‘Slavery’ within the music industry and maintaining fan relationships

‘Slavery’ within the music industry and maintaining fan relationships

There’s this sensation people have where they lose interest in things once other people start liking it – the thing that you liked then loses its originality and therefore becomes ‘mainstream’, which is something that is unattractive to many people. This same idea applies to music.

The rise of unsigned artists gracing the music world is ever-present, and so small fan bases are more and more common. A small fan base is enticing to a lot of music lovers and it gives them a better chance of interacting with the band/singer, helping them create a relationship with their favourite artist.

This relationship is special to a lot of fans and so when a band becomes signed or just gains more popularity this can be difficult to take. It’s a bitter-sweet emotion, as any artists’ dream is to be recognized for their work, as with any profession, yet as a fan, you want them all to yourself – a hidden treasure.

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© Wikimedia Commons, Arctic Monkeys performing in 2006

When MySpace was at the height of its popularity in the early 2000s, many unsigned artists used it as a platform to promote their music, with the likes of the Arctic Monkeys, Calvin Harris, You Me At Six and Kate Nash all being signed after they gained popularity on the social media website.

However, this may have caused some disappointment amongst original fans who had supported the artists through their lowest points, backing them even through possible hate and rejection from critics. The success may fill fans with pride, that they got there first, and they ultimately helped the artist get big. Nevertheless, in some cases, once artists sign to a label they are pressured into changing their sound or image, much to the dismay of fans.

In 2015, the late icon Prince warned artists not to sign recording contracts saying,

“Record contracts are just like — I’m gonna say the word – slavery, I would tell any young artist… don’t sign.”

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© Wikimedia Commons, Prince performing in Brussels, 1986

He claimed that signing most contracts with big labels gives artists little control over the music they make, and the companies take big profits for – basically – no work. “Once we have our own resources, we can provide what we need for ourselves,” Prince said of why he chose to join Jay-Z’s own streaming service Tidal. “Jay Z spent $100 million of his own money to build his own service. We have to show support for artists who are trying to own things for themselves.”

It is evident that most established artists understand the pressures and control record labels have over new artists – and how difficult they are to get out of.

It seems the only resource artists need from record companies is the initial outing of their music – and the finance to get it out there.

Hopefully, in the future, bigger artists will come together to put a stop to the exploitation of new artists when signing record contracts and make it easier to put your own music out independently.

How do ticket prices nowadays compare to prices in the 80s?

How do ticket prices nowadays compare to prices in the 80s?

You never think a simple rummage through your parents’‭ ‬old knick-knacks would lead to a full research project and eventually an article‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬yet here I am‭. ‬

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Merchandise booklet from The Police tour.

After looking through my dads’ stuff I stumbled across some concert tickets‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬I was intrigued due to my keen interest in music‭, ‬however, it wasn’t the artist or the venue or even the worn-down condition of the tickets that attracted me to delve in further‭, ‬no‭, ‬it was the price on the tickets‭. ‬

Most fans would be willing to pay over-the-odds to see their favourite band nowadays‭. ‬It’s difficult to imagine seeing big artists like Beyonce‭, ‬Adele or Ed Sheeran for any less than‭ ‬£50‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬yet these artists sell out tours with tickets these prices‭, ‬and even spark huge re-sales on ticket-selling websites for up‭ ‬to‭ ‬£1000‭ – much to most of the artists’ dismay.

So‭, ‬just imagine seeing one of these artists for as little as‭ ‬£8.40‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬kids back in the 80s did just that‭. ‬After looking through my dads’‭ ‬historic tickets to see The Smiths in 1984‭ , it would have cost him‭ ‬£8.40‭ ‬in today’s money‭, ‬as well as bands like New Order for‭ ‬£12.94‭, ‬just‭ ‬£16.71‭ ‬for the Liverpool City Council Benefit featuring The Smiths‭, ‬New Order‭, ‬John Cooper Clarke and The Fall and arguably the most famous at the time The Police in 1980‭ ‬for just‭ ‬£20‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬reasonably priced compared to an Ed Sheeran concert costing double‭, ‬if not triple the price‭.‬

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Merchandise price list from The Police Tour.

