Seeing the Pledge debate rage on social media recently I couldn’t help but think of my friend Duncan Reid who had very recently announced a campaign for his new album. Luckily it was barely hatched when he was able to pull the plug on the campaign and regroup to find a way around the shenanigans going on within Pledge Music. We decided to have a little catch-up and find out what’s going on round Duncan’s place?
You’ve always been self-sufficient when it comes to your solo career. Was it daunting or a welcome challenge when you first decided to start up a solo career from scratch?
It was daunting. I didn’t know how to make and release a record. Modern recording is very different from when I was in The Boys when we recorded onto 2-inch tape. It’s much more suited to DIY now. It’s very difficult to record drums at home on a proper kit (that’s why all these bedroom dance records use drum software programs) and you need to do that in a proper studio. But to a greater or lesser degree, if you spend about £2,000 on a good microphone, you can do the rest at home and mix it in a studio.
All of this was taught to me by Tony Barber (Ex Buzzcocks, Chelsea, Nirvana etc) when he produced our first 2 albums in a shed. We’ve settled on recording drums, bass and guitar in the studio because we want them to sound as good as possible and it’s not too time-consuming. What really takes the time on our records are the vocals because there are so many of them. One song might have over 20 vocal tracks on it so I do that at home. I also do keyboards as well. All of that gets emailed over to the studio to put with everything else and mixed.
These are the kind of things you have to learn how to do now because no record company is going to pay someone to do it for you when you play the music we play.
Similarly, you have to learn where to get CDs and LPs manufactured and find people who can design a sleeve for you. You need to get a digital distributor. I use AWAL who make all the tracks available on Apple Music, Spotify etc. I put the tracks on Bandcamp myself. You need a physical distributor to put the CDs and LPs in shops and online. Otherwise, you have to sort out your own Amazon and eBay accounts in every country in the world.
You have to learn about marketing, advertising on Facebook and other social media etc and, unless you want to spend a fortune every time, how to use photoshop and video editing software.
I had to pick all of this up from friends and paying to go on the odd course.
Just compare that with the seventies. Then you just played a gig and got drunk! But you know what? I really enjoy doing this stuff now. It requires a different sort of creativity and it makes me feel clever! Not just being a dumb musician getting ripped off. No one can do that because I’m paying all the bills!
Did you ever get involved during your time with The Boys? They had some infamous managerial decisions or how would you describe them, off the pitch distractions shall we say?
I hadn’t worked in the music business for decades and The Boys didn’t really put out any records after we reformed. We were discussing making one but I left before it was made. Probably just as well. There would have been blood on the floor if we’d been locked in a studio together.
As I said, the whole DIY side of it was completely unknown to me but I’m a quick learner. With The Boys, I did tend to be the one who worked with Steve Metcalfe in liaising with promoters. But everything was laid on a plate for The Boys really. Being an ex-bass player/singer of The Boys was very different. It’s getting to a stage now after 6 years where promoters contact me and I have a great network of friends like Janne Lagestrom in Sweden, Dany Torres in Spain, Cristo Blick in Argentina and Bernd Lange in Germany who help out, but in the early days I had to fight to get shows and to get people to show up. It was far more difficult than I expected.
Having released several solo records now and having an established line up (I won’t say stable ) what made you look towards the Pledge platform?
I used to be sceptical about Pledge but friends like Paul-Ronney Angel and Nick Hughes from his experience in Role Models encouraged me to have a look at it. When I did, I appreciated how good it was. First: it means musicians don’t have to beg, steal, borrow and ramp their credit cards up to the maximum to get a record made. Secondly, and just as important, I appreciated just how much fans enjoy knowing that they are playing a crucial role in making that record possible. The whole communication side of it is great as you feel an obligation to make videos of the process to let everyone know how it’s going and that they will see something for their money.
I had a few negative comments from some musicians about how they wouldn’t pay Tesco a year in advance for a roast chicken. I might have said that once but it’s not right. There is no emotional bond between me and Tesco and Tesco don’t need any help from me to get the chicken in the shop. None of the people criticising were willing to lend me the £8,000 or so it will take to get the record made, manufactured and promoted instead!
Were you aware of any other crowdfunding platforms like IndieGoGo, Crowdrise, sellaband or Kickstarter as well as Pledge?
Vaguely, but I haven’t looked at them in detail.
