Swimming blindfolded against the tide - Our Record Label.
Start a record label, they said. It'll be fun, they said. But no one ever said it was gonna to be easy.
It's the best thing I ever done. But it’s hard. It’s difficult. Like swimming upstream against the tide, blindfolded. I don't mind admitting it, I don't know what I am doing half the time.
But what I do, and what my brother James does for the label is done with 100% pure love for music.
Anvil Records was started by myself and my brother James along with Alan Lowrie Feb 2017. After 8 months Alan departed the label and now it’s just myself and James. We'd welcome Alan back anytime in the future and he knows he can come to any of our gigs anytime.
We are looking to develop the structure of Anvil Records as we progress, but for now its two brothers boldly journeying on a path that has no road signs or directions and we hope to arrive at the promised land one day. The promise land being behind the curtain of the music industry and playing an active role in our artist’s development (which we think we are doing).
It’s weird telling people that you own a record label. It’s even weirder when people ask you what bands you have on your label. You tell them the band’s name, only to be told 'I've never heard of them'.
What do people expect me to say?
'U2, Bon Jovi or ACDC'?
At the moment we have one artist on our roster: CAVEPARTY (as of March 2019) and that’s enough for now. That's not to say we wouldn't sign another band, they just have to be the right band.
We recently completed a deal with Jacaranda Records to pass on our first two original signing: THE BOHOS & SPILT, which proved to us as a label that Anvil Records was doing something right.
For the record, both bands are awesome and it was heartbreaking to see them go, but it was too good of an opportunity for both bands to. turn down.
Our original lineup and debut signings both had enough talent top attract another label, who have now invested heavily to take them to the next level. Taking a leap of faith and trusting Jacaranda Records proved to be a great decision, they kept to their promise (financially) and we hope to work with them in the future.
Ray & Graham are both nice people, but if I'm honest I still feel like I am out of my depth when I am communicating at this level. Any minute now the music-fraud police will burst into my office yelling at me that the gigs up and I have to stop Anvil Records immediately.
Also, I have to add that a special guy called Dave Crane was a major part in development of Anvil Records, as he was acting as both bands management while under contract at Anvil Records. Dave Crane is forever a part of Anvil, he is a first class professional without him this label absolutely would not exist. No matter what, I will always class him as my brother.
So what does Anvil Records actually do?
Well we currently act as management and support for CAVEPARTY, which is basically trying to get them as much exposure as possible, while promoting the band and actively trying to book them on live shows.
We've released our 1st single with the band: 'STRANGE LULLABY' and produced and released a video for that track. This is what it’s all about for us, getting involved with some really creative individuals and putting something out there that will be forever classed as art. Everything costs money, and unless CAVEPARTY get millions of views and get viral overnight, we're never going to see that money ever again. But this situation isn't a problem, as so far the end product is fantastic in our opinion.
Being an independent record label is tough. We suffer lots of rejection and being ignored is a common theme. When all you want to do is showcase your band and try to get them noticed by as many people as possible. But sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
So far we have paid our way through everything we have achieved. Everyone wants to be paid!!!
'Subscribe to this site and see the opportunities flood in' (they never do), or 'pay for this PR and we'll promote your band to thousands of our subscribers' and 'we’ll get you loads of bloggers to add it to their socials and they will push your band constantly'.
But in most cases you get turned away from PR companies because they are too busy or they simply don’t like the music. Not everyone will love your music (heart breaker moments) Rest assured if they do, they want paying and its not cheap.
We've spent thousands so far to push our label and our bands, resulting in mixed outcomes. I guess this is when we feel like we are swimming against the tide and we become lost at sea.
Anvils main focus is securing CAVEPARTY the biggest live shows and getting the music played to as many people as possible. We're not scared of the hard work and the graft, but so far some shows the band have played we feel ripped off and unappreciated.
Some promoters are cool and have their heart in the right place, but some don't even care. This is probably leading Anvil Records to start promoting its own shows in the near future, which again has its own problems and costs.
Time being the biggest issue of them all sadly. But it’s an option we are looking into for sure.
Festival applications. Wow. This is a tough one. As a label we have applied for literally every festival under the sun, and sadly we only received one offer so far (from Liverpool Sound City - which is awesome). But I guess we just have to be patient and build up a reputation to be trusted with bigger stages. Maybe we haven't had enough luck on our side so far, as I am sure the list of bands applying is huge, and we can't just expect to be given these festival stage slots.
Even if you do get a festival offer, it will cost hundreds of pounds to get the band there and ready, only to receive a tiny fee. I must stress that this is not an issue, but as a label we want our acts to earn enough money to actually make it viable to become a full time musician.
