It's been 9 months since I last wrote a blog, so I thought that it was probably about time that I wrote another one. Time has flown by this year and it's been a really hectic one, hence why I forgot all about writing blogs!


I've got to the point where I can now successfully present a show alone without freaking out about it, as mentioned in previous posts all the way back in 2011. Radio for me is one of those things that gets easier each time that you do it until eventually it becomes not such a big thing after all.

I've recently started training a new presenter, a girl I went to school and college with. Even though she would probably appear more confident than me if you met her in person, she reminds me of myself when I first started out in radio. The way that she reminds me of myself? She doesn't talk that much when on air. In person she's one of the most confident people I know, but put a microphone in front of her and like myself when I first started presenting, she is lost for words.

Instead of throwing her in the deep end and asking her to ask the band questions when I run out of questions (as happened to me when I first started radio presenting), I try to give her cues and things to say so that she doesn't feel on the spot and under pressure. This seems to be helping as she is getting more and more confident each time she helps to present a show and will more than likely soon be talking more than I do!

Kerry (Left) & Myself (Right)

Speaking of microphones:

The new obstacle to get over for me is now going to be speaking on stage in front of an audience. I was recently asked why I can speak on the radio each week with who knows how many people listening in, but find it intimidating to speak on stage in front of an audience. The answer? In the comfort of a radio station studio I have little or no audience sat there watching me, but on a stage all eyes are on me, which at first can be a seriously daunting experience.

Now that I am running a schools music programme with social enterprise Young Music, it's just another one of those things I'm going to have to get used to every time that I have to go up on stage. Practice makes perfect right?

Here's a photo of me on stage at O2 Academy Sheffield, one of many future 'on stage speaking' pictures no doubt.
Image courtesy of Dean Stead Photography

How to make your band stand out

Welcome to the 21st century, everyone wants to be in a band, everyone wants to be famous and you might be finding it difficult to make yourself stand out from everyone else in the business. I decided to pile together a list of things that I think could help you to stand out from other bands and artists.

Photos – If you want to look the part you’re going to need some snazzy photos which make people think ‘wow this band means business’ as appose to ‘aww bless they got their mum to take their pictures for them’. So unless your mum is a professional photographer or has a pretty awesome camera, it’s probably best that you don’t get her to take them for you. If you can’t afford professional photographer costs maybe you could ask a photography student to take some for you in return for letting them use the pictures for their portfolio. This sort of visual imagery could be the difference between someone clicking on your facebook, seeing how professional you look, then deciding to check your music out OR someone clicking on your facebook, seeing a badly taken photo, thinking you’re a wannabe and clicking the dreaded X button in the right hand corner of their screen.

Youtube videos (make sure they’re good quality) – One of my favourite things to do while browsing the net is watching Youtube videos of ordinary people doing covers of the latest songs and making them sound like their own. Famous Youtubers include Justin Beiber. , before Justin-mania swept the whole world, he regularly updated his Youtube with videos of him singing cover songs, this lead to him being discovered and signed to RBMG.

Emails – Don’t bore promoters and venues with the same predictive emails that everyone else is sending to them. Be different, make your email eye-catching and interesting to read. Instead of attachments perhaps consider including links to your music, some promoters may be put off or restricted from downloading attachments due to the risk of viruses.

Good quality recordings – If the quality of your song recordings are rubbish, no matter how great of a band you are, people are probably going to think otherwise. You may have noticed this also works the other way round: take one pretty girl with rather large....hair, a voice that croaks more than your grannys’, a bit of auto-tune, a lot of promotion = a top 40 hit. It may be expensive to get yourself recorded professionally but costs could be recouped by selling CDs with the recordings on (I bet your mum’d buy one!).

Brand yourself – If you want to be a professional musician you’re going to need to turn yourself into a product and sell yourself to other people (not literally please). In order to do so you need to create a sense of identity (your brand), know your identity and make sure that other people know what your brand is too. Good examples of bands/artists that have made themselves into brands include JLS with their colour coded clothing, dappy (ndubz) and his hats and Mariah Carey and her alleged diva-ish behaviour. A brand is a concept you associate with a product or service e.g. when you think of model Jordan you think of … *fill in the gaps in comments below*, when you think of Shreddies you think of … ** .

So if you want to be the band that’s known for wearing funky coloured socks make sure you wear funky coloured socks, if you want to be known as the band that sings songs about rainbows and puppy dogs then you better get writing. A band I really like made their brand by performing regularly in places that bands wouldn’t normally think to perform such as on the tram on the way to gigs (can you guess which band?) . I wouldn’t suggest doing this as it would probably get you into trouble but I’m sure there is other ways to create a brand that nobody else has thought of which would get people talking.

