1. Interesting question Russ

    Can’t see myself that it’s a good way of seeing local unsigned acts as Pete suggest. Pete’s been now so: Pete what did it cost and was it a good way of seeing local unsigned bands? (a term I’ll only ever use for the purpose of this question).

  2. It’s tonight, so I dont know about the quality of the other bands other than their Myspace profiles. the tickets cost me six pounds which I suppose isn’t bad, depending on the gig. And I purchased mne off the band themselves.

    Sorry I can’t help more but I’m at work using the schools ancient PC. I will find out about how to get tickets when i get in and give a full report of the night late tonight, when i get back.

  3. I can’t see how £6 could possibly be seen as reasonable for six local acts doing what look likely to be twenty minute sets.

    This is quite apart from (but alse additional to) the concept of ‘Battle Of The Bands’ being about as wanky as anything ever could be in the entire history of everything ever.

  4. Six pounds does seem a lot considering how many sponsors logos are on the website. I’d rather they used some of the sponsorship money to subsidise the door, and ideally make the gigs free in.

    You’re charged £1 to vote for your favourite band by text too!

    Um, also, what do you get for winning too – I can’t find that on the website. Can anyone else see it, I may just be looking in the wrong place.

  5. I was looking in the wrong place –

    “As well as an industry showcase our sponsors are on hand to award the best bands endorsements, prizes and recording time. In 2008 every band in the National Showcase will receive the following: 5 x sets of D’Addario XL strings, 2 x sets of D’Addario Bass strings, Planet Waves S.O.S. Guitar Tuner, Planet Waves S.O.S. Bass Tuner, 2 x Planet Waves Instrument Cables, Planet Waves Capo, Evans Tom Pack (3 tom heads), Evans Snare Head, Evans Drum Key. There are prizes from Marshall, PMT, Dawsons, Univibe Audio, Zildjian and Kerrang on offer also. The total prize fund totals tens of thousands of pounds. There will also be cash sponsorship for the best 4 bands from the Surface Unsigned Festival.”

  6. Admitedly i have my reservations, the oblique way to get a ticket, the dodgy phone voting system and high door entry price being a few.

    I do like the idea of seeing six bands in one night though, kinda like the old “punk-a-rama” cds where the record agency would cram a song from all their artists on one cd and sell them for about a fiver to encouraging people to try new bands.

    Subsidised door entry would obviously be preferable and even though the bands get a portion of the tickets they sell, I’m tempted to believe that that system might turn the (very wanky) battle of the bands idea into even more a who can bring the most supporters competition.

    Anyway will report back later with a verdict and maybe a few words from the bands.

  7. Sponsorship? Phone Voting?

    If there are two short Geordie fellas in charge then the one on the left will be called Ant.

  8. bands that i have to listen to with my own ears? and six pounds? i’d only pay that if it was beamed directly into my mind, yeah.

    god damn. Cheer the fuck up.

  9. plus i actually went, and at least three of the bands were worth paying two pounds for. not sure about the screamcore though.

  10. “bands that i have to listen to with my own ears? and six pounds? i’d only pay that if it was beamed directly into my mind, yeah.”

    Well that would be lovely, yes, but can’t I just go to a proper gig instead where A) I can see bands play for a sensible length of time; and B) not feel that I’m being manipulated solely for the purpose of filling Surface & Sons pockets?

  11. No ones stopping anyone from going to “proper gigs”, and i’m presuming by “proper” you mean the sort of gig where a promoter will book a band then do no promoting what so ever and sit on the door taking money from a bands following, which is the sort of thing the bands I talked to last night complained about more.

    The structure of Surface is a bit sketchy, and i’m not really endorsing it, quite the oppostite when i get home (it’s lunch hour and i’m back on the steam powered PC in the school).

    I found twenty minutes a good time to get a flavour of the bands and pick out some decent tracks, as a result of last night I found a couple of bands I will make the effort to see.

  12. I would define ‘proper gig’ as ‘A DIY gig where the promoter struggles like mad to publicise it, and then shares the money that appears in a sensible way, making sure to give the bands as fair a recompense as possible’. This is the case with most small gigs I go to. Admittedly this usually means that the promotor loses money, and (obviously) that’s terrible, but there are no shortage of ethical promoters around. The fact the type of thing you describe is being put forward as some sort of default in a comments thread that the widely respected Dunc Autumn Store has posted in is amazing.

    I’m glad that you enjoyed twenty minute sets but it’s definitely something I find hard to imagine myself ever seeing as a positive.

    Sorry if I sounded hostile in the previous post; it’s often a reflex to respond to sniffy rhetoric (String) with sniffy rhetoric. That doesn’t excuse it, I realise.

  13. And I apologise if my obviously lacking writing ability suggested that this sort of event should be the default way of discovering new bands and should replace supporting grass roots local music. I assure you that this wasn’t the case.

    What i did say in the original post is “this could be a great way of seeing local unsigned acts”, and (lazy hackneyed saying aside) you know what, it was. There are two new local bands I’m defiantly going to go see again. but also after looking into the competition and how its organised I’m retracting my endorsement.

    I still like the idea of a showcase style event with short sets and six or so bands.

  14. “after looking into the competition and how its organised I’m retracting my endorsement.”

    I can’t wait for this post!

  15. yeah i got hold of a bands copy of the rules, and will be posting later.

    Note: Surface have emailed claiming the above comment by Danny is threatening copyright infringement. While the issue of whether copyright was infringed or is moot the threat was actioned on March 20th when an excerpt of the rules was added to the blog post above (where it has now been rephrased). I thank you.

  16. […] In my career as a blogger there have been a number of milestones but the one that kept elluding me was the coveted cease-and-desist or take-down notice. Well, I’m happy to say that a blog I’m involved with got one last week. Unfortunately for me it wasn’t because of one of my posts but I did invite the dear chap to contribute and give him free reign so I can take some sort of credit for his post about the Surface Unsigned festival. […]

  17. keri davies

    This legal threat is highly spurious for several reasons.

    1. I can’t find the “festival’s” terms and conditions, but I expect they are much longer than this one paragraph. Copyright law only applies when you quote a “substantial part” of a work.

    2. Even if this was the entire terms and conditions, there is a very strong defence case for this being fair comment on a matter of public interest.

    3. So copyright doesn’t come into it.

    4. Even if Surface has a non-disclosure agreement with the bands taking part, there is no such contractual relationship between Surface and CiB.

    What an own goal by Surface. Instead of engaging with the issue, explaining what the money is used for, how much it costs to administer the competition, pointing to the success stories large and small of bands who have taken part, they are now going to be branded as exploitative cowards who don’t understand the blogosphere or the law.

  18. ‘in the midlands alone should mean there are plenty of gigs to come, if I’ve done the maths right the competition should be finished sometime in 2112’ Is Rush playing then?

  19. Why do people still get surprised by this sort of event? If bands want to waste their time, energy and money – great! There are a number of regional ‘faces’ that regularly do this sort of thing without importing extortion.

