Murdered For Being Different: The Death of Sophie Lancaster.

As we approach the 10th anniversary of the horrific attack that led to her death, BBC Three have released a harrowing one-off film portraying the events that ended in Sophie Lancaster’s brutal murder.

Nico Mirallegro as Robert Maltby, and Abigail Lawrie as Sophie Lancaster

I want to write something different today. Something that matters. Something that means something. I sat down to watch the BBC Three dramatization of Sophie Lancaster’s death, Murdered For Being Different, and I knew I wasn’t in for an easy watch by any means, but I don’t think I could have ever really prepared myself for how the hour-long film made me feel.

‘Murdered For Being Different’ tells the true story of the vicious, hate-motivated attack on 20-year-old Sophie Lancaster and her boyfriend Robert Maltby, which stemmed from the way they were dressed; they were Goths. After striking up a conversation with a group of strangers at a local petrol station, the friendly young couple – who had met two years previously – went with them to Stubbylee Park in Bacup, Lancashire, where Maltby was singled out in the completely unprovoked attack.

Image from BBC Three’s ‘Murdered For Being Different’

After Maltby and Lancaster spoke with the group and shared their cigarettes among them, five (then) teenage boys launched themselves at Maltby, kicking, punching and stamping on him until he was unconscious. Lancaster, who knelt by his side and cradled his head in her arms – assumedly trying to protect him from any further blows – was then also kicked and stamped upon repeatedly. Their injuries were so severe that both Maltby and Lancaster were left in comas. Maltby awoke a week later with little memory of what took place but, tragically, Lancaster never regained consciousness.

Having followed the story of Sophie Lancaster since my mid-teens (which I will talk more about later), when I saw ‘Murdered For Being Different’ online I was instantly intrigued. However, as I watched the brutally powerful re-telling, the gut-wrenching fact that these events actually happened hit home all over again. Told from the point of view of survivor Robert Maltby – played by Nico Mirallegro (Hollyoaks, My Mad Fat Diary) – factual drama ‘Murdered For Being Different’, interestingly also looks behind the attack and into the lives of Robert Maltby and Sophie Lancaster – played by Abigail Lawrie (The Casual Vacancy) – as a couple.

As the drama starts, a black screen is illuminated with the words ‘this is a true story’ in capitals. Five words made all the more menacing when you know what is to come. The twinkling, fairytale-esque, instrumental of ‘Pure Imagination’ quickly follows: beautiful yet chilling. The audience is then shown snippets of the events to come, ending with the frantic 999 phone-call and sound of sirens.

The film then takes audiences back two years before the attack, depicting the beginning of Maltby and Lancaster’s relationship. From their first meeting at a gig – set to the sound of The Subways’ ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Queen’ – to their first kiss; made all the more tender thanks to the piano version of the Pixies’ track ‘Where Is My Mind’. In another heart-warming scene, viewers see keen artist Maltby painting wings on Lancaster’s back, telling her ‘you’re an angel, you need wings.’ We also see him return home in the early hours of the morning, having travelled to buy Lancaster the final Harry Potter book and walking home in the rain. As the story unfolds it becomes increasingly apparent that their relationship was extremely affectionate and gentle; they were really in love. It shows that at their core they were just people, normal people who wanted to express their individuality in how they dressed.

However, the film also highlighted a darker side of their lives, regularly receiving abuse for their Gothic look: being called names, chased and threatened. The pair chose to rise above it, with Lancaster saying that “hiding means the idiots win.” This attitude is shown excellently at the end of the film as – after saying goodbye to an unresponsive Lawrie – Mirallegro is seen lacing up his boots, re-applying eye-liner to his heavily bruised face, re-adorning himself in his Gothic accessories, and nodding at his reflection before leaving the hospital to walk through Bacup market; refusing to hide himself and who he is.

The story is told in an extremely effective way throughout, using a series of flashbacks and cutaway’s, so upcoming events are hinted at and half-seen before being played in full towards the end. This technique also works to build tension and create a stark, unflinching contrast between the gentle, almost dream-like beginning of their relationship, to the gritty, graphic reconstruction of the disturbing attack that changed Maltby’s life and took Lancaster’s – making it an incredibly hard watch.

