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Sunday, 11 December 2011

Debate is good.

Over the last few months I've been accused of not knowing what I'm talking about when I vent my spleen about what I consider to be the poor practices of some promoters and venues.
So as it could be entirely possible that I am a lone curmudgeon in my outlook I thought I would take the opportunity to ask a few questions so that I can ascertain if my stance is in fact a minority one.

The questions themselves are all rather basic and require a simple yes or no response, but please feel free to add comments and expand on your answers as you see fit.

1)Should bands be paid expenses - at the very least - for their performances?
2)Is it fair that venues expect band and artists to provide their labour for free while everyone else that works for them receives a wage?
3)Should promoters be able to block book venues without confirmed acts, and in doing so create a closed shop aspect whereas band and artists cannot secure gigs unless it is through them?
(Please exclude club nights from this.)
4)Should promoters and bookers publicly state ticket split deals?
5)Do you care as a music fan if the band/artist who has entertained you has been paid for their labour?


  1. 1) Yes. No one else is asked to work for nothing while someone else profits from what they do.
    2) No. See above. It's taking the piss.
    3) No. How the fuck can that be an accepted practice?
    4) Yes. Transparency is needed so that people can see how corrupt this practice is.
    5) Yes. As a performer and music fan I am sick of the exploitative side of the music business.

  2. In a clear cut world we all know the answers.
    The question is how do we change the way it currently is?

  3. The obvious answer is not to participate.
    Similarly to many thorny issues in life the solution is within the grasp of the majority if we choose to exercise the muscle we have.
    If the vast majority of bands/artists wrote a simple list of terms that venues and promoters must abide by, and stuck to it, then change would come.
    Of course there would be a great deal of resistance to that from those who profit from the musicians and fans, but give it a month of bands and artists sitting at home and refusing to accept what is currently on offer and the promoters and venues would soon have to consider changing for self preservation purposes.

  4. Anyone who disagrees with you on this particular topic is only in it for the £££ and is most likely a total arsehole.

  5. Yes.

  6. 1. Yes. At the very least.
    2. No, it is a rip off pure and simple.
    3. No, and bands should refuse to work with promoters that indulge in such sharp practice.
    4. Yes.
    5.Yes, as a fan and a musician.

  7. 1)Should bands be paid expenses - at the very least - for their performances?

    Paid by whom? I would say if the band was booked by a promoter then a basic
    guarantee should be made, even if its just a tenner and some beer. In general id say
    yes though. Whoever books a band should cover petrol at the least.
    Then again if i was playing a local gig supporting a well known act and the night
    bombed, leaving the promoter with a major loss. Id tell them to keep their hand in
    their pocket.

    2)Is it fair that venues expect band and artists to provide their labour for
    free while everyone else that works for them receives a wage?

    Id say that if the bands/promoters aren't actually employed by the venue then
    why should they pay them. The venue is just a place used to put on the gig.
    You don't play a gig as an employee of the venue. Unless the venue puts the gig on
    on in house then they aren't financially responsible, the promoter is.

    3)Should promoters be able to block book venues without confirmed acts,
    and in doing so create a closed shop aspect whereas band and artists
    cannot secure gigs unless it is through them?
    (Please exclude club nights from this.)

    I think small venues should keep a limit to the amount of nights it lets out to
    promoters, most experienced small venues will do this anyway.
    Promoters who block book, put on 5 bands a night, screw bands over with ticket
    split/pay to play. They never last long anyway as it all comes out in the wash. They
    run out of naive 18 year old bands to screw over.

    4)Should promoters and bookers publicly state ticket split deals?

    I think thats up to them. As long as they are up front with bands/artists.
    Should shops disclose what they are paying for their goods wholesale and how much
    profit they are making? I think if a band gets shafted they should let
    people know and also warn other bands to avoid said shaft'ees.

    5)Do you care as a music fan if the band/artist who has entertained you has
    been paid for their labour?

    What i do care about is bands educating themselves a bit more on the business
    side of things. Im tired of this 'im not in it for the money' shit. Fine. Just don't moan
    like a little kid when you aint making any money from gigs. When your on tour hungry and
    a CD sale will mean you get to buy a sandwich then youll become a bloody good salesman pretty
    fast. Nobody forced anyone to join a band. Generally speaking though, yes i like bands to get paid.
    They just need to realise, most of the time you pay yourself.

