UK Music

Interview with Keith Davis From Unsigned Chart

Keith Davis is a man with a passion, a passion for music. Music has played a big part in both his childhood and now adult years, he’s also lucky enough to have a ‘day job’ that revolves around music. Keith currently runs Unsigned Chart, a popular site that promotes unsigned acts in many different ways, and is also involved in other established websites/music projects. We managed to catch the multi-tasking music fan at a good time, and he had plenty to say about his work, and music in general.

1. Hi Keith welcome to music.co.uk, to kick off where does your passion for music stem from? And what sort of music do you enjoy listening to?

I grew up with parents who played music all the time, Matt Munroe, Elvis, all the 50’s greats, then my eldest brother started bringing home his music, we shared a bedroom so I got to hear The Beatles, Stones, etc which was great! As soon as I could I started buying my own music. A single by The Sweet called Teenage Rampage was my first purchase.

I played instruments at school, violin, trombone, clarinet, but never really mastered them, I simply enjoyed listening to music. Interacting with music came for me when punk burst onto the scene, I was 16 years old and ready for The New York Dolls, The Sex Pistols, Clash (my favourite band). I listen to a lot of music, each new band/artist drawing me in another direction, so I guess I am open to most music. I love guitar and piano, nothing beats it!

2. Do you have any hidden musical talents yourself, or is there anything you’d like to master?

Nope, zilch, nothing, but I do know a good song when I hear one!
I would like to master the guitar, acoustic, just so I could find a river bank on a sunny day and strum all my favourite songs.

3. What do you enjoy doing outside of music?

Umm, no time, I really do work all the hours there is with my music sites, a labour of love. In the summer festival season I do get to go out and leave the PC behind. I enjoy walking and scuba diving, although I haven’t dived for about 4 years.

4. What did your experiences running a record store teach you, and where there many new skills you had to acquire to fuel your current projects?

Opening the shop taught me so much more about music, dealing in second-hand vinyl with so many hippies from the sixties living near by, I came across nearly every single and album that had been produced!My knowledge of music grew and grew. Hearing music from such greats as Nick Drake, Led Zepplin, Pentangle, Van Der Graf, I just knew that this is what I wanted to do from that point, be involved with music in anyway I could.Closing the shop was a sad day for me but inevitable, the town’s population was only about 9,000 people and unable to support that type of shop, but closing that door only opened up another, and that door was the internet.

I spent about a year messing about with computers, and getting help from a guy with building websites, which were pretty straight forward then, simple text based sites with one or two images, dial up internet connections took an age to load larger sites!Nick who helped me with some of the site work during that time is a member of the Apache Software Foundation, and a leading developer and advocate of Apache as an applications platform, as well as an invited expert with the Worldwide Web Consortium, so his enthusiasm of what the web could be fuelled my imagination of what music could do on the web, and with his help I built my first site.

5. We always allow our interviewees a cheeky little plug, so in brief, what do you do now in the music industry, and where would you like to take it?

I am mainly working on my websites, but in the last couple of years brought in people to build on different areas outside of the sites, but that intertwine with them. Leigh, who is my nephew, came in with me 2 years ago and he has been building up the promotions side as well as the LIVE gigs and PR. The sites seem to work well together, the review site brings in the labels, invites too many launches of signed bands, plus helps us to keep our finger on the pulse of new music in the UK. The Unsigned Chart builds up a great base of artists who we work with to put on live showcases and paid slots for them at different venues. This has been successful and something we are building on, already we have had interest from other venues in the UK and USA.

We have also recently become a Google Content Provider which means our reviews are used as editorial reviews in their product search database, which has only just gone live and we’re waiting to see just how well this partnership is going to help us. We have had to rewrite over 2500 reviews into the proper format for Google, it was great reading them again as we worked on the code, some of the bands that were just breaking when we reviewed them are now well known names, Sandi Thom, Pigeon Detectives, The Wombats.

Our latest project, and the one I am very excited about is the management deal with Jordan Grey, Tall Dark Friend. This came about from one of our Rubyz gigs, Jordan was playing and I watched his performance which was electrifying, seeing him play and sing was jaw dropping! Although we had already managed 2 acts before, we had steered away from management again as we had found you have to find an artist with the utmost commitment, passion, drive and who had that special ingredient. Jordan has it all in bucket loads, this is someone I am excited and proud to manage, watch out for Tall Dark Friend.

There are many projects and offers on the table right now, and this year has started off so well, and continues to bring in many surprises.

6. Britain’s Got Talent have their buzzers, Alan Sugar has ‘You’re Fired’, what would be your unique way of telling an act that they aren’t quite up to scratch?

I’m asked a lot to comment on, or review an artist on the sites, or even some artists who contact me personally, its difficult and I try not to get involved personally, but when or if I have to then its always a constructive, “Needs more time”or “Needs more production”

I once posted a review about a singer I got into email contact with from the States, she sent me her album after some weeks of us corresponding and I had one of my reviewers review it, they slated it, favoured her to a Karaoke Queen. I got a call from her the next day; she was very upset, telling me she had been working on the album for over a year. I took it down, the only review I ever took down. From that point on, if we received a cd for review, then that’s what we did, good or bad, and it stayed online!

7. We inhabit a world of unusual song titles and band names, do you have any favourites?

There are so many, Ozric Tentacles, and one just in, The Phenomenal Hand Clap Band, (where did that come from?), We Were Promised Jetpacks, it seems names are getting harder to find. Joan As Police Woman, they are a great band.

8. There are many sites online offering promotional opportunities to unsigned acts, what do you think is the key to making one work?

The people behind it.

9. If you did your own version of the Apprentice for unsigned acts, what tasks would you set?

I’d ask them to go and organise a gig, getting the band in and promoting it, working right through to the end of the show. I think bands don’t always realise how much work is involved in getting music out there.

10.  And finally, what’s your favourite music related story/experience that you love to pass on to anyone who will listen?

That has to be Leigh and the camera bag wet wipes!Last year we managed to get press access and one photo pit pass to Glastonbury for 6 of our team, it was the first time we had got a photo pass so we were really pleased, we could get some great shots for our website. But our photographer went ill and couldn’t make it, so at the last minute Leigh stepped in and took on the roll as photographer.

Its pretty unnerving in the photo pit on the pyramid stage, you have 10’s of thousands of people behind you all screaming and dancing, and especially so when your not a photographer! Leigh did fantastically well and grabbed some great shots for us. After the performances we went back to the press tent where we had internet access and our laptops.

The press tent is always packed with press, and this time Leigh was sat at his table when another photographer asked the other photographers if they had any screen wipes, Leigh being the helpful person he is said yes, (he had seen the “wipes” in the camera bag earlier) and offered them up to the photographer knowledgeably, the photographer politely said “no that’s ok”, and Leigh suddenly realised what they were, and that he may have been found out that he wasn’t a photographer.
It turned out cool though as he confessed to the rest who were there that he wasn’t a photographer, which they obviously knew now, and they helped us out for the rest of the festival with showing us how to get better shots!

Many thanks to Keith for his time and great interview.  Unsigned Chart is run by a great team of people, and has become a welcoming community of Unsigned acts.  It also features me! you can listen to, and vote for the songs I’ve co-written at www.unsignedchart.com/laurenslyrics.

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