Keeping Your Gear Safe

Picture this, you’ve got a gig later and you go to check your car and boom, all your gear has been nicked.  What do you do?  Do you have enough money to go and replace it all?  Do you have enough kind friends to lend you some gear so you don’t have to cancel your gig?  If you do, what are you going to do for the rest of your gigs?

Situations like this are sadly becoming all too common.  How many times have you seen a post on Facebook with some grainy looking pictures titled “GEAR STOLEN FROM VAN, PLEASE SHARE”.  Whilst I fully appreciate that people shouldn’t steal gear, the fact remains they do.  It’s more important than ever to protect your gear.  It’s your livelihood and in some cases, your family.  I know that’s how I treat my guitars anyway!

So what can you do to protect yourself?  Here are my top tips!

  1.  Create an inventory. Write down a description of every piece of gear you own.  Note down the make, model and if there are any distinguishing features such as a certain scratch or sticker, note those down too.  If there are serial numbers, record them.  Lastly, take photos of each item, from a few different angles if you can.  Try and take decent ones, not grainy blurry ones.

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2.  Don’t leave gear unattended. Make sure at least one of you is at the car/van whilst you      are loading in and out.  It takes seconds for someone to swipe it.

3.  Don’t brand your van. Much as it’s tempting to plaster your band name all over your van, you may as well be sticking a sign on it saying “gear in here, come and rob it”.

4.  Don’t leave your gear in a vehicle overnight. Yes it’s tiring unloading all your gear after a gig, especially if you have to put it all back in again in the morning.  But it’s more tiring replacing it all when someone has stolen it.  Trust me.  I can’t even stress this one enough.

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5.  Insure it. Novel I know but insurance is designed to give you a little piece of mind that if the worst happens, you won’t be totally screwed.  Being an idiot and leaving your gear in your van overnight is not included as standard but believe it or not, you can actually get an extension on a basic musical instrument insurance policy to cover such stupidity – you’ll have to pay a little more for it though.  Basic insurance starts at just under £40 a year.  A small price to pay.  Check out Allianz Musical Instrument Insurance to start off with, they seem to be the cheapest on the market at the moment.

Adamgate

Well I didn’t expect to be writing such a public post after sharing a screenshot of an email but it looks like I better!  First, let me explain the background of the story to make sure people have the facts.

As a music writer and radio DJ I obviously have a passion for music and I’m a musician myself.  I’m in a covers band but for a couple of years now I’ve wanted to take the leap into sharing original material with the world and never really had the guts.  I’ve seen how brutal the industry can be and I’ve not been sure I’d be able to put myself out there like that.  Anyway, after a couple of years of jamming with absolutely wonderful musicians I thought I’d take the plunge and start an originals band.   It’s proved a little more difficult than planned as everyone is already in bands!

With that in mind I thought I’d try the old “classifieds” route and came across an ad on Gumtree for a band who were looking for a vocalist.  They were going for a stoner vibe and I’ve been thinking of going that route myself (well stoner/blues) and thought I’d get in touch to find out more.  Here’s what I sent…

“Hi Adam.  I’ve seen your ad on Gumtree and I’d be interested in auditioning for your band.  I know you said you were looking for up to age 28 but cards on the table, I’m 30.  That being said, I’ve only just turned 30 so not too far off!  I can’t see any links to your material so I’d love to hear it to see if it fits in with what I’m looking for rather than waste your time.  If you want any links to my material then I’m more than happy to send these over too.   Look forward to hearing from you.  Lauren.”

As you can see, I didn’t send a picture or links or anything (That was my mistake, I replied to the ad on the fly!) with my first contact, I just wanted to get in touch.  Here’s the response I received…

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Now I’m fairly thick skinned but I’m not going to lie, that kind of hurt.  Especially as it had taken me a bit to get the guts to put myself out there a little (wow this is like online dating or something!) as I’m used to jamming with musicians I know.  If I’d have received a response saying I was older than they were looking for as a band then that’s totally fine.  People often have an idea of what they’re looking for in band members and there’s nothing wrong with that.  But to then go on to say that I’ve no chance of finding a band because women don’t rock at my age?  WHAT?!

