Dominic Elton, founder of Mayfield Records, writes about his love of music, his record label, and the music festival of his dreams.
I LOVE MUSIC.
I have loved music from as early as I can remember. However, I could never have imagined working in the music industry in a full-time capacity, so I spent my early years studying science, with biology another significant interest of mine.
Despite these early years studying science, I have always been involved with various music projects, including several originals bands as both a songwriter and keyboard player. Creating music has always been a wonderful tonic for me during stressful times and periods of anxiety.
Inevitably though, after graduating university with a science-related qualification, I spent the next 20-plus years in science-related employment. Initially, this was as a biology teacher, and then within the pharmaceutical industry, before more recently running my own healthcare business delivering cardiac ultrasound services to the NHS.
Throughout this whole period though, I was never that far away from my piano, constructing chord progressions, melodies and hooks (I’m an awful lyricist), based heavily around my obsession with northern soul.
I was introduced to northern soul aged 14, as a young mod attending my first ever ‘soul do’. That moment changed my life and I have been fascinated with mod culture ever since.
It’s interesting that both mod culture and northern soul have never really diminished. I still attend soul nights and there are always young people present to keep the flame burning. Why is the scene still so vibrant? For me, it simply comes down to the songs; exquisite melodies, heartfelt lyrics, delicious jazz chords, and driving beats.
This brings me to the present day and my running of Mayfield Records – a creative hub that incorporates a recording studio, record label, live-stream services, video production, as well as a house band.
Mayfield Records is not about soul music, but it is about ‘the song’. Our releases must incorporate those key elements derived from soul music, with melody and meaning at the very core of each production.
Running Mayfield Records has given me the opportunity to work with so many young, talented, up-and-coming artists. It has also given me insight into the prevalence of mental health problems experienced by young people. It’s probably a cliché, but I think I would struggle to be a young person today.
It’s no wonder from reading the above why I felt a natural affiliation with Tonic Music for Mental Health. What they are doing is crucial and I love all the mod and northern soul related merchandise!
Young up-and-coming artists need to be cherished, supported and nurtured. My time here at Mayfield Studios has shown me first-hand that there is some incredible new music being created and produced. But the divide between what I’m seeing at grassroots level and what’s been broadcast is palpable. The influencers too often play it safe, which has created a divide almost impossible to bridge.
Inequalities in the streaming world and at corporate-led music festivals are intense and real. For a ‘new wave’ to emerge, new music needs to be at the very forefront of change.
As we are still within the music festival season, the rest of this blog will focus on this key area where the balance needs to be reset. Let’s go back a few years to a ‘happening’ music festival around the late 60s or early 70s. I bet you can imagine the look and feel of it, right?
Hang on, let’s change this around a little; rather than have the new, up-and-coming artists of the day headlining the show, let’s invite artists that had previously secured big hits 40 or so years prior. So, we’re now talking artists from the 1920s and 30s, right? And then pay them huge sums of cash for the privilege of performing songs from that distant past, that of course we’ve all heard a thousand times.
Let’s then add another group of singers and bands, albeit slightly further down the pecking order, that completely mimic some of those said performers from 40 or so years prior. Yes, cover bands and tribute acts are ubiquitous at the modern-day festival.
Finally, for the newer, less well-known artists, let’s just add them to a few peripheral, much smaller stages, and pay them absolutely nothing for material they’ve no doubt been writing and perfecting in the previous months leading up to the event. In other words, new music. Sounds almost ludicrous, doesn’t it!
So, in my ‘ideal world’, this is how my dream festival would look:
TOTAL revenue ring-fenced for performers shared EQUALLY between ALL performers (established or not) – pro rata based on length of performance and number of performers on stage
No main stage, but a range of different stages
No VIP area
Fair prices for food and drink (sourced locally)
More than adequate amenities / toilet facilities for all
No voluntary workers – everyone paid for their time
Zero revenue for booking agencies or promoters
ALL ticket sales direct to artists and festival staff
Diverse range of artists across an extensive range of music genres and subcultures
No festival hierarchy with associated ‘special’ arrangements
Only original music performed – no cover bands or tribute acts
Festivalgoers permitted to bring their own food and soft drinks into the festival
Complete transparency, with timely, open and honest communications with all participants
Not having the same handful of artists performing multiple times across the weekend
Well, we can all dream, can’t we?
Keeping the Faith.