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Ever since I first saw the Secret Policeman’s Ball footage of “Glad To Be Gay” from 1979 I’ve been a huge admirer of Tom Robinson. Subsequently, when I became a full-time independent musician (then later a label hassler) and was looking for ways of both promoting myself and discovering new music, my admiration for Tom was renewed and reinforced. Through his radio shows, lectures and blogs he has become a sort of Gandalf figure to the DIY Fellowship (do I go too far?). Indeed, over the years Tom has given almost everyone on the Debt roster their first taste of national radio airplay, a tremendous boost in morale to any artist. His influence on the current UK independent scene is inestimable.

Over the last couple of years I’ve tried many ways to keep myself from becoming too cynical. It’s not easy though. I’ve seen floundering artists rebrand themselves as entrepreneurs, play-acting with a dwindling currency of second-hand industry fairytale jargon; seen good venues close down, seen bad ones get worse, decent promoters give up completely, corrupt ones become ever more predatory… It’s sometimes hard to stay optimistic.

Even harder is maintaining a sense of context. For a while I developed a kind of tunnel-vision wherein all I could see was my own band and the world’s reaction to it.

And this is where Fresh On The Net came to the rescue. It’s a website that grew out of Tom’s BBC Introducing show. As well as featuring guest articles and how-to pieces pertaining to the music industries there’s a listening post where bands submit their tracks for feedback (and a possible play on the radio). For me what began as a place to throw my own stuff became a place to be reminded about the diversity of new/underground UK music. And yes, some of it is utterly dreadful. And some of it transcends superlatives. But crucially, all of it means something to someone.
Since that first introduction I’ve made it a part of my general routine to visit the listening post every week and remind myself of the wider community of artists I belong to as an independent practitioner.
In this sense, I guess Fresh On The Net is my periscope.

And this week I got an email from Tom asking me if I’d like to join his team.
And I said yes.

See you at the Listening Post.