Back in 2004, before the Global Financial Crisis and before The Kardashians, I signed a record deal. It was in a pub just off Old Street roundabout. The sort of place where they’d glass you if you asked for a lager top. Fresh ink on the contract and a JD and coke in hand, the future was mine.
It didn’t really go as planned.
There were many factors against us – over-indulgence, bad hair dye, youthful naivety – but perhaps the biggest factor was our record label.
There was a pecking order, you see. And pecking orders are just fine if you’re at the top. But when you’re hovering around the bottom – I’m talking relegation zone – they’re not so great.
To this day, I don’t know why they signed us. Our keyboard player was quite handsome. Perhaps that was it.
Anyway, the band at the top of the chain, sitting spiderlike, were this horrible sub-Libertines five-piece. All glorification of misogyny and pork pie hats. Let’s call ‘em The Little Dicks.
Times have changed. In East London, 2004, the Be @ One cocktail bars and the £400k new build studio apartments were mere twinkles in developers’ eyes. Instead, there was crack. Lots and lots of crack. And what do you need when you’ve had too much crack? Well, you need some heroin to level you out.
That’s what fuelled our record label.
Now, I had just moved up from Southampton. This whole thing was foreign and dirty to me, so I shunned it. The Little Dicks, however, were part-time drug dealers. I’m pretty sure that’s why they were at the top of the bill. It sure as hell wasn’t because of their music.
At the lowest point – shortly after one of The Little Dicks’ guitarists put his girlfriend in hospital after a crack binge – a really great band (who had just released a wonderful new album) asked for us to support them on an upcoming UK tour. Unfortunately they approached us via the record label, who, rather than furnishing us with the good news and a bottle of Morrison’s Champagne, kept quiet and tried to get them to take The Little Dicks instead. The Little Dicks never got the gig.
And neither did we. By the time I found out, the tour was in mid-swing and it was too late.
Incensed (as I often am), I voiced my thoughts about the label boss during a show in Shoreditch’s (thankfully defunct) 333 club. Turned out he was in the audience, which I thought was pretty ironic, seeing as that must’ve been the first time he’d bothered to turn up to one of our shows in 12 months.
He approached me after the gig and burst into tears.
I learnt two things from that:
- Don’t underestimate the need for control., especially in an artistic industry where nobody has any fucking business sense.
- Never work with junkies.
And that is why – I’ll swing this entry around to writing, you’ll see! – I have never considered approaching a publishing house.
Will they even be interested? Who knows?
Quite frankly, I don’t care.
I don’t want to be fighting against some arbitrary pecking order, regardless of my position in it.
The only brief I gave myself when embarking on this journey was:
Write something really fucking good and get as many people to read it as possible.
Money was never a factor. The point is to reach people. I often think that many artists are terrible conversationalists because they communicate through writing, music or painting. That is how we reach people.
Talking is for recruitment consultants and estate agents.
Consequently, I am in the process of considering the self-publication options.
iBooks has a lovely, shiny UI. But I can’t help think that Apple are more interested in Watches and iPhones than they are in ebooks. Which is a shame, because they’ve probably got the clout to significantly dent Amazon.
Nook. I know one person who has a Nook. One.
So really, Amazon is what’s left. 70% market share (depending on where you Google).
Their Kindle Direct Publishing scheme seems a little restrictive at first glance – you can’t publish it on any other platform, being the main bugbear. But when you consider the readership some smart marketing could open up, it makes sense. Besides, when you’re the king, you can do what the fuck you like.
Their 5 free promo days in every 90 is a nice touch.
Also, if you opt for the lower commission (35%), you can sell your book for 99p.
But it’s an unknown world to me. I’m a control freak with these things now (thanks to The Little Dicks and my old record label).
But is there something I’m missing?
Am I shooting myself in the foot by discounting another platform?
I don’t care about money, just readership.
You lot got any advice?