Being a promoter sometimes requires cautious diplomacy in the face of raw enthusiasm. Every musician I’ve met is passionate about their creations, without exception. Not a surprising fact. But some realise the difference between doing gigs and getting offered gigs.
The difference begins with treating the band more like business, less as an ego trip and excuse for a piss up, which is fine if that’s your band’s main objective (and for quite a few it is). What ruins that strategy is when the same bands complain they’re not getting enough gigs and their fan base isn’t growing. Gigs are great when all your mates are there, but more or less they’re a false audience. They are obliged to be nice, regale you of your awesomeness, Windex your vanity. Expanding a fan base is a whole other matter. Gaining new followers is a great achievement and a good directional clarification. Of course social networking, digital availability of your offerings and general pushiness is part of it, but on stage exposure is the only way to really inspire and connect with new listeners, and by supporting the bands that attract your potential fans. Remembering you will be doing the same for others once you’re headlining. This means working in collaboration with bands, venues, and, if you’re lucky, a good promoter.
Promoters put bands on for a reason. You have ‘something’ that makes their neurones sparkle, makes that audio imagery real. You don’t have phallical protrusions emanating from your forehead. You will bring in punters, and more than likely appeal to existing punters. Your fans aren’t just there to extol your musical virtue then promptly disappear having collectively purchased half a coke between all six of them. Promoters have to please more than one interested party: the band, the venue, the audience, the budget (unless they have already amassed a personal fortune to spend as they wish – if only!). From my point of view I need to feel a band is serious about taking their passion seriously. I want to support that passion and assist in some, however small, way. I want to reward them for their dedicated hard work, and feel an immense personal failure if I can’t give them it. I actually give a shit.
Promoters aren’t the enemy. Real grass roots promoters are passionate about music, especially live music, and just can’t help it! If a promoter hasn’t started in a dingy pub, stressing about every detail, pushing for that bit of free promotion in every corner, losing money, buffering the venue’s expectations with the bands wants/demands then they have no credence to be gratified with the label of success, whatever that means. On the very rare, almost nonexistent, times I make what you would consider profit at a gig it goes back into the pot for the next one. Maybe to bring in something completely new that I know won’t draw a huge crowd on its own but warrants the financial loss just because of its ‘you HAVE to hear this’ brilliance! I just wish more people went to gigs just for the sake of going to a gig. But that’s where a promoter’s reputation is all important, people wihttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifll come back without even knowing who’s playing if in the past they’ve not been disappointed – something that bands don’t always consider when they’re knocked back by that miserable crappy promoter who hates them and doesn’t really know what they’re talking about anyway, in their considered opinion.
On a side note, pay to play are NOT promoters. As far as I’m concerned they have nothing to do with music and more to do with sneaky banker types practicing the Simon Cowell school of music exploitation in the name of amassing a personal fortune to comfort their own egotistical needs.
See you on the door 😉
(Originally published in Rhubarb Bomb, October issue http://www.rhubarbbomb.com)