    Anyone see the dreadful one in Hard Rock Cafe a few years ago? Same format industry ‘experts’ flown half way round the world to watch rubbish local bands pay to play 15 min (2 minute change over – 12 hours a day)? They must have been totally indispensable to the record companies if they can waste their time like that? They spent the whole night at the bar or looking in the opposite direction from the stage.

    But still bands will pay to be ‘spotted’ Why?

    ‘So for 25 £6 tickets, the bands get £25 and Surface gets £125 now there are a minimum of six band at each gig so that means each gig they get a minimum of £750 (not to much maths I hope, my head kinda pickled as it is but I will push on regardless), now the first round of the Birmingham heats there are 38 gigs, which adds up too £28,500! just for the first round, all this, according to the booklet’

    If you are desperate to achieve fame there are a couple of ways I can think of at the time of writing.
    1) Get a job as an investment banker / patronage of one or marry one & spend 100k recording, promoting and distributing then hire the services of Max Clifford to get you on the front page as you punch Amy Winehouse, snort charlie with Pete and marry Paris while falling out of an exclusive London club at 2am.
    2) The X factor is in Brum today – why not go down there and waste your time? save yourselves some money! Save the audience and poor bar staff from hearing your twaddle!

  20. “Surface Unsigned’s PR team have been busy. I do love stuff like this. I won’t add to the wise words of those better qualified than I to unpick this one, but the bare bones are that a company sent a fairly nonsensical legal threat to a blogger, and obviously it’s always funny to see a larger organization attempt to use heavy-handed tactics and subsequently get egg on their face.”
    Full post here.

  21. anonymous 4-piece rock band from Birmingham

    The whole thing is a scam – I barely know 25 people never minding trying to get £7 out of 25 people to come along and watch. Our approach is that if we sell 25 tickets and get through then fine, if not then we won’t be upset.

    The problem is that bands don’t have much choice. For us the attraction is playing more venues, effectively building up our CV as a band. We’re not in the competition to win, and neither will we because we don’t sound like the Strokes / Babyshambles type bands and that seems to be what record companies are interested in nowadays, at least on the evidence of the ‘A&R’ vote in our first round. I think the next round on the 29th will be a lot better, mainly because of the venue.

    We aren’t keen on 20 min sets either, or having to sell tickets, or being made to turn up at half 4 for soundchecks, even though only the first and last band get a soundcheck (which is why we always play first)…also regarding the legal comments, we have not signed any non-disclosure agreements with the festival organizers or anything else tying us in legally. So I don’t see why no-one else is able to see the rules etc. You might also want to refer people to the FAQs on the SUF website at http://www.surfaceunsigned.co.uk/faqs.html

  22. […] many others (see below) I’m seriously impressed that Surafce Unsigend have tried to stifle reasonable criiticism made on Created in Birmingham, by threataneing legal action on what appear to be spurious […]

  23. Another thing that concerns me about this is how they handle the text voting (details on the banner at the bottom of the http://www.surfaceunsigned.co.uk/presspage.html). If a band does not qualify by not bringing 25 fans, what happens to any text votes for that band? Voters have to pay £1 plus network fee for each vote. Is this announced at the end of the gig before voting starts “You can vote for BandA, BandC and BandD, but not BandB”. This seems unlikely.

  24. Oooh, phone scandal. I must say I don’t really have a problem with the “you must sell tickets” thing per se (although transparency would be nice), but that’s a very good point.

    Anyone who’s actually been to one of these things care to comment?

  25. Snoop Catty Cat

    I went to the semi and the final last year cos my mate was in one of the bands. We had a wicked time and so did my mate who gained a lot from the experience. We paid £8 for 6 bands which is less than a nightclub entry. As for the MCs if it’s the same as last year they were well fit!!

  26. hanuman

    Love the way you paraphrased the supposed copywrite infringement in lolspeak. As I write lawyers the world over are trying to work out what lolspeak is and how they can utilise it either as a legal loophole or as another way to nail you on their clients behalf.

    I like also the comments from the anonymous four piece rock band who
    a) don’t wish to promote their name here on CiB -c’mon guys any publicity is publicity surely!
    b) don’t know more than 25 people. (you’re gigs must be a blast!)
    c) still seem to believe that A&R even exists and that any serious industry types actually give two shits for a bunch of blokes playing their hearts out in a pub. If they didn’t make it and can’t control every ounce of it they ain’t gonna be interested. With record companies imploding and dropping established acts do you really think they can be bothered to develop new artists.
    Sorry chaps.

  27. According to Surface Unsigned Magazine a group called The Brascoes were the “Best Band Of The Festival” in 2007. Currently they are scheduled to play:

    1st June 2008 Hide and Seek Festival, Leeds
    5th June 2008 Forge Bar Cannock,
    13th June 2008 The Rainbow Digbeth
    Erm..that’s it.

    Nothing wrong with that but following being brought “to the attention of all aspects of the music industry”?

    I believe they did a Radio WM session as well a couple of months ago shortly before the station stopped broadcasting after 10.00pm.

    I have been researching a history of bands who have survived talent competitions and gone on to any success and since U2 survived one in Dublin in 1978 a year before their first self released EP in Ireland I can’t find any other. Anyone know of any?

  28. Ben

    My band Jazz Thrash Assassin came 4th in 2007. We were well aware of the sometimes dubious ways of the Surface Festival from the start.

    As Stef observes Surface probably make around £28,500 from Round 1 alone… The winners of the 2007 festival won an amazing erm… i dont know i cant find it online, and neither can i find what the winners get this year either. Maybe thats deliberate on their part… but going on a bad memory they won £1000 and a few hours in a studio (that they run the festival from) in Walsall. I know. Your, impressed right?

    As for the the voting system was… well… laughable and the judging was also .. well to put it nicely ‘diplomatic’.

    The best thing we got from the event was some good live shots and a few great gigs. Which is good… dont get me wrong, but the prizes & opportunities in relation to what the festival make in $$$ are pretty pathetic to say the least.

    Oh – actually… after reading Dunc’s post above about the prizes… we did get a drum key and our guitarist got some strings!!!!!! I’m a bass player though and I got nothing.

  29. You know, I have a feeling that Surface’s promise to bring the winners to the attention of the music industry might just come true. Just not quite in the way they thought….

  30. @ john mostyn

    The legend is that Happy Mondays were famously spotted by Tony Wilson at a Battle of the Bands competition.

    They came last :)

  31. ben: ‘we did get a drum key and our guitarist got some strings!!!!!! I’m a bass player though and I got nothing’

    That was money well spent then!