Ask your fans to help – Who better to help you to promote yourself than the people who are so enthusiastic about you and your band that they turn up to your gigs and buy your cds? So why not ask them to spread the love and help you to become successful? Make sure you let them know that once you’re famous you won’t forget them (fans love that) and reward them for being so helpful and loyal by putting on private gigs for them or sending them thank you notes (you’ll probably be amazed at how much a thank you is appreciated – I love them!).

That’s all the tips I can think of for now but I will post another blog soon with more hints and tips. I hope you find them useful, feel free to leave any questions or feedback.

Swap your stones for instruments and write yourself a song

For the last few days I have been fascinated by the London riots and those involved in the violence, vandalism and looting. I can’t help but think that if all of the youths involved (as allegedly it is mainly youths involved) were to stop attacking the police, people’s homes and businesses and put their frustration into doing something to change the problems in a non-violent way then maybe instead of being classed as thugs they would be taken seriously as ‘frustrated youths’ if that is really what the aim of the riots are. I can't help but think about what such a large amount of people could do if they were to pick up instruments and write a song about it (maybe they could release it and use the profits to tackle some of the issues).

However I feel that probably this isn’t the case, if they were really that frustrated with not having their say, why cause chaos and destruction to people’s homes and properties most of which will have had nothing to do with the so called frustrations they are rioting about? Why steal from other people in their own community, some of which will suffer from higher insurance premiums due to having to replace their stolen goods or rebuild their properties? What sense does it make to burn down businesses of which may be able to offer job opportunities if what they are actually rioting about is a lack of jobs?

My guess is they’re not rioting because they are frustrated and angry for change. My guess is that they have no morals and aren’t really bothered about social issues at all. There are thousands of unprivileged people all over the UK who also have lost their jobs, EMA or are also suffering in some way due to the cuts yet they’re not rioting as they know it is wrong.

It frustrates me to think that young people, who are actually frustrated, do want change and are willing to work hard at finding positive ways to make a stand are being overshadowed by those involved in the riots. Everyday young people make their stand and have their say by writing songs, getting involved in volunteering, creating new businesses and finding other ways to combat issues and tell the world about the issues that all youths are currently facing. Youths who do make a positive impact on society are not classed as frustrated youths even though they’re in the same position as many of these youths rioting, so why should the ones who are involved be excused as ‘frustrated youths’?

Radio Presenters' Diary 28th July 2011

I turn up at the studio unusually early ready to prepare for the first interview. Our first guest Alek from Scrim then arrives around 10 minutes later. By this time I was in a bit of a panic as the printer was out of paper so I would be unable to print a bio off. I noted down the things that Alek wanted mentioning (including Scrim's recently released EP) and eagerly awaited the arrival of my co-presenters’ temporary replacement. I stood watching the clock, as 3.45pm arrived I began to think I may be without a co-presenter and as I have always worked alongside someone else presenting, the thought of presenting the show alone terrified me. After a stressful call to my usual co-presenter he reassured me that his temporary replacement was almost there.

Not the best of starts to a show we started slightly late with my co-presenter introducing the show as “I don’t even know what this is called” while I scrambled to get a bio printed off onto a piece of paper he had given to me on arrival (lifesaver!). Dropped in the deep in a bit, this was one of the few shows where I was expected to do a majority of the presenting and even having done months of co-presenting on the show this was no less nerve racking as the pressure was on me to guide the show to follow the same structure as usually presented by my co-presenter.

The first 20 minutes of the show weren’t too stressful as Alek was really easy to interview and had prepared lots of songs which made a great gap filler for if there was ever a point I had run out of questions. Luckily the questions even though slightly hesitant as I was really nervous, flowed quite well. It was only when we got to the last part of the show that I began to have memory block but as Alek still had a few more songs to perform this was not an issue, in fact it was a nice change to have more songs played than our usual 2-3 songs (I think Alek performed around 4 songs in the end).

Next up were After Hours, a band of which I have worked with a few times previously. Two of the three members took part in the interview as the third member was at work. I introduced the band and the band introduced themselves again as my co-presenter had not quite caught it the first time (must be my broad Sheffield accent). The singer/guitarist then went into his first acoustic song and as usual he sounded really good. With his broad Sheffield accent very dominant in all of the songs similar to the likes of the Arctic Monkeys I felt the need to give this a mention and ask if they thought that the Sheffield accent may put off people from their music. They went on to explain that they felt that maybe people would group them as a generic Arctic Monkeys covers band because of their accents but that was not their intention at all. Even though influenced by the Arctic Monkeys, the band has developed their own unique style of music.

