How did you start doing what you do, Mark?
Mark: I started on a student radio show at the University of Nottingham, then in 2006 I started doing shows on XFM in London over the Xmas hols. I came back to Nottingham and couldn’t understand why there wasn’t something similar here, there were no real opportunities for musicians or presenters. OFCOM, the people who give out the radio licenses, gave the youth license to Saga, the granny’s station. I began lobbying various media organisations and hooked up with a guy at Trent FM called Mark Dennison, who is now at BBC Nottingham – he was incredibly supportive. In May 2008 the Trent FM New Music podcast was born, and that got upgraded to Notts Unsigned. But by the end of March this year, Trent became Capital and it all came to an end. We thought that we might survive, as we were the one thing left in the building that was still Nottingham, but it didn’t happen.
And how did that morph into Nusic?
Mark: When we announced the end of Notts Unsigned there was an amazing response. Loads of success stories of how people had been helped by what we do, both directly and indirectly, just because we played them, gave them a session, or just a positive review. That made us feel warm and fluffy inside. So we thought about carrying on, but the question was - how? The combination of LeftLion as a media partner and DHP putting up some sponsorship made it possible. It all came together in a weekend.
So what’s everyone’s role in the Nusic team?
Arielle: I do the video side of things.
Liz: I do the blog and gig reviews, the website and radio stuff. Arielle and myself are both involved in everything really. We both have have our main roles, but we branch out in to other areas as well.
Mark: It’s all about giving people that first opportunity, that first step. All the team are late teens, early twenties, looking to get experience that isn’t just making cups of tea. Arielle directs our sessions and makes them. Liz has written articles that have been advertised to 350,000 people on Trent in the past and has come up with ideas that have become radio links. So they get to do real stuff. We’ve got a nice little army now.
How will Nusic work?
Mark: Every week there is a major piece of new content, which is either a podcast or a video session, so Liz and Arielle in turn will be focusing on putting either a podcast or a session together. There will always be a weekly Top 3; three gigs featuring Nottingham artists that we are most excited about. Then there’s at least a couple of reviews a week. So there is the writing, the podcast and the sessions, with all of that sitting in one destination.
How did the three of you get together?
Liz: I came to uni here and got to know the things that a local would know. I was introduced to Mark and I did work experience with him. I went to the CRS Showcase at Nottingham Contemporary and that was my favourite Nottingham night. It just showed how many amazing artists are here.
Arielle: I got involved through Confetti. Mark started wanting to get things filmed, I was studying digital video and broadcast production. You had to do a session and write an essay about it as part of getting marks for the course, but I just kept on coming back.
How supportive are Notts musos of what you do?
Mark: Incredibly supportive, especially when we first started. Nina Smith did her first ever media appearance on my uni show and she was really nervous, but it gave her confidence. It didn’t matter that nobody was really listening, it’s about giving them the experience. That was one of the good things with Trent; whatever people thought of them and the direction it had gone over the years, people acknowledged its size. Sometimes it’s led to bigger things; people have got management as a result of being on the podcast or playing a session. We did one session, for example, and within a week the artist had management and a band being put together for her.
How can local musicians get involved with Nusic?
Mark: They get on the web and go to our website - it’s that simple. We will be putting up a frequently asked question page: How do we get a session? How do we get played? How do I become an intern? Who do I have to sleep with to get a review? You know, all of the classics.
Tell us about the Future Sound of Nottingham – your competition to win the opening slot on the main stage at Splendour...
Mark: I don’t know how to answer that without sounding really cheesy. It’s a Nottingham dream. If you are a Nottingham boy or girl in a Nottingham band, the chance to play in front of 20,000 people at the place you used to run around when you were seven years old in winter bombarding your little sister with snowballs, and alongside really famous artists, is just absolutely amazing. Alongside Hockley Hustle, Splendour is probably my favourite event of the year, because local acts get to play and realise that they are just as good as the big stars. To give local musicians the opportunity to do that on the main stage is amazing. And, selfishly, it will help us get started and spread the word, as we haven’t got a radio station with 350,000 listeners behind us any more.
