The truth and hardships about musicians struggling in the present day music scene
I remember my first single. It was Uncle Kracker “Follow Me”. It had four songs on it. It was utter magic and I listened to it on repeat. I remember the feeling I used to get from buying singles (because there was no chance I could afford albums).
If I look at my musical timeline, it is pretty astonishing to see how much has changed.
Aged 6 I had the Fantasia cassette on a Walkman. Aged 8 I bought my first single. Aged 9 I had upgraded to the Bewitched and Spice Girls album. At 10 I saw the Spice Girl Wannabes on stage. At 11 I had a second-hand mini disc. 13 I had an MP3 player. 15 iTunes came in. 16 my first iPod. 16.5 my third iPod (I have a destructive technology relationship).
17 I was making CDs for boyfriends.
Remember the CD sleeves we hung on doors? Or how long it would take us to think of a mixtape name. Or the five loaded tracks on keyboards (that my sister and I spent hours making up gymnastic routines to).
You would struggle to find someone who does not enjoy music. In fact I would bet my life on it that everyone has at least one favourite song, a favourite memory or a go-to playlist. No matter who you, what you do, where you live, how you grew up. No matter if you are single, hate your job, crave a different life or feel totally alone, music is one of the components in life which connects us all. It leaks through our blood like a healthy infection. It manages to exert every form of emotion, some of which you have never experienced before.
Music is life. It is around us, it is in us, it is with us and, for many, it is what marks their existence.
If you look back at music throughout the eras, some of us often feel we were born at the wrong time. How music has progressed and continues to evolve is beyond fascinating. It has shaped the hospitality world. It has seen life and death and pain and happiness and is our way of remembering people. It is YOUR way to do whatever the hell you want with. It is a religious, a cult, a pain relief, a stress relief, a lifetime in a song.
But the worst thing about music is the people. And I am not talking about the musicians. I am talking about the people ‘supporting’ the musicians.
The millennial world in which we are now accustomed offers a free platform for any and everyone. YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, SoundCloud. Name a platform, and anyone can watch, share, like, comment, troll, download… it has never been easier for musicians to share their creations. But it comes with a price: exploitation.
Many of you may have heard of the Pledge scandal that happened back in June 2018. What seemed to be a wonderful success story, quickly turned into a musical version of Fyre Festival. The company went bust and, as a result, lost thousands of pounds which belonged to the bands and musicians themselves. Long story short, the musicians are still in debt to their fans with no funds to be able to deliver their promises. It is a total shambles and a total embarrassment for everyone involved.
The worst point about this is that there seems to be no Pledge representative who can shed any light on the current financial situation or how to fix it.
When you read these stories (just like the news), we often have an initial ‘oh no reaction’ until it happens to someone we know. So this got me to thinking. I reached out on social platforms to see how many people this has affected and within minutes I received replies. I wanted to share with you the stories of the ones that resonated with me the most.
I first met these guys five years ago in the Troubadour in Earls Court, London. They were electric and different and just fucking cool. I went to more gigs, I dated the double bassist and went to their practices and got them on board to future shows at work.
Who Are They?
Young Street Performers who turned their busking skills into sell-out shows.
Richie – lead singer, harmonica and guitar
Dan – double bassist
Sam – guitar and fiddle
Ryan. – guitar
Ian – drums
Joe – keys
How did they start?
The Sunday Times caught them busking on their way to a UK tour with The Old Crow Medicine Show. Michael Buble’s global agent snapped them up which took them onto big shows like Glastonbury, Rockwerchter, Lowlands, Montreaux Jazz Festival and North Sea Jazz festival and tonnes more.
What went wrong?
2018 happened. Their Sony record deal fell through meaning their awaited album was delayed. And then fast forward 11 months, the lads walked away from a record deal with Decca slashing their marketing budget from 50k to 6k. But instead of letting this get to them, they crowdfunded their new album project through their evangelist cult fan base pledgemusic.com. Why? Their aim was to keep their music independent.
Having made their debut album EP the exact same way, they raised just shy of £20k until Pledge music announced they were going into administration. It seems that the executives of Pledge have been paying each other the big bucks and spending the artists hard earned cash.
The CC Smugglers have lost everything. They are on the brink of bankruptcy smack bang in the middle of their album campaign. And to make it worse they are letting down their fanbase, all of who are owed merchandise, albums and tickets in exchange for their support. No revenue means no products. No products mean no fanbase. No fans means no band.
When I spoke to Richie, their story was heart-breaking to hear. But what shone through, more than anything, was his absolute commitment to finding a way to make this work. In the last few weeks Richie has been grafting on the hour, every hour, with his new strategy #IndependentMusicHeroes
The fact is that their fans want to help them. And so the CC Smugglers new strategy is to do it all themselves. They are selling their new I.M Badges where people donate whatever sum they choose to purchase one. For every £5 spent, the fans win a chance for a private house concert. For every hashtag you post you get the chance to win one of their rare vinyl albums.
How can YOU help?
YoutubeSold out headline show, Rotown, Rotterdam: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nw_T_gQDtEU