When music producers suggest Ashton Lane relocate to Nashville, as they often do, they’re given short shrift. The band wouldn’t dream of leaving their beloved Glasgow.
“This is our home,” Esther O’Connor lead singer of the Americana band says emphatically. “We have everything we need right here. We’re very inspired by Nashville but nah, we don’t want to live in the US.”
Ashton Lane prove that in the digital age you don’t need to reside in a music capital, or have a record deal, to build a successful career. The key is to nurture your fanbase.
The band, a family affair consisting of O’Connor, her husband Tim and her dad Graeme Duffin of Wet West Wet fame, share the entire creative process with their fans.
They have a mailing list of 40,000, a blog, a popular YouTube channel and an app (created with digital platform gigrev.com). The app gives fans access to real time videos of the band in the studio, rehearsing and on tour, and first access to demos, singles and albums.
“These days you can’t work alone in the studio for months or years making an album and then just expect people to buy it,” says O’Connor.
“People like to see what’s going on behind the scenes, not just the shiny finished product.”
The strategy is working; Ashton Lane have sold more than 20,000 albums independently and their single Breathe You In off their new EP Winter Star went straight to number 1 in the UK country music charts on release.
Breathe You In – Ashton Lane
Fans are also invited to be part of the songwriting process. They can share personal stories that they feel would make good song material. If the band like the idea, they’ll run with it. The contributing fan gets a percentage of the royalties.
“We call them bespoke songs, and they’ve been really successful,” says O’Connor. “Obviously we write a lot by ourselves for ourselves, but country music is all about storytelling. This just another form of that process.
“It has to be something that captures our imagination. One couple told us they had celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary with a trip around the US, seeing different bands perform live in different cities. I thought ‘I can work with that’.
“Another fan wanted a song about his experiences as a younger man travelling around Australia. The song, Wanderlust, will be on our next album due out in 2018.”
Wanderlust – Aston Lane
While self-sufficiency affords the band real freedom, it’s hard work keeping the business wheels turning. Sometimes it gets too much, admits O’Connor.
“We love the business side of things but when we’re on the road we can’t do it all ourselves. We need outside help. It’s always hectic when we go on the road because Tim and I take our children [aged four and two] with us. So there’s a lot going on.
“Thankfully my mum acts as tour manager and helps out with the children. It turns into a wee family adventure. Then we all head back together to Glasgow.”
Ashton Lane is currently touring Europe and will release a new album in September 2018.
Esther O’Connor’s tips to build your mailing list
- Work on increasing your product range. Use the revenue from selling albums, T-shirts and vinyl to cover the costs of online advertising.
- Reply to as many people personally as you can or hire someone to deal with your emails. A well-engaged small list can be worth more than a huge list that isn’t engaged.
- Keep people engaged with free content from your blog every week.
- Offer a free giveaway in return for an email address. (We offer a free album).
- Run a Facebook competition. Ask people to enter their name and email and share the post to be in with the chance of winning a bundle of your products, or gig tickets.
Article By: BRONWYN BIDWELL