The Smiths in the car to school. MF Doom to survive teenage years. Choir singer to DJ. Amsterdam hostel boat manager to working in music in London. Furlough. Founder of The Noise Narrative music publication. Redundancy. This is Will MC, a lover of sound with a simple mission: to provide a platform for underplayed and underrated music.
“It must be really hard, especially for small musicians, which I guess is why I made The Noise Narrative really: to try and give musicians who might not otherwise get a shot a bit of a platform.”
Take us back to the beginning - how did this narrative all start and what’s the story?
It started as a podcast when I first moved to London. I had just started an internship in the music industry and wanted to get a bit more involved. I saw a lot of colleagues had mix shows or podcasts, and I realised I didn't really know much about music at all. So, I made this podcast and I called it The Noise Narrative. But, in the back of my head, I'd always wanted to evolve it into a publication or community. I was furloughed last year in March, which was the perfect time for me to try and make it. So I sat down and devised a brand vision, learnt how to use WordPress and built it. I think a key part of it was finding a Unique Selling Point, a reason for it needing to exist; I didn't want it to just be a website for the sake of me wanting to have a website. The USP came from the fact that there's not enough representation of a lot of global cultures in UK media in music - hopefully, this platform can contribute to solving that problem. The Noise Narrative launched in August 2020 and it's been ticking over since.
Has music always played a big role in your life?
Yeah, it has. Not as big as it does now, but it's always been something that's been around me. My parents were a big influence on me musically. In the car to school when I was a kid, my Mum used to spin loads of classic CDs; that was the first exposure for me that music can be quite good. Going into Uni, I was just a music fan really, and then I joined a choir which was pretty random. Singing in this group made me feel closer to music and interested in it more. It was definitely not my kind of thing, but to be honest, the choir was what made me end up DJing probably, which is a weird thing to say. But, being interested in the more fine details of music through singing in a choir made me think I'd quite like to search for music and play it at parties to see how people reacted. Then it kind of went from there, it just escalated to a point where I was working in the music industry and then it's just been an upward trajectory, until Covid.
You mentioned your parents played a key role in getting you into music. Are there any artists in particular that have played an influential part towards your love for music?
My Mum used to play a lot of the Sex Pistols, Bob Marley, The Smiths, Bowie - just good musicians from all different kinds of genres. But now personally, I look back and other artists that have inspired me have been MF Doom and Odd Future. When I was a teenager I used to love that kind of weird hip hop. Early James Blake too. And weirdly, I often say this, but Lukas Wigflex from Nottingham is actually one of my biggest inspirations in terms of music. The parties that he threw at The Brickworks were the first things that motivated me to want to be interested in electronic music and understand that there was a visual art aspect to the club night.
There are some big names in there, but how do you go about finding lesser-known great artists for The Noise Narrative that you showcase?
There's a few different nodes through which I find new music. One is just listening - I listen on Bandcamp, Spotify (although trying to reduce), different radio stations. There's a great French radio station called Fip, which is really cool. NTS is another one which is doing really well. I listen to a lot of internet radio, I find a lot of gems on there. The contributors that I've got now for The Noise Narrative have great taste in music too, so a lot of the stuff that we end up writing is based on suggestions from them. The final way I find lesser known artists is by being sent unreleased music from PR agencies. When I first built the publication, I sent emails to music PR agencies that represented artists from the genres that I like the most.
Do you end up listening to a lot of new music every day then?
Yeah man, definitely. It's like a constant rabbit hole spiral. The volume of music that I listen to is so high now, which is great. You just never reach an endpoint, people just make the weirdest shit. Whether it's good or bad, there’s always something new. There's always a sound that's new and fresh, which is exciting to me.
If you had to listen to the same tune for every morning coffee for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
I would choose Flamenco Sketches by Miles Davis from his album Kind of Blue. That's one of my favourite songs of all time.