Things seem to be happening for the Notts scene now. What’s happening now that wasn’t five or ten years ago?
Mark: Momentum. In the past I don’t think there was that much support for local music - and because of that there were seventeen year-olds strumming guitars who thought that they were on their own and nineteen year-olds busting beats who thought that they were the only rappers out there. The quantity and quality of local media focusing on new local music has created a much bigger awareness of the things that are already happening, and inspired people to start making music. On top of that is the whole social media thing. I don’t think Nottingham is more talented now than it was ten years ago, but there’s more belief.
There’s definitely a feeling that we only need one band or artist to kick the door in.
Mark: When that first one tips over - whether it is Liam Bailey, Dog Is Dead or Swimming or whoever, we’ll hear national media talking about Nottingham. I think that this could be the moment for Nottingham to start becoming a talked-about city, and as long as that keeps happening and the momentum builds, in ten or so years’ time people will be talking about us as a city that consistently produces quality musicians.
Do you have any advice for local musicians who want to get themselves heard?
Mark: Friendly persistence. Don’t be a stalker, you don’t want a tag on your ankle - I learned that the hard way. Seriously, if you’re rude, nasty or aggressive, it’s not going to work. I lose CDs and emails; if someone sends me something that is 20mb and my inbox is full, I won’t receive it. Don’t email every three hours saying that you are going to break my kneecaps if I don’t play your song - do it every couple of weeks. Use humour and keep it friendly.
We like it when we get handwritten notes with CDs...
Mark: Exactly. Especially when that note says something related to what you are doing or recommending someone else. If an act wants you to play them, perhaps they should listen to the show to see what we’re about.
Liz: People that show support when we’ve helped them out are always going to be someone that we remember. If we’ve reviewed them or given them a session and they don’t show the love...
Mark: …it’s mutual appreciation. It sounds naff, but we are operating on a karmic basis. If we do a session then we don’t call us again, it ends up feeling dirty. Like a one-night stand.
Who is impressing you at the moment?
Mark: Swimming sounded immense on the Rock City sound system when they supported Killing Joke recently - it was a true sonic experience. Captain Dangerous were really excellent at their single launch at Rescue Rooms, their first four songs were so powerful.
Arielle: Dog is Dead were amazing at Rescue Rooms! I can see them playing Rock City by the end of the year. Maybe not selling it out, but a thousand-plus in the main room.
Liz: Nina Smith!
Arielle: Royal Gala, Jake Bugg...there’s so many.
Mark: Kirk Spencer is so innovative and one of the reasons that I ended up going in this direction. He plays electronic music, which is such a strong part of the Nottingham music scene. And he’s been played on Radio One. Whatever your opinion is of Radio One, if a Radio One specialist DJ thinks that you are worthy of four minutes of his two hours, especially as he is being sent music from all over the world, that is a good sign that you are the dog’s bollocks.
It’s a really exciting time for Notts music.
Mark: The fact that you have Liam Bailey, Dog Is Dead, Swimming, Natalie Duncan, Ronika and people like that pushing through, getting mentioned in the national media, rumoured to be signing to major labels - that sort of hype. The fact that we’ve got LeftLion, the things that we are doing, the BBC and the Evening Post doing stuff - all making sure that the message gets out there. I’m looking forward to the stuff that I haven’t heard yet. This time last year I hadn’t heard of Harleighblu. Then I saw her at The Central and within a month she had management interest. It can happen that quickly, and that is the buzz. It is the musical thrill of the chase just as it is with love. It is that first time meeting, that catch of the eye, the first kiss. You’re never the same afterwards.
The Future Sound of Nottingham semi finals are in the Market Square on Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 June. The final takes place on Sunday 10 July at Rock City. For full details download the latest Nusic podcast.