Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

How To Almost Make It

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

How To Almost Make It

Almost exactly ten years ago, I happened to answer the phone in my parents’ kitchen, and, much to my surprise, the caller asked to speak to Mr Fogg. It was Louise Kattenhorn from BBC Radio 1 telling me that Rob Da Bank was going to play my first self-released single that night, and asking if I would be willing to record a short interview. That phone call set me off on an adventure that has seen me perform live in 13 countries and on radio and television; open a pop-up shop; work with million-selling record producers, an Oscar-nominated Hollywood filmmaker and a royal harpist; take over Trafalgar Square for for a one-shot music video; start my own record label; and contribute to ground-breaking releases by Thom Yorke and Imogen Heap using BitTorrent and blockchain respectively.

In the weeks before my last album, Youth, was released, I wrote a book about what it is really like to be a musician on the lower rungs of the music industry, based on those ten years of experience: working with people who are made of equal parts creativity and chaos; navigating the murky waters of the major label system; travelling to contrasting worlds of Hollywood’s glitz and Eastern Europe’s DIY music scene; narrowly avoiding a tabloid scandal involving the royal family; and trying to implement huge ideas on a tiny budget. I snuck it onto Amazon last year, but never told anybody about it.

The book is called HOW TO ALMOST MAKE IT and is available now in paperback from almost any online bookstore. I hope that by passing on my learning from the front line of the music industry I can help people younger and more talented than me avoid making the same mistakes that I did. And, hey, maybe it will also be entertaining.

Purchase links:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Blog: That Pomplamoose Article

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

Earlier this week, a band (whose music I haven’t heard) called Pomplamoose published financial data showing how they had lost money on a 28-day tour that earned them $100,000 in revenue.

Over the last couple of days I have seen a number of posts on Facebook and Twitter saying that the real story is about the band’s frivolous spending, not the high cost of touring.

But when you break it down the band spent just £35/day per person on food and accommodation and paid each of its crew and musicians something in the region of £120/day. That’s not a lot of money in any industry.

Some of the criticism seems to focus on the fact that Pomplamoose stayed in hotels and hired expensive equipment, including lighting. This to me is a classic example of how people often fail to make the distinction between making music as a hobby and music as a business.

There is no reason why a band should be expected to sleep in a van any more than an accountant or a teacher – even less so the band’s staff. The idea that lighting and backline equipment is a luxury falls into the same category. These are simply the things that are required to put on a show that several thousand people are willing to pay to see – particularly pertinent given that Pomplamoose saw this tour as an investment in the future.

One final suggestion was that if the band members pay themselves a salary then they are overstating the costs. It’s a nice idea, but a pure accounting error. The tour is only profitable if all the costs are covered, including the cost of employing all the people required to put it on.

What I find interesting about this story is not that another artist is getting publicity for making their finances public, but that people are still shocked to see the facts.

Nobody sane goes into music to make money in any case. It’s not a rational economic decision. But it sometimes doesn’t hurt for people to see what it’s really like out there – especially when touring is meant to be the silver bullet that replaces music sales.

Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Thom Yorke : Tomorrow's Modern Boxes

You may have noticed a number of articles in the media recently speculating about the people who were involved in Thom Yorke’s BitTorrent experiment. My ‘real’ name has come up in one or two of these articles, so…

If you’ve been following Mr Fogg for a while you will know that I have always been curious about new ways of doing things.

Like many musicians, one of the things I have spent a lot of time thinking about over the last few years is the massive impact that digital technology has had on the incomes of musicians, labels and publishers. I have no intention of rehearsing arguments that you have heard elsewhere, but one of the great frustrations for an independent artist is the lack of influence that you have over deals made higher up the food chain.

A couple of years ago I made the decision to try and do something about this instead of just shouting from the sidelines. My first step was to learn more about the world of business, which I did by applying for the MBA program at Oxford University. Starting in September 2013, I spent an amazing twelve months learning mind-bending concepts from finance, economics and strategy and mixing with people who couldn’t be further removed from the world of Mr Fogg – investment bankers, management consultants, accountants, social entrepreneurs and even a NASA flight controller.

