I thought I would do a write-up on the year with the band given it’s been our busiest ever. In the early part of the year, we played a run of gigs put on by One Eye Toad Records which really helped us get back on the road again after the Covid-era restrictions were finally lifted in most cases. Most of these gigs were with Neverworld and Planet Fatale, two bands we have played with on a number of occasions over the years and with who we enjoy playing alongside. It’s worth mentioning that John Morter who organised these gigs and helped us get back to a regular gigging schedule sadly passed away last month. For all of his hard work and dedication to the scene, he will be greatly missed.
During that run of gigs, we had a one-night-only reunion with Anthony Murch on lead guitar. Ant was in the band from 2012-2015 and played on our first two albums. Anthony again played songs from both his time in the band and later albums since his departure. He’s currently playing alongside our former drummer Chris MacKinnon (who likewise joined in 2012, but after our debut album before leaving in 2018) in a band called It’s Not A Phase Mum, covering the 2000’s era classics which can be found here.
We made our return to two of our favourite venues this year too, both the Melbourn Rock Club and the Rock Den in Hatfield, both of which were fun nights.
A large portion of the year has been taken up with recording, editing, mixing, mastering, and so on. We worked extremely hard to get our new album After Extinction finished this year, as well as recording a further 10 tracks for two EPs, one of which has been released digitally and the other is currently being worked on. I have said previously that I cannot remember a time the band has been busier and 2022 certainly was a challenging year, but I feel a great relief to know everything on our end is now completed and there is very little remaining to do going into 2023.
It is worth mentioning that there will be a new Falling Through Freedom t-shirt and patch coming to all our Patreon’s soon, with two EPs (which include a multi-disc set) on CD heading out to everyone paying £3 or more ASAP. We have been slightly delayed in getting these out due to the Extinction After EP still being finalised! These will be with you soon, depending on Royal Mail strikes!
In August of course we joined the Lillian Axe/Riot Act (ex-Riot) tour as a replacement for Kim Melville. This is the first tour this line-up has done, and we had an amazing time on the road, and we are very thankful for the opportunity to play with two exceptional bands here in the U.K.
We aptly finished the year with two hometown shows in Colchester both at the Brewhouse on the 25th of November and Coda, on the 14th.
We also introduced a new Patreon tier, a band backer tier which was to help the band fund an opportunity we were recently offered. Without giving too much away at this stage, an official offer/contract has come through and we used some of the new Patreon funds to have the offer independently accessed by an expert, as well as general guidance on the best route forward for the band in 2023, with more the be revealed at a later date.
Our streams for the new album continue to grow as we have now broken over 33 thousand streams. We still do not have the full data from DistroKid, which covers many other stored but with what we do know it has been performing well so far.
After Bandcamp Friday we now have 88 pre-orders for the CD and 65 album downloads. We would very much like to improve this number in the coming weeks. The artwork is being finalised with the printers ready for printing this month.
Our website has broken its record number of visits this year with 11,680 people visiting the website. The previous record was set in 2018 during the release of A Crisis of Faith, in which 11,659 people visited the page, with most people checking in to see the updates regarding the changes to the bands line-up.
The record-breaking year in 2022 is off the back of year-on-year growth since the new line-up was introduced. We thank everyone who has checked out our website regularly, this helps us to continue to grow our online presence. This bucks a current trend, as fewer social media users viewing stand alone websites than ever.
Reforge The Steel was released in October 2019 and not long after the release the UK went into a Covid-19 lockdown, and thus live shows were cancelled and suspended for the majority of 2020/21. This meant there was a lack of opportunity for ourselves to play live to promote the album and sell physical copies at our gigs. We are therefore using our August tour as an opportunity to run a soft relaunch of the album, we will be promoting the release through our social channels again and will be performing tracks exclusively from that album during the tour. You can order the CD here.
The original version on CD sold out, the current version is our collectors edition version which includes a high-quality CD, a full colour booklet with all the lyrics all housed in a super jewel case and has 5 bonus tracks as well as a remastered and updated version of the album.
