Indie band does the business on 'Dragons' Den'

Jerome Taylor
Monday 21 July 2008 00:00 BST

He is a middle-aged telecoms tycoon perhaps looking to recapture his youth. They are a group of musicians with plenty of youth but not much money.

Today sees the launch one of the more unusual partnerships in British business when Peter Jones, the Dragons' Den entrepreneur, invests £75,000 of his own money into marketing an aspiring pop band.

Until recently Hamfatter, a Cambridge quintet, whose music has been compared to Belle and Sebastian and The Divine Comedy, were a struggling indie band toiling away on the "toilet circuit". They had received a couple of offers from record labels but were put off by the draconian terms and conditions they would have to sign.

So instead they decided on a rather unconventional pitch for investment on the BBC2 show Dragons' Den where budding entrepreneurs attempt to persuade five financial backers to fund their ideas and innovations.

Tonight, viewers of the show will see Mr Jones captivated by the band's performance and agree to invest in the band in return for 30 per cent of any profits. Both sides say they have come up with an entirely new business model for the music industry.

Rather than sign away the ownership of their songs to a label that would then pocket the vast majority of royalties in exchange for financial backing, the band decided to create Hamfatter Ltd, a registered company in which the band members act as directors, retaining all the rights and complete creative control.

Jamie Turner, the band's manager, said the idea to pitch their band to Dragons' Den came after they received offers from a couple of major record labels but decided the terms were simply not good enough. He said that even with Mr Jones taking a 30 per cent cut, the band will still make 10 times as much money in royalties because there is no record label pocketing the them. "The bands on the big labels will be lucky to make perhaps 30p on an album if they're lucky," he said. "The record label takes the rest. We'll make about £3.50. It's the deal of the century."

Hamfatter's frontman, Eoin O'Mahony, said: "A major part of our pitch was to show the Dragons how wasteful record companies are. We told them that last year, with a budget of £5,000, we released an album, recorded a video for just £750 and got ourselves on to the radio and into the charts. Can you imagine someone like EMI spending just £750 on a video?"

The band is working on an album for release next year, and a new single, "The Girl I Love", is out this week.

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Mr Turner added: "If it is successful, then we would hope to be able to really push the concept forward and get other bands on a similar deal. If it's not then I guess Peter Jones has bought himself the most expensive CD in existence."

Self-aware humour redeems Hamfatter

By Elisa Bray

It takes some guts to call your band Hamfatter. While unpleasantly conjuring up cured meat, it's also a term in theatrical slang meaning a third-rate performer. It suggests this Cambridge-educated trio have a good sense of humour.

Apply this sentiment to their songs – light-hearted numbers that are more pop than the indie genre they define on their MySpace page – and Hamfatter serve up a refreshing burst of guitar pop.

The single "The Girl I Love" is a buoyant song so catchy it could have been made for national radio play lists. They skirt dangerously close to the obvious radio-friendly guitar pop and unsubtle lyrics of Scouting For Girls, but their horns and strings-fuelled orchestration that echoes Belle and Sebastian, and their self-aware humour, just about redeem them.

The combination of building strings, tinkling jazzy piano with over-blown vocals from singer Eoin O'Mahony in "How Sweet It Is" is verging on show tune backed by big band.

Aside from the touching ballads there's little depth to be found, but the melodies a-plenty all saunter along gleefully and enjoyably enough.

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