The music industry is extremely tough to get into, but for unsigned artists in South Wales there are plenty of opportunities to make your name. Cardiff is buzzing to the sound of new music and a key player behind this success is John Rostron. Rostron and his friend, Radio 1 DJ Huw Stephens created Swn festival four years ago, and they haven’t looked back since.
“I’m very passionate about what goes on here,” Rostron stated. “Myself and Huw were at South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas and we said, we really think something like that should happen in Cardiff because there wasn’t anything good happening in Cardiff at all.”
As well as co-curating the annual Swn festival, Rostron books and promotes live shows at various venues around Cardiff and the success of Swn has enabled him to put shows on throughout Wales and beyond under that name, which is gaining great appreciation year-by-year.
Venues Rostron has booked and promoted for include:
- Clwb Ifor Bach
- Buffalo Bar
- Chapter Arts Centre
- Model Inn
- Cardiff Coal Exchange
- The millennium Music Hall
- Cardiff Students Union
- The Globe
- Cardiff Arts Institute
John is also a board member of The Welsh Music Foundation and he runs an association of promoters that he has set up in Cardiff. These are all positive things for the Welsh unsigned scene as having a core group of promoters that are all talking and working with each other ensures that the city will be a vibrant place to live in terms of live music. Additionally, capturing the attention of some of the hottest venues in town is a sure-fire way of grabbing people’s attention and getting them through the door to hear some of Cardiff’s hottest talent stamp their musical mark.
“The music that excites me most is new music and loads of that is unsigned,” John Rostron
So has all of this effort and passion paid off? In short, yes. It has been great for Welsh bands as they are doing better, getting more plays on the radio and getting picked up and written about by the press, including big names such as NME and 6 Music. Rostron is giving artists exposure and creating opportunities for them to be seen where they otherwise wouldn’t have been seen. “We want more people to come to Wales, people to go see live music. All that seems to have happened,” Rostron smiled.
Obviously not all the acts that Swn has helped promote have made it, but there are some in particular that have played Swn festival who have gone on to become household names.
While Swn has been a massive success, it is heavily curated by John and Huw as they hand-pick bands they want based on quality, something that is fundamental in the relationship that they are building with the audience. People trust their judgement and know what to expect and this method is clearly working, so there is no need for change.
For those that don’t make the cut for Swn there are other festivals that stop by Cardiff such as Live and Unsigned and Surface Festival that are open to anybody. These are credible competitions that could land you in front of a set of judges from within the industry, and potentially take you to the dizzy heights of stardom.
Alex Baker of Kerrang Radio said, “The prizes offered for the winning band and runners-up are just fantastic and the experience all the bands gain from playing larger venues is priceless.”
Potentially there are more great things to come for Cardiff as Rostron and co have been approached several times about creating new events. “I think we will do, we’ll get involved in other people’s festivals and help them grow,” he said. “There is loads of good stuff out there that we like and that’s another festival in itself.”
The stage is set, the lights are on, the production teams are ready and somebody out there is just waiting to hear your sound. So plug-in, play hard, play loud and take advantage of the opportunities that these promoters are offering you. There is always somebody looking to expose the next big sound and it would be great if it was bellowing out of Cardiff.