Keith Kahn-Harris, the book is called Despatches From The Invisible Revolution and includes some breathtaking writing from the likes of Pat Kane, Keri Facer, Noah Raford, Vinay Gupta, Smári McCarthy and many others.
We were asked to write about 2011 as a fulcrum year. My contribution The Year Punk Broke seeks a connection between last year’s accelerated global changes and our personal ability to grow and change.
“Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” – John Lydon
“They’re just a band.” – Scroobius Pip
If you’re remotely interested in live music (or just fucked off when you can’t get tickets for a show without paying double face value) then last night’s Dispatches programme was essential viewing (watch it on 4OD). It exposed the reality of ‘fan-to-fan’ ticket reselling websites like Viagogo and Seatwave; that they’re actually just online touting; regardless of any stated business model, they primarily cater to professional touts and promoters of major shows, such as SJM, LiveNation and Metropolis, who collude by allocating them batches of prime tickets, to make more money than face value.
Grim stuff, yet it was nothing one couldn’t expect or predict if one thinks about it for more than a few seconds.
However the investigation left out three points that I think could’ve been covered with equal vigour:
First, because Dispatches approached the issue solely from a consumer point of view, they failed to follow the money and investigate bands and their agents’ relationships with those promoters who’ve bumped up profits by re-selling. A fascinating (and potentially explosive) question is: do bands and their agents get a share of that extra profit, or not? Promoters and artists split profits of a sold out show, based (presumably) on number of seats times ticket price equals overall gross income. How is that calculated? Are the big artists being diddled, or are they complicit?
I ask because it will be terrific fun to watch, if it turns out promoters have ripped off some of the biggest names in music by reselling their tickets above the agreed sums, without passing on any of the profit. Unlike us humble punters, these bands have the resources and wherewithal to fight back, if they so choose. Or, if they’re complicit, they would make a much more effective target for consumer groups to attack, by publicly shaming the likes of Coldplay or Rihanna or Will Young, rather than the comparatively anonymous promoters.
Secondly, Dispatches should’ve investigated the perfectly legal and now almost universal, yet immensely damaging, exclusive closed pre-sales to owners of certain mobile phones or users of other services that have a relationship with the venue but no connection to the artist. By giving a specific group of people priority access to tickets, regardless of whether they’re a fan, surely the secondary market is being massively further nourished, while real fans are locked out in the cold. Arguably these pre-sales are actually worse for fans than plain touting, since they normalise the reselling process and turn otherwise normal ticket buyers into touts, for the bands they didn’t want to see but felt obliged to ‘take advantage of an offer’ on.
(I don’t mean pre-sales to artists’ own mailing lists or fan clubs, by the way, that would seem to me to be a perfectly logical and reasonable process.)
Finally, I would’ve loved to see Dispatches widen the investigation to look at the whole process of brand sponsorship of elements of the entertainment industry. If you’re an artist playing to 2,000+ people in the UK right now, it’s almost impossible to do that without becoming a tacit advertiser of O2. It’s not the Brixton Academy anymore, it’s the O2 Academy Brixton. Even smaller venues are increasingly branded. Yet did you know that if you purchase a t-shirt at a gig, the band aren’t getting all the money – the venues take as much as 25% of all income from merchandise, despite being supposedly ‘supported’ by a brand sponsor? Almost no bands are able to fight this – even the ‘guaranteed sellout’ bands who know they’ll fill a venue, make a venue and promoter a heap of money in drink sales as well as their share of ticket revenue, still are unable to work out individual deals to keep all the money from their merch sales. So one solution you increasingly find happening is artists and their management quietly supporting and supplying the ‘bootleg’ merch sellers outside the venue, to claw back some of that revenue…
and da-dah! …the system gets even more fucked and corrupted.
I have mixed feelings about this Dispatches. Although touting is fucking irritating and further snags up an already messy business, if punters weren’t so obsessed by certain hyped huge shows that they pay ridiculous amounts over the odds, it simply wouldn’t happen. Moaners seem to be calling for some kind of legislation to regulate an industry over and above other industries, simply on the basis of an annoyance factor. I hate it when otherwise-happy Capitalists do that, it’s one of the worst, nimby-est bits of liberalism. Last night on Twitter I called it a #sheeptax but nobody reacted (probably for the best!).
Anyway, there’s an economic case for saying it is proof that these shows are under-priced (ha! This isn’t something I actually believe, by the way) – a secondary market only exists while fans are willing to pay. So Madonna took a shit-load of heat recently (including from me) for saying her tickets should be £180, yet once you average the touted price with the official £60 face value Coldplay tickets, they actually came out at roughly the same figure. Many, many people paid £200+ to see Coldplay at the O2. Well, ultimately, do they really want my sympathy? Who’s the bigger fool?
So yes, it’s an appalling practice. But if people resolved tomorrow that they wouldn’t pay above face value, even if that means sometimes missing a show they wanted to see, pouf! the trade vanishes in a cloud of smoke.