Rock Liberation should not mean alternative
ways of marketing product but alternative ways of sharing music.
One such alternative is being explored by Mike Levon and Dave
Wood, who run an independent recording studio in Wakefield.
and Dave started Holyground Enterprises in the summer of 1967
- the boom time for hip entrepreneurs. They thought that a recording
studio would be a good way of supplementing their regular incomes
and so, armed with £100 worth of tape recorder, etc., they
converted a bedroom in Mike's flat and joined the £1 per
hour demo-making business. They soon had a trickle of work from
the cabaret singers of Yorkshire's Variety Club belt, anonymous
names such as Paul Reid and Joanna Starr, semi-pro groups like
the Methods. A typical job was providing 20 LP's of mood music
for a chain of Bingo Palaces. After a year they had learned several
things. First, they weren't going to get rich quick -even a big
deal like the Bingo music only brought in £20. Second, they
weren't going to get rich at all - semi-pro singers and their
managers were remarkably adept at vanishing or going bankrupt
and Holyground found itself dealing more with solicitors than
with musicians. Thirdly, it was no longer riches they wanted.
Recording mood music was not fulfilling and meanwhile they had
been getting to know local rock musicians.
and Dave found it increasingly difficult to distinguish between
liking a group of people and liking their music; after sharing
home and food it was difficult to remember to make studio charges.
The studio stopped being a place of business and became a place
in which to make music. Holyground had reached this position not
from any great ideological principles but simply from the logic
of the situation itself. They found that they couldn't simultaneously
treat music as a means of honest expression and as a product to
be used for money making. By the beginning of 1969 they were still
doing demo work but were spending more studio time with friends,
musicians reached through ads, and assorted visitors.
music they eventually put together came out as an album in Autumn
1969. It was very much private music, with only 99 copies pressed.
reckons that over the five years they've spent in the region of
£1,000 on equipment of which they've got back maybe half
from demo-work. The rest has come out of their regular earnings
and savings. Although he's reasonably satisfied with what they've
got, he would like more room (the flat is over a small shop in
a scruffier part of Wakefield) and there are many extra gadgets
that would be useful (like stereo recording facilities). He doesn't
yearn for 32-track machines, and the studio still charges only
£2 an hour (compare Apple's new studio which cost half a
million pounds to set up and charge £30 an hour, with overtime
for evenings and weekends). They still do selected pieces of professional
work but they've been getting increasingly inefficient as entrepreneurs,
forgetting basic commercial rules like charging five minutes as
a full hour, including meal-breaks, etc. They aren't making money
but they have put another record together, Astral Navigations,
which came out last autumn.
music for Astral was again written, arranged, played, and recorded
by Mike ... and musicians from Wakefield and Preston. There were
no payments involved, either to the musicians or Holyground. It
is extremely difficult to point to the usual distinctive roles
of engineer, producer, musician - it was just 400 hours of eating,
playing, and making music which was eventually edited down to
45 minutes. Two hundred and fifty copies of the album were pressed
(at a cost of about £160) and Holyground designed the packaging
themselves (a plain white bootleg sleeve with pictures in the
form of stick-on labels, an eight-page booklet with words and
details, the whole thing in a paper cover which can be opened
out into a poster), doing everything down to the letter setting.
The printer's bill was £40. The total cost of the album
was, then, £200 plus the cost of the tapes and Travelling
expenses (£80) of hiring a van to move equipment around.
Also the cost of food, substances, etc. And a lot of time. The
original intention had been to sell the album at £1 but
this would have meant a loss even if all 250 copies were bought,
so a £2 price was fixed in the hope that they could sell
150. If they could guarantee bigger sales they could sell the
album much cheaper.
the time the record was finished Holyground was broke and there
was no money available for advertising in any organised sense.
They had to rely on low-key hustling: Yorkshire's alternative
paper, Styng, ran ads for them free; John Peel and Pete Drummond
both gave the record some air time; Radios Leeds and Blackburn
used it as local colour; a Styng writeup was reproduced in Ink.
Some interest was aroused but because it was a studio record there
was a drawback - they couldn't use live gigs to make the music
known. A playing group can spread the word just by playing.
other problem was distribution. Holyground is two people with
full time jobs. They don't have time to hawk the record round
shops and, although some local stores have carried copies, and
Frendz offered to act as a distribution centre, they depended
on the public asking for copies direct. This isn't very satisfactory;
you have to be pretty trusting to buy an album blind. Most independent
record companies use commercial distributors but Holyground want
to retain control because if they and the musicians are not profiting
by the venture they see no reason why a distributor, with no connection
with the record's creation, should take a cut. For the same reason
they've ruled out using the bootleg distributors. Bootleggers
are as much in the music product business as EMI. Dave would like
to see some sort of 'underground' distribution system throughout
the country which would handle not only records but books, magazines,