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Barry Ratcliffe Interview
By MuzikMan
(more articles from this author)
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MuzikMan: Who is Barry Ratcliffe and how did the whole BURBs project begin?

Barry: Barry Ratcliffe is a normal geezer, from England and found himself taking an interest in guitar based music from an early age. Memories of dancing to the Shadows with a badminton racket hold strong. First obsession was a band called "Madness", I collected all their singles, had the lot. Then at the age of fifteen I found myself interested in the "Mod" movement which had just died out really after "The Jam's demise. Can't help being born at the wrong time though, I quickly discovered The Who. I think it was the love of The Who which acted as the stamp, I love rock music. Then one day I met a local band and I was signed up as their manager, small band, small town, same story. I did a good job but a family member of one of the musicians convinced everyone I wasn't good, I was. That ended, just at a time I signed up to the Internet for the first time (1996). I was a little disappointed because I wanted to do a web site for the band. I decided to do one anyway for the project of it. Somehow, then, the BURBs idea appeared. I came out with "BURBS" so instantly, and then immediately broke down what it should stand for (initially it was BRITISH UNSIGNED ROCK BAND SITE). The original idea was to make web pages for bands who weren't on the net, as it wasn't as big then as it is now. Bands with sites didn't get anything then one day I set up 'BURBs on the Web' (now known as the Band Directory). From that day on, the site has grew and grew....

MuzikMan: Can you site any driving forces that are responsible for your focus and drive to change music?

Barry: When I managed the band I mentioned I was so full of passion and felt responsible for bringing this great band into the public. It was bloody hard work. I wanted to create a site that I would of liked, as a manager. After 1 year I realized just how amazingly good a majority of the bands really are. They all have the same story, rejection letters, if they're lucky. Some, at the top end of the scale, set up their own label but still are not 'heard' by anyone. Meanwhile, the charts are offering a feast of boy/girl bands for thirteen year olds. Some 'bands' are around and are usually hugely successful which is why labels are careful to sign 'risks'. My focus is my prime directive: To get the people to hear this music. I don't think BURBs is capable of changing anything - it should help the British music scene as a place of discovery. When we all have instant connections and nice sound systems, BURBs is gonna be awesome, totally excellent place to be - if you love music.

MuzikMan: Has there been interest from any well know artists in Great Britain regarding your site?

Barry: Well, Bob (each man has his price Bob,) Ezrin was rumored to be aware of BURBs and keen to help. No contact since though. I have 'nagged' Pete Townshend a bit, I was hoping he would help fund it and promote it. If it had serious backing and abilities BURBs would take off. It's warming up right now, after fours years of improving. We need much more public awareness.

MuzikMan: What has been the reaction of members of BURBs to MuzikMan and our affiliation?

Barry: Bands are always keen to find the useful people, as a community we have seen some total tossers come and go. It's nice to find the Muzikman who obviously has a high appreciation of music (is my cheque in the post Keith?) Any interest from the United States is welcomed with open arms and hopefully you can help them be heard there.

MuzikMan: What plans do you have for the BURBs site for the year 2000 and beyond?

Barry: There's a few things going on. The biggest, most exciting is an idea for Music on subscription. Basically for an annual subscription fee people would receive a minimum of 6 CDs per year, bi-monthly. A bit like a Readers Digest but British Music on audio CD. To launch this service the first CD will be a double CD, they should both contain CD Audio as well as MP3 versions of all featured music. Extra info will probably be squeezed onto the multimedia section too. We're also going to launch T-shirts, dun it get exciting!?

Another area of concentration will be the CD Store. It is quickly becoming known as a safe place to shop. The best bit about BURBs is that when people order a bands CD, they get the CD direct from the band. This way they do not receive a repackaged "BURBs" CD, they get the real deal. This ensures the bands get 100% artistic freedom. On the bands side of things the BURBs system has its advantage as they can track, precisely, how many CDs they 'really' sell. BURBs artists also get 75% of the transaction too! My 25 is cut into, by the credit card clearing house, leaving 18% at the end of the day. It does good for bands and hopefully, one day, it'll do good for me too (once I sell 200 a day!! ha ha!)

MuzikMan: Has mainstream music ever held any appeal for you at all? Why cover just Underground Rock Bands?, What do you feel is the potential or end result in exposing all of these groups?