    CJ x

  8. Good points CJ, and they all open the debate up.

    1)I would say that a promoter should guarantee expenses, but in certain circumstances bands may wish to come and go with the reputable ones as they see fit.
    No one wants to see the people who work ethically take a large hit. I've been there and felt humbled by the support I received.

    2) Fair play to separate the promoters and venues depending on who is booking the bands.
    If it is the venue themselves or a booker that they employ then I would say that they have a responsibility to cover costs as over the course of a year the more established ones are turning over enough of a profit to cover a minimum of expenses to all the acts who play in their establishment. They're having a laugh to bitch about a poor turn out one night when a week earlier it was at capacity.

    3) The problem seems to be that once one goes to the wall another takes their place and the train keeps a rollin'.
    So bands do need to become more sussed and not just hate the player, but the game itself.

    4) Well I think that there should be a far greater deal of transparency - as mentioned up thread - in all walks of life. People in general want a good deal and I think that if ticket split deals were made public then people can pressure for a better deal rather than just bitching amongst themselves about it.

    5) I'm also sick of the 'I'm not in in for the money' shite. To make a living of something that they love doing is not wrong and acts should start accepting that. When they play to an audience it's not a party at a mates house.
    If bands were paid then the fallout of that is promoters and venues would only want to book acts that are talented enough for them to profit from. In this way it's a bit survival of the fittest, but for me I'd rather see a band who know the score than crap bottle-necking the flow of talent. There's probably more that can be said on this part of it.
    My point being that 5 bands a night seven days a week is unsustainable unless there an acceptance that anyone can play as long as they can bring some mates who will buy a few pints.

  9. CJ - Your answers.

    1 & 2. Yeah I agree but assumed we were taliking about promoters and in-house bookings.

    3. Agreed - but I doubt they will ever run out of bands trying to learn their craft.

    4.As long as they are up front - agreed.

    5. I think some bands definitely need to learn about advertising their own shows for sure and not just rely on the promoter...and that works just as well for promoters that don't promote.

    What I think stinks is when a young band does make an effort and draws a crowd, the promoter keeps the lions share of the door, the venue keeps all the beer money the bands fans have bought - and the band get a firm handshake and a fabulous rebooking.

  10. I think it is often the case that certain people simply take advantage of

    1. Should bands be paid expenses - at the very least - for their performances?

    Most definitely, work should be rewarded — especially when considering the full expense of being a musician; rehearsals, instruments, recordings, merch production etc. Fair play, not all bands will have heavy overheads but in order to progress, a few bob in a money tin after each gig will eventually come in handy.

    2. Is it fair that venues expect band and artists to provide their labour for free while everyone else that works for them receives a wage?

    In fairness to the promoters who offer deals in which the artists aren't paid — it's up to the artist to accept to play the show. Promoters offering a payment instantly have an invested interest in making sure the show goes well. This invested interest translates, in my experience, as confidence that the show is going to go well. Therefore, encouraging the band to try even harder to perform well and pull a crowd. Playing a show with a promoter should feel like a partnership in which you will both finish the night with a smile on your faces, not feeling sour that you are out of pocket for agreeing to play show.

    3. Should promoters be able to block book venues without confirmed acts, and in doing so create a closed shop aspect whereas band and artists cannot secure gigs unless it is through them? (Please exclude club nights from this.)

    Yes, I think they should...if they want to run a promotions company then block bookings are the perfect way to build and promote the brand and build a reputation. Let's be fair, the promoter needs some sort of financial security just as much as the bands playing. It would stress that in the case of promoters block booking, they should really try strike a deal whereby the venue offer cash towards the running of the night. Which would make it more easier for the promoter to pay the booked artists, have some security and hopefully as a result, be able to attract larger acts.

    The first time I went on tour with a band, we met quite a few people who would never have heard about us had they not simply popped into the venue because of the promoter running that night — so i've experienced positive results from playing shows that have been part of a block booking.

    Bands shouldn't feel pressured into playing for free because the show is at a 'cool venue' - your simply chasing empty, meaningless status.

  11. 4. Should promoters and bookers publicly state ticket split deals?

    That's a tough question, transparency does encourage trust but on the other hand, as a fan of 'Band XYZ', I don't want to be worrying that They are playing 'Venue 123' and will be making whatever % of the door money... let's keep gig posters a fun art form, not a financial forecast. C'mon, do you ask the bands you go see how much they paid to produce their t-shirts before handing over your £10/£, you don't care in the slightest about the screen printer that has just handmade them for £2 a piece, do you? The arrangement between the artist and the promoter should be agreed on in advanced, and kept between the artist and the promoter...exposing it just a way, degrading.

