This Saturday sees the final gig of one of the bands we’ve enjoyed working with the most: The Minx. We’ll be there supporting them, and are looking forward to getting together for a few pints afterwards (and then probably a few more pints).
The gig, at Manchester’s awesome Soup Kitchen, sold out instantly, without promo, off the back of a Facebook message posted by the band.
This tells you everything you need to know about The Minx, and why we loved working with them: they connected with loads of people who were not represented in music and didn’t kow-tow to anyone else’s opinion of what they “should” be doing.
When we heard that The Minx were stopping, we were a bit stunned.
We thought this because we were thinking with our music biz heads on: here was a band that sold out every gig they had played in Manchester, that was smart and worked hard, that were professional and well-regarded by everyone in the industry who worked with them… why were they stopping now?
But then we thought about the sum of what they’d achieved, and we think that they’re making a brave, smart decision based on one very key thing, and the thing that made us want to work with them in the first place: they are first and foremost a close bunch of very good, old friends.
Life in a band is hard. Breaking through to the point that The Minx have reached where they can virtually guarantee selling out the venue of their choice is incredibly difficult.
They achieved what 99.9% of bands never do: they made a name for themselves based on their raw talent and great pop tunes, amongst music fans and music biz people alike.
On the way, they’ve the played the big venues in Manchester (The Ritz, Gorilla) and the smaller ones too (The Ruby Lounge, The Deaf Institute) — and the audience went mad wherever they played.
They starred in an international ad campaign for one of the only really cool brands left, and we felt a surge of pride when we walked past the Dr. Martens shop in London and saw their faces in the window display looking back at us.
They played loads of gigs: summer festivals, UK tours, London shows — where they were stunned to see people singing along — as well as gigs in Paris and gigs in Italy, gigs, gigs, gigs. They played a great show every time. The audience never swayed along at a Minx show.
They shot great, colourful music videos which clearly showed the band for what they are: one of the only guitar bands brave enough to have fun, be happy and hold this reality up to the audience.
Oh, and they pissed off one of the world’s richest Premiership football clubs, and Johnny Fuckin’ Marr leapt to their defence!
We worked as hard as we could for The Minx because of their approach and what they stood for. We played their music to the top people in music radio and everyone raised their eyebrows in surprise: they never expected them to be as brilliant as they actually were.
The Minx got stuck in and got it done the old fashioned way. They didn’t have useful relatives in the music biz or a gap-year budget to “try out being in a band”.
They gigged hard, remained true to themselves and their fans, and were patient. They were rewarded with a rabid fanbase who loved them.
The Minx are still good friends who’d do anything for each other, and have made a decision to stop which ensures they can have their cake and eat it: success as a band and their friendships.
The UK music scene will be much poorer for The Minx’s retirement, but they’ve left hundreds of fans richer, with solid gold memories of amazing gigs and so many great tunes.
The Minx are dead, long live The Minx!
We talk to lots and lots of new and emerging bands – every day, all week.
The bands we work with are the ones that have talent and promise – and also have realistic aims and expectations, because this really is the best approach for all of us.
It works for us because we can then aim at exceeding sensible expectations, and it works for bands because they don’t waste precious energy trying to live up to their own pressure.
Yes, aim for the stars, of course – but let’s get to the launchpad first. And what we’re really good at is helping you build the platform that will allow you to progress as a band.
We don’t want insta-success or buzz-band-ism for your band. Wait – doesn’t that sound like a bad deal for you?
Well, we don’t think so. Here’s why:
Ask Me wants to help you build slower success; the kind that means you can still be doing this in two years’ time, and hopefully one day you can do it full time and quit the day job.
This is of course counter to so many approaches in today’s ultra-responsive, get-it-instantly world: where technology means you can have it all right now.
From our perspective, it’s a difficult thing to sell: for the artist, who are set on hiring pluggers/PR, the idea of paying for something that might not mean The Instant Big Breakthrough is a hard one to swallow.
But think: how many emerging bands do you witness having explosive, buzz-fuelled growth – with acres of blog coverage, breathless prose in free-sheet music papers, etc – who then disappear almost as fast as they arrive?
The dizzy rise must feel great! And the plummet to insignificance must feel dreadful, too.
The problem with engaging with the buzz-now, put-the-work-in-later approach is that your music might be chewed up and spat out before you even get chance to gig your next EP.
You were a flash in the pan. Hey, you can tell strangers in the pub about it in a few years’ time. Do you want that?
Bands have always taken years – years – to achieve success. Even the overnight successes took years. If it looks too good to be true, it almost always is.
We want to help you build for today and build for tomorrow. The key part of the phrase “delayed gratification” is the second word, not the first :)
So, if this sounds like the way you want to approach things, email us and let’s talk about how Ask Me can work with you: email@example.com
We often get emails from bands asking for advice, or if we can meet for a coffee and let them pick our brains for a bit.
