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Lordie

How can we ALL get a decent music scene happening in Aberdeen..??

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Guys & Gals..I've just moved up to Aberdeen from London and I am completely blown away from the lack of any kind of local music scene here in Aberdeen. I've worked all my life in music in a&r and marketing (for the majors and indies) & I'm shocked at how a city like Aberdeen is not local artist friendly. It is one of the major cities in Scotland and yet I don't know of any local bands who have made it recently - please educate me if I am completely off the mark here..!! So how do WE (& I mean collectively) change this..?? How do we make Aberdeen vibrant musically..?? How can we take a little of the shine away from Glasgow..?? If WE can create a scene I can get the big boys from London to take note..!!!

Give me some suggestion guys..!!! I am not a local but I know there must be a lot of hidden talent out there. So help me bring that to the fore and lets start creating something here in Aberdeen..!!!

Lordie

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Honestly, it's an interesting discussion but it's impossible to create what Glasgow has in Aberdeen.

Aberdeen has its little pockets of gig-going punters that have their own 'micro scenes' if you will, and that is absolutely great (and this isn't designed in any way to belittle that), but there's just not a greater appetite from the general public in Aberdeen for shows.

I'd be interested to know how you define 'making it'? There are some bands and promoters doing some good things in the city but there's always that balance between DOING IT and also having work/family/life commitments.

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1 hour ago, Lordie said:

I don't know of any local bands who have made it recently

There are none. 

1 hour ago, Lordie said:

So how do WE (& I mean collectively) change this..??

Dunno, I imagine we should ask someone who has...

1 hour ago, Lordie said:

 worked all my life in music in a&r and marketing (for the majors and indies)

...but that's just a guess.

1 hour ago, Lordie said:

How can we take a little of the shine away from Glasgow..?? If WE can create a scene I can get the big boys from London to take note..!!!

Locate the city 3 hours south and make it about 4 times the size?

1 hour ago, Lordie said:

 If WE can create a scene I can get the big boys from London to take note..!!!

Oh fuck thank you, finally, that's all we needed.

I jest. This site is dead though. You're too late.

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Iceland has about the same population as Aberdeen and its shire yet manages to have an absolutely thriving music scene. I'm not sure what point that makes but I find it quite interesting.

A lot of it has to do with the reasons why certain demographics are in a certain place. e.g. Glasgow attracts creative types for its art school and variety of courses/colleges, add to that a strong working class history and you have a recipe for good music. Aberdeen has oil and foreign exchange students. It is very rural and pretty so trad/folk music in the area is generally ace. Obviously that's a gross generalisation but the point being that despite a large enough population, the precise amount of gig-going public really is pretty small. 

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We need to local government to realise Oil is a shitshow and to put more money in to the creative arts. 

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I've not lived in or even visited Aberdeen for several years but, to echo what's been said above: geography, population and the internet. As noted above, you haven't defined what constitutes having "made it"' but, let's say, something like becoming full time pros? It happens: off the top of my hear - a producer on here quit his day job, moved to Brighton to be close to his record company and presumably play London a lot. An indie rock band several years ago did the same thing (these are years apart, but statistically is it likely to happen more often? Aberdeen's the 3rd biggest city in Scotland, but how about compared to the rest of the UK? Or the world (and with the internet one has access to the world. Travelling to see better bands is an option if you have the money; staying at home to listen to music much better than you could see locally is too, whatever the case).

Aberdeen is a major city in Scotland because of oil, and the universities. But geology (rocks. oil) is a heavyweight in the universities' appeal, which maybe doesn't attract the most arty and/or muso types. And the location: it's just way out of the way of everywhere else. A pro (even semi-pro... though if I hear "semi-pro", I probably think wedding and pub covers bands... maybe even amateurs with day jobs that can tour as a hobby and break even) band will have a Glasgow date on a tour (assuming not huge enough to ignore anything but a capital city) and then wonder about whether an Edinburgh gig is worthwhile (second biggest; capital city; heavyweight university; arts and history Mecca... but 30m or something from Glasgow). Going hours north to a yet smaller city with a only trip straight back down (compared to touring, I dunno, Birmingham-Liverpool-Manchester-Glasgow-Newcastle, with Leeds and/or Sheffield fitting in there. Even ignoring London).

