For new bands, all the world's a stage

With so many ways to listen to music today, promoters and live acts are having to be innovative.

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The Independent Culture

 

The local library

As a music librarian at Lancaster Library, Stewart Parsons was struck that the age group he was trying to engage, 14 to 24-year-olds, was not using its services. So he started to put on gigs there instead. "The offer of the music library in the download age just seemed a bit of an ancient one, really. So we thought staging new bands in the library would be a fresher approach, rather than waiting for their CDs to come out to loan," he says.

It was a formula that proved an instant success. "It's a really warm, friendly, traditional space. It's the kind of venue that always tends to stand out for people," Parsons adds. "I've been to the arena gigs in Manchester before, when you feel so disconnected from the show – you're watching it through a massive screen. You're never more 25 yards away from the stage here". It has been enough to draw in acts that have gone on to become big names. "Florence and the Machine, Jessie J, Ellie Goulding and Adele have all played humble Lancaster Library," says Parsons.

CSS play Lancaster Library, Friday 9 December. www.getitloudinlibraries.com

The railway station platform

It's a tough crowd for artists who want to play Station Sessions – a series of busking slots around the hectic St Pancras International station in London. "They have to battle with the Tannoy announcements, which is quite a challenge" says Sarah Joy. "It's such a busy, bustling environment and bands have to as adapt to what's going on in the station. They have to work harder to draw people in." Of course, busking at train stations is nothing new, but strict licensing, and previous bans on buskers on the London Underground, had make it harder for bands to perform.

"Stations have a long tradition of hosting busking and people performing spontaneously, so we've played on that. As soon as people see there's a band playing, automatically a huge crowd is created. It's a good stage for emerging artists."

Secret gigs are held on the Lower Concourse of St Pancras International with hints as to the act dropped only the day before on the twitter feed @stationsessions. Secret gig from a "well-known band", Thursday, 6 to 7pm, 8 December.

www.stationsessions.com

The living room

Songs from a Room, or Sofar Sounds, put on free, secret gigs in living rooms. There are only two rules: you must keep quiet and you have to stay to watch all the acts. Frequently oversubscribed in London, music fans sign up to the gig and are given directions to the location a few hours before.

Acts deliver stripped-down acoustic performances to small crowds, which co-founder Rafe Offer says is an attempt to break down the barriers between artist and performer, creating a "spellbinding atmosphere".

Now a global music movement, with gigs being put on in 10 cities around the world, organisers are hoping to expand the project further, putting on new artists in even more cities, whilst still staying true to the intimate premise. Watch out for impromptu performances from big names such as Robert Pattison, who made a guest appearance last year.

www.sofarsounds.com

The bandstand

When Thomas Muirhead and some other fellow students at London's City University found that the studio they'd been sneaking bands into was closed for refurbishment, they decided to go outside and record them on the university's disused bandstand instead. Bandstand Busking was born. Initially, sessions filmed at various disused bandstands around London were streamed on the internet, but they soon realised that people wanted to come and watch.

"It's a different listening experience to other gigs", says Thomas, "it's a different level of engagement between audience and artists. There's no doubt that a lot of bands, unless they're stadium-fillers, are looking for other ways to engage audiences. When you're a small artist, and we've had a full range of artists, getting a loyal following is a huge initial step to overcome and I think special performances where people feel they're getting something a little bit different will really help build that."

The next Bandstand Busking features Forest Fire at 1.30pm and The Lampshades at 2.15pm, at Arnold Circus, Shoreditch, east London, on 4 December. www.bandstandbusking.com

The online listening party

Once the preserve of music industry folk and journalists, online versions of album listening parties have spread to include fans in new-album previews. The concept is simple: click on a link at a dedicated time and listen to an album alongside thousands of other fans. Pop acts such as Cher Lloyd and One Direction have used it to make an event out of their album releases, alongside bands like Real Estate, where so many fans logged on to listen to their dedicated streaming slot, that they crashed music sharing site Turntable.fm.

It has become so popular that Tom Waits uploaded a spoof online "private listening party" video, in advance of his new release in August. He cut out the music, comparing it to coming early to a listeners' birthday party early and eating the cake. The NME recently expanded on the concept to mark the 20th anniversary of Nirvana's Nevermind album, where readers were invited to listen to the album at the same time to talk about it in real time via a live blog and Twitter.

All over the city

Manchester's Scenewipe aims to build on the city's musical heritage by filming bands at unusual locations around the city and streaming the videos online. Showcasing bands performing from the Manchester Museum and on top of the Arndale Shopping centre gives the opportunity for fans to see bands in a "no frills" environment.

It's an idea pioneered by the French website La Blogothèque, whose beautifully crafted films Concerts à Emporter (Takeaway Shows) show musicians across Paris – on the Métro, on a fairground ride, or walking the streets. These inspired Sam Alder to set up Scenewipe with some of his former university friends.

"Manchester's got such a musical heritage, it draws people here to start bands. It's about that community and about the city," Alder says.

"There's loads of ways to get music to people, so it's even more cluttered and harder to get noticed – but, at the same time, there's all these new channels to use. It makes bands think more about the complete package and their visual aesthetic."

www.manchesterscenewipe.co.uk

The music club

Colleen Murphy set up Classic Album Sundays in an attempt to rekindle a way of experiencing music which she says has become lost amid the download culture. Every month, music fans come to listen to a classic album in its entirety on original vinyl, on a high quality £30,000 sound system, in a pub in north London. The rules are strict: no talking, no mobile phones, and no toilet breaks.

"Not many of us get the time to listen to an album from beginning to end," she says. "I wanted to give people the time to sit back, close their eyes and immerse themselves into the music. People experience most of their music via mp3s, which is about 20 per cent of the sonic information. We do so much listening alone, with headphones now. I wanted to focus on the communal aspect." Albums played have included Grace Jones's Nightclubbing and Kate Bush's Hounds Of Love.

Classic Album Sundays, every first Sunday of the month (except January). Hear the Stone Roses' album 'The Stone Roses' from 5pm to 8pm on Sunday at the Hanbury Pub in Islington, north London. www.classicalbumsundays.com

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