The Unsigned Guide moves into it's fourth edition this year, bigger and better than ever it remains the one book no band can afford to be without! Crammed full of contacts and useful information it's a one stop shop for all things to do with the music industry. We talked to editor Louise Dodgson about how she goes about putting such a mammoth work together:

R13:The Guide is a thoroughly comprehensive book in every aspect; how long did it take to put together and was there a time when you thought it might just be too big a job?

L:Most years, as we make another edition I think to myself 'It's too big a job!' Once you are about 70% of the way there though, there is no going back!

It takes about 6 months of solid work to put together from start to finish research, contacting and updating our company listings, proofreading, gathering advice contributions from music organisations, the final layout, and then sending it to print. There's over 8000 contact listings in there so it is a very arduous task, and there's not really any shortcuts available to take. We just have to get stuck in & keep our minds fixed on how wonderful the finished product will be!


R13:Obviously you pass the test because Room Thirteen is in there but it must be very hard to keep track of every new webzine that crops up?

L:There are always going to be a few things that we miss, although we do have the added bonus of having an online version of The Unsigned Guide, so if anything does get missed from the printed edition we can always add it to the online directory.

We post daily news and regular blogs on our website so we do manage to keep our fingers on the pulse as much as we can, and keep our eyes and ears open for new webzines, and other music-related businesses. If anyone does ever find that we have missed a listing that they feel should be in there, we would actively encourage them to get in touch and let us know. We're always happy to receive feedback and suggestions!


R13:The 'You & the Music Industry' section of the book is new to this edition and essential reading for any band, did you find the industry willing contributors?

L:Yes, very willing actually. We have had relationships with some of the contributors such as Musicians' Union, IFPI and AIM for years now, and they are always keen to get involved in our latest edition.

In this edition we wanted to get more advice and contributions from some of the more influential music companies out there that can really help bands, so we have some great info from the likes of Soundcloud, Slicethepie and Zimbalam. Sentric Music provided some info about getting your music featured on TV, film, adverts and games, Sitcom Soldiers have contributed a beginner's guide to getting a music video made, and BBC Introducing have included details of how you can put yourselves forward to get playlisted on their nationwide radio programmes or to play on their emerging stages at festivals. All useful and informative stuff!


R13:It must be gratifying to get positive feedback from bands at every level, what kind of reaction have you had to the book from bands and are there any that have since gone on to make it?

L:We always get a really positive response about the Guide which is brilliant! We certainly don't take anything for granted, and are always very chuffed when anyone says something nice about the Guide.

To have bands, managers, music students, independent labels and so on tell me that they've found the book really useful and that it has helped them move forward is very rewarding and usually makes me blush a bit!

So far there haven't been any hugely famous bands that have made it from The Unsigned Guide or not anything that have told us anyway! But you never know who may rising to the top! We do hear from many great bands at a local level who have used the Guide to get a manager or booked a whole UK tour. We have quite a lot of bands who tell us they have used the book for everything from sorting merchandise, getting legal representation, getting CDs duplicated and they claim it is their 'bible' so we're just pleased to help artists move onto the next rung of the ladder.



R13:What's your background in the industry and how did you come to be involved in the guide?

L:Most of my music industry experience has revolved around The Unsigned Guide to be honest. I started helping out there in 2003 as a researcher for the directory and eventually got a paid role doing this. As we are only a very small business I have pretty much ended up helping out with most things at some time or other, including working at our unsigned band night every week for 2 years from 2004 to 2006.

Since I've started working here, I've been able to get other bits of work at one-off events such as local festivals, and I worked at the Gorillaz gig in 2005 at Manchester Opera House which was amazing! Over the years my role here has developed from managing the research of the listings to overseeing all content for the book and, more recently, for our website so I get to be involved in a lot of different areas.



R13:Obviously the internet has made access to a wider audience so much easier for bands out there but it's also made the competition that much harder, is there still hope for aspiring bands or are the odds even shorter than they were 10,15 or 20 years ago?

L:I think there is plenty of hope! Yes, there is more competition but there are so many more great opportunities for bands and artists these days. If you look back a few years most major festivals didn't have any unsigned presence on their bills, but now pretty much every festival, big or small, has a dedicated emerging stage. There are lots more opportunities for radio airplay as shows regularly incorporate local talent into their playlisting which happened very rarely a few years ago.

A band can get their music distributed to online stores such as iTunes without the assistance of a label; there's just so much more artists can do for themselves these days which I think is definitely a positive thing.

As I said there is obviously a lot more competition out there, but if you have what it takes then all these opportunities should equate to more chances to show everybody how great your music is, which has to be a good thing. And at the end of the day, not everybody wants to be hugely famous. Quite a lot of musicians just want to be able to make a decent living from their music and I think this is a lot more achievable these days.



R13:There is an online version of the guide now, did that process provide fresh motivation for additional possibilities and features?

L:Yes, absolutely! The online directory has allowed us to add some great search filters so you can quickly bring up results by city or by genre. You can search our venues section by capacity. Although there is still demand for the book, you can find the info you need so much quicker and refine your searches more in the online version. Plus, it can be accessed anywhere, anytime.

A great bonus for us is that if contact details for a company listing change we can update the details straight away, so users have the most up to date info available to them. And we're not limited to pages as we are with the book, so we can continue adding new listings and information all year round.

We have loads of exciting stuff in the pipeline for our online service over the next few months so I'm really looking forward to getting the developments underway!



R13:With a few notable exceptions the music industry was always a very male dominated environment, do you think that's changed now or do you still find some of the 'old school' attitudes towards women?

L:Although this is an industry which has historically been dominated by men I think there are plenty of females around and coming up through the ranks, more than most people realise, which is a great thing.

I have very rarely felt that my gender has affected my career, certainly in my current role. I've probably experienced more problems when I used to rep our unsigned gigs from bands who didn't want to be told what to do by a girl. That said, there were also plenty of great unsigned bands who were very professional and never gave me any problems at all. You just have to take these things with a pinch of salt. Anybody who doesn't give you the time of day because you're a female working in the music business is more than likely an idiot in all areas of their life and not worth worrying about!


R13:What's next for you on a personal level, where do you see yourself in five years time?

L:At the moment my goals involve taking the online version of The Unsigned Guide to the next level. We do have some more exciting plans up our sleeve so there is always something new to aim for.

Ultimately, it would be wonderful if one day The Unsigned Guide could be licensed to other countries as a blueprint for a music industry guide and band management system...then perhaps I could go abroad to help to roll it out! New York would be very nice!


R13:Aside from reading the book, what would be your top tip for any band starting out?

L:I do get asked this quite a lot, and it is a tricky question to answer. The advice you give does massively depend on what direction a band is hoping to take; do they want to focus on touring, or get into the studio? Are they wanting to get on with it themselves as much as possible, or approach a manager or label? Do they want super stardom or do they just want to make a decent living?

I think, regardless of what direction you want to go in, the key factor that makes everything possible is a strong fanbase and you must work hard to interact and connect with your fans, and of course, keep that fanbase growing! The fans are the ones that are going to spend money on your releases or merchandise and come to your gigs, no matter what level you aiming for, so be good to them!