Part 2 of our interview with Robert Baker from the Crayon Set where we discuss how difficult it is for a small band to make ends meet! You can see the results below.
You can find the Crayon Set’s new album Lost Languages on their Bandcamp page here.
We hear a lot about the music industry being broken and how difficult it is for artists. I’m interested in the cost of making records these days. Can I ask how much approximately did you spend recording this new album?
All in probably €3-4k. You could do it cheaper but our view would have been that you want something that you’re happy with and that you can stand over. And it’s kind of chicken-and-egg – if you don’t have a decent ‘product’ then you’ve got nothing.
Who funded the cost of recording this new album? Was it from yourselves or another source?
Through Radio Airplay/ Spotify, how much would you hope to get back?
No idea to be honest.
Spotify, from what I’ve read, we’d be very lucky to get the price of a pint.
In terms of radio play maybe a few hundred anyway. Really depends on who picks up on it and whether it gets any traction outside of Ireland. You kind of forget how small Ireland is. I think you get about €3 per play on the biggest stations. So you haven’t exactly made it when you hear your song on the radio.
I’d imagine you have a much better chance – and be taken more seriously – if you have a management team / label / pluggers etc doing it.
And how much through Album sales? Do people still buy albums?
Yeah that’s definitely changed since when we released our first album in 2013, it’s a lot more about streaming now. Vinyl is making a bit of a comeback but the cost of doing a vinyl run is about €1,200 so you’ve got to be confident you’ll make that back. I think bands wait and see if the demand is there and do it later on if there is. Which is what we’re doing.
I think you just do what can and hope for the best but certainly there’s no guarantees about even breaking even – never mind the probable thousands of hours that have gone into it.
How much have you spent on Marketing for the album, or have you done it all yourself?
€0 – no budget for it. And it would almost feel morally wrong to be handing over money to the internet giants!
As a small music site, we get hundreds of emails from bands/ PR agents about albums every week. How do you hope to get people to listen to your album?
That’s a good question. Like I mentioned I think you need to have decent tunes and have it properly recorded etc so that if they do pick your email to check out it cuts through. It helps to have built up a relationship with them. To be honest also it’s probably a numbers game – and obviously do your homework and be nice. You can’t take it personally if people don’t like you or review you or whatever – there’s a good chance they haven’t even opened the mail because they are so inundated.
I’ve seen great bands like A House and Something Happens disappear as they couldn’t make a viable living out of being in a band. Is it harder today than 20 years ago to make a living out of music?
Definitely harder. As 20 years ago people were happy shelling out €15 for a CD. People are now used to not paying for music. Again, although there are definite exceptions, I think if you really wanted to make a go of it you’d have to move abroad. Or at least have a band that was 100% committed and really hungry and really fucking good. And were totally amazing live.
There is a general idea that bands can make money out of playing live. Do you think this is viable?
Dunno. I’d imagine that it’s pretty difficult in terms of original pop-rock. It depends on your genre I guess – it’s supply and demand. Again I think you’d have to have a very large and loyal fan-base here or else be touring abroad. Also the electronic scene has changed things – if you’ve been to any of the festivals you’ll see a DJ playing old-school disco hits can draw a bigger crowd than a relatively big-name act with a full touring band and all the associated costs. So basically if you’re looking at original music in terms of a career and having some sort of long-term financial stability you’d be really up against and/or clinically insane.
Do you think there should be funding for bands through the arts council or other sources?
Yes, popular music is without a doubt the greatest art form of the past century but obviously it’s not treated that way. So it would be great although the funding process might end up becoming who you know, which it probably already is to a certain extent.
Canadian-style quotas on the radio would certainly help. You know The Jam lyric “The public wants what the public gets”. I could be wrong but my theory is if people only hear Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran that’s just what they get used to so then that’s what they ‘like’. Even the Irish bands that get played tend to fall into that bland, over-produced, indistinguishable category. I do find it weird that there’s specialist ‘Irish Music Shows’ – like it’s some kind of niche, specialist sub-genre. But given RTE receives €200m a year from the tax-payer you would think there would be more of a government remit to do more for Irish music. So by radio not playing Irish bands it’s basically tax-payer money leaving the country when you think about it. If those Irish bands did well, thanks to that support, they in turn would be making more money and paying more tax. Everyone’s a winner?