At the end of the heart-breaking drama, the sentences received by those involved are flashed up on-screen next to the faces of the respective actors who played them; three of the five young men have since been released from prison, while the other two are currently serving life sentences. Also shown is a frightening statistic: an astonishing 70,000 hate crime incidents were reported only last year in the UK. The highest it’s ever been. The film closes with a selection of images of Maltby and Lancaster together, set to the tune of Placebo’s eerily haunting version of Kate Bush classic ‘Running Up That Hill’ – the lyrics making it even more poignant.

I remember when I first read about this in ‘Kerrang!’ magazine when it happened back in 2007. I was 16. I didn’t know Sophie Lancaster or Robert Maltby but it’s impossible not to be moved by this story. It immediately resonated with me back then because I was also seen as ‘different’. I wore black eye-shadow, listened to heavy rock music, had a Jack Skellington bag shaped like a coffin, and changed my hair colour every few weeks; from red to blue, to black to pink. Everyone thought I was a little bit weird, and I got some light-hearted jibes thrown my way – but I was lucky, there was no malice in it. I was never into anything dodgy or dangerous, I wasn’t a Satanist, I just liked the Goth aesthetic; wearing black and being a bit different. Most of the other girls I knew were all about having perfectly brushed hair, re-applying make-up in classes, chasing the ‘cool’ boys…that wasn’t me. I was always championing individuality, and even scrawled ‘don’t be afraid to be yourself’ across one of my old school bags – which was met with questionable looks and raised eyebrows.

When this story broke, I felt sick reading the reports; I couldn’t believe that something so senseless and brutal had happened. How could someone do that to someone else? To punch, kick and stamp on someone’s head until they’re unconscious – and for what? After Sophie passed away, her mother Sylvia – who received an OBE in 2014 – set up a charity in her daughter’s name. The Sophie Lancaster Foundation works to spread awareness of alternative subcultures in society and the distressing effects of hate-crime, all the while keeping her memory alive. The charity – which stands for ‘Stamp Out Prejudice Hate and Intolerance Everywhere’ – teaches at primary, secondary and university level, as well as offering training courses, and working with the police and justice system with the view to prevent further crimes of this nature.

‘Murdered For Being Different’ is a powerful telling of a harrowing story; the film’s contrasting dual focus, first of Maltby and Lancaster’s relationship and then the horrific attack, making it all the more hard-hitting. It’s upsetting at times, but executed extremely well by the writers, director and actors. The emotion, from poignancy to brutality and everything in between, really came across – almost as though it reached out and grabbed you. It’s something that will stay with you after the credits have long finished rolling.

 

Weirdo? Mosher? Freak?

Human being.

 

 

Links:

  • If you haven’t already, you can still catch ‘Murdered For Being Different’ on BBC Iplayer, click here to watch it.
  • Along with his involvement in ‘Murdered For Being Different’, Robert Maltby has also spoken out about the attack, his recovery and his views – for the first and only time in ten years – in an interview with The Guardian. The article also highlights that Maltby went on to finish his illustration degree and now wants to move forward with his life as an artist. Click here to take a look at his portfolio, and click here to read the article.
  • While researching for this piece, I found a series of interviews on BBC Three’s YouTube channel in relation to the film, which included Tracy Maltby, Sylvia Lancaster and Robert Maltby, which I found really interesting. I also came across an interview with Sally Lindsay – who plays Tracy Maltby – and Slyvia Lancaster on ‘Lorraine’, where they talk about the film, Sophie’s memory and the Sophie Lancaster Foundation.
  • The Foundation’s official website also offers merchandise, to further spread the message that prejudice, hate and intolerance is not okay, with the proceeds going on to support the cause and the work that they do. The staff can also be found selling merchandise at festivals around the UK, including ‘Bloodstock’ which has a stage named after Sophie herself.
  • There are many annual fund-raising events that take place in support of S.O.P.H.I.E. You can keep up to date with any upcoming functions via social media:

Facebook / Instagram.

