Interview – Charlie and Amanda

Charlie and Amanda are an alternative rock band from Bath, with a keen ear for sing along grunge anthems, quirky pop songs and gliding atmospheric ditties. M3 spoke to bassist Jake Burgoyne Lock about future distribution models, the limits of copyright and the benefits of social media…

M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Jake – I’m bass player/recordist/producer for Charlie & Amanda, we play some songs here and there in the south west of the UK. I work as a sound tech and I’m a studying for a degree in creative music technology.

What inspired you to form Charlie and Amanda? What are your own musical backgrounds?
Well, we were arbitrarily assigned as a band on a popular music course we all happened to enrol for, for the purposes of studying aspects of song writing, production and promotion… that old chestnut. After we finished the course and the practice space was no longer free it fell apart, but I think we all wanted to see what would happen if we kept pushing and decided to get back together last year. I think we bring different things from different places, the two guitarist/vocalists bring the melodic side of our music from bands like At The Drive In, The Strokes and Radiohead, I like jangly indie bass styles from bands like MGMT and Ok Go, but I’m really into soul, funk and hip hop bass lines too. Our drummer produces a lot of electronic stuff and plays with a ska band as well and adds a lot of rhythms to stuff that I would never have thought of, we like to experiment a lot with different things put together.

What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
Definitely vinyl at the moment, I think it’s going to be the next big thing! Its tactile, it adds character, and it’s a more ceremonial experience to take out a disc, carefully place it on the mat and position the needle. MP3 is definitely the convenience food of music and we’re all guilty of consuming it. In my sound engineering capacity I come across DJs who are playing very horrible sounding MP3s at 100DB and I can’t believe people are swallowing it, I guess the average person doesn’t care or doesn’t notice, I usually set the levels and get out of there. I also find myself wanting to pay for vinyl even after being raised on infinite free downloads. I use MP3 to distribute our music, as most of our audience wants to listen on Soundcloud or YouTube, at least its cheap and quick!. I’d love to make a Charlie & Amanda vinyl with a CD included.

Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
It would be a shame if someone with a great album idea were made to abandon it in favour of a compilation of standalone singles. I hope the artists who want to make proper albums do so, and their fans enjoy it. Some people say the shuffle thing is destroying the idea of the album; again, vinyl is the answer! We make and release one song at a time because that’s we do.

Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?
I think the loss of knowledge within all areas of retail is worrying. I really like Fopp, they get good reissues in, I bought a Sugar Hill Gang on vinyl today, similar price to the second hand sellers, and its brand new so it won’t jump the needle. Hopefully they can rebuild their high street presence.

Many people have claimed that there is no longer any money in record sales, and that touring is the most efficient way to earn an income as a band. How much truth do you think there is in this sentiment?
I think you can’t expect to make money from a product that is free on the internet, that’s why a lot of musicians are making exclusive packs (usually vinyl) and making it a great package with lots of things included like hand printed artwork, 3D art work: you can’t download that. Most labels seem to be less focused on recording and more on touring and the 360 deals, so I guess there can’t be any money in records. The home studio is cheaper and easier to have than ever, so maybe the recording can (finally) be left to the musicians and technical people. Maybe it’s a good thing, with more freedom and not so much money tied up in it, maybe recordings can get better, promote the tour, and bring in larger ticket sales.

How useful do you think social media (such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc) is for an up and coming musician?
It’s basically all you need. There is a music student at the college where I study who at the age of 20 has got into the top 25 album chart (I think) 3 times on the strength of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter self-promotion. Obviously she can play, sing and write very well as well, but maybe even 15 years ago that kind of success would have been impossible without signing everything away to record companies. Goes to show that it may be possible to directly market, be a major artist and still own your debut album.

Do you think the internet has rendered traditional concepts of copyright obsolete, or do you think they are still relevant?
Maybe we should focus less on the perpetual, exclusive rights of individuals, and more on getting ideas and material back into the public domain. Should Disney pay the brothers Grimm (or their descendants) royalties for copying their fairytales? If Disney gets their way, and copyright limits are extended, then the next generation WILL be paying royalties to use ancient work that has become (as good as) folk art. If you look at how copyright law was envisaged when it was written in the 1700s, then the idea was to give exclusivity to creators for a limited time, to make back development costs and some profit, and then open the discovery up to wider society. The Internet is just an upgrade of the tape deck. The shift towards massive, never-ending profit from increasingly inferior quality product is causing a backlash.

What is your take on the recent SOPA/ACTA controversy?
I saw the government trying to put laws into place to control people and help greedy, large business and thought that that would be a bad thing. Maybe I’m wrong. We probably need very tough laws to keep the status quo, but maybe we don’t need the status quo, maybe there is another way. Also I believe the governments are using these acts to test public reaction to for-coming, tighter controls on what we can say and do on the internet, I don’t think the government knows best.
I think only people who can’t create things are worried about copyright, artists can do some thing of value and will be paid for it. I think artists should get value from their valuable work, and in the current situation, most artists get a tiny fraction of their royalties. Did you know there are companies built entirely on a business model of buying up patents and copyrights, and then suing people for infringement? To say the artist signed it away as their choice doesn’t do it for me, why are companies getting the lion’s share of art revenue? I think the answer I’d go for is to tag media in a non-invasive way to count plays/downloads, collect a flat fee from everyone and proportionally divide it among the artists based on plays. Like radio and PRS.

Finally, what does the future hold for Charlie and Amanda?
Lots more recording, gigging and good times.

For more information about Charlie and Amanda, you can follow the band on Facebook, Twitter and Vimeo. You can also watch the band’s new video here, and check out Jake Burgoyne Lock’s Soundcloud page to hear more.

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About M3 Event

The music industry is rapidly changing. The internet has enabled widespread piracy, as well as a variety of new business and distribution models. We want to offer an engaged audience in and around the Euregion an opportunity to develop a coherent and detailed picture of the future of music distribution. On the 31st of May 2012 a music conference in Maastricht, consisting of oppositional debates, creative workshops and lectures, will provoke opportunities for intellectual stimulation, debate, as well as networking. We hope to utilise the skills and ideas of some of most forward thinking minds and operators in the industry in order to highlight some promising new ideas and areas which can be improved upon.

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