One woman takes on the establishment
Read the story here….
Hello! For those of you who are new to my blogs, my name is Doris Brendel and this is my story on how I have reached the place I am in my career and how I have ended up going against all the prescribed rules set out by my industry.
I am a singer/songwriter and was signed to Sony in the 90s. At that time I thought all my dreams had come true and that I was on my way to a glorious future. I remember the big signing party, the racks of champagne, the press, the vol-au-vent fight, and the dry-cleaning bill that followed. My career seemed assured. My band ‘the Violet Hour’ was non-mainstream and so it seemed we had found a supportive partner.
But the cracks soon started to show. Our label started to interfere and it became apparent that the things they said they liked about the band were all things they were determined to change. Then the recession hit and we were dropped along with countless other bands. Not commercial enough. Not niche enough.
Over the next few years I had a whole bunch of projects. An a capella acoustic band; a rock band called Holy Cow, and a raft of recordings. All the major record companies came to see each one, said they liked it, but passed. Too difficult to market they said. Not mainstream enough. I was given a choice – tow the line and conform to our idea of what music should be, or take a hike.
I felt forced to take on a couple of jobs that came my way purely for financial reasons – I was pretty broke by this point – with Virgin and London Records for some dance records. But I insisted on using a different name.
Essentially I did ‘take a hike’! Which is why I’m now on a small independent label doing my own thing. And I have challenged all prescribed ideas about music. Nowadays people are meant to choose between one genre or another (maybe 2 if you’re really adventurous). The whole industry has been set up for it. You have different charts: rock, folk, country, dance, pop etc and then a whole bunch of sub-genres. Pick one and it will define you. And then we can sell you lots of targeted stuff!
You may think I’m crazy, but I just don’t believe that is the case when it comes to music. I remember when I first came to England from Vienna when I was 12, and discovered so much music! It was amazing. Everything from Pink Floyd, Joplin, Led Zep, Bob Dylan, James Brown, Sly & The Family Stone, the Police, Bob Marley, Irish music, Dub music, Johnny Cash, and and and. Notice something? It’s all great music! But it doesn’t fall into one category. To me there’s great music and bad music (and a lot of ‘meh’ in between). That’s it.
It’s truly exciting and rewarding ‘doing my own thing’ and following my heart when it comes to music. And I’m extremely lucky to have found a partner in crime, Lee Dunham, who has produced my last 2 albums and will continue doing so for a while to come. We both decided: ‘To hell with convention!’ In fact we are glorying in the fact that we are going against it 100%. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it!
It’s always a little scary to stick your head over the parapet, and I will continue to receive a lot of criticism, especially from the industry itself. ‘You’re a marketing nightmare.’ ‘You’re too old for this business.’ ‘You don’t have any hits.’ ‘You’re too diverse.’
Now I totally understand that we need descriptive labels – we all ask ‘What did he/she look like?’ ‘What does it sound like?’ Part of being human is to try and describe things to others. Interesting though that in my case no-one has come up with anything definitive. Oh people have tried! Joplin does prog with a bit of Celtic thrown in, for example. But that’s only ever part of the story.
And increasingly it seems acceptance is following. Especially from listeners themselves. A lot of people are rebelling against being pigeon-holed, stamped and labelled. And they’re my kind of people.
Just to compound our rebellion we are naming our next album ‘Eclectica’, so anyone criticising it for being too diverse will look a bit silly. I am standing against Goliath and in many ways I feel I’ve already won. And that’s down to you. You have supported me in my fight for musical independence and it means the world.
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