Another issue fans face is merchandise prices‭ – ‬especially at tours‭. ‬Artists charge over the odds‭, ‬starting at around‭ ‬£30‭ ‬for a tour t-shirt‭. ‬Most fans often are willing to pay this as well‭, ‬as they feel this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to‭ ‬buy these items‭, ‬to prove that they attended‭.

‬However‭, ‬in a lot of cases, the artists then end up selling this merchandise online after their tour anyway‭ – ‬and often at lower prices‭. ‬I looked into old merchandise‭ – ‬for example‭, ‬The Police who charged around‭ ‬£4‭ ‬for a t-shirt‭, ‬and‭ ‬£8‭ ‬for a sweatshirt‭. ‬However nowadays they charge‭ ‬£30+‭ ‬for a t-shirt and up to‭ ‬£60‭ ‬for a sweatshirt‭. ‬It has become apparent that nowadays merch prices are extravagant and not catered towards all fans‭, ‬as many‭ ‬would struggle to afford these extravagant prices‭.‬

Artists like Beyonce and Justin Bieber also charge extortionate prices for their merchandise‭, ‬starting at around‭ ‬£40‭ ‬for a t-shirt‭, ‬and‭ ‬£60+‭ ‬for a sweatshirt or any other type of merchandise‭. ‬However‭, ‬these artists have created a more revolutionary way to sell more‭ ‬by making their merchandise appealing to even those who are fans‭ – ‬their merchandise is considered‭ ‬‘fashionable’‭ ‬amongst young people‭, ‬and so not just worn by a fan‭.‬

For example‭, ‬Justin Bieber’s range of merchandise is sold in Topshop and Topman throughout the UK‭.‬

When researching‭, ‬I felt it would be interesting to look into whether some of the artists my Dad saw back in the 80s still charged appropriate prices for their gigs‭. ‬

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Morrisey recently performing, ©WikiCommons, 2017

I decided to focus on The Smiths‭, ‬as Morrissey is still touring‭. ‬I found out that in 1991‭ ‬Morrissey charged only‭ ‬£12‭ ‬for tickets‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬still extremely reasonable for the time‭, ‬whereas the most recent tour charged up to‭ ‬£50‭ ‬for a ticket‭ – ‬which arguably may be a decent price to see a renowned musician live‭, ‬yet when considering how cheap prices were up until the early 2000’s it seems prices are continuing to escalate‭.‬

The price of tickets and merchandise nowadays arguably seems to take advantage of the youngsters who would do anything to see their favourite singer or band in concert and be able to take away ultimately a piece of the artist home with them‭. ‬This inevitably puts a lot of pressure on parents/guardians as they want to provide everything for their children‭ – ‬without breaking the bank‭.‬‭ ‬

Looking back on the cheap prices of concerts back in the 80’s‭, ‬it made me question whether artists in this day and age are as passionate about their music‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬is there a need for artists to‭ ‬perform at big venues‭, ‬therefore inflating ticket prices‭, ‬as apposed to wanting to provide a smaller intimate gig for their fans‭ ‬and more of them‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬ultimately providing a better experience for both artist and fans alike‭.‬

Are CD and Digital Sales dying out?

Are CD and Digital Sales dying out?

How we stream music seems to change through the decades, from vinyl’s starting in the 50s to cassette tapes in the 70s, then CD’s in the 80s, all the way through to the late 90s with mp3 players and now music streaming apps where you can play music from pretty much any device.

However, it seems these old platforms are slowly making a return, most famously: vinyl. After an almost 30-year hiatus from their prime popularity, vinyl’s are unexpectedly making a return – and maybe for good. In 2017 more than 4.2million vinyl albums were sold in the UK alone, their highest level since 1991. Yet it seems it is only vinyl that is making an increase in sales, with both physical and digital album sales decreasing since 2016 by 19.5% according to Nielsen Music’s Q3 report, whilst also stating that vinyl sales are continuing to grow by up to 3.1%. Vinyl has seen a successive climb in sales in the past eight years, despite almost dying out in 2006.