  32. paul

    these guys are rubbing there hands together they cudnt giv a toss about the bands there jst in it for the money they must be raking it in

  33. Since everyone’s bitched endlessly about Surface, can I have a little whine about promoters who do the same at venues elsewhere in the country?
    The Pleasure Unit, Bethnal Green, London.
    Shit PA, huge pillar front and centre of stage, ridiculous requirement to sell tickets for the gig even for out of town bands (although everyone knows all the best bands are from London anyway, right?), and a guy with a haircut that would make babies cry on the front door doing his best to drive any self respecting punter away.
    And then when you catch them off guard and manage to sidestep their thinly veilled pay-to-play scheme they threaten to make gigging for you in London in the future near on impossible if you don’t cough up.
    So we didn’t pay a penny.
    And we’ve played pretty much every worthwhile venue in London since, from time to time on a good bill with some fairly big names.
    Well, they’ve got the power, haven’t they?

  34. The Music won ‘Bright Young Things’ way back when. For me, they are the typical, generic toss that win these competitions. Good bands don’t win them generally speaking.

  35. Ben

    To be honest in 2007 the two or three people I met who worked for the festival were nice, honest people. I imagine they are getting paid pittance for doing too much as well…

  36. Snoop Catty Cat

    Jazz Thrash Assasins came 4th!!! Oh my god Surface Unsigned are definitely corupt. Mr Bungle ripped off by a bunch of crusties. Don’t they realise how stupid they look doing that shit at their age. I’m still cringing at the thought of it

  37. Ben

    You may be aware but theres an article on 4Talent here: http://www.channel4.com/4talent/feature.jsp?id=11606

    As for Snoop Catty Cat – We dont sound like Mr.Bungle… and if you think we do you are obviously deaf, and if you think we are unaware that we look rediculous, you are obviously very dumb.. one of us was in a PE kit at the Surface final. If you dress like that normally and think you do not look rediculous it is you that is cringeworthy.

  38. […] 25 tickets for their own gig at £6 each is trying to get the rather magnificent and award winning Created in Birmingham take down their review, where they quote said terms and conditions. Here they are, courtesy oh just […]

  39. I definitely agree with a lot of the comments above that the Surface Unsigned process is a bit questionable. I actually sing in “Little Game” one of the bands in this competition, and while I think it’s crazy that we have to sell our own tickets and do all the promotion all so Surface can take such a profit (for what seems very little effort)- I also realize that’s just the name of the game these days. There are virtually no outlets in Birmingham for quality unsigned bands to be heard by the masses so we are forced to play pubs and smaller venues under the agreement that they provide the stage and PA and we provide a minimum of 20- 30 beer drinking customers. When we found Surface Unsigned we were stoked to find out finally someone was trying to do something for local bands (even if it does mean filling their pockets at the same time.) What other choice do we have?

    Anyway, my bands playing round 3 on July 25th at The Barfly. Our website is http://www.little-game.com (Funk, POP, and California Soul) if you’re interested.

  40. Surface Unsigned is definately one to avoid like the plague. There is absolutely nothing that they can do for you that you can’t do yourself.

    I just wish bands would wise up to the fact that there is no quick break in the music buisness. A&R doesn’t exist at a major level anymore. If you actually want to get somewhere you have to network (not spam) and do everything yourself, which is hard work but worthwhile in the end.

    As for bands who went on to better things after playing showcases and BotB comps, only one comes to mind – Bullet For My Valentine, who did loads when they were called Jeff Killed John, and got ripped off too many times to mention.

    The only showcase worth applying for is In The City, all the rest are cowboy rip off merchants.

    DIY all the way – support your local scene.

  41. Sorry, me again…

    In response to the previous post that said there were no places for quality unsigned bands to play in Birmingham, why not get a few ‘quality unsigned bands’ together, contact and hire the following places, advertise the show and split the door take between you all – thus taking out of the equation getting ripped off by dodgy promoters.

    The Actress & Bishop – Cap 150
    Bar Acadamy – Cap 292
    The Barfly – Cap 300
    Flapper & Firkin – Cap 110
    Glee Club – Cap 375 (main room) 150 (Studio theatre)
    The Jam House – Cap 600
    The Jug Of Ale – Cap 80
    Midlands Art Centre – Cap 200 or 88
    The Sunflower Lounge – Cap 70
    The Roadhouse – Cap 200

    All their details are freely available on the net.

  42. Carl

    We played a recent semi-final, tickets £8, on the door £9.
    Admittidely, we sold few tickets, because £8 is a rip off to see us play 20 minutes of stuff, when we’ll play another gig in two weeks for half an hour for just £3.

    Another thing, they stressed to me that the event would be an 18+, so we avoided selling the tickets to minors, although we may have sold a few more tickets.
    When I walked around the venue half hour after we’d played it was full of 14 year olds. Was I missing something?

    From a business point of view, they are brilliant at it. But from the musical point of view, Surface just isn’t fair on anyone.

    We’ve decided to avoid big competitions like these in the future (especially after being in Emergenza last year. That was a bunch of manure if I’ve ever seen any)

  43. John

    I think a lot of negative opinions on here that are aimed at the Surface Unsigned Festival organisers are out of touch with the realities of organising and promoting events.
    I have putting on music events for the last 10 years, mostly for unsigned bands and producers.
    If (as someone has stated in a comment earlier on) the organisers are left with £750 after paying the bands then they really don’t stand to make much money.
    There is the venue hire, fee for the sound engineer, fee for the compare, promotion and advertising costs, fee for the event manager, plus any other aditional costs that are incurred on the night. This will leave the festival organisers with only a small amount (if any) of profit.

    The worst thing for a promoter is when they book local unsigned bands (to give them a chance to be heard and perform in front of new crowds) and for them to turn up with only a couple of friends, leaving the promoter to cover the losses for the event.

    The Surface Unsigned Festival is a professional organisation (not a charity) and for them to operate a nationwide battle of the bands style festival is surely of benefit to bands who get the opportunity to play outside of their local town/city.

    If your an up and coming band then surely bringing 25 people to your gig is not difficult. If you can’t get 25 people to come and support you in your local venue then how are you going to build up a nationwide following.

    The music industry doesn’t have money to throw away at bands who won’t promote themselves. It’s just the way it is and bands should wise up and face the reality of the current music industry climate if they want to be successful.

    Obviously with it being a ‘battle’ there are many bands who will go away dissappointed (not everyone can win). But hopefully the bands who entered learned something from the experience and can use it as a stepping stone to greater things.

    If you do the maths you will realise that they DON’T make a fortune out of ripping off bands. In fact, they probably loose out at lots of the events due to poor attendance and then make up their costs in the later rounds.

  44. “There is the venue hire, fee for the sound engineer, fee for the compare, promotion and advertising costs, fee for the event manager, plus any other aditional costs that are incurred on the night”

    If this is costing them anywhere near £750 per gig for an ongoing series of events then they’re incompetent as well as whatever else.

  45. charlotte painter

    after reading all of this, surface = good or.. v v bad?
    i need to know what this co. are all about

  46. Ulysses

    I’ve just came across this blog and people need to wake up. I’ve judged for Surface Unsigned a few times and I just thought I’d clear a few things up.

