This article made the rounds a little while ago (it normally takes me a while to actually write anything so I’m a bit behind on this one) and for the most part I agree with the points it makes:
I think it is important to have a conversation around this sort of thing; by thinking and discussing things that can be improved it can only make the live scene better.
Shows should be an event, there should be a motivation for people to come along. The cost of a night out goes beyond the entry charge; once you factor in transport and a couple of drinks (as much as alcohol shouldn’t come into the enjoyment of live music this is an important part if bars are going to stay in business) a $5 show can end up in the $60-$80 region. For that amount of money the least that can be provided is a line-up that plays on time, reasonably sober and puts on a good show.
There must be something in the water at the moment, all the shows I’ve been to in the last few months have had the air of a special occasion about them, next week there’s at least two shows that are going to be along those lines.
A while ago I started writing an article about how to put on a decent show. Most of it was just a passive aggressive rant at the mistakes that are constantly made by local promoters (mistakes I know all to well as I’ve made every single one of them and continue to do so). I came up with a list of things that I think are essential to putting on shows, the absolute basics to take into account before booking anything. Most of them line up with the above article but with more of a New Zealand focus.
1. First up ask yourself these questions before accepting or booking the gig:
When was the last time we played? Is my girlfriend/boyfriend sick of having to come see my band?
Are there any really big international shows/festivals happening around the same time? Like within a fortnight either side? Because people won’t have money to come see your band if they’ve just spent $100 + the week before or are planning to the week after.
Is the line-up worth making the effort for? If I saw a poster for this gig would I get excited?
Are all the bands willing to make the same effort in promoting the show?
Do the bands have a full backline between them?
2. Get a poster. Seriously, not sure why so many people don’t realise that this is a pretty important step in the process. The better the poster is the better your show will go (usually). Having a good poster draws people’s attention. Get a talented friend to make you one. If you have no talented friends, pay someone who is talented to make one.
3. Confirm the line-up far in advance. Make sure you play with bands that aren’t in the same group of mates as you and are willing to help make the show as successful as possible.
4. Communicate with the venue. Ask what they think you should be doing to get people along to the gig. Make sure they have copies of the poster, info on run times/start times/backline/line-up etc so they can promote via their own channels.
5. List the gig in every local gig guide, both print and online. If you have any special reason for putting on the show make sure you send out a press release and follow up.
6. Put up posters!! Around town, at the venue, around your work/school/practice space, in shops and cafes.
7. Talk to people about the gig. Hand out flyers at every opportunity.
8. Don’t pay any attention to facebook event pages (in saying that you should still make sure you have one). They are completely and utterly unreliable as a source of information about the attendance of your show.
9. Go to gigs yourself, at least three or four in the month before your gig. Take flyers with you and talk about your show (without acting like a twat). This accomplishes a few things; first you get to interact with other bands, see how they do things what they do wrong/right and what reaction they get. Next, your peers are more likely to attend your shows if you routinely attend theirs. Third; you get to interact with people who enjoy live music, if someone is at a show then they obviously enjoy going to see bands, talking to these people will result in some of them coming to see your band (and enjoying it).
10. Text and email workmates/friends/family and let them know that you’re putting on an event, tell them how much you’d appreciate if they could come and hang out with you. Maybe even buy them a beer. I hate going to shitty theatre performances and awkward costume parties but I go along to support my friends and colleagues, time for payback!
11. Have all your crap organised before the night starts. Make sure everyone knows what time soundcheck is, what time the doors open and what time they are playing. Make sure it is easy for the audience to know what time bands are meant to be playing, people can plan their night around this information. Have posters outside advertising what’s on. Make it really fucking obvious. Get someone friendly to do the door, make sure there is adequate lighting, a stamp, a float and maybe even some CDs to sell.
12. Take photos, record the bands, film the thing. Create a record of your bands existence through these mediums, people love to see photos of events they attended. People are also more likely to attend future events if they see photos that look like the last one was fun and exciting.
13. Don’t get drunk, seriously there’s no better way to ruin your set than being sloppy. It’ll cause tension with the band, the audience won’t enjoy it as much and you’ll feel worse. Wait until after you get off stage before getting stuck into the beers.
On the stereo at the moment is a gem that I sometimes forget about. Every time I put it on I remember just how genius this album is.
Upon first hearing of a band that hailed from the same town as REM and named themselves after a visionary politician I was expecting music that was reasonably interesting but when the opening notes of opening track A Small Turn of Human Kindness rang out something altogether more baffling spewed forth. In equal parts brutal, confusing and surprisingly melodic, Harvey Milk’s first album does nothing by the numbers but somehow works. I tend to listen to it less than I should but every time I do it just amazes me.
Nothing beats getting lost in the epic sweeping majesty of the Anvil Will Fall (lifted straight from Holst):
And for one of the best ever closing tracks you can’t beat All the Live Long Day. A song that manages to appropriate “I’ve been Working on the Railroad” and twist it into a something menacing and spiteful.
We’ve finally dipped our toe into the Spotify pond and come up with our first ever mini-playlist: “Hell is Now Love Loves…”
Perfect with a beer or two, and a stereo set to loud xo