Five years’ time they would love to be headlining Glastonbury!
Artists want to create music and promote it to as many people as they can, but there is the financial element that has to be embraced. To an extent money gets in the way of what artists enjoy the most, making music. These interviews are aimed at understanding how different artists approach this challenge.
The Cradles are a five piece rock band from Cardiff influenced by the likes of the Kinks, the Pixies, the Strokes and the Beetles. They include:
Joe Norman – Vocals
Kieran O’Brien – Lead Guitar
Declan Andrews – Drums
Luke Haines – Bass Guitar
Toby Andrews – Guitar
Currently unsigned they have secured airplay on BBC Radio 6, BBC Radio Wales and Nation Radio as well as numerous independent stations. They are prolific on the live scene and have released a single via London Based label Vivid Riot Records.
Having seen them support the Bohicas in Bristol we spoke to them about the band and the financial aspect which they have to embrace.
Q: “I started the interview by asking the band to describe their journey to date and whether they had compromised artistically to get where they are.”
They started by explaining that the band was put together almost three years ago by five friends.
Their aim from the start has been simple. They want to be the biggest band with the widest possible global reach.
To some this might sound ambitious, and I asked them to explain further. The band feel that currently there are not the global bands, which we have seen in the past, coming through. They went onto explain that these global bands are those that have strong songs and the ability to headline festivals. Without new bands filling that gap there is a void in the market, and they want to step into that.
Over the last three years they have been focusing on coming together as a band, writing the best songs they can and getting out to see as many people as possible. The reaction they are getting from audiences is really positive and they are enjoying what they are doing.
We talked about whether they have had to compromise in any way to get where they are today. They don’t believe they have. They have a very clear aim and where they want to be in five years’ time. To achieve this they are prepared to make sacrifices but not compromise who they are as a band and what they want to achieve.
Q: “I asked the band to describe their experience of how the market for promoting music has evolved. In particular I was interested in how important distributors, streaming services and social media are in promoting their music”
They explained that social media is important for them.
At the start of the journey they produced demos of their tracks and put these out to the market straight away. For a band with big ambitions having the ability to distribute their music immediately is crucial, but equally so is the feedback which is instant. This remains an important tool for them.
In contrast they explained that if they had started out 10 or 15 years ago this route would not have been available to them, it would have been much harder. For example they would have needed a CD to distribute and get heard.
As a band they see Soundcloud as an important source for people who want to access their music but they recognise that to be taken seriously their music must be made available via the likes of iTunes and Spotify. Their focus is on writing and making music but equally they know how important it is for people to access their music across the different channels.
Perception is part of the strategy, if they are on the main platforms then it shows their intent and where they want to be. We touched on the ‘next stage’ and how people access music in a more commercial way (BBC Radio 1 as an example) and they explained that this is where having a label is important. It is the label that can take them to the next level.
Q: “I talked to the band about how individuals have become more creative in the production of records, using crowdfunding to fund the release of music. In particular I was interested in how they had approached the funding of their music.”
They explained that where bands feel they don’t get much up front from labels they are turning to the likes of Kickstarter and Pledge Music to get their funding.
For them as a band they feel that this is limiting as you are only reaching out to those people who are funding you. They explained that fans of One Direction have no clue about Pledge Music, because their (One Direction) reach is much bigger than any crowdfunding sites could have given them.
They are not adverse to crowdfunding but they want to be bigger and they feel this route is too restrictive for them.
Q: “The Cradles released a single via Vivid Riot Records. I asked the band about their experiences from this and how it worked for them.”
The band explained that this was more of a partnership where a track they produced was put out via Vivid Riot Records. They were contacted by the label and didn’t put any money in to it. For them it was about perception, having a record issued via a label shows their intent.
We touched on whether they are looking to be signed and they do see this as important. As a band there is only so much they can do financially, if they push further then something has to give. For them it would mean compromising on the music which is the one thing they are not prepared to do. Their belief is that having a label can take them onto the next stage and enable them to continue to focus on their music.
Q: “In the next question I asked the band how they fund and promote themselves to a wider audience without the luxury of a record label.”
The band have been working hard over the last three years to get their music heard.
They went on to explain that they don’t have the money and resources to go to the next level. To achieve what they want to achieve, and get to that next level, they need to get the backing of a record label.
Q: “In this part of the interview we turned to the thorny subject of money and I asked the band what they found were the best sources of revenue and whether they felt the financial aspect gets in the way of artistic creativity.”
The band don’t want the financial side to get in the way of what they enjoy doing which is writing and making music. They want to be big, they want to be spending time making music but they don’t want to engage with the financial side and hence the desire to sign to a record label.
At the moment they are doing part time and zero hour jobs. They mentioned about sacrifices and when they toured earlier in the year they had to give up their jobs. Working on the band, and what they want to achieve, is time consuming and this is the only way that they can do it.
They do make some money from gigs and busking but currently they live week by week. Fundamentally their focus is on the music and getting that into the market but also they have the faith and belief that the sacrifices they are making will pay dividends in the future.
We also touched on how frustrating it can be for them when they see other bands buying followers and seemingly working their up without the same struggle. However, they believe they can achieve their goal but they have taken the band as far as they can. Now they need to focus on finding someone to take them to the next level.