    I have no interest in:

    (1): The number of hands being shown to vote for a particular band
    (2): Whether they have brought a coach load or just their Mom and Dad
    (3): Voting for a band because of the genre of music they play

    All I look for are good songs and arrangements, good performances and stage presence and whether they could have an impact on the music industry.

    I’ve worked in the music industry all my adult life and have never had a so-called “normal’ job and have worked with artists as diverse as Mary J Blige and Robert Plant over the last 20 years. And because I come from an engineering and production background, I can be totally objective as I listen AND WORK in numerous genres professionally. I don’t even have a favourite genre or band. I have 25,000 favourite records at home!

    Working with artists on a daily basis can sometimes be very frustrating as they cannot sometimes distance themselves from their work. I find this very easy and I think that is why Surface has asked me to judge some of their events – when I can.

    Being totally honest, those guys work incredibly hard on these events and we regularly talk about finding some amazing bands – which is what it is all about.

    I actually feel that Surface is providing a service which realistically a lot of the bands could be performing themselves, but they may not know how or have the resources to put their own gigs on. I’ve seen some great bands, most of which I would never have heard about if it wasn’t for these events. Unfortunately, I haven’t got the time to go to gigs and clubs every night anymore – so therefore, personally, it’s a Godsend to see 6 bands in one night.

    I have seen numerous exciting bands that have great potential and I have always checked out many the bands’ MySpace site the day after the gig and have told numerous other industry personnel about artists I seen. But I, and others, don’t have a magic wand. I feel many of the bands still need to develop and progress – which can only happen with time. Plus, I have approached bands with suggestions – although, many bands see this as a negative not a positive. Fair enough.

    I have nothing but good things to say about these guys. I’ve been asked to get involved in many ‘Battle of the Bands’ events over the years and I’ve always been cautious of these types of gigs. But with Surface, they have the best ideology, commitment and dedication to deliver something that is essentially a great platform for unsigned bands and I certainly would not get involved if I felt it was not ‘above board’ and ‘kosher’. And I need to add that I have NEVER been paid by Surface for something that I feel is a pleasure.

    To the bands that have said that they feel it is a ‘sketchy’ or dubious event; write some good songs, learn your instruments, develop good arrangements for your songs, work on your stage presence, get good quality recording, work on your image AND make sure your music is relevant. Easy!! I know I’m being very crude and simplistic here, but this is the foundation of a good band or artist – whether it’s a Metal band, Indie band or Drum & Bass act. But there is also an element of luck with anything artistic and creative. But remember, a band is only as good as its weakest link.

  47. @Ulysses

    This is interesting stuff, I totally agree with it being something that bands can do ourselves, and it doesn’t take as much money or know how as you think. You certainly shouldn’t need to take £750 to cover costs.

    You’ve not really addressed where the money goes though, if you could help shed a bit of light on that.

    My concern (and the feeling expressed by some who have played) is that it seems like they’re exploiting the bands, getting loads of money, and offering very little of any real value at the end.

    Again, if you can give examples of where bands have benefited substantially then please do.

  48. Rockangel

    It is good to see that this subject is still provoking debate, although I suspect that Surface Unsigned is not too happy about it.
    I have participated and have come to the conclusion that the effort involved in performing under the Surface ‘UNSIGNED’ umbrella is just not worth it.

    [The rest of the comment has been deleted and an email has been sent to the commenter to explain why – Chris Unitt]

  49. Mr D

    Interesting reading about surface unsigned..the 2008 final has just finished,the chairmen won,and the talk about the winners is they are signed by the guy who run Surface unsigned.Don’t know if its true,anybody out there can shed any light.

  50. Rockangel

    I think that you may be onto something here; You are almost right but the reality is a little more complicated. What you need to do is Google all the bands from the West Midlands who were in the final. Look at the judges as declared on the Surface unsigned site, both in the final and previous rounds- specifically in the West Midlands area. Research any record companies or individuals connected to Surface Unsigned. Try linking up bands via gig info and discover which bands have been gigging together. All this info is readily available on the internet. Bear in mind that there is a connection between SU and the recording studios where every band has to register in Walsall. Then look at how all these companies and individuals interact. It is all there for you to draw your own conclusions.
    You will be stunned at what you find. Use this info to check out the connection between The Chairmen and the festival organisers and judges. The connections are like a spiders web, it only takes a little patience to figure it all out.

  51. Surface

    The initial takedown notice was emailed because of the harsh criticism about a speech impediment of a female presenter which has since been removed from the original post by Chris Unitt. Surface Unsigned took a legal route to get the post removed, which in retrospect we regret as it was that action which a prompted negative response from the blogging community. What followed were comments whereby personal opinion and freedom of speech had turned into personal defamation, false accusations and fictitious allegations and certain comments were subsequently removed because of this. The original post by Danny Smith was followed up by another post in his blog http://edgetrinkets.com/ in which the last paragraph states: “If you don’t agree to Surface’s tactics or ethos let me know in the comments section – or, even better, write your own views in your own blog or website thus generating as much negative publicity for these fu*kers that we can”.
    There is no registration fee for bands to enter the Festival nor do we operate a ‘pay to play’ type event. All bands which fulfill the requirements of the Festival receive a percentage of all the tickets they have sold dependant on the amount. The decision of asking bands to bring 25 people to their show is based on research carried out in all of the venues we work with and the commitment they ask unsigned bands to fulfill. Any bands that do not sell 25 tickets are still allowed to play and can go on to play in the next round. Surface Unsigned does not receive any money from our manufacturing sponsors.
    Lost revenue from illegal downloads has created an industry where no money is being put back into unsigned bands. Through sponsorship and investment we are providing that return via manufacturer endorsement, cash sponsorship which will increase year on year (which the bands keep, unlike if they were signed where would have to pay back the record company), and industry showcases. You can find more information on this here http://www.surfaceunsigned.co.uk/centralHomepage.html

    Anyone can email us at any time at info@surfaceunsigned.co.uk if they have any questions about Surface Unsigned.

  52. Rockangel

    Sorry Rockcentral,
    You are a million miles away from the points I have raised. I have not suggested that Surface Unsigned have their own record label or that The Chairmen are signed. My research is far too accurate for that. I have merely advised punters to check on any vested interests that SU might have.
    However, are you capable of denying that at least one band in the final is signed by a record label used as a “judge” in previous rounds of the SU. This band also got to the final last year. I would refer you to the word “unsigned” in the competition title. This company had 7 signed bands in the Midlands semi-final. It was displayed loudly on their website.
    When SU happily announce that way over 10,000 bands apply for the competition, without even discussing the ethics or morality of the above, what are the mathematical chances of this happening.
    The link you have referred to is irrelevant.
    If you wish to respond, concentrate on this point alone.
    Don’t come back to me and say that the record company that these guys are signed to is irrelevant in the music industry today because I will ask you why their A&R rep is being used by Surface Unsigned as a judge. When punters and their fans pay out large amounts to play, shouldn’t they be judged by someone decent?

