Spring Tour
Robert Lane
Spotify playlist; favourite songs by artist I've gigged with

I was just thinking about some of the wonderful musicians I’ve been lucky enough to work or gig with, and decided to create a playlist of some of my favourite songs by them. It was fun, so I added some artists I’ve never met but just rather enjoy. Take a listen to the playlist and let me know if there’s anyone you think I should add. If you could give the playlist a follow and share that would be amazing, as it will help other people find it.

Robert Lane
Reflections on HMV

This is a reposting of a blog I wrote last time HMV went into administration back in January 2013. 

Some thoughts on HMV

I have mixed feelings today about HMV going into receivership. First of all, what an awful time for the 4500 people employed by the chain. Whilst nothing is certain in terms of the future of HMV and there is always hope of a buyer or investor keeping the name going or doing something new with stores, it does seem likely that shops will close and jobs will be lost.

Yesterday afternoon I visited my local branch. The store was very busy and seemed to be doing a fair amount of trade, probably due to the news coverage and their much trumpeted “blue cross sale.” I took advantage of the sale and bought a few cheapish CDs. While queuing I heard two or three people being told by staff that they would be unable to accept vouchers and gift cards. The lady who served me said that it was the worst day in her 16 years working for the company, not only because of the uncertainty of the future of her job, but because many customers had shouted at her over the gift voucher issue. I asked when she had found out the company had brought in the receivers and she said she had found out the same way as the public, via the news the day before.

I had a feeling that the chain might go for a while. At one time HMV stocked near enough everything I wanted no matter how obscure. In recent years though I’ve often not been able to get what I would consider fairly big, mainstream products in the shop and ended up buying it online.

Then I knew the death knell had sounded when I saw them stocking laptops. Quite expensive too, it didn’t seem likely that anyone would buy a computer at HMV when they could get them cheaper from more established technology stockists. So the chain seemed to be becoming ever more general and less specialised.

There seems to be a feeling that HMV was late to the party of online sales. I’m not sure about that but I did notice that their own online shop often undercut the high street stores, surely that’s no way to keep all those outlets going? All those outlets… was the chain too big?  For a few years in the centre of Birmingham there were three big HMV stores within five minutes of each other all selling the same stuff. Is that an economical business model? I’ve no idea.
So there is a feeling of inevitability about all this. High street chains have been fighting a losing battle against online retailers. Of course we also hear that music sales in general are declining, so HMV was not only steadily losing its share of the market but that market overall was getting smaller anyway.

However there was/is still a customer base for HMV and I’m part of it.
When I was getting into music as a child/teenager HMV was pretty much the only place I could buy music. I’m talking about the late 90s and early 00s. This is before YouTube, Spotify and iTunes. Other music shops existed of course but HMV was ubiquitous in town centres. I didn’t have the knowledge or interest to seek out independent record shops and it seemed that HMV was more likely to have the product I wanted than Virgin Megastores and the others. So for years as I was developing my music tastes and knowledge I used HMV almost exclusively and it seems to me that I was taken advantage of. I collected every Beatles album, I devoured CDs by Travis and Stereophonics. I paid about £10 a pop for this stuff. Very occasionally I purchased singles and that cost £3.99 a go.  Buying a CD was a pretty big deal to me and I had to save up to do it, but it was exciting to have that physical thing that represented a band or artist. This makes me sound about twenty years older than I am but I did indeed sit on the bus home from town and unwrap my new album so that I could sit reading the sleeve. Ah, the sleeve. A little booklet with information, lyrics, photographs, exciting stuff! Except that for many of the albums I bought this was a disappointment. I was collecting albums from the 60s and 70s that had simply been scaled down to a CD booklet from a 12 inch sleeve. A couple of tiny pictures and hardly any information at all. Modern CDs naturally did better in this respect and I have fond memories of some lovely CD artwork that added to my enjoyment of the music. I’d have to pay more for the really good, inventive artwork though. I know that the record industry at large is to blame for all this, but I feel HMV did play it's part. Did they really need to be charging me that much, particularly considering that their clout and very generous arrangements with record labels meant that they helped put many smaller retailers out of business altogether?