We also produce a limited edition shirt featuring the album art which is also available here.
We have added a number of made to order shirts and hoodies to our Bandcamp which will be drop shipped (free shipping in the UK) which include some of our original merch such as our first ever shirt design, the “Evil Eyes” Waystone shirt, both 2014 tour shirts, and the Quality of Madness shirt by Tom McGuire originally released for the Asylum venue in Chelmsford.
Two new pieces of merch are also available such as our first ever hoody (Reforge The Steel) and a yellow Neighbourhood Watch parody shirt featuring the band. You can order these from here.
This week we have released 3 exclusive live albums for our Bandcamp members which include 3 sets from our recent One-Eyed Toad Records tour alongside Neverworld and Planet Fatale. We have uploaded the Coda set, which features a one-night reunion with former guitarist Ant Murch, and our full sets from Cambridge and Hastings earlier this year. The sets also contain three new songs from the forthcoming album.
You can download all 3 albums here. Membership just cost £5 a year and includes a ton of exclusives and out-of-print releases as well as a 10% discount. As it’s Bandcamp Friday, anything ordered will result in 100% of the revenue going to the band.
The challenges we face as bands, musicians, venues, and promoters are numerous right now, but as proven in recent weeks, many are still doing well. The question is, how?
Before we can get to that, we need to understand how the climate has changed and adapt.
What we have to remember is that for the underground Rock and Metal scene in the UK to continue to thrive and grow is that we have to create a culture of encouraging people to come out to live music events on Friday and Saturday nights again.
That means we as bands have to not only promote ourselves effectively, both online and offline but also be good enough live, and engaging enough to draw people out and continue to draw people out. The challenge for venues/promoters is to adequately communicate to their natural audience what type of events they are running and to be engaged and understanding to their audience and to tailor their bookings to meet their taste.
So what are we competing with in 2022?
Up until the early 2000’s, there was a culture in this country of going out Friday and Saturday nights, which meant many venues didn’t have to work as hard to draw people out, especially for live music, as they had a natural audience who came out of habit to their venue or events because that was what they did in their leisure time. A bit like how football fans will watch their team’s home games every other Saturday. It’s a habit, they turn out, and thus the games have a natural audience. We in Rock/Metal have failed to achieve that same mentality with our core audience.
Since the old days, the world has changed, and now we are competing with Netflix, YouTube, PlayStation, and cheap store-bought alcohol. The natural behavior for people, especially in the under 30’s demographic, is to stay inside rather than go out to a venue for a drink, let alone live music. People don’t go out to meet a potential partner in the same way as before either, most dating is done online rather than out in bars and pubs like generations past. The current audience habit is many who do love Rock and Metal will prefer to save up for say a Bloodstock/Download style event once or twice a year and see a handful of bigger bands when they play their hometown. It’s more cost-effective to do it that way, especially with major festivals, because you get a lot of bang for your buck and can see a ton of bands over 3 days.
The question you need to ask is, why would people come out to see my band/event over what they can do at home for free?
Some certain promoters and venues are presently unable to understand these challenges and frankly have fallen so far behind the times it is damaging the efforts of those trying to buck the trend. They don’t even use a mailing list to communicate the events to their audience.
The scene needs to move away from using Facebook events and poorly designed, and often pixelated gig posters as a cover photo-only style promotion. We need to invest in the promotion, using mediums such as Google Ads, Meta (Facebook/Instagram), TikTok promotion, and so on as well as posters in the venue and flyers if you are able. We need to target our campaigns to those people who actually will most likely attend the events and continue to remind them the event is happening. We need to use tools like Bandcamp, and Postcodes to target those people who have already bought from us as bands to alter them of the events happening in their area.
We can not rely on any free promotion on social media as the algorithms are designed to hide the posts and push forward those who are paying for them. Posting events in a 1000 Facebook groups with no paid promotion will result in poor attendance as nobody will see it.
Moving away from Facebook is important, most people under 40 aren’t using Facebook and have moved over to TikTok and Instagram, even for messages, they use WhatsApp and not Facebook. By all means, keep up with Facebook but use the other tools as well. If people aren’t responding, do some research, learn how to use the new tools, it’s simple enough and be ready to spend some money to push your events.
