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Blog: What have we LEARNED?

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For the past week or so I've been trying to get round to doing a REVIEW OF THE YEAR. I'm going to start doing the usual STAT ATAK in the next few days (people have ASKED about it! EXCITEMENT!) but I thought I might kick off this time with a bit of Qualitative Analysis first, to give A Broader Picture.

This plan, however, ran into a major stumbling block: I Really Can't Be Bothered. I did TRY, spending AGES going through January looking for TRENDS, and then yesterday just trying to summarise February and March, but BLIMEY: a LOT of things happened last year and just READING them was wearing me out.

So instead of that, here is, i think, the TWO major things I have LURNED this year. WISDOM AHOY!

1. DON'T DO SO MUCH ALL AT ONCE

This is pretty straightforward really - last year I did 69 gigs, including a couple of tours, gigs abroad, and several festivals. I did My Exciting Life In ROCK all over the place and then wrote Dinosaur Planet and did THAT in Edinburgh for a week. We finished recording the MERCURY PRIZE SHORTLISTED (hem hem) Regardez, Ecoutez Et Repetez then released it and publicised it ourselves (NB see point 2 for more details). I made THREE song videos and TWO trailers. I also wrote a whole OTHER album (DOUBLE album!) of songs as part of the continuing goodtimes of Trying To Write Songs For Albums!

I've probably missed something out in all of that - and that's all alongside maintaining a HOME LIFE and also a full-time JOB! It was all too much really, especially when being FAR TOO BUSY prevented me from enjoying chunks of it, and especially especially when I was spending week after week hardly ever being at home. THUS the lesson (hopefully) learned here is: DON'T DO SO MUCH ALL AT ONCE. The planet will not forget that MJ Hibbett & The Validators EXIST if we don't do any gigs for six month... i hope.

2. DON'T PAY PEOPLE WHO DON'T CARE TO DO THINGS YOU CARE ABOUT

Ooh, COUNTER-INTUITIVE ALERT! But stay with me, this'll make sense by the end. One of the big things I decided to do with Regardez, Ecoutez Et Repetez was to try and PUBLICISE it more. We've always done quite well off our own back, but I'd never managed to get much coverage in the mainstream print media, so decided to take on a PR Agency to help us out. Several people in The Know advised me AGAINST this, but I wanted to have a go, so spent a good while trying to find someone who'd do it for us and, when I'd chosen them, spent a LARGE sum of money paying for it.

I really REALLY should have listened to the people who told me not to. I basically paid two and a half grand for somebody to massively piss me off by completely cocking up the whole thing! The Words In My Press Release said to me, before I hired them, "Watch out, they'll often do the meetings beforehand with one of their best people and then fob you off with the office junior" and this seems to be exactly what happened. Here's a list of INIQUITY:
  • We were promised a couple of Lifestyle Features in proper newspapers and loads of reviews in the mainstream press. We GOT a cheesy article in The Weekly News and ONE review in the mainstream press. Amazingly, I'd arranged for this review MYSELF, only to have the PR agency almost BLOW IT, until I stepped in!

  • We were promised support for our album tour, including local newspaper reviews, interviews, and articles leading up to gigs. We got ONE feature in a Sheffield paper, on the day of the actual gig.

  • We were promised thinking "outside the box" to develop "innovative strategies". We GOT one suggestion, the day before we set off on tour: that I stand in the centre of the cities concerned and tell people jokes for an hour, to make them "be happy". When this was suggested it me I came as close as I ever have to throwing a telephone at a wall!!

  • We were promised regular contact and reaction to all events. We'd often go a fortnight without hearing anything and, when we got the 6Music Album Of The Day (due to my mailouts to radio...) they did nothing about it until about a week afterwards, when they sent out a spam mail.
  • And so it went on and on and on... the album got sent out to various Heavy Metal and Corporate Indie blogs and websites, so what few reviews they DID get for us were slagging it off. The reports they sent looked good - until i asked them NOT to include the stuff that I'D done, after which they became appalling. When I complained I got no response... until I spoke to the Director, after which they bought in A Top PR Guy and did a month's extra work. This achieved precisely NOTHING.

    It really was BLOODY AWFUL and, as you can probably tell, still makes me angry several months later. I'm probably extra annoyed because last week, SIX MONTHS after it all ended, I FINALLY got the press cuttings pack from them (after five emails!) which reminded me just how shit it'd been.

    And the thing is - it's not like it was a particularly difficult album to publicise. When I did my side of things it seemed to go OK - we got plenty or radio play, and the places that _I_ sent it to (you know - websites that review INDIE STUFF) all seemed to like it, and we DID get that Album Of The Day thing. The worst of it, for me, is knowing that when I've done all the press for PREVIOUS albums I've actually got a lot MORE from it!

    So there you go - that's the very VERY expensive lesson I learned, DON'T PAY PEOPLE WHO DON'T CARE TO DO THINGS YOU CARE ABOUT. Either do it yourself or, if you can find lovely people who are ON YOUR SIDE (like Proper, who do our distribution, or especially WipeOut, our publishers) go with them!

    posted 7/1/2010 by MJ Hibbett

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    Comments:

    I think you owe it to anyone who is contemplating making a similar move to NAME AND SHAME the organisation in question, so that when they have the same doubts and invoke Lord Google, justice will be done.

    They can't sue you or nothing for telling the TRUTH!
    posted 7/1/2010 by Francis

    Even tho they were SO VERY RUBBISH I still felt really guilty about writing THAT! All I will say is that they're based near Cambridge and, despite their name, they're not very Great at ALL!
    posted 7/1/2010 by MJ Hibbett

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