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  • Romanie Assez

JO SYME - MUSIC AND ARTS


"I'm Jo Syme. I'm the drummer in Big Scary, and am the co-founder of both Pieater and Hotel Motel Records. The artists on those rosters include #1 Dads, Cool Sounds, Nat Vazer and Airling, amongst others. I've also worked at White Sky as an account manager for artists and businesses in the music industry, and moonlight as a DJ at weddings and bars.

The corona plague has affected my businesses in different ways. At Pieater we were in the thick of a #1 Dads campaign, and his headline tour (his first one since 2015) was on sale, when the restrictions hit. It's fragmented the cohesion of our rollout plan, and although we've got some re-scheduled dates, it's made any planning really difficult. The arrival of the vinyl is also delayed. As a result we know we'll sell less units, just because the momentum around the release date will have dissipated when they finally get here. However, we've also seen an increase in online sales from our merch store across all artists. It has been absolutely incredible how supportive fans have been - they're so hungry to do the right thing by the artist and support them where they can. The Bandcamp fee-free days have been a huge driver in awareness around this too.

My Hotel Motel business hasn't been greatly affected, however it's been really sad for bands who had to cancel tours after so much work was put in. Quivers were embarking on a huge US tour, and had organised the whole thing themselves, and invested thousands of dollars.

For my own bands, well Big Scary hasn't been affected as we're off cycle. But I play drums in Jarrow and we've had to cancel our single launch and never even got to announce our booked album tour. I've also lost all my DJ work, which was my main source of actual income. In terms of initiatives that have been helpful during lockdown, well as mentioned Bandcamp has already had two days where they waived their fees - that's 15% on merch and 10% on digital sales. The biggest boon has been the promotion around it - it got a lot of attention and we sold thousands of dollars of merch last Friday. We've also applied for JobKeeper so if that comes through that'll obviously be a huge help.

It's also been cool the way Zoom has opened some doors to meet new people, including folks from around the world, as it's leveled the playing field in terms of "networking". I can't afford to travel to London and the US twice a year to do meetings, but this has normalised the digital hangout - that will likely continue in the future too.

With the slower pace and less commuting and face to face meetings, it's been good getting to some jobs that have always been on the bottom of the 'to-do' list. And even though I can't wait to see some live music, it's been a nice chill to spend every night at home rather than burning the candle at both ends all the time. I've also spent a little bit of time trying to learn new skills - getting my head around Facebook advertising, and watching a few webinars.

All the artists I work with are at different stages in what they're working on, and also the size of their fanbase, so there isn't one piece of advice that applies to everyone. But I guess I try to help my roster connect with their fans, and now more than ever artists have been embracing parts of social technology that have been a bit off-putting in the past, for example live streaming. I totally come from the same place where I've struggled to embrace social media, and wrestled with how much of myself to give away through this medium... But the informed and logical part of me sees how powerful it is to be able to talk directly with your fanbase this way. Ultimately, all our success - being able to tour, being able to sell your albums, making a meaningful impact on people's lives - that all comes from having a fan base who love you, who share you. It doesn't come from critical acclaim or from blog reviews."

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