Josh Evans is a 21 year old singer-songwriter hailing from the Rhondda Valleys. He’s also a freelance sound engineer and a promoter for the Bonsai Acoustic Club. Josh argues the case for DIY music and that nothing needs fixing with the Cardiff scene, just the attitudes of local bands.
In a previous article regarding the South Wales music scene it was decided that the music scene needs to be ‘fixed’. Like a guitar with a loose wire, it just needs a little nudge or WD40 to get it going again. But what exactly needs fixing? And wouldn’t a better question be ‘who is going to fix the music scene?’.
I’m talking about the D.I.Y ethos which has evaporated from South Wales. The get-up-and-go attitude that prevailed from punk in the 70’s through to underground rave in the 90’s. It’s something that I believe the music scene needs to embrace once again, starting with its bands and artists.
The key is to treat your music as a business; there’s no harm in that. Many people don’t like this idea as they see making music as a hobby and as an art form that should be enjoyed, rather than work, but carpenters wouldn’t be carpenters if they didn’t enjoy it. Much like Alan Sugar or Dragon’s Den, artists need to invest in their talent if they truly believe that it’s worth it. I paid for my first E.P with money that I made from being a Sound Engineer. Visual artists need to pay for the paint and canvases that they use to create, they don’t expect funding from Arts Council.
Of course, the myth that musicians and artists can make a healthy living from one source of income is quickly being dispelled. Benny Horowitz, bass player with American rockers The Gaslight Anthem, also has a barber shop called Tiger-cuts, acoustic-punk songwriter Sam Russo can be found on English construction sites, and Wales’ own Graveyard Johnnies frontman Joe works at the Dr Martens’ shop in Cardiff. (See here for more: http://noisey.vice.com/en_uk/blog/our-favourite-bands-and-their-day-jobs)
Yet the majority of the music industry in Wales doesn’t see it in this way. Bands feel that they are owed something from the government and councils. There’s an underlying idea that bands and artists should be paid for doing what they want to do, and that they should wait to get money before doing things, rather than doing it themselves.
To receive funding these days bands need to be at a certain level in their careers, at a tipping point on which the money will help them to break through to success, which is the way it should be.
Too many charity organisations are having their funding taken away from them, companies that could benefit greatly from money that instead gets thrown at bands with no idea. Money that could be put into non-profit organisations like Theatr Fforwm Cymru, or could have saved the Welsh Music Foundation.
Bring back the punk D.I.Y ethos of using what’s around you to create something from nothing. Instead of waiting and wishing for gigs to come to you, organise your own. Start your own record label with like minded people. The results will be more rewarding and you’ll get to keep all of the money that you’ve earned. Alternatively be independent. There’s a lot of support for artists at the moment, such as the Unsigned Guide, and radio stations/local radio shows, or online podcasts like The Amp Session.
John Smith (http://johnsmithjohnsmith.com) is a completely independent artist, he’s his own booking agent, manager, distributor etc. He’s a very talented guitarist and songwriter from England, has recently toured with David Gray (Most notable for his 2000 hit ‘Babylon’) and is currently touring Australia.
Musicians are very talented people, with a multitude of skill sets. Sion Carver of Fingertrap owns and runs Hypertrap studios, Tom Collins of We’re No Heroes is a graphic designer. We as a creative industry need to pool together our skills to help each other, instead of working against each other.
The music scene doesn’t need to be ‘fixed’ as it either exists or it doesn’t. So long as there are a handful of musicians helping each other to carry equipment into venues, or cheering each other on down the front at shows, then there is a music scene, no matter how small, how big, what shape or form.