This is always a difficult email to reply to: we always want to help new artists, but on the other hand, if we said yes to every request for coffee in exchange for free advice, we’d spend all week hopping from free meeting to free meeting and having heart palpitations from all the caffeine ingested.
Also, there’s another idea to consider: what the bands want is advice on advancing their career. In other words, they want to fast-track their band through the painful early stages.
This is all very promising, as it shows they are ambitious. And it’s really flattering that they’ve come to us: we’ve worked on Number 1 records a bunch of times and we have tons of great experience under our belts.
But there aren’t many industries where people will hand over the knowledge they’ve spent many years accumulating for the price of a coffee.
And while it rests heavily on its outsider/cool status, the music industry is not very different to any other. (We do offer by-the-hour consultation and advice, BTW. It’ll cost a bit more than a pint, but hopefully is worth a lot more too.)
So, back to the band’s email: they said they were hoping for free advice because they didn’t have a manager or any spare money at the moment.
Now, it’s really hard being in a new band, because there is no money or guidance: you have to scrape the money together and you have to muddle your way through and learn as you go.
I totally understand why they came to us asking for help: the alternative is a long, confusing and difficult road.
But there is no fast-track. That longer, harder route will make them stronger, smarter and give them a better chance of a career.
Anyway – we really are nice people beneath our husk-like exteriors, and so we do try and be helpful, so here’s how we replied:
Hi [BAND X],Have you visited http://freshonthenet.
co.uk/, run by Tom Robinson? Full of great info and it’s free :)Also, as general advice, I’d be wary of looking for management at this stage of your career. You shouldn’t really need a manager until you physically can’t keep up with the workload of doing it yourself any more.Backing is always useful, but hard to get, obviously. Have you thought of having a “ghost member” of the band? i.e. Assuming you are a four-piece, you split any money you make five ways, and keep the ghost member money to invest in band development?Or asking everyone to commit to chipping in 5% of their income (which is probably the price of a couple of pints a week!) to a band bank account? Because, bluntly, if each member in the band can’t commit to investing a small regular amount into the band, maybe they aren’t so committed to the band’s prospects…There are all sorts of creative ways you can conjure up to promote yourselves without money! That said, careful small investments of money in the right things at the right time are helpful for progression – along, of course, with giving it plenty of time and years of hard work gigging/writing.All the best!Ask Me PR
The KLF were many things – art-pranksters, avant-garde cultural icons, house music innovators, incinerators of a million quid; but mainly, they were brilliant pop stars, who sold lots and lots of singles and got lots and lots of radio play.
They were so successful that The KLF released a a tongue-in-cheek, but also deadly serious, book called The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way), which described, stage-by-stage, how to make a number one single.
And this is a snippet of what they had to say about radio pluggers, back in 1988. Times have changed, and so some of the details are now out of date – but the basics still stand true:
“Your plugger. The man responsible for getting the nation to hear your record. From now on in this man will undoubtedly be the most important person in the jigsaw. Without his faith, vision and understanding of the fastest lane in this particular rat race, you will be nowhere.
So go with the plugger that’s got the faith, vision and understanding – indefinable qualities – but you will know within five minutes of meeting them if they have it. Top grade bull is something else they should have.
The plugger will try and explain what his job is. Each of them view their role differently but all must be able to deliver the following:
1. Concrete advice on what has to be brought out on your record for him to be able to do his job.
2. Appointments with Radio One producers where he is able to get them to listen to your record under the most favourable light.
3. Advice and help in putting together a video that will be acceptable for children’s television and a lead on some of the hungry young video makers who are out there.
Money and pluggers. They will want a lot and when your record starts happening pluggers will want more. Scott [The KLF’s plugger] wanted a thousand pounds to start working the record and then all sorts of bonuses related to our record reaching certain positions on the charts. We had to pay him five grand altogether once it had made Number One. He had a lot of costs and his team worked flat out for it, but we had to give him the first thousand the day of release. We had a couple of months to pay the other four. Anybody who can do it much cheaper won’t be much good.”
I’m happy to say that I plugged a whole bunch of The KLF’s hits :)
You can read the whole, brilliant book here: freshonthenet.co.uk/the-manual-by-the-klf
Working with BIMM Manchester has been an exciting experience for us.
With Ask Me PR‘s advice, connections and consultation, the college are quickly and intelligently embedding themselves into Manchester life – no mean feat at all.
When BIMM wanted a contemporary interior design for the communal areas of their new £3.5M college building, we introduced Ben Kelly of BKD to BIMM Manchester.
Ben is held in huge esteem for his groundbreaking designs of the Haçienda and Dry 201 interiors in Manchester – and he went on to design a typically inventive and empathetic interior for BIMM Manchester’s new home.
BIMM are thrilled with the results – and their students will be enjoying the fruits of this exciting collaboration when the college opens in October!
We caught up with Ben after BIMM officially revealed his designs at a special launch evening: