Monthly Archives: July 2014

Secret Gigs In Living Rooms – Reclaim Live Music!

Ever since I heard that “Living Room Gigs” exist I’ve been hooked on the idea. Why there are not more of them is beyond me. I’d love to create a national network for living room gigs in the UK. Naturally, when I had my album release (buy the album here!) gig last week, it was in a living room. Thanks to my incredibly hospitable host and a warm welcoming audience, it was the perfect dream gig.

Screen shot 2014-07-21 at 09.50.02

So what so great about it?

Well, practically speaking, it makes sense. In a recession environment:

  • People who like going out to gigs have less money.
  • Venues have less money and are reluctant to hire musicians for a decent fee.
  • People who like having parties have less spare cash to buy the food & drink necessary.

Living room gigs are an all-in-one solution to these problems with added plusses to boot. The musician plays a set or two, generally un-amplified for a group of guests at the host’s house. The host provides food (or bring-a-plate) and drink for donations and the musicians sells CDs or takes a collection for their fee. Instead of paying £10 or more for 3 drinks at a bar, on top of an entry fee for a gig, audience members get food, drink, live music and possibly a CD for probably that same £10. Meanwhile, the host gets to throw an extra special party with exclusive entertainment, while costs are covered by donations. The musician gets paid enough too. Everybody wins! But most importantly, the intimate, unplugged environment creates a pin-drop atmosphere; that’s where acoustic music really comes into itself and magic starts to happen. To me, it’s that incredible atmosphere that’s the best thing about a living room gig. There’s no “stage” and no amp making a division between audience and performer. We’re all just there, with the music, together. It feels REAL.

Screen shot 2014-07-21 at 09.52.18It clear that a living room gig was the right choice for my album launch. Another plus I noticed on the night was that the friendly environment encouraged strangers to get to know each other. This is practically unheard of at regular gigs. My host was incredibly welcoming, cooked masses of delicious food and created a trail of candles up to their front door. They even managed to get an oversized bottle of champagne for the christening of the album.

A few turned up by themselves, knowing no-one and quickly got to know the whole group. I met each person as they arrived and by the time the show started, I knew the name of everyone I was performing to. At the end of the set, a storyteller in the audience stood up and told a short story about the unwavering strength of “hope”, saying “Kimwei, your songs bring us hope”. It was the best album launch I’ve ever had!


So why aren’t more people doing living room gigs? I guess the 3 deterrents are:

1. The effort of organising it

2. Worrying that the no-one will be interested to going to gig at someone’s house.

3. Worries about security

secret_gig logo-20thjulyMy response to no. 1 is – it is an effort to organise a gig, but it’s worth it. From my point of view, organising it in tandem with my host was no more effort than promoting a regular gig, but with much better results all around. To no.2 – People ARE interested, they’ve just never tried it before. It’s quite easy to sell the idea to people but it’s important to explain in more detail to wet people’s appetites. And finally, to no.3 – There are a few ways to keep the gig safe, but here’s how we addressed security. Rather than call my launch a “living room gig”, we called it a “Secret Gig”. People had to join up to a facebook group in order to find out where it would be. This not only made it more exciting and fun, it also meant that we were able use the facebook group to see who was coming and how many people. Many of those who turned up were people who either me or the host knew personally, but some people simply saw a “Secret Gig” poster in town & were brave enough to come along. This worked for us. It also allowed us to meet the most adventurous people in town. People loved the gig so much it’s likely that I’ll organise more gigs in Exeter using the “Exeter Secret Gigs” facebook group. If you wanted to be even safer, then keeping it to friends of the musician or host would be ok too.

So there you have it. Hope this has inspired you to put on your own Secret Gig. I’m convinced that it IS the future!



Get Kimwei’s new album by pledging to her Kickstarter page:


Take part in Kimwei’s Music Video:


Listen to Kimwei’s original acoustic music at , watch at , interact at , everything at



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Secret Gig Album Launch & How I Took A Double Bed To The Beach

Two special dates are coming up this week. The first is on Friday 18th July; it’ll be a month since I reached £0 and started working my way back up from nothing. The second is my album launch in Exeter on Sunday 20th July! This is big news, as it’s happened quite quickly, as someone just offered up their living room in central Exeter through my Kickstarter page. Follow this link for more details, since it’s a Secret Gig – the exact location won’t be revealed until the night before!

secret_gig logo-20thjulySo much has happened in the last month. The bank balance hovered around the £10 mark for a while and I was filling up the van in quarter-tanks, but now, I’m proud to announce that I’m a “hundredaire”.

