Whilst music fans love to listen to records and go to live concerts to see their favorite bands, a vast majority of these bands are either nationally or internationally known and are highly likely to be signed, whilst it is good to support those breed of bands, fans seemingly are being lead astray from the salient fact behind each one of those bands. They came from the underground and started off as unsigned local artists.
With the massive influx of rock, metal and various other genres that are cropping up every so often, (if not every day) the choice for what bands to see is dramatically increasing, not to mention the band numbers that fluctuate everyday due to bands forming or splitting at every point on the globe. When in the UK music fans are probably eating late morning breakfast at say around 10 AM, on the other side of the globe, Australian bands are already sound-checking and American musicians would be sleeping off the gig they have just played. Funny isn't it that music is constantly played 24/7 and yet genres like Heavy Metal per se rarely get noticed as a globally represented sound, regardless of political, cultural or religious constraints that oppresses certain musicians.
On the note of global music, sure the internet has offered a gateway for the torrential flooding of accessible download sites and freedom of information at the click of the mouse button, the harsh reality is that whilst a band may gain sensational popularity via the digital world, in reality their fan base is fractionally smaller (especially when Facebook allows clicks to be purchased - who said vanity hasn't died?), with that there has been a greater recognition for bands from far away countries such as India where Demonic Resurrection were duly signed to UK label Candlelight Records, Egypt spawning off Scarab who are signed to French label Osmose Productions, Taiwan delivering their most popular metal band Chthonic who are signed to Finnish label Spinefarm Records and so on and so forth, so this begs the question, is Heavy Metal going to end up as the most globalized music genre? Given that Africa has 57 nations and out of that only 19 have at least one recognized metal band, that equates to 33% of the continent, so African Metal may well be in it's infancy as far as continental domination is concerned. However the major point in this article is simply why fans should be more supportive of local unsigned artists than they seem to be doing.
There are ten major reasons why fans should support local unsigned bands more:
As a band or artist gains greater recognition and an increasing fan base, entities in the music industry tend to raise their ears to the hype generated and invariably a representative will go to a concert that band is playing at, this is called scouting and applies to predominantly management, PR, record labels, booking agencies and the like, however for the media or press it is a different kettle of fish, it is practically providing an analysis of the concert itself - ironically hype fed through the press can lead to previously mentioned entities to pay attention to that specific band or artist. Note: Facebook likes do not totally constitute the band's true fan base, it can only provide a snapshot image; even that can be manipulated.
Local unsigned bands or artists work through one method, DIY. Simply put these are the hardest working breed of musicians, they do not enjoy the same help as signed bands get and so have to put their own hard work to the mettle as to make sure what they do runs smoothly, that involves tour booking, one off show booking, transportation organizing, liaising with other bands scheduled to play on the night (or day) in order to arrange potential kit sharing. Signed bands / artists will go around with their manager (or tour manager), this may be a family member or a representative of a management group such as Transcend Music (who are also a record label). It is down to work ethic that makes unsigned bands and artists the most hard working musicians, that's no to say signed bands / artists don't work their socks off, it's just that unsigned bands as said do not have the privileges signed bands enjoy. The Dead Lay Waiting from Swindon is a notable example, they booked their own shows, toured endlessly across the UK and into Europe and thus landed them a deal with the now defunct Rising Records, but it was down to sheer work ethic that got them there (and now they have played Download and Bloodstock Festival)
Signed bands enjoy a greater flexibility of funding their venture including studio time, their budget has less restriction and is directed into many alleys such as record recording, video shooting, photo shooting etc. On the other hand unsigned bands and artists have to pay out of their own wages to get booked or so it would seem as some venues allow bands to play for free, but the catch is that the tickets bought are subsequently scaled down to each entity, for example: Band A plays at Venue A, they are signed to Label A, touring with Manager A and entourage A, all those need paying and so this reflects in the merchandise and ticket pricing owing also to the band's popularity (see point 1). Therefore as the popularity scales down, so do the prices generally (excluding second hand purchases - note AVOID TICKET TOUTS AT ALL COSTS), this is why usually local gigs are priced at between £3-£5 entry, the higher end of the scale such as concerts at Wembley Arena can reach into £100's of pounds. Sheer punt but it would seem the average ticket price would saddle around the £20 mark.
4. Time availability
Being in an unsigned band means you have to allocate time on a greater scale, meaning working around your commitments and getting time off work can be a little tricky at times, hence why when unsigned bands tour they take time to plan ahead the tour off their own back, signed bands on the other hand do go through the same process but one would think that getting time off work is a whole lot easier owing to the awareness of what musicians do. Unsigned bands however do need finances (refer to point 3) to afford to play concerts and purchase music equipment and therefore as a direct result bands availability may be constricted owing to jobs or education.
5. Fan to band relationship
We all know music fans want to meet their favorite musicians, their idols, their gods and so how great is it to meet them, if only it was as simple, sure hanging behind after a concert gives a good chance of achieving that, but if a band is rushed i.e. need to get to another location for another gig the next day then that poses a threat. Not the same for unsigned local bands / artists, they have a greater time flexibility (refer to point 4) in that they will chat to fans after the show (of course signed bands do too - it depends on how popular the band is and other variable factors), plus some venues have no barriers as such and so become an intimate gig and thus allowing practicality for fans to get closer (refer to point 2). Also on a side note bands on lesser known labels or who are unsigned will usually hang behind the merchandise stall and so thus offering another opportunity to chat to your favorite musicians.
6. Musical freedom
Covers, we all love and hate them, but at times they are fun to watch and hear and so when your local unsigned bands ask the attending crowd to give cover suggestions or shout outs, or jokes to that matter; see where this is going? Signed bands tend to stick to the set list and utilize less time for non-music related things or anything not pertaining to their music. However, signed bands do seem to get the crowd to sing along more to songs than unsigned bands do, they may seem obvious but if a fan attended a gig and some well known bands are playing that the fan does not know, there you go, a problem has arose and so that fan may be inclined to want to meet the musicians and so this develops a fan to band relationship (refer to point 5).
7. Press and outside entities
Local press usually promotes gigs in their newspapers or websites or on radio shows, this enabled platforms like BBC Essex introducing to step into the limelight and give unsigned bands a chance to be heard, this also echoes in the Kerrang! Magazine where their 'local heroes' feature is designed to highlight local unsigned talent, this is done via the bands themselves writing in with their music and the magazine team choosing a band for that weekly issue. Festivals that are locally done also offer an opportunity for unsigned bands and artists to gain attention, especially the all day ones, these usually are low price and are often in aid of charity or the like. Endorsements are also another way for unsigned bands to get more attention, but this comes with popularity (refer to point 1).
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