 

Artists You Should Know: The Cab (Music Is Love Throwback)

Hi everyone,

If you’ve ever come across my little corner of the internet before, then you’ll know that Las Vegas based rockers The Cab have been one of my favourite bands for years. I’ve posted numerous reviews of their music in the past, and I’ve met both Alex DeLeon and Alex Marshall; the former a number of times, which I have also relayed in blog posts.

Back in 2009 fans created an anniversary known as ‘The Cab Day’ to honour the release of the band’s debut album ‘Whisper War’, and next week – April 29th to be exact – marks the eighth anniversary of that same release. Over the years the band have undergone multiple line-up changes (vocalist Alex DeLeon being the only original member of the band left) and they’ve practically been silent on the music front since dropping their most recent EP, ‘Lock Me Up’, back in 2014. DeLeon has since premiered a brand new solo project under the moniker Bohnes, and there is a massive-question mark over the current status of the band, with no official statement having been released.

However, founding member Cash Colligan has expressed, via social media, that he’d be interested in a ten year reunion featuring the original line-up. Being that I’m from the UK and I’ve not had the chance to see the band live because they’ve never done a European tour, I’m in full support of this idea; and if they could bring it overseas to give fans like me the opportunity, not to just see them but the original line-up, that would be the icing on the cake.

So, in honour of ‘The Cab Day 2016’, I thought I’d share with you a short piece that I wrote on the band back in 2012, around the release of their second album Symphony Soldier. Originally this article was to feature on my other website, Music Is Love, as part of a university project. Since graduating MIL isn’t something I’ve continued with, as I already had this blog for three years by that point, so I thought it’d be cool to share the pieces, on this site, from time to time.

Enjoy.

 

What’s not to love about this Las Vegas based five piece?
Seriously, let us know if you find anything.

the cab pr shots

“The reason we are a band is the fans,” say Las Vegas based band The Cab. “Without them, we’d be sitting on the couch playing songs for each other. We still can’t believe it when people get tattoos or write letters about how the songs have helped them through hard times. It’s very humbling.” The pop/rock five piece, hailing from Las Vegas are, vocalist Alex DeLeon, guitarist/keyboardist Alex Marshall, bassist Joey Thunder, Chantry Johnson also on guitar and drummer Dave Briggs, and they’ve had their fair share of ups and downs over the years, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and it seems as though these boys are testament to that.

In 2008 the band, then a different line-up, released their debut album Whisper War through record label Fuelled by Ramen. The album is full of killer tracks, addictive choruses and an upbeat vibe that is more fun than a bathtub full of chocolate. But despite the pop-punk sound that would’ve been a perfect fit for the market of the time, and some collaborations with some pretty high profile artists in the rock world, namely, label mate, Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco, Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump and Hey Monday’s Cassadee Pope, the record failed to propel the boys to the heights of bands like Paramore.

Sadly the album didn’t get the exposure it deserved and the Cab remained pretty under the radar. When it came to making a second album, the guys took their sweet time. After a three year wait, during which time they went through multiple line-up changes and parted ways with Fuelled by Ramen. Symphony Soldier is an undoubtedly exceptional album, made by a band who wouldn’t compromise their artistic integrity at any cost, they persevered and after signing to new label Z-Entertainment records, in 2012 second album Symphony Soldier was released in both, the US and the UK.

“In the US, we were blown away with the initial response. We didn’t know what to expect really.” Say the band, “It’s amazing that people in countries we haven’t had the chance to visit yet are so passionate about the music. It’s support like that, that keeps us going. ” And the boys like to thank the fans for that in any way they can, like including things in Symphony Soldier pre-order packages like phone calls and handwritten lyrics. Still The Cab, and just as addictive as Whisper War, Symphony Soldier has less of the Fall Out Boy/Panic! At The Disco-esque influence, but still retains everything we’ve come to associate with The Cab; the lyrics are still as honest and beautiful, the melodies are still as catchy and dance-able, but there is definitely an increased air of maturity that shows how much the boys have grown. The guys also got to work with some well known artists in the industry for this record, such as Adam Levine (Maroon 5), Bruno Mars, and Pete Wentz (Ex-Fall Out Boy) some of whom, members of the band cite as major influences.

the cab press shots

Since the release, the band have been working hard to get their foot firmly on the ladder; releasing music videos for their first two singles ‘Bad’ and ‘Endlessly’, gaining national airplay in America and more recently on UK’s Capital FM, and after an intimate gig on The London Eye for a selection of competition winners, caught the attention of tabloid newspaper The Sun.

