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Tings ain’t what they used to be

Danny McFadden on a fall out between the band and the record label that shaped their success

Published on June 12th 2008.

Tings ain’t what they used to be

At the beginning of 2007, I visited the Northern Quarter headquarters of Switchflicker Records for a chat with boss, Jayne Compton, about her Club Brenda parties. While there, Compton played me two tracks ahead of their release on the label. One was by Magic Arm – an utterly charming record located somewhere between Badly Drawn Boy and Hot Chip. The second was ‘That’s Not My Name’ by The Ting Tings.

When I started working with them they had a very dated style: both had come from pop backgrounds. Katie had shared a stage with Girls Aloud while Jules had supported Bros in a band called Babakoto.

What most surprised about the latter was that it was the work of Katie White and Jules De Martino – a pair who had been active on the local circuit as two thirds of the badly spelled, major label-signed Dear Eskiimo. In fact, I’d spotted Compton once at Night & Day when Dear Eskiimo spent an age attaching an umbrella to a microphone stand before launching into an otherwise forgettable set. ‘That’s Not My Name’, though? Yeah, that new one was pretty unshakeable.

Initially released as a seven-inch single with another Ting Tings favourite, ‘Great DJ’, on the b-side, it benefited from national airplay and prompted nearly every major label to express interest in signing the act. The duo plumped for Sony and, as you might have noticed, the track and attendant album hit the top of the charts. Then there was their placing on the iPod advert, plus all the press interest which gave the band the opportunity to tell their story: how they orchestrated parties at the mill they occupied after losing their first record deal, and masterminded that current success. Like it was New York’s The Factory all over again, except this time there were two Warhols in residence. Yet the involvement of Manchester’s Switchflicker – the operation that really organised those pivotal Islington Mill events – was somehow overlooked.

“They’ve been insistent that they were a DIY band,” Compton observes following the severing of that relationship. “When I started working with them they had a very dated style: both had come from pop backgrounds. Katie had shared a stage with Girls Aloud while Jules had supported Bros in a band called Babakoto. Dear Eskiimo was a Steps wannabe kind of band.

“All the work that Switchflicker put in brought them to everyone’s attention and moved them away from the naff Dear Eskiimo.”

Minor adjustments to an artist’s back story aren't exactly unusual. In an age where ‘organic growth’ is favoured above anything perceived as remotely ‘manufactured’, it can be essential to success. Look at Duffy and Adele. Their respective biographies carefully skirt around TV talent show and stage school pasts for fear that these ‘serious album artists’ could be judged as little more than Hear’Say rejects.

Still, after nearly ten years trading as an independent label – with releases from the likes of Mark E Smith and an upcoming book, Strange Trees – Compton is happy to add a number one single to the list of Switchflicker’s achievements. But currently, the label and The Ting Tings aren’t even talking to each other.

White and De Martino publicly aired some displeasure recently when Switchflicker listed residual stock of their vinyl debut at collectors’ prices. Meanwhile, Manchester PR company Ask Me has pointed out that The Ting Tings (whose record deal and publishing agreement is rumoured to be ‘significant’) have failed to pay their outstanding invoices. Compton also maintains that the band had agreed to release a further two singles locally, in addition to a national tour to help raise the profiles of some other names from Switchflicker’s roster.

“It’s a shame that they’ve not shown more gratitude for what we’ve done,” Compton says. As well as steering the band towards a more contemporary musical direction, Switchflicker provided everything from a logo to a radio plugger. “We worked very hard to promote and develop The Ting Tings. I just hope they can go on to create new material of the same standard. Despite everything, we do wish them every success.”

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18 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousJune 12th 2008.

DIY? Maybe tellingly, their album IS titled We Started Nothing.

meJune 12th 2008.

Switchfliker DID NOT develop the Ting Tings - they did that all by themselves. Switchfliker are lucky to have had any involvement with them at all.. now stop slagging them off and get on with running your bedroom mentality 'label'.

JennJune 12th 2008.

This article has left a bitter teste in my mouth, whilst never being the biggest fan of Dear Eskiimo or indeed the Ting Tings I cant help feeling that this is completely one sided biased journalism. Is Compton a personal friend of someone at ManCon? The legal complexities of signing to a major label must be vast and varied...would you pass up such an opportunity having worked for it for years and (even more years in Jules' case)? Maybe they will honor their promises in the future...all I know is that this must be a fantasically busy time for the pair of them trying to avoid the 'one hit wonder tag' that comes with complacency. Good luck to them, Compton should put her energy into being positive about her 'other names'.

bitterandsotwistedJune 12th 2008.

Well thank god my mum is IT illiterate or else she’d be on here spouting all kinds of post war crap “ in my day we all flicked a switch and thought nothing of it, there was no such thing as lesbian, we were all just ‘good friends’ and got on with it!?”

DMcFJune 12th 2008.

To Rosie: As the 'lazy' journalist that wrote this, I just want to say that I approached this with no agenda. In fact, after reading these rants, it becomes apparent that other people are far more closely involved with the two parties mentioned than I am. Interesting then that there's talk of being 'biased'.Anyway, I suggested a piece to Manchester Confidential about what difference a band's success makes to a small, local label that spawned them. After that was agreed, I saw that MySpace blog (the piece wasn't actually prompted by that) and I obviously had to ask Jayne Compton about her thoughts on it. It does reflect her opinions. (Yes, it also reflects mine that Dear Eskiimo weren't very good but The Ting Tings have actually made some good music. apologies if you disagree with either of those.) I would point out that it was offered so that you could make your own mind up, but you know that. You already have.

