2012 Sep 12 Music Industry Insight: Nathaniel Davis of Split Works
For our September Music Issue, we asked a selection of the city's music experts for their take on the current state of the 'scene' here in the capital. Their insight was adroit, humorous and controversial in equal measure. In this blog series we post the interviews in full. Next up, Nathaniel Davis of Split Works.
On the best acts of the last 12 months
Honestly, the best band in town at the moment is Omnipotent Youth Society.
On the development of the Beijing "scene"
To me it seems somewhat static. I don’t think any vast improvements have been made and nothing has moved backwards either.
On the future of "the scene" What I hope to see happen is the Beijing underground and as many as possible of the bands which are a part of that ‘scene’ have the chance to become less underground. That means a more mainstream acceptance of non-pop music and the bands actually becoming good enough to reach another level.
On current trends
I think we’ll continue to see a lot of indie pop/”folk” singers/bands catch on with a wider audience. That genre, so to speak, seems to be a potential bridge between the underground and a wider audience.
On how Beijing stands up against other musical cities
In some sense we have a pretty good environment here for new bands – a supportive network of clubs with reasonable equipment, a number of promoters working to help bands promote shows and so on. One thing that may seem beneficial to bands is that there is less true competition with other really good bands to get gigs, etc but this is probably actually a double-edged sword as the lack of competition makes the bands lazy and they think that if they can play their instruments and get up on stage and make a reasonable sound then they should be considered superstars. If the competition for gigs and slots in festivals was more fierce perhaps the bands would actually get good. Iron sharpens iron, as they say.
On getting recognition
They must be good at promoting themselves. Bands have a lot of tools at their disposal in the age of new media to not even really need a label.
On current influences
I think they're still mainly international but I have seen a trend of younger bands citing their influences being other Chinese bands, which is an encouraging sign – in the sense that there are local bands who are becoming “heroes” which is super important for the development of a mature music scene.
On getting a foot in the door
Bands must put forward their best from the get-go and work every angle to create a fan base. If they have good music and genuine fans, the right people will start to take notice.
On who new bands need to know
I think there is not one single person that can make everything happen for a band. A band needs to reach out to everyone relevant at different levels. Perhaps the most important person for a band to find is a good manager, who are few and far between.
On the most accommodating venues in town
What was D-22 and what is now XP as they are closely associated with a record label who are looking to discover and cultivate new talent. The other venues have less of a vested interest in cultivating acts and are more driven by the need to sell tickets. That said, I think 2 Kolegas is also very accommodating and willing to pretty much let anyone play.
On pitfalls to avoid
Getting too big for their britches (or in this case, skinny jeans). Bands need to practice until they bleed. If you look at the history of bands in the West, including almost all of the biggest acts from The Beatles to R.E.M, they all started from nothing and worked extremely hard and lived the life of paupers while touring and playing show after show after show and developing themselves as musicians and as live acts. There is something there that all Chinese bands should take note of and emulate.
Click here to see the September issue of the Beijinger in full.