Q: “In the recent gig I went to the band were giving away EPs. I was interested to know firstly how they had funded this and secondly whether in an age of downloads there was a pressure for artists to develop stand-out tracks rather than focusing on an album.”
The band explained that the CDs they give away at gigs are demos rather than EPs.
They are currently working on an EP of their best tracks in a studio. It is self-funded and once completed they will get it out to record labels and radio stations.
From the bands perspective to be a great band you need stand-out tracks. Their influences include the likes of the Beetles, Kinks, Oasis and Blur and all of those bands have standout tracks. If you want to be headlining festivals you want tracks that people latch onto. They don’t believe the pressure is there, it is just about writing the best songs you can.
With the desire to get someone to take them to the next level the focus is on the EP, rather than any album (which will come in the future).
Q: “Turning to a market where downloads are likely to overtake physical sales I asked the band whether they felt the physical market could be squeezed and what is important to them.”
The band see a romantic notion with vinyl and CDs but they understand that they can’t be picky on how people access their music whether it is through download or physical.
Downloads give people immediate access to your music, and at the moment giving music away for free via this route is important for them. There is a cost to a physical EP / album and this is where the need for a label comes in to being.
Q: “With so many outlets to getting music heard I was interested to hear how the band have approached this.”
They have used the usual routes to getting their music heard, especially BBC Introducing.
It was a real buzz for their record to be picked up by Tom Robinson (BBC Radio 6) via this route. They feel it is an acknowledgement that the struggle they are going through now will be worth it in the long run.
To get the music heard they are contacting radio stations and sending their music in. They have had success not only through BBC Radio 6 but also BBC Radio Wales, Nation Radio and numerous independent stations.
Their aim is to get onto Radio 1 and 2.
The band explained that even with the success they have had it is difficult because there are so many bands competing to get heard. We talked about radio pluggers as a means of getting on mainstream radio. They have considered this but they would need the money and to find someone they trusted. But equally even with all the effort and money there is no guarantee that it would work.
Fundamentally for them the aim is to get signed to a label and taken to that next step. All they can do is play as much as possible, get their music out to as many radio stations and labels as possible and ensure that as many people as possible have access to and can hear their music.
Q: “The Cradles have a growing (and loyal) fan based. I asked the band how they had approached this and whether festivals are a good route to new fans.”
Festivals are really important especially as this is a market they want to succeed in. If these are televised it is not only seen as validation of what they are doing but also they are taken more seriously and it opens them open up to a wider audience.
We talked about how they are building the fan base and they explained that a lot of it is down to social media. They search bands that are similar to them and interact with these people. They are constantly looking for new followers. Through this they have distributed their demos to America and parts of the UK which they haven’t reached yet.
Linking with the right bands is important. They have supported Pretty Vicious (who have recently signed to a major record label) and they supported the Bohicas in Cardiff.
They explained it is tricky to link with bands who are on labels as the labels choose the support acts but that is something they are working on. The Bohicas was an important milestone because they came to them rather than the other way round, and they were asked to play a second night in Bristol.
Q: “I asked the band whether when artists sign to record labels there is a danger that they are pressurised into compromising artistic talent (i.e. artists are sometimes placed into a position where they write for sales / popularity) or can they keep their artistic talent intact.”
I asked whether they had had any early discussions with labels and the band explained that there is nothing concrete at the moment. They have people who are interested, and they feel the EP is an important step to showing people what they can do. Their belief and hope is that the EP will lead them to the next stage of their journey.
They don’t believe that they would need to compromise because their focus has always been on the songs, and the record label can focus on the promotion.
They went on to explain that their aim has always been about writing commercial songs (Arctic Monkeys, Oasis etc) and therefore they wouldn’t need to change. But like anything the challenge comes 3 or 4 albums down the line and how you keep your sound fresh (Beetles, Bowie etc). Although they don’t see this as a compromise but a natural evolution.
Q: “For those reading the interview who have not heard their music I asked the band to describe their musical style.”
People want to compare them to other bands and the Arctic Monkeys and Beetles have been mentioned. They feel that they are producing their own original sound influenced by all types of music. It is that unique sound which they believe will get them noticed. Having said that they did say that they are pretty pleased to be compared to the Arctic Monkeys!
Q: “In the penultimate question I wanted to understand what motivates the band and where they would like to be in five years’ time.”
The band have big ambitions! At a base level they want to be playing songs they love and making music for a living. This is what the journey has all been about.
But they want to be as big as possible, they want as many people as possible to hear their music and they want someone to be funding and organising their tours so they can focus on the music they love.
Five years’ time they would love to be headlining Glastonbury!
Q: “In my last question I asked the band to describe their favourite venue and where they would like to play in the future.”
They played in the Louisiana in Bristol for the first time and liked that venue, in Cardiff they like the Student Union and Clwb Ifor Bach.
Thinking to the future it has to be Glastonbury and the Millennium Stadium.
I am sure I will say this many times but there a lot of good artists out there. The Cradles are one of those bands and listening to them live you feel they should be bigger than they are currently. The challenge for them is going to the next step.
They have a plan and they have been working on this for three years to achieve their goal. Financially they have been prepared to make sacrifices in the belief that it will pay dividends.
We look forward to receiving their debut EP and seeing their career develop, hopefully into the global band they aspire to be.