Mellow-indie man in MusicLab: Stuart Newman

Daisy BlacklockYouGovLabs writer
April 27, 2012, 3:21 PM GMT+0

A mini MusicLab project put an unsigned musician in touch with new music fans. Read, listen and comment below

Stuart Newman is a Brighton-based mellow-indie singer-songwriter who collaborated with MusicLab to find out what new music fans thought about his work to date.

A self-made musician, Newman’s work has been lauded in the past as “genuinely strange and original” by BBC 6 Music host Tom Robinson, and the Looprevil Press called it “therapy for the pessimist”.

However we wanted to get new music fans in MusicLab playing critic instead – not just with regards to Newman’s song-producing abilities, by listening and commenting on two of his tracks, but by looking at his online presence too, and giving constructive feedback.

Newman has a clear vision for how he wants to present himself as an artist – but ever keen to find out how to improve or hone what he’s doing already, we got those who took part looking at his website to tell him what they thought worked well, and what could be worked on.

Then finally, we asked participants to give Stuart some pointers as to any unconventional means of grabbing attention he could try out – you can read their suggestions towards the end of this report.

Here’s what those who took part had to say about the man, and the music…

1. Stuart’s sound

New music fans were asked to listen to two of Stuart’s tracks, rating them out of 10 for vocals, instrumentals, lyrics, production –and critically – originality, and commenting on what they heard.

Both tracks received all kinds of feedback, but the second track (Feel the Temperature Rising) rated slightly better - people seemed to enjoy the more upbeat tempo and ‘interesting’ vocals.

There were a lot of comments on the style of music. While some people admitted it was not their usual thing, others noticed similarities to other bands – Radiohead was mentioned frequently (but are one of Stuart’s major influences). Several of the participants who enjoyed what they heard said they would listen to it when relaxing, ‘chilling with friends’ or ‘in a pub’.

Track One: '(We’re Living In) Another Dimension'

Press the arrow on the Soundcloud player below to listen to Stuart’s track

(We're Living In) Another Dimension by Stuart Newman by stuarttnewman

While some people loved the lyrics and production; others found them ‘repetitive’ or ‘distracting’. It was clear that people had completely different opinions on the same aspects of the song, although most people seemed to agree that the instruments were well played and relevant. Most of the comments focused around:

  • The lyrics – interesting vs. repetitive
  • The background effects – a good addition to the mood vs. distracting
  • The instrumentals – there should be more of them!

Click on to the headings below to discover participants' ratings and comments:

Track One – Ratings out of 10

Vocals: 5.0

Instrumentals: 5.6

Lyrics: 4.9

Production: 5.0

Originality: 5.0

What did participants LIKE about the song?

“Sounded original, simple tune but melodic” Darren, South Glamorgan

“It had a good feel to it; I would like to listen to the song in a bar or when friends were over” Matt, Cardiff

“I liked the effect at the beginning of a crowd noise, making it seem live. I liked the chord progressions and drum partsChris B, Kent

“I like the strength of the instrumentals, sounds positive and unapologetic” Anon

I like how the music builds from beginning to end. I wasn’t enjoying it so much at the beginning but it definitely improved throughout the song. Listening to it again knowing that made a difference to the way I viewed the songAnon

“I was glad the tempo picked up as I thought it began too slowly. Your vocal sound has potential, especially in the mid - lower ranges where there is warmth and colour” Anon

“I liked the laid back feel and the original approach to combining background noise with overlaid melodyAnon

“The song

was lyrically interesting

and has a generally listenable alt/rock sound”


…And what did they think could be IMPROVED?

