Guide to getting and playing better gigs


   

Promoters

     
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Gig promoters come in for a hell of a lot of stick. You've finally booked a gig in your local toilet, er, venue, worked your balls off, subjected your mates to your dubious noise and you're now waiting to get paid.

If you've played a support slot in a London dive, you could be waiting a very long time. Played in a regional pub back room? You're lucky if you get some petrol money. The gig promoter is the guy that booked you, so it's him who gets the sullen looks, but who's making the money?

In a way, of course, you're just happy to have played the gig in the first place. You've been hassling the guy for months, and getting the same old runaround. You can't tell if he's trying to fob you off, or if his hands really are as tied as he makes out. The fact is that many promoters in smaller venues (that is, up to a 400 capacity) are keen to support local bands and get them on the bill.

Unfortunately, as the majority of gigs are booked through agents, they have little room for manoeuvre. Agencies try to bung in their hopeless bands that aren't going to pull anybody just to annoy you.


Of course, looked at from the other angle, if your band has got an agency deal, then you would much rather get a booking over a struggling local act, wouldn't you? That goes without saying, as there's little room for altruism in this business unless you can afford it.

Spare a thought, however, for the many poor souls who haven't got someone toiling on their behalf (minus 15 per cent) to get them bigger and better gigs. There's much resentment towards certain London venues, where the queue of bands desperate to play often outnumbers the punters. It wasn't that long ago that bands were expected to fork out a deposit of, say, 50 and be given a handful of tickets for them to sell for their own gig in order to recoup the deposit. Those who fail to do so end up paying to play. As there wasn't exactly a shortage of eager wannabes, the practice encouraged the more unscrupulous promoter to exploit a saturated market.


It's improved slightly, but if you're first on at the Garage in Islington in mid-week, be grateful for petrol money.When it comes to the actual promotion of a gig, how much can you expect from a gig promoter? No easy answers there, as it depends hugely on the level of the band. The common practice is for the promoter to send out releases of forthcoming gigs to all local media. This includes a myriad of free listings magazines plus the local daily and weekly newspapers. They go into the flyers that are handed out at all the gigs across town.

The hard work comes with what is essentially self-promotion. For a start, it helps to have a well-written biog (without any irritating waffle) and a proper set of publicity photos done. It prevents the promoter from feeling like a prat when he sends out embarrassing and useless information about the supposed next big thing.

Even if a promoter is hemmed in by agents' demands, it's still worth approaching them directly by sending a package with your information and, most importantly, a tape or CD. Show enthusiasm for the place you want to play in, and show enthusiasm for music in general and you can't fail. You might have to wait some time for them to get back to you, as they usually have a stack of waiting tapes, but it's always worth reminding them of your presence.

Pop down one night, buy the promoter a drink and take another copy of the tape, just to make certain. There are plenty of small venues who always have a list of promising back-up bands in case someone pulls out at the last minute. You just might have your number drawn one night.

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