  53. dispiritedfather

    Surface unsigned.
    Thank-you for being so candid in explaining that there is no registration fee for your competition. My son’s band were invited down to JJM studios in Walsall to attend their initial interview. I sat outside in my car listening to the radio and generally just passing the time. Suddenly, there was a knock on the window from one of the band members asking if I had £25.00 in cash. They needed it, to hand it over to the organizers as part of the set up fee. It appears from what
    you say I have been taken for a ride by my son’s band. Can you please confirm that I need to reclaim my £25.00 from the band’s limited resources, as clearly , it seems that they have told me a porky.
    Its strange, because talking to a friend whose son is in a different band, he had the same stunt pulled on him. Odd isn’t it.

  54. Surface

    Dispiritedfather, in reply to your comment: There is no registration fee for bands to enter the Festival. At the Surface Unsigned meeting your band paid a one-off deposit of £25 in order to secure the first gig slot – bands are made fully aware of this before their meeting via email. Bands receive the full deposit back on the day of the first gig. Experience shows that if we do not charge a deposit bands may drop out on the day of their gig, leaving us with an empty slot which could have been given to another band. In 2009 we will be working with over 1,500 bands thus having a deposit system in place is a must. If you wish to speak with anyone regarding this matter or any other matters please call us on 0800 434 6076 or email us at info@surfaceunsigned.co.uk.

  55. dispiritedfather

    My son’s band practice at my house and they are all here at the moment working away. So I”ve just confronted them with your statement. They categorically deny that they have had any refund. Interestingly, what I forgot to mention is that they have appeared in the 2007 and 2008 festival and I know they paid the £25 both years. Todate they have not received any refund for either year nor was it ever mentioned that this charge was refundable.. Can you confirm when they will receive their refunds. Will you for example be sending out cheques to all the bands that appeared in the first round or what? Again I have just phoned my friend and they are in the same waiting position having no knowledge of the refund
    By playing in the festivals we have networked with over 50 bands. I will now get in contact with them all to see if they got their refunds. If they haven’t can I send you a list of the band names who need their refund so you can do the decent thing?
    Thank you

  56. dispiritedfather

    PS surface

    I have just read the article about signed bands in the competition by rock angel. Is what he says true?
    Please tell me he is wrong.

  57. Surface

    As stated in our previous comment this will be resolved if and when you contact us in the correct manor either by phone or email. All bands are told at their meeting that they will receive £25 back on the day of their first gig – it states this in the information packs your band will have received. It also states in the information pack that if your band has sold less than 25 tickets we do not offer a refund, maybe this is the case with your son’s band. Without the name of the band and your contact details we are not in a position to offer a solution. We would also advise your friend’s band to contact us also. In reference to your other question we are not aware of any bands that are signed that have taken place in the Festival. If rock angel is referring to MAS records who judged in the semi-finals then we do not consider them as a functioning record company. They are a European funded educational body based in Kidderminster College that help bands with costs for rehearsal, recording, advice etc. Again, if this matter is of concern to you then please contact us and we will make our position clear, however just to clarify, Surface Unsigned does not view bands that work with MAS Records as ‘signed’ as there is no contract in place. Hopefully your band will make use of the other free services we provide to all bands take part in the Festival; at every gig we invite journalist who will write a review on your band, which is then published on our website, which you can copy and use for your own promotion. Professional photographers are hired for to take photos of each band. Listings are posted up across the internet on gig-listing sites, internet-based magazines, music-related websites. This is done nationally as well as regionally. Surface Unsigned has a UK mailing list of over 20-thousand music-related email-addresses which is used for promotion of the bands in the Festival. We also have area-based mailing lists, meaning we can target direct mail-outs for each area of the Festival. Surface Unsigned has a vast data-base of press-contacts for each area of the country (Northwest, Midlands, Southeast). The Surface schedule is submitted to national press as well as to local news and entertainment sections. This year we will distribute 50,000 copies of our magazine – designed purely to promote the bands in the Festival.

  58. There’s a re-print of the initial “take this down” letter here.

    That seems like an odd way to phrase a complaint regarding a comment about a speech impediment to me.

  59. dispiritedfather

    Oh my goodness.
    And I was worried about just the £25 deposits. I was thinking to myself about how many bands were still awaiting their deposits back. I have no idea at this stage how many tickets were sold but I am sure at least 1 of the bands we contact will have reached that level. Therefore it shouldn’t take too long to find somebody who received their deposit back. I have no reason to doubt that you are correct at this stage. I do regard this as a registration fee. You state that this is to make the bands turn up. But if they turn up with less than 25 sold tickets and you do not refund the deposit, then surely this becomes a pay to play situation. [ Which of course is exactly what you deny the festival is all about]
    However, it is what else you say that is of massive concern and needs to be considered by everybody who has played in the festivals.
    So, thank you for informing me about MAS records. I’ve just been on their web page. MAS records, who openly state on their web page, that they are one of the most prestigious independent record labels in the Midlands are not a record label at all, you claim. However bands who have an “association” with MAS records are allowed into the competition and have great success. I note that a band called Strangle Kojak, for example, is actively being promoted by MAS Records. By simply cross referencing, it appears that they have been in the final for the last 2 years!. Is this true? Checking your very own web page I see that MAS records are used as judges in the competition. Are they allowed to judge their own bands? How can that be fair? Are other less well connected bands made aware of these connections before they play? I know my son’s band were unaware of this connection. They are stunned, as I am sure most other people will be, on what I’ve just found. They are all sitting here in my lounge in disbelief. It looks as if Rock angel is correct.
    Their first reaction is that they have been cheated. How can this be fair was their first comment and I have to tell you that their instant view is to dismiss the whole festival as a fix. They, like every other band in these festivals, now need reassurance that all bands start from a level playing field.
    How is it possible for them not to jump to these unhappy conclusions.
    I wonder how many other equally unsuccessful bands are aware of this link and what their reactions would be to this knowledge. Sadly, I also wonder how many bands would sign up for 2009. From the reaction in my lounge, it is clear that one regular attendee will not attend again.
    So; Is it true that 7 MAS records artistes were in the semi finals? That is truly worrying to anybody who does not have this association as it represents nearly 10% of semi final bands in the Midlands area alone. Yet MAS records were the judge on 8 of the 12 semi final nights where the band that progressed, from the top five vote scoring bands, was totally at the judges discretion.
    And what muddies the water even more is that MAS records states that JJM studios, the very same address where Surface unsigned are located, are a “satellite”, used by MAS records.

    So can I assume that bands that are in the semi finals and finals are associated with the most prestigious “non record label”, record label in the Midlands. They are judged by MAS records themselves or at the very least, judging colleagues or associates of JJM Studios, who must all be aware of this connection. What if bands are customers of JJM studios/ Alias surface unsigned, prior to the competitions.
    This has just taken me less that 10 minutes to find these connections that Rock angel refers to and I do not like what I am finding.
    Surface- you need to urgently reassure me and everybody else who reads these blogs. I sincerely hope there are no other shocks to find out there. People here are very nervous.
    There is an odour out there and it is not a very nice one.

