HerStory, DIY and All That:>
What Does It Take?
I've been song-writing, recording and performing part-time for all of the ten years that I've been living in the UK to establish myself as a singer-songwriter. In the last two-three years, I have focussed more closely on putting a professional package together and building my fanbase. With enough merit to go forward, I finally jumped without a safety net six months ago. All sensibility, responsibilities and comfort-blankets were diminished with just a gut feeling to live the dream, phenomenal support, advice on how to do it, constant out-the-box thinking and determination to see it through. And...I can now proudly say that I have achieved my goals for this year! Of course, this little South African fireball now has new goals for the year ahead which will be revealed over the next few months, but for now I'll just share the past...
Just Three Things To Do
My aim this year has been to independently release a debut album successfully, put a band together and perform at my local festival in Guildford, Surrey. This meant finding a trustworthy distributor and setting up membership with PPL and MCPS-PRS for royalty purposes; recruiting the right band members dedicated to attend endless rehearsals and playing all types of gigs; and prove to the GuilFest team that my band were definitely worth choosing, by building a reputable profile locally. After three months, I got the call for the band to play at GuilFest. After a month of releasing the album, HerStory, I was featured on Amazon as a 'New and Emerging Artist for 2008'. And in between all the excitement, I was nominated as 'Best Pop Rock Act' in the Exposure Music Awards. I was ecstatic and began to roll out my vision...
What Is It Like BackStage?
Playing at GuilFest as a new, unsigned and local band does require you to pay upfront for your tickets - it's part of proving that you have a following of fans and it has most certainly been a risky, challenge committing to this. Going back a step, before I decided to invest in GuilFest I looked at various PR options to help launch my career and build my fanbase but there were huge costs involved and I found it hard to measure what they would realistically do as I had already done some groundwork with magazines and newspapers who were happy to speak directly to me and review my album without any charge. So decided there was no value at that point investing in a PR company and would rather do a big gig as a means of exposure instead.
The gamble I faced was ensuring I could sell enough tickets to make a return on investment. My fans are from South Africa (all of my family live there and I have a big family!), USA, EMEA, UK (mainly London) and all my gigs have been based in London up until six months ago. As well as that the 99 percent of the gigs I've previously played have been solo performances to a maximum capacity of 300. And the consistence of sending round a clipboard to sign up fans at each gig has been a raving success, but there are only so many people you can sign up that honestly want to sign up! So building relationships in my new local area with venues, promoters and a fanbase in this short time was a bit of a sweat and sometimes I was completely out of my depth. I think I did everything possible, considering the odds and did get there in the end, with a 'little' help...phew! Posters were made up saying the band were playing at GuilFest and selling discounted tickets, I asked every local shop to display the posters and gave them a CD as gesture of thanks - some of the shops even sold tickets for me. As well as that, I sold tickets online through TicketSource, promoted selling tickets at gigs, asked other musicians not performing at GuilFest to inform their fanbase, had a Street Team hit the road and sent myspace emails to all the headliners asking them to support a starving musician trying to make it and ask their fans to buy their tickets from me instead (yes, I REALLY did say that!).
Because of my undying passion to do this, the GuilFest team saw something there (thank the Lord!) by adding two extra acoustic slots to my schedule and put me forward to the local papers and local radio station that promoted and broadcasted the festival. I followed up on every opportunity and one week before the event I had managed to pull off having a live radio session (that made a few locals run to the pub I was playing at that night to see me - no jokes), half page editorials in my local papers on page 4, 6 and had a feature on the bottom of the page that was for the headliners in the main guide. It's indescribable to see this actually happen, as I had no guarantees that they would definitely publish anything and I literally ran to the shops to check every paper!!! And even though there was a not-so-sure, err-help feeling deep down - it did not stop me at asking the press team from Vivienne Westwood to let me wear her designs - they said YES (five days of relentless calling was all it took).
The main people that pulled me through this time were the band. I've spent more time with them in the last six months than anyone else and they stood by me through all the typical-female driving, really bad jokes and worried-moments. Considering we were just strangers a few months ago and I am not paying them enough for their true worth, as they are really talented musicians, speaks volumes.
4-6 July...GuilFest Lets HerStory Unfold...
So last Friday needing to completely chill out before the big day ahead, I popped into my local Italian restaurant with my best friend from South Africa who was visiting. After saying thank you to the owners for putting up my posters, they were so happy to have us dining there that they put my album on right away and then the waiters started singing along - well, we were in fits of laughter and I was blushing big-time!!! It was so surreal...I mean even though I gave them a CD, I really didn't expect them to have played it and know the songs! Anyway by the end of the night I was serenading everyone...so much for relaxation!
Saturday started with the first mission to sell the last four tickets I had left. My Street Team of close friends set out and approached GuilFest goers, most of which had tickets, hmmmm not an easy start. As well as that, before the mission was completed we were stopped in our tracks by the organisers as they did not want competition of us selling cheaper tickets onsite. Yeah, I really did break every rule in attempt to sell my tickets and make back what money I put in. The final attempt was probably the biggest chance I took but once explained that I had financially sacrificed everything to be an artist at GuilFest, we compromised and agreed on a refund for the final couple of tickets. That way they still got to sell the tickets at the normal price and I could finally tick the 'I've sold all my tickets' box. Fear was definitely running through my veins, but by the end of the conversation we confessed we were both just doing our jobs and I gave her my CD to say thank you - it means that much.
