The statement “bands play for free because bands play for free” is very true.
Artists want to create music and promote it to as many people as they can, but there is a 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.
Why We Love are Joe, Rachel, Anthony and Matt – a sibling fronted alt / pop 4 piece from Bristol who formed in 2014. They have gradually been building a loyal fan base playing headline shows as well as support shows for Teleman and Wolf Alice. They also recently performed at the Dot to Dot and Harbour Festivals in Bristol.
July 2015 saw their single ‘All Good Things Must Drown’ win the Amazing Radio Audition Poll meaning it was added to the main Radio Playlist. Through this their single has been picked up by US radio stations and it’s also been played on Canadian Radio.
They have released one EP ‘Fake a Death’ and are currently working on their second. Currently unsigned they all work full time. We met Anthony and Matt to understand more about the interaction between money and music and what might trigger a switch to making music a full time career.
Purchase EP: lovewhywelove.com/shop/
Q: “I started the interview by asking Anthony and Matt 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.”
Anthony and Matt started by explaining that myspace.com turned everything on its head. At the start bands could put music on the platform and be signed to a record label the next day. They explained that those days are gone but in an instant it changed the way people could engage with music.
They went on to explain that it allowed a person to make music and get that out to the wider world without ever leaving their bedroom! But as Matt explained there is a challenge especially with the likes of You Tube. You need to have the content that people will engage with. The band is building that content and have four videos including a BBC Introducing Session.
It is important that they are selective as too much of the wrong content can have a negative impact on views so although there is a pressure to add they need to be careful to add the right stuff.
Matt and Anthony also talked about how the last fifteen years have been a perfect time to see how music promotion has evolved and continues to evolve. Even now people are developing their own platforms to promote music so it is a rapidly changing market
We talked about streaming sites and the likes of iTunes and they explained that bands need to engage with these sites if they want to be taken seriously. It’s almost like a badge of honour to be on iTunes. As Matt explained “it’s something that someone from outside of the industry see as a big thing and that’s the moment when they transform their perception of you and your band from just a hobby to “okay, maybe they’re more serious that I thought”.
As for streaming although there is not much money in it at their level, there is a small amount and importantly it provides exposure which is really important for bands.
Q: “I talked to Anthony and Matt about how bands 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 debut EP and what the best sources of revenue are.”
Anthony and Matt explained that the tricky aspect of crowdfunding is how fans will respond. It is difficult for them to quantify their fan base and who will put money in to the project. They also explained that “people like to back winners” and as it is all open and viewable, people can see those projects that are doing well, and those that aren’t. Therefore, if a band is way off their target, they may be less inclined to input. However, if lots got on board, it’s obviously a fantastic way of funding projects. Ultimately though if they don’t get the target, they don’t get anything.
Having said that they are not dismissive of crowdfunding but they know they would have to be creative and original, offering fans a lot more than signed CDs and t-shirts.
We talked about bands where this route has worked and certainly it is a route that bands can go down. We then spoke about the EP they have released and the one they are currently working on. They started by explaining that essentially the band should be considered as a business start-up.
They are learning how to make it work commercially so that it can be self-funding without the need to invest their own money. This is difficult because there is a lot of administration to do to make sure they get royalties, licensing fees etc but it is worth doing to get the money coming in.
We talked about where the money comes from and they said that all the money is in the live shows and merchandise.
Matt explained that even with this you need to be clever and entice people in by making the merchandise stand somewhere with activity. Matt went on to say that a live show is more than the time spent on stage, it’s what comes after and creating connections with current and potential new fans. Ultimately Matt and the band want people (fans) to come again and bring people (new fans) with them, too. If selling a CD or T-Shirt helps with this, all the better.
A recent tour covered the cost of their merchandise and it shows the importance of this from a funding perspective. We talked about albums and they explained that actually there is very little money in this, if you can download for £6.99 then after distribution costs for all the work you put into an album it doesn’t pay. Everything is geared around singles and EP’s at smaller independent levels where ‘Why We Love’ operate.
