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Q: How to succeed in indie music? A: Don't be a dick

Written by
Oliver Keens

Do you want to know how to get ahead in the independent music world? Well, you could do worse than ask photographer Dan Wilton and journalist Josh Jones.

The pair recently travelled the length, breadth and girth of this fine isle to meet 50 unsung heroes of the UK's indie music scene. These are the people who have been promoting shows, running clubs, managing bands, going to gigs, starting radio stations and putting on festivals because they absolutely, totally love doing it.

Along the way, they learned a truckload about what it takes to make it in the indie world. So with an exhibition opening at the 71a Gallery this week showcasing the fruit of Wilton and Jones' labour (plus the chance to pick up an accompanying zine), we asked Josh Jones for five pieces of advice on how to make it in the independent music world.

1. Don’t be a dick

'This was a piece of advice pretty much every single one of them told us. They really did. Put simply: just don’t be a dick. If you want a good reputation, then this is not the arena to give it the old "Wolf Of Wall Street" ego pants; people will see right through you and never want to work with you again. Admittedly there is much less blowing coke up each other's bums in the indie scene, but it still pays to be nice because you’ll get more work.'

2. Be prepared to lose lots of money and make every possible mistake

'This is a cheery one, isn’t it? They might as well have said – IT WILL TAKE FOREVER TO STOP SCRAPING BY, which doesn’t sound much fun. But the difference was that all these people had been scraping by and living off beans because they’ve been doing something that they absolutely love. And it’s better to be poor and loving every minute of the day than having a bit of a money and doing a job that makes you want to cry your own anus out every Monday morning.'

3. If you don't love going out to see bands on a Tuesday night who you've never heard of and who might be absolute shit, then there's no point in doing it

'Ronan Munro, the founder and editor of Oxford’s Nightshift magazine, dropped this pearl of slightly aggressive wisdom. He’s been running the magazine for 25 years and never missed a print deadline – the guy’s hardcore about celebrating the indie scene in his town. He did Radiohead’s first ever interview and still has a demo cassette from them with a handwritten bit in the inlay cover saying “To book us for gigs call Thom on this number". I’m not giving you the number. It’s from like years ago. It might be his mum’s house.'

4. Having an understanding of how sound and amps work is really important

'This was the only piece of technical advice and came from Camille Reardon, a fiercely independent promoter based in Bristol. She said you should learn this because “if you have a sound man being a dickhead you can take over.” Also, it’s always handy to have another skill on your LinkedIn profile.'

5. Don’t have any ambition whatsoever

'This is something we can all get on board with, isn’t it? It came from Simon Williams, the founder of Fierce Panda records and the man that launched Coldplay. He said: “If you haven't got ambition, then you haven't got a timeline. It's the timeline that kills everything.” So remember that – fuck the timeline.'

Don’t Be A Dick – an exhibition of the WeGotTickets’ inaugural INDIE50 – is at 71a Gallery, 71 Leonard St from Sep 2.

Dan Wilton

Dan Wilton

Dan Wilton

Dan Wilton

Dan Wilton

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