  60. Surface

    As stated above, the initial takedown notice was emailed as a reaction started by criticism made about a speech impediment of a female presenter which has since been removed. CIB was also using our logo and reprinting our terms and conditions in the same article – hence the takedown notice. We have already expressed regret at sending a takedown notice initially; however we have since sent further requests to remove comments because of their defamatory nature which have been subsequently removed. Contrary to certain comments made on blogs in recent months Surface Unsigned is committed to making the Festival format as clear and concise as possible. Most questions that people have had are clearly stated on our website. MAS records are just one of many organizations that are involved in the judging of Surface Unsigned showcases. MAS records are a developmental program set up to support talent in the Midlands. They are a public body endorsed by Advantage West Midlands, The Learning and Skills Council and the European Social Fund. Their industry links (Robert Plant is patron) are clearly beneficial to all unsigned bands that are part of the Surface Unsigned infrastructure. In reference to the 7 bands that are being helped by MAS records presently that were in Surface 08 here is the clarification: on 5th July, “Island Three”, “The Underclass” and “Regis” were not judged by MAS. On 12th July “Knockout Ned” were not judged by MAS. On 20th July “Strangle Kojak” were not judged by MAS. On the 26th July “My Great Affliction” were judged by MAS but did NOT progress and on 2nd August “Thieves Like Us” were judged by MAS and again did NOT progress. It clearly states we work with MAS on our homepage of our website and we also list all other organizations that we have worked with. We can assure all bands that every band is treated equally and judged fairly. Again, all judges are stated above the results after each night on our regional mini-sites. This information has been made clear from Round 1 to the National Showcase on Saturday 13th September at the Birmingham Academy. JJM Studios is used by Surface Unsigned to hold all of the central meetings, so yes there is a connection. We use many other studios and rehearsal around the U.K. also. There is no collusion to what bands progress just because where we hold meetings for the Festival.
    Over the last 6 months we have received a record number of applications and Surface Unsigned will thus be expanding to 16 cities in 2009. We can only assume that blogs have played a part in this success as the popularity of the ‘Google’ search on Surface Unsigned has increased our website traffic tenfold. One thing we have learnt is that blogs can be credible platforms for debate if companies are made aware of negative comments about them sooner so they can react to defamatory comments quicker and engage in the debate. As we have stated on our previous comments we welcome emails about the Festival and are concerned if people have issues or uncertainties about Surface Unsigned.

  61. Rockangel

    Mmmmmm, as I suspected. Very incestuous isn’t it.
    Are we supposed to be comforted by these protestations?

    As someone who has been involved with youth music for many years, my main concern has nothing to do with how much money Surface Unsigned are raking in. I am interested in morality and ethics. I have confidence that they will go from strength to strength. It’s a slick and effective business model, operating within a music industry that is frankly floundering for a whole raft of reasons, not least that there are now tens of thousands of bands out there, all desperately seeking to be ‘discovered.’
    Its forefather, Emergenza is still operating I believe. Research has revealed that Emergenza appears to have a poor reputation with the blogging community in other parts of the world. It will be interesting to see if there are links, however tenuous to Surface Unsigned.
    I worry that the festival has the ability to disguise itself as having refreshingly altruistic motives, masquerading as a heaven sent saviour to our beleaguered industry. I can detect no evidence of this and am concerned, from the contact I have had with many disgruntled bands, that their influence might indeed be damaging to the overall creative musical process.
    For those who wish to take part in the ‘competition’ I wish them well. The events themselves, from my experience are very run well; even if the main thrust of the emphasis appears to be on how many tickets have been sold and the collection of the monies therein. Most bands feel very uncomfortable with the unscientific and the rather childish voting system that involves the raising of hands. As long as the judging is seen to be fair, bands will be happy.
    From the outset I think that bands should be aware that, very roughly to reach the semi-final stage it is likely to cost their family and friends about £529 in ticket sales. This is based on the fact that a band sells 24 tickets per gig with an ascending cost ratio from £6.00-£8.00. That excludes the cost of text voting and all transport to and from the gigs and will involve 3 20 minute sets(Max.) Protests saying that the bands do not need to sell many tickets, I will ignore because I very much doubt if a band who only sold 2 tickets would go through to the next round: Whatever anyone else tries to say. Of course, many bands sell a lot more to try and get an advantage. I have seen bus loads turn up! The audiences tend to be friends, a few fans, mums, dads and sometimes even grannies, there to support their own bands with little interest in anyone else. Sad, I’m afraid, but very true and not very ‘cool’ either.
    Impressionable youngsters and struggling bands should be aware that there is very rarely a quick fix to stardom and I advise them to be a little wary of anyone or anything that seeks to peddle in dreams………

  62. Surface

    Networking is a major part of bringing together all sectors of the music industry to create more opportunities for bands to be seen and heard by the right people. Surface Unsigned involves companies on a regional and national level to help bands achieve. As long as we feel companies can provide genuine opportunities for bands we will continues to work with them. The Surface Unsigned voting system consists of a ratings structure. The more ratings a band receives the higher their chance of being put through to the next stage of the festival. Ratings can be gained through text votes, audience votes, musician’s votes and industry votes. For clarification, 1 text vote = 1 rating (10p per text goes to Oxfam), 1 audience vote = 5 ratings, 1 musician’s vote = 20 ratings, 1 industry vote = 30 ratings. Again this system is explained on our website and you can see examples of how it works on our regional mini-sites. From this system you will see how bands can quite easily reach latter stages of the Festival without selling relatively more tickets than other bands as the clout of Surface ratings are obtained by musicians and judges votes and not hand counts or texts. This system is extremely fair as it gives everyone an opportunity to vote even those people who can’t make the gig. Next year there will be around 600 nights of live music over period of 7 months from February 2009 to September 2009. This system is in place to provide consistency, equality and uniformity across the U.K. spectrum of the Festival.

  63. Hi there. My names Anthony Herron, I was one of the judges for the Surface Unsigned final that took place last Saturday. It was an unpaid position and I had no connection with any of the bands or Surface Unsigned before the day. Neither have surface or anyone asked me to write this. I was also aware of this previous post regarding Surface.

    I previously knew about half of the judges and can confirm they had no connection with the bands. In the final, the bands were judged on merit, not ticket sales or any other information.

    We had to choose 1st,2nd,3rd & 4th place on our sheets. The Chairmen weren’t my 1st but they were in my Top 4. As far as I’m aware, there was 1 point between 1st & 2nd place.

    Other to really say there was no influence on our voting I suppose that’s it. But if you have any questions, please do ask and I will answer them. My email address is also on my blog link.