And it doesn’t stop there, the guys supported Maroon 5 on their ‘Overexposed’ tour in 2012, and are hard at work recording, as yet untitled, album number three. So despite all their struggles it seems that things are finally picking up speed. “We have had our fair share of obstacles as a band, but giving up was never an option. We love what we do.” This is a band that has everything: the polished sound, the amazing, meaningful, honest lyrics, and everything fits together complimenting each other. Each member is amazingly skilled at what they do, and they’re really nice guys …so why wouldn’t we love them?

But, being from the UK, the question on a lot of people’s lips is, are there any plans for a UK tour? “It’s been in the works for a long time, just need to have the right shows booked and make it all work. But it’s high on our priority. ” We’ll just have to keep everything crossed. But wherever you are in the world, if you can make it to a show I would. When asked what their live show is like, their cheeky reply will no doubt make you smile. “Joey may or may not be playing naked. You will just have to come and find out. ” So, that’s appreciative down-to-earth guys, amazing music and a possibly naked Joey Thunder… how can you resist that?

 

To see my review of The Cab’s most recent EP ‘Lock Me Up’, click here.

To see my interview with the band back in 2012 following the release of their second album ‘Symphony Soldier’, click here.

To see my ‘One to Watch’ on The Cab, click here.

To see my first ever (short) reviews of The Cab, click here.

To check out my countdown to the release of ‘Symphony Soldier’, known as ‘The Cab Week’, click here.

To check out my blog posts of the times I met Alex DeLeon and Alex Marshall, click here, here and here.

 

Happy The Cab Day 🙂

Me and My Disability.

Celebrate your differences, don’t hate them.

As you can probably tell by the title, this article is about something very close to my heart. While I was on Facebook recently, I came across an article hosted by a popular news and entertainment site – which I’m not going to name here– entitled, ’10 Things That Women Do That Make Them Less Attractive, According To Men’, and it irked me so much that I feel the need to speak out about something that I’ve never addressed on this blog before.

Now, I usually read these types of list articles for a bit of light entertainment, not to be taken too seriously. This particular list is a compilation of comments from a Reddit conversation, and even the introduction foreshadows the ‘take-it-with-a-pinch-of-salt’ nature of what lies ahead: “please save all eye-rolls until the end of the presentation.” Within the article, there were the usual superficial, throwaway things like “too much tanning,” and “all short haircuts,” (we’ll just look past those hideous generalisations for now,) but the one that completely stopped me in my tracks was, “high heels or a legitimate disability.”

article screenshot

As a disabled young woman this immediately stood out to me. For those of you that don’t know, I have Cerebal Palsy, a brain condition that affects my mobility; my ability to walk properly and my balance. Having had my condition since birth I’m very secure with my disability, to the point where I’m proud of it; I’m proud of the person I am and I’m proud of everything that I have achieved. However, there are people out there that aren’t as secure with their difficulties as I am, and I think comments like those in the article above can be quite damaging to someone’s self-esteem and their perception of the future.

I don’t ever want someone who is a disabled to see something like that and think they aren’t going to find love, friendship, or companionship, because those are things everyone deserves. You’ve only got to watch programmes like The Undateables, to know that it is obtainable. Anyone who judges others, or disregards them, on superficial grounds like physical or mental impairments – as opposed to their self-worth and inner beauty – isn’t someone you want to waste time on in your life, nor do they deserve to be in your life, hell they don’t deserve the gum on the bottom of your shoe. The right person should like all the little details that make you who you are and love you for it, disability or not. No one should be made to feel inferior by anyone under any circumstances, especially with regards to things completely out of their control. Being disabled isn’t something anyone asks for, it’s just part of you. It’s not something you can get rid of – nor should you be made to feel like you want to.

