5 (legitimate) steps to getting free music

First published on the OrSaveIt blog (http://orsaveit.com/blog/120-5-legitimate-steps-to-getting-free-music):

Festival season is upon us, Daft Punk have just released the ultimate summer hit, and everyone from Kanye West to MGMT, Franz Ferdinand to Wu-Tang Clan have exciting new albums due out soon.

But how to enjoy this veritable feast of music without breaking the bank? Here’s OrSaveIt’s top five tips for enjoying music on the cheap.

Sign up to music streaming sites

The internet is responsible for many wonderful things – from aiding democratic rebellions in the Arab Spring to the Nick Clegg Looking Sad Tumblr. But one of the greatest things the internet has given us is so much readily-available free music.

You can sign up to both Spotify and SoundCloud are free, and, for those who object to having their music interrupted by an advert every few songs, Spotify offers an advert-free premium account which also gives you access to the database offline and on your mobile phone for the actually-quite-reasonable £9.99 a month.  Spotify has an enormous collection of music, past and present, ready to stream, whilst SoundCloud is especially good for seeking out new tracks, remixes and live recordings. See also: last.fm and The Hype Machine.

Enter lots of competitions

Long gone are the days when one could stroll on down to Hyde Park and watch The Rolling Stones for free. No, if you want to catch The Stones at Glastonbury this year, get ready to part with a hefty amount of money, especially with tickets sold out – and no-one likes handing their money over to an opportunistic tout charging above ticket-price on eBay. But there is an alternative – check music magazines and websites for competitions for festival tickets, of which there are plenty. With Glastonbury early on in the festival calendar, those of us unlucky enough to have missed out on tickets might have to be content with highlights on the BBC, but there are plenty of competitions for festivals later on in the summer, such as Latitude and Leeds/Reading.

Volunteer at festivals

The easiest way to get into a festival for free is to volunteer. Granted, it means you’ll have to spend some of your time there working behind a bar, directing traffic, or some other such role, but it’ll seem worth it when you get to spend your spare time watching your favourite bands for free.  Check out websites like Festival Volunteer, Hotbox Events and vInspired for the best gigs.

If you’re a student looking for something to do over the hols, Studentbeans.com has a complete guide to becoming a festival volunteer.


For added value, volunteer for a charity like Oxfam or ActionAid and feel content in the knowledge that you’re doing your bit for humanity.

Perform or write about music yourself

If the Sex Pistols taught us anything, it’s that the best way to engage with music when you’re young and broke is to start your own band and show the established chart-botherers that you don’t need to be a millionaire to write a decent tune.

Start a band, get yourself some support slots and not only will you get into gigs for free, you might even end up being the next Beatles …perhaps. Alternatively, find websites that need music writers – a lot will offer free albums and gig tickets to those who write reviews.

Connect with your favourite bands online

Your grandma probably remembers being a member of the Beatles’ fan club, thrilling at a postcard ostensibly from John and Paul every couple of months.

In 2013, connecting with your favourite band is a lot easier. Like band pages on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, sign up to their YouTube accounts and check out their websites.

When Arctic Monkeys released R U Mine? last year they put it up on YouTube and left their fans to spread the word.

When The Stone Roses announced a free reunion gig last year, it was via their website. When Azealia Banks released her Fantasea mixtape, it was through Twitter. Social media has innovated the way artists can release music, often for free, so take advantage of it!

Follow these tips and you’ll be set for a summer filled with music, without going bankrupt in the process. See you down the front!


Review of ‘Other Voices’ by The Orwells

First published on http://soundblab.com/content/content/view/id/5228/preview/1:

In the years since The Strokes emerged with Is This It, a number of bands have been justifiably castigated for lazily aping their sound – indeed, some have argued that guitar music has remained in a somewhat catatonic state ever since. The past couple of years, however, have seen the arrival of two bands who are clearly in the lineage of The Strokes and yet provoke not weary sighs at another album of derivative indie, but quickened heartbeats and the urge to get drunk and jump around till you throw up – ie, what the best guitar bands should sound like.