Later everyone had the internet at home and illegal downloading started. I wrestled with my conscience over illegal downloads but looking back it’s not hard to see why my generation went for it like mad. Then came legal downloads, why buy a CD in HMV for ten quid when you can get it cheaper and quicker on your iPod/Mp3…for the naff album artwork?  Then what I‘d call a real revolution came with YouTube and streaming. Suddenly you didn’t even need to own music to listen to it whenever you wanted, and not just music but film and TV, so who was going to spend money on it?

Me, that’s who! By this time I was driving so I wanted my music with me in the car. I wanted to be legal so I didn’t bother using YouTube to “steal” music and burn it to CD. I downloaded legally but I also still went into HMV quite often to buy CDs for the car. To be fair I mostly just bought CDs in the rather wonderful 2 for £10 section, but like a fool I did still pay top wack for new albums that I really wanted, even though I knew full well that I was paying more than I really needed to.
Eventually though my attitude and habits changed. I’d find myself setting out to buy a CD or DVD from HMV and actually stopping myself when I saw the price. I’d browse the store and make mental notes to find the stuff I liked the look of online and get it cheaper. A combination of a new car and iTunes match meant I could use my phone to access all the music I’ve ever owned without it taking up physical space in the car or digital space on my phone.

However, even last Christmas I was in HMV buying presents, again knowing that often I was paying more than was really necessary. I still like a physical CD even though really there’s no need for them and they take up too much space. I’m admittedly behind with movie streaming so I still buy DVDs.
So what’s my conclusion? I don’t know really, just those mixed feelings. A big part of my coming of age was spent in HMV stores deciding what I liked and who I was. Some of my favourite albums came into my life because I happened to notice them on the shelf whilst browsing, something that doesn’t happen online in quite the same way. I feel sorry for people who can’t/don’t/won’t use the internet to get music, and are therefore losing a very important outlet. As I mentioned above its very sad and frightening for a large number of people whose jobs are at risk, a tragedy when added to the numbers who’ve already lost jobs due to the closure of other high street names.

I do think that HMV made mistakes. Mistakes in the way the behaved towards me and their other customers when they pretty much had a monopoly on music sales. Mistakes in the way they reacted to a changing market place, and the mistake of becoming more generalised as the business struggled.
However, perhaps there is a bright future. Perhaps we mainly finally be moving away from that much criticised high street model that has been the norm for my whole life, the feeling that all town centres are the same. Maybe new and innovative independent stores can now flourish by specialising in something. Who knows, perhaps HMV will be a part of that change. 

Robert LaneComment
A look back at 2018

I’ve just been sitting down with a cup of tea and thinking back over the events of 2018. One of the great things about writing a blog is it makes a pretty effective summary of what has occurred in the last 12 months. I’ll start by reusing something I wrote in December 2017, as its relevant now (and every year I suspect.)

What have been some of your mistakes this year and what lessons have you learnt from them?

I’ve re-learnt something this year which actually comes from my experience with improv theatre; “your obvious might not be their obvious.” My experience booking gigs and running the crowdfunding campaign for my new album has been that you have to say what you want. If you’re asking someone for help, support or advice you actually have to ASK for it. Outlining the proposal and then failing to actually ask for support won’t get you anywhere. You can’t assume that people will pick up on the subtext, or that it will be obvious what you want or need. Your obvious might not be their obvious!

Maybe it’s a particularly British thing to not always say what we mean, we say things like “I don’t think I’ll be able to do that” when we mean “there is no chance at all that I will do that” or “things are a bit tough but I’ll manage” rather than “please help me immediately.”

