INDIE50 Judges Q&A: Tom Ravenscroft

tom-ravenscroft-150With the INDIE50 launch event coming up fast, we finish our series of Judges Q&As with BBC 6 Music’s Tom Ravenscroft. We discuss what it is to be independent, and he tells us about his first live music memories – THAT Nirvana performance at Reading ’92, FYI – and eclectic tastes that include Bristol D&B and Zimbabwean Chimurenga music.

WeGotTickets: You’ve been at BBC 6 Music for six years now, what is it about the station that’s meant you’ve called it home for so long?
Tom Ravenscroft: They’ve always allowed me to play whatever music I like and I mean absolutely anything, which is pretty rare in radio. That and the fact that the listeners are a very charming and amusing bunch, it’s a real joy hanging out with them and listening to records each week.

WeGotTickets: What are you listening to at the moment?
TR: Loads, the days just aren’t long enough. Frankie Reyes, dgoHn. Leather Towel, Gonjasufi, Jenny Hval and Neil Young,

WeGotTickets: What does independent mean to you?
TR: I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced the non-independent side of the industry; I was born into an indie bubble. I guess it’s the freedom to like and make which ever noises you desire, no matter weather they are popular or destined for financial ruin.

WeGotTickets: You’ve taken your love of music into various broadcasting endeavours – highlighting under the radar music, emerging talent, and topics of cultural importance. If you weren’t broadcasting, how do you think you’d be channelling your love of music?
TR: I suspect I’d be a little frustrated; playing records to people is pretty addictive. I think I’d maybe endlessly travel the world, Alan Lomax style, gathering and searching for things new to my ear. I panic sometimes at the thought of all the music I’m missing.

WeGotTickets: What’s your earliest live music memory?
TR: Not sure which came first; the Bhundu Boys at the Reading festival with my mum or a terrifying Nirvana gig somewhere in London with my dad, in which I held tightly to his hand throughout.

WeGotTickets: As someone noted for their eclectic taste, could you pin point your musical entry point, either a genre or a particular period?
TR: I was introduced to Zimbabwean music when I was 10ish; Thomas Mapfumo, The Four Brothers and The Bhundu Boys. I’d never heard anything like it, it was the best thing ever, I just couldn’t stop dancing.

WeGotTickets: What’s the best live music moment you’ve ever been witness to?
TR: I have an appalling memory but Nirvana at Reading ’92, I was lucky enough to be on stage and the excitement was like nothing I’ve experienced since. The anticipation and rumours surrounding the gig, I’ve never been so star struck. I have no idea if they were actually any good.

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WeGotTickets: Is seeing live music still an essential part of your musical experience or do you find you can get your fix online?
TR: Live music is the culmination of everything; you spend your days listening to music, reading about bands and chatting to friends, colleges and listeners about what you’re into. It’s when you all meet at venues to experience it live together that you’re reminded what a fabulous family it all makes up.

WeGotTickets: Is there a particular regional scene that’s caught your imagination or resonated with you as a music fan, now or in the past?
TR: The Drum & Bass scene in Bristol in the early 2000s. There was so much going on, it was impossible to keep up. I was living in Sheffield at the time and would regularly get the train down for the weekend. D&B is to blame for my student loan debt.

WeGotTickets: With live music more important than ever, do you think we’re doing enough to provide a platform for it to grass roots talent in this country?
TR: Venues are closing all the time but everywhere you go you still meet hugely passionate people who will make it work one way or another. I think the major festivals could be giving more slots to emerging artists rather than always playing safe with golden oldies but then there are local festivals popping up everywhere and, much like the independent labels, are a braver and more interesting place.

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Follow Tom on Twitter here: @tom_ravenscroft

Originally published on the WeGotTickets Blog on August 17th 2016.

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INDIE50 Judges Q&A: Laura Snapes

laura-snapes-150Laura Snapes – contributing editor at Pitchfork and freelance culture journalist published at The Guardian, Wire, Financial Times and many others – will, as one of the judging panel for INDIE50, help us shine a light on the people giving up their time and money to create and develop grass roots music scenes around the UK.

