Sunday, February 27, 2011

What do labels look for in signing metal bands?

Question: Hey guys, Id like to ask what Earache records (or any record company) looks for in a metal band. Talent and Good writing are a given, but what else? The band Im in is a death/prog metal band with a ton of potential(and Im not like every other indie band that thinks that, I know it). But we cant find a dedicated drummer and vocalist. So for now we're just writing until we can get the ball rolling. Anyways, I digress. Ill be looking forward to a reply. Thank You


Answer: Well the glib answer is a functioning band, dude. Your mention of "we can't find a dedicated drummer and vocalist" really rules your band out of the running immediately, but at least you are doing the right thing by not even troubling labels at the present time, because without a band, you just aren't ready.

The time-honoured way to catch the attention of labels and have them queuing at your door is to do all the hard work for them- bands that create a fanbase and develop a buzz through their own efforts really can pick any label, and name their price. Every few years a hot new band will spark this 'bidding war'- and this year its Black Veil Brides.

Obviously BVB are not exactly playing what Earache would consider as 'metal' -its more a kind of gothy/emo/pop with guitars a la Escape the Fate- but the photogenic look of the band has meant they've picked up powerful management and agency representation (Standby/Mercenary) and sold over 20,000 T-shirts in little over a year. This culminated in the band signing with Lava/Universal, one of the most powerful of the major record labels. This is a real rarity for a new band.

Earache tends to work with bands based 100% on the quality or originality of their music, marketability comes second, but its undeniable that image does play a large part in the marketing of a bands these days. Whether you are playing underground Black metal or Gothy-pop-metal, a strong eye-catching image gets virally spread around the web by legions of fans. There's not a whole lot of difference between Dimmu Borgir and Black Veil Brides on that score, really.

I've mentioned elsewhere in this blog that in my experience the bands that make it big in the metal scene (and I've been lucky to work with quite a few) are without exception totally driven and ambitious to succeed from day 1. It can often be because they have zero other options or distractions in life, 'cept playing in their band. The successful bands just wanted it more and so worked harder at building their fanbase than the rest of the contenders.

There was a fantastic mid-70s US rock band called Angel who really should be a household name and a collossus of the early rock genre, but few folks have ever heard of them:

ANGEL should be up there, mentioned with the greats like KISS or RUSH, they pioneered the proggy-metal style which many others made a career out of, yet the band are long-forgotten also rans.

The reason for their failure mystifies everyone and is endlessly debated decades later by fans on metal forums.

One commenter on Youtube sums up very well all the problems which can blight a promising band:
"Not just Angel,some amazing bands never got over the hump,is it poor mgmt/marketing,wrong place/ time,no connections,black listing,not enough demand,band member probs,ahead of the time,or the FM friendly thing,no intestinal fortitude, bad schmoozing skills, think of the scores of un-tapped artists who never got to see the light of day,I know I've seen plenty of bands who were incredible& never got past the clubs,and not for a lack of trying.don't you wonder ? must be like show biz "

So there you have it- the way for your band to succeed is to avoid all the pitfalls described above. Good luck!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

10 Years After Napster: Has free downloading of music helped or hindered Indie bands?

Question: Dig, what was the real impact of the internet and music downloads in independent music from your experience? What has forever changed and what WILL forever change?

According to this 9 year old article by famous UK drummer Chris Cutler (Henry Cow) music downloads do hurt independent musicians enormously. Do you agree with him? Were his predictions correct? Here is a bit of it and a link to the article were he says that downloading will BADLY hurt independent, small and avant garde labels. What really happened?


There are Henry Cow fans who would like the band to reform and to record again. They would also, presumably, expect us to take the time - and spend the money - to do the job properly. Today, properly means in the region of $110003 to record, and 6-8 months to compose and rehearse. There are no shortcuts, especially for a band that still uses technically demanding instruments, plays in real time and wants to use the recording studio as a compositional - not just a mnemonic - tool. That means time - and money. To recover $11000, we would have to be confident of selling 3500 copies - and this is before the musicians or the composers are paid anything at all.


