Our Other Lives - The Spitfire Sisters x Winchester Jazz Festival

Hejira, Friday 21st September 2018 at The Railway Inn

Hejira, Friday 21st September 2018 at The Railway Inn

If you don’t know already, The Spitfire Sisters are also the Directors of Winchester Jazz Festival. Our third festival starts next week, and we can’t believe how quickly the last year has flown by. It has taken so much effort, work, sleepless nights and long meetings (with gin) to bring Winchester this festival, and we’re so proud of it. 

How did it all come about? At the beginning of 2014, Hannah announced that she had two ideas at a meeting with Louisa and Anna. The first idea was to host our own Spitfire NYE event. The second was to bring a jazz festival to Winchester. At the time, we had no idea the difference in scale of those two plans… The jazz festival thought was put on the back burner while we organised our NYE 2014/15 event, but come January we realised that there are some fantastic venues in Winchester, brilliant local musicians and an audience just waiting for jazz to arrive in the city. All that was missing was a festival. 

The Ashley Henry Trio - Saturday 22nd September 2018 at The Railway Inn

The Ashley Henry Trio - Saturday 22nd September 2018 at The Railway Inn

We held a launch event in September 2015, and our first official festival began in 2016. While we have lots of experience organising and running events, a festival is a completely different ballgame. This year we have 23 events in 11 different venues throughout Winchester City Centre. That’s a lot of events to organise! Thankfully we have support from the community, including venues, sponsors and patrons. After an intense application process, we are also fortunate to have received support from the Arts Council this year. 

While we try and keep our Spitfire identity separate from our WJF identity, there is a bit of a crossover. We are delighted that our vocal workshop at Cabinet Rooms has sold out, and we will also be making a guest appearance at Swinging From The Chandeliers (you may also recognise quite a few familiar faces in Louisa Revolta’s Swing Collective who are the house band for the evening!). Although we are determined that WJF operates as an entirely separate business, it’s hard for us not to get involved in the performance side of things. 

Predominately however we are backstage, running around, meeting artists at venues, photographing events, distributing programmes, welcoming ticket holders and making sure the festival is as smooth running as it can be. 

We really hope you can make it along to the festival at some point over the weekend. We have worked incredibly hard on building the festival. Given what we do with The Spitfire Sisters, I’m sure you can understand how important we feel it is to support live music. Thank you for your support in everything we do, both for Winchester Jazz Festival and The Spitfire Sisters! 

You can find details of all of our WJF on our website: www.winchesterjazzfestival.com, or on our instagram and twitter: @winchjazzfest.

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Music streaming - pennies for my thoughts

The music industry has changed at a staggering rate over the last 10 years. We have never been at an age where music has been more accessible than it is today. This is both a brilliant and a tragic thing. Here’s why.

As a musician it is very useful to have instant access to almost any piece of music that has been ever written. In my lessons I can think of a piece of music that might be suitable for somebody to sing and right then and there, using my iPad (other tablets are available) type it into YouTube or Spotify and there it is, instantly. One more quick search will usually find the lyrics and chords (but it is advisable to check these first). 

Using platforms such as Spotify, it has been very easy to create playlists to share with your friends and family. The good old fashioned mix tape can now live on with the slushy and sentimental ‘we met to this song’, ‘we made out to this song’ or ‘you were made to this song’ selection. Just this morning I enjoyed running to a specially curated 180 bpm ‘Fast Pop Run’ to get my legs pumping on the treadmill. I recently heard of a family that created and shared a Spotify playlist of music that their recently deceased Grandmother used to love to play. What a lovely way to be remembered.

My musical knowledge has been afflicted by this accessibility. I have not grown up appreciating the art of the album. If I have heard a song that I like I will search for that one song and listen to it. That’s it. I don’t have to listen to what came before it or after it, or to the complete soundscape that it emerged from. I think that my musical appreciation and depth of knowledge might have suffered because of this.

Perhaps this ’single’ lifestyle might have attributed something towards the resurgence in vinyl. There is something very special about putting on a record. The theatrics of the artwork, the sound the case makes when you open it, the tension that builds as you carefully position the needle onto the grooves and after the initial crackle, wait for that magical introduction. It’s wonderful! And you can be safe in the knowledge that nobody will be harvesting your listening choices. You can play Lionel Richie as many times as you like and nobody will judge you. It won’t be carved into the vast data vaults that are quickly becoming the new oil. Your secret is safe with me.

We distribute our music online using TuneCore. At the time of our first release I did some reading about which service to use as there are many to choose from and this came out favourable from a few different sources. It distributes to all the online streaming platforms you know of and many more that you don't. It costs an initial fee of around £25 to post an album and then a £40 annual subscription to keep the album distributed thereafter. Once our Christmas album was released I was very excited to see the rewards of the online streaming. We had created quite a buzz on our social media and also at the many concerts that we had performed that month. I could hardly wait. Unfortunately that was all I could do as there is a two month wait for the data and funds to reach your account. But on the 23rd of February the day I had been waiting for finally arrived. I had found out that on Spotify in the UK our songs had been streamed 709 times! 709!! I was chuffed to bits. If you average each song at three minutes each then that’s 2,127 minutes or nearly 36 hours of continuous music! Then I rubbed my hands together as I read along to see what my reward for all of this music would be. Hours of hard work, love, tears, breakdowns….

It was… a grand total of…

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Three whole English pounds.

That’s 0.42 pence per song. 

The analytics of TuneCore allow me to see that during that same month our music was heard in another 21 countries that used Spotify. I had to look up what some of the abbreviated letters were to find out which countries had listened to our music! This gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling of great satisfaction. This then took our staggering total to £3.73. Woah there. Let’s not rush to spend this all at once.

Most of our music revenue has come from selling our CDs at performances and also online but these are becoming rapidly extinct. Cars are no longer being made with them as standard. Computers don’t come with a built in CD drive. When was the last time you bought a CD? And even If you did what would you play it on? Your walkman?! Due to music streaming, artists are now having to come up with more creative ways to make money at their gigs. I was lucky enough to see Grant Sharkey perform and was mightily impressed at his candles that he had for sale on his merchandise table!

For our online distribution, the way to ensure we (the artists) receive the most money from your sale is to download the album from Bandcamp or from iTunes (we receive around £4.30 per album downloaded or 50p per track). At present I am delighted if our TuneCore balance stays cost neutral and allows us to keep our music streamed for years to come. Not costing us any money but equally not making any. This begs the question, what is the point? Maybe it is to let our songs resonate all over the world and into the halls of eternity. You can decide for yourself. In the meantime, we'll just keep doing our thing and hope that someone out there wants to listen to it!