For the very first time in ages on the Local Talent Show, we were running early and I had run out of questions to ask. After taking a short music break I introduced Oliver from Young Music to the show to allow him to get used to presenting ready for the first show he will be presenting alongside me in four weeks’ time. I’m happy to say that I should have no problem presenting alongside Oliver as he seems to have a natural talent for it.

After arriving home and downloading the podcast from the Sheffield Live website it was judgement time, how well did I do at presenting the show? I cringed (as always) as I listened to the sound of my own voice but all in all I thought it was a pretty good show considering the problems with the printer and the fact that me and my co-presenter had only met two minutes prior to the start of the show. The quality of the audio on the podcasts helps the listeners to hear how flawless the singer songwriters' performances were, needless to say though it doesn't quite live up to the real life experience of sitting in a tiny studio with the performers sat a tables length away from you singing their hearts out (love working on this show!).

Can’t wait for next weeks’ show presenting alongside Graham!

Click the links below for more information on the acts/organisations mentioned in this blog:-
After Hours
Young Music
Sheffield Live (To listen to the show again click on podcasts > The Mix > 28th July 2011

In the news

My Views on the current Opera North Row

National opera company Opera North have recently found themselves trapped in the middle of press coverage about whether it was the right decision to allegedly cancel a play of which they were involved in supporting due to gay references of which the writer (Lee Hall, creator of Billy Elliot) refused to remove from the script.

I logged on to Twitter earlier today to find 'Opera North' trending, my first thoughts were "I wonder if they've got a cool new play out" never did I expect them to be trending over criticism of their decisions . For many years Opera North have been supporting schools helping them to set-up and run music/arts related events. I myself have in the past been involved in a play run by Opera North and cannot praise them enough.

With some of the pupils as young as 5 involved in the play, I can see why the school(s) involved and Opera North may have thought it was the right decision to cancel the play. I can't help but think that if they were to let the play carry on, would have they have received bad press for allowing it to do so? It seems to me that this is a bit of a lose/lose situation of which the company would have been criticised either way from different people with contrasting views on whether children should be exposed to sexuality related issues at such a young age.

I hope to see that next time Opera North are trending on Twitter or in the news, they are trending for the right reasons.

What does everyone else think about this? Leave us your views in a comment below.

Sharrow Festival

Sunny weather, an amazing atmosphere and live music, what more could you want? This year’s Sharrow Festival at Mount Pleasant Park in Sheffield had them all. Hundreds turned up with their dancing shoes on ready to embrace the free festival and all it had to offer. Not just about the music, the festival had a real community feel to it with various stalls and community activities to bring people together and lots of smiling faces to show that it had achieved its purpose.

A friend and I headed over to the music stage to catch the set of Jungle Lion , the last performing band on the main stage. Jungle Lion are a ska/reggae band from Sheffield described on their website as “a 5 piece brass section, a whole host of Bass riddled rhythm players and the Voice of the Rankin”. This band were perhaps the highlight of the festival for most, the crowd were up and dancing then cheering for more after the set had finished.

Jungle Lion performing at Sharrow Festival

Jungle Lion

Just Ask!

Want to be the next best thing since the Arctic Monkeys but don’t know where to start? Just ask! There’s loads of local music organisations always willing to help, but if you don’t ask them to help you how do they know that you need their help? Many bands will go it alone to save costs, I can’t say I blame them as music promotions, practice, recording and marketing can be expensive, but does it always have to be?

Some costs relating to music careers are unavoidable but this doesn’t mean they are unaffordable, sometimes the more expensive option is not always the best quality, however sometimes the low budget cost cutting option might not always be the best option either, so ask around and get recommendations before deciding on a practice room, recording studio, venue hire or dare I say it without sounding like I’m advertising – music promoter . Ask to see their previous client testimonials, check out the quality of recordings they produce and ask them for references so that you know exactly what you are paying for. Any credible organisation will not mind you asking for these, in fact most (such as ourselves) have testimonial sections on their websites and pages dedicated to showcasing just exactly what other organisations and clients have had to say about their services.

Also don’t forget local social enterprises and voluntary organisations too! These types of organisations provide affordable or sometimes even free support to local artists so that they don't have to do everything themselves. Sheffield Live and Young Music are two of the non-profit organisations we are currently working with at the moment. Want free or affordable support for your band? All you have to do is ask!

Email me at: Natz@allthatpromotions.com for more information.