Interview – SouthSonic Editor Clare Kingswell

SouthSonic is a new online music publication focused on exposing the musical delights of the South of England, featuring news, reviews, interviews and much more! M3 spoke to editor Clare Kingswell about the music industry and picked up some top promotional tips along the way…

M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Clare – I’m the co-founder and co-editor of SouthSonic, which is a fairly new online music publication. My co-editor is actually away in Australia at the moment so I have full responsibility right now. That means delegating work to my contributors, news editor and marketing manager; arranging guestlist spots and interview time for events and festivals across the south of the UK; working closely with record labels, PR companies and band managers to ensure that we get features and reviews published in good time (i.e before the release date); and of course I edit all the reviews that get submitted to the site. And if I have any time left over when that’s all sorted I write reviews myself – I try to as much as possible. I’m also doing PR for Continents at the moment too.

What inspired you to start SouthSonic? What is your own musical background?
I started up my own promotions company and put on local(ish) bands every other week when I was 16. That was when I had my first taste of the music industry – back when Myspace dominated the internet – I got so much out of it and met so many awesome people that, really, it inspired the degree course I took. I was in a band too at the time, was writing occasional articles for the local paper and was taking A Level music so my whole life just revolved around playing, writing, promoting and analysing Bach compositions. It was a weird combination. So anyway… I did my A Levels and went to uni to study journalism and commercial music production and after I graduated Clare Pitcher (my co-editor) approached me in the gym and was like “you like music and stuff don’t you? Wanna do something about it?” It was well timed and we just shared the same vision. All I have ever really wanted to do is write about music and by then I had built up enough contacts and know-how to make it work so we went ahead and did it.

How has the internet affected what you do? Would you say it’s made your job easier, or more difficult?
SouthSonic is an online publication so everything we do revolves around the internet. It’s made my job incredibly easy in some ways, but sometimes emails can take forever to come through when all I want to know is whether it’s a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ – it can get frustrating waiting for a confirmation sometimes, but that’s just the way it is. I still get loads of CDs in the post, which I normally send on, but the majority of things we review are received via private link or a stream. I receive an abundance of Soundcloud links every day. It’s an awesome platform for musicians and labels.

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?
Yeah, I think that the money is in touring, but it depends what type of band you are. You can’t put a price on an experience. I believe that the best and most honest bands become successful because they have the ability to impress crowds and connect with people. That’s the real test. Perhaps more to the point though is merch – some bands are turning into clothing brands, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but can certainly be a great way to promote your band and make some money. Recording, production, distribution and all that type of stuff is so money sucking so bands are having to adapt and conquer in other ways.

What would you say are the main challenges facing an up and coming concert promoter in the 21st century?
There are timeless challenges like gig clashes that promoters will always have to be aware of. Don’t book a show if a band of the same genre is playing a bigger venue the same night… it’s promotion suicide. I think, like everything in life, balance is paramount. Be pro-active. Putting one poster up in the venue just isn’t going to cut it, but posting about the same gig every 30 seconds on facebook is irritating – you don’t want to ostricise the audience before they’ve even made it through the doors. Getting the balance right between acts is one of the most important aspects of promoting – there needs to be a balance between national/regional and local bands – never forget local, young bands – they are the ones that pull in the punters. And crucially, know your internet platforms. Be assertive, but not annoying. Don’t pester people with continual updates about the same gig. Use google analytics to track who’s looking at what and where people are getting directed from. Be twitter savvy. Encourage sharing and retweets as much as possible. Finally, don’t underestimate good old fashioned word of mouth.

What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
It depends where I am. I’ve got a few cassettes in my car (ranging from Zombie Nation to Def Leppard) which I play sometimes, but I’ve got one of those tape adapter things too so I listen to music from my phone, but most the time I just have the radio on. If I get CDs sent to me they normally get imported to my computer straight away. Spotify has been such a monumental addition to my life; I don’t know what I’d do without it – that would be my preferred medium.

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?
Possibly. I know that there have been campaigns to celebrate albums as a whole though – Zane Lowe’s masterpieces being one of these. Perhaps it depends on the type of music – pop music is very single-dependent, but I feel that many genres still work towards albums being cohesive, entire records. Artists are still bringing out concept and narrative fueled records, so surely that stands for something?

Similarly, do you feel that the abundance of recorded music that is easily available on the internet has led people to place more importance on the live experience as the ‘authentic’ way to hear music?
Going to shows is more of a deal now than it was ten years ago. People love saying “I saw them live last year”, don’t they? There is so much going on in the UK. You just need to have a look at the endless list of festivals taking place this summer to see how much weight is placed on live music.

What is your take on the current SOPA/ACTA controversy?
Don’t get me started.

Finally, what does the future have in store for SouthSonic?
There are so many possibilities for us – we just want to get involved and help out as many artists as possible. I have a lot of faith in UK artists and have always been passionate about my ‘local scene’. We have a lot planned for the summer, with the possibility of the first SouthSonic tour. We are sponsoring a small alternative festival in Bristol in June and have close links with Reel Me Records – an indie label doing incredible things with artists from the UK – so we’ll have a presence at all of their events in the coming months. Festival season is lurking so we’ll mostly be out and about at events, interviewing bands and writing about the experience for all our readers to see! In addition to this, we thought we should make use of all of our contacts so are beginning to introduce a PR service for bands and artists too. Get in contact for details!

For more information on SouthSonic, you can visit their website, or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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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