Today is Bandcamp Friday! Yay!
What better time to show some warm, fuzzy appreciation in the form of cold, hard cash to the artists and bands you love?
Social media is currently awash with Spotify Wrapped posts, neatly glossing over the criminally small amounts of streaming royalties that the majority of artists get paid. Meanwhile, multi billionaire Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has a spare €100 million to punt on a defence startup named Helsing. Is it just me that finds that ever so slightly outrageous? But I digress.
Thankfully, Bandcamp only takes 10-15% fees on digital sales so artists see a far greater cut than those offered on other streaming services.
Even better, on the first Friday of every month since March 2020, Bandcamp have waived their revenue share to help support the many artists who have seen their livelihoods decimated by the pandemic.
So, in case you're interested, here are just some of my favourite Bandcamp releases from 2021. Enjoy!
So, I had grand plans to unleash this T-shirt design last year but ended up flip-flopping between employment, freelance work and battling some demons…
Let’s just say that this particular project slipped down the list of priorities.
Having recently started a new, part-time contract at The University of Manchester (designing and developing healthcare apps), I was really keen to find something to keep me occupied during my off days without the pressures of client-focused work.
Finally getting this T-shirt out into the world seemed like a good place to start, so I tweaked the original design and submitted it to Cotton Bureau.
At the time of writing this post, the two-week campaign has hit 27 sales with just over 24 hours to go. If you're really quick, you can buy your very own Hypersphere T-shirt here.
The estimated $81 profit from Cotton Bureau sales won’t be sufficient to fund a run of UK-friendly T-shirts as hoped. Instead, I’ll be reinvesting the proceeds into a more affordable, limited edition of screenprints or Risograph prints.
[Update: Monday, 9 April 2018]
Big thanks to everyone who supported the Cotton Bureau campaign!
It reached a grand total of 30 sales and shirts should be winging their way to customers very soon.
UK/EU edition now available via Mercht!
For friends on this side of the Atlantic, I've not forgotten about you. Head over to Mercht where you can get your very own UK/EU edition Hypersphere T-shirt for a limited time.
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Wishing you all a very merry festive season and a happy, healthy new year!
My heartfelt thanks go out to clients, friends and family who have supported me in 2017. You rock!
This year's cards were Riso printed by the lovely people at Marc the Printers.
I hope to bring you more from Blank State in 2018.
Cotton Bureau are running their "ALL THE TEES 2017" campaign and have kindly included three of my successful designs from 2016.
These T-shirts are only available for pre-order until Sunday 3rd December 2017 so you'd better be quick!
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I'm participating in 36 Days of Type again this year. 36 days, a different letter or number each day. Follow my progress over on Instagram if you like barely legible typefaces, repetition, amateur beats and Speak & Spell vocals.
Well, I definitely won’t be retiring soon (or probably ever for that matter) but I did manage to sell around 150 T-shirts via Cotton Bureau and Mercht. That earned me around £3 per T-shirt. Not bad, but there is certainly room for improvement.
Both Cotton Bureau and Mercht make it relatively easy to get your designs onto T-shirts and into the hands of customers. You submit a design and they pretty much do the rest. They deal with print, fulfilment and customer services. Obviously, the success of your campaign still depends upon the amount of effort you put into your own marketing (hence those Tweets and Instagram posts I mentioned earlier). Also, they take the lion’s share of the profit, which is totally understandable given that they want to stay in business.
This does mean that the rewards don’t necessarily add up. A conservative estimate of effort per campaign would be around 10 hours including the design and marketing. With sales of 150 units at £3 per unit across 3 successful campaigns, that equates to:
(150 x £3)/30 hours = £15 per hour
That’s double the UK minimum wage but it doesn't take into account the cost of running my business.
I could increase profits by cutting out the middle man and printing T-shirts myself but I'm convinced my wife would divorce me if she came home to find the kitchen converted into a print workshop and stock hanging throughout the house. A more realistic and achievable approach would be to outsource the printing but handle fulfilment and customer services in-house.
So that's my current plan. The first design will be the one at the top of this post (or something close to it). I intend to print this as a limited edition T-shirt and Riso print. I hope to set up pre-orders in the near future and keep the prices between £15-£20 plus shipping.