I asked about festivals and they said that they don’t tend to get anything for doing these although they have seen this improve this year. Effectively they get exposure. However, at festivals such as the recent Harbour Festival in Bristol they can sell merchandise, and have scope for new fans etc. which they may not have achieved if they had not played. The statement “bands play for free because bands play for free” is very true. The scene is saturated with bands hoping to fill slots, so if bands are demanding to be paid, then promoters/organisers may be inclined to look elsewhere.
Q: “In this part of the interview I asked Anthony and Matt how bands like Why We Love approach the funding and promotion of their music to a wider audience where there is not the luxury of a record label to take this on.”
Matt and Anthony explained you need to have two things; good music and good live shows. You cannot force people to come to your shows and people will come because they want to.
As a band this is their focus; they want to produce good music and deliver excellent live shows. Their recent performance at the Harbour Festival was a really busy show and they had fantastic feedback afterwards both from people there, and online too. From that hopefully people will talk to others and they will come to their shows again
We talked about labels and they explained that bands shouldn’t pin their hopes on being signed and shouldn’t make that the focus. They feel that it works with labels where they hunt the band out and really get what they’re about and what they’re doing because then they will actually make the effort to get the band the exposure they need to get to where they want to be.
Their focus as a band is on the next EP, making it as good as it can be, making it what they want to write and getting that out to people. They have a plan in place already right up to the launch date and if a label comes to them and wants to be in on that, then that’s great. If not, they’re doing it anyway.
Q: “Why We Love have a growing (and loyal) fan base. I asked Anthony and Matt how they had approached this. In particular I wanted to understand how they have been able to support the likes of Teleman and Wolf Alice, how important it was to win the Amazing Radio Poll and how the US connection came in to play.”
Anthony and Matt explained that everything is about how they interact with people. Slow, organic, growth is really important for them as a band.
Turning to support acts, a lot of this comes from being in the right place at the right time. They also believe it is about having good songs and good live performances. Believing first in what they’re doing, which in turn helps others to believe in them.
They have been lucky to support Teleman and Wolf Alice, the exposure of which gives them a ready-made audience. Matt and Anthony explained they have seen two benefits; firstly people who have seen them associate the band with the bigger acts and secondly they can sell merchandise and gain fans! As Matt added it’s great to still be chatting and seeing people at shows now who only heard of them because they saw them support Wolf Alice / Teleman etc. It is becoming harder as bigger promoters get involved though, so a lot of it is luck and just being in the right at the right time.
We talked about Amazing Radio and they explained that the show promotes new music and you are unlikely to hear bands much bigger than Wolf Alice. As part of the process of making the band more commercial they uploaded their music to the Amazing Radio site.
They didn’t think they would win the competition but when they saw they were in the top 3 they started to promote more and they actually won. It is great exposure for them and through that they were picked up by American Radio shows as well as a bit more blog interest which always helps.
We touched on the US market and they explained this isn’t an area they are planning to tackle in the immediate future but they do interact with people in America via Twitter. Their music is also played in Canada. In the future they are open to touring the US but the UK has to be the main focus.
Q: “I talked to Anthony and Matt about downloads vs physical. As a band although their music is available via downloads they have also produced a physical copy of their EP. I asked Anthony and Matt whether it is cheaper to produce a download, why they choose the physical route and whether physical music could decline.”
Anthony and Matt feel that there has been a reverse in downloads. The market has been saturated and everyone is fighting in the same space, people now want something they can take away way with them so they believe the physical CD is alive. As Matt added “you can’t smell fresh ink when you download an album!”
They went on to explain that although it is cheaper to do as a download there is in fact less money to be made. Matt added “if you hear a live band you want something immediately, if you don’t have that people go home and very rarely actually download something. So the conversion is much harder.”
