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interview

Duncan Smith

Pitch & Smith

After discovering and subsequently immersing himself in the local live music scene in his native Cornwall, Duncan moved to Guildford to study for a degree in music in 2011. He joined the team at award winning grassroots venue The Boileroom, eventually becoming the in-house booker and promoter upon his graduation in 2014. In 2018 he moved to London and joined the Royal Albert Hall's programming team, before moving Pitch & Smith as an agent assistant. Since then he has built his own roster as an agent at Pitch & Smith, as well as assisting senior agents across the company. Duncan also works freelance for the BBC, producing BBC Introducing The South weekly.

Duncan Smith

Where are you based?

Personally based in London, although the company also has offices in Berlin, Stockholm, Dublin and Brighton.

Where do you work? What do you do?

I work as an agent at the live booking agency Pitch & Smith. We look after the live booking for our roster of artists, working with them to develop their live career.

What are you listening to?

This morning I put on the Thomas Adès recording ‘Adès’ Conducts Adès’ from last year which is nice morning music, but moved on to Buzzcocks in the shower. Taylor Swift’s ‘evermore’ has been my work soundtrack but right now listening to lots of MF DOOM :(. Been listening to Wipers the most in 2021, probably.

How do you discover new music?

From as many different ways as I can! Largely through recommendations from friends and colleagues as there tends to be more there that I wouldn’t have otherwise come across. Plus they know their own scenes so intimately they’re usually the first in the know. If a friend posts a song on their social media feed I try and listen to it.

Recently all the end of the year lists have been good, I try to check as many of those out as I can. NPR’s was particularly interesting for 2020, where I heard that Thomas Ades record in fact. I try and get down early to check the supports at shows as well, although not been much of that in the last 12 months!

What formats do you usually listen to? LP, CD, Cassette, Digital, Streaming Services? Why?

I suppose mostly streaming services because it’s the most convenient for when I’m doing other things, although I do try and listen to whole records rather than just top tracks etc. I do buy physical where I can as I think there’s a real art to the physical product that I miss with downloads, and I want to support the artists. The Bandcamp Fridays in 2020 prompted me in that respect too, got a few zines and exclusive downloads which was fun. Radio, particularly NTS, has been a good source of stuff outside my comfort zone recently too.

Where do you do most of your music listening?

I listen to music pretty much everywhere! We have a small bluetooth speaker at home which I use in the kitchen or shower, and we have a wireless speaker and record player set up in the living room. When I’m working, travelling or commuting I have some bluetooth headphones (not having to mess around with tangled wires changed my life) and just some small earphones for running. I do like to purposely spend time walking or travelling not listening to music though as it’s nice to have some brain space.

How do you find and listen to pre-release music?

One of the perks of the job is that we get to hear a lot of music before it’s released, which tends to come through managers, labels, PR etc. But first plays on radio are really useful. I also do some production work with BBC Introducing and those regional Introducing shows are really a treasure trove of amazing, brand new music.

What are your frustrations with listening to music digitally? Any benefits?

I hate how reliant I am on streaming and how weighted against artists it is. I do pay for my streaming services but I know it’s not enough. I am a bit of an anorak so I miss the collecting aspect of it too. I’m also not so keen on how the recommendation features don’t really give you anything outside your comfort zone, that being said I have discovered some of my favourite new bands through those same features, ha!

“I hate how reliant I am on streaming and how weighted against artists it is. I do pay for my streaming services but I know it’s not enough.”

How do you keep track of everything you are listening to?

I make a playlist at the start of every year for the best new music of that year. Every new release I listen to that I like I move it into that playlist so I can go back and revisit.

Discover the #HowWeListen Playlist

Listen to the #HowWeListen 2021 Picks playlist. Curated by this year’s interviewees.

Listen on Spotify

Do you tip other people off to new music? How?

Yes totally! Thankfully that’s quite a large part of my job, but really the reason I wanted to work in music was because I wanted to help the bands I love by sharing their music with as many people as possible. Now that mostly means sharing their music with managers, promoters, labels etc. so I do it as much as I can. Mostly just through ongoing conversations I have with friends and colleagues. Also I always make sure to compile an end of year list!

Anything you want to “promote”?

Well any of the bands on the Pitch & Smith roster deserve your time, very proud to work alongside all of them. Death By Unga Bunga, LICE, LIME, Home Counties, Yung and Zooni are all acts I’m particularly close to who all have really incredible new music coming out in 2021 🙂

"I think there’s a real art to the physical product that I miss with downloads, and I want to support the artists."

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