“I disliked the production of the song. The echo distracted me from the melody and I found the background noises annoying. I suspect I'd have liked the song far more as a guitar-backed solo with no other accompanimentAlun H, West Yorkshire

The lyrics were very simple. They could be more creative and interesting. It would add to the surreal atmosphere of the song” Anon

“There was very little that grabbed me or interested me, musically. There needs to be a more interesting musical or lyrical hook. I want to hear something in the song that gets in my head” Elizabeth R, Fife

“The backing was a bit overpowering and the tune a bit repetitive. He has a good voice but needs to up into a bit higher register” Anon

“I thought the production was quite raw. Vocal was fine but the instruments seemed low in the mix and slightly distorted” David T, Ayrshire

The background noise was a bit too loud and distracting at times and the 'sing along' effect of the backing singer(s) slightly off-key was disconcerting” Anon

“A bit

more of the instrumental part

– would have been good if it had been given more of a free rein” Peter, North London

Track Two: “Feel The Temperature Rising”

Press the arrow on the Soundcloud player below to listen to Stuart’s track

'Feel the Temperature Rising' [AUDIO] by Stuart Newman by stuarttnewman

This track scored better overall – with instrumentals again the most popular aspect. There was a lot more debate about the vocals – whether people could hear them properly and an undecided verdict on falsetto singing! Overall more people said that this was a catchy, upbeat song which sounded like ‘a hit.’

A lot of the comments focused on:

• High pitched singing – good or bad?

• Instrumentals – great crescendo vs. too loud

• Vocals effects – layering of voices and trouble hearing some of the lyrics

Click on to the headings below to discover participants' ratings and comments:

Track Two - Ratings out of 10

Vocals: 5.1

Instrumentals: 6.0

Lyrics: 4.8

Production: 5.4

Originality: 5.3

What did participants LIKE about the song?

“I liked the guitar part at the beginning. The falsetto voice works well in this style of music and I liked the outro” Chris B, Kent

“I liked the build-up and crescendo. The vocals are very good as is the production. The song moves with the lyrics. I like the acoustic guitar and the overlaying of voices at the end.” Anon

Lots more energy was a big improvement, reminded me of Jefferson Starship and similar at times, which is no bad thing. Instruments were more prominent and built the tempo nicely” Anon

“This song starts off well, the guitar backing is delicate and interesting, the vocals are in tune, there is a clearly defined melody, which is memorable. The vocals were interesting, and were pleasant to the earBen, Birmingham

“I enjoyed this track much more than the previous one, there is more variety in the vocal and instrumental styleAnon

Like the vocals, very different from the first track and shows a lot of range and originality. Still has the heavy backing which I like. Production is much sharperDave J Southam

All the instruments work well together, it’s nice to have a song with what sounds like real instruments rather than samples” Mike Smith, Gloucester

…And what did they think could be IMPROVED?

Diction is not especially clear, and the drums in much the heavier section are predictable and uninteresting: could be more ambitious?” E Spoor, Gloucestershire

“The higher pitch of this track has a good overall sound but at the same time I found it hard to pick out the lyrics – therefore I didn't feel like I connected with the song as I couldn't understand its message” Anon

“It was a good song, but it went on a bit at the end. Could have done with being shorter” Anon

“As the music progressed vocals became difficult to hear/understand as I felt guitars were too loud. Lacking in a really good hook/chorusHutch, Colchester

Double or even triple track the main vocal and be brave in cutting back on echo and reverb at times, offset the second and possibly third copies by a frame and play around with dropping one by half an octave in the chorusAnon

Could do with the vocals being a bit louder. Again starts off quiet then gets too noisy for me as the song progresses. Can't normally be on the volume control all the time” Anon

“The layers of vocals clashed in the middle section when the intonation was a little off between the different layers” Chris B, Kent

2. - your reviews

Many participants picked up on the time and effort that has clearly gone into Stuart’s website. The majority of participants appreciated the free music downloads available on the site, and generally thought the website was quite strong overall.

The least popular area was the homepage, although a similar amount of people were impressed by its simplicity and striking design.

