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The year ahead for Black Country and Shropshire Unsigned artists

By Leigh Sanders | Entertainment | Published:

This is a time for reluctant gym trips and planning holidays as you battle the excesses of Christmas on the one hand and the January blues on the other, right?

For most of us maybe, but not those looking to attack the music scene over the next 12 months.

Our rich vein of aspiring musicians will not have removed their eyes from the prize, and that is to get the music they have slaved lovingly over out there to as many pairs of ears as they can.

They have a range of possibilities to mull over. Where should they play next? Is it time to push for another album? And can they afford to tour? And, of course, they don't want to let all those venues fill up with showcases of other people's work, leaving their own toil out in the winter cold.

But it can potentially be daunting to work out what to do, where and when. Work commitments, life situations and cashflow can all dictate what is lined up for the foreseeable.

But there is one constant you can rely on to guide your decisions - the fans. And that is what Stourport-on-Severn's singer/songwriter Chloe Mogg looks to when deciding her next steps.

"I decide when and where to play really by my fan base," said the Kidderminster College student. "I have a number of fans who live near me so I like playing local gigs purely to see all my friends and family.

"Obviously, I can’t do that forever. I look for gigs here there and everywhere by the style of places. If I think my type of music will fit a certain venue, then I’ll definitely play there."

And Birmingham's MeMe Detroit, frontwoman for her band of the same name, is under no illusions how important this time of year can be for musicians. There's no time to sit back and detox with a kale smoothie. There's as far ahead as next Christmas to worry about.

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"I'd say it's the busiest time of the year as everything has to be prepped and finalised ready for us to go out into the world," she tells us. "The whole of 2018 has been mapped out for example, that started in November and December 2017.

"Release dates, video shoots, budget, recording, tour dates all have to be finalised and, of course, the PR. And that's just the label side of things."

And Wolverhampton-born singer/songwriter Sam Draisey also agrees it is a busy time with his music career to consider as well as being a husband and father.

"The main stuff happens behind the scenes," he says. "Having a blank calendar in January can really spur you on to get the rest of the year filled up.

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"It’s also the time when venues start getting their diaries out again after the Christmas rush. I’m spending January contacting as many people as possible about gigs, press and other opportunities.

"It works both ways too. As a promoter I get a lot of messages from other acts looking for gigs too."

As Sam said, it's not just the 'sexy' stuff such as rocking out on stage and picking that killer album cover which have to be considered either. The less glamorous side of being in a band also needs to be kept focussed so the ball isn't dropped.

"We have to schedule in the creative side making sure we're still rehearsing twice weekly with extra songwriting sessions added in as well," MeMe adds. "We also have the social media and YouTube content schedules to stick to as well.

"For me, there's a hell of a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes when running a label and being in a band. A lot that the general public don't see. We have to run a really tight ship to ensure everything runs smoothly and successfully. You have to look at it as a business, it's a full-time job. A job, however, that we all love!"

And then there is the legacy to consider, too. By that we mean the hard records that capture their sound for future generations to remember them by. It's all well and good people telling us how great The Beatles were. Being able to hear them for ourselves is key.

So they have to carefully select whether they will release any singles this year, and be mindful of who else may be doing the same thing.

MeMe is clear on the priority: "Research and then more research!

"It's a well known no no to release at the beginning of January, during the summer peak festival season and of course the Christmas period, unless you're releasing a specific Xmas track. You're likely to lose out on possible press coverage with writers and journalists being busy and side tracked by end-of-year round ups, holiday time and festival coverage.

"There is, of course, the argument that releasing around quieter periods means there's less competition against the already established bigger artists out there."

And Chloe admits to being of that latter thinking when it comes to her releases. "Deciding when to release music is a tricky one," she admits.

"I think, once you have the 'product' you should then decide on a time when people would listen to music. For example, releasing music over the summer is a great time because there aren’t as many other releases so there’s an opportunity to release something."

Meanwhile, Sam is already thinking about his live commitments. "Pubs and venues tend to shut up shop through January so there isn’t much to be had. I try to get out to a few open mic nights just to keep the gigs ticking over and playing to people.

"At the moment I’m gearing up for a big gig at The Robin 2 on February 22, so a lot of this month is going into trying to get as many people as I can to that, as well as rehearsals with the band."

So resting now is not on the minds of our Unsigned stars as they look ahead to 2018. Not if they want the year to be a success, anyway.

While the rest of us might be thinking of getting that beach bod in shape, holidays are the last thing on their minds. It's the mindset needed to make it to the top.

Leigh Sanders

By Leigh Sanders
@LSanders_Star

Senior sub editor for the MNA portfolio and entertainments writer leaning towards features and reviews. Get releases to me at leigh.sanders@expressandstar.co.uk

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