  64. Rockangel

    Thank-you for taking the time to come on and explain some facts about the judging for the final last Saturday. I am heartened to hear of the apparent impartiality applied to the final and I have no doubt regarding the individual integrity of each judge. I am sure that all the bands who reached the final appreciate this clarity.
    However, do you feel confident enough to assure all the bands who did not reach the final, that they too benefited from the same level of integrity, alluded to in your post. These bands were scrutinized by a single judge, not a balanced panel with diverse musical interests. Previous posts have clearly stated that on certain occasions this judge happened to be a representative from a record company or educational establishment, whose declared aim is to help and promote bands managed by their own organisation.
    Would you be able to look a young impressionable musician in the eye, whose band has been knocked out at an early stage by one of these ‘managed ‘ bands and say, ‘I can assure you that the judging was completely impartial?’ Would you be able to assure him, if he were fully aware of the relationship between the judges and the managed bands, that vested interest played no part in the decision making process?
    I would like to think that ALL bands in the competition deserve the same level of impartiality offered to those in the final.
    I believe that when a band is knocked out of a competition such as this, they should be able to leave, confident in the knowledge that the decision of the judges is beyond reproach.

  65. Hi Rockangel;

    I really couldn’t on the grounds that I was not involved in any of the previous rounds. Surface as far as I am aware via a comment above list all of the previous judges. Surface also mentioned about txt voting? If enough texts were sent I guess a judges decision could have perhaps been over-ruled? Again, I can’t really comment as I’m not aware of the full procedure and wasn’t involved at any other stage. What did strike me though Rockangel is that Surface specified above that a judge was involved in some capacity with a band but that band didn’t go through on a couple of occasions to the next round, I think I have that right then surely it suggests impartiality from the said judge? You would have see that as convincing evidence and that’s certainly not a biased comment but if it is the truth then its a reasonable assumption to make. I hope you have found this informative.

    I understand how it must make you feel when hearing allegations when you were in the competition or you know someone who was. I was actually really surprised by the high standard of finalists and can’t see why they wouldn’t have made the final on merit alone.

    All the best;


  66. Rockangel


    Thank-you for your candid response.
    My interpretation of your reply, is that in the cold light of day you wouldn’t be able to look a child/musician in the face and give him/her any assurances.
    All you have been able to say is that you genuinely do not know and I’m afraid that is how I, and many others see it.


  67. Rockangel, before you get carried away, Anthony says he can’t draw conclusions about earlier rounds because he wasn’t involved.

    So he has no basis for answering your question either way.

    However, from his experience he seems to be under the impression that the judging is all above board.

    A bit of friendly advice – when you start to hear only what you want to and twist peoples words (whether you’ve got a point or not – I honestly don’t know), you start to look like a loon.

  68. I’d just like to mention that Rockangel and dispiritedfather are posting comments from the same IP address (using very similar grammar, syntax etc).

    I don’t know it that’s helpful or even relevant. I’m certainly not drawing any sort of conclusion because I don’t have all the information. I’m just saying.

  69. Hello Chris and everyone. I have wandered across from Leeds, where some interest in Emergenza-style battles in the past has led to a de facto City-wide no-go zone for such things. The feeling is that bands looking for national attention have a better chance of being taken seriously if they make a name for themselves as a good band in their own territory – ¡Forward, Russia!, The Cribs, Pigeon Detectives, iLiKETRAiNS, The Lodger, Sunshine Underground, Wild Beasts, Sky Larkin and loads more have plugged away at playing the decent local venues in Leeds, building themselves up with support (mostly) from each other.

    There is only one battle/competition in town that means anything: Futuresound. A long-established local promoter picks 30 bands from demos for a series of 10 gigs, and 6 bands are chosen from them by judges to play at the Leeds/Reading Festival. All of them get paid for the Futuresound gigs and audiences are large, enthusiastic and knowledgeable. No one travels more than they normally do for a night in the City. It’s all about music, and the reward for those picked is to get two more good gigs. No one imagines this is going to mean stardom or anything like it. No one is under the illusion that being picked proves you are “better”. Wild Beasts (now with a fine album on the Domino label) are one of many to have been turned down. Any bands with illusions about the industry quickly meet more experienced hands and things roll along nicely. And there’s a good old moan and groan in the local discussion forum about “fixing” – almost all with tongue firmly in cheek.

    If things are a bit less transparent and the organisers are less well known at a personal level, where the costs are higher, the promises are less realistic and there is so little quality control on the entrants it’s easy to see how the situation reported in this blog could become vexed. It’s easy to see, too, how a couple of pissed off parents (I have reason to believe that’s who Rockangel and The disgruntled Dad are) can feel outraged at the way that rock and roll values seem to play out in real life. I can share their frustration too at the organiser’s preference for glamorised presentation rather than clear and realistic information. (where are the postal address and the telephone number on the website?) Similarly naff are little things like the “BBC Journalist” who seems to review all their gigs with the same breathless praise, and the extravagant presentation of the utterly redundant rock and roll dream conveyed by the whole sorry mess.

    I don’t think that anyone needs to be surprised if questions are asked about why one band appears in a second final after what seems to have been a year’s association (of some kind) with the organising company. Being fed up at not being chosen is normal, but when things don’t look as clear as they should have been and information is either suppressed or never given I can understand a feeling of unfairness getting a hold, and genuine feelings of being messed around being expressed.

    I can understand too why the clumsy attempt at shutting you up was your main concern once it had happened and your gentle suggestion that Rockangel was looking a bit loony. (my take on it was that she was thoroughly outraged and understandably frustrated)

    However, my contribution would be to suggest that the pitching of such an event at naïve bands is a cynical way of making small amounts of money from fantasies and delusions. It’s a vanity business that no one needs and no one benefits from. My belief is that any genuine industry professional who wants to help new bands should set up as a promoter or agent and pay the bands they book, or else take on a couple of decent bands to manage. Surface Unsigned is peddling dreams to vulnerable egos. It might be legal, but it doesn’t get my vote as any kind of public service. I would strongly advise bands to get involved in the nearest thing they have to a local scene. Or start building one if none exists. The BBC is being very supportive these days through BBC Introducing (I declare an interest here in that I did a fair bit of (unpaid) writing this year about the BBC Introducing Stage at Leeds Festival. http://www.whisperinandhollerin.com is one place to find some of it. (Put BBC Introducing into the search option).

    All the best.