I know we need to build a direct relationship with a booking/tour agent, ultimately this has proved to be very difficult so far. I am confident once we gain more experience and network with the right people, all these problems will just disappear and become a distant memory.
So far with CAVEPARTY have worked hard on three main areas:
(1) Social Media presence (2) New Releases (3) Image of the band.
In my opinion (and don't forget we are blindfold swimming against the tide) these areas showcase how popular the band/artist are, giving potential new fans a quick snapshot of why they should also become a fan. Potential promoters need to see evidence you can actively engage your network to promote any upcoming show. This is smoke and mirrors a lot of the time, not often do you see a band who isn’t established getting major traffic on social media, again you have to pay (sponsored adverts) to get real traction.
CAVEPARTY had only released one track before we joined forces together, so now we've released 'STRANGE LULLABY' and are about to release a second single: 'SENSE OF B'. The band now appear more active and have more music for people to get their teeth stuck into.
We have a completed EP ready for release, which is when I feel CAVEPARTY will have enough ammunition to go into musical-combat with other bands at their level. We feel we have added lots of value to CAVEPARTY and so far the results are as clear as day vs night (comparing the before and after signing with Anvil).
We'll be releasing our first ever EP which will come with all the trimmings (Merchandise, Vinyl, CD etc) which is absolutely thrilling. We have independent plans for distribution and we'll be seeking other avenues to get this music out there in the real world. Anyone can release a track digitally on all platforms, but to put something out physically will be really special.
The image of any band needs to be influenced by the band themselves. We just give them the opportunity for a photoshoots with suggested themes as a starting point. This gives the public a chance to associate the band with a look an feel and memory trigger.
We still haven't got to the bottom of the image of CAVEPARTY, but its a great work in progress (again please remember I don't know what I am talking about) but I still feel like Anvil Records and CAVEPARTY are still getting to know each other. I personally remind myself everyday that we are only the custodians of the band for now, its not forever.
As Anvil Records we have searched around for people who impress us and we try and latch on to them to create magic together. I hope we've done this so far, meeting photographers, video directors and industry type folk. We have tried to build a network of influences that will guide both the band and the label to the next level.
Regarding a bands image, I must also add that me personally am fed up seeing new bands stood by a brick wall and trying to look moody in their promo pictures. I also cringe when acts try to be too wacky for the sake of it with no real purpose. It looks so fake and manufactured.
All I want to see is a band who are at peace with themselves. Having fun and not trying to be something they’re clearly not. I have to say working with CAVEPARTY is at times so easy, they are so cool and chilled. They all have their own styles and it’s a rag tag bunch at times, but to me it always feels authentic. That's so important.
Some bands we see on stage in small shows have clearly watched way too many Arctic Monkey videos and thought it was a good idea to try an emulate them. Staying on the theme of music videos, new small bands who release videos of themselves playing instruments in a field or stood by a bridge (hey what do I know? Remember I am just a novice) really grinds my gears.
When our bands reach the highest high, I want fans to be able to look back at the Anvil years of that band as early WOW MOMENTS. Nothing to be embarrassed about or hidden, I want Anvil Records to be able to have contributed to the path that band has been on. Anvil Records is a stepping stone for any band to believe in themselves and go to greater heights.
Leaving behind a legacy for other bands to follow, maybe one-day Anvil Records can be big enough to retain the talent and take a band all the way off our own bat, but I am realistic, I know our limitations to date.
As I keep saying, we know absolutely nothing about the music industry (officially). I have spoken to fellow label owners and other music industry people and a few of them refreshingly say, 'we don't know what we're doing either'.
I wanted to start a blog ages ago about Anvil Records, but if I'm honest (which I hope this blog has been) I was worried about sounding like I was clueless and scaring off new bands or new people we would like to work with.
I suppose I don't mind sounding clueless or lost after thinking about this topic long and hard. Faking it till you make it isn't my style. If you can't be authentic then whats the point. But that doesn't and shouldn't question our commitment to our artists, our passion for music is the key to Anvil Records.
I hope this blog also helps other new acts wanting to be signed to an independent label to understand the expectation levels. We get lots of bands sending us submissions, that’s an awesome part of the label. But from now on I will be referring bands to this blog post, before they want us to review them further.
We don't have a magic formula or an endless budget, but what we do have is a massive appetite for great music and a drive to push a band we believe in as far as we are able to.
So if a band after reading this thinks Anvil Records is the label for them, then we’ll take it from there.
Swimming blindfolded against the tide is our passion, we are Anvil Records. #OverTimeArtWins