Of course, a key part of my ascent to dazzling riches has been busking. Back in May I began busking along the south coast, but it felt wrong because I still had money in the bank. That’s when I conceived The £0 Challenge and vowed to let my money run out before trying to earn again. This weekend I was back on the coast, thinking how different it feels to be busking there now. Before I was always be calculating how much was in being dropped in the hat, worrying about whether I would make much beyond fuel and subsistence for the day. Since my money experiment, I’ve been carefree and singing “Hakuna Matata” with all the enthusiasm of a warthog who really has transcended any worries concerning his flatulence! People have generally contributed what I needed – no need to worry.

Can you guess the town from this photo of a local boat with an excellent name?

Can you guess the town from this photo of a local boat with excellent name?

So, after a day’s work at an undisclosed coastal town, I drove to the beach, where the van stalled on arrival and wouldn’t re-start. I ignored it and went to the beach anyway, wondering about calling the recovery services later on. After sea, sand, dinner and some time feeding the ducks, it was getting dark and I returned to find the carpark gates locked. Ah well…

An evening locked in at the beach.

An evening locked in at the beach.

There was nothing for it but to stay the night in the van, or even better, to drag my bed out onto the grass by the beach. After finding an ideal spot, I fell asleep to the sound of ducks quacking. Goodness knows what all the morning dog walkers thought, passing by not a discreet tent, but a full double bed, complete with pillows, sheepskin, bright red duvet cover and bordered with candles.

The van is now back in Exeter, having been rescued and recovered to outside a mechanic friend’s house. It’s awaiting fixing. If anyone knows a cure for “old van syndrome” even better. A van breakdown used to really panic me, but it’s amazing how much less stressful everything feels since The £0 Challenge. I would certainly recommend the experience to anyone who is thinking of trying it.


Get Kimwei’s new album by pledging to her Kickstarter page:

Go the Secret Gig Album Launch, Exeter, Sunday July 20th

Take part in Kimwei’s Music Video:

Listen to Kimwei’s original acoustic music at , watch at , interact at , everything at




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Why Making A Kickstarter Page Made Me Think Of Donald Duck

So, the Kickstarter page goes live today: , and runs till August 23rd. It features the first video I’ve ever made in the van. Terrifyingly the page states that the project will only be funded if the target is met. Woah – scary stuff! Hope everyone who reads this pledges at least £1 though, because currently that’s the only way to get a copy of my new album I’m sure you’ll agree it’s worth every penny! Other than pledge, the best thing you can do to help is to share the above link, or this youtube link:

Screen shot 2014-07-10 at 16.47.36

I thought hard about how I’d make a Kickstarter page that fits in with my ideals. Would I be willing to create merchandise when I’m against wasting the planet’s resources? How much funding is reasonable to ask for? I found myself continually coming back to the wisdom of a cartoon character from my youth – The Lucky Duck. The Lucky Duck says, ask for no more than you need and you’ll be provided for.

Whilst dismantling the concept of money, I also find myself thinking about the ideas that surround money – lack and fear of lack, excess, consumerism, paranoia. How do we know that we will get what we need in life, and how can we know how much we really need? Britian is a 1st world country with enough food to feed us all, yet some 1million people cannot afford enough to eat whilst other’s have so much more than they really need.

un-business cards - doing things the sustainable way.

un-business cards – doing things the sustainable way.

When these mysteries haunt me, I think of The Lucky Duck.

Donald Duck was my childhood hero. He shared a comic strip with Daisy Duck and his nephews mainly, but every so often “The Lucky Duck” would appear too. He was always having the best of luck and things always went smoothly for him. Donald hated him for it. In my favourite comic, Donald is angry when Lucky finds a coin in the street, saying “How come you find money in the street and I don’t?” Then Donald spots a wallet on the ground, stuffed with cash and counts himself lucky. “That belongs to someone,” says Lucky “you should hand it in to the police.” But Donald is adamant that he will keep it.

