Birmingham based organisation Capsule have been curating various concerts, events and exhibitions for over 12 years now, inclding the critically acclaimed and extremely diverse annual Supersonic Festival. M3 asked co-director Lisa Meyer about counter culture, the internet and the importance of live music…
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
I’m Lisa Meyer, co-director of Capsule, responsible for Supersonic Festival, Home Of Metal as well as a year round programme of live events and exhibitions.
What inspired you to form Capsule? What is your own musical background?
Living in Birmingham in the late 90’s there was very little going on culturally, in particular activity that represented counter culture. Having come from a visual art background with a passion for music we had the opportunity to start programming in a bar called the Medicine Bar, based in the Custard Factory and created events that mixed elements of live music with a strong visual aesthetic.
In terms of musical background, I can’t sing or play a note, rather have been a huge music fan since I was about 13 and when I was a student used to put on gigs in the basement of my student house. The whole DIY culture of that time was hugely influential and I hope that we have carried through some of that ethos in terms of how we operate now.
How has the Internet affected what you do? Would you say it’s made your job easier, or more difficult?
I think that it’s been great in so much as you can access artists by tracking them down; in our early days we’d email artists we were fans of and invite them to perform at our shows. Equally social media tools allow you to create a dialogue with your audience, which is wonderful.
What is negative is that by having the ability to download an artist’s entire back catalogue many people don’t value the artist and understand that they need to be paid, that what they’ve produced has cost time and resources not to mention talent. I think when you bought a piece of vinyl it had a tangible value associated with it.
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?
Capsule operate within non-mainstream music and are very much focused on the live performance element, however I think there are still many fans that value the ‘object’ or record, but artists/labels perhaps have to work harder to make that feel unique and special, by way of design etc.
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (egg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
I love collecting vinyl, I am as much a fan of the artwork and layout as I am the music – so love the object, however in this modern age, the ability to listen to music on the go via MP3 is great. I guess I have two different approaches and certainly for checking music out as much as we do – the net is great for that.
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?
I’m still part of the old school, in the sense that I love vinyl as an art object, but even with albums there is always a track that stands out that you listen to over and over again. The digital age has allowed people to go straight to that track.
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?
They are so different, in so much as the live experience is about being in the moment, being surrounded by a like-minded community- your ‘tribe’, the relationship with the band and how that affects the performance. Listening to recorded music is more than often a singular experience, I think it’s difficult to compare as ‘authentic’ as both have a totally different purpose.
What would you say are the main challenges facing an up and coming concert promoter in the 21st century?
Over saturation is an issue and there are few champions like John Peel with access to mainstream media, what I mean by that is particularly for emergent music there is very little in the media that represents this type of music, so unless you are already in the know and are able to seek it out there is little way of introducing new audiences to non commercial pop.
What is your take on the current SOPA/ACTA controversy?
Lets face it, people used to record from the radio, tape to tape etc, it’s always been there and won’t stop people valuing music, there is little point in trying to control this.
Finally, what does the future have in store for Capsule?
Well, this year we will be celebrating our 10th birthday for Supersonic Festival and 13 years for Capsule. We’ve gone from strength to strength mainly because we have always adapted and been aware and open to change whilst maintaining a clear vision to create extraordinary events for adventurous audiences. As long as we are still curious and don’t do things by numbers we should fingers crossed be here for another 10 years.