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How I First Found Success in my Home Town
Article originally written in January 2002 before I was signed to a label

I'm not famous and I don't know if I would want to be (although the money would be nice) but I'm well known in my home town of Goole, East Yorkshire, UK and a couple of nearby towns because I promoted myself. If you are interested, this is how I did it. It might work for you.

When I had made 5 or 6 reasonably decent tunes using eJay software, I burnt them onto a CD and made 5 copies. For this exercise, I made most of them really cheesy tracks with plenty of "Calling for your love", "Come with me tonight" and Eurobass samples, as I thought these would be more popular. I also made one harder track in Rave eJay. Hopefully, everyone would like at least one of the tunes.

Try to make your CD cover look fairly decent. Don't just put it in an old AOL cardboard sleeve. I used Word to knock up a cover, just a picture of an island that looked like Ibiza from a clipart CD and my name on it with a track listing on the inside cover and put it in a jewel case.

I lent a couple of these to some of my friends who I thought would like them and asked them to have a listen and if they liked it, to tape the CD and give me it back. ALL of them liked ALL my tracks! Not one complaint at all, which I thought was a bit strange.

LESSON ONE - Do not trust friends to comment on your tracks. Even if all your synths clash and your drums are out of step they will still say that they loved them. I put this to the test later when I used to make one track on my CD that I knew was rubbish, you know the sort, just ten minutes on Rave eJay knocking together a tune that would make dogs howl. My friends who said they liked it were obviously lying, as they didn't want to upset me. Fortunately, a few were honest and it's these friends who I trust today, for opinions and comments on my music. The internet is ideal for reviews, as no-one knows you and will probably never meet you so they are not afraid to be honest.

I gave one copy to the landlord of my local pub, who I was fairly friendly with and asked him to have a listen and he could keep the CD or throw it away if he didn't like it. Don't pester anyone, asking if they liked your tunes, half an hour after giving them your CD.

After a couple of days, he came up to me in the bar and said that he liked my CD (If he hadn't, I would have tried another pub) and we got chatting about how I'd made them and how long I'd been making music. Then I asked the big question. The pub had a karaoke night and disco every Sunday. I asked if he could he play one of the tracks at his disco night. Seeing as I'd bought him a pint or two and given him a free CD he said yes. I wasn't really bothered if he had liked my tracks or if he'd just said he did. He had the means to play my music to a larger audience than I could possibly do.

This was the very first software that got me started. I found it on a demo disc on a magazine

eJay Special Edition - I made a few tracks using this and burned them to CD to hand round to my friends and people who could play my music.

The next part of my tale is a bit like my life story, so bear with me.

Sunday came around. I had a copy of my CD in my coat pocket and I went to the pub. I was getting quite nervous sitting in the bar watching the DJ set up his disco. Questions and doubts were filling my head. What if people didn't like my track? What if everyone came off the dancefloor? That wouldn't make me popular with the DJ, the landlord or the customers. Maybe everyone would start laughing at my pathetic attempt to make music. Some of these were people who I didn't know, so they wouldn't be bothered about saying what they thought, especially as some of them had already had a skinful of ale. The DJ started playing his set and getting people up for karaoke with about 30 people in the pub. I sat quiet at the bar drinking my pint hoping that the landlord would remember to ask him to play a track. He came from downstairs, with the CD I gave him, straight to me and asked me which song I wanted playing. I told him and he went over to the DJ and gave him my CD. After about 15 minutes the DJ came on the mic and said that the next song was called Your Love by Steve at the bar as he pointed me out. People looked round at me and my stomach filled with butterflies. This was my big chance.

My track started to play and it sounded OK through his speakers as I recognised the first "Myth" layers playing. Samples kicked in and the track was rolling. When the drums came in, I noticed people tapping their feet, which was a good sign. The bass started and more people started nodding their heads and tapping their fingers. A few even got up to dance when the vocals started. We are all living in a dance machieeene yeeeaaeeah, your luuuurve ooooooh. People came up to me to say how good it was. Some were saying how it was a lot better than they had expected when they had heard I'd made a dance tune. When my track had finished the DJ said on the mic that he liked it, mentioned it was by Steve at the bar again and people started clapping. It was a great feeling, as you can imagine, to watch and hear people who I didn't know applauding my song.

After the night had finished I was feeling great, so I went up to the DJ and gave him the copy of the CD I had in my pocket.

LESSON TWO - Always make sure you have a copy of your CD on you. You never know who you will meet or when you will need one. What happens if you meet Judge Jules walking home and he wants to play out your tracks on Radio One but you don't have your CD with you? Well you never know!