Subsequently, it is due to the incline in vinyl sales and the increasing popularity of streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, that offset the decline in CD sales. WEA, the global distribution, marketing, sales and research arm of Warner Music Group, sent buyout letters to over 130 employees in January of 2018 in relation to physical product (CD’s). The move is in reaction to the declining CD sales mainly in the U.S. in 2017 and with a prediction of a similar decline to happen in 2018, foreseeing a 19.6 reduction in CD sales for 2018.

.It has become evident that more and more people are finding the modern form of music more appealing – with the exception of vinyl – the on-the-go aspect of streaming music from an app on your phone, laptop or tablet is an exciting concept that will surely continue to grow throughout forthcoming years.

What I’m Listening to // Folk & Acoustic

What I’m Listening to // Folk & Acoustic

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The Lumineers – Cleopatra

The unmistakeable raw folk sound from the band who gave you top hit ‘Ho Hey’.

Featuring top single ‘Ophelia’

 

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Charlie Simpson – Young Pilgrim

The first album from ex-boy bander, a surprising folk-pop soun

Featuring top single ‘Parachutes’.

 

 

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Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago

The warming soulful sound, with songs off the album covered worldwide.

Featuring the top single ‘Skinny Love’.

 

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Vance Joy – Nation of Two

One of my favourite albums from the indie-folk artist who brought you top hit ‘Riptide’.

Featuring the top single ‘Like Gold’

 

 

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Alt-J – This Is All Yours

The world famous folktronica band, liven up the typical folk sound.

Featuring the top single ‘Left Hand Free’.

The Comeback Kids

The Comeback Kids

Comebacks and reunions have always been a‭ ‬‘thing’‭ ‬throughout the eras‭, ‬with musical artists and bands dramatically splitting up‭, ‬only for them to return with a bang a few years‭ ‬later‭. ‬It seems most artists reform due to lack of money‭, ‬and in most bands’‭ ‬cases due to lack of solo career success‭. ‬More often than not‭, ‬bands’‭ ‬reunions start with the iconic‭ ‬‘reunion tour’‭. ‬This tends to attract a bigger audience‭, ‬for those who didn’t get the chance to see them during their childhood‭, ‬or those who may not even have been fans but are intrigued to see how the reunion will go‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬a great money-making scheme for even the worst of reunions‭.‬

Artists such as Busted‭, ‬Blink 182‭, ‬Fall Out Boy‭, ‬MGMT‭, ‬Britney Spears and Liam Gallagher have all returned recently to music‭, ‬followed by a successive climb of fame‭, ‬fortune‭, ‬and even a new wave of fans‭. ‬Artists that reform may have a tendency to stick to‭ ‬their original sound‭, ‬however, substantial success could come in the shape of an artist trying something new and fans still sticking by them‭.‬

Blink-182‭ ‬fan Jordan Newall‭ (‬see image‭) ‬was over the moon when he heard his favourite childhood band were reforming in 2016‭ ‬for‭ ‬their first headlining tour since their 20th-anniversary tour in 2011‭. ‬The‭ ‬‘California’‭ ‬Tour supported the bands’ seventh studio album and featured support acts Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls and The Front Bottoms‭.‬

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Jordan Newall in the Blink 182 Tour T-Shirt

‭ ‬Long-time fan Jordan saw the band at Liverpool Echo Arena back in 2017‭, ‬and said that the concert was one of the best nights of‭ ‬his life‭ ‬“the atmosphere was incredible‭, ‬everyone sang along to every song‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬the old and the new‭. ‬The band were so good at getting everyone hyped‭, ‬it was like surreal seeing my favourite childhood band on stage‭, ‬I loved it‭.‬”‭

The bands most recent album‭ ‬‘California’‭ ‬named after their origins‭, ‬still sounds like their old traditional pop-punk style music‭, ‬much to the appreciation of fans‭, ‬showing they haven’t changed their iconic original sound since they first formed in 1992‭. ‬