My first chance to see whether I could apply any of this to digital music came in February this year when I was asked to work on an extremely secretive project for Thom Yorke: the first commercial release of an album via BitTorrent. I have been a huge Radiohead fan ever since I heard Karma Police on the school bus in 1997 and had written to the band’s management “offering brainpower”. I ended up spending four months working on user experience, media strategy and economic analysis for the BitTorrent concept. You may know that the album – called “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes” – was eventually released on September 26th and has seen almost five million downloads.

Working on Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes was an amazing experience, not just for the pure adrenaline rush of being on the inside of such a big musical event but also because it really rammed home for me that the opportunities to exploit digital technology for the benefit of musicians and labels go far beyond downloads and streaming. Both are crucial parts of the mix, but I am now full of new ideas about what else might be possible. The next step is trying to turn those ideas into reality.

Is this thing on…?

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

It’s been a bit quiet around here recently hasn’t it?

Well the truth is that at the start of this year I had no real plans to make an immediate start on a follow up to Eleven. But, as I’ve done all my life, in the downtime from working on the Headlock single in January, I found myself sitting at the piano.

After a while I started recording whatever came into my head during these short sessions and a few weeks later I realised that I had a very rough skeleton of a new Mr Fogg record.

Since I started making electronic music in 2004/5 – and I was already late to the party by 30 years – it has grown to become the pre-eminent sound in music – both in small clubs and on mainstream radio. When I started performing live a year or two later I was well outnumbered by guitar bands and I took a perverse pleasure in being the only person on the bill without a guitar on stage.

8 years later, laptops are almost more popular than guitars and while I have always seen electronic music as an opportunity for innovation, it now seems to have been reduced to a sort of shorthand. Sound way outranks musical content.

So, when I was recording these little piano sketches with no particular goal or target, I found myself taking immense pleasure from the sparseness and imperfectness of the sounds I was creating. And when I decided to bite the bullet and record the songs for a new album, I made the decision to try and produce and mix it myself, using acoustic instruments wherever possible.

As a result, the last several months were spent on location recording the piano, strings, church organ and brass that make up most of the record and in the studio tearing my hair out trying to do those wonderful sounds justice.

Of course, I’m much too weak to have completely eliminated electronic instruments from the album, but it feels like a whole new world of possibility to be able to focus on what the notes should be in the first place rather than which sounds should be playing them.

Now, this isn’t a release announcement – there’s a lot of work to do yet – but I just wanted to let you know that while Facebook, Twitter and this website may remain quiet for a little while yet, that is very definitely not the case off line.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last 8 years it’s that making and releasing records takes a lot of patience. But as soon as there’s something to announce, you’ll be the first to know.

 

 

Blog: We don’t work at weekends

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

The music industry, as you are probably well aware, is not in the rudest of health. In the last year alone total music sales in the UK have shrunk by 5.6%.

It is an industry in a state of panic, desperately pulling out all the stops to reverse the decline.

Or is it?

I happened across a twitter conversation between two successful music PRs recently that keeps going round in my head. It went a little something like this:

Fair enough, you might say. 1 hour of the working week is hardly a substantial amount of time to wait before chasing somebody.

But it is something else that interests me about this conversation.

It’s the mild outrage at the suggestion that anybody might do any work between Friday at 6pm and Monday at 10am; the luxuriating in the fact that they are not the sort of people who work – or need to work – at weekends.

I should say that I have no particular reason to believe that these two people are lazy, or as professionally uninterested as this out-of-context quote implies.

It strikes me though that the music industry has created a culture where informality is celebrated to such an extent that hard work has been outlawed.

Even as I write this I can hear people saying that the music industry is unique, that it should be creative and fun, that it’s about art – not spreadsheets and figures. That may be true.

But I don’t know another industry where you can make somebody fall off their chair just by suggesting a 9am meeting.

Music may have its basis in chaos and artistry, but I sometimes wish the music industry would act as though it had noticed the state it’s in.

 

– Fogg