It’s a monumentally frustrating business, doing PR. There’s a famous line attributed to one of the pioneers of advertising John Wanamaker which says that “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, the problem is I don’t know which half.”
It’s a bit like that with PR. You just never know what’s worth the effort and the expense and what isn’t. I learned this when I was just about to give up on sending our promo material to one particular journalist as I hadn’t heard from him for three years and thought he might have moved house, only for him suddenly to invite me to do an interview with Word Magazine about one-man labels, out of the blue.
With Stuart Maconie it’s slightly different, but still another aspect of why it takes oceans of patience to do this job, as well as a lesson in remembering that you don’t really ever know what other people are thinking.
Radcliffe and Maconie – the daytime 6Music show which Stuart presents alongside Mark Radcliffe) has absolutely never played any of our songs. Not one. Not even ones which everyone played – and yes, stop sniggering, we have actually had a couple of those. Kind of.
I know our music isn’t always all that suitable for middle of the day play on national radio, but we’ve had breakfast plays, ‘drivetime’* plays and plenty of love from Lauren Laverne and Steve Lamacq who also present daytime shows, so it can’t just be the kind of music we release, someone presumably just doesn’t rate it all that highly.
I can be a bit tribal about this kind of thing, so my response to that tends to be a little along the lines of ‘oh right, well fuck absolutely everyone involved then and a fucking massive pox on all their houses. And, come to think of it, their friends’ houses. And the houses of their favourite TV chefs.’ They don’t rate us, then fuck them, I don’t rate them either.
I think most people who release music have a bit of that in them – the ‘everyone who doesn’t like this is an idiot’ instinct. It’s a useful defence mechanism, I guess, because the other option is to wonder whether or not the music you’re releasing might actually be a bit shit, and no-one wants to think that. Or alternatively, I suppose, that you are simply being ignored, and the latter possibility is a pretty frustrating thing to face if it is your job to actually get publicity for someone else’s music.
Surprisingly, though, despite my total failure to get through to Radcliffe and Maconie, things are not quite as clear-cut as they might seem. Because Stuart Maconie has another show on 6Music, called Freakzone, and the other day be played a meandering seven and a half minute song by David Thomas Broughton, from our latest Split 12″ and described us as “one of my favourite record labels”.
In fact, on Freakzone Stuart Maconie played, I think, the very first thing I ever sent him. I am pretty sure it was Salt Pt.1 from Pissing on Bonfires/Kissing With Tongues. And although there is plenty he doesn’t play – he doesn’t have all that much time on air, remember – he was really into Trips and Falls, and every once in a while will play something unexpected, just when I start to think he might have lost interest.
So actually, perhaps he does rate us. And perhaps he does listen to most of the things we send him. In fact, it seems pretty obvious that he does.
And honestly, for a label, that is a great feeling and brings a weird sense of relief. I have no problem with people listening to our stuff and not liking it, this is music after all. But the idea of simply being ignored is a tough one to get your head around.
So why don’t we ever, ever get played on Radcliffe and Maconie, then? Truth is, I still have no idea. But you know, there could be loads of reasons. Often the playlist of a show is picked more by the production team than the presenters, and it could be the producers just don’t rate us. Or they want more high-profile bands than we tend to work with. Or whatever.
Truth is, it doesn’t really matter. For whatever reason, we haven’t ever quite yet fit what they’re trying to do with the show and you have to remind yourself that from their point of view it’s not about your music, it’s about their radio show.
But the fact is we are at least getting through to people on the show and, as evidenced by the Freakzone plays, we’re still being listened to and are actually held in some affection. And with our budget and our scale, that represents really significant levels of success actually. And if we don’t get a play for this or that, or some things are more suitable for some shows than others, you can’t complain about that.
So as frustrating as it is to see Kasabian getting any radio play on 6Music at all, alongside all these major labels, well-established indies and expensive plugging campaigns we are still getting a very fair crack of the whip indeed, and that’s incredible. So for all the Radcliffe and Maconie silence might imply Stuart and the team ain’t that into our stuff, the occasional plays on Freakzone remind me that actually maybe they are, and I should just have some patience and trust that the DJs and producers and writers are listening, and they will do their bit for us when they get the chance.
It’s not like one tiny label in Scotland is the only place flooding them with crap, after all. In fact it’s a bit of a miracle we get the success that we do. But these little surprises are a big help in reminding me to have just a little bit of patience from time to time! And to be thankful for the successes we do get.
Oh, and the seven-and-a-half-minute song he played? It was this one below, from our third Split 12″ release which came out earlier in the year.
*Yes, I know. Yuck.