By jamessummerfieldmusic, Jun 2 2017 08:37AM
Again, the following does not apply to all promoters (obviously!) but I am talking about the majority.
I'm talking about promoters who:
1. Don't do any promotion. Instead, rely solely on the artist to bring their own crowd.
2. Take a percentage of merch sales
3. Don't turn up to the show.
4. Don't advertise you if you're a support artist
5. Don't pay you, feed you or even acknowledge you’re there
6. Say something like, "I didn't see you; how did it go?"
7. Don't give you any space to sell merch
8. Ask you to arrive at the venue at 6 o'clock so you can sit around and wait for the other bands to sound check for longer than they actually need
9. Never respond to email requests or telephone calls when you want to book a show
10. Put you on stage at a ridiculous time: either too early- when no one is likely to show or too late- when no one is likely to show
I have to ask myself, why do I want to perform? The answer is quite simple: I would like to share my music with people who have never heard me before or who simply enjoy my performances. It's a bit like publishing a book: why publish something if no one is going to read it? So with that in mind, why would I want to play in front of no one or worse still, in front of friends and family? The amount of times I’ve thought, ‘why am I here- this is supposed to be enjoyable.’
My other question (which I have no answer to) is why do people promote if they are not interested in the artists or generating a crowd? Do they get paid a fixed fee from the venue regardless of ticket/door sales? Is that the main motivation? I don't know.
IT CAN BE DONE...
The late, great Paul Murphy used to promote Treehouse Sessions in his back garden and they would sell out every time. He would feed you and broadcast you live. More importantly, Paul would welcome you into his home, feed you, drink with you and even talk to you!
Rob Peters who runs a pre-booked open mic night (a contradiction in terms but it works) at The Station in Kings Heath. He books a variety of local performers who get 15 minutes performance time. Given that everyone watches everyone else, you’ll get a good crowd. It’s also a great chance to network. Again, Rob looks after you: he introduces you and even gives you a live recording of the set.
Debbie and Dave who book performers for Cafe Ort (amongst other venues) do a similar thing. They put on a range of performers from belly dancers to poets. Again, this is a great networking opportunity and they are really lovely enthusiastic people who do it because they like doing it. Naturally, the performers are watching each other so you will usually get a crowd. Through Debbie and Dave, I have played at range of different venues including a local brewery and a local Heritage Centre. They’ve also offered me things like the library pit in Birmingham. Isn't this what it's all about?
HOW NOT TO DO IT
The Mac Arts Centre contacted me stating that they had a 219 seater venue and that they were interested in me playing so offered me 3 dates. I replied, ‘Just to be clear, I would love to play and August sounds perfect. However, as a matter of principle, I do not 'bring my own audience'; instead, I rely on the promoters to source me a crowd. She replied, ‘We'd expect a certain amount of interaction on social media from the artist to support that, but as a promoter, we will always do our best to actually promote!’ I thanked her and accepted her invitation. It was perfect timing for my album release so we were going to turn it into a launch. A week later, her colleague contacted me. He stated that he is going to cancel the booking as they were only putting the feelers out. Words fail me! Imagining being a promoter and having a venue as amazing as the Mac Art Centre! What an opportunity to get things right.
For these reasons, I rarely play anymore. In fact, I will only play then use that guarantee me a half decent crowd. Failing that, I am willing to play for promoters who appear enthusiastic which is the minimum requirement in my book.