One of these bands is Parquet Courts, whose debut album Light Up Gold was a terrific blast of DIY tunes which last no longer than two minutes, and which channelled the spirit of The Strokes by seeming to not give one flying fuck what you thought of it – a far cry from the calculated, polished indie music which really represented the nadir of The Strokes’ influence. The other is The Orwells, a five-piece who only graduated from high school earlier this year, having already released their superb debut album, Remember When, in August 2012. Like Parquet Courts, they specialise in music that sounds like it was recorded in one take by a bunch of mates in between spliff breaks, rough around the edges and as if liable to collapse in on itself at any moment.

Other Voices is no great departure from that aesthetic but also sounds sufficiently ambitious to signal they’re serious about making waves as a band, as indicated by the fact the EP contains two versions of the title track, one of which was produced by the ever-impressive Dave Sitek. True to their DIY nature, however, the self-produced version is the first track and is the better of the two. Demoting Sitek’s version also shows admirable chutzpah for a group of 18-year-olds yet to fully establish themselves as a band.

Opening with crashing guitars, featuring lyrics like “Take a drink then let’s make out/ Your pupils wide, let’s go outside/ Light up a smoke, then start to cry”, and a chorus that rushes onwards like sprinting when you’re drunk, it sounds like being young and cool and hedonistic – all of which one suspects The Orwells are rather well acquainted with. ‘Blood Bubbles’ and ‘Head’ are no great shakes but there’s also a live version of ‘Mallrats (La La La)’ which acts as a decent enough introduction to their debut – though it’s ‘In My Bed’ and ‘Ancient Egypt’ which were the true stand-out tracks from the album.

Five years ago the music scene was dominated by second-rate Strokes imitators. Today, dance music is enjoying something of a comeback, with decent acts like Disclosure, Katy B and Jessie Ware doing well in the charts and the onward march of EDM in the US not looking like ending any time soon. So it’s slightly ironic that it’s now we’re starting to get some bands making Strokes-a-like indie which rivals Is This It, as opposed to merely aping it.

Perhaps it needed a decade to pass for some youngsters to come along who could simply see 2001-era-Strokes as an influence rather than a starting point. Who knows? What we do know is this: Forget The Vaccines; forget Tribes; forget Two Door Cinema Club. The truly exciting guitar music is being made by bratty American teenagers again – and for that we should be thankful.

Review of ‘Choices Made With the Ceiling’ by Rose Island Republic

Choices Made With The Ceiling

Leicester five-piece Rose Island Republic first appeared in The Ripple back in December 2011 as one of the most exciting bands our university had to offer.  A year-and-a-half on, debut EP Choices Made With the Ceiling has arrived, available on Spotify as well as iTunes, and it’s safe to say our faith has been rewarded.

What’s especially pleasing about the EP is the breadth of the musical offering.  There’s nothing especially outré in the modern era about an indie band made up of four males being fronted by a female but plenty of indie bands are happy to act like it is – as if having a female, rather than a male singing average indie will somehow mark you out from the crowd.  Rose Island Republic, rather, work for your affection and the EP is all the more endearing as a result.

So where lead-singer Leigh Hayward’s vocals on opening track ‘Twittering Machines’ are most reminiscent of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O, for example, ‘My Stolen Crown’ strikes a different note entirely.  The jangly guitars and lively percussion of the former are replaced by a lone acoustic guitar and Hayward’s husky solemnity.  The result is a Laura Marling/Joni Mitchell-esque tale of depression and heartbreak, complete with the terrifically bleak line, “Make the bed, make the bed/And take a pillow and cover my head”. 

Elsewhere, the lively ‘Casual Nicotine’, led by driving guitar, ups the tempo, and the splendid ‘Elements’ uses the titular weather conditions as a metaphor for female emancipation – hey, it worked for Florence & The Machine.  Hayward is a true talent but the rest of the band are no coasters – the instrumentation is sufficiently multifaceted throughout to impress beyond her vocal talents.  One can only hope that this EP is not the last we’ll hear from this lot.