We caught up with Laura recently to find out her thoughts on the importance of local music scenes, some of her favourite new records, and how The Corrs and Michael Jackson were the unlikely starting points for her love of live music…

WeGotTickets: You’re currently a contributing editor at Pitchfork and regular writer for a host of other publications, but where did you get your start?
Laura Snapes: I got my start on the local newspaper in Cornwall. For a regional paper in a place with a tiny scene, it had a really decent music section, and I would forever pester that editor about writing for him. He finally relented when he was going on holiday, and so needed someone to interview Cornwall’s short-lived rock saviours, Thirteen Senses. After that I got away with writing various diatribes in the form of live reviews.

WeGotTickets: Who are you listening to at the moment?
LS: Right now I am very into the new records by Anohni, Tegan and Sara, Margo Price, Cate Le Bon, Bat For Lashes, Niki and the Dove, Kevin Morby, William Tyler and Steve Gunn.

WeGotTickets: What does independent mean to you?
LS: Independent traditionally means a freedom from big business, but I think maintaining a freedom from societal conventions is equally important to the state of independence.

WeGotTickets: Do you think an independent spirit benefits UK music?
LS: Yes! 100%! Of course the UK is also making great conveyor belt pop music, for want of a better term, but it’s regional artists manifesting their own individual collisions of taste and influence that leads to surprises, and keeps thing interesting. Just look at the second coming of grime, a scene that’s very much the product of regional identities and DIY attitudes.

WeGotTickets: You’re from Cornwall originally. What’s the live scene like there?
LS: I haven’t lived full-time in Cornwall for eight years now, but I go back as much as I can, and I know there’s a great scene in Falmouth, thanks in part to the introduction of a performing arts degree at the university, which synthesised the scene a bit. There’s a great garage scene, and a nice web of little venues – some traditional, some unorthodox – to support them.

WeGotTickets: What’s your earliest live music memory?
LS: The first band I ever saw live was The Corrs, at Exeter Westpoint Arena, in 1999. I remember standing on my chair and cheering a lot. But before that, on TV – I remember a Michael Jackson show being broadcast when I was very young, and insisting to my mum that it was not Michael Jackson, it was actually the curly haired lady called Paula who used to cut our hair.

WeGotTickets: What’s the best live music moment you’ve ever been witness to?
LS: The best live music moment… that’s impossible. I’ve seen so many and I have a terrible memory. I’ve seen the National 26 times, so I know the live versions of their songs as well as the recorded ones – when Brian starts the drumming on “Squalor Victoria,” that always gives me chills. And St. Vincent’s last tour, which I saw eight times (I am a bit obsessive), was stacked with incredible moments – not least the bit where she stands in a kind of warrior pose atop a giant pink pyramid, soloing like a maniac, and then throws herself down the pyramid. Amazing. But there are so many others that I am forgetting.

WeGotTickets: Is there anywhere in the UK you would sound out as being especially vital for grass roots live music at the moment?
LS: Apart from my obvious bias towards Cornwall, I would say Nottingham. It has a really interesting cross-genre scene, where grime and punk meet in a converted vegetable warehouse called JT Soar, and on labels like Special Stage Audio.

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WeGotTickets: Why do you think local scenes matter in an age where you can get your music out to the world at the click of a button?
LS: Because the best thing about being a music fan is feeling part of something. Local scenes aren’t just about sharing music – they’re about community, they reconfigure the culture of your area, and not to sound like your school careers advisor, they’re a really great place to learn or hone different skills. They’re this amazing petri dish that you can cultivate any which way.

WeGotTickets: Do you think the closure of independent venues is having a damaging effect on UK music?
LS: It’s hard to quantify. As long as there are bands, they will figure out places to play. But just as the disappearance of record shops from our high streets, whether indie or HMV, has led to people forgetting that buying music is a thing, perhaps the disappearance of these venues will incur a decrease of bands forming to fill them. Either way, I think it’s terrible: no good can come of these places shutting down.

