Extract from the Rolling Stone Guide to Credible Songwriters, 2026:
“Bill Morris’ debut album was released to immediate, widespread acclaim and strong sales in three continents. Luxuriating in his new found fame and artistic credibility, Bill was finally able to relax, sifting with casual disdain through the piles of pleading, almost desperate, requests from venue managers around New Zealand and the world to have him play at their bars and clubs. With record companies engaged in open bidding wars to produce his next album, Morris once again displayed his punk rock credibility by thumbing his nose at them all and recording his next album in a cabin in the Swiss Alps with legendary indie folk producer …………………”
It’s raining again in Port Chalmers. I stumble back from the pub and check my emails to see if any of the dozen or so venues I’ve approached over the last two weeks have replied. I’m not really surprised to find nothing in my inbox.
Things did, however, get pretty exciting there a few weeks ago when I made my first sale on bandcamp – a full album download! I proudly logged into Paypal to collect my 8 New Zealand dollars (minus bandcamp fees and tax).
Since that initial rush, however, things have slowed down a bit. In an effort to boost sales I thought I’d exploit the loyalty of my colleagues at work, so I left a pile of albums at the reception and sent an email round the building, suggesting they might make a worthwhile (and extremely tasteful) addition to people’s collections. After a couple of weeks sitting there gathering dust, the albums did eventually fly off the shelf – when the cleaner knocked the pile over (going for the dust.) Luckily the cases were undamaged and the pile was returned to its resolute, prominent glory, undiminished by either its tumble or by a single sale.
Welcome to the realities of being an independent musician Bill!
OK, so the lesson here is, releasing an album means almost nothing. Making the record’s the easy bit. Now comes the real hard work- getting people to listen; and that means getting out there on the road. Booking tours as an unknown artist is a bit of a struggle – it’s a classic Catch 22 situation – the venues are reluctant to book an unknown entity, yet in order to get a following you need to be booking gigs.
For inspiration I have some good friends who have carved out this path ahead of me – people like Jo Little and Jared Smith and the guys in the Eastern. Over the last few years I’ve watched Adam and the Eastern return time and time again to Dunedin, playing every venue and gig there is to play in town. I’ve watched their audience grow to the point where they now pack the place out every time they play here. Much has been said of this band’s work ethic, but I liked hearing this little snippet that popped up on the New Zealand Herald’s website, in which Adam talks to Bernie Griffen about the faith required to do independent music. As Adam explains, you have to keep “topping up” your faith – to keep believing in what you’re doing, even when it might appear that no one else does.
I suppose I’m just really just starting out on the road that people like this have been treading for years – and I’m not sure I could ever really do what some of these guys do, living on the road constantly. But I am acutely aware that nothing comes from nothing and if I actually want people to take notice of this album I’ve made, it’s time to take it to them.
So hopefully I’ll see you out there somewhere soon! (If I can just get a damn gig in Hamilton that is….)