It's a long and slow process, but perhaps the most effective one at that scale.
Certainly any time I've been able to chat to the artist at such a low turnout gig, I've always been sufficiently impressed/enamoured by the encounter to buy their merch and make a point of turning up at their next visit.
This also applies to watching a band play to 18 people with the same conviction and enthusiasm as if it were 300, as My Ruin did the other night. Definitely going to see them again.
Glad to see that finally the 'music business' is finally taking notes of what has been a consolidated truth in the world of punk and hardcore for at least 30 years.
It's how things have worked for that kind of 'scene' or underworld since the 1980s really. A band makes big sacrifices to get out a record, makes even bigger sacrifices to play as many gigs as possible hoping to pull people in and with the only assured (and not always) reward of a warm meal and at best a floor where to sleep. That goes on even for years, the band starts with a handful of people knowing them and these people talk to friends, these friends post a blog somewhere and pass on the name and so on untill after a few years the band can pull a pretty decent crowd at most gigs and can manage to sell a not too bad at all amount of records.
The punk/hardcore scene has ben shunned for this DIY approach to things and been accused of not being able to produce any well known act to the general public, when in fact it has been a successful formula for 30 years.
And seems that the 'music business' and hordes of musicians have realized this. Still, it will take a long time to adjust the whole 'music business' to this kind of mentality.
The perfect example of someone doing it well is Duke Special. Dear only knows how many times he went out on the road across Ireland and the UK, then went back six months later to the same venue, but played to double the audience, and so on and so on. It's the best way to do it, and also now with certain internet tools, such as musicglue, there are easy ways to track who is downloading your songs, and where they come from. Then say you can see that 150 people from Leeds downloaded your song, but only 2 people from Swindon did, you can plan your tour more sensibly. I suppose FWW are another good example too now that I think about it.
I've started asking people who come to our shows who they are there to see. It gives me a better idea how to distribute the money at the end of the night for one thing.
It's lucky if those 18 punters all knew who White Hinterland was already. How many were "Dunno who she is, I just walked in off the street" ?
If this is a paradigm shift then promoters will have to adapt as well.
[quote:3f62851a26="JTM"]I've started asking people who come to our shows who they are there to see. It gives me a better idea how to distribute the money at the end of the night for one thing.
Not questioning your methods of running shows but i've never thought this was ideal.
If the show works on the basis of a door split, it seems reasonable that the split is fair or weighted with consideration to distance travelled by band / amount of members / who brought the backline etc..
You would hope that promoters are programming bills where the punter will want to see every band.
I remember that the Spring and Airbrake had a night on a Friday where you *had* to say who you were there to see. Always felt a bit sh*tty for saying "my mate's band" knowing that the other groups on the bill had put as much effort in to playing the gig.
It is not ideal to pay the bands based upon how far they have come.
I suppose if you are promoting a gig ideally you want acts that have a bit of a following - it stands to reason that the more popular you are - the more people you can get to the gig - the more that band should be paid.
I think realistically you are not going to make much money from gigging until you have some base of followers. I think bands that have travelled far for gigs it is to increase their profile rather than make money.
If you bring a backline then I suppose you should be compensated but certainly not for distance..
The ethic of touring constantly is indeed a valid way to build up a fanbase and probably one of the best ways to do it. But what about those bands who arent signed to any label. Generally, the large majority of "unsigned" acts simply cannot afford to tour. In most cases it costs a band more to tour than they will ever make back. For example when we played england the whole trip cost us near a grand and we made only a fraction of that. We always joke that the sound guy is the only person who makes money out of gigs.
On the other hand for artists like the artist in question who are signed etc and are getting paid their fees to do the show they can afford to tour. If there is a small crowd gathered Some blame must fall onto the promoter for not doing his job of "promoting".
We also agree to an extent on the idea of promoters paying bands who bring a crowd as it means in theory that all bands will try their best to promote instead of just showing up to play. However, if you are touring band trying to build a fanbase you may not have a fanbase in that area. So a fair way to do it is to pay all bands. Afterall, it should be the promoters job to help get people to the venue. It wouldnt be the first time we have arrived at the venue to a gig handeled by a "promoter" only to find no indication that there is a gig on that night. Also, splitting money via door entrances for each band is most often rewarding the band who has the most mates.
