Smart management is key to success outside the mainstream

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Thursday, 5 April 2012 - Dave Fawbert

As Jet, The King Blues and Viva Brother call it a day, Dave Fawbert argues that good management can take a band a long way outside the mainstream

Notes On The Industry - Dave Fawbert

There’s definitely more to it than a desire to free up time and finally take a summer holiday. The last few weeks have seen three bands of note split up at different stages of their career, but with one, common thread running between them: while adored by groups of loyal fans – in at least two cases – they were unloved by the media and mainstream.

Australian indie-rock band Jet split up after 11 years together, achieving huge sales with their first album Get Born, but never obtaining the approval of the press. As a result, they quickly became objects of derision, with the famous Pitchfork.com review of their second album Shine On (we’d love to link to it – but it’s just. Too. Rude) defining their image in the eyes of many people. Despite the abuse, they continued for a further eight years after the 2004 career-sales high of their debut. Political rockers The King Blues called it a day after eight years together – never achieving large sales or media support, but, again, sustaining a loyal following for a significant amount of time. Finally, the much-maligned, self-styled “Gritpop” band Viva Brother split up on April Fools’ Day – with apparently large sections of the public and press hugely thankful that the split was no joke.

Viva Brother existed in the same musical space as Jet and The King Blues – everyman rock and roll, unconcerned with being cool – but they failed to sustain a career beyond one album and, in stark contrast to the other bands, folded less than two years after they began. Perhaps they failed to see the potential that the internet has given bands to directly reach, and engage with, those fans they acquired; something that might have enabled them to continue making music in the way that Jet and The King Blues did.

Smart management and direct-to-fan marketing has meant that it has never been easier to exist under the radar, without mainstream approval, and continue for a healthy amount of time. Bands such as metallers InMe have shown that the power of tools such as Pledge Music (where fans sell items and access to themselves in advance of making a record, in order to fund its release) can be used to tremendous advantage. In fact, the Metal genre as a whole has understood for some time the importance of good management, monetising all areas of operations and maintaining the support of a hardcore fanbase – all without the need for mainstream acceptance or sales.

Rock and metal have traditionally been areas associated with – unsurprisingly – hard-partying behaviour. With guitar music seemingly still marginalised and showing few signs of return, it looks like a savvy business brain and intelligent management is more important than the decadent leanings of bygone musical eras to sustain a career.

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