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Follow Laura on Twitter here: @laurasnapes

Originally punlished on the WeGotTickets Blog on April 19th 2016.

 

INDIE50 Judges Q&A: Stephen Bass

stephen-bass-150We recently grabbed a few words with INDIE50 judge and all round good guy, Stephen Bass. Read what the Moshi Moshi boss, Metronomy manager and By The Sea Festival founder had to say about independence in music, Moshi Moshi’s upcoming 20th birthday, and his greatest live music experiences…

WeGotTickets: With Moshi Moshi’s 20th anniversary not too far away, can you tell us where it all got started with founding the label?
Stephen Bass: Three friends in awe of music and the idea of record labels wanting to do something practical with music that they loved rather than just having to work on the stuff given to them with their day jobs. That soon dropped to two and soon became pretty hard work, but the fun and satisfaction and the bands we worked with made up for it. It blossomed from a love affair to a full time marriage about 13 years ago and we’re happy to see it still blooming.

WeGotTickets: What are you listening to at the moment?
SB: Seemingly a lot of jazz – Moses Boyd, Vels Trio. I always listen to a fair amount of house music too. Gilles Peterson’s show every week and also Late Junction and the Freak Zone, then NTS and Balamii. To be honest I don’t get to listen to as much new music as I would like as a lot of time is spent listening to Moshi bands and also stuff for PRAH Recordings. The Whitney album is gonna be a summer one for me though I think. The new Wave Pictures album is heavy. Also Ghostculture.

WeGotTickets: What does independent mean to you?
SB: I guess it means that it is independently owned. Definitely not “indie”. It just means that we own the label and we can do what we like rather than having to make money for shareholders so we can release the music we want to instead of releasing what the mainstream wants. We are just like the musical equivalent of an independently owned coffee shop instead of the major label’s Starbucks. There is also a concept of independent spirit, which is the idea of going your own way rather than following the herd.

WeGotTickets: After years of taste making, what has been the guiding principle behind the bands you choose to release?
SB: Still the same really but in fact becoming stauncher in the idea that we should only release music that we love – something that is original and creative and comes from the heart rather than created to be a commodity. People always respond to honesty.

WeGotTickets: As mentioned you’re nearly at 20 years now, do you find you’re still committed to the same outlook on releasing music as you were back then?
SB: As mentioned, I actually think we are much more committed to that idea now – even in the last year or 18 months we have started to be stricter. The idea of no compromise is becoming more important.

WeGotTickets: Do you always see a band live before working with them?
SB: Oh yes… I have been burnt by not doing that.

WeGotTickets: What’s the best live music moment you’ve ever been witness to?
SB: Very hard to say but each year I book the music at the Crows Nest at Glastonbury and every year it is a hell of an experience and definitely something to witness. Early Hot Chip shows were always great fun. Metronomy at Royal Albert Hall was a real moment as well.

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WeGotTickets: You launched By The Sea last year with some great headline acts, what was it that prompted the move into such a large-scale live showcase?
SB: It has been a long held dream to put on a festival. It was actually probably going to Glastonbury in 1990 that pointed me in the direction my life was going to lead. I have been to so many different festivals and had so much enjoyment going to them and variously working at them. I guess it is the same drive that made us start the label – the desire to get your hands dirty and get involved and do something rather than just turning up and having fun. If you can do it and carry it off then long-term you have something to be proud of and some sort of legacy, a proof that you weren’t just mucking about. And hopefully we can put on something great for our audience and provide something that wasn’t currently there

WeGotTickets: What made you want to do it in Margate?
SB: Margate has a great character all of its own which provides something for festivalgoers to explore. The coastline and the town itself provide a unique backdrop and Dreamland is a ready built bonkers festival site within reach of London and Kent but definitely somewhere else. Every great festival needs to have its own vibe and Margate is there to lend that, so in some ways half the work is done.

by the sea

WeGotTickets: Live music carries greater weight than ever for artists have you seen the bands you work with outlooks’ on it change in tune with this?
SB: I think artists realise that they need to take it seriously. They need to be good at it – performing isn’t a crime, its part of their craft. These days we are pretty proud of our bands mostly getting on stage on time. The days of it being cool to be slack and go on stage late and let everyone down are well and truly over, thankfully!