If ReR4 lost 15% of its sales to free downloaders, that would pretty much wipe us out. In the short term the 15% of listeners who didn't pay us would benefit (the music would be free, though the service provider, telephone company and all the other intermediaries who had contributed nothing to it would still get paid, of course). In the longer term, insolvency would force the label to fold or change its release policy. Perhaps no one would be that bothered. Perhaps they'd assume that someone would carry on releasing sidestream music, and some unknown friend or other would carry on uploading it and the free concert could go on, one way or another, forever. But it won't. ReR is already one of a very few survivors in a shrinking field and if we go down, there's no guarantee that anyone else will want to step into our shoes. My point is basic: 15% of free downloads = non-viability of marginal labels = less diversity.


Answer: The short answer is that free downloads have been immensely beneficial to those bands who could adapt to the changing marketplace in the last ten years, and to those who either can't or won't change, its been damaging. Mostly its new bands who have nothing to lose and all to gain which benefit most. The old guard acts simply charged more for concert tickets to compensate for lost album sales. Some of the superstar acts now even throw in their new album with a concert ticket to sweeten the deal.

Even though Chris' diatribe is from 10 years ago, dating from a time when the web was still the proverbial 'wild west' and a good few years before the first usable legal download service (iTunes) was launched, illegal downloading is still a hotly debated subject even now. The debate is highly polarised with staunch advocates on both sides, so its rare and pretty refreshing actually to read what an artist thinks about the situation, and Chris Cutler's fears about the sustainability of Henry Cow are real and frankly expressed. If any of the 'all music must be free' type of wide-eyed Mp3-album-posting bloggers ever actually took the time to ask the actual artists what they think about it all, they'll find a wide variety of opinions within the artist community.

My own attitude to it is in part shaped by and varies with whatever bands we are working with at the time. Earache released the last Gama Bomb album "Tales From The Grave in Space (a project which cost about £10,000 to produce) as a completely free download on the net. Its still available for FREE at this Location. By contrast a band like Evile have a strong feeling that they would much prefer fans to experience their music by way of the whole package ie physical format with art, lyrics, photos, credits & superior sound rather than some crappy Mp3 music files and little else. Earache is adaptable enough to be able to deal with both scenarios. I should point out that neither band's viewpoint is motivated by any financial concerns but simply echoes how they consume music themselves.

Radiohead became the poster-boys for the free download community with their 2007 release 'In Rainbows' which was offered for free or a sliding scale of payment. I reckon its highly significant that their new album 'The King Of Limbs' coming this Saturday 19 February has no FREE option but is priced at a minimum of £6 on mp3. If a band like Radiohead don't want to embrace the FREE album philosophy anymore then its a real sign of the times I think. The good times are indeed over.

Experienced web-watchers are now predicting the rising of a two part web, with most of the 'good stuff' being behind pay walls in the future. The general,'free for all web' will be highly social and extensively data mined, your every purchase/ click and geo-location data has been monitored and logged for years anyway- but soon this data will turned against you to launch massively powerful advertising onslaughts which will be unprecedented in their accuracy, ferocity and annoyance value. See the Groupon ads which crop up everywhere now, for a glimpse of this future scenario.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Craziest/Funniest band demos we've ever received?

Question: Hey Dig,

Possibly the most random question ever but you have a great memory:

Do you recall ever receiving a cassette demo in 1991 from two 11-year-old dumb kids playing horrendously bad grind/death metal on cardboard boxes? There was a kodak photo of us posing against a wall (probably with Carcass posters behind us) and a hand-drawn illustration tossed in there too. I always wondered if you guys had ever opened the envelope.

If you don't remember, can you at least enlighten us with descriptions some of the worst or most ridiculous demos you've been sent (r'n'b, christian pop, glam rock - what have you gotten?) and what you do with them?


Answer: Dealing with demo-bands is a chore which plagues all labels, even new labels who have barely released a couple of titles will have hundreds of hopefuls clamouring at their inbox chasing 'the dream'. In previous postings on this blog I've told how Earache receives approx 4000+ demos submissions (via Myspace links) per year nowadays, and signs maybe 4-5 new bands per year, making the odds quite minuscule to get signed, though not actually impossible.The one thing this blog hopes to demonstrate to new bands is how oversubscribed the competition to get signed actually is.

Ironically this actual blog started as a way to explain and de-mystify how the Indie Metal industry works from the viewpoint of someone actually working on the inside of the biz right now, but this too is now flooded with demo submissions daily.

Competition was less intense back in the casette/CD demo era-- but sadly I don't remember your 90's demo as you describe it -"Horrendously bad grind/death" was actually par for the course so it seems you weren't even bad enough to stand out mate, sorry.