Subsequently‭, ‬fans still feel like it’s the same band only improved‭, ‬Jordan stated‭ ‬“I was worried I would hate the new music‭. ‬I had no idea if the sound would change or not‭, ‬especially compared to the iconic‭ ‬‘Enema Of The State’‭ ‬album‭, ‬but I was surprised I actually loved the album‭ ‬and liked every song on it as well‭, ‬which made the tour even more exciting‭, ‬‘cos it was the classics as well as their new stuff‭. ‬And it was good‭ ‬‘cos people actually didn’t just sing to the old stuff which I thought they would‭.‬”‭.‬img_2446

 

It seems the bands’ reformation wasn’t a flop‭, ‬with the tour selling out‭, ‬making a staggering‭ $‬2.8M from its first 28‭ ‬shows‭, ‬with 119‭ ‬shows in total and an attendance of 745,395‭.

However‭, ‬some bands only set out to reunite for a reunion tour‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬with the intention to simply excite fans‭, ‬or earn some money before going off the radar again‭.

‬A prime example of this was with pop-punk band Busted‭, ‬the‭ ‬‘est.2002’‭ ‬band‭ (‬featuring members James Bourne‭, ‬Matt Willis and Charlie Simpson‭) ‬were teenage heartthrobs in their day‭, ‬following a similar sound to bands like Green Day‭, ‬Blink 182‭ ‬and Sum 41‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬but with a British twist‭. ‬Despite the bands’ success during their 3‭ ‬years active‭, ‬they only had 4‭ ‬number ones and only two of their three albums managed to make it into the top 10‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬regardless of the‭ ‬fact they had 3‭ ‬sell-out tours during this time‭.

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All of Busted’s albums to-date.

It came with a huge outcry in 2005‭ ‬when the band announced they were splitting up‭, ‬due to Simpson wanting to focus his efforts on‭ ‬being part of heavy metal band Fightstar‭. ‬Myself‭ ‬and thousands across the country were inevitably disappointed by this‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬seeing‭ ‬their favourite band breakup with no real promise of ever getting back together‭, ‬simply saying they couldn’t go on without a member‭, ‬saying they’re not going to retire‭, ‬but haven’t thought about the future‭.

‬The members each did their own solo stuff‭, ‬with Bourne firstly forming his own pop-punk band‭ ‬‘Son Of Dork’‭ ‬and then went on to have his own solo career under the identity‭ ‬‘Future Boy’‭, ‬although Bourne did have some success with a sell-out acoustic tour‭, ‬it was short-lived and led to him writing his own musical‭ ‬‘Loserville’‭ ‬based on a single he released with Son Of Dork‭, ‬this musical proved a success and led to Bourne working on two other musicals before the famous forming of the super-group‭ ‬‘McBusted’‭.‬

Matt Willis also went on to do his own solo stuff‭, ‬signing to label Mercury Records and releasing three original singles and one‭ ‬cover of The Primitives Song‭ ‬‘Crash’‭ ‬which was famously featured in‭ ‬‘Mr. Beans Holiday’‭. ‬Although Willis received some success it wasn’t enough for him to continue with his solo career‭, ‬as before he released a full album he joined super-group‭ ‬‘McBusted’‭ ‬along with former Busted member James Bourne and pop group McFly‭. ‬

The super-group McBusted provided Busted fans with an exciting opportunity to see Busted’s songs performed by two original members alongside McFly‭, ‬nearly 10‭ ‬years after the original bands split‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬they played over 42‭ ‬sold-out shows across the UK‭, ‬performing both Busted and McFly songs‭, whilst ‬also releasing two songs in the process‭. ‬However‭, ‬much to‭ ‬Busted fans dismay‭, ‬the third member Charlie Simpson refused to join the band‭, ‬still working on his own solo stuff and was adamant he wouldn’t reform anytime soon with the other two members due to his solo career taking off‭. ‬