After dusting off my bruised ego I decided to post on my personal Facebook page and my friends were similarly outraged.  I was curious to know whether they were just being lovely or whether this was indeed really out of order.  Did other people have the same views?  I then posted on my Rock Fairy Facebook/Twitter and the page for the radio station I work for, TBFM.  That’s when things all went a little bit crazy.

Firstly, I’m bowled over by the wonderful comments that people have made about me, complete strangers telling me not to give up and that I’ve inspired them to do more to combat these sorts of attitudes.  I’m by no means the poster girl for feminism but I’m all for equality.  Pigeon holes are rubbish.  Age, gender, race sexuality?  It’s all a bit irrelevant to me and has no bearing on your ability as a musician.  And your ability has no bearing on your ability to rock out.

Secondly, I’m a little disturbed by the pure hatred that has been directed at “Adam” who, fortunately, I’ve chosen not to identify publicly.  His attitude is archaic yes, but he does not deserve to be punched in the head or die or whatever horrible fate the vitriol has decided for him.  He is still a person and I bear him no ill will whatsoever.   I actually thank him for helping make this debate happen.  People should be focusing their hate on these attitudes and kick them to the kerb or whatever the lingo is these days.  #fuckyouadam is now a thing.  How about #fuckyeahletsrockregardless?  Guess that’s not as catchy!

Thirdly, I won’t name Adam.  Why?  Because of the aforementioned vitriol.  He may be a very nice chap who isn’t very diplomatic over email.  I don’t know.  I have also seen bands work tirelessly to receive even a fraction of the publicity this guy’s email has had.  I won’t let such a horrible attitude further his career.  He can further it with his talent.  I don’t know if he actually has any as I’m basing my sole opinion on him on his email response.   I’ve not heard any of his music.

I could go on and on all day but I fear I’m now boring you all.  If you want to rock out, do it.  Don’t let what anyone says bring you down.  I know I’m not going to.  I’m happy to answer any of your questions (except who is Adam, the poor bastard doesn’t need caning any further) and I will most certainly carry on fighting the good fight to make our industry a bit sparklier for folk.

Oh and in case any one is wondering…here’s what I sound like.   This was nearly 2 years ago (I’ve only just turned 30) and both my voice and confidence have grown since then.  Ironic eh?

How To Create An Awesome Band Promo Shot

I’m about to provide you with a failsafe checklist for creating your band’s promo shot.  You know the one that people will look at and judge you and your music by in 30 seconds?  Yeah.  That one.  Read and learn…

  1. Wardrobe.  Make sure you’re wearing black, or denim, or even black denim.  Leather is also a great option, as are chains and studs.  No colour though, that’s banned.  Although chances are your shot will be black and white anyway so you might get away with it if you’re really bad ass.
  2. Location.  Find a derelict industrial estate or some metal shutters.   Maybe even some metal shutters on an industrial estate if you’re really edgy.  Graffiti is a great touch too.  If you’re really struggling just go for a brick wall.
  3. Pose.  This is the really important one.   Get this wrong and you’ve destroyed your shot.  Find somewhere to stand and stand, legs apart with your arms folded.  Don’t you dare smile.  Look mean and moody, like someone killed your cat.

There you have it.  A failsafe checklist for your band’s promo shot.  I am of course joking.  How long have you spent writing and recording your music?  The sad fact is that many people do judge a book by its cover and if that cover is pretty generic looking, no-one is going to bother with it.  Especially when there are so many books out there.