We as a scene need to have professionally designed posters, and promotion that communicates the event in simple terms, and to survive we have to engage with the younger audience by matching the level of quality they are used to from their favorite bands, YouTubers, podcasters and so on. If you fail to do that, and your promotion looks cheap, dated, and lazy by comparison you will not get this group out. If the promotional material looks poor quality, people will assume the event will be of low quality also.
Four band logos on a black background with a date and time doesn’t tell the audience anything. 99% of people won’t know who the bands are, so won’t turn out, however, if you are running a Black Metal night, you can promote that first and foremost and target Black Metal fans in the local area and that is the draw, rather than the bands who won’t be known to the audience. Bands themselves are also naïve in thinking that people know who they are. Sticking your name and a date/time on a Facebook event is not enough information.
Speaking of bands, many are just as guilty of failing to adapt to the times and sometimes fall into the trap of repeating the same mistakes and then complaining it’s not working when nobody attends. The question bands need to ask when a gig fails is, did you do enough to let everyone who might be interested in that area that the gig was on?
It’s hard work being a band in 2022, you not only have to write the music, rehearse, pay for the recording, self-release, and so on, you have to be a promoter as well and you have to keep up with the times. You may feel that you don’t want to do the promotional side of things, and that’s fair enough, but understand if you leave it to others, the results could well be poor.
Bands have to understand that a gig isn’t just a place to perform, it’s a market, it’s your market stall, your performance is an advertisement to encourage people to buy your CDs, vinyl, shirts, and so on from the merch stand. If you are going to quibble about spending a few quid on promotion then why are you printing merch? Would you rather lose a little money on the promotion in the short term and play to a packed venue and potentially sell a ton of merch, or keep that £20 and play to a handful and sell next to nothing? If you are aiming to “go-pro” then you should treat all of this as a business anyway. Advertising is essential for any business and it costs money and takes time to do.
The price of gigs is important as well, especially with a cost of living/fuel crisis squeezing UK residents harder than ever post-pandemic. People’s money for living is not going as far, and thus if you charge over a fiver for events you may restrict your audience further. If you are a bit more established you may get away with charging a bit more, but that depends where you are a lot of the time too. Especially when staying home is free, and people have so many other options now. As stated previously, many people’s habit is to save and go to a bigger festival, so you need to figure out how to draw that audience to your event as well.
Think of it this way, if you were to pay to download a game, would you pay over a fiver for something you had never heard of? Would you pay upwards of £10 to go see a film when you didn’t know what it was or even who the cast was? Would you pay over £20 to see a football match where you didn’t know which either team was or who was even playing? You probably wouldn’t. You need to apply this logic to promoting your music and events.
As well as advertising and pricing, the timing of the event is also important. If you are an unknown band (or are promoting unknown bands) then you need to choose a night of the week the most natural audience will be available to see it, you need to communicate and stick to the start time and it needs to be days/times most people are comfortable coming out. If you have a more popular band on, you can get away with a different day of the week as they will naturally draw people out. If not Friday/Saturday nights are your safest bet.
The quality of the sound is another big issue. Venues need to pay for a good PA and maintain it with a sound person who knows how to operate it. If you do all the work to promote the show, get a good turnout and people pay a fiver to get in and it sounds awful, that audience will not come back and you will have lost all that hard work. That also goes for the quality of bands you book, if they aren’t up to the audience’s taste or expected standard those people you worked so hard to get out won’t likely come back.
Consistently poor sound will result in a dwindling audience. People are used to a higher standard of audio quality these days, and your sound/stage setup needs to meet their expectations if they are going to continue to pay to get into your venue and thus continue to buy drinks. Gigs that have no audible vocals, too much bass, and a ton of feedback are all too common and it drives people away. Also, offer earplugs for loud events, it is cheap, and your audience will appreciate it! Also, hire a good soundperson, not just rely on a mate.