When I was 14, at school I overheard a boy say to his friend: ‘If I ever had a kid with downs syndrome, or something, I wouldn’t want it; I couldn’t love it like a normal child.’ When I attempted to open his mind on the subject, all he could retort was “I don’t care.” Similarly, when I was doing my A-Levels, someone said to me that they’d never want a disabled partner as they ‘wouldn’t want to be someone’s carer.’ In an interesting turn of events, that same person got in touch with me years later and asked me to be his fuck buddy – needless to say I told him to jog on.

I think this shows that there needs to be more of an understanding towards disability and what it means to actually be disabled; not all disabilities are physical, or even visible. When I get on the bus and someone asks me why I use a walking stick, or what’s wrong with me, I’m happy to tell them. If they’ve never heard of Cerebal Palsy, I’m happy to educate them; I’d rather that than they stare. Make no mistake I’m not an expert, I don’t know all the medical ins and outs, I just know how it was explained to me and my experience of living with the condition day to day.

I’m lucky that I’ve never really been subject to discrimination or cruelty; I travel to central London for work and I often get people asking me if I need help. Just last week a young girl asked and I said that I should have assistance coming, but they never materialised, so as I attempted to get off the train by myself, the same girl had waited by the doors to help me because she couldn’t see anyone coming. So, there are considerate people out there – I don’t deny that – but for every considerate person there’s someone with their nose in their phone not interested in anyone else, concerned only with where they’re headed.

Similarly, there are people – like the aforementioned article has highlighted – that don’t understand enough about what it means to be disabled, that they would actually discount a potential partner because of it. If you met someone who had fought for their country and as a result lost their leg and wears a prosthetic, would discovering that fact be enough to change your opinion on dating them? If, after a few months of dating, your significant other got into an accident and was left with an impairment, would that make you re-think your relationship? I sincerely hope not. I believe that loving someone is wanting the best for them regardless.

Unfortunately I have had to deal with a handful of people who stare, laugh or whisper to their friends. I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t frustrate me (I’m not a circus attraction,) but it also shows how ignorant that person is, which ultimately says more about them than me. I’m thankful that I’ve always had an amazingly loving support system of family and friends who have always encouraged me to do anything I want, because I can.

People often say to me “I think of how lucky I am and how unlucky you are,” and you couldn’t be more wrong. Don’t feel sorry for me, my life is good, I don’t feel unlucky in the slightest. I’m very aware that I have a very mild strain of Cerebal Palsy; there are people out there with a higher severity that can’t speak, can’t feed themselves, can’t walk down the street like I can, so in that sense I feel very lucky to be able to do the things I can.

I often say that there’s no point in being negative about things that you can’t change; my disability isn’t something that’s going to get better, and it will never go away, but I wouldn’t want it to. I don’t know if I would be the same person, with the same outlook on life, without it – it’s a part of who I am. So, I encourage you to celebrate your differences, own them, they are what make you you. Anyone who doesn’t like it, doesn’t deserve you. Never let someone dim your inner light, it’s there for a reason; the right person will recognise that.

If you’re someone who has never been exposed to disability – either yourself or in someone close to you – then you may not be as in tune with my opinion, but remember the age old saying ‘never judge a book by its cover’? well…

 

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🙂

With a Little Help From My Friends (The Rise of Fan-Funding.)

Greetings readers,

I wrote this article a while ago to feature on my other website, Music Is Love, which was part of a university project. Since graduating MIL isn’t something I’ve continued with, as I already had this blog for three years by that point, so I thought it’d be cool to share the pieces, on this site, from time to time.

Enjoy.

 

In recent years technology like social media has been a big help in allowing musicians build a fan-base without the help of a record label.

In the music industry today, alongside the mega-stars like soulful crooner Adele and the extremely over-rated Rihanna, there are the smaller artists who have yet to get the superstar break, but work extremely hard making chart-worthy music and networking to build a fan-base. Yet these acts are constantly overlooked in the eyes of the mainstream. Unless you actively seek out these lesser known artists you may never get the chance to hear them, yet if you do you’d be floored by the camaraderie and sense of community among their fans.