  70. Surface

    Due to the large amount of interest from the Leeds area in Surface Unsigned this year we have already held events in the city in 2008. Please see our northern regional mini-site for more information. We aim to double the amount of nights for Surface 2009 in the Leeds area. The nights were successful and the quality of the bands was very high. Because bands from Leeds and other areas around the U.K. are involved in a national event it means they have a greater chance of gaining national attention by being involved in Surface Unsigned. Surface Unsigned pay all bands that play in our event (they receive a percentage of tickets sold). As a direct result of playing Surface Unsigned bands like the Arcadian Kicks have played alongside Feeder at the Isle of Wight Festival in front of a crowd of thousands. You can read about this in a special interview we have done with the band in the next Surface Unsigned Magazine released next month and available free from our website. BBC introducing is something we support and respect. In the run up to our Regional and National showcases we have had weekly live interviews on the show as well as articles on the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/birmingham/content/articles/2008/09/01/surface_unsigned_08_feature.shtml
    They have featured many of the bands involved in Surface and given them massive exposure and increased publicity. They are just one organisation out of many that we work with to aid, encourage and support unsigned bands. There is no illusion here, only fact: if a band is good enough Surface Unsigned will offer a greater chance of being seen by the right people and thus in turn create opportunities a band may not have had if they had not been part of the Surface Unsigned infrastructure. For anyone wanting more information on how Surface Unsigned works to support and encourage bands within the music industry they can contact us either by phone or email. Please see the contact page on our website: http://www.surfaceunsigned.co.uk/contact.html

  71. Sorry Jay. My knowledge of Leeds gigs is quite good. Your stuff slipped right below my radar – even in our small City.

    Could you name the bands? I did look at your Northern site a while ago and saw that Joseph’s Well was listed for round one. It’s a shame that the site doesn’t at least present the names and myspace details of the bands in a prominent way. I must say, I completely missed all the publicity at the time. Leeds is a very busy place, so it is quite likely that I missed your advertising at the time. Joseph’s Well has gone into a decline in recent years and (as far as I know) is a venue where at least one promoter is running something like the deeply unpopular “pay to play” model.

    Did you advertise through http://www.leedsgigs.co.uk? Did you approach Sandman, Vibrations or the The Leeds Guide? Did you use Frontline Media to do some small posters? Did you drop a message into http://www.leedsmusicforum.co.uk? I’m sure you did hold some gigs. What I’m saying is that the recognition and exposure that your events give to bands has not been apparent as far as the broader Leeds music community is concerned.

    I wonder which BBC Unsigned presenters and producers you contacted while you were in the area? Did any of your bands figure in the lists they put forward for Maida Vale sessions or major festival appearances? I could name several who were. These are artists who, because they were good, have done the sessions, have been played on national radio and who have done the Festival this year – either on the BBC Introducing Stage or on bigger stages.

    I recommend that for 2009 you spread the word a bit more effectively. Let the large and thriving music community know. Talk to Alan Raw and all the other people doing excellent supportive work and see what (if anything) you can contribute.

    And, as I said earlier, I would heartily recommend all young bands in the City get in touch with professional promoters like John Keenan and Futuresound and Bad Sneakers who (along with all their other work) put on regular nights for early career bands. They should get to know other bands, look at teh diy community (exceptionally strong in Leeds) and find or create good gigs as they get more confident. If they have something to offer then other promoters and Leeds-based labels will be onto them pretty quickly.

    I believe that if you go further out from Leeds into small towns and more isolated areas you will find kids who don’t know much who will be interested in your scheme. And Leeds itself will have plenty of bands who are so unappealing to audiences and promoters that they can’t get decent gigs anymore and who feel frustrated and would see your outfit as some kind of salvation – a quick leg-up to the fantasy world of rock and roll and the tour bus. Many of these artists seem to me to need advice – stop day dreaming, and start enjoying their rehearsals and occasional pub gigs.

    I really think you could be using your enthusiasm and your organisational skills to do something a lot more productive than recruiting gullible hopefuls to a project that clearly has made no impact on the world so far. The hundreds and hundreds of bands who have spent time and their friends’ money trailing off to vanity events that most music people seem to mistrust and avoid need to know that there are better ways.

    I notice that you still haven’t been able to refer to any credible music press notices for your events. Even the smallest band in Leeds has an NME, Kerrangg, Drownedinsound, Sandman or Leedsmusicscene quote to embellish their claims to genius. As a keen self-publicist you seem surprisingly short of quotable, verifiable endorsements for ether your events or for the bands who have played at your events.

  72. For the record – I have just found the lists of entrants for the Leeds 2008 heats. My apologies for doubting you Surface Unsigned. I went to http://www.surfaceunsigned.co.uk/northernHomepageRound1.html and clicked my scrollbar down 12 screens.

    And yes, I have have heard of at least three of those bands. One of them (Hungry Ghosts from York) played the BBC Introducing Stage at Leeds Festival this year – but they got no marks at all in their Surface Unsigned heat. The band immediately above them on that night got 143. It’s tough at the bottom, I’d say!

  73. Hello, last week I created a myspace page to provide a discussion area for pay-to-play gigs in Birmingham.


    There were some fleeting references to Surface Unsigned, but most of what I have written so far on the page’s blogs is general comment about pay-to-play. I made a point of sending friend requests to local bands who have been involved in Surface Unsigned this year; I did this in order to try to get a balanced perspective. Yesterday, Monday Nov. 3rd, I received this e-mail from Jay Mitchell:

    “Hi John, I’ve received emails today from bands who took part in the National Showcase claiming you are posting defamatory material about Surface Unsigned online and contacting them from your MySpace page http://www.myspace.com/nopaytoplayinbrum

    Out of courtesy I thought I would let you know that I have received these complaints. At the moment these are just claims and I’ve not looked into it. As there have been claims of defamation I’ll be passing these complaints onto the relevant people.

    Regards Jay Mitchell”

    Not for a second do I believe that bands have contacted him about me.

    I responded, dismissing his threat, to which he responded by saying no-one is listening anyway. However, despite no-one listening, he chose to join the Organ magazine forum and talk about Surface Unsigned there.


    So, good, there’s a debate about Surface Unsigned.

    John D Traynor

  74. Wise Up!!!!

    If you’re in a cool unsigned band, do the right thing & stay well clear of silly little talent contests like this. They won’t help you.

    For starters, the first two rounds are a farce, a popularity contest, they are not attended by any industry what so ever. The bands with the most mates go through… What’s more, there will inevitably be more people watching & voting half way through the night than at the very beginning, so the whole concept of the competition in the first two rounds is flawed. The later you go on stage the more chance you have of getting through.

    The second round of Surface Unsigned is £7 (in advance) and £8 entry on the door. Now, most people will go primarily to see one band – their friends band, and all the bands play a 20 minute set. It’s actually cheaper (minute for minute) to go and see a signed act play a 90 minute set at a prestigious venue such as Brixton Academy or KOKO… you’ll get a ticket there for £25. What’s more, most bands in the Surface Unsigned competition don’t even get a sound check, so the sound quality in the most part is really pretty awful.

    Do yourselves a favour, don’t buy into this nonsense, the sooner this ‘X-Factor’ nonsense is dead and buried the better. It’s just another way of exploiting young talent for financial gain.

  75. […] 25 tickets for their own gig at £6 each is trying to get the rather magnificent and award winning Created in Birmingham take down their review, where they quote said terms and conditions. Here they are, courtesy oh just […]

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