The standard of demos has risen dramatically in recent years though, nearly everything we receive (usually a myspace link) is well recorded and well played, It's blatantly obvious that musicians- especially guitarists- have improved so much in terms of playing ability in the last few years. Also the recording techniques of DIY bands is phenomenal nowadays, as more and more people get their hands on powerful software like Protools and understand how to use it, a lot of demos we hear are perfectly releasable standard. One thing that hasn't improved as much is song-writing, and exceptional drummers are still very rare, and highly prized- if your band has one, you are sure to attract a lot of attention from labels.

We get all sorts here- a Rap demo will arrive every week because some bright spark placed Earache on a database of record labels listed under "Rap". How dumb is that? Recently we had an email that began "Hi, we are a group of three 16 year old girls and we sing like Cheryl Cole" which was perplexing as I didn't think the X-factor crowd was into Death Metal and grindcore. Some of the saddest are the one-man-grind outfits who try to convince us they are a proper 4 or 5 piece touring-band with a mocked up photo and blatantly ficticious tour dates. Some bands get really pushy and 'demand' I give them a fair hearing because they've put a lot of effort into the demo. Sometimes I've reviewed them truthfully on this blog here.

Years ago we used to keep a rogues gallery of bad demos for our own amusement, and i'm gonna post a few choice Mp3s here.Two of the all time crappiest demos we have ever received are here- LANTERN WASTE and SCATTER LANE MIRACLE. I guess they didn't even do any homework about the label they were sending their material to.

Warning, what you are about to hear could give you nightmares.

First up, witness the magnificent insanity of Lantern Waste (Pictured right) with "Two Hundred Miles To York"

LANTERN WASTE- Two Hundred Miles to York by digearache

This twee Indie ditty is by the little known Scatter Lane Miracle- doing "Dots I Wear"
SCATTER LANE MIRACLE - Dots I Wear by digearache

Serrated Scalpel were not such a terrible band but the name and photo tickled us no end, their band pic still adorns a wall in our office, and we refer to such plucky-but-basically-rubbish bands as "Serrated Scalpels"

Somewhat more ominous are the letters we get from time to time from jesus freaks who quote the Bible and want us to repent our evil ways. Seems they haven't convinced us yet.

Well hope that gives you a flavour of the demo process at Earache.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

How should bands promote themselves online in 2011?

Question: Hey, hows it going.

First of all I just wanted to say thank you for creating and maintaining this blog! I've only very recently discovered it (from a post of yours on facebook) and I‚ve been reading through all of it for the past week or so. It‚s packed full of useful info for bands and has a lot of awesome stories and info on the late 80's grindcore scene (as well as everything since). I've had to fetch out all my early carcass and napalm death albums just to get in the mood!

Anyway, i was reading your response to the question 'Which social network is best for promotion?". Although you acknowledge myspace was slowly dying back then, it was still the no.1 resource for bands to post news and for fans to interact with them as well as check out new groups with instant access to their info, photos, store etc.

But since the change to the new beta style, it seems about 99.9% of 'real' people have left due to the horrible new design. All myspace seems to be now is bands spamming other bands, and nobody is paying attention to anyone.

It seems to me that the no.1 go-to place to hear the latest news from a band and interact with them is facebook. Although facebook is very limited to what you can accomplish on it without linking to other external sites, it‚s the most convenient place to for bands to directly interact with their audience.

For my own band (, I direct fans to the brilliant bandcamp to hear music, and facebook to keep up to the date with the band. I was wondering what your take is on the future of new bands creating an online presence and following.

Is a new 'myspace' all-in-one package going to arrive or is facebook going to become the no.1 go-to-place (or possibly it already is?). The advantage of facebook is that the fans already use it for their own leisure, so they don‚t need to travel elsewhere to keep up to date with the band. That's what myspace used to be until facebook became the no.1 social network.




Answer: Hi Pman, well first of all I'm no expert in Social Networking trends or anything, and this blog doesn't claim to be, but over the years Earache does have a lot of experience in using the various networks to promote our bands.

At one time Earache ran something like 20 MySpaces on behalf of those bands who didn't want to spare the time themselves to do it, and I've already mentioned elsewhere how the entire music genres of Emo and Screamo owe their success to the unprecedented access between bands and fans that the site provided.