Barry: Mainstream music, yeah I got time for it but it's covered man. It's rammed down our throats all the time, just however the music industry decides to ram it down. BURBs represents what's really, real. No marketing spin or narrow musical style, wide open, whatever is really happening in the world of British Rock, you will see and hear it at BURBs. If one person, discovers a band via BURBs, hears it, likes it, buys it, loves it - that'll do. I'm sure its happened many a time and I have witnessed it on a few occasions. I like being the man with the music, have a rummage - if it brings you any joy at all, it's worth the effort. I know i love discovering this music, some of my favorite bands of all time are BURBs bands (Whoremoan...:-)

MuzikMan: Have you designed and maintained the entire BURBs site since it's inception?

Barry: Er, yes, I suppose. There are people who have volunteered certain things throughout the years. JJ Arnold contributes to BURBs a lot. It's useful to have the journalistic flare present. He has a big passion for BURBs and the bands too. The gig list is hosted off site and dates forwarded to the administrator, same for the Noticeboard. Area Co-Ordinators are supposed to keep their area pages in top condition (checking me basically) but it's hard to get 'em to work regular. They are all good blokes and have done something, which helps but I need mini-me's, lot's of 'em, all going 'meeeee-eeeeeem' everywhere they went. :-) (Awlright Jase?).

It's certainly a daily activity and until it becomes financially viable to do full time, I have to work normal hours too. Been to some DAMNED fined gigs though!

MuzikMan: Everything that is going on with the Internet and music is so exciting. What are some of the things that are happening for you and the site presently?

Barry: I'm happy to announce sales have picked up, especially from the USA. CD's are moving quite quickly now, site visits are averaging out at 124 per day. It's a way from the 100,000 a day mark (silly land) but its constant and reliable stream of visitors. Chuffed really. I'm sticking to selling the bands CDs, real products - Im not gonna sell MP3 (you can quote me on that, I'll probably end up giving up. This reminds me of when CD came out and Vinyl was about to die. Now Vinyl is cool again, it'd be nice to stick to CDs throughout the ride. The people will have to support the bands and the original CD format).

MuzikMan: Who do you feel are the movers and shakers in the Independent Music Industry today? (In the U.K. and U.S.)

Barry: I have no idea. The bands like simply for the amount of people involved and visit the site, good exposure. But if you want British, you know where to get it...

I'm very tunnel minded with BURBs, I immerse myself in the whole BURBs universe, it is music, to me.

MuzikMan: What changes do you feel are going to take place over the next five years with the Internet and music?

Barry: Well, let's work this out logically. Instant connections are around the corner (this year). Seconds, like two seconds, to get an MP3. The majors will deliver music in MP4 (for argument sake) - a method only achievable by them. So then there'll be bands with MP3s wanting to get signed so they can make MP4s. The Internet will integrate a better way from computers into people's living rooms and integrate into their hi-fi systems. We'll be able to play MP3s in the car, on the bike, train. Instead of putting the CD on again, you'd play the mp3 again. CDs do seem doomed but I'm adamant a big proportion of people will want a product over a file any day. I'd never pay money for a single computer file. I'd buy the CD, sure but not one file. You get no artwork, no credits, no feel. It's like if a doctor said to a cheese lover, here's a discreet daily injection and you will experience feelings of eating cheese when taken, you'd get to a point where you'd miss holding the actual cheese, the aesthetics of actually having it. Wow, that was weird, did anyone follow that? Not so sure I did...

MuzikMan: Are a majority of the people that are logging into your site from the U.K. or do you feel that you have established a major presence in the Independent Music Community on a world level?

Barry: It is UK heavy with USA second. Mind you I think the way the stats are worked out it solely uses the '.com' to work out its from the States. We have '.com' ISPs here too so it's not as big as it reckons.

Germany is next up then Holland then France. USA & Europe mainly although there is a trickle from the rest of the world.

MuzikMan: Do you feel your work allows groups the kind of exposure they need to get signed on to a label? (assuming that's what they want)

Barry: Well, it's all in place. Good quality quick audio, 480+ bands, by area or name and in the store, by style. It is an A&R mans dream yeah. Trouble is A&R men don't have sound cards in their PC! That's my experience of them. They always ask for CDs when I've put all that in place. I had one record company come to BURBs once and post a Noticeboard Article "Bands Wanted for A&R Section on Labels Site'. They wanted bands to visit their labels site and upload Real Audio clips to their site. HELLO! What about this, over here, it's done! Use it!

Who's interested in A&R men? I'm not, bye.

MuzikMan: If there was one thing that you wanted to say to all the music lovers in cyberspace about the BURBs site, what would it be?

Barry: It's real.

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