I’ve been mulling writing blog style posts about the music industry for a while – and there’s a topic that often frustrates me that I wanted to write about….
We’ve all seen it.
Bands announce tour dates and there’s always someone who is “Band!!! Y U no play my city?”
Sometimes, you even get an added line “no band ever plays here” – which is sometimes a bit dramatic (unless you live out in the sticks and can surely understand the lack of touring bands round you) but I know first hand it can be frustrating keep seeing bands you like announce dates and none of which are that near you.
That is how we got into promotion in the first place. We’ll come to that in a bit.
First up, unless the band is doing their own booking (they tend not to) bands don’t usually get a lot of say in where they play. Sure, they might be able to approach their agent and give a preference of a city or venue they might like to play (or a preference of city or venue they might prefer not to play, if there’s been previous bad experiences with venues and/or promoters) but usually this is completed by an agent who has to sort out the most sensible route to drive around the country, hitting the places likely to enable them to play to as many people as possible.
Let’s put it into simple terms. You want to go to some bars to have some drinks and see your friends. Bar A has 20 of your friends, Bar B has 12 of your friends, Bar C has 10 of your friends, Bar D has 10 of your friends and Bar E has 5 of your friends, but they’re shouting pretty loud for you to see them as they’ve not seen you in a while.
You can go to 3 bars. Which 3 do you choose? A and B make most sense as you can see 32 of your friends in these two bars. If you omit bar E then these friends will shout at you for missing them AGAIN but if you choose to see them you miss out on 20 of your friends from C or D. Which ever you choose from C or D the other will be unhappy.
There is no logical way you can do this and keep everyone happy.
So you do A, B and C and hope some of your friends from D and E come to see you.
Perhaps next time out you do A, B and D
Maybe at some point in the future you have time to do 4 bars, or maybe one time fate will allow you to do all 5 – but perhaps by the time you can do all 5, you have more friends and now people in bars F, G and H all want to see you – and while you’d love to hang out with them all you have family to go home to, or only so much money to drink in bars (and even with people buying you drinks there’s still other expenses) and so on and so forth.
In essence, that’s pretty much it – that there’s only a limited time available to do tours because of other commitments, expenses, etc. so it’s all a case of trying to do the best with what is available and that sometimes means that your city is missed and that you are Bar C and they’re going to Bar D this time – and if you are constantly being missed then you’re possibly Bar F or G (or Z!).
But, don’t despair too much – there’s plenty of things you can do.
My first suggestion is that the UK is a small country and a lot of places are closer than you think. (For international readers, I have no idea on your size or infastructure) trains aren’t actually that expensive if you can book in advance – and if you have enough mates then a minibus trip can work out OK. I know this is a cost upon a cost, but yeah – it’s not difficult to co-ordinate a cheap hotel deal and a good deal on train tickets.
You’re now going to say : I don’t want to travel to gigs, I just want bands I like in my hometown.
So, my next suggestion. It’s simple.
Check your local gig guides and venues for what bands they DO have. Read up on some of the bands and happen there will be something similar to your interests, possibly in a band you’d never heard of : go to that.
Maybe they’ll suck, maybe they’ll be brilliant but it’s got to be better than sitting wishing bands would play and the heads through the door shows there’s a demand for that style of band. If it looks like the show did well, speak to the venue or promoter afterwards with your suggestions of who you’d like to see that’s similar.
Mind, granted – there has to be sense in your wish. Consider that plenty of people tell venues and promoters who they should book and most suggestions are, well, unsuitable. But, “Hey, this gig did well – there’s this band X who have a new album out later this year : do you think they could play here on the tour there’s clearly a demand for this sort of music” well, it can work. Though, don’t be too disappointed if it doesn’t, but really – if I’m putting bands on of a certain genre and they do well then I’m more likely to book similar bands. It’s not always as black and white, mind, but if a lot of people in a certain city like a certain style of band it makes sense for bands to try to play there and makes sense for promoters to try to put them on.
Try is a very appropriate word, because there are so many factors. There’s a whole bunch of bands we’ve tried to get and logistics didn’t make sense for them and there’s been a whole bunch of bands contact us who we couldn’t help for assorted reasons.
But certainly, the odds of booking certain types of show increase when similar shows have done well.
Or. You could be in a situation like I was in when I started promoting. RFTK was a merger of individuals – I personally represent the F, which stood for Floorshow Promotions which I started in 2005 booking Gothic bands at first and then some more industrial acts later. At the time, there weren’t really any of the Gothic or Industrial bands playing Newcastle – well – apart from Bauhaus and The Cult – so there wasn’t a local promoter to bug to put on the bands I wanted, so I started booking them myself.
If that is the situation you’re in, it’s probably a lot trickier to persuade a promoter to start booking the sort of shows you like. But possible, it’s all just a case of proving there’s a market.
I could talk about my experiences for hours but that would distract largely from the point I’m trying to make. Perhaps if this blog post is popular I can do another one another time and talk about these. I could also try to expand on what does go into putting a tour together, but not today.
But, my points are as thus…
(1) It’s not possible for a band to announce a tour and everyone be happy, moaning at them about it isn’t going to be able to change much
(2) Given the time and effort it takes to put together a tour it’s a kick in the teeth to them for you to immediately rubbish it.
(3) I know it’s frustrating when your city is missed, but try to work out which dates you could make and plot a road trip – the UK isn’t a big country and transport is quite good.
(4) If a band you like is playing your city – make an extra effort to try and get there.
(5) And if the bands you like aren’t, look at assorted listings as there’s bound to be bands you don’t know that you will like – showing there’s a demand for certain genre’s increases the likelihood similar bands will play.
(6) Bugging your local promoter doesn’t magically make shows appear in your city, but if you turnout for a similar show and have a suggestion you think would work well, you’re no further behind if you raise it with them.
Ooh, while you’re here – check out our listings 😉