It’s the 2nd of February 2014 and the first gig night of NHC Music’s ‘year of attack’ on the unsigned and independent scene in Glasgow has begun. Jamie McDermid – head honcho and wearer of long coats is in typical gig night mode. The venue for tonight’s Monthly Music Showcase – on this occasion a rock night – has been well and truly treaded and the beer tap is already in full flow as Jamie paces from venue entrance, to stage, to bar and back again, constantly assessing how close the reality to a “bands playing to other bands” situation is.
Unfortunately, this is now one of the major worries for any promoter on the unsigned scene. Will the weeks of advertising and pestering, selling and marketing pay off or will your crowd decide to stay at home and watch Eastenders? Luckily, tonight the hard work has seemingly been worth it and the crowd, emanating from the myriad of streets surrounding the venue, are turning out to watch the five band bill.
Jamie himself is the first to admit that the music scene is saturated at the moment, not only with promoters but with the very people he rallies for.
“The music scene is dying on its arse a tiny bit and it is because one, too many bands, and two, too many promoters… if there’s less promoter’s and they’re only good promoters, they’re going to tell the young starter bands, “come back in a few months when you’re a bit better or when you’ve decided that this is actually what you want to do”’.
Not your average promotion strategy but Jamie certainly ranks NHC Music as one of the ‘good promoters’, in fact he goes all out and says that NHC Music is also actually one of very few true promotion companies.
“A lot of promotion companies online call themselves promotion companies but they’re not. They’re just bookers, that’s all they are. We’re a promotion company that actually does; our main aim is to promote bands. So we do exactly what the name says and we don’t charge.”
The ‘we’ that Jamie so often refers to is a small but dedicated bunch of people that Jamie has brought into the project as it’s grown from the one man and his laptop idea that was initially seeded back in 2011. Back then Jamie didn’t quite realise how much his simple notion of “trying to help people work out what’s actually best for the band,” would cost him in terms of man hours and sleepless nights but the hard work has been worth it.
Not only does NHC Music promote its bands and musicians via its social media pages but it also has a high traffic blog, packed to the rafters with content and never far from a controversy or two, a weekly podcast on Mesi radio with more monthly content just announced and on the way, a print fanzine still in its infancy but with lofty ideas, an online shop which sells and distributes band merchandise with 100% of the profit going back to the bands and don’t forget the monthly gig nights – the heart of the whole project. All this without it costing the musician a penny.
One area where Jamie did however ask for bands and supporters to reach into their pockets, is a project he’s been trying to get off the ground for the last year. The Hellfire Hub was an idea concocted not long into NHC Music’s infancy and it’s a name which is currently giving Jamie and his team major cause for heartache and headaches.
The idea was simple: open a place, in the heart of Glasgow, which would incorporate seating space for people to hang out, have enough room for an acoustic area for bands to come in and play, would be able to sell their merchandise and music and would only play unsigned and independent artists over its sound system.
The project hit the ground running when its Indiegogo Campaign smashed its £600 target only ten days in, ending on a final flourish of just over £1100 – the hard part was seemingly over. Little did Jamie know that the uphill struggle was just beginning and the August 2013 move in date he’d set-up in his head was all but a dream.
“It’s awful actually, isn’t it? Even at the start of August we were still thinking… we’ve got everything else in play apart from premises and property but that seems to be where we’ve just hit a wall.”
Jamie’s partners in the business are less polite about the situation. John McKellar – a partner and contributor in NHC Music, and usually the man at the centre of the blog controversies, says:
“The NHC Music Hub is unlike anything that has even been done before. It’s a social centre designed to bring musicians and fans of home-grown music together in one place to grow and nurture independent and unsinged music in our city for the long-term… Now to get the damn thing open if the City Council feel like co-operating anytime soon!”
Similar projects to one proposed by NHC Music have opened and closed in quick succession in Glasgow city-centre, but projects such as the one Indie band Frankie and the Heartstrings set up in their home town of Sunderland have had much success and been backed by their local Council so what’s been the problem?
Jamie says: “Glasgow City Council don’t really class us as retail, so we can’t get official retail help for grants and stuff and they don’t class us as Arts & Entertainment either, so we can’t get those grants. We seem to be stuck in limbo at the moment.”
But limbo, in this case, is not the indeterminate state it claims to be. Jamie knows exactly where he wants the project to go.
“Ultimately, the plan is to have [a Hellfire Hub] in every major Scottish city. There is a lot of people out there willing to help us but there is also a lot sitting on the side-lines to see if we can do it first.”
Those people may not be sitting on the side lines very much longer. 2014 has already seen Jamie bring in more writers and contributors to the business, and even bigger plans for the future are already afoot.
Foremost in Jamie’s mind, for the time being though, is the Hub. With storage space already packed with stock and equipment and bands clamouring to be part of the project, he remains positive about its future.
“I want everybody involved. We’ve had bands who are talking about bringing their families down because they can’t take their kids into bars with them, to see them play.”
Talking of which, back to the gig night. With thoughts of contributor’s, Hub’s and Council meetings going astray there’s only one thing to do for the time being: Jamie isn’t the only one who’s busy, that beer tap is also getting a workout.
By Kirsty Fraser