This is a little plea for folk to just try and inject that creativity you pump into your music into your band’s promo shot too.  It will pay off.  One of my favourite unsigned bands (OK they’re now signed so we’ll go with up and coming) is Massive Wagons.  Have they done shots that meet my checklist when they first started out?  Yeah probably.  But this bad boy is far from it…

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My apologies, I’m unsure who to credit for the photo (I know the guy is called Graham) but he’s captured the spirit of the band perfectly for those who know them and for those who don’t, it’s made you want to go and find out more about them.  Does your band’s promo shot do the same?

Busy Little Fairy!

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Well we’re already on February and what a whirlwind year this is turning out to be already!  I’m not long back from New York where I went to see The Red Hot Chili Peppers and bonus, it was SuperBowl weekend too!  What an amazing way to start the year.  Got to catch up with some of my best friends as well as seeing my favourite band, can’t get much better than that!

Now on to business, I thought I’d share some of my plans with you so you can get involved in anything you like the sound of.  Remember, The Rock Fairy is all about collaboration over competition.  It’s not about outdoing people, it’s about working together for the best result, people coming together through music.

Manchester Rocks

Yes, I’m still very much part of The Manchester Rocks team and we’ve got lots of new things coming for you in 2014.  Our mighty leader, Dan Clifford, is now resident DJ at Rock Asylum, a monthly rock night at The Ruby Lounge in Manchester and you’ll more than likely see one of the team, if not all of us, rocking out alongside him.  They have ping pong as well don’t you know?  We’re also involved with Festwich, Europe’s biggest FREE tribute band festival.  It was a great year last year and this year promises to be bigger and better, if that’s possible.  Keep your eyes on the Manchester Rocks website here for all the gossip.

TBFM

So I still write music reviews for TBFM, both online and for TBFM Magazine, a free magazine distributed in numerous music venues around the UK.  As well as that though, I HAVE MY OWN RADIO SHOW!  This is one of the most exciting developments for The Rock Fairy as I now get the chance to share great music with you all in my weekly show.  It’s every Monday from 5-7pm and you can find more about that here.

The Ripple Effect

The Ripple Effect is one of the most influential music blogs in the US and every now and again, I get to impart my own musical musings on there which is a big privilege for me.  The team behind The Ripple Effect are some of the most passionate music lovers I know and even better, they’re all big vinyl lovers like me.  Check the blog out for yourself here.

Record Swap Day

Speaking of vinyl, I’m proud to say that I’m the UK representative for the world’s very first Record Swap Day.  On April 18th, this is going to be possibly (we hope) the world’s largest simultaneous day of record swapping.  We have a strict no money changing hands rule at these record swaps.  The idea behind this is not to make money, but to update your record collection for free whilst helping other vinyl lovers do the same.  Like I say, I’m co-ordinating happenings in the UK, as well as organising Record Swaps in Manchester so it’s a big job!  Our website is under development but keep an eye out here and join our Facebook group too.

Glaston-Bury Festival

Not to be confused with that big festival held on a farm, Glaston-Bury Festival is an annual festival held every year on the August Bank Holiday in my home town of Bury.  Getting bigger every year, last year’s event saw over 100 acts perform on 14 stages around the town.  Not only does this festival celebrate great music and bring people together (you can see why I love it) , it also raises much needed funds for Bury Hospice and has raised over £60,000 so far.  So where do I come in?  Well  I’m the Press/PR Officer for the festival, making sure as many people as possible know about the event and making sure that those that do are totally engaged.  I did this for the first time last year and I can’t have done that bad a job as I’m back this year too!  Our website is launching soon but in the meantime you can keep up to date via Facebook here

So that’s a little taster of what I’m up to this year, hope to see a fair few of you joining me for the ride!

The Rock Fairy x

An Open Letter to Live Music Venues

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I’m lucky enough to live in Bury, a town with numerous music venues, two dedicated pretty much solely to rock and metal, and close to Manchester which also has an abundance of live music venues.  Alas this abundance of live music venues is fast declining and not just in my neck of the woods.  I thought it was maybe time to look at ways to stop this decline in its tracks so here goes…

Dear Live Music Venues.