Below, participants offer their feedback and advice:

Professional-looking site. However, the images from videos on the video page look very similar even though they're different songs” Chris B, Kent

“It’s a fairly good site, needs improvement on the text fonts and could do with a little more colourAnon

“Thought the site was very good. The only downside was that certain pages took a while to load properly, and I'm on cable broadband! eg Photos, Music, Videos” Gaz, Somerset

“Black is good but can you have too much black? Content is OK and the player at the bottom of browser window is cool. Loads quickly and does look slick. These criticisms are nit-picking as it is definitely above average of most sitesAnon

“I think it’s great. Loads of links to things, pictures, info about him and the free downloads are a great idea tooAnon

“The news/blog page could do with having more defined columns to make it easier to read and process the information quickly. The content is good, there’s a lot on there and the biography page could be slightly expanded. Would be really good to have a separate tab for tour/gig dates – past and upcoming” Holly, Manchester

“It's pretty good but the Home Page is not inviting – if I'd just stumbled onto the Home Page, rather than doing this survey, I wouldn't have explored further” Jez, Surrey

3. Participants suggest ways for Stuart to get 'unconventional'

Stuart has a definite social media presence, a website … so what unconventional form of self-promotion could he have a go at? This was the final question we put to YouGov panellists with an interest in new music. A few of them pointed out that putting a survey on YouGov was a good start!

Participants – some of them active musicians – rather took to the challenge to suggest these alternative ruses…

Get social media-savvy

“A 'live' Twitter session, with links to different songs as you play them live. Set yourself a target of creating one song a week/two weeks, and publish them online, as an on-going project” Anon

Learn how to do SEO (search engine optimisation) and website promotion, which will involve more than just building a site about yourself – you need to appeal to fans of other bands/musicians in your field, and get your site in front of themGaz, Somerset

Video diaries of you writing / recording / developing your songs would be interesting” James S, London

Sign up to Google+ and do hangouts with your fans – maybe even play music live in a hangout. Other artists are finding it valuable – and fans love the fact that we get some personal contact with the artist” Andy J, Scottish Borders

Exposure, exposure, exposure!

“A free gig for local students or a free tour of Universities (depending on finances)” Matt, Cardiff

Tour the USA, even if it means spending weeks driving hundreds of miles across the continent, playing small local venues. That's how all the big bands did it in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, and there's no substitute!” Anon, London

“Try busking and approach TV stations to do a documentary on real life buskers” Anon

“Get the local paper interested in you /your gig and get a free write up. Leave flyers in pubs and clubs and coffee bars” Anon

“Try to get your music used in an advert or program promo. I've very recently discovered a band due to the fact I heard their music on an advert” Mike S, Gloucester

Get ice cream vans to play your songs instead of chimes” Anon

Use the fans!

Record a couple of tracks that fans can only get hold of at a gig by bringing a USB stick with them to download direct off a PC at the gig, it’s a kind of 'reward' for supporting you live and on record” Anon, Kent

Free gigs to your top 'likers' on Facebook” Paul G, Bournemouth

Get fans and interested parties involved in creating your next album” Anon

Organise a local festival of music, poetry, authors and artists to showcase their work” Denise L, Merseyside

Free targeted tracks to fans” Keith C, Lincoln

Why not pull a stunt?

“You could organize a flash mob to sing one of your songs somewhere notable” Alun H, West Yorks

Have a large bag of leaf shaped gold pieces of paper with your web address on it. You'll need thousands. Put them in a number of black bin bags. Hire a helicopter. Fly over a parliament square and release the leaves” Anon

Play a gig on a bus that you tour the country on, kit it out as a mini venue” Nick, Oldham

Stuart's final words:

"Thanks to everyone who took part in the survey! The more information I have, the more I can decide how to move forward.

The survey has given me an idea of how different types of people feel towards certain aspects of what I do, and that’s always useful to know.

I think great artists can sometimes divide people, so I’m pleased that that seems to have been a theme in the responses given. I intend to divide people further."

Want to find out more about Stuart Newman's music?

Visit his official website or follow him on Facebook or Twitter @stuartnewman

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