At this point in the chat, we got side tracked dreaming of days when we’re allowed back to music venues, going to the venue Jazz Café Alto in Amsterdam, a city where Will worked as a manager on a canal boat for a brief period.
We can’t not mention the C word when it comes to the music industry right now. How are you coping in this pandemic?
In August last year, I was made redundant from my job in music, as were so many other people I know who work in the industry. It’s hit the music industry so hard because obviously there's no live events, so people aren't selling tickets which is the main source of income for a lot of artists. In my instance, I was working at a music marketing agency - the artists needed live events to earn, and they would pay the agency a retainer with that money. A lot of clients were dropping off as a result of no longer having that income. I’ve stopped searching for music jobs now; I’d love to work in music, but it’s just not a stable option for me right now. I'm doing The Noise Narrative as a side venture and that's really good but I don't make any money from it or anything like that. Overall it’s been hard, but people have got it way worse – artists have built their whole career on live gigs and some don't have a support network. These people are in a much worse position than I am, so it's all relative.
With your main focus being on under-represented music, how hard do you think it is for artists to get a following these days?
I think it's harder than before the pandemic to get a following. You can't really replicate the physical presence of a musician. Live gigs do so much for the artists’ following - maybe 10% of the people in the audience have never seen them before, or don't know who they are, and for that 10% that could be a massive shift in their taste. And then there’s word of mouth from nights out which is a huge organic part of a musician’s following that's gone. But on the contrary, it's a more digital world now. The relationship between the listener and the artist is now completely digital. That means that they can still sell their music, and they can still do gigs on Zoom and stuff. But, the buzz goes when there's no live gigs, and there's no doubt that people buy less music now than they did before. It must be really hard, especially for small musicians, which I guess is why I made The Noise Narrative really, just to try and give musicians who might not otherwise get a shot a bit of a platform if possible.
What actions can people take to support musicians from their sofa to ensure the music industry survives this rough road?
Stop using Spotify as your main source of music consumption because they pay the artist so little and it really shouldn't be like that. Bandcamp is one place where you can buy music, it’s really cheap, some songs are pay-what-you-want. Most singles are probably a quid, 50p sometimes. It's hard to pay for music when you know you can listen to it for free, so you have to want to support people. All I would say is that Bandcamp has got a lot of music that Spotify and YouTube don’t have. Everybody wants their music to be bought, so most music is on there. Soundcloud have recently improved their artist payment model, so use them too. Another way is to donate to struggling music venues, venues that you’ve previously really enjoyed and had a great night at - see if they've got a GoFundMe page or if they're struggling and donate to them. It's obviously so hard for everyone, everyone's strained financially, but if you can, just donate a little bit. Another option is to book events and hope one day they come back around.
Looking to the future, what would you like to see The Noise Narrative become?
To be honest, it's just a hobby for me and I don't mind if it stays that way. I don't have any plans to take over the world. By the nature of it being a platform that supports small artists, there may only be so far it can go in terms of commercial success as a platform. If it did take off, that would be brilliant, but I don't think it's in the nature of the platform’s concept to do that. I've just recently started this thing called TNN Amplify, which is a kind of freelance, artist press release writing service, just to try and get a bit of money to pay my writers because I can't do that right now. That would be better because I want the contributors to be reimbursed for what they do. But to answer the question, I don't mind really, I just want it to be a place where people can count on to find exciting music that they've never heard before.
1. Favourite artist right now?
Someone I'm really enjoying at the moment is Adrianne Lenker. She's the lead singer of a band called Big Thief. She released a solo album last year, and it's beautiful acoustic guitar. She made it in a shed, locked away and recording on tape.
2. Analogue or digital?
3. Live gig or DJ set?
Live gig definitely. Phwoar good question, I feel roasted!
For any writers who appreciate not having their words viciously edited, The Noise Narrative are always looking for contributors, especially those who represent ethnic minorities to help create a more diverse platform of writers. If you’re interested, hit them up at email@example.com and visit the website at www.thenoisenarrative.com