I love you with all my heart, you feed my passion for live music and I don’t want you to leave me.  I also don’t want to see you get hurt.  I just thought I would share a few of my thoughts to help our relationship blossom.  Oh and I want you to see other people, I have no problem with us having an open relationship, the more the merrier.

Work with your peers.  When I say your peers, I mean the other music venues in your area.  Yes this may sound bizarre but you may find it will work in your favour.  Here’s an example.  One venue has a “night”.  This may be a rock night, a jam night or whatever.  This night is fairly successful.  Another venue sees this and decides they want a piece of the action and starts up the same night in direct competition.  This may seem like common practice and good business sense on the surface however what you’re doing is splitting your potential audience in two which helps no-one, least of all your punters.  Why not offer an alternative instead?  Not everyone who likes punk likes rock and vice versa so if you know there’s a punk night nearby, don’t put a punk night on the same night, put it on the night the other venue has a rock night.  The list of examples is endless but I hope you get the idea.  Collaboration over competition.

Don’t guilt trip your punters.  Believe it or not, many of your regulars may have formed an emotional connection with your venue.  This is a good thing.  Don’t abuse it.  Don’t guilt trip them if for one night they decide to frequent another establishment.   You want people to come to your venue because they want to, not because you’ve made them feel guilty for going somewhere else.  If your punters feel naturally guilty because your venue is so awesome and they missed an amazing night, you’ve done your job.

Have an up to date gig listing on your website.  Sorry folks but guess what?  Not everyone has Facebook so a Facebook event two hours before a gig isn’t going to cut it (this also applies to my next point too).  You have a diary, you know what’s in it.  People still plan in advance believe it or not.  There is nothing wrong with putting up a gig listing for months in advance.  If it’s booked and confirmed, list it.  It may be the difference between someone coming to a gig and someone being disappointed they can’t because they’ve committed to going elsewhere.

Promote.  Seriously, this is another letter in itself.  A FACEBOOK EVENT IS NOT THE ONLY WAY TO PROMOTE A GIG.  Apologies for shouting but really, it’s not.  There are so many Facebook events flying around that it becomes noise and people don’t always pay attention.  Also, don’t leave it to the band to promote the gig.  Yep, it’s their responsibility to promote their gig but it’s also your responsibility to promote your venue so if no-one shows up, don’t blame the band.  You love your venue, shout about it and make others love it too!  Let’s get people excited for upcoming gigs.  There’s a lot to be said for posters.  Stick posters for upcoming gigs up around your venue so if someone is there as a one off, they get to see what you’ve got coming up and maybe they will come back.  There are endless ways to promote gigs and your venue itself.  Think beyond Facebook!

Treat your bands well.  If they’re playing for free, throw them a couple of drinks.  You can nip to a supermarket and buy them a crate of beer if you’re worried about your profits.  Make them some sandwiches.  Just be hospitable!  Remember that bands talk.  As much as punters can help boost/destroy your reputation, bands can too.  Treat them well on the rise and you never know, that band that once played for free but were treated well may just come back and play a free gig for you when they’re charging everyone else hundreds.  If you’re paying your band then be sure to stick to your word and be completely upfront about what you’re paying them.  Don’t leave it until the night of the gig to let them know that they’re on a door split when they’ve driven halfway across the country thinking they were getting their normal fee.

Celebrate yourselves.  It’s a damn hard industry so if you’re still open, you’re obviously doing something right.  Shout about it!  Been open for a year?  Five?  Have a birthday bash!  Managed to book an awesome band and you’re really proud?  Let the press know about it so they can help shout about how amazing your venue is.  Whilst it would be lovely if folk did this for you, people won’t always do this.  Make sure you celebrate your venue.  If you don’t, you can’t expect others to.

Create a brand for yourself.  What do most successful brands have?  Logos.  Merchandise.  There is no reason you can’t create distinctive branding for yourself.  There is no reason you can’t sell merch.  It will help you survive!