Did you have reservations when signing yourself up? Had you been made aware of what was brewing?
I had no idea of the trouble they were in. As I said, friends had used them and had a really good experience. But having signed up I began to have suspicions. I was new to it. I had questions. They were always saying “Hi. I’m So and So. I’m your account contact. Any questions just email or call me.” But when I emailed I had no response and calls weren’t answered. I thought it felt like an organisation who were understaffed and, being in money troubles, maybe they were trying to run it with too few staff. To get someone to contact me I would tweet them publicly asking if anyone was there. It’s a tip I’d give anyone. If you are being ignored by a company just tweet them. They tend to respond pretty quickly especially if you have 2,000 followers!
Was it easy to stop the campaign? How accommodating are they with a cooling off period?
We had just launched our campaign. After less than 2 days we had raised over half our target. Then Nick Hughes emailed me the video made by the American guy saying people weren’t being paid. As I said before, I wasn’t surprised that they were in trouble and messaged them straight away saying that it was all over the internet that they were breaking their contracts with Artists and not paying up. I told them I wanted the Pledge campaign stopped immediately. They couldn’t argue with it as they didn’t have a leg to stand on.
It’s such a shame that they messed up. Until that point they had performed a good and valuable job for bands and fans seemed to have a genuine affection and trust for them.
Will you see any of the money that fans had already laid out?
We were so lucky. As we were less than a couple of days in no one’s credit card had been charged. I think in any case the law is that if you don’t get something you pay for on a credit card then Visa, Mastercard or whoever have to give you your money back.
Where are you now with the album release? Is it still on target have you had to change your red lines or goals? Did you have to cancel the delivery of the Hot tub or just put it on hold?
The other way in which we were lucky is that having gone through the launch with Pledge we saw what was involved and it’s not rocket science. As with all the other things I was talking about earlier you can learn to do it yourself. I’d just upgraded our website (We use WordPress) to a “premium” service which for £90 a year means we can run our own shop. I think there are other sites, like Music Glue, who offer a similar service. It took me about a week to work out how to put all the stuff we had on Pledge onto our website and essentially do the same. It’s not quite as sophisticated but some people have told me it’s easier to use. And the money goes straight into our Paypal account so everyone can be sure it is going to be spent on the album.
You can look here to see how it works: Order New Album Here
People have been superb in supporting us. We don’t have all our target, so please ask everyone to feel free to pledge for some of the items there, but we have enough to know that the album will be made, even if we have to top it up ourselves. The more we get in, though, the more studio time we have.
We have recorded drums and bass and currently, the long process of recording vocals is underway. I’m getting a truckload of help with that because a line of people have pledged to sing backing vocals which is great.
I seriously think it’s going to be a great album. I’m loving seeing the songs come alive as everyone plays on them. I can’t wait for it to be finished. Probably won’t be till September as it has to be fitted around everything else and we have a load of festivals to play from next month.
This new album does it have a title yet?
We usually chose the title last thing. Quite a few of the songs reflect by advanced years and impending mortality. So I’m toying with the idea of “14 Jolly little songs about Death”.
Any idea of the songs titles yet or maybe give us a brief outline of what we can expect?
Three of the songs we already play live. One “For All We Know”, about an actual true encounter with a stranger who convinced me to buy him a drink on the basis that “it could all end tomorrow and you can’t take it with you”. I had a lot of fun with that coming up with various allegories and symbols for kicking the bucket (but not that one).
As with my draft album title, it’s actually a jolly song with the theme of let’s party and let tomorrow look after itself.
Another song is called “Motherf*cker” about a politician I particularly admire (or not!).
“Welcome to My World” is about a guy who wakes up in a strange place “on the wrong side of a bottle” and can’t remember where his car is. Nick Hughes thought I’d written it about him!
I think it will be the usual mix of melodic rockers and slower songs, all brilliantly written with smart lyrics, plentiful harmonies and a couple of musical surprises.
Great stuff. Anything else have you been busy doing I saw you posted pictures of a re-press?
We have an updated rerelease of ‘Little Big Head’ coming out with unreleased bonus tracks and a new cover.
So there you have it. The sharp end of being an independent artist in 2019. What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger or something like that. Its always a pleasure catching up with Mr. Reid and his infectious enthusiasm and I hope you can find it to support the making of this new record and look forward to seeing him and his band play sometime soon – Always a pleasure never a chore.