There is an endearing quality in artists who remain grounded and humble, that don’t put themselves above their fans, and refuse to compromise their artistic integrity to fit somebody else’s vision.

R94 Tweet

This genuine attitude seems to elicit a loveable fierceness among fans who take these bands to their hearts, and want to help them succeed simply because they deserve it. Many take to popular social networking sites, like Twitter and Facebook, to create online communities for fans whether it be geographically specific or general.

For example, Versaemerge fan Gita helps to run the Twitter team for the band in Indonesia where she is from. After being approached by a friend who set up the profile, Gita has been helping to run the site for just over a year. They also have a Tumblr page and physically pass out flyers at shows, which has led to band member Blake Harnage offering to supply them with official flyers from their record label. Gita says, “pop-punk and alternative rock bands aren’t as famous as other mainstream pop bands and singers in my country and they are so overrated. We want people out there realize that there is loads of great music instead of mainstream music.” She says specifically of the street team,we made this street team for Indonesian VersaEmerge fans so we could talk as fan-base, share new updates and promote them.” She goes on to say that, “social media really helps us keep in touch and interact with the band… Blake and Sierra love to talk with fans via messages, and often also help if we need life advice or just someone to talk to.”

When asked why she feels so strongly about the band Gita replies, “they deserve loads of fans because they have such a great music.” She also says that part of the appeal is because they are so friendly, “it feels really good to know that the band we support is grateful and appreciate their fans, and if they do it just makes us love them more than ever. We are lucky, because Blake and Sierra appreciate us and treat us like friends.”

versa fan page

When asked how the band feel about these fan groups, one half of the Versaemerge duo, Blake Harnage answers, “it still amazes us to see our music reaching around the world to places like Brazil, Indonesia, Argentina and the Philippines to name a few, and we still have not been there.” Harnage continues, “I remember my friends always turning me onto new artists. Word-of-mouth, as well as social network sites, are both massive in helping new artists gain recognition. Both are driven by the fans.” Harnage says of their Versa Vultures – the affectionate pet name for Versaemerge fans – “Sierra and I are so privileged to have such a ridiculously amazing fan base. We’ve always tried the best that we can to connect with them by taking time to talk. It’s not always easy, but we know that going the extra mile helps to creates loyal, long-lasting fans. Also, we enjoy making so many new friends.” He concludes, “the fans will always be the most important part of the equation. Without them, we simply wouldn’t be able to do what we do on such a scale.”

Sierra Kusterbeck and Blake Harnage are Versaemerge

Sierra Kusterbeck and Blake Harnage are Versaemerge

Technology like social media has been a huge helping hand in allowing musicians get their work out there and build a fan-base without the help, or often disheartening hassle, of appealing to record labels and managers, even going back to the days of MySpace. This way of networking has become a lifeline for many aspiring or emerging talents, so much so that the fans have almost replaced the A&R division (the side of the record label that is responsible for sourcing new artists.) Though it could be said that this is part of the appeal, because a record label is not going to want to sign a band that isn’t generating any interest, however, if an artist already has an extensive and loyal fan-base they are seen as a valuable asset rather than a risk.

One of the bands that know all too well the importance and power of the internet, are upcoming Vancouver based pop-rockers Marianas Trench. Manager Jonathan Simkin says of their online presence, “this is one of the first bands that I have ever seen break first via online media.” He explains, “We built a fan base worldwide because of the band’s ability to connect with fans via social media; they were very good at creating funny clips and posting them online.” Simkin concludes, “social media and internet has been crucial to this band’s success.”

Marketing student Tracey also runs an online fan group; the UK online Street team for Las Vegas based band The Cab. She says of the platform, “it does help the fans connect with bands easier. Twitter is an amazing tool which helps us connect with fans and the band themselves. Without these platforms, it would be more difficult to communicate with people and getting the word out.” She explains, “social media is a given when it comes to promotion of bands. Free promotion is the best way of getting your message across; you can say what you want, give out the message you want and hopefully, it gets heard, people take note and listen.” Along with her friend Steph, they consider themselves two of the biggest fans in the UK. “We spend time, going into our own pockets to see, support and promote the band, we don’t get paid for running the Street Team – it’s completely voluntary. We do this out of our spare time and love and I would not change it for anything else in the world.”