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Follow Stephen’s label Moshi Moshi on Twitter here: @moshimoshimusic

Originally published on the WeGotTickets Blog on July 14th 2016.

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INDIE50 Judges Q&A: Jason Edwards

jedward-150As a booking agent at CODA, Jason Edwards works with live acts including Years & Years, Grimes, and Spring King. Combined with past roles right across the independent sector that gave him a unique insight into the UK’s indie scene, we felt he was the perfect judge for INDIE50. We talked to Jason recently to get his thoughts on the independent live scene today, and hear about the moment he witnessed the Dalai Lama join Patti Smith on stage(!)…

WeGotTickets: How did you get into being a live agent?
Jason Edwards: I’ve had quite a number of different music related jobs over the past 11 years or so: artist manager, music programmer, record label PR, club promoter, club PR manager, stage manager, DJ and journalist to be precise. I’ve learned progressively more and more about the industry through each of these roles and there was a certain point, I think in between being a manager and a promoter, that the booking agency world started to stand out as the most exciting place to be.

Initially I started to book tours for some of the acts I was managing, pulling contacts from previous tours and support tours they’d been part of and then started independently booking tours for some other acts. I ended up building a bit of a roster and getting a taste for it. I set up a small umbrella company for the management, booking and PR (handled by my very good friend Stacey Walton) work we were doing at the time and before I knew it – I was a booking agent. Eventually it made sense to move into the context of a bigger company so I was fortunate enough to be offered a position at 13 Artists and things have progressed since then.

WeGotTickets: Who are you listening to at the moment?
JE: When I start working with new artists I get obsessed with their music and listen to them on repeat until I know it inside out. I’ve just started working with two artists I am hugely excited about. One is ALMA, a Finnish producer and singer who’s just signed a global deal with Universal and is making some of the freshest pop music I have come across in my career. The other is a remarkable band from the US called The Lemon Twigs who my all time favourite label have just signed, and who everyone that hears them is going nuts for.

I’m also obsessed with the new album by Mitski (Secretly Canadian) and the debut from Porches (Domino) that came out earlier this year. I try to listen to as many new releases as possible each week, especially those coming out on the indies. I try to avoid new music playlists, otherwise I find them too distracting, and like to look back in time as much as possible. I’ve been going through a huge Pixies phase and listening to Radiohead’s ‘The Bends’ nearly every day hoping that they play some more tracks from it live this Summer.

WeGotTickets: What does independent mean to you?
JE: It’s a state of mind! Cheesy as it sounds, I mean it. I think being “independent” means to have your own ideas and opinions and sticking with them, regardless of the situation or whatever peer-pressure might exist around you.

The lines between the “independent” and the “corporate” sides of the music industry are so blurred right now that you can find some very independent thinkers in places where you really wouldn’t expect to find them normally and those tend to be the people making the real differences and achieving the genuine success.

WeGotTickets: You represent a diverse roster featuring some of the finest young talent in the world right now (Years & Years, Grimes, Alessia Cara, etc.), has it been a conscious choice to get involved with more grass roots talent?
JE: Absolutely. The biggest thrill in my job still comes from discovering a band at the earliest point possible – sometimes before they’ve even performed live for the first time – and working with them on their journey to sold out shows and crazy festival crowds. Being part of that development curve is a huge adrenaline rush that I don’t ever see myself getting tired of.

