The Bellfield Tavern, situated in Kilmarnock, may seem at first glance to be the last place where revolutionary ideas would be nurtured, but with the planting small acorns approach to the music business the proprietors Amanda Robinson (former band manager and event booker) and Bill Gilchrist (musician) are looking to change the perception of how live events can be delivered to the public one step at a time.
Amanda - It’s time for a change to how the business is done.
I mean no one is really open to looking at an event as a whole. Musicians aren't really interested in how a venue is run, the financial implications, and to be fair many venue owners have no artistic opinion on the acts that play either.
On the surface it might look like everyone is working towards a common aim, but that’s not normally the case.
Everyone has different agendas.
Bill - Amanda is right. As a musician with many years of experience I can say that we often don’t take into consideration the costs involved and likewise those booking bands are reluctant to take on board that there are also financial implications for the bands.
On one side we have those who think that bands just turn up and play and drink and go home laughing.
Years of practice, the late night rehearsals, wringing songs out, buying instruments and equipment, repairing both and then replacing them, leaving a paid job early to accommodate a gig that doesn’t pay to return home in the early hours of the next morning to grab a few hours sleep before heading out to the full time paid job again. That’s the real life of most musicians.
And then on the other there is the bar owner who is covering tax, utilities, wages, keeping an eye on the competition, waking up before everyone else and going to bed later than them to, and all for less than what they may be paying their staff.
None of it is easy.
Amanda – And then when you sit back and think about it you have to consider that there must be a way to do it better.
Some way that benefits everyone involved.
Bill – So that’s what took us to where we are.
We looked at the problems the bands have and the issues that a venue owner has and started thinking how it can be done better.
The answer was literally screaming at us and it’s not complicated.
Amanda – It’s just really about working together. No one should be looking to take a greater slice of the pie than anyone else.
And neither should anyone be carrying the responsibility of all the financial risks either.
When we put our minds to it we came up with the idea of providing the space, a PA and backline and we will assist with promotion.
All of that minimizes what the bands have to cover.
No hire fees for the venue, no equipment hire fees and even travelling costs are bitten into as they could conceivably all just jump in a car and come here to play rather than hire a van to carry everything with them.
Bill – and the first thing that I would expect people to say to that is ‘that’s great, but how do the acts get paid?’
It’s a fair question.
The answer is that they keep all the money from ticket and door sales.
The more people they attract the more money they make.
It’s cutting out the middle men to an extent I suppose.
Amanda – and the next question is what’s in it for you?
That’s not complicated either. We get the bar sales, and not bar sales plus a hire fee for the space and all those other additional costs that seem to be slipped in.
Bill – When I put my musicians hat on I find it hard to see a flaw in this. On a good night everyone benefits and on a bad night everyone suffers.
That’s just more balanced.
Amanda – We stand or fall together.
We are just starting out on this. At the moment we have covers bands playing more regularly than original acts and our patrons are comfortable with that, but we want to move forward and accommodate both.
We think it’s doable with the support of the community.
Bill – It’s certainly doable. We have already reached out to those who have similar ideas. We looked at NHC Music in
Glasgow and liked what they were doing and
They now have an event sorted out with Dixie Fried, Matt Scott, Steady State Regime and John Strachan playing on Saturday the 7th of March.
It’s part of a run of shows across
Glasgow that is providing an alternative to
the pay to play system and we are the only venue outside the city to be
All of the bands featured are experienced and have played all over the country.
Amanda – Matt Scott and John Strachan are Ayrshire guys who have both done very well. Matt played in front of thousands in
recently and was featured on the riverside show (STV) while John has been a
festival mainstay across the UK
as front man for his band Jiezuberband.
Bill – And Dixie Fried are well established. There’s not many blues festivals they haven’t played. Steady State Regime are coming from the East Coast for this and are making waves as a yet another credible Scottish indie rock act.
Amanda – We have already booked XSLF for the 5th of June. This is Henry Cluney and Jim Reilly who are formerly of Stiff Little Fingers band. They play all the material they were involved in recording and have just released new material. We are a bit excited about that and tickets are going very fast.
The supporting line up is strong as well.
Modern World have the Jam era covered and always pull a good hometown crowd, while both Reaction, The Sux Pastels and Semtex will no doubt impress.
Bill – In
are many people doing a great job in keeping live music alive. I’m hoping we
can be a part of that.
Amanda – Tiny steps just now, but things are coming together.
Kilmarnock is well served with
public transport and we are hoping that we are not only going to serve the
people of the town, but Ayrshire as a whole.