A clean venue also helps, if your toilets look terrible, are broken, and stink that will put people off going. A messy, dirty, old venue won’t encourage a new audience out, keep it clean looking, keep it modern, if it’s a music venue, make it the focus of the venue, not a side attraction, especially if you are booking originals bands.
Also understand while there is some crossover, original bands and covers/tributes have different audiences and tastes. Covers bands can be quite happy to be paid to be just the live music for that night in the pub or venue, however original bands want an engaging audience, potential new fans, and people who will buy the merch. While being paid is good, to be background music for a nights drinking with a disengaged and disinterested audience in a pub isn’t worth it for the originals band. Of course originals bands can avoid this by trying to draw that audience out themselves, but it is something to bear in mind.
So what can be done to improve event turnouts?
You need to target the correct demographics for the events you are running. Use keywords and targets that relate to the bands/events you have booked. Target the local area, don’t be so broad brush, keep it as defined as possible. Use Google Ads, Meta Business Suite, and TikTok promotions to target your audience on social media. Be as clear as day with the communication. Tell people EXACTLY what the event is and what the bands may sound like. You can target an audience’s taste right down to the genre and the bands they like, and even directly to the postcode areas where the venue is.
In terms of free promotion, have a well-designed professional poster/s to be sent to the venues ahead of the gig, design flyers for handing out in that town, or use a mailing list to send them to those in that area who you know might like the event. You need good branding and good image quality. Do not ever use jpegs for images as the quality is atrocious, and if you are doing anything with audio, NEVER use mp3’s as they sound terrible.
Use an emailing tool like MailChimp to send email reminders promoting the show and encourage as many pre-sales as possible. Bandcamp allows bands to export all their sales and Excel can separate the sales right down to the postcode area. Be good at data management and it will pay off.
As for Facebook, you can still run Facebook events, but remember to invite the people who might actually attend the event, sometimes people either invite no one, or blanket invite people 100’s of miles away from the venue which is just lazy.
It takes a combination of tools to make an event a success.
Understanding your audience is also important. Trying to promote an NWOBHM event to the under 40’s that isn’t say Iron Maiden won’t be as successful, in the same way promoting a Metalcore gig to people over 40 isn’t likely to be successful. Know your audience, know who might like the music, and work to get those people out. Don’t waste your time and money on people who will never attend the show. Don’t believe everyone is going to like your music/event just because you do. Some people do like everything, but they are a minority.
Ultimately if you are not spending to advertise, aren’t communicating to anyone directly what your event is when it is, and doing the bare minimum promotional wise then you will not get a good turnout. The scene isn’t dead, many are doing very well right now, but they have adapted to the times, they know their audience and they working hard to get a good turnout.
I realise I have written a lot of thoughts down here, so I will stop but I hope my blog post has been useful to you!
Yesterday we ran a sale on our Bandcamp to coincide with their Bandcamp Friday campaign where artists keep 100% of the money from sales. We also sold off stock from heavymetal.discount for very low rates alongside the sale. The aim of this sale was to raise money for the printing of the new Kaine album in the coming months. We can confirm we had 41 sales raising £481 pounds. Unfortunately this was not enough to cover the cost of the first print run of the new album but will go a long way in helping the band afford the release of the new album.
We are launching our biggest ever sale and reductions on Bandcamp Friday, on February 4th 2022. As many will know, Bandcamp Friday allows bands to keep 100% of their earnings so we can afford to go outrageously low. The reason for this is we need to raise some income to help finish off the last of the album work, from the artwork to printing the CD’s at the highest standard available and so on. Over the past 2 years we have been unable to play shows regularly, and thus have sold significantly less merchandise during that period.
We will also be listing items for sale you wouldn’t otherwise expect us to list in order to generate as much income on the day as possible to go towards the launch of the Kaine 5th album. This sale will be for 24 hours only on the 4th of February, many of the items are limited stock items which will not be printed again. Our bandcamp members will get a further 10% off all orders. You can join our Bandcamp here. Along with the 10% discount, you also get access to every piece of music we have released as well as a ton of exclusives.
Click here and then “follow” to be notified about the sale.