Doin’ it Ourselves: December 2022

As broadcast on Soho Radio during Doin’ it Ourselves on Monday 19th December.

2022 has been a bit full on, I’d say in a fun way although that’s very much in the micro: the macro, as we know, has just been another farcical year, we’re all still getting ill and cancelling gigs and spending too much in the pub having rediscovered the joys of the Baby Guinness. Another Subculture returned and it was nice to print and send and print and send — getting involved in musicking after a gap and after so much had shifted has been a challenge but it’s been emboldening seeing a new wave of gig goers and bands pop up – it may have taken a couple of years but perhaps we are heading back to new demos, new faces and hopefully some musical twists and turns! 

I put on three events this year and, got to be honest, I was shocked at the rising costs in the two year gap. I was possibly spoilt by putting on nights at Power Lunches and DIY Space for London back in the day but still, we’re talking hundreds of pounds, waiting for a decision on whether enough booze has been sold at the bar to get your deposit back, and realising that the £5 entry point, after two decades, is just not enough anymore to sustain.

And it’s not just venue hire. Energy prices have rocketed, as we all know, and inflation peaked at 14% this year. I’ve heard of more gigs not breaking even or losing money outright than I’ve been used to, even the ones packed to the rafters. This hasn’t just been a small scale issue either; you could see that when Little Simz cancelled her US tour and one of my favourite US band Sweeping Promises cancelled their European tour too, fearing the combo of getting sick and ending up skint all at the same time.

So I’m ending this year in a new band (which I am tremendously excited about, we’re a racket, it’s great) and I do wonder a bit about how a band can sustain itself in an era of high inflation, low wages, flu, COVID, Brexit border controls, the rest of it. So with my Martin Lewis hat on I had a quick look at some costs of existing as a DIY band and I hope this illustrates the fucked situation we’re in: 

  • Rehearsal: in 2019, to book a practice at Super Unison in Peckham, my favourite rehearsal spot in Peckham cost £10 per hour off-peak. This month, it’s £12.50. 25% increase.
  • Demo tape: when I ordered demo cassettes from Tapeline for my last band, we went for the neon yellow, ‘highly visible’ tapes. These cost 55p each in 2018; they’re now 86p, with a case going from 22p up to 33p. 54% increase, and bear in mind you’re buying 50-200 in one go. (I’ve also seen that records from DIY labels in the UK have gone up from £12 to £16 in two years.)
  • Petrol: Want to do your first tour? Back in 2016 and in the excitement of our first weekender, diesel was £1.17, this month it’s £1.81 and while that’s better than the £2 we had a months ago, that’s still another 54% increase.

And to wash this all down: at Damage is Done, a pint of Neck Oil cost £6.80. I’ve heard £7 pints in some quarters too are becoming the norm in London. (I would advise that crossing the road from the New Cross Inn to the Marquis of Granby between bands results in a well poured Guinness for two pounds cheaper, so don’t say I don’t give sound financial advice.)

There will be no doubt many more examples, and amongst all this we all know that the wages are not going up this high. Real term wage cuts are abundant which is why strike action is abundant, as it bloody well should. It does make me worry about where I would have been if I had started Another Subculture today instead of in 2013, on Jobseekers’ Allowance, living at home and only putting out the first tape with help from friends’ sofas, £3 nights and £1 cans of Red Stripe on the Kingsland Road. Would I be able to afford any of this? I really don’t think I could, and that goes for anyone trying to get by on Universal Credit and a rental market out of control in this city: they would be fucked.

So far this anxiety has materialised in a few small ways: an insistence to advertise gigs half price for anyone unwaged, on Universal Credit or any other reason really; a promise that if I end up with an amp that’s giggable, you dear listener are welcome to borrow it. In 2023 I want to keep on exploring and demystifying, asking people why that zine costs a tenner and how that gig gets put together, and maybe publishing the whole lot. Telling people where the keys are held and how to make stuff without losing money (maybe I’ll learn the latter along the way?)

I’m wittering on, so I’ll end with some recommendations: Special Interest (obviously), Katie Alice GreersBarbarism, Findom’s “Pay, Pig”, Loraine JamesWhatever the Weather project, going to have a dance to Odd Spiral down the Avalon Cafe, playing a bit of cribbage, walking around Zone 6 and forming a band with your mates 😉

And that’s me for 2022. Take care everyone, hope you are keeping warm and happy, up the strikes and up the punks – see you next year – – BP

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