I’d concur with myself, 12 months later! Since I wrote that I’ve done a whole load of improv shows with The Improlectuals at venues including The Abbey Theatre in Nuneaton, The Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton and two venues for Ludlow Fringe Festival. As well as my mate and Improlectuals co-founder Richard Baldwin I’ve shared the stage with very talented performers Matt Dibbens, Lee Dempsey, Nathan Blyth and Matt Vaughn Wilson. Naturally enough with the shows being improvised each has been different and we’ve had an amazing amount of support from audiences. In November Richard and I invited some performers along to an informal workshop and we are hoping to add some new talents to The Improlectuals pool of improvisers. We’ve got shows booked at Leicester Comedy Festival, The Abbey Theatre and The Harrison in London and we are hoping to announce some dates in Birmingham and at some festivals very soon. There are also plans a foot to begin running some workshops in schools.

On the music front it has again been another very busy year, beginning with the recording and release of my album Only a Flight Away and the crowdfunding campaign that supported it. It was an amazing experience running the crowdfunding project and the encouragement I received was very humbling. As I said at the time I came away from the process feeling like an artist with a commission; people were confirming that they appreciated what I did and asking me to do more. I don’t think a creative person needs much more than that, to be honest.

I’m fairly certain that the album is a culmination of everything I’ve done up to this point as a musician and songwriter, my artistic peak. After finishing it I wondered for a while if I’d be able to write anything as good in the future or if I’d spent my songwriting currency and would never save up so much again. I’m now past that and just incredibly keen to be as creative as possible. The feeling is summed up by a Maya Angelou quote I came across recently;

“You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

Only a Flight Away received some really cool reviews and I was fascinated and pleased to see the elements that people had picked up on. Here’s a taste of some of what was said;

when you listen to, and appreciate, the quality of Lane’s third offering Only a Flight Away you wonder how and why he’s not a bigger proposition in the great musical scheme of things and a staple of mainstream radio airplay.
Ross Muir FabricationsHQ

All this makes for an outstanding release that may just be one of the first essential albums of 2018.
Adam Jenkins, Fatea

‘Far Too Busy’ has one of the best opening couplets I’ve heard in years.
Dai Jeffries, Folking.com

Impressive in its scope, ONLY A FLIGHT AWAY is almost a compendium of styles, all of which demonstrate Robert's versatility as a songwriter and tunesmith.
Allan Wilkinson, Northern Sky

An interesting release that enhances a growing reputation as Robert Lane continues to hone his signature sound.
Paul McGee, Lonesome Highway

Hear the album for yourself here

My fans and supporters have done wonderful things in 2018 and allowed me to take some big creative strides. As well as getting involved with the pre-order campaign for Only a Flight Away and attending the gigs I played to promote it their votes got me onto the main stage at Fatea Festival in November.

In the summer I made my first visit to Holland and fifth trip to Germany where I played some great gigs and house concerts for friends old and new. Back in the UK I played a few joint headline shows with Iona Lane who is a wonderfully talented singer and musician, and in no way related to me.

As we neared the end of the year I was thrilled to be asked by BBC producer David Payne to write music for lyrics he has written for Reality Bites, his concept for a musical about reality TV. This was a very enjoyable challenge and I was reminded how much I enjoy writing to a brief. We showcased some of the songs at an event organised by Cucumber Writers at The Old Joint Stock Theatre in Birmingham.

Of course there have been some missteps in 2018, things that didn’t pan out and seeds that despite careful nurturing did not grow into beautiful flowers. From this vantage point I can see that most of these mishaps and errors had positive consequences and all have provided useful lessons. Lessons learnt;

• Don’t dismiss posters and flyers as a way to promote gigs

• A person on the ground who promotes your show is worth their weight in gold

• Playing pub venues Germany in a baking hot summer, especially if the World Cup is happening at the same time, can present challenges

My music remains un-played on national radio, something which I’m sorry to say does bother me. In dark moments I have a look at some of my contemporaries and note their success with spot plays on various BBC 6 Music and Radio 2 shows and wonder if the gods of radio are trying to tell me something. I know that it’s not the be all and end all to get these plays and I’m also aware that late night radio play does not necessarily equate to gig attendances or record sales but it does still niggle. This said my music has been well loved on several very influential and rather cool online, local and community radio shows. Only a Flight Away was album of the week/month on several programmes including Fatea’s Along The Tracks, Roger William's World of Difference, Gary Hazlehurst's Folk Show, Magpie's Folk Cafe and Liz Franklin's Eden Folk Show. Justine Greene gave songs from the album a lot of attention on her BBC Coventry and Warwickshire show and Jason Forrest has been generous enough to give my music a play and events a plug on his Milkbar podcast throughout the year.

