Thursday, 22 April 2010

Is unsigned the new signed?

To Brick Lane, for the Recharged Radio Awards at 93 Feet East. Recharged Radio is an internet station that exclusively plays unsigned bands. We are up for a gong for Gig of the Year for our quarterly Cirque de Crème Anglaise event. When I get there I discover that one of the four finalists for Best Gig Photograph is actually a photo of The Furbelows, taken by Nick Morgan (the same one that I use for my Blogger ID, in fact). Sadly it has been pinned up on its side, for some reason, but I'm sure that didn't influence the judges.

There seems to have been a groundswell of sites, services and outlets for unsigned bands—plus the innumerable Battle of the Bands competitions, in several of which we seem to be embroiled at any one time. I'd be curious to know if the actual number of bands has increased, or whether it's just that, with the growth in illegal downloading and the punters' general unwillingness to part with money in exchange for music, the distinction between signed and unsigned is increasingly irrelevant. (And wily entrepreneurs realise they can make more money from bands' aspirations than they can by fulfilling those aspirations and selling records to the public.)

Certainly the norm now seems to be that bands just "release" their own records. I'm forever finding myself at "single" or "album" launches (such as the excellent Paul Hawkins and Thee Awkward Silences last Saturday at the Brixton Windmill). These are essentially pub gigs with a rickety table from which you can buy CDs the price of which is written in marker pen on a scrap of paper.

And why not? Some time very soon I hope to finish a batch of Furbelows recordings and then I plan to put together a CD of 15 or so numbers. I don't think I'll have them manufactured—probably just run them off myself. In this I am partly motivated by some cool CD blanks I've found which look just like black vinyl records, complete with faux grooves and a small "label" section in the middle that you can print on to. OK, little things please little minds.

Then we can have a launch party.

We didn't win anything at the Recharged Radio Awards, but it was nice to be nominated. They are doing a great thing and I find the station a lot of fun to listen to—because it's nice not to know what you are going to hear next. They keep adding new shows, so listen in some time: you may hear them playing something by The Furbelows...

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