Just then, a huge fierce guy nearby turns up who’s lost his wallet. It’s the one Donald picked up and the assumption is that Donald has been pickpocketing. The enormous man beats him up and takes back what’s his. Whilst Donald lies dazed on the pavement, Lucky says “Look what I’ve just found – a box of plasters for you.”

Even though it’s just a kid’s story, I remember it clearly even to this day. Not only is there a luckyducksense of karmic justice, but a more profound lesson about taking only what you need.

Lucky Duck waddles carefree through the world, happening upon just what he needs and taking nothing more. He exists day by day, relying confidently on the fact that he will be provided for because he’s not asking the Earth. Donald does want the whole world and as such, he doesn’t get it and is miserable. He wants more than he needs and tries to take it. Ultimately, I would argue that even if Donald got everything he wanted it wouldn’t make him happy.

Take part in Kimwei’s Music Video:

Listen to Kimwei’s original acoustic music at , watch at , interact at , everything at





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The £0 Challenge Permanently Changed Me – My New Ambition Is Business Failure

During my descent to £0, I believed that when my bank balance hit zero, I would launch my new recording studio website ( – now live), a kickstarter page for my album and tear all engines blazing into building a successful business. I was rearing to go and getting impatient.

However, after over a month of living with as little money as possible, I ran out on June 18th, having completely lost interest in profit. It turns out, the process changed me permanently and I couldn’t bring myself “push my own business”. The very idea made me feel a little queasy. I continued building, feeling strangely off colour. Something felt wrong.

goldflower-banner-wordpressHow could I price my services? The jobs I’ve been best at, besides performing music, have been to do with helping people to do something difficult that’s important to them. Producing records for other musicians, teaching, mentoring and care/enabling work all come into this category. When it comes to production, if I charge what I know I’m worth, many musicians couldn’t afford it. More than that – exactly the people who I want to help the most, wouldn’t be able to afford me: Dedicated, free range, organic, unsigned musicians who no doubt work part time to support their art. Charge too little on the other hand, and I’d risk undercutting other studios unfairly.

Would I do it for free if I could? Yes. I believe so strongly in building an alternative music industry and in helping independent musicians to make industry standard records, that I would do it for free if I was rich. So why can’t I? Because I haven’t gone moneyless, neither am I rich so I still need some money to live on. Not only that, if my computer or other equipment broke or needed upgrading and I didn’t have the money to replace them, then I’d have to stop doing this work.

Then it hit me. What if I opened my services private clients for donations of money and/or resources? What if I went around teaching people music, produced independent musician’s records and in return they donated money which I could use pay for music gear to keep me doing this. Other resources I’d need could include food, a place to stay, or something else they might have to offer. I could have a wish list. I could run my kickstarter page (to be launched in my next post) for funds to get the studio up and running.

My kickstarter video will have to be re-shot with the new  "Goldflower Studios" angle. I could do with finding my real windsock too and returning the one I've borrowed from Dr. Seuss.

My kickstarter video will have to be re-shot with the new “Goldflower Studios” angle. I could do with finding my real windsock too and returning the one I’ve borrowed from Dr. Seuss.

What’s the difference between allowing donations and simply being paid? It’s a subtle difference but it’s important to me. Being paid is a contract which specifies the value of the service. If I give one client extra time for free, it won’t seem fair on others. Plus, recording is an organic process – if a client takes a day longer than estimated to finish their record, that causes tension. In my experience, it’s hard to be creative, both for me and for the artist when the meter is ticking. Taking the idea of “payment” out of the equation removes these stresses and allows us to put the record first. Instead of “being paid”, I could give my services and people could give what they want in return. As long as in my life overall, I have everything I need, it doesn’t matter if some people donate a lot and some a little. It doesn’t matter if they donate in advance, or afterwards, meaning I don’t have the stress of chasing people up.

It also opens up other opportunities for people to contribute. Someone who I’ve never met, could reading my weblog and then donate because they’ve enjoyed reading it and they want to support me in doing what I’m doing. Maybe they want to contribute just to help continue writing here, making my own music and contributing to the independent music through my recording and producing services. It has a different feel to saying “Buy this and you can have it”. Instead I’d be saying “Here, have this. I don’t expect anything in return but if you want to give me something to say thank you, that’ll help me”. The exchange will feel more like busking.

