by MATT BACON >
Hey, so there’s a secret to getting to play all of the cool shows in your local scene and endearing yourself to that long haired mustachioed local promoter who seems to be putting on most of the cool shows. It’s the one thing you can do in order to make sure that your band actually goes places and guarantees that said promoter will actively tell his friends who are promoters in other cities about you. It’s not something that you’re going to want to hear, in fact it’s something that’s going to drive you insane when you hear it. That’s simply because the music industry is a pain and it requires the artists to y’know, work, so here we go. Are you ready? You need to promote your own shows. You can’t rely on anyone to do it for you, you can’t rely on other people to try and help you out, you need to accept that the only way to go forward is to fight with every ounce of your strength to try and drag people out to see your art.
That’s all that it comes down too, it’s not just a question of being easy to work with, or the guy who is always down to share his drum kit with other people. Nor is it a question of how good your live show is, though that factors in, and we’ll talk about that later. What it comes down to is simply that you need to be the guy who is actively helping to make sure that the promoter doesn’t lose money. The promoter of any given show is putting their neck on the line for you no matter what’s going on. They are running the risk of losing money because some people they probably don’t know were hoping to be able to play a show in your town, and this person chose you to help reduce the risk that the touring band wouldn’t be worth their $150. Instead of taking on this responsibility and embracing it and realizing that the promoter is doing their best to make things work and give your cities scene something cool for the arts you instead choose not to promote and act like an asshole when you don’t get a payout.
I know that last paragraph makes me sound like a very frustrated old man, but guess what, I am.
That’s not me attacking anyone or trying to be an angry old dick, but simply that if you want promoters to like you then help them not lose money. That’s not a complicated thing to ask of someone. It’s not a complicated thing to sit up and say “Hey man – I don’t think it’s the best idea that my band becomes part of a promoters bad memory of a show, he probably won’t want to work with us again if we don’t help him’. I don’t understand why this logical leap is so hard for so many people but that’s just the way things are. Sure some shows literally don’t matter, but the majority of the time if you put out your neck a little bit, even half as far as the promoter is then they are going to appreciate it and want to work with you on shows in the future. It’s an “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” kind of situation that leaves everyone growing.
Furthermore if you promote your shows and take care of your scene then the gatekeepers are going to know that they don’t need to pull you into any sort of schemes that require you to sell tickets or otherwise pay to play. They are going to know that if you are able to help make the moves that matter then you are going to be accountable when they put you on a bigger show. It’s the bands who don’t promote who have made it that you need to sell tickets in order to play shows. Promoters aren’t bad people, they are just frustrated with your fucking horse shit. I can assure you almost every promoter didn’t start out as a pay to play promoter, but they turn into them simply because they have no other way to hold bands accountable anymore. I mean some are genuinely shitty people, but you know what I’m saying. Odds are they are genuinely trying to help you and make things better and your band acts like you don’t have to do anything other than show up and play.
If music was just about showing up and playing don’t you think way more people would want to get involved? That’s the reason people drop out though, it’s never about just showing up and playing until you have a huge reputation and a manager who is capable of handling literally everything for you. The bands who think this are the bands who inevitably start to get booked less and less and who end up becoming a serious blight on the scene. This isn’t because they are bad bands but because the people can’t go beyond and see that they need to have a role in this. Now think about it, it’s not just a promoter thing, don’t you want the bands you play with on tour to take care of you too? Or are you willing for them to throw you under the bus when you come to their town? Again – the industry is a tough place and getting people to come to shows sucks, but you gotta do it.
When it comes down to it every promoter has their favorite bands, and odds are it’s not because those favorite bands are always the best band in the scene, even if that’s a huge factor in people y’know liking a band. Promoters want to see that people are working hard in collaboration with them. They grind their asses off constantly to get even a bare handful of people out at shows and a lot of this is because the bands couldn’t even be bothered to bring their girlfriends. Perhaps the most jarring lesson from this article is that the biggest problem with the underground is in many ways the bands and their sheer, wasteful apathy.