I asked the DJ if he would play my track out at some of his other disco nights that he ran, he said he would, as he genuinely liked it. He also started playing different tracks from my CD at the pub on Sunday nights and people got used my music.

That was my first big step, people knew I made music. Now I had people interested in my music, the next thing to do was to make more tunes. I was asked a few times if I had made any more by friends who had heard them. So I made 10 more songs to go with the 6 I already had. This took me a few weeks and I made some cheesy, some a bit trancey and some harder ones. I put them on a CD and lent a few out as before. Our pub has a jukebox that plays CDs and I noticed it had a few spare slots, so I asked the landlord if I could put my new CD on the jukebox. He said yes so I gave him a free copy to listen to and to keep.

LESSON THREE - People will like your music more if you give them something for nothing. Give them a free CD or buy them a drink. I find they are keener to play your music then. You are not really bothered if they think your tracks sound like cat's claws scraping down a blackboard with you banging on a dustbin lid. So long as they play your tunes to an audience you should be happy.

My first ever CD

The cover of my first CD - I scanned a picture of my head and made this "Andy Warhol" type cover. So if anyone saw a copy, they would recognise it was by me. Excuse the artist name!

The jukebox was one of those that displayed the album cover. So I scanned in a picture of my head, messed about with it on my pc and made a cover based on a grid of heads. It looked a bit liked those Andy Warhol pictures of Marilyn Monroe, if you know what I mean. This way, if people liked the tracks but didn't know me, they could at least recognise who had made them. My CD went on the jukebox but only got plays from my friends, as people didn't want to play songs they had never heard of like Night Groove and Run To The Hills. I found an easy way to drum up a bit of trade was to play them myself when the pub was full on Fridays and Saturdays. People slowly came round to them and started putting money in to play them.

A group of three lads, who I didn't know, used to come in and play all of my harder tracks. I saw one at the jukebox playing some of mine and I jokingly said that he'd made a good choice of songs to play. He recognised me from the cover and he told me that he and his friends had wondered who had made them, as they hadn't heard them anywhere else. It was time to try my music at other places.

One of the pubs in Goole has no jukebox, but instead has CDs playing in the background. I knew the barmaid liked dance music so I took three of my CDs, put them in a HMV plastic bag and went into the pub, midweek when it was a bit quieter and put them on the bar, still in the HMV bag. The barmaid asked me what CDs I had bought so I told her I made my own dance music and that they were my own discs. She seemed impressed and we got chatting. I waited a while until the background music started playing a CD with slow songs and tracks from the sixties, then I asked the barmaid if she would play one of my discs rather than the rubbish that was on at the moment. She said yes and put my CD on. I knew she would, as she looked about 19 and so wouldn't like the old songs that were playing in the background. She liked most of the tracks I'd done and I when she gave me my CD back I said she could keep it (See Lesson 3 above). Nobody walked out of the pub in disgust while they were playing so I figured that this place should be good for my tracks.

I went in again a week later when it was a bit busier and the same barmaid was working and asked her if she would play my CD again. She put it on and people seemed to be enjoying it. I saw a few heads nodding around the pool table. This time though, I sneaked out of the pub and left the CD there without the barmaid noticing. The next time I went in, I looked through the window and made sure that the same girl wasn't working before going in. Another girl was serving and as I was drinking, the CD changer played a few tracks from my disc (Good it was still in the machine, I was hoping for that). I heard her asking one of the customers whose CD it was, as she liked one of the tracks. The customer didn't know, and I said it was mine. Obviously, she didn't believe me so I showed her one I had in my pocket with the picture of my head on the cover. She acted as though I was Fat Boy Slim and changed the CD player so it played my disc from start to finish. I received a lot of good comments from the customers and my disc stayed there. Everytime I make a new CD, I always give her a copy to swap for my old one. They have a DJ on a weekend who heard it in the changer and he plays some of them as part of his set. 

Goole has two nightclubs but one of them is a small place called The Lowther Hotel. It's more like a pub that stays open late. I went in at 9 o'clock just as the place had opened before many customers had arrived and asked the DJ if he played CDs or was it just vinyl. He said it was a bit of both but tonight he only had vinyl. I got talking to him and mentioned my music and he said that if I brought a copy along next Friday he would play some out before it got too busy.

