We were very much a DIY band. But what does that mean? Well, we created our own press releases, organised our own photo shoots, booked our own gigs – anything and everything that was necessary to keep us going. That included day-to-day administrative as well as creative work that was necessary to promote and develop ourselves as a band – including doing all the artwork.
We had practice days and admin days. We didn’t really know what we were doing or what was expected. We just did our best and learned on the job. After a time we started to get more exposure, media support and an audience in Bristol.
Our first ever gig as Mooz was a support slot and we were awarded gig of the year by our local Venue magazine. We then played Glastonbury Festival for a few years running, as well as the Edinburgh Fringe festival. One year we were invited to the festival to perform as part of BBC Radio 3’s ‘Mixing it’ festival alongside Skelf (Howie B).
Getting good gigs is what all bands want. Our reputation within Bristol got us some good support gigs playing with Horace Andy and we also had good slots playing the main stage when the annual Ashton Court Festival came around. To get gigs out of Bristol we would send out a demo tape with a press page showing them some of the reviews we received from our other gigs. We would have preferred the music to speak for itself – but that is clearly not how it works.
It is this type of thinking that influences why bands that have managers tend to be a bit more successful. Having someone to represent you means that there is someone else who is willing to vouch for you and do some work to support you. This helps make promoters and other industry reps take you seriously and offer you good slots.
“Mooz sound is an evocative, elusive thing. Eerie, moody and deceptively easy on the ear, it is propelled by a cocktail of influences from PJ Harvey to Radiohead to Nina Simone. ‘When we sent our music out to people they thought we were a risk because they couldn’t market us,’ says bassist Rasha Shaheen. The band are stumped when asked how to describe themselves.” ‘We were once called ‘theatrical, angelic punk’ so we’ll go with that,” says Shaheen.’ – From The Big Issue, May 2002 ‘Schmoozing with Mooz’, interview by Will Simpson
As a band, we were untrusting of managers and labels that did approach us. We did not want our sound to be changed and felt very protective of who we were and how we presented ourselves. We wanted to have control over all these things, and we could not find a manager who we could totally trust to see who we were.
There was an awesome music scene in Bristol, with bands that loved pushing boundaries and playing music that riled up emotions. We all managed ourselves and created a scene that was exciting, and the quality was gritty, alive, and beautiful.
“Looking back, I think we did not know how to get out of the Bristol scene. We were perfect when it came to the day to day running of being in a band, but business and strategy was a different conversation. For some reason, this also felt like the norm within the scene.” – Rasha
Networking and building relationships with other industry professionals is a crucial part of growing as a band. Being clear of what you want and where you are going is also just as important so that when you collaborate, you have a sense of agency with respect to your direction. Times are changing now, but it was not a conversation that was openly taking place around us at the time, particularly in the 90’s and 00’s.
“In hindsight, I think it would have been good to have a manager, what they would do would be to give you that extra influence, even though we knew we were a serious band, other stakeholders did not take you as seriously without representation.” – Rasha
The other thing is that if you get an experienced manager, they can negotiate better deals, better slots, better pay because they understand the norm. We didn’t really understand our worth in music business terms. A good example of this is the support slot we did with Horace Andy. It was a sell-out gig at the Trinity in Bristol (700 capacity), and we were paid a total fee of £50. That might have covered our travel, but it did not cover the time we spent rehearsing the set, the costumes and make up we used for our set design, and by no means would it have helped sustain us as a band. You can expect these kinds of deals at the start of your career, but there comes a time when pay must grow. You play for nothing to prove yourself, but when do you stop having to prove yourself and get paid for what you are worth?
“A manager should work with you to create a strategy of growth that a band all agrees on and should make sure that you are all on the same page about what decisions are being made and why. Bottom line is to build confidence to charge more, this pushes the band to sharpen the quality and hopefully allows the members of the band to focus on making more awesome music and leave their flexible non meaningful jobs such as phone market research, which I was doing at the time.” – Rasha