Also it costs the bar no money to put on bands because unsigned acts usually are put on during the off nights when business at the bar would run slow (sun-thurs). So its win-win situation for the bar, they get free entertainment, people into the bar via rent-a-mob and they make money through drink sales. I firmly believe that if a bar/venue is willing to put on bands then they should pay the band in question. Afterall the bar normally pays its own soundmen so why not the bands who are in a way employed by the bar that night to provide entertainment. If you are a cover band or DJ you will get paid great money with no real guarantee of crowd or fanbase. But cover bands and DJs are usually put on when the bar is busy anyway.
People may jump on this reply because im not "it's all about the music, money is a bonus", but at the end of the day most bands split up simply because they cannot afford to carry on. I know bands that are 30 grand in debt and soon they will have to call it a day. So at the end of the day all bands need money to continue to do what they love. But unfortunately, most bands these days will end up having to pay-to-play by hiring out venues, hoping to break even, then at the end of all this you have to pay the soundman regardless if you have made any money or not. Meanwhile, the venue owners are laughing all the way to the bank, getting free entertainment and making money from drinks etc.
So yes touring is good is you can afford it.
I still believe that is due to the 'music business' not having shaked off completely some of the worse characteristics of the whole making music thing and not having embraced DIY enough.
I mean, going back to the punk example, there are bands that have been going for years, have toured to a good degree, have a decent level of output and rarely they have big debts or can't sustain (albeit with some sacrifices) touring for 2/3 weeks at a time and all without the backing of money from any record label at all.
If punk bands can do it (and have been doing it for the past 30 years) and your average unsigned band can't, surely it means people are not doing things the right way.
Lots of good points made. I especially hear this: Gauging numbers on the doors has always been a thing for future reference for me, and never a pure gauge of how I split the door take.
Long, [u:23b4117244]long[/u:23b4117244] story short, for me, promotion comes down to balancing the needs and ambitions of the bands that you are itching to to show the world, against the requirement of keeping the owners of the venue you get to use happy by drawing in punters. And not losing money while you do it.
EDIT: Sorry I realise this thread has gone off the original topic; something tells me there'll be a few more posts here to get it back on track.
To get back on track, should bands play 150+ shows a year?
No, that's too many unless you're established, or are going to be based in North America or prepared to travel across Europe. That's a full year on the road with little or no time for writing new material. Not that you can't write on the road but...
Tangent: What have any bands here who have toured extensively / recently found out? Did playing all these gigs get you more fans, and more devoted fans at that?
Having played more than 150 shows a year for going on four years now,
I found it to be great for setting down foundations in different cities.
Without good label/press/radio/promoter support
and financial backing from publishing/management/some rich people playing 150 shows a year is a struggle and the amount of interest you'll achieve will in my experience, level out relatively quickly.
I wish it was possible to tour and build a crowd without needing all the other people around you, indeed i argued it was possible for a very long time.
Look at the bands locally who are touring internationally and playing to hundreds/thousands of people.
Do they have management/labels/publishing? yes.
The truth is, the amount of people who listen to the music they are given (via magazines/tv/internet/radio) far outweigh the amount of people who seek it out for themselves.
That's why when you go to see bands like Headlights,
who played in Belfast on Sunday, there will be 30 people there and if you go round the corner to the Opera House there will be however many thousand people watching Elbow.
It's not a bad thing,but when it reaches the point that they can no longer continue to tour because they need to stay home & work to pay rent then it's a sad thing.
The more shows you play, the better you'll be,
the more people will see you/like you.
But I'd recommend being able to back it up with a recording that does you justice, because that's the way most bands still get interest from labels/management/publishing.
It's also something to give to those few people who do come to see you to, to play to their friends who might come see you next time....
playing live is only one part of it.
It can be the most enjoyable, the most expensive and the most difficult part.
Being in a band and trying to get your music into a lot of peoples lives is a really interesting balancing act.
For me it's about
writing songs, recording albums, touring, interacting with people who like your music & being a part of their lives.
I do not believe that purely by playing 150 shows a year that i will achieve all the things i want to with my music.
If your goals are traveling and getting to perform regardless of how many people see you and how many times a week you eat/wash - then maybe it makes perfect sense.