That week I had an idea and put a sample of the name of the DJ over one of my older tracks and gave it to him to play. He loved it and played a few of my other tracks out and still plays the track I made for him today. He told his friends about the song I'd done for him and some of them were DJs who asked me to make songs with their names on them too. I didn't just put the one song on their CD, I put some of my best tracks I had made, the ones that had gone down well with the people of Goole. Hopefully the DJs would play some of the other tracks while they still had my disc in their players and they did. Again, everytime I make a new CD I give the DJ in Goole's small nightclub a FREE copy. He tells me that his friends play them in other towns and they seem to go down well with the customers in these pubs.

A big thank you to DJ Glen for supporting me and my tunes.
The Lowther Hotel
- One of the first places my music got played by DJs and heard by clubbers. (Thanks Glen!)

LESSON FOUR - When you make a new CD, give a few away to your regular players for free and tell them it's your new disc. They will think they are getting something exclusive that no-one else has heard before and if any of you are DJs, you will know how important this is. Especially if it doesn't cost anything. 

Anyway, I'm nearly finished. Is there anyone still reading?

After some time had passed, and I'm not talking about a couple of weeks or months here, people were asking the DJs and bar staff where they got their tunes from and I slowly became more recognised. People who I didn't know came up to me in the street or in the pub and told me how much they liked my songs. Some started asking me how much a copy of my CD was. If I knew them I'd say three pounds, if I didn't know them I'd say a fiver, and I made a bit of money doing that. It paid for my blank discs that I gave out for nothing and a bit for myself. I kept the customers interested by making only two or three a year. If they were paying me for my music then I tried to make it the best I could for them and not just rattle any old rubbish out.

LESSON FIVE - Do not put everything you have ever made on a CD. Only put your very best tracks down. If people are paying for your music they will want to know they are getting a good deal. If you make a new CD every week with fifteen tracks that sound like you took 10 minutes to make and charge people for it, you will soon have no listeners. 

The only place I have to crack now is the big nightclub we have here. It's called Hartley's and holds hundreds of people both from Goole and away. I give different DJs copies of my discs, but I haven't heard any of them play out yet. I think the owners of the club tell the DJ what to play. I've seen one of the newer DJs around town, so I will have to become friendly with him and he may play my tracks. I also send my CDs to my local radio stations and Galaxy 105 but nothing yet.

For some reason they won't play my music. Ah well, it's their loss :) 
Hartley's
- The only place in Goole not to play me.

Well that's how I became well known in Goole. If you ever visit, ask the DJ in the Lowther for a track called Dancer In The Rain by Square Bear or any of the old ones by DJ Stevoid. (That was my name before I changed it). 

I was in Scarborough with my girlfriend for a few days last summer and we went into a nightclub called Boleyn's. Half way through the night I thought to myself, that sounds like one of my old tracks, and it was! I don't know anyone in Scarborough so I don't know how it got there. I asked the DJ who the track was by and he said it was a group called Square Bear. I told him it was me and handed him a copy of my newest CD I had with me (see Lesson two above). I'll have to go back this summer and see if I'm still being played. There is no better buzz than seeing a hundred people enjoying themselves and jumping around to a track you've made.

To finish with (or if you've skipped to the end) here are the key points: 

Get yourself a CD burner. If you are lucky it will pay for itself.
Give free CDs out to people who you think can promote your music.
Ok, you might have to lay out a bit of money, but it may repay itself.
You will need patience.
None of this happened to me overnight.
Promote your songs wherever you can.
Start an mp3 or soundclick site and put your web address on your CDs and on music message boards. If you can, put your discs in small local record shops and tell everyone you know.
Be prepared for knock backs.
Not everyone will like your music and that is just a fact of life but don't let them get you down. Make music for yourself. If you don't enjoy making it then stop now.
Be brave enough to promote yourself.
When I was waiting for my first track to be played, I thought of backing down because I was scared of what people thought. If I'd done that, I'd be the only one listening to myself now.
Get used to the fact that you will not become famous unless you are very lucky.
I've done all this in a small town and become well known here but no-one else has ever heard of me. If I'd tried the same tricks in London or a big city, who knows what would have happened. Look at Daniel Beddingfield. He managed to get the DJ to play his track at the Ministry of Sound and there happened to be an A&R man in the crowd. Next thing he's got a number one and he only used Making Waves software and a few samples with him singing over the top. I've had mine played every weekend for the last two or three years in Goole and still nothing.  

I hope this is of use to someone. Writing this has brought back a lot of happy memories for me.

Everyone has dreams and good luck with yours!

- Steve Worswick (Square Bear)
January 2002.

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