You probably don‘t need me to tell you that 2016 totally SUCKED!
On a positive note, it was a pretty good year for albums. Here are some of my favourites.
I think I first discovered worriedaboutsatan through Mary Anne Hobbs’ brilliant 6 Music Recommends show. The Manchester (now Yorkshire) duo’s brooding, ambient, jungle excursion “The Woods” really captured my attention. The soundtrack to the thought-provoking Adam Curtis “HyperNormalisation” featured solo appearances from the band’s Thomas Ragsdale and Gavin Miller (with Miller acting as music supervisor for the project). It also provided a teaser of new material from Blank Tape which the band launched via an awe-inspiring live show at The Castle Hotel in Manchester.
full blossom of the evening
As a fledgling producer of electronic music, I’ve spent many an hour, scouring YouTube for inspiring tutorials and performance videos. You have to take the rough with the smooth but it makes it all worthwhile when you discover an artist like Austin Cairns, aka r beny. I was particularly struck by his ability to conjure such beautiful sounds from fairly cheap gear (not to mention the much less cheap modular systems he uses). His album full blossom of the evening is overflowing with lush, droney, ambient gems. It was recorded in San Jose, California but is equally at home in sunny Manchester.
London’s iconic club fabric had its licence revoked by Islignton Council following the tragic deaths of two club-goers. As London music venues fall victim to gentrification at an alarming pace, this news was met with significant protest from DJs, musicians and venue-goers. This massive 111 track compilation was released by fabric Records and Houndstooth in order to raise funds to appeal the club’s closure. Thankfully, a deal was struck with Islington Council (with the backing of Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan) to reopen the club in November.
Heaven is for Quitters
Perhaps Drew Lustman’s most personal album to date, it is, therefore, fitting that he released it on his own label Blueberry Records. The man himself puts it better than I could:
“Heaven is for Quitters is at its core, about dealing with yourself, both the good and the bad. I share this album with the hope that it can be used by others as I have; a guide, a blanket, a reassurance that the path I have chosen is the right one. It is my job to share my experience and there is a lot of work to be done here on Earth, the thought of going to Heaven too early is paralyzing. I venture to think you'll agree.”
Having taken ten years off from releasing solo records in order to focus on commercial sound design, Joseph Fraioli returns with an enviable Eurorack modular synth system on Venetian Snares’ Timesig label. According to label boss Aaron Funk, “There were so many great tracks, it was nearly impossible to compile this album.” .
It was therefore quite a relief to discover that pre-orders came with a 19 track bonus disc!
Lorn & Dolor
Lorn & Dolor are a match made in heaven. That is, if heaven were pitch black and filled with sharp metallic objects. Apparently, having already released four parts in the series, they had “enough material to make a new ’DRUGS’ part every week for eternity”. Instead, they decided to call it quits and leave us with parts five and six. Boo!
Dubstep, post-dubstep, footwork, Alan Myson has mastered them all. Hollowed somehow manages to sound like classic Ital Tek whilst simultaneously defying categorisation. If anything, it sounds like a soundtrack to an imagined dystopian sci-fi movie.
Struggle & Emerge
Strictly speaking, this is a maxi-EP not and album but my house, my rules.
The “making of” documentary is well worth a watch too.
Martin Boulton (aka Min-Y-Llan) is the man behind the mammoth Touched compilations, released in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. And I mean mammoth! We're talking over four hundred tracks on this one alone, all for just 15 quid. Touched 3 features tracks from 808 State, Adamski, Amon Tobin, Bibio, Future Sound of London and literally hundreds more. I encourage you to go and buy it twice.
Traditional Synthesizer Music
Much like labelmate Datach’i’s System, this album is composed and performed live on an absolute beast of a modular synth. Modular what? Just imagine dropping your life savings into a bottomless pit, but with blinking lights and a mess of patch cables.
I've been a big fan of Tricky since first hearing him on Massive Attack’s Blue Lines. His debut solo album Maxinquaye is a classic and he’s somehow managed to remain relevant and uncompromising, even after more than two decades in the business.
Dolor fuses pitch-shifted RnB vocals with melancholy synths and stuttering beats. Gun City feels like it was made in the rain, under neon light, whilst chasing down replicants.