If you're imagining someone making a demo or 3 in a bedroom in Aberdeen and getting it into the hands of a big London label and then signed... again, it happens, but I don't see why there needs to be a scene for that to happen (internet again). And likely there's an intermediate step of being in Glasgow (or, say, Brighton...) if someone is playing music full-time without quite "making it". Aberdeen is inordinately expensive (very small city with oil) and (again) geographically peripheral: so if someone has a foot in the door of being a pro musician/band/artist/etc., relocating to get further (professionally and financially) seems only sane.

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I'm gonna assume 'making it' means getting signed by one of the big 3 or any of their subsidiaries and making a reasonable amount of money (greater than the average paycheck) from sales/streams/playing live.

As well as the previously discussed things working against a band or artist based in Aberdeen, I'm gonna guess there is literally zero presence of any major or major-affiliated label in Aberdeen. There's no satellite office for beggars group or whatever, there's nobody having any meetings with label execs or representatives. The chances of doing any networking of any kind within the music industry is slim to fuck all. It's you, your bandmates and the folk you can scrape off their arses to come see you play. 

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Ok, I'm probably a lot older than most of the musicians on this site, having been around since the 60s but Aberdeen used to have a great live music scene back in the day. Granted, most of it was cover bands or tribute bands, but practically every pub had live music of some sort. I don't know what killed it off, I don't live in the city any more. But a rough guess would be high booze prices in pubs versus shit poor wages for the average guy or girl in the street meaning that a lot of folks can't afford to go out drinking and listening to music any more. Hardly any of the pubs can pay bands a decent fee any more. Most of them are content to let someone run an open mic night, it's cheap music for the publican.

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Aberdeen and shire is a fairly large geographic area with absolutely awful public transport and taxi's that used to be the second most expensive in the UK outside of London (dunno if that's still the case). 

As a shire dweller popping out on a Tuesday night to see some band I've never heard of might take 2-3 hours and over £60 just to get there and back, unless I leave the venue at like half ten for the last train or stay sober and drive the whole thing (45mins each way).  That's a big investment for what could be an utterly shite performance, for me I'd rather hold out for a big act (and would be prepared to travel further) or go see a band that's playing covers or the like as there usually decent quality. 

It's a bit crap for local bands trying to do their thing but at the same time if an Aberdeen band thinks they can just keep playing the venues in Aberdeen and from that build up enough buzz to get signed for a major label I think their pretty deluded.  

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To turn this thread away from making me want to top myself, what would be some realistic and worthwhile changes that could be made to (re)establish a better music scene in Aberdeen?

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17 minutes ago, ca_gere said:

To turn this thread away from making me want to top myself, what would be some realistic and worthwhile changes that could be made to (re)establish a better music scene in Aberdeen?

Disable the internet on a Saturday night? 

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1 hour ago, ca_gere said:

To turn this thread away from making me want to top myself, what would be some realistic and worthwhile changes that could be made to (re)establish a better music scene in Aberdeen?

I use a thing at work called the DMAIC Methodology, which is top-level, grade-A bullshit, but there's a part of it called the Five Whys which is used to find root causes and solutions to problems and could almost apply here. 

Five-Whys.jpg

So here's our problem in the left box. 

>The Music Scene is dead<

Why? 

1.People aren't going to gigs. 

Or

2. There aren't enough gigs. 

Why? 

1.1 People don't know about the gigs. 

1.2 Bands on the bill aren't good. 

1.3 People don't want to go to gigs on Tuesdays. 

1.4 People are bored of watching the same bands.

Why? 

