ROUND 1: George Henry King vs... PROMOTERS

Over the past three years, I have played a variety of different venues as a solo musician and as part of two different bands. Admittedly I am no one special, I am not a signed musician, nor am I any-more than a person whose first music thrill came from performing a terrible cover version in a school music show with three of my friends. A time when all aspect of caring about how you sound soon went out the window when you realise the only females taking any notice of your performance are your Mum and Nan.

Like many teenager boys into music, and girls for that matter, I learnt the guitar, wrote a few songs, decided to play them in a live environment at a few local venues and then was lucky enough to have a couple of those songs aired on BBC Introducing Radio.

However, as I start getting older and aim to hopefully gain more success with my music by branching out to places that aren’t as local, it seems a lot of brick walls are being hit – and quite often, those brick walls are in fact promoters – more predominantly though, London promoters.

My first issue is that heart sinking feeling you get when you read the words ‘you need to bring at least 30 people to the gig in order to get asked back’ in the promoters email. The truth is Mr. Promoter man; I am not some nationwide musician who has large amounts of screaming fan girls in every part of England. I am not even saying that one day I will be, but the whole reason I want to play in a place that isn’t within walking distance of my own back garden, is so that I can play to different faces and start to hopefully build a fan base in a variety of difference places.

Your local fans shouldn’t have to travel a million miles up the road to see you play the same songs they can see you play in the local pub next weekend. And why would you want them to for that matter? You’re never going to gain any new fans if you keep playing to ones you already have, just further a field. How are you going to sell more CD’s when the only people watching you have already bought your CD, listened to it, and then decided to buy it again for moral support?

Jar Music put on gigs at the 02 Academy Islington, but make you pay for any tickets you don't sell.

So, why does this 18 year old boy hold such a grudge against certain promoters I hear you ask? The answer to that is quite simply really - I feel a vast majority of promoters care far more about how much money you might be able to make them on the door (before you make any yourself) than they care about your actual talent or ‘hit’ songwriting ability. I believe they look to capitalize on the out of town band’s naivety and vulnerability, factors that unfortunately lead the bands to fall for the shiny exterior of a London promoter and London in general for that matter. So much so that bands at first don’t care if they have to pay the promoter for half of the 50 allocated tickets they failed to sell in order to play the 02 Academy Islington. They don’t care if they bust a gut to get to a venue at 6pm for a sound check because the promoter told them to, only to be sat in an empty room for an hour before they realize the promoter won’t actually be turning up anyway. They don’t even care if the venue itself has openly said they won’t be actually be promoting the gig. I know all this because I have experienced all that myself, and like so many others, took it with a pinch of salt because it’s ‘London’, the place where ‘it all happens’. But now I see how diabolical that all is and how easy bands must hit dead ends and contemplate throwing in the towel, because going head to head with a promoter is never an easy fight.

For one gig, the only actual ‘promotion’ I saw was a mere tweet about it two hours before the first band was due to take stage and another only released a poster on their Facebook page on the day of the event. A poster that I gather was never glued to walls of the venues surrounding areas.

Ordinary Noise : conquering London one step at a time.

Due to this, it seems local bands becoming a success in London is now as hard as it was for a 90’s Britpop band to crack America. And that’s a shame when you realize how many fantastic bands Colchester (the place I’ve played most of my gigs due to the lack of music scene in