I’ve had it proven to me this year that people who get my music and what I’m trying to say really get it and are fantastically supportive, whilst those who don’t aren’t. That’s ok, that’s natural and that’s art.

Here’s to 2019, I am genuinely excited to see what it has in store. I wonder what rise and falls will have passed in twelve months’ time…

Robert Lane
Endorsment from David Payne, BBC Producer

'I’ve had the very great pleasure of working several times over the years with the fantastically talented and extremely personable Robert Lane. 

As an actor he can break your heart and make you laugh with huge emotional range and a natural knack in finding the comedy in his performance. As a singer he makes every note seem effortless, can improvise with ease and his guitar skills are second to none. He recently wrote the score for a musical I’m working on which I think shows his true versatility.

He genuinely reminds me of one of those classic, variety entertainers from back in the day who could showcase a multitude of skills. Hes also a dream to work with and a genuinely lovely guy. Cant recommend the man highly enough.'

Dave Payne

BBC Producer

Robert Lane
Reality Bites musical

I'm very happy to announce that I have been asked to add music to lyrics written by David Payne for his musical Reality Bites. David is a producer who works on the BBC's The Archers, as well as a freelance scriptwriter. On the 27th of November I'll be part of a rehearsed reading preview performance of some of the songs at The Old Joint Stock Theatre in Birmingham.

Robert Lane
Final gig of 2018

Robert’s last concert of the year is on Friday 16th of November at Cherry Reds in Birmingham city centre. Tickets are £10 on the door, but there are a few £5 advance tickets available via this link

Minnie Birch will be performing an opening set, and doors open at 7.30pm

Robert Lane
Japan radio play

Very excited to have had my first ever radio play in Japan! Mike Rogers played Hoping For Anything (But You) on his show on Tokyo’s InterFM on Sunday 16th September, and again the following week. Thanks Mike!

Robert Lane
Autumn tour dates 


SAT 15th September
Cwtch Coffee, Pembroke Dock, Wales 

SUN 16th September
Drovers Arms Puncheston, Wales 

FRI 12th October
Artrix, Bromsgrove

SAT 13th October
The Harrison, Kings Cross, London

SAT 27th October
“Museums at Night Festival” Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham

SAT 3rd November
Fatea Festival

SUN 4th November
Three Swans, Frome

Friday 16th November
Cherry Reds, Birmingham

These will be Robert's last shows of 2018, so make sure you come along! 

Robert Lane
Robert will perform at Fatea Festival

Robert came a narrow third in the recent poll by Fatea Magazine, and it’s was so close that Fatea have decided to invite him to perform at their festival in November;

 “We had over 5000 votes, 1000+ shares and thousands of hits on our website over the course of the competition, so huge thanks to everyone who voted, liked, shared and commented on the poll!

It was such a close call between the top three artists that we have decided to give third placed Robert Lane a guaranteed spot, closing our Open Mic.”

Big thanks to everyone who voted for Robert and shared the poll. 

Robert LaneComment
Fatea Poll

Thank you to everyone who voted in the Fatea Festival poll, your support was amazing and we got to 3rd place, with only about 50 votes in it between the top three! The comments and encouragement have been immense, and I would like to thank everyone who shared the posts and badgered their friends to get involved. Thanks to Fatea for running the poll, and well done to James and Trevor; enjoy the festival! Well done to all the acts involved, I enjoyed listening to everyone’s music.

Robert LaneComment