You’ve had experience as both an independent artist and label owner, and an artist in the major label system…
Yeah, I was signed to a major for my first record and then set up my own label and have been self-releasing ever since. I’m on my fourth full length album now, having released two other albums and a number of EPs independently. Absolute have partnered with us for the last couple of EPs.
Why did you make the switch to being independent and why does it work for you?
Having total control is really important to me. I had quite an intense experience when I was signed to a major deal. I had a lot of hype and money spent on me, which was good but there was a constant pressure from that.
I also felt that my idea of the project was often different to their idea, but I have complete control over that now, including who I work with and how I do it.
I think the way major labels are run and the way their deals work is pretty outdated now. They might give you a big cheque at the start of everything but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee a sustainable career. Now I can do things with a bit more thought.
I operate a bit like a start-up in a lot of ways and I’m making music for myself rather than anyone else.
You’re a business person as much as an artist now, do you think that’s becoming more of a trend for a lot of artists?
When I was coming up, 15 years ago, signing that major label contract was seen as the ultimate prize that would solve all your problems. These days I think artists are a lot less likely to jump into a deal. They make sure they get what they want. Quite a lot of artists are already doing well through streaming independently so they don’t really need a label deal, they’d rather keep the rights to their music. That’s what’s given me longevity – owning the majority of the songs I’ve released, as a label and as an artist, the mechanical and performance side.
In 2018 you released your ‘Burn’ EP via On Repeat Records, which was entirely written, mixed, produced and mastered by women. Why did you decide to build an all-female team surrounding this release? Why was it important to you that you only worked with women on this project?
We worked with women and non-binary artists, producers, mixers, creatives… It was amazing because it pushed me to go out and find people that I hadn’t worked with before and now I have a more balanced approach to finding collaborators. It’d be a good thing for others to try.
You recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of your world-renowned album ‘Hands’, for which you created and managed a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project of the 10th anniversary edition of the album. And impressively exceeded the £10k goal more than five times over! How did it feel to independently raise the funds, have fans support you in this way and experience the success of surpassing your goal?
It’s incredible because you’re funded directly by people who really want your music. I was always close and interactive with my fans but that felt like a group project and now I feel less alone, in a way. We raised a lot of money but the workload – from conception to manufacturing and distribution – was huge! You can see why it costs so much for a record label.
This time the experience was really different because the fans came on a journey and it felt like a triumph not just for me but for everybody. One of the great things about being an independent artist is that you can really bond with your fanbase and give them what they want.
Although you’ve had lots of success, and lessons to learn from the music industry, there’s still a long way to go in some areas for women in music. What would you like to see in the future for women in the industry?
I think there’s still massive underrepresentation. Even though there are a lot of female artists, how many of them are actually breaking? You look at award nominations this year or the line-up for Reading & Leeds… Then you look at the US, where they have the likes of Billie Eilish and Lana Del Rey… Why aren’t we breaking those kinds of artists in the UK?
On the business side, representation at the top level across all businesses is really bad for women. There are very few females in A&R or at senior positions at record labels.
It’s getting better slowly, and greater balance will mean a more interesting and productive industry. That’s the same for most industries.
If you were to talk to an artist who was looking to go independent, what kind of advice would you give them?
I’d tell them how much work there is and how much there is to learn. They still have to have a really good team around them that they trust. It’s a wild ride and if you want to do as much for yourself as possible then it’s a lot to take on. You’ve got to be prepared for that but the rewards make it a no brainer for me. If you can make enough money to sustain yourself independently, then why wouldn’t you?