    5. Do you care as a music fan if the band/artist who has entertained you has been paid for their labour?

    Of course, but, I guess in summary to the previous questions. It's 100% up to the band to accept to play gigs that might be considered a poor deal. A promoter / booker who is serious about their career will quickly re-consider their business model if bands start knocking back their slots. If you don't take yourself seriously in a business sense, then you aren't going to be taken seriously...that might sound harsh but I think it's true.

    It's very important, in my opinion, that bands promote and openly thank promoters and venues that have treated them well — people want others saying nice things about them, and they will change to make this happen.

    Ignore the bad deals, accept the good deals and be openly grateful for them — that is the way forward in my eyes.

  12. A lot of good points there but the fact of the matter is that punters are not willing to part with any respectable amount of their cash for less well known acts.
    1) Ideally but where does this money come from?
    2) Not really, but again where is the money supposed to come from?
    3) Yes, it provides the venue with security knowing that they're going to get people in each week. It also means that the promoter can access a fan-base that the bands themselves wouldn't be able too. If a band wants a gig, they simply need to get in touch with the promoter rather than the venue, no problem as far as I can see.
    4) Not quite sure what you're getting at here. If that is the way you,as a band, will be getting paid than just discuss it with the promoter you are working with. Ideally make up contracts to agree terms before you confirm the gig. Any promoter worth his salt wont have a problem with this.
    5) I would love to see bands getting paid a decent wage but the only way for that to happen would be for punters to go to more underground shows and/or raise ticket prices. If you have any ideas to get more people through the door then please do share and if you can get people to pay more than a few quid on the door then good luck to you.
    In an ideal world of course musicians should be paid, at least enough to get by on but the fact of that matter is, even at the top level there just isn't that much money in music

  13. Re the block booking.
    I have had friends who have tried to secure venues for a show and they have a full line up in place but been told no as it is booked.
    Their understanding from that is there is already a gig taking place, but there isn't as within days facebook notices are going up along the lines of 'looking for bands to play (venue) on (date)'.
    So from my point of view the promoters who do this have squeezed in as a middleman to make a profit and it's really a phantom booking until a line up is secured. It's a practice I'm not comfortable with at all, although I can see why a venue would want these promoters to act as unofficial bookers for them.

  14. And public statements of ticket split costs.
    Not for one second am I advocating that anyone should breakdown the costs on a poster, but when promoters advertises for bands I often see financial queries met with 'email me and we can discuss it.
    Why keep it from the public.
    Have a FB page/website and have the ticket splits listed.
    In this way bands can decide prior to contacting the promoter if they wish to do it and music fans can decide if they consider the split is an ethical/fair one.

  15. 1) Yes
    2) No
    5) Yes

    3 and 4 are not as clear cut.

  16. 1. Yes, if they are not part of a talent night/battle-of-the-bands showcase.

    2. Depends if the band is using their own equipment or not, and if the band and/or fans are damaging the venue, if not, then they should be making something from their efforts.

    3. No. And I wouldn't be terribly into supporting venues that did this.

    4. Depends. Definitely in the case of benefit gigs, not so much in others.

    5. Yes. If the bands were relying on t-shirt sales alone, the lack of interesting or flat-out crap designs out there would make it next to impossible for me to support them financially.

  17. I understand you weren't suggesting a price list on the posters...I was just being silly, that would be a tad extreme. I just mean that, discretion over finances is sort of important.

    My thoughts behind this being that I don't want promoters to be able to work out the absolute minimum amount of money they can offer me by looking up the previous promoters I have worked with and how much they paid.

    "Why won't you play here for £50, you played over there for £50 last week"...that could get awkward?

    Again though, it's up to the band to accept or decline the offers so I guess it doesn't really matter.

  18. I honestly don't see it that way.
    I'm not asking for people to release a record of where every single penny goes, but simply what the ticket split deal is.
    Promoters keep this info very close to their chest and I think people should ask why.

    A follow on answer to your hypothetical question from a promoter could be.
    'Well that gig was on my doorstep and at a weekend when I wasn't working in my other job. Unfortunately your show will require me to use a holiday and due to distance be more expensive for me to accommodate and that's why I would require a higher fee.'