The Cab fan page

And these girls are dedicated, both having travelled overseas to see and meet the band. “Personally, if you have so much love and passion for a band, it should be well known.” Tracey continues, “plus, having been lucky and met both Alex’s, they appreciate the work, effort and everything you do to promote them.” Speaking of appreciation, Tracey also says that she thinks mutuality is vital. “It gives a band their meaning, whether it’s a tweet saying Thank You or when meeting them a physical hug or photo – it doesn’t matter, if there is mutual love there it’s really worthwhile.” She concludes, “with The Cab, they are the most humble, nicest human beings on the planet and they deserve more recognition and that is why we are here.”

However, not all fans are as lucky when it comes to gratitude, as there are bands out there that forget where they started. Charlotte and Janine, who run a Twitter profile for You Me At Six fans, have experienced being taken for granted and say that it can affect a band’s appeal. “We think it’s extremely important that the bands are grateful and appreciative of their fans as without us they wouldn’t be where they are today. We’ve met bands who don’t really even look at you when you meet them and have no interest, it really put me off.” But luckily they’ve never received the same treatment from their idols. “We’ve met You Me At Six a few times, they’ve always been extremely grateful, talkative and genuinely interested in what we and other fans have to say.” So even though there are some rotten apples with delusions of grandeur, they’re not all bad.

You Me At Six

You Me At Six

Another way that fans can support musicians, particularly regarding the production of their albums, are fan-funding schemes like Pledge Music and Slicethepie. “We don’t see the fans as venture capitalists, who are investing in our records,” says Benji Rogers, founder of London-based Pledge Music. Instead, he wants listeners to feel “part of the process that gets a record into their hands.”

pledge

Pledge Music is an online platform, which helps artists fund their work, through fans pledging money towards the funding of an album or EP, in exchange for certain rewards decided by the band. In the past these have been known to include private living room gigs, song-writing sessions, and dinner-dates. “I believe, in their hearts, the fans want to do the right thing,” says Rogers. “We can’t convince teenagers to buy CDs. The quest for me is to give meaning to it, so they don’t want to steal it.”

Whether it’s due to being an emerging group, financial strain, lack of freedom or absence of a record label, many people join sites like these, including acts like rock group Madina lake, The Blackout and more recently, popular folk group The Lumineers. After parting ways with their record label, Welsh rockers The Blackout used Pledge to fund their third album Hope.

Welsh rockers The Blackout

Welsh rockers The Blackout

Guitarist James Davies says of this, “it definitely gave us a newfound drive, belief and momentum. The phenomenal response we had to the Pledge initiative really showed us how many people still cared about us.” He concludes, “without the people who pledged, this album literally would not have happened, so we can only thank everyone involved for helping us keep this band going.”

But it could be said that schemes like Pledge may not work for bands who are just starting out, true, bands like The Blackout are far from mainstream but they already had a solid fan-base who would follow them, would it work for an emerging artist? Elissa Franceschi is living proof of the answer, having surpassed her goal in just three months. When asked her thoughts on the idea behind Pledge and how it helps emerging artists like herself she responds, “it’s a fantastic platform and possibly the future of music making for under the radar artists, or those in-between deals.”

Rising talent Austin Nivarel also agrees, and says that he would consider doing a fan-funded campaign himself. “It’s a good alternative when you’re not on a label, and it’s a great way to get the fans involved in the process.” He also says that while he thinks it’s “really cool” that fans increasingly appear to be the propellant behind most musicians nowadays, he knows how dedicated the fans have to be to make an impact. “It’s very expensive for bands to tour and record,” he says, “so without a label backing them financially it’s important that the fans be extremely supportive and can go to the shows and/or buy merch/CDs.”

Judging by the passion and dedication shown by just the fans I’ve mentioned, support is never in doubt; if you look close enough you’ll always find it. And even if they’re not necessarily big mainstream artists with the help of all the behind-the-scenes forces, these bands are big to the people that know and love them, and even though it might take a little longer to break through that’s okay, because it’s more than just fans and bands, It’s a family.

 

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