The past few months has really opened my eyes to the world of the promoter. I know the promoting heavyweights will have probably tried every way possible in the book to making their nights successful and will have eventually found a formula that works for them. For me, after the past few months of spending a huge amount of time on our gigs, I’ve had a complete change of heart in my opinion of what actually goes into putting an event on, because it is hard! Until recently I had never done gigs regularly, we started doing two a month in Sheffield and Manchester but sadly now due to staffing shortages we can no longer continue them and after the Autumn and I will be concentrating more on the site. How people put on shows nationally every week, I have literally no idea how they cope with the workload.
I want to applaud all promoters putting on gigs at grassroots level as I now fully know just how time consuming and bloody difficult it is. There is this constant urge to prove yourself, that’s throughout the whole industry for that matter, with friends and competitors doing great things all over social media, but this constant stream of information can be paralysing at times and you can struggle to keep up. There’s also no such thing as a bad show, bad band, bad anything on social media, things like that never get spoke about and there’s always someone who’s doing things so much better than you. There’s no competition! We all support each other everyone cries! The harsh truth and reality is that very few people have actually got your back and the majority of people are stabbing you in it.
If you sell out a show, someone else will sell out five shows. If you interview Liam Gallagher someone will interview Kasabian and The Arctic Monkeys together on a boat in Dubai with bells on – I can’t see that happening but you get my drift. You’re always ON, and you hardly ever can take any time to relax its a 24/7 job. Your free time (whats free time?) and working hours frequently cross over, because when you are pushing gigs you need to be doing it at times when you should be relaxing or spending time with your family, like at evenings and weekends. It can really take it’s toll and that is why I’ve wrote this article so that people who may not realise it, think about what actual diamonds unsigned promoters on the unsigned scene are.
Lets then also touch upon the financial side, a lot of promoters invest a hell of a lot of their time purely out of their belief into new music and not for financial gain. The little promoters do earn doesn’t equate the time and energy they put in. I’m sure by now that we all know, making money out of this industry is extremely hard work and whether we like to admit it or not there is relatively little appreciation for the underground and even mainstream promotion and press people working relentlessly behind the scenes – I personally believe this must stop.
Over the past few months I’ve learnt, heard and seen so much that I wanted to discuss some of the promoter myths that really get on my nerves and float around the unsigned scene. Because some people just don’t seem to understand or get any of it, its just taken for granted.
We don’t do gigs that ask you to take tickets! It’s wrong!
Personally for our gigs, we have been asking all our bands to take 30 tickets (although we haven’t always done this as before we didn’t use venues that charged a hire fee). It’s NEVER been a case of you need to sell all 30 to earn your place on the bill, or that you will need to pay the deficit for any tickets you don’t sell in advance, but it is a guide to what we would like you to aim for so everyone has a successful night. If a promoter asks you to pay for tickets you haven’t sold or asks you to buy the tickets so you can sell them, then I’d suggest you run.
Asking a band to take 30 tickets is why ourselves and some other promoters expect you to not play a gig in the area four weeks before, so you have a good chance of hitting that target. I again, don’t see the harm in this, I did initially I’ll be honest but thats all fine and dandy if you have no overheads to cover. When you have them I believe promoters are well within their rights to do that. Something that I bet will be ripe for discussion.
Why though? Is it to line your pockets? We just love to play!
No, its so the whole night is successful. Do you want to play a gig with no-one there? Think about it this way, your likely to be playing an 100 -120 cap small, venue so thirty tickets is a very small number to ask you to take. If every band brings a good crowd you all play your music to each others fanbases, its a great night and this is how word of mouth spreads, so its in your best interests. You may just love to play but if a promoter has say £220 expenses to cover its not fair to expect a promoter to foot all that bill out of their own pocket so some consideration has to be taken.
What do we get?
In my experience every gig is a risk and I believe bands shouldn’t be expected to play for free, they need paying but we all have to work together to get people through the door hence so hopefully I can pay you something, usually a minimum of £30, hence why you are asked to take tickets. Don’t forget a promoter has the venue hire to pay, sound engineer, promotion costs and the rider first. In a 100 cap venue, for a promoter there can be a lot of anxiety in the lead up to the event whilst they try to ensure they cover all their overheads. It would be great if promoters could pay bands a guaranteed sum but it’s just not always possible. The promoter has no guaranteed income either. Expenses are usually covered and more besides if the band generate an audience. I believe all bands should at least have their expenses covered and likewise the promoter should have their expenses covered. Mutual respect and understanding for band and promoter is paramount here. As a band if you are working with a decent promoter you will get some promotion as well, whether thats an interview or some radio play, it all helps.
So where is the money going?
I can only go on us and when you play a gig for Northern Exposure you are pretty lucky that it isn’t our lifeblood and income stream because we are putting it on to get you exposure. All I want is to cover my overheads and the rest feeds back to the bands. Again for me it boils down to mutual respect, who pays for all those hours of pushing the gig on socials, booking the venue and paying upfront, actually getting to the venue at 5pm and not leaving till gone 12, buying the rider, designing the poster, getting someone to do the door and run the show? Promoting you? Tidying the venue after everyone has left? The promoter or rep thats who and all the gigs I have personally done, I have done all that for nothing to help the unsigned scene. I don’t want praise, I don’t want a medal, I do this because I love it and I’m passionate about it and thats my choice. Some promoters however do this to put food on their families tables so shouldn’t be slated because they make money (usually very little) from gigs.
In our circumstances, you was again, very lucky, because anything that was left (which sometimes isn’t anything) after costs goes to the bands. But regardless, if a promoter is putting on gigs to make a living and has to employ staff to run the gig, pay for a poster designer, spend HOURS on social media pushing the gigs surely, like any other job, they should get paid!
Oh we don’t ask bands to take tickets, we don’t believe in it…
A lot of bands and some promoters are making a point of not asking bands to take any tickets and come across all high and mighty and thats fine if it isn’t what you use to put food on the table or your a student who hasn’t got a family at home, maybe its easier to take the financial risks. Nine times out of ten these people are getting paid by the venues to put these gigs on so they aren’t even risking anything because regardless they make a wage! But what should promoters who do this for a living do? The ones who aren’t earning a wage from the venues? Are they meant to spend hours of their lives, pushing your band, paying poster designers, printing costs and promoting your band and gig for absolutely nothing and pay all the overheads? What do you think that a venue cap of 100-ish is generating anyway? It usually, barely covers costs anyway.
Again as usual with my editorials I can only go on what I experience, see and hear. The does not account for all bands, I have met some absolute diamonds who work just as hard as we do and understand and appreciate our efforts. Again, as I keep reiterating, if you are treated well by a promoter spread the word maybe say a thank you on social media, none of it hurts does it.
I am really interested in this and I would love to know peoples thoughts as I know they are so many varied opinions from bands and promoters and it would be great to hear them.
Please comment below!