  19. Promoters have to make money to. Prick

  20. Anonymous seems to be as opinionated as me it seems.
    Feathers ruffled much?

  21. Hi guys, my opinion is everyone has to be realistic.

    If you as an artist can't guarantee a quarter of a capacity of a venue you shouldn't be playing it and as a promoter shouldn't be booking a venue were the bands on the bill can't get the numbers. There is a divide between artist, promoter and venue.

    Unfortunately, we need each. And before anyone pipes up DIY gig, if you start booking and running gigs for your friends you do start becoming a promoter. I think the holy gig trinity should all take responsibility and not pass the buck. I've been a promoter (though i prefer gig organizer as promotion is usually a small part of it after you book the venue, sound guy, acts that fit on a bill, get their tickets printed, make a jpeg, get jpeg to venue, make sure venue prints posters (properly) etc etc etc) and I play ever so often in small venues were my personal crowd is 6 to 20 people.

    I don't think my act is worth paying more than 4 pound a ticket to see and I generally play free gigs so that my small fan base of about 25 hard core gig goers and about 35 part time fans don't have to fork out too much expense to see me play a set for 30-45 minutes. I'm happy they came out, waited around and listened to my set. If I get a pint or two off them and maybe a few drinks at the bar I'm happy tbh. If, as an act, I had a bigger fan base and as a commodity, I was worth more I would play bigger venues and expect a certain amount of money or a fair cut of the takings.

    If you don't want to play a gig with a rip off promoter don't and boycott the venue. Give your time to the promoter and venue that treats you right.

    The ticket split from promoters I feel should be made public. Again I would price up how much an event would cost and put it up there. As for promoters divulging out how much they make I think asking thats is like asking how much do you make in your job? It can be private to some people. There is also a myth that the promoter and the venue makes a profit even though 15 people have showed up and they bought a few pints. The running cost of a venue is pricey. Staff, electricity, taxes etc.

    The problem with a lot of venues at the moment is they don't respect their customers and don't take time to build up a loyal following. They usually end up grabbing the quick buck and ruining their reputation (in my humble opinion).

    Acts ruin the gig circuit too. I would say 8 out of 10 gigs I've put on a band has pulled. Reliability, from acts are hard to come by. I've sent out details regarding gigs and had agreements, to be then one time be handed tickets from a band expecting me to shift tickets for them 20 minutes before they go on stage. Certain acts expect professional touring band PA and back lines' in dingy wee pubs. Most bands spout out how the are 'the next big thing' and say they will bring.....and end up bringing a plus one.

    I agree promoters and venues shouldn't screw over acts but if the acts are looking for their 'equality' take an ego check first and if your wanting money then become business conscious and face up to the fact your in it for the money. If your doing it for art sake then boycott venues and play house gigs, get people to watch you in a studio for free, get them to watch you on you tube etc.

    A possible answer for these problems?

    If we got a collection of acts, a few promoters and a few venues to work together, we could start a movement. Unfortunately, hardly anyone in the music scene is that dedicated.

    And wheesh with yer name calling and learn to debate.

    Average Any

  22. I agree completely about the realistic comment.
    Of course a £50 fee from a band when they are playing to one man and his dog while the dog hasn't got an income and is on a bowl of water rather than a pint isn't something that is going to work, and the result would be venues closing hand over fist.
    No doubt about that.
    I would advise solo artists to cut their teeth on the open mic circuit until they have a something that people would be excited about seeing and then make the move to playing venues where people are paying to see a performance.
    Similarly bands should probably start off with DIY gigs and aim for garnering a fan base
    and then make their move.
    At the moment part of the problem is that people can be turned off by paying to see a four band line up that featured four acts who are frankly still at the baby step stage, or just failing to see that what they have isn't quite at the public unveiling point.
    There is loads of little tangents that can be discussed anf one of them is about the quality of the bands and acts and how much people are realistically going to pay to see them.

  23. 1) Absolutely, at the very least, even if the 'promoter' loses money on the deal, don't book a band if you're not prepared to put your hand in your pocket
    2) You work, you get paid, and that 'wage' should be made clear at the outset.
    3)No, if you don't have a show to put on, step aside and let someone else 'take a chance'.
    4) Every time, no question
    5) Yes, and as a promoter I'd never consider expecting a band to play for nothing, they're the reason people show up, and deserve to be treated fairly.

    If a band accepts anything less, they're not helping the live music scene.

  24. "They run out of naive 18 year old bands to screw over."

    There's always going to be more 18 year olds coming along. Look at how long Bugbear have been putting on their crappy nights and not paying bands at the Dublin Castle...