10 Questions for Birmingham’s Independent Music Industry answered by Ben Calvert

1. In your view, what is the current state of the region’s “Independent Music Industry?”

There are a small percentage of clued up people, building local, national and international networks, in order to create and market music in the face of adversity.

2. What do you think are it’s immediate needs with reference to the areas that you are most familiar with?

To create sustainable, (ie NOT an acoustic night every night of the week in every pub), live music events where the acts, promoters, and venues all benefit equally in terms of financial remuneration, (pay), and where new audiences are developed.

3. As far as the region’s “Independent Music Industry” is concerned, what do you think shows the greatest potential for the next few years?

Strong, trusting networks that work via the “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch your’s” theory.

4. In recent years, there has been a range of initiatives and projects designed to support the development of music in Birmingham. Can you list 5 projects or initiatives that you think have proved beneficial to the “Independent Music Industry?”

Creative Pathways showed some potential. As someone who helped run a course under it’s umbrella, I might be biased! However, I’ve recently met people who went on the course, and they have developed as working musicians as a result of it, benefiting from modules on Self-Promotion using New Media, and Recording Techniques.

5. Can you list any projects or initiatives that you think have proved “of little use or benefit” to the “Independent Music Industry?”

Gigbeth – At the first one, at the opening ceremony, there were more people in the form of the band, the staff and security than there were in the audience. Many of the stewards were from London, so they had no local knowledge to help people get from one stage to another etc.

ArtsFest – There’s always a huge song and dance about how it’s Britain’s biggest festival. Is biggest best? There is a patronizing assumption that from the start of the booking procedure that acts will play for free, (payment or non-payment is never mentioned at all). If the event is meant to be for the benefit of artists, then how about sending out well-designed, well-branded press pack to relevant industry people?

The publicity for ArtsFest is shocking-The website held info for the 2008 event until a WEEK before the 2009 event. And the design elements-They use Clip Art!!!!! For the biggest festival in the UK…

6. With regard to your answers to questions 4 and 5, do you think Birmingham should continue to pursue the idea of more initiatives and projects designed to support the development of music in Birmingham?

Yes, definitely. But Birmingham City Council should identify and consult music event organisers to run the events who have proven experience in booking artists, designing and distribution of publicity, dealing with venues and everything that goes with running events.  Or at least, they should work in conjunction with them, employing them as well-paid consultants.

7. If you could make any changes to, or include any new ideas for, any “strategy for supporting the development of music in Birmingham” what would your top priorities be?

With regards to festivals like ArtsFest, my suggestion would be:

Contact The Drum, Capsule, Bohemian Jukebox, The Other Woman’s Club, Moseley Folk Festival, leftfoot, Birmingham Promoters and Seven Inch Cinema, and identify some others. Give each a budget to run a stage. Between them they have the experience and know-how to make it work.

8. If you were given the task of evaluating whether a project or initiative had been successful, what would you suggest as the best indicators of success, failure, benefit or disaster for the “Independent Music Industry?”

Did the project improve the long-term earning capability of the artists involved?
Were audiences introduced to art that they would not have usually encountered?
Did people walk away with enriched souls?
Was art of a high standard created?

9. As far as your knowledge or understanding of the region’s “Independent Music Industry” is concerned, what are it’s greatest strengths, and what are it’s greatest weaknesses?

The strengths are that there are some truly amazing bands. The weakness is that the bands are often self-deprecating (A Birmingham ‘tradition’), dis-organised and unable to understand the theory of supply and demand for their music.

10. If you could do anything to “support the development of music in Birmingham” what would you do and why would you choose to do that?

I ran 180 live Post-folk, Anti-Folk, and Alt-Folk music events between October 2003 and January 2010. (Bohemian Jukebox). I thought that might be enough to support the development of a certain type of music in Birmingham, and it was for a while.

I chose to do that because there was a need for well-organised music events for acts playing those genres.

I’m now concentrating on Bohemian Jukebox Recordings to bring some of Birmingham’s music talents to an international audience. I’ve chosen to do that, as I’d now rather concentrate on developing a few acts of quality via the power of recorded media, rather than dealing with lots of acts in the context of live music events.

Ben Calvert

The Music Network was contacted in January 2010 by a group drawn from Birmingham City Council and the Arts Council England to begin to determine an overview of the current state, needs and potential of the “Independent Music Industry” in Birmingham.

The Music Network invites people with an interest or active role within Birmingham’s Independent Music Industry to answer 10 questions.

If you wish to get involved read 10 Questions for Birmingham’s Independent Music Industry and send your completed responses by email to: info at birminghammusicnetwork.com – Thank You.

Simon Howes has created an easy to use google survey for these questions here too.

All completed questions will be published here unless you state otherwise. Please be sure to include your full Name, brief biography or information about who you are and what you do, and any links to your website or blog so you can be credited in full as the author of the response. Views from all sides are sought so don’t be afraid to speak your mind. We may learn something.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*