To me, busking is far from begging. I stand in the street and play. Putting a hat out is a way of saying “I’m open to receiving donations”. Donations should not be for pity, neither are they a bizarre “listening tax”. The best reason someone could give for dropping money is to show their appreciation if the music has brightened their day. Another reason I give to buskers is because I love live music. I love to support the busking tradition that fills our streets with real music. Hearing buskers had a hugely positive effect on me as a kid. Too young for gigs, it was the only time I was hearing music played live, right there in front of me.

I’ll start this subtle movement from “earning” to “giving and receiving” with Goldflower Studios. If it works I could extend it to my other music services to. Rather than being part of the “music business” (two words I’d rather not see together), as a singer songwriter, teacher or producer, I am an organic, free-range musician.

Take part in Kimwei’s Music Video:

Listen to Kimwei’s original acoustic music at , watch at , interact at , everything at



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Running out of money was such an anti-climax, I just had to go to Harrods

Because the idea of running out of money held so much fear for me, I decided to deliberately let my bank account run to £0 and then work my way up from zero. It was almost as though I thought I would die if I ran out of money and had no work planned. At the very least, I imagined myself abandoning all else to stand in the street and sing for my supper, then going home to the van and hatching plans to tout myself around for as much work as possible.

Would Harrods be a good place to busk? This Big Issue seller seems to think it's a great spot.

Would Harrods be a good place to busk? This Big Issue seller seems to think it’s a great spot.

The reality was much less dramatic – almost disappointingly so. On June 18th I ran out of money, spending my final pennies at the sweet shop in order to get to exactly £0. I still had some groceries left and some fuel in the tank. Would more money come in before those supplies ran out?


It was very easy. That same day, someone contacted me about doing enabling/care work for them so I booked couple of days at the end of the week. Rather bizarrely, later that day someone else contacted me about the same thing, so I booked a day with them for the following week. With a little busking to top it up, I realised that’s all I need for now.

So there you have it… the anti-climax.

Quite profound don’t you think? My attempts to put myself in a desperate situation have failed. It’s proved impossible for me to do so. I’ve learned that living abundantly is not about money but resources – it’s just that we’ve been conditioned to believe that money is the only resource.

Since running out of money 2 weeks ago, I have been working my way up slowly, but funds are still low at best. A highlight of my week was singing in Chichester market square with a sign saying “Busking for tickets to the opera”. The experiment has changed me permanently in ways I could never have predicted, and how I make a living from now on will be totally different. I won’t give too much away, but lets just say that I have exciting plans to create my future as business failure.

I put on my most expensive outfit so as to blend in, although I felt a little conspicuous getting changed in the street outside harrods and tying a tie using Starbucks' window as a mirror.

I put on my most expensive outfit so as to blend in, although I felt a little conspicuous getting changed in the street outside harrods and tying a tie using Starbucks’ window as a mirror.

In my last post, I showed my reaction to going to M&Ms World – a wildly consumerist shop in Leicester Square. How then, having recently gone to £0, would I respond to being in Harrods?

I had to try it.

In Harrods, pricetags are hidden. In Harrods, the staff wear suits. In Harrods, the toilets provide free perfume as well as soap. In Harrods, there are many expensive things, like a rucksack for £900 or a chair for £4000, or even a box of tea for £7 or a plastic biro for £5. I was appalled by M&Ms world, but I surprised to find that Harrods did not appal me.


A £175 shirt… I have one that looks quite similar, but of course you can tell the difference at a glance because mine is blue.

Why? Well, in Harrods it seemed like there was no trickery or coercion. Stuff was for sale and you could buy it if you wanted to – isn’t that how shops should be? Items were on display, but prices were hidden, so you had to take a liking to something based on what it was, not on its price. Everything expensive that I saw seemed well made. Even where things were clearly overpriced (£175 for a shirt – well beyond the cost of its materials and labour), it seemed as though this was very plainly declared. M&Ms World, by contrast, was laid out to try and milk as many purchases as possible out of each customer, regardless of whether they would get good use out of them. Someone could of course buy a £175 shirt from Harrods, and consign it to the bin after 3 months. But being well made, it could also last them for 10 years or more, or be worn 2nd, 3rd and 4th hand for years to come. Products from M&Ms World on the other hand, were so cheaply made that they would quickly break, have no 2nd hand value so would soon end up in a landfill for sure.


Take part in Kimwei’s Music Video:

Listen to Kimwei’s original acoustic music at , watch at , interact at , everything at


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