One of the difficulties in being an unsigned artist is how to gain exposure for your music and reach new audiences. The beauty of independent musicians is that you can make the music you want but the catch is that you then have to do all the promotion yourself. Therefore, musicians and their managers are always looking for new ways to reach out and sell the music.
In the last ten years, one such way is to become a Caffe Nero Artist of the Month or to be listed for the monthly playlist. Artists are also invited to play live in a selection of Caffe Nero locations and I recently spoke to Mark Sullivan, who is currently criss crossing the country in a camper van (musicians have such a glamorous life), on the Caffe Nero tour. Sullivan has been a musician for a long time and I asked him why this touring approach was important and he said “I knew I wanted to get on the tour as it’s a really good way of reaching an audience…it pushes me as an artist to connect with people in such an intimate setting”.
In order to be considered for the tour and playlist, artists need to have produced music that is available on properly mastered CDs (mp3 tracks are automatically rejected) and although Sullivan was in a good place, musically, after winning the soloist category of the 2015 Rock the House competition, his EP wasn’t ready for release until now. Recorded in the USA with acclaimed producer Steve Greenwell, the three track EP entitled Still Good For Nothing (the title comes from a line from the second track, Bird At Night) showcases Sullivan’s warm vocals and classic, guitar led pop. In particular, Warm Your Bones is a lovely song to listen to and eminently catchy, while the video is just pure romance:
I love a music video that tells a story!
Although Sullivan has a lot of material written in preparation for more recording, in addition to this three track EP he has just three more ready to release and he hopes to do this later in 2017 / early 2018. The question of EP versus album then brings us neatly back to why Sullivan wanted to tour with Caffe Nero. As Sullivan says “although I have enough material for an album, I don’t have enough reach and so I need to build an audience and raise my profile before releasing an album”. Playing and selling his own music in venues around the country, renowned for supporting unsigned artists, is designed to help accomplish both those aims.
As for Caffe Nero themselves, supporting up and coming artists is something that enables them to have new and interesting music on their playlists each month; live music is the icing on the cake although exposure to customers via the wi-fi login would also be a factor in getting the music heard. Ultimately, though, it’s the live music that helps gives musicians the impetus and profile to become more successful – Jack Savoretti was the first to play these tours and he’s done quite well since!
Mark Sullivan’s EP, Still Good For Nothing is available here:
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