However, with physical it is different. It does cost more to produce but it is something people can take away with them. Matt added “you go to a live gig, you like the music and you buy the CD. You play it in the car on the way home, the songs get stuck in your head, you tell your friends, the band gains some followers. The circle of life.”
Q: “I talked to Anthony and Matt about getting music heard and the temptation (pressure) to focus on stand out tracks. I asked Anthony and Matt whether they believe this pressure exists. I also asked whether it is becoming harder to create an album and if it is harder to create albums whether there is a danger that there could be a demise in album production.”
We had an interesting discussion on the potential demise of albums. Anthony and Matt explained that producing an album takes a lot of time, and you need to have 13 / 14 top quality songs to do this. It can take two years to produce and then you are selling it for £6.99. By the time you take out distribution costs you are making very little from this.
It is really hard to produce a complete album at the start especially as you don’t know how people will react to it.
Singles / EPs are much more instant. Matt’s view is that more artists are focusing on EPs and mini albums and perhaps over time these will overtake albums. It is not to say they wouldn’t do an album but focusing on EPs is more beneficial to them.
Q: “I asked Anthony and Matt 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.”
Anthony and Matt feel there is a danger of this and it depends on the label. For them they want to do what they are doing and therefore if they were to work with a label they would want one that understands them and what they are looking to achieve.
Q: “At the moment all members of the band have full time jobs. I asked Anthony and Matt whether they would consider making this a full time career and what would be the trigger.”
The trigger is whether they can make a living from it. Even bands who appear to be established, do tours and then come back to day jobs to fund it. Iggy Pop apparently explained that if he was entering the industry today he would be doing bar jobs to fund his career.
They explained that today it is easier to be heard but to turn it into a profitable business is much harder – but it comes down to good music and good shows. If you have these two things on point, people will come.
At the moment success is being heard and the engagement with the people they meet and the reaction to their music. If people have made an effort to listen to their music or a complete stranger makes positive comments on their music that is a measure of success.
Q: “For those reading the interview who have not heard their music I asked them to describe their musical style, and which musicians influence them the most.”
Both Anthony and Matt said this is a tricky question.
There is no perfect answer to this but Matt explained that their sound is a mix of indie, pop and rock. The unique harmonies of Joe and Rachel (brother and sister) are an important aspect of the mix.
As Matt explained “We are getting to the stage where we’ll hear things and say things such as “oh, that’s Joe Welfair hook, that’s a classic Tony Twiddler of a riff” etc. this means we’re subconsciously making ourselves a “sound” which is key.”
They want to make songs which stick in people’s heads, play packed out gigs and get audiences buzzing!
As for influences they include the likes of War on Drugs, Pains of Being Pure at Heart (another band they have supported), Los! Campesinos, The Maccabees, Abba and many more!
Q: “In the penultimate question I wanted to understand what motivates them and where they would like to be in five years’ time.”
Matt mentioned that the joke in the band has always been that during the first talks with Joe and Rachel before joining the band, he mentioned his desire to play on the Jools Holland show and a couple of Glastonbury spots. He still sees this as a target. They want to tour more, make outstanding records which they love and play as many festivals on the circuit as possible. After all, they’ve always been described as the “perfect festival band”.
Q: “In my last question I asked Anthony and Matt to describe their favourite venue and where they would like to play in the future.”
Anthony mentioned they’d like to play more in uncharted areas to get their music out to as many people as possible, including plenty more shows in London. Bigger festivals such as Glastonbury / Reading & Leeds is an obvious future target. In Bristol they love too many venues to narrow it down to just one, but their favourites have gone down as The Louisiana and The Fleece.
There are many good bands coming out at the moment. Why We Love are one of those bands and their debut EP is very strong with four catchy tunes from “All Good Things Must Drown” to “Engine”. You can get a sense that they would go down well on the festival circuit and you would be hard pressed not to enjoy one of their gigs.
The challenge is turning music into a career, they have a plan of slow organic growth but they will only make this a full time career if they can make it work financially.
We look forward to hearing the second EP, and seeing how they develop over the next few years.