Bridging the gap between artist passion and music business logic…
“I’m sure things could have been a lot easier if I had taken the blue pill!”
I’ve loved music since ever since I can remember. At a very young age I’d be sat in front of my parents hi-fi with headphones on, listening to ELO, Blondie, The Beach Boys, Carpenters, Queen and many more whilst they would be watching TV. With my older brother blasting out AC/DC, Thin Lizzy and Deep Purple in his bedroom, it was just a matter of time before the music bug really bit me.
I come from a musical family. My father played keyboards in bands supporting the likes of The Kinks and so it felt natural when I was 14 to want to learn guitar and join a band. As no-one wanted to play bass guitar, I quickly realised that this would became my weapon of choice.
Over the years I played in various bands and made good friends who’ve helped me along this journey. It was during the 1990’s and success seemed to be evading me (though there were highlights like playing the Marquee Club). At the age of 26, I was disillusioned life wasn’t going as well as I’d hoped it would and my passion for performing in bands was fading. So I quit. I cut my hair, I went “back to school” to study, gaining qualifications and eventually finding employment with a large international company. Working my way up through the ranks to Service Delivery Management, I realised my strengths lay in effective communication, building relationships and giving the best possible customer service. Working with big corporate clients in London and across the country, I gained an abundance of work experience and new skills along the way. Little did I know just how important all this would be.
However my romance with music and bands wasn’t over. Around the age of 28 I picked up that bass and enjoyed playing again, with a friend prompting me to join a band he was in, which led me to joining the group Panic Cell. This would prove to be a major turning point in my life. I had a gut feeling something good was going to happen, so I threw caution to the wind by swiftly quitting my ‘secure’ traditional full-time job and for 8 years I played in that band, working behind the scenes 24/7 whilst juggling various jobs to fit in with my new life-style.
My gut feel and hard work paid off. Panic Cell went on to have success landing a fair amount of prolific shows, tours and festivals, playing to 100’s of 1000’s of people worldwide with the likes of Metallica, Disturbed, Slayer, Anthrax, Alice In Chains, SOiL, American Head Charge, Megadeth, Testament, Devildriver, In This Moment, Download Festival, Sonisphere, Bloodstock, Wacken, SXSW, and many more. The group received national exposure from the likes of the BBC, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Classic Rock, RockSound Magazines etc.. XFM, MTV, Scuzz TV (Notably one of Panic Cell’s songs reached no.1 in Scuzz’s chart above the likes of Linkin Park, Slipknot and Evanescence) and Kerrang TV. We’d pop up in the craziest of places, whether it be on large scale billboard adverts, Total Guitar Magazine sticker sheets with Lamb Of God; and imagine my surprise when shopping in London to see our video ‘Save Me’ being played on TV screens in Top Man.
Panic Cell released three studio albums, various singles/videos which were well received by critics and music fans alike. It seemed we were popular with the heavy metal / rock community. However, as time went by my priorities changed and in 2011 I made the decision to leave the band, who were to carry on without me. Panic Cell disbanded later that year and I got a call from the band asking if I would rejoin them for one last show: Sonisphere Festival at Knebworth Park, where we played an emotional set to a full capacity crowd.
By this time I was at a crossroads. Thanks to the journey with Panic Cell I had met my wife (my rock, whom I married in 2011) and we relocated to another part of the country. The mad scientist / musician in me was trying to start another band (Seven Deadly) and even with early successes: if truth be told, with the changes in my life, (some of which were bad), the pressures of working hard again to make the band work to my expectations were having an effect on my health. It was time to call it quits.
But it didn’t end there. My heart was still in love with music: the business matters that I’d been co-managing over the course of nearly 10 years had always interested me. In July 2012 I formed Stampede Press – another major turning point in my life. Initially it was to be a PR company, but it has turned out to be so much more. It’s not just my company, it’s a big part of me giving something back to the music community and trying to help artists understand not just the mechanics of this industry, but more importantly, to help them find ways to deal with the emotional baggage and how best to stay mentally positive, be happy whilst making the best music they possibly can. And, most importantly, have fun doing it.
Thanks to advances in technology there are more musicians than ever, and there are some hidden gems waiting to be discovered. However opportunities will always remain staggered and hard to come by, no matter how “easy” the internet may present things.
Now, thanks to myself and Toby Jepson teaming up to form LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE, and studying for an MA with WATERBEAR and the UNIVERSITY OF CHICHESTER in Music Industry Innovation and Enterprise; my mission in my music career is to find the committed bands and music artists with the potential to go far and have GREAT songs; to help them on their music career journey and avoid the common pitfalls so many fall into (I’ve been there, so has Toby, so if you’re going to learn we’re a great starting point).
If you’re like me, if music is in your dna and you’re willing to sacrifice and commit to the max – by not returning to a traditional job and going it alone with Stampede – I’m proof that success is possible, but without a shadow of a doubt (in my mind) it’s how you measure success that ultimately decides your happiness, which for me is the end game… being happy.
Rob ‘Bobby’ Town.