The Rising Stars of Folkstock

Here’s a post by guest blogger from friend of Fresh On The Net and all round good egg Helen Meissner of Folkstock Records. Helen talks about her journey, upcoming live dates and offers a few tips for independent artists.

In April 2012 Tom Robinson changed my life by playing a track on his BBC 6 Music Mixtape. It was one which I had submitted on behalf of the band my 15 yr old daughter was in.Who could have imagined that this exciting but significant gesture of musical support would change the course of my life?

As a result of taking the girls to gigs, meeting other acts and bookers, trying to get the local press and radio interested in their music, I realised that I had unwittingly found a new career. One which didn’t really ‘pay’ but which gave me more satisfaction than any other role up this point in my life. Now nudging the big 50, I find myself surprised to be working with unsigned acts of all ages, who range from the almost pop acoustic scene right through roots and country, and back out to the singer songwriters making new ‘folk’ music for future generations to enjoy. As one of the more ‘mature’ acts I’ve been supporting – Marina Florance –who incidentally has had plays on Tom’s show, said recently – you’re never too old to emerge!

I am based in Hertfordshire but now run my many and varied projects all over the country. Marina Florance, just mentioned, lives in Norwich for example, but is happy to travel wherever the bookings take her.

Taking heed of Tom’s advice from his recorded lectures and various illuminating blog posts on Fresh On The Net has enabled me to actively promote within the acoustic, folk and roots music scene and create a musical support network under the moniker of Folkstock. We now have a boutique label (which has my daughter Lauren Deakin Davies as producer), and frequently get asked to recommend acts for festivals, some of which we end up running entire stages for, and sometimes we promote the events under the Folkstock Presents banner.

Our next showcases are in London and we are delighted to present two artists at the Time Out London ‘Rising Stars of Folk’ event on 27th October and eight acts across two Emerging Talent nights for London Folk and Roots Festival in November.

This sharp learning curve which I’ve undertaken shows me that anyone can do this. From a standing start, with no social media accounts, or understanding of how to use them, no musical background other than loving music, and no contacts in the music business, I have managed to set up an active little label.

It never ceases to amaze me that I’ve somehow managed to organise the releases and personally plug our artists to gain BBC Radio 2 play (nine plays across three different shows to date), eight BBC Radio 6 Music plays (across three shows), two BBC Radio 3 plays, airplay across the entire BBC Local network and hundreds of plays on independent and community radios stations.

Folkstock London showcases banner

Creating quality MP3 and physical recordings, which can be shared with radio stations and reviewers alike, has meant that the acts I work with have been able to be reviewed as part of an album as well as for single and EP releases, even if they themselves have not yet got that far. So I have applied the same networking skills to the national newspapers and the blogosphere. Which seems to have worked. I’ve now released, if you include the one I am just releasing into the wild now, three compilation cds, in addition to 20 or so other releases in the last two years.

The first compilation astonishingly gained a recommendation in the Sunday Times, the second was given a 4 star review from The Telegraph and got added to their list of Top Folk Albums of 2015 and a recommendation again in Sunday Times’ Culture Magazine, in addition to a number of blogs and music sites. The third, well we’ll have to see. So far the Telegraph have made the most recent album DOWNTOWN and the gigs at which it is being launched a ‘folk gig pick’ on their social media. And I am hoping to get press and radio for each of the eight acts on the track listing in their local papers and radio shows.

They are important events for me as I’ve been asked to curate two Emerging Talent Nights as part of the London Folk and Roots Festival series of gigs with shows at The Islington. I have four acts representing Folkstock on each night and am doing all I can to ensure we have a decent turn out!

How has this been done? How have these contacts been made? I can only go on the route I have used, and I recommend the use of Twitter to make the initial contacts. There’s a lot I could say about how to use Twitter and social media to your best advantage, but some things stand out.

1) Help them before you can expect them to help you – retweet and comment, share their posts and shows. Be helpful. It’s like any relationship. Also helps you learn what interests them. So you can see if you are a good fit.

2) Listen to their shows or podcasts. Make sure your music is suitable and at least LIKELY to get some airplay on a good day with the wind behind you! Spread the word. Let the world hear what THEY are doing through YOUR social media.

3) Always try to make personal contact with people before sending them anything. Otherwise I would say that you are very close to wasting your time. People have to prioritise and they are much more likely to open an email from someone who has tried to make contact, whose name is familiar. And if they do help you / write about you / play your music, THANK THEM in public and private. They didn’t have to help you. Most people working in the unsigned world are unpaid. However, paid or not, they have a choice about who they support. Appreciation is a natural and important human need.

Really hope there’s something in here which will help you get your music out there. It can be done. You just need to be focussed and make sure that each thing you undertake, or each contact you try to make, gets the best chance of gaining the desired result. In this way, it’s more likely to give you a constant buzz and you’ll feel the progress as your music gets the recognition it deserves, helping to give you the momentum and energy to spur you onwards and upwards. Good Luck!

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helen messiner

Guest Post

One of a series of guest posts from bands, bloggers and other colleagues writing about their current projects.

11 Comments

  1. Well done Helen :-D

    Let’s all keep banging the drum!

    Dan xo

    #FreshOnTheNet

  2. You’re an inspiration keep up the good work.

    Paul x

  3. Great piece Helen with excellent advice and a good insight into what it takes to make a difference! You really are an inspiration and a formidable force for good.

    Thank you as always to Tom for being so generous and pragmatic.

    David x

  4. Tom Robinson

    Lovely piece Helen – your energy is inspirational. Glad that our BBC Introducing Mixtape played a part in getting you started!

  5. Brian Farley

    I first became aware of Helen when visiting Watford some years ago, and I went to what I think was her first festival. Brilliantly organised, she had so many hoops to jump through, including some local hostility to a new big music festival on their doorstep. Those critics didn’t understand the folk world, but they were won over in the end. I really hoped she would get through it all and survive. But she has done more than that. She’s doing it with excellence, dedication, and a business mindset that is taking her far.
    If folk music needs a saviour, then she is the one.

  6. Really enjoyed that Helen well written and very informative. And your bit about common courtesy and manners at the end is sometimes long forgotten when someone helps you.
    Keep up the good work.

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  5. Compilation cds | Folkstock Arts Foundation

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