This letter could go on forever so I will bid you farewell on this note, it may be continued.  Everyone has a part to play in making sure live music stays alive.   Make sure you do yours or you will end up just another sad statistic.  To those who are already doing these things and more, I salute you and long may it continue.  You’re a credit to the industry.

Lots of love

The Rock Fairy xxx

A tiny love letter to Almost Famous (not the burger place in Manchester)

I was having a chat earlier on today about how I got into writing about music and whilst not the sole trigger, Almost Famous had a massive impact on my life and possibly the direction it took afterwards.  For those not familiar with the film (I’m not referring to the burger place in Manchester) then here’s a (very) brief outline of what I feel is a must see film for every music fan…

Set in the 1970’s, William Miller is a teenage boy who falls in love with rock music after listening to rock LPs sneakily given to him by his older sister as his mum is against all that kind of thing.  He falls in love with the music and starts writing about it (pretty much how I started out).  He then sends some of his work to a rock journalist by the name of Lester Bangs (yes, THAT Lester Bangs) who warns him not to make friends with musicians (I’m still on the fence about this advice) and to make sure he’s honest with all his reviews (totally not on the fence with that advice, honesty is kindness in the long run).

A young William is then given the task of writing about Black Sabbath but can’t get into the gig as he doesn’t have the right credentials (thankfully this has never happened to me but I know plenty folk who it has happened to!).  Instead he ends up befriending a group of girls outside known as Band-Aids (NOT groupies).  They then get him inside and he ends up chatting to Stillwater, the fictional support band for Sabbath and the central band to the story.

What follows is a beautiful tale of the struggles of a band on the road trying to make it, the kid who sees everything that goes on behind the scenes and…well I’m not going to spoil the rest for you.  What I will do is treat you to possibly my favourite scene in any film I’ve ever watched.  I get a lump in my throat everytime I see it…

This film is full of wonderful moments that will stay with you forever, lots of little one liners to cherish…especially if you love music.  Here’s a few of my favourites…

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The coolest thing about this film?  It’s semi autobiographical and loosely based on director Cameron Crowe’s experiences as a music journalist.  I think that’s one of the reasons this film makes me so happy.  It all sort of happened.  That and the fact that it just shows there are so many other people who are completely and helplessly in love with music the way I am.

So there you have it.  Just a few reasons why Almost Famous is one of my favourite films of all time.  Oh, and why you should make sure you watch it if you love music.

5 reasons why Cliff Richard is metal*

I was having a chat with a friend earlier on and jokingly said that Cliff Richard was the original metalhead.  Then I started thinking about this a bit more.  He actually is metal.  Let’s look at the evidence…

  1. His name.  Cliff Richard was born “Harry Webb” but later changed it to Cliff .  Cliff as in cliff face, which suggested “rock”.  This is honestly the reason he chose Cliff as his new name.  Apparently.  I don’t really know what Richard has to do with anything metal so  let’s just stick with the Cliff thing.
  2. He wrote a song about a Devil Woman and Black Sabbath “borrowed” the riff.  I mean come on.  Metal is all about hell, the devil and all manner of forbidden things right?  What could be more metal than a devil woman?   How about Black Sabbath using your riff  for one of their songs?  Black Sabbath used a bit of the riff from Devil Woman in Lady Evil.  I don’t know if Tony Iommi was having a laugh when he did this but you can’t deny it’s metal. (This information comes courtesy of Rishi Mehta from Babylon Fire by the way)
  3. Radio stations refused to play his music.  Yes, Cliff Richard is so metal, radio stations refuse to play his music.
  4. He made a Christmas song about booze (so metal) that goes really well with Slipknot…

  5. This video.  He likes small speakers, he likes tall ones and he’s wired for sound.  This song is basically about Marshall stacks…and he’s wearing leather.  What could be more metal than that?

So there you have it.  Cliff Richard is metal.

*This is entirely for fun, I don’t actually think Cliff Richard is metal.  Honest.