Lesson 21- The Music Industry Is Irrelevant…Or Maybe I Am
Outside my dressing room at MTV
One of the reasons I think that the music industry never quite embraced me is because I had never embraced it. But I came pretty close a few times.
I was recording Mayor McCa’s sixth album, “Double You Ex Why Zed” in my bedroom on 4 track and Sheffield with producer and friend, Glover. (which was never released in full). I was living with my girlfriend, playing a tonne of good gigs and had started making the props for what would become the video for my song, “Drinkalottawater”. It took about six months to make the hundreds of figures it would take to film the stop-motion project.
Then, over the course of two very long days, with champ Dean Chalkley and Yemisi Brookes in the directors chair. And with help from Tom Kingsley, Carrie Louise and I, we would put all the props together to make the three minute video.
We had high hopes for it. The song went down really well live and the few people I’d shown the video to were optimistic that it might give me the big break I’d been looking for. It might even be bigger than Chocolate Rain!
One of those optimistic people was Richie Dawes, whom I’d made friends with through yet another person I met at the Secret Garden Party, Benny Brown.
Richie was a publicist. He would often take me out to see the people he was working with and I t was always a great hang. I think I was a good person to bring along as I didn’t need to be entertained. Just let me loose and I’d start talking to strangers. I seem to remember seeing about five James Morrison gigs. I thought he was great.
One of these times, we met up at a gig in Hoxton and he told me his big news; he was about to start up his own company alongside his business parter, called Dawbell. He’d be bringing along most of his clients with him but biggest news of all was one of these clients would be Paul McCartney. Paul fucking McCartney! I was super-impressed with this news. Does it get bigger than that? They're now one of the biggest publicists in Europe.
When I told him my humble news about Drinkalottawater and my time with Diesel, I expressed that I was excited about the album I was making; though very dark, it was the most ambitious recording of my career. My only concern was that I really felt like I needed some guidance: a manager.
“You don’t need a manager. If you need any advice, I can help you out” he said.
And for the next little while, Richie was my press agent and consigliere. He was so good at his job and really knew what it took to make it in the entertainment business. In the lead up to releasing, ‘Drinkalottawater’, he got me into newspapers and onto blogs in the hopes that the song and video became the sensation that so many people felt it deserved to be.
There were a few moments, in retrospect where I could have played my cards better. Some were simple things like one of Dawbell’s team suggesting certain angles in order to get press, like when Amy Winehouse paid for my photoshoot. I think it was the punk in me wasn’t really comfortable with that sort of press. I wanted to succeed but on my own terms, telling my own story but the problem with that is, the press had to be interested in my story.
There was another time when Richie took me to a party where lots of industry people would be in attendance. I was let loose to start conversations with whomever was around. As stated earlier; I’m very comfortable talking to strangers.
At one point, several drinks in and on an empty stomach (due to my ‘Gremlin diet’), I started chatting with a group of industry folks about the state of the music business, streaming and the end of big record deals.
After listening to the genuine concerns these people had about their business and jobs, I decided they needed my opinion where I stated, “The truth is that none of these changes matter. Music will never, ever stop. And that’s everything. Without the songs there is no business so the music business is irrelevant. We’ll carry on writing songs and you guys will figure out a way to make your money. It might just won’t be the way you did before.”
Looking back, I can see why I was given the look I was given by them. One of the guys told me, “Well, that’s a good thing since you won’t be hearing from me.”
And he was right; I didn’t hear from him or anyone from that night. Whoops.
The video release show for Drinkalottawater came, I got a bunch of good press and the numbers kept rising and rising on YouTube until about a week later. The numbers stalled at around eight thousand views.
I heard less and less from Richie after that. In an honest an forth-write moment he explained that he was sorry that he’s not been in touch as he’d like. But when one is getting a call from Mayor McCa and Paul ‘Macca’, we know whose call one has to answer first.
It still blows my mind a bit that Richie and the team at Dawbell believed in me enough to donate their time and resources to my cause. I'm proud to have been one of their first projects. I still have high hopes that Drinkalottawater will have legs one day but the truth is, it’s really not up to me.
I learned a lot from that experience. I learned that if the press is going to write about whatever they want, one can’t bottle a formula of how to become an internet sensation and be kind to the people who you want help from (this was a lesson I knew already but kind forgot in that moment).
If a person learns from their mistakes so I know a lot. The problem with this experience is I didn't really know what to do after it was done.