1.1.1 Lazy promotion

1.1.2 Nowhere for them to practice

1.1.2 No-one told Dave he can't play the fucking drums. 

1.1.3 Shows are lackluster and TV is a better option. 

1.1.3 Love Island is on. 

1.1.4 There aren't enough bands. 

Etc etc etc. 

All just examples obviously but eventually you're meant to come to your root cause(s) and can thus come up with solutions. Yeah I hate my job too. 

Out of curiosity, what is lacking at the moment? Is it lack of bands, lack of venues, lack of promoters? Or still just the age old problem of getting punters through the doors?

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It's always about getting punters through the doors.

There are some goods artists doing good things in the city but the public just don't really care. That in turn is a cycle - bands maybe start out with some promise, play a couple of shows to four people in Drummonds then decide to pack it in because it isn't really very fun/what they were hoping for. So they don't ever develop any further.

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13 hours ago, ca_gere said:

To turn this thread away from making me want to top myself, what would be some realistic and worthwhile changes that could be made to (re)establish a better music scene in Aberdeen?

Stop the council shitting all over any decent venue.

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Also, as a promoter that brings a lot of touring bands to Aberdeeen, albeit on a very small scale meaning I'm no expert,...the prospect of getting a band touring the UK to come this far north is not exactly attractive. If they play here on a weekday there's likely going to be no cunt at the gig. So you have to convince them to come to Aberdeen on a Friday or Saturday. Meaning giving up on much bigger cities on a Friday or Saturday for the biggest turnout they can get in Aberdeen which will, in all likelihood, be smaller than the turnout they'd get in Edinburgh/Glasgow/North England on those days. The only reason I get bands to do it really is cos they know the gigs are a lot of fun from either being here before or hearing it from other bands.

Nothing I do will reflect the scene that most people are probably looking for. But the DIY doom/grind/punk scene in Aberdeen is still doing okay, probably because we understand it has small reach and treat it accordingly.  And none of us put on the gigs to make money. 

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What about the X-Certs? Sure they live in Brighton these days, but they are from Aberdeen and spent their formative years plying their trade at all the venues here, back when there was plenty of venues to do so. Although the fact they had to move to Brighton to make-it says it all...

Aberdeen music scene used to be great - but it was also very insular. Back when I was more heavily involved in it 10-15 years ago there were plenty of bands that built up strong fan bases in Aberdeen but who didn't often venture outside it. I'm sure there are many factors why, but geographic location is by and large to 'blame'. From my point of view, here's why:

My own band at the time started to get a lot more serious around 2005 and we began playing a load more shows outside Aberdeen - frequently playing the likes of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Perth, Dundee and Inverness as well as using all our holidays from our jobs to do week or 2 tours of the rest of the UK. After a few years of doing this we were signed to a good label, had an album out in all major retailers and were starting to get mentioned in magazines etc - although let me state now I wouldn't so much as dare to say we even came close to 'making it'. However I would say we could have made a lot more of the band if we were based down south.

The main reason is because it is a massive amount of effort and expense to play one-off shows outside Aberdeen (the fee you get paid probably won't even cover your petrol costs). If you have a job and bills to pay, it just isn't feasible to regularly take an afternoon off work to drive a 6-hour-minimum round trip to Glasgow on a week night. We used to do this as often as we could, but not enough to get to that next level. On top of that, from Aberdeen you can only really go South to find a big city to play - and even then there's only really Glasgow that is of major significance (Edinburgh's music scene/venues were nowhere near as good as you would expect from a city of nearly half a million, at least from my experience - and even though I'd say it's totally worth it, you aren't gonna make it from playing Dundee and Perth on a regular basis).  Compare this to being from (say) Manchester, you have the likes of Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, and Birmingham a 1-2 hour drive away! 

Put simply, if you are from Aberdeen (and assuming you are talented enough to make it), you need to quit your job and go full time or relocate down south. And if you are dedicated enough to do the former, you might as well do the latter anyway.

