She’s In Parties: Bassist Charlie Johnson’s advice on the inner workings of the music industry

By Thomas Jackson

20 May 2024

Just after forming, She’s In Parties found themselves on the back foot. Their dreams met at a standstill as the Covid pandemic swept across the UK. You would think a long pause before ever really getting started could have been enough to break even the most resolute of musicians.

However, this Colchester four-piece, with their make-or-break attitude, have kicked on through and are now reaping the rewards of their hard work.

With over 9,000 monthly listeners and thousands of views on their music videos, She’s in Parties have supported the likes of The Last Dinner Party (BBC Radio’s Sound of 2024 winners) and The Amazons alongside smaller headline shows of their own.

We sat down with bassist Charlie Johnson to get his insights into the music industry, his advice for new bands, and the time he met James Blunt.

READ MORE: Advice from other pros; The Amazons

What were She’s In Parties’ initial challenges?

We’ve definitely had some fuck ups. Like when we went to Manchester on our EP tour. I had driven for five hours, and we dropped off our stuff at some random Airbnb and headed straight for the venue. We were setting everything up and then Katie shouts “Fuck! I’ve left the backing tracks at the Airbnb.” I offer to go as it’s about twenty-minute drive, but it means I’m not going to sound check now. I get the tracks and as I’m going to leave, the Manchester City vs United game has just finished. I’m sat in the car praying to God. I get back not long before we’re on stage and have 30 seconds to set up. I didn’t even have time to switch the amp on. Turned out that the amp was on max volume. In this building, which has already got a lot of cracks in it, I’m thinking “Dear God I’m about to kill a lot of people”.  So, for the first song I’m desperately nudging the volume down on my pedals and still trying to play. At the end of the song the sound guy asked me to turn the bass down. If only I had the chance in the first place.

What other challenges do you face?

Social media. It can be crippling. It’s what all labels want to see. Going live on Tick Tok and Instagram. Having positive interactions on an almost daily basis.

So, is it a numbers game now?

Very much so. Labels will look at likes on your pages and they will look at your percentage growth every month. Which is supposed to be like 3-5%. At one point ours was at 8% which was really good. You’ve got to be on it every day.

Unless you already have some insane connections to Warner or a record company like that, then media is king. 

In terms of record deals, one like ours is fairly short and very artist friendly. [Submarine Cat records] cover recording and promotion costs. They’re a great bunch of people and it’s always like that. It’s a good thing when you go with a smaller label. Even though you probably won’t get the coverage you have with big labels, when you’re starting out, you want people that will go through that process with you. If you aim for something big you might not be prepared for it. 

Is it easier to get to those smaller labels?

Labels will reach out to you generally. Discovery festivals are very good for this sort of thing. But labels generally don’t like it if you send them music, it’s a bit weird. There will be a lot of scouts at festivals and often not in the places that you would expect them to be. But obviously if they show an interest in you, if they ask, send them all your stuff.

What about sending music to platforms like BBC introducing?

They have people checking uploads all the time and we ended up on their playlists. It’s one of the best ways of getting your name recognised by these people that support grassroots music. Take Angelle [Joseph], she does everything you could ever want for an artist. She helped us play at Latitude on the introducing stage and record at Maida Vale studios. Which certainly was a bucket list item for me.  

I think if you want to get to that wider audience, I would recommend BBC Introducing because their stages are always good. They’ve always got good bands on and pretty much always have an audience. We were playing at Latitude Introducing Stage the same time as The Kooks were headlining and we still had a full crowd. In the pouring rain. It’s insane.

What is your advice for new bands that are trying to break into the industry? Is hard to get started?

Support slots are good. But bands tend to pick who they are friends with, which can be annoying. But it makes sense. Having been on tour, you’d rather be stuck with a band that you can get along with. We were with Bleach Lab having a great time in Manchester and got absolutely hammered in a gay bar. That was great. There was a lot of karaoke.

I have met some amazing people. Tripped up Declan McKenna, had a pee with Tom Brennan. Got to open for James Marriot who follows us on Twitter and Instagram. He’s great. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet Del La Sol, the rest of the band did. I was getting chips. But I did meet with Pale Waves because of that.  James Blunt…

Where did you meet him?

It was my management’s Christmas party. He turned up quite late and said, “Musicians, ay? Fuck ‘em”. Just another really nice bloke who is as funny in real life as he is in his tweets. I just about remember talking to him because I had downed 17 gins by this point. But he was talkative with everyone.

So, should getting a manager be the next step?

Don’t put pressure on trying to get a manager. Chances are someone will reach out and say, “Have you got management”? And at that point you can see what they’re about. But don’t just accept the first thing. Chances are it won’t be what you’re after. You have to do your homework on them. Focus on doing gigs around your local area building yourself up, building up your reputation, then slowly move out. Someone will reach out to you. You just got to put in the work and keep waiting. It will happen. It should happen. I can’t guarantee it will happen. You just keep working and keep putting yourself in places where people will be there to listen and to expand on you. You can’t really do any more.

But saying that, having one does help when it comes to creativity and songwriting. People tend to have differing opinions and the best thing to do is take all those opinions and do them all. Chances are, one of them will be the right one and you leave it to the judge of your manager. If you don’t have one, send it to a friend, a random one. See what they say cause a band will tend to disagree on what they think they should do.

So, it’s good to scrap with the band?

Yeah, fight with your band mates. Do that all you want. Highly recommend it. Because it shows that you care for your opinion, and you care for the band if you’re really putting yourself forward. You may disagree with people, and you might not win all these fights. But it’s important that you show that you care. I think if you just sit there and mope around or don’t really have any input or don’t do what you want to. It natively impacts all your other band mates and that’s not something they want. It holds people back.

When it all comes together, is it worth it?

You know, it’s not going to pay well. Sometimes you will feel absolutely wiped after driving seven hours in a day just to go to a gig and play it and you have to drive another two hours to go to your lodging. But there’s nothing else like it. You experience insane things, and you won’t get that anywhere else. So, if your heart’s in it. Absolutely, yes go for it. It’s what I want to do and it’s what I’m going to keep doing because its fucking incredible.

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