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Youngest member Charlie Simpson was the main reason the band broke up in 2005‭, ‬due to him wanting to focus his efforts on heavy‭ ‬metal band Fightstar‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬which he did stay with up until 2010‭ (‬longer than Busted were together for‭). ‬Although Fightstar were popular within their own genre‭, ‬they only managed to have one top 10‭ ‬single during their time together‭. ‬Moreover, it was Charlie’s solo career that surprised fans the most‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬when in 2011‭ ‬his album‭ ‬‘Young Pilgrim’‭ ‬was released‭, ‬with a surprising folk sound to it‭, ‬yet entering the UK albums charts at number 6‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬a huge success for Simpson’s‭ ‬first solo album‭. ‬His next album‭ ‬‘Long Road Home’‭ ‬released in 2014‭ ‬also charted straight at number 10‭, ‬followed by his final release‭ ‬‘Little Hands’‭ ‬in 2016‭. ‬All three albums had a strong acoustic-folk sound‭, ‬yet suited Simpsons character well and proved popular with Busted fans and new fans alike‭.‬

Thankfully 2015‭ ‬saw the band announce a‭ ‬‘comeback tour’‭, ‬announcing 13‭ ‬arena dates throughout the UK‭, ‬selling 100,000‭ ‬tickets within the first hour and more dates added due to high-demand‭. ‬Fans still queried whether this return would be short-lived‭, ‬however, the band announced they would be releasing a third‭ ‬studio album within the next year‭. ‬When the‭ ‬‘Night Driver’‭ ‬album finally came in 2016‭, ‬fans were shocked at the new innovative sound‭, ‬with the album being described as a‭ ‬‘synth-pop’‭ ‬sound‭, ‬adding electric guitars and a more classic electro sound‭. ‬The sound still enticed old and new fans with their Night Driver tour still selling out for 49‭ ‬dates across Europe‭, ‬North America and Asia‭. ‬

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Since this‭, ‬in 2018‭ ‬the band announced new album ‘Half Way There’ as well as another tour to go along with this album. The band teased the album by releasing four songs over the months since the release, with first song ‘Nineties’, which excited fans due to it replicating Busted’s original sound, followed by All My Friends, Reunion and Radio, all which still replicate Busted’s original sound. The music videos for ‘Nineties’ and ‘Radio’ also follow suit in the vintage Busted style-video.

The album is officially released on February 1st, but you can pre-order now here:

https://embed.music.apple.com/gb/album/half-way-there/1439338150

Christian Reilly at Liverpool’s famous Hot Water Comedy Club

Christian Reilly at Liverpool’s famous Hot Water Comedy Club

Reilly entered the stage screaming for himself, imitating a crowd cheer as the audience were initially silent – “I’m from Nottingham, so you have a right to be excited”, the sarcasm dripping from his voice, as the audience let out a chuckle, “My names Christian but I don’t want people from other cultures to be excluded so I’m using a Jewish microphone!”.

Reilly’s odd comedic style includes a guitar and a cowboy outfit – an unusual appearance for the act who was headlining the gig on Saturday. The audience seemed slightly perplexed at this unusual style, in comparison to the other comedians of the night in their jeans and t-shirts. Yet, despite this and his late arrival, his satirical jokes and witty sense of humour shone through his entire performance – opening with a dig at Coldplay’s ‘same riff in every song’ joke, winning over the audience from the get-go.

Liverpool’s iconic Hot Water Comedy Club hosted five comedians on Saturday night, ending with Christian Reilly. Up until this date Reilly’s career as former part of the Perrier award-winning show Otis Lee Crenshaw and the Black Liars, had taken him around the world multiple times.

Since then, he has gone solo, making a name for himself in comedy clubs around the country – headlining the majority of them despite being more unknown than most headliners.

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The stage at the comedy club.

Reilly isn’t shy in revealing chunks of his personal life for comedic gain – typical of his usual performance style, with the second joke in the show poking fun at his previous failed relationships, and recent bad break-up – however, lightening the mood through the C and D chords on his guitar, portraying a typical ‘sad song’.

Although, unlike most of the comedic line-up that night, Reilly had little interaction with the audience which was unusual for most acts at the comedy club, with their audiences eager for interaction with the comedians. However, all Reilly did was address one woman at the back who couldn’t stop laughing – “Yeah it wasn’t that funny!”.