(This is just my experience, which is based on playing in the metal scene in the mid-late 2000s. I fully appreciate if this doesn't apply to other genres or eras)

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12 hours ago, Lemonade said:

Out of curiosity, what is lacking at the moment? Is it lack of bands, lack of venues, lack of promoters? Or still just the age old problem of getting punters through the doors?

The internet/streaming/downloading has changed things drastically. (Kind of the equivalent of what Facebook has done to this place - although I'd say that the decline of a music scene has also contributed)

Regarding the internet; firstly - on the plus side, if someone from Aberdeen was supremely talented then there is a chance that with the right exposure they could get noticed. Of course this would likely lead to a best case scenario of a million youtube hits or spotify streams, so unless they were to start touring it's unlikely that any form of internet fame would lead to a financially viable/sustainable career.

However on the downside, music is far more expendable now. People don't buy CDs or hang around record shops because you can have whatever song you want right here, right now, for free. There will always be people into music, buying vinyl and attending gigs, but that doesn't necessarily make it viable for venues to stay open. I don't think it's a coincidence that Our price, Fopp, One-up, Virgin and Zavvi have gradually disappeared over the years, with the music venues having done similar.  If people kept going to gigs like they used to, venues would still be open and bands would still be playing them. Possibly this is down to indie and rock scenes not being what they used to, whereas computer-generated music is as popular as ever? Unless I am mistaken, this is the first time there isn't a form of band-based music that is a trend/in vogue right now... that hasn't been the case since rock music took off in the 1960s (classic rock, punk, hair-metal/new-wave, grunge, brit-rock, pop-punk/nu-metal, emo etc etc came and went...what is there now?)

I'm rambling - but I'm sure there is a good argument in there somewhere.
 

 

Edited by Dan G
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44 minutes ago, Dan G said:

The main reason is because it is a massive amount of effort and expense to play one-off shows outside Aberdeen (the fee you get paid probably won't even cover your petrol costs). If you have a job and bills to pay, it just isn't feasible to regularly take an afternoon off work to drive a 6-hour-minimum round trip to Glasgow on a week night. We used to do this as often as we could, but not enough to get to that next level. On top of that, from Aberdeen you can only really go South to find a big city to play - and even then there's only really Glasgow that is of major significance (Edinburgh's music scene/venues were nowhere near as good as you would expect from a city of nearly half a million, at least from my experience - and even though I'd say it's totally worth it, you aren't gonna make it from playing Dundee and Perth on a regular basis).  Compare this to being from (say) Manchester, you have the likes of Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, and Birmingham a 1-2 hour drive away! 

This is easily one of the biggest reasons. I imagine if my current band were based in somewhere like Leeds/Manchester we could be playing gigs almost every weekend without even need much compensation because there's way more cities surrounding you. However, we recently did a one off show in Manchester. That ended up costing us £150, and was a full 2 days with all the driving. So really we should have been doing a full weekender of gigs to make it worth it. 

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6 minutes ago, Teabags said:

This is easily one of the biggest reasons. I imagine if my current band were based in somewhere like Leeds/Manchester we could be playing gigs almost every weekend without even need much compensation because there's way more cities surrounding you. However, we recently did a one off show in Manchester. That ended up costing us £150, and was a full 2 days with all the driving. So really we should have been doing a full weekender of gigs to make it worth it. 

Yeah completely agree - and you could actually even 'tour' by working during the day (maybe leave an hour early), play the gig and drive home at night, and repeat in another city the next day. No need to worry about finding a place to crash or sneaking 5 guys into a single Premier Inn room. 

We once did a one-off gig in Manchester too. Except we didn't know it had been cancelled until we got there... absolutely savage.

And as you'll be well familiar with, the time to drive a distance in a tour van is nowhere near the same as a car. Organising 5 people, loading in gear, van being slower etc. Aberdeen to manchester via car = 6 hours. Via van it's what...9-10?

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58 minutes ago, Dan G said:

On top of that, from Aberdeen you can only really go South to find a big city to play - and even then there's only really Glasgow that is of major significance (Edinburgh's music scene/venues were nowhere near as good as you would expect from a city of nearly half a million, at least from my experience - and even though I'd say it's totally worth it, you aren't gonna make it from playing Dundee and Perth on a regular basis).  Compare this to being from (say) Manchester, you have the likes of Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, and Birmingham a 1-2 hour drive away!

