Meet: Fink: music business is a big gamble

In the world where music is a product of consumption, often cheap, short on nutrition values, and is easy to dispose of when one gets bored of it, finding artists with timeless compositions, gently and with care sewn together, making you leave all your work and thoughts aside and dive deep into the intricate world of elegant tunes is like winning a lottery. The prize comes in a shape of quaint, authentic, and amazingly calming sounds of every Fink’s album.

Fink band shot
Fink: (left to right) Tim Thornton, Fin Greenall and Guy Whittaker. Photo
by Tommy N Lance

If you are a big fan of American series such as House, Lie To Me, The Walking Dead, Battlestar Galactica, then you sure have heard Fink’s music.

The voice and soul of the British three-piece folk project Fink, Fin Greenall is also an internationally-renowned DJ, a producer behind such names as Amy Winehouse, and a head of his own label R’COUP’D.

Fink’s atmospheric and deep tunes are also featured in films, possibly acting as a magnet for Oscar nominations. The band’s recent score includes a collaboration with John Legend on the soundtrack for the Oscar-winning film 12 Years a Slave. ‘Yesterday Was Hard On All of Us’ – an atmospheric live version recorded with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra – is featured in Selma that was nominated for Oscars this year.

I met Grenall ahead of the band’s headlining show at London’s KOKO a few months back. He admitted that Fink has a lot of fans in continental Europe, but here in the UK the band hasn’t managed to create a momentum.

Fin Grenall. Photo by Tommy N Lance

Having DJed throughout most of the 90s and early 2000, Greenall switched from electronica to a more acoustic sound in 2006. This is when Greenall and his music collaborators Guy Whittaker and Tim Thorton released a first album Biscuits for Breakfast under the name Fink.

In the early days of Fink, Greenall used to spend a lot of time in Los Angeles meeting music supervisors, TV and film companies, doing showcases and acoustic gigs.

“You might not get money in the early days selling records, making a record looses money. So on the publishing side getting a trailer at, say, Transformers 6, will recoup you nicely,” Greenall explains, adding that television projects came about naturally.

“They have got eight series and they all need a song that talks about hope, redemption, and overcoming something.”

He argues that with movies the situation is different: “You can’t plug the movie that easily. You can’t really work it, you just have to get lucky.”

The track “Move”, which appeared on the 12 Years a Slave soundtrack, was recorded by Greenall and his collaborator, nine-time Grammy winner John Legend, long before the film came out. It stayed on shelf for a while until a perfect opportunity to add it in the film presented.

Fink released a sixth studio album “Hard Believer” last summer, which blends an American bluesy sound with an African vibe and “a bit of Arabic influence.”

“I’m fascinated by what Africans do, making all this music using major chords and getting all that pain out. You can express so many things with a major chord,” Greenall said.

The album was recorded in two weeks at a studio in Los Angeles. As Greenall explains, the band wanted to go “bigger and more widescreen and more broadband on it – America gives you all of it.”

“We just said to ourselves: the worst track on this album has to be the best track on the last album,” Greenall explained, adding that he considered “Perfect Darkness” to be best track from the eponymous previous album.

The band still relies heavily on touring to promote its records, but Greenall welcomes the changes that the music industry has undergone in the last decade.

“People who say there is no money in the music business anymore need to ring up Amy Winehouses’s accountant and ask him that question… The reply you would get is probably ‘we just sold 21 million albums, we are all loaded,’” Greenall said, adding that if the record was good, it would bring revenues despite all.

“If you make it to the dark side of the moon, you’re going to sell millions of records in whatever way. Or at least do millions of tickets in concert sales and gigs. And everything is going to be fine,” Greenall added.

Greenall has an extensive experience in the music industry, having done stints with London-based labels, including Virgin’s Source, Def Jam, Sony, and an independent Ninja Tune.

“The music business is a big gamble,” Greenall said. “You are trying to make money predicting something that is impossible to predict.”

He admitted that some “monopolies that were set up over 20-30 years and manipulated the market” were not making enough money in the world of digital downloads and streaming. But he also defended the digital music downloads, saying that there is a certain niche for this type of product.

“Buying a single download from iTunes is possibly like going to H&M and buying that t-shirt of that colour right now,” Greenall said. “You are going to like it for, say, three weeks and then it will end up sifting down in your drawers until you throw it away. Just like you’ll end up deleting it from your iTunes in a few years,” he said.

“But when you want to buy this beautifully made pair of trousers that costs a lot more, but you are going to have them until they fall off, that is like buying a physical CD from an indie store.”

Fink released an album of remixes, including the sublime Horizontalism, on May 18th. You can stream it here or download here.

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