So even though everyone agrees the My______ network (that is its new funky name right?) is dying, its also quite interesting that you still use the URL of your My_____ to introduce me to your band- I guess old habits die hard eh?

One thing that is clear in 2011 is that you can't trust any Social Network to be around for ever- and the idea of having your own plain bog standard .com domain name for your band is gaining favour again. It's almost old-school thinking, but a .com serves as a platform to link to the various social networks/ bandcamps /twitter etc that may spring up. Sure they cost a bit of money but its a worthwhile investment.

Facebook is obviously the number one Social Network, so powerful that you might as well not exist if you're not on it. Its free and has zero spam, which is no small feat in itself. Facebook is like a breath of fresh air. However its huge success bring its own problems - it's so family friendly and hugely popular that even your mom, cousins, even neighbours from down the street become linked to you.

Nowadays I know a few musicians who can't promote their band properly on FB for this reason. I guess announcing your killer new gore-grind song "Vomiting Guts of Virgins" or whatever to your FB friends, won't go down too well with the relatives.

I know Facebook allows personal profiles as well as seperate organisation/band pages nowadays but the rules for this seem to change constantly as FB grows ever more successful. Also friend-counts are limited to 5000 friends maximum, which is ridiculous.

Facebook is just so faceless, bland, and family-friendly that its not designed to promote extreme music, or even any music. We have heard of Death-Metal bands pages being flagged and removed for inappropriate content- both Cerebral Bore and Dying Fetus recently encountered this- though both are back on FB now after successfully pleading their case.

It's obvious Facebook doesn't really care about music or bands, as the pathetic music player demonstrates. The site would rather promote games like Farmville which tens of millions of folks play and which brings in serious revenue, rather than deal with bothersome small bands who wanna stream music to their handful of adoring fans. I guess with a market capitalisation of $300 Billon who can blame them?

I agree that is really good, its the nearest to an 'Old Myspace' feel and allows easy streaming or downloading of songs for bands- but so does Soundcloud, which a lot of bands- mostly techno bands and DJ's though- swear by aswell.

My own favourite site is YouTube which is what I turn to these days to hear bands.We advise all our bands to post videos all the time on YT, especially in the early days of a career as that is where fans are expecting to see and hear from you.

The landscape of the net is changing ever more rapidly, and by next year this blog post will probably be out of date. There are in fact web-experts who predict that the future of the web is to be behind a array of pay-walls, designed for our own protection from spam and the lurking evil scammers (sometimes state-sponsored) that wish us harm and want to control our minds and drain our bank accounts.

So my advice is- enjoy the free web while you can, because it won't be here for ever!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Where did the intro samples on CARCASS 'Necroticism' CD come from? [BLOG POST]

Question: Regarding the intro samples on Carcass -Necroticism Descanting The Insalubrious, how did they come about? Were they just lifted out of TV programmes and films or were they made by Carcass especially for the album?

If they were origiinal samples made for the album, could you give me some information on who did the voiceovers and who did the background noises?


Answer: Yes, the band created their spoken word intro sequences in the studio with the help of producer Colin Richardson, by playing haunting keyboard sounds over spoken word elements lifted off various BBC factual programmes about pathology and death.

Heres an example: 'Inpropagation'

You can tell its BBC by the perfectly recorded, perfectly pronounced, posh female voice. The woman speaks English, but its the type of upper-class English only spoken by BBC broadcasters at the time. The vocals were pitch-shifted deeper and double tracked to give them an extra eeriness, and probably to hide their exact origin no doubt too. It might be lifted from a schools program because the female voice is very monotone and quite factual, explaining how deaths are dealt with by the authorities.

When bands want to sample voices and sound effects to add spice to their albums, most often they want to lift material directly from major motion pictures, which is a seriously bad idea and causes too many headaches. Its a huge no-no because obtaining clearance from the major movie houses is a legal nightmare and not even worth the aggro, because they are extremely protective of their material, which is fair enough.

I always recommend bands sample BBC material instead. The BBC is a wonderful institution because it is owned and paid for by the people of the UK, there is nothing else like it in the world. There are no advert breaks on BBC, because the people of the UK each pay about £135 each year in license fees to fund it. The people own it, and so if a band used it for a few seconds of source material, I think its highly unlikely that you'd be sued by the BBC.

Obviously the wholesale lifting of other people's material from any source and claiming it as your own is not really what making music is all about- its all about being creative yourself, not nicking other peoples stuff.