SevenStreets is on the water having somehow popped up at The Flute the previous evening. It’s Sunday and we’ve found our way into Matthew Street’s Hopskotch Street Kitchen & Bar attached to the Hoax Hostel.
To detox we’ve surrounded ourselves with good company and an acoustic gig – The Washboard – featuring some of Liverpool’s finest up-and-comers including PJ Walker, Laura&Claire, Richard Francis and others.
Except we’re here to listen to the tune of the gig’s creators and promoters, Alex Huemer and Lee Hoyle, of brand new music marketing start-up Spin Cycle & Rinse. The Washboard will be a regular night at Hoax and is one of a number of gig nights hosted by the duo sprouting up around the city.
The aim: to show young artists that they don’t need to rely on being signed by a massive label to earn money and get artistic acclaim for their talents.
“We’re an alternative [to a major label],” Lee explains. “If you’re not signed to a big label it’s not the end of the world. You need a promoter and a publisher. You don’t need anything else as long as you’re willing to put the hours into your own marketing.
“We can also help with our own network as it grows. It’s a long term thing. It’s not about earning lots of money and being famous. It’s about earning a living making music.”
For Lee and Alex it’s giving something back to an industry they love. “For Spin Cycle & Rinse it’s the same,” Alex insists. “We were working before uni and have worked for other people. We feel like now is the time to work for ourselves in a job we like, and support the music that we like.
“It all started in uni. Lee and I went to uni together and did a Popular Music Studies degree at LJMU. We had people coming from the Student Enterprise to help students start their own business and we came up with Spin Cycle & Rinse.
“Some people in our class were musicians and didn’t really know how to deal with the music industry so we thought it would be nice to set something up where young musicians could live off their music.”
It’s an intriguing philosophy. SevenStreets immediately thinks of Macklemore’s Thrift Shop (which is now in your head). It’s the first song in nearly two decades to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 without a major label’s backing.
Musical immortality can be achieved, and Spin Cycle & Rinse wants to show Liverpool’s young musicians how to do it.
“Spin Cycle & Rinse fills in the knowledge in-between, and gives artists insight into the fact that you don’t need a recording contract anymore. If you’re willing to work hard then you can make money without having to sacrifice your artistic integrity,” Lee explains.
“There’s a high concentration of talent in Liverpool which is perfect for a music business start-up like us.”
A case study. We get out of our pyjamas, sling a guitar over our broad, handsome shoulders, comb the fag ends out of our hair, and pen a song. What next?
“The two services we offer artists are promotion – putting on gigs for artists to play,” Alex tells us.
“The other side is publishing and royalty collection which is the highest valued income stream for artists. It helps us all support each other. The more gigs artists play the more royalties they get.”
Hang on. Royalties? In a society which still hasn’t tamed a rampant YouTube?
“The online services are a grey area,” Lee concedes. “The royalty issues are still being worked out. There’s also a Spotify issue – It’s only worthwhile if you’re getting a hundred-thousand plays a week, so for small artists it’s not really a viable income stream.”
Alex highlights the eternal social conflict for musicians: “On the other hand it’s important for younger artists to give music away for promotional value.”
But the message will always be the same, according to Lee. “Spin Cycle & Rinse is about getting younger artists started and educating younger musicians. They don’t need a contract and can make it on their own.
“So many people signed up to a label don’t even get the opportunity to get anything out. There’s only a fraction of a chance of you doing it.
“So getting signed isn’t even the answer because then you’re at the bottom of another pile, still working hard, rolling up debts.”
For Alex it’s a problem symptomatic of an unsustainable industry. “Big labels are lending you money that you have to recoup. Major labels are eating each other up, there are only three left now. Who knows how much longer they’re going to exist?”
Lee adds: “I think there are so many people annoyed with the likes of X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent. The one thing about a big label… if you get a contract, then you’ve done extremely well to get that far.
“It’s coming through in the charts. From the late 80s to the early 90s the range of music was quite varied. You’d never get the same artist in the charts twice.
“When we were looking through today’s charts in uni you’d see three Adele songs, four Beyonce songs… There isn’t much choice anymore; it’s a very limited pool of talent.”
But the rise of a free social media system isn’t to blame, according to the pair. Lee very much praises social media and feels young artists need to embrace it.
“There will always be a debate about the digital age and whether it ruined or saved the music industry. From a business perspective it helped it. From an artist’s point of view they can get their music out there and can do it all in their bedroom.”
It also helps to maintain a brilliant artist-promoter relationship. “We have constant contact with anybody who’s with us, always keeping them updated and letting them know about upcoming gigs.
“We also ask artists about any other gigs they’ve got and put them on our site to help drive crowds to wherever they’re playing.
“The feedback’s great. Artists say they’re so happy to have a promotion team that really cares. We do. They’re our artists and we want to look after them.”
Lee reveals that The Washboard is to become a regular acoustic night at Hoax, and that Spin Cycle & Rinse is on the lookout for new talent to unearth to a hungry audience.
“We have a regular month here now at Hopskotch, with the first official gig happening Friday 18 October and every third Friday onward. The Washboard night’s our acoustic night.
“Hostel-goers get a discount if they want to stay and watch. We want to attract anyone that appreciates music as we grow and grow.”
Like any small business starting up hasn’t been an easy ride for Alex and Lee. But Alex sums up the pair’s determination and hopes for the future, which should give heart to every music-lover connected to the city of Liverpool.
“We haven’t let red tape get in the way. We just want to do what we’re doing for our artists. Lee and I work well together and really want to give our young artists confidence in their music.”
SevenStreets kicks back, downs a pint of water, and casts its beady eye over the city’s next wave of musical talent.