Band and Beer
The Mill is a new free music night run in conjunction with Miller beer. But, as David Pollock discovers, the new bands on display are anything but run of the mill.
Accepting any kind of corporate sponsorship is meant to go against the grain for rock ‘n’ roll bands, but the times they are a-changing. In this file-sharing era, promotional hook-ups are increasingly a new way for bands to earn a living, and Scotland’s The Mill is surely one of the most relatively altruistic out there.
As part of the deal, Miller Genuine Draft get their name plastered all over. But in return, they fund a weekly Thursday night gig (actually bi-weekly between Glasgow’s Oran Mor and Edinburgh’s Cabaret Voltaire venues) which provides two young Scottish bands with an important leg-up that carries on far beyond the evening itself.
‘We try to provide each band which plays with us the tools they need to go on and promote themselves further,’ says The Mill’s manager Keren McKean. ‘And as part of the deal they get audio recordings of three songs which they play on the night.’ These recordings are made by Tony Doogan, Glasgow-based producer of Belle & Sebastian, Mogwai, Super Furry Animals, Dirty Pretty Things and more - so they’re in good hands. ‘That’s something which not many of them could otherwise afford. They also get a two-camera live video of one of the songs, press shots and billboard advertising in the run-up to the gig,’ McKean explains.
Afterwards, the audio and visual recordings of the bands are theirs to do with as they please - they can put them up on their MySpace, release them as a single or send them out as demos to record labels. ‘It’s important for young bands to have access to things like this,’ says McKean, ‘because the number of avenues they have to make sure they’re promoting themselves through is greater now than it ever has been.’
By providing this assistance, Miller are making in-roads with the particularly large community of emerging music fans in Scotland. New bands are springing up with increasing regularity, and more than ever they can achieve wider recognition by first becoming well-known in their own area. ‘There is such a huge number of emerging artists in Scotland,’ says McKean, ‘it’s quite amazing how creative this wee country is. Even if someone like Miller wasn’t doing this, the bands would still find ways to do something similar. It’s an obvious network for anyone to want to tap into.’
Of all the bands McKean has seen play The Mill since it started last year, she picks out Twin Atlantic as putting on a great show (‘when they posted the video we made for them on Youtube, they had 7,500 hits in absolutely no time’), Frightened Rabbit as being a real coup to get and also a packed-out show, and Found, just because they’re a personal favourite of hers.
While McKean and her nine-strong team of talent scouts - who also all scout the Scottish scene for major labels in London - are continually on the lookout for new talent, a bit of a waiting list has developed. In fact, between them, they have around 600 bands they want to see play The Mill. ‘We haven’t booked them all to play yet, though,’ she says, ‘because we want to leave room for the next big thing when we find them.’
For information about up-coming gigs and free tickets, visit www.themill-live.com
Upcoming Mill Dates
For up-coming July and August gigs keep an eye on The Mill web listings.