Buzz Magazine Interview
This month, founder & director of Cardiff Music Awards Ed Townend was interviewed by sponsors for the awards in all three years Buzz Magazine.
Buzz Magazine continues to be Wales’ premier culture magazine, with extensive listings, previews and reviews of everything important throughout the country.
You can read the full interview with Ed below:
- So, it’s the fourth year of the Cardiff Music Awards, how are you finding it?
Great! I think the first two years were exciting, a new thing both times (2015 the concept, 2017 the ceremony itself) and then last year was slightly tougher, trying to maintain that momentum. I think we’ve reached a point now, in our fourth year, where the music awards are seen as a part of the music scene – and that was my goal from the beginning. I’m currently (as of 9th February) collating the nominees and this year we’ve hit a new record of submissions, we’ve got a huge variety of the scene on offer and I’m so thrilled to be a part of it all again.
- What made you think of organising CMAs in the first place?
It came from about in 2015 and was sparked by a suggestion from my girlfriend at the time. We dropped into the Swn afterparty that year after seeing Foals in the Student’s Union, and she met all of my friends and colleagues from the music scene. I’d had a rough year where I felt I hadn’t contributed to the music scene as much as I could have, and she suggested that seeing as I knew all of these people, surely it would be easy to do something to recognise them? I went home thinking about it and less than twenty four hours later I announced the Cardiff Music Awards.
- The beginning of 2019 was quite rough for music venues as Gwdihw and Buffalo closed down, how do you think it’s going to affect music culture in Cardiff?
We were in a very similar situation in 2017. I feel the scene is stronger as a whole this year than back then, but we still face complicated challenges posed to us by our economic and political climate. Music venues are always the underdogs; they’re not a sustainable business model and they’re almost always one threat away from collapse. The situation with Gwdihw was horrible, systematic of the pure greed we see across this country and the world from those who wish to torch our culture and replace it with another pointless money-spinning endeavour. Buffalo faced horrendous pressure from high rent and business rates, and it was notable that the amount of live gigs there significantly dropped in its last few years because of this. I think the scene has banded together to support what we have left, and whatever is to come; but I think most importantly the government – locally, in Wales and nationally – need to take a good hard look at how they can support grassroots music before it dies out.
- What changes have occurred in Cardiff’s music industry since the Save Womanby Street movement?
I think more people are going to gigs. Not enough people, but certainly more. What Save Womanby Street did more than anything else was to raise awareness of the music scene in Cardiff. It showed the people of this city that the music that lives here isn’t just cover bands or the echoes of Cool Cymru. People became aware that we have talent to rival the biggest worldwide stars playing at our local music venues.
A lot of dedicated people who love our music scene have worked hard to bring about a lot of change in Cardiff since the beginning of 2017. From the Creative Republic of Cardiff not only re-opening The Moon, but supporting artists through workshops and opportunities to the news that Clwb Ifor Bach is bringing a much needed 500 capacity venue to the city to bridge the gap that has been here for years. People whose livelihoods depend on the success of the music scene in Cardiff made sure it stuck around, and I’m glad I get to pay that back in some small way with the awards.
- Cardiff Music Awards helps to support local artists and the local music scene, have you seen a significant/insignificant increase of new artists over these four years?
I think the flow of new artists has stayed continuous. I see new artists come and go, some stick around and some don’t. I’ve seen artists go from playing poorly attended all-ages shows at 14 to headlining sold out shows in Clwb Ifor Bach a few years later. I don’t think we’ll ever stop seeing an influx of new acts, but I think it’ll always stay at the same steady rate. It’s tough to keep going as a musician or a band because even though it’s exciting and fun to play a gig, there’s so much hard work, time and money that goes into getting there in the first place. So many acts I know and love have stopped playing music not because they lost their passion, but because they simply couldn’t continue and survive whilst doing it. I admire the ones who keep going against the odds, continuing to make exciting music that’s full of passion, because that’s what keeps our scene alive.
- What should we be expecting from CMAs this year?
More. We’ve beefed up the lineup to include a fourth live performance this year, rather than the three in previous years. We have CHROMA, MADI, Mace and HANA2K performing plus DJ sets from DJ Jaffa. We’ve also added new categories – Best Music Photographer and Champion of Under-rated Music to recognise demand for more inclusion and the progress of a growing scene. I think you should also expect the unexpected. Nothing is a dead cert in these awards and I think people relax into thinking they know who has won. There’s always “upsets” for certain people, and I think that’s what makes it exciting – even if I feel like hiding when a winner is announced sometimes!
- One of the things that’s impressive about the UK is its regional music scenes. It’s not just London, but there’s a ‘Manchester’ scene, a ‘Liverpool’ scene, a ‘Glasgow’ scene and so on. What separates Cardiff from the rest? Is there a ‘Cardiff’ sound?
I think Cardiff has a really interesting scene, and a lot of what makes it work comes from its size. It’s not so big that you have separate scenes around different genres, because there aren’t enough different venues for that to be sustainable. On the other hand, it’s not so small that people are going elsewhere from the start to establish themselves. If you’re a Welsh band, your first major goal is to book a gig in Cardiff. I think the fun thing about Cardiff is that – besides maybe an accent – there isn’t a Cardiff sound. It comes from the city’s diversity and experimentation with different genres. You’ve got Valleys rock up against inner city pop up against r’n’b from Butetown, and they all happen within 20 feet of each other on Womanby St!
- If you could recommend one place in Wales to a first-time visitor that’s not on the tourist maps and off-the-beaten-track, where would it be and why?
My dad took me and my daughter to Ystradfellte in Aberdare last summer. It was absolutely gorgeous. The beauty of the valleys overwhelms you and you can just ignore the rest of the world. I’m a city boy through and through, Cardiff born and Cardiff bred, but you’ve got to get away from it once in a while.