Hours later, the band were checked in proudly wearing backstage wristbands, tuned up and ready to go with adrenaline pumping to put six months of hard work into play. Soundcheck, spotlights, camera snaps, performance and finally, applause. The Street Team mingled with the audience, signed up new fans and sold quite a substantial amount of CDs. Amongst the attentive listeners were press, radio presenters, promoters and organisers that I formed close relationships with in the run up to the event - and it was wonderful to make eye contact, acknowledge them and perform for them, as they put us on stage to do our thang!
It wasn't long before my acoustic performance, so we all headed over to the next spot. This was a lovely moment where I got to share new songs, speak a little more to the audience and to top it off the sound team were smashing, warm and bubbly - making it so smooth.
Just before the next performance though, we met the first Theunissen-Groupies!!! Jamie, John, Mark and Pete - we laughed, sang, boogied, barn-danced and celebrated a great, great day!
Ooh and the 'official' bar had an A Cappella version of 'Take A Back Seat, Boy!' and funnily enough the next morning I had no chance of walking past without singing it again.
To everyone Backstage and on Security duty too, it was fabulous meeting you - you definitely work the hardest! Thank you so much for taking your breaks to see the shows...a very special moment was when you asked when I was playing next whilst driving through early on Sunday morning. The tinkling notes of Sunday's performance were for you.
That's A Wrap!
It's really humbling knowing people like the music you write and request you play it again and again - that's what makes it worthwhile...it's all about the song and you.
Please feel free to add photo's and film to http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=14960493935.
Would I recommend GuilFest to new, local arising stars and would I do it again? Yes and yes - but can I please play on the BIG stage next time?! I was so envious of Blondie...! Now, I have a taster of what you really, really need to do...the hard work of earning respect and constant proving your worth in every instance. I really hope that this is a good start, it feels right, even if I'm still nervous!
Pom-Poms of Support...A BIG Thank You To...
* HerFamily: You're don't live here with me in the UK, but you're always here for me. You always ground and bring me home even when I am afar - miss and love you stax XXX
* HerFriends: You haven't seen me for ages (except my emails!!!) and have been listening to my wacky ideas for yonks now - thank you for standing by me.
* HerMentors: Stuart Robb, Laurence Hobbs and Damon Surridge - and another thing, what about blah-blah-fishpaste would that work?! Well...maybe on toast?! Yeah, yeah, of course I'm listening...thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
* HerCoach: Nikki Lamborn - your voice and performance is top - I'm always in awe - we go back a long way and there's so much to do yet, can't wait!!!
* HerBand: Pete, Charlie, Dan and Jon - thanks for the laughter-lines - you know I love you longtime, rock on!!!
* HerSurreyPromoters: Dave Crouch (The Tup), Susie Clark (Cyder House Inn), Byron Johnston (Fahrenheit 55), Sian Powell (The Boileroom), Peter Christopherson (Platform 9), Vic Cracknell (Fox and Pelican), Phil & Darren (Folking Live) - thank you for helping me build my fanbase and sing HerStory!
* HerLocals: Bizzi's Biltong Shop (Woking and Guildford), Bluerock Butchers, St Johns Post Office, Heaters Bakery, Bellini Pizzeria, Equilibrium, Waterfall, Durrant and Barclay Property, The Robin Hood Pub, Ben's Record Collection Shop, Guildford College, the ACM - thank you for displaying posters, selling tickets and selling CDs.
* HerPressTeam: South African Newspaper, Mamba Online, SA Promo Magazine, Nearly Illicit Magazine, Surrey Herald and Surrey Advertiser - thank you for telling HerStory all across Surrey and then some!
* HerRadio: Eagle 96.4 FM Radio Station for Surrey, hosted by Julia Moore and organised by Jon Harris - we had quite a giggle now didn't we...thank you for the massive plug, you got new fans to my gig...result!
* HerFashionDesigner: Vivienne Westwood - my Carrie Bradshaw moment, oh Darlings...mwah, mwah...thank you! Next time the Guys will be sorted too...oh yeah!
* HerAmazonSpotlight: You know who you are - thank you for your faith and featuring me in June :-)
* HerTicketBuyers: Well the bank manager is a slightly relieved, not quite happy yet...but am working on that! Thank you and great sharing many special moments over the weekend with you.
* HerNewFans: Welcome to the family!
* HerGroupies: You made my night...now where did you get those wigs?!
* GuilFest Gold: Tony Scot, Mrs Scott (you know why!), Mal Middleton and GuilFest Team - you chose 'Theunissen' to play and just take a look above...that's what you inspired me to pull together for the band - thank you!
* TheirSay: Your ongoing messages, calls, texts, votes, listens, comments, help and loveliness always inspire, touch and drive me - thank you soo much! Shake your pom-poms, you know you want to...
* HerFaith: It takes so much belief, passion, lack of sleep, worry, relief, exhilaration, adrenaline and humility doing this and continuing to do this - thanks to God for my heaven-blessed talent. May I always perform the way I intended the songs to be delivered, touch people's lives and always write from the heart :-)
If you managed to get here, well done! It's Aylesbury Festival next...
Shake your pom-poms and tell HerStory!
LT and the Guys