This is what I noticed right away when I moved to Aberdeen, there is a significant disconnect, which I guess is down to location. As a band in Aberdeen, your only option the majority of the time is to play in Aberdeen, in a pool of venues that seemed to keep getting smaller. It's hard to maintain enthusiasm for that, and going further afield is time consuming and expensive, and gets in the way of jobs and whatnot. Networking is hard, as is gaining any real momentum. It's not impossible, but it's made much more difficult, and it's easy to give in because it doesn't feel worth it.

Growing up playing in bands and putting gigs on in West Yorkshire, options were limitless, because so many places are smooshed together. First gig I ever put on by myself in Leeds was a Monday night, 6 bands, 2 of them from Manchester, it ran until half 11, which is wild for a school night, but at that time of night, once you're on the M62, Manchester is 40 minutes away tops, and the trains run through the night due to Manchester Airport links. Small shitty towns across WY even had great scenes within them. Wakefield, Pontefract, Barnsley, and Doncaster were booming with young college bands in the early/mid 00's, and those places are total dives and very small, but everything is so connected. You could probably do a tour of WY playing different towns every night for a fortnight and not even take a day off work.

But the disconnect can only take so much of the blame. Now I'm down in Bristol, the scene here is pretty great, yet it also suffers from a bit of a disconnect. Closest place is Bath, but nothing happens there, musically. Bristol is sort of on it's own, at the other end of the country from London, not really on a typical touring route, but a great deal of big bands come to play here anyway, and the local scene is excellent. It's almost completely replaced Cardiff as being the south-west stop off for touring bands, as hardly any bands go to Cardiff now. There is a similar issue in Bristol with local government and stupidly wealthy property developers shitting on great venues (they've just shut down the Bierkeller which was awesome, they're trying to shut down The Thekla for some reason, even though it's no real threat to anyone as it's a moored boat, and The Fleece is under serious threat as it's now surrounded by mass property development) but for now it's still booming. Perhaps it benefits from having over double the population than Aberdeen, but there must be more to it than that?

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The Bristol v Aberdeen thing probably goes back to what ca_gere was saying about demographics. Bristol, from what I can tell, has morphed in to a trendy artsy place to live if London is too expensive for you and that lends itself to having various thriving music scenes.

Who has the money to be in a band these days? Jobs are mostly shit, gear is expensive and no one plays drums anyway so even if you had the money you're better off making music at home on your laptop instead, right?

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I play in a band that does okay.

We do a lot of 'down and backs' when we need to - i.e. work, leave the city around 5pm, soundcheck, play the show/radio/whatever, return to ABZ the same night - and it's tiring. We are in a fortunate enough position that the band stuff kind of takes care of itself re: money and fees vs our expenditure but that has taken actual years of hard work to be able to be in that position.

If we were trying to 'make it', we simply couldn't do the things we needed to do whilst maintaining our jobs in Aberdeen. All the relevant/important shows as far as Scotland goes happen three hours south of here - even to get a decent support slot with a touring band ('medium' touring bands don't come to Aberdeen for the most part and 'big' touring bands don't need to).

We use a lot of holidays from work on band things which is absolutely fine because it's good fun, but the older we get and the more commitments we have individually the more difficult it is to co-ordinate. The fact is we're all into it and we love it so we continue to make personal sacrifices to manage the calendar but we are definitely more picky about the opportunities we take up, because we have to be to make it work.

There's also the simple fact that playing too often in your home city can cheapen what you're trying to achieve there. Keep 'em keen and all that.

Edited by Adam Easy Wishes
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Out of interest, aside from Teabagsy music what other niche scenes are there in Aberdeen nowadays?

@Dan G that travelling sounds fucking brutal. No wonder most Aberdeen bands don’t last.

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