WeGotTickets: Originally from Scotland, what was it about that scene that had you engaging with it in so many ways (manager, promoter, DJ) early on?
JE: I was finishing high school when there was a pretty strong press spotlight on Scotland, Glasgow especially, with the rise of Franz Ferdinand and the scene around them – as well as bands like Biffy Clyro and Idlewild achieving success after a number of years. There was also an exceptional touring scene in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Both cities had some amazing venues that are now either closed or under-used (The Venue in Edinburgh, for instance – an incredible 200 capacity room where I saw some now huge bands play), T in the Park was one of the biggest festivals in the country and there was a real hunger everywhere for all types of music. There were some great club nights and promoters in Edinburgh I got close with, and through either working for or hanging out with them, I got to know some of the bands coming through and just started becoming more involved in the “scene”. I think Scotland has always had this sort of vibe around music, it ebbs and flows in its intensity, but I was lucky to be growing up during a particularly bustling moment.

WeGotTickets: What’s your earliest live music memory?
JE: I was quite a late bloomer when it came to going to gigs. I vaguely remember a Radio 1 roadshow in Edinburgh when I was very young but my first ever show was… Robbie Williams at Murrayfield Stadium in 2003. I was 15. He was supported by Kelly Osbourne and Ash… and it was awesome.

WeGotTickets: What’s the best live music moment you’ve been witness to?
JE: Honestly maybe when the Dalai Lama came on-stage during Patti Smith’s set at Glastonbury last year. I was in a, let’s say, delicate emotional state as it was and when that happened – after an already incredibly intense performance from Patti – I was a mess. It was very powerful.

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WeGotTickets: How do you go about finding/selecting the artists you represent?
JE: Mostly I hear about acts through a trusted ‘inner circle’ of friends both within and outside of the industry and I do still trawl through a reliable selection of blogs pretty much every day. In terms of selection then it’s still my ears and gut doing around 95% of the work. If I really don’t like something, regardless of its potential, I won’t go for it. This has resulted in some HUGE errors over the past few years – incredibly embarrassing ones where I’ve let now massive acts pass me by – but I don’t regret them.

WeGotTickets: The live sector is booming like never before, do you see this as more of a positive or a negative thing?
JE: It can only be a positive really. Things aren’t perfect though. Ticket sales on smaller tours are performing in a very unpredictable way across the country. Venues of all sizes are constantly under threat of closure, mostly because of property development. There are still a surprising number of charlatans out there in all fields. Secondary ticketing is an ever-present, ugly immovable stain. Maybe things never will be perfect but whilst we’re in what’s seen as a “boom” moment, we need to take the time to properly address these and adapt our business practices to evolve with the times or we run the risk of a live music recession in the not so distant future.

WeGotTickets: Have you got any favourite independent venues? Discovery hotspots or places that have the perfect formula when it comes to presenting an artist in their best light?
JE: Nice n Sleazy in Glasgow, The Brudenell Social Club in Leeds, The Deaf Institute in Manchester, Hare & Hounds in Birmingham and The Green Door Store in Brighton. That’s my 5 venue whistle-stop, guaranteed-to-be-excellent tour for any artist. They’re all doing things perfectly, working with the right promoters, sticking to their instincts and roots whilst also looking forward and thinking about how to develop their business and improve their local community.

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Follow Jason on Twitter here: @agent_jedwards

Originally published on the WeGotTickets Blog on June 10th 2016.

INDIE50 Judges Q&A: Kevin Moore

kevin-moore-150In just a few day’s time The Great Escape festival will kick off, showcasing over 400 bands across 35 venues in sunny Brighton, with a focus on providing a stage for new and upcoming acts.

The festival’s General Manager, Kevin Moore, is one of our INDIE50 judges, and we thought now would be the perfect time to grab a few words with him about the festival, independence and the UK’s grassroots music scene – he also throws out a recommendation for a new band from Finland with possibly the greatest name we’ve ever heard…

WeGotTickets: How did you become the General Manager of The Great Escape Festival, arguably Britain’s flagship grassroots music showcase?
Kevin Moore: As with getting anywhere in this business it involved a lot of blagging and a lot of pretending to know what you’re doing! When I was a student at Manchester University I ended up getting a work placement at Xfm Manchester, and from there I fell into DJing and club night promotion. By doing that I met some of the people who used to run In The City Festival (a similar new band showcase festival started by Tony Wilson) and got a work placement there helping to programme the conference. Once In The City finished up I worked at various other festivals in Manchester and then saw a job advertisement for TGE. That was back in January 2012 and then at the end of 2014 I was offered the role of General Manager.