Reilly addressed some political issues throughout his set, with a song about the ‘difficulty’ of being Donald Trump ‘Trumpin 9 to 5’, where Reilly sang about Trumps controversial views on race, finances, and global political and social issues.

The climax of Reilly’s set was the mockery of popular artists, and his divine story-telling ability. His mocking of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Galway Girl’ lit up the clearly alternative audience – the story of meeting an Irish girl who turned out to be Ed Sheeran ended the show on a side-splitting note.

Christian Reilly’s use of putting together the nations love for music and comedy – created a solid structure for his entire show.

Reilly is worth seeing if you haven’t already, his set is always similar, addressing popular figures and using them for comedic gain, however, every show he tries to make personal for the audience, adding a new song, or integrating an audience member into his show – making for a unique performance every time.

Jamie T – An advocate for mental health through music

Jamie T – An advocate for mental health through music

It is important that artists face not only positive appraisal but criticism to help shape them as an artist. I feel it is important for artists nowadays to be honest in their lyrics and performance style, as this encourages consumers to trust them.

It is evident that some parts of society may not be as welcoming of Jamie Treays’ mental health conditions – which is reflective of society as a whole, the general British public find it difficult to talk about these difficult topics, with organisations like Time To Change and Mind, who encourage people to speak openly about mental health. It is artists like Jamie T who are advocates for these organisations and help and encourage people to speak about difficult issues.

In an interview in 2016 Treays revealed he has received a lot of letters from people suffering from anxiety who found solace in a shared experience, “It’s hard when you’re afflicted with a disorder of some type, and it can be kind of debilitating.

I’m glad that it made some people feel a bit better

The first time I heard Jamie T, I was in the canteen at Sixth Form College, ‘Zombie’ was playing through the speakers; the unusual lyrics and fast tempo intrigued me from the outset, “‘Cos I’m a sad sad post-teen, could have been a love machine, no dream, come clean walking like a zombie..”  Treays was speaking the lyrics rather than singing them – as if telling a story.

Originally from Wimbledon, London, Treays was privately educated however, suffered severely with anxiety and panic attacks throughout the entirety of his early life – ultimately leading to his first album ‘Panic Prevention’ (2007). What struck me about the indie, alternative, post-punk eclectic sound was Treays’ unusual yet relatable lyrics – these were intriguing, and made me want to listen to more; I started with his first album ‘Panic Prevention’, with iconic tracks like ‘Sheila’, ‘If You Got The Money’ and ‘Ike and Tina’.

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Jamie T Performing © 2015 Laurent Besson, All rights reserved

In Treays’ own words, this was the point in his life where his anxiety hit its peak, he felt that songwriting and performing was his only escapism. In an interview with FaceCulture in 2016, said: “performing took my mind off it – dare I say it was therapeutic”. In a one-off intimate performance in 2015, Treays performed new material, “We’re going to be playing some weird stuff, like ‘Lonely Bastard’. I don’t remember writing this, but it says I wrote it six years ago and I must have been pretty depressed at the time.”

Treays has had his fair share of criticism throughout his career – with critics not appreciating his quirky performance style and revealing lyrics, in an interview with The Guardian in 2016 Treays stated “People were a bit iffy about it – I continued to speak about it on other records and things and people tended to be like:  ‘What, you still going through that?’

People get weirded out by it. But it seemed natural to me to talk about it.

However, it is Treays’ reckless attitude, ‘I do whatever I want, I’m not watching anyone else, I’m not trying to fit into any box’ that shows he takes no notice of criticism and makes music for himself. This is a huge selling point for him, and why I particularly like him. In 2018, Treays released an album of B-Sides from the past 10 years of his music career. This was accidentally leaked by a friend of Treays’ from university – a situation in which Treays was able to laugh about, through a statement on Twitter, “that was how we celebrated the fact that Joe went to university!!”

It is unknown what Treays’ new album will sound like – he is no stranger to the personal touch, so that is a given, but the sound has changed with each album and since his last album in 2016, Treays may have adopted a new sound or experienced something that may shape his writing – the wait will definitely be worth it.