AnonymousJune 12th 2008.

as my old mum used to say, there are never two sides to injustice

nameJune 12th 2008.

Good day!,

GavinJune 12th 2008.

very biased all this. can we all use man conf to vent our own bitterness. My personal opinion: good on them: jayne compton always looks like she's chewing a wasp about something, and i'm sure if she's as talented as she believes, she'll work her immense talents elsewhere. ha

rosieJune 12th 2008.

what a lazy piece of journalism.i wonder what mr mcfadden's agenda is.i don't like the ting tings-in fact i hate that bloody song,but i'm sorely tempted to go out and buy a billion singles as an "up yours" to that whinging jayne compton.why is this woman able to use your website to have a bitch at two local artists?you work with anyone,get them to sign a contract.you ain't bright enough to do that,it's your problem.

whatgoesaround ....June 12th 2008.

lol at the bitter and twisted comment above! From an outsiders PoV it all seems to smell a bit horrible . . . . Now, what we need is The Ting Tings to be as big as they apparently are and make to move to kiss and make up with Jayne Compton - let them give her some compensation from their 'deal' or match their 'verbal agreement' with some promo for her other artists mentioned above. And then let it go . . . I'm sure they both have more things to worry about now and more music to make xxooxx

AnonymousJune 12th 2008.

The Ting Tings treated Switchflicker disgustingly, but Jayne Compton didn't attack them in public; they were the ones who topped up their previous disgusting lack of gratitude and fairness by attacking her on their My Space page, and for no reason even (guilty conscience prompting them perhaps?). So they asked for the falling out to be brought to public attention, not Swithflicker; that being so it's only fair Switchflicker get to present their side of the story. Perhaps the Ting Tings thought they could behave so reprehensively and no-one would think badly of them for that. Wrong. They have showed themselves up big time.

AnonymousJune 12th 2008.

well... the main thing would be.... people don't expect a verbal agreement to be gone back on... especially when its one person doing all the work.... when sony realise that there is no proper contract..... they realise... we don't owe her a penny... forget her... come with us... we'll see you right... hardly decent is it.. they could have said... well look sony... yes we will sign with you.. yes we will make each other a load with our joint number one single and album.... but first.. lets stick with our obligations to jayne, as she helped us get here...... but no....... no one would be happy... and yes... her father is a lottery winner, the tings tings are nothing more than a sucessful business venture my the lottery winning parent.... after he lost a mint on the other band

AnonymousJune 12th 2008.

Actually, Her grandfather won the lottery. She did not know the guy from the age of 11 and he recently died leaving her nothing. I think you need to get the facts right.Jane,her friends and sisters need to calm down. They are looking rather stupid and if she thinks any band will work with her label after this untrue slander, she is even more deluded than her so called friends pushing their new PR companies.

indie music fanJune 12th 2008.

To me it's pretty simple. A not very good band are dropped by their major label. They lick their wounds and bandage their pride in Manchester. They meet and become friends with Jayne Compton who has an cool indie record label and club night and a network of influential contacts. They then sap Jayne of her ideas and contacts and use her to get where they want really to be. It worked beautifully, unfortunately they forgot their manners and didn't repay the kindness of Jayne and her friends. I am sure there would be none of this nonsense if The Ting Tings had done the right thing and kept their promises when they signed their deal. To my knowledge it was The Ting Tings who started this spat in the first place on their Myspace page. Miss Compton has a right to reply. Maybe the happy couple (Jules and katie are a real couple) should apologise to their old friends and share their good luck. Nice for Katie to win twice in her life, apparently her family also won the lottery a few years back too? How many chances will Jules and Katie be given, it may be the last time for the 42 year old Jules this time.

BitterandSoTwistedJune 12th 2008.

This rock n roll cliché descending into playground bitching is beginning to make everyone involved look ridiculous, there are always 2 sides to every coin. No one beyond this handful of people is the slightest bit interested.

AnonymousJune 12th 2008.

Switchfliker just come across as if they have nothing better to do than to get all tinged up over their childish confusion of what they think they contributed to, which was really nothing, all they did was try to ride on the back of existing talent. They have been found out and are now trying to pretend that it's the ting tings who have ripped them off. Get a life SW MOVE OOn

JonTJune 12th 2008.

To quote a couple of this fair land's genuine bards"We hate it when our friends become successful,And if they're northernThat makes it even worse andIf we can destroy themYou bet your life we will destroy them.If we can hurt them, well,We may well.It's really laughable,Ah hahahaha You see, it should have been me.It could have been me"."The lady doth protest too much, methinks"

rosieJune 12th 2008.

i hadn't been aware of any cyber bitch-slappings on myspace or anywhere else.had heard the band a couple of times and their music is not to my taste,if you (or anyone else)want to listen to them it's fine but i choose not to.my rant was based on the content of the article which seems to be an outlet for a bitter woman to let off steam about what coulda woulda shoulda.are mancon going to interview me about when i was 5 and didn't get to be Mary in the school nativity play?or the fact that me-and millions of others-work our butts off and aren't millionaires yet?as a complete outsider to the scene i had to say how biased and ill natured i thought this piece was.

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