WeGotTickets: Who are you listening to at the moment?
KM: This is my favourite time of the year as the TGE line-up is completely signed off and you can just get completely lost in our Spotify playlist. In no particular order I’m really into 808INK from London; Alina Orlova who is this amazing pianist from Lithuania; Have You Ever Seen The Jane Fonda Aerobic VHS?; this amazing guitar band from Finland; NorthEast Party House, an awesome electronic band from Australia, check out their song ‘The Haunted’; and Dagny who is a wonderful pop singer from Norway.

WeGotTickets: What does independent mean to you?
KM: Independent means doing what you feel is right. Whether you’re a band, a festival, a record label or a venue, to me, being independent means being able to make your own decisions and follow your own creative vision without (too much!) compromise.

WeGotTickets: How does an independent outlook feed into The Great Escape (if at all)?
KM: An independent outlook feeds into TGE in many ways. We work with a huge number of independent and grassroots artists, a lot of whom do some extraordinary work in the direct-to-fan world. Brighton as a music city is the home of a number of incredible independent venues, without the support of whom TGE wouldn’t be able to happen, and the TGE convention always places quite a large emphasis on DIY models. In addition to that there are so many independent music companies and businesses working in Brighton feeding artists into the festival.

WeGotTickets: What makes Brighton an ideal place for TGE?
KM: So many things. In my job I’m extremely lucky to be able to travel to similar events to TGE all over the world but none of them quite have the chemistry that Brighton has. Firstly, the seaside. How many festivals have you been to that are at the seaside? It has a huge number of music venues for its size, the majority of which are all within walking distance of each other, it has a fiercely independent industry who are extremely supportive of the event, an abundance of artistic talent and it helps being so close to London and Gatwick as it makes it so accessible for international bands, businesses and festival goers to attend.

WeGotTickets: What’s your earliest music memory?
KM: The cool answer is that my mum and dad have always been massive Rolling Stones fans and my first hazy musical memories are of singing along to Brown Sugar in the back of the car. The uncool answer is listening to my Postman Pat theme tune on 7” single…

WeGotTickets: What’s the best live music moment you’ve been witness to?
KM: Skepta’s headline show at Brighton Dome last year will take some beating! He played shortly after appearing at the Brits and everything that had been happening with Kanye and the energy that was in the room that night was beyond anything I’d seen in a very long time.

WeGotTickets: From Stormzy to Kiko Bun, Songhoy Blues to Mystery Jets, TGE celebrates a huge range of musical genres. What’s the grand design behind providing such a diverse platform?
KM: There isn’t really a grand design to it, we’re the festival for new music and new music isn’t defined by genres. Genres themselves have blurred so much now and people’s tastes continue to diversify, so we want to ensure we’re providing what our festival goers want and providing a live platform for as diverse and exciting an array of artists as we possibly can.

WeGotTickets: What do you think the live experience offers to artists and fans today with live streaming of both audio and video becoming increasingly widespread?
KM: The live experience is just something that cannot be beaten. Yes you can stream audio or video of a show happening and that in its own right is great, but to actually be there, in the crowd and standing so close to your idols is part of the experience that is unrivalled.

WeGotTickets: What kind of impact do you see the closure of small venues as having on a festival like TGE?
KM: Potentially a very significant impact. Most of the venues we use at TGE are between 150 – 500 capacity, so as more venues are threatened with closure in the short term it could affects how we grow and develop as an event. In the long term there is the very real possibility of the talent drying up. Yes there will always be music makers, but if the venues where they can perform continue to close the opportunities to perform live become more and more limited, which in turn makes long-term artistic careers very difficult to establish and maintain. Without the artists coming through there wouldn’t be a future for any music festival, not just TGE.

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Follow Kevin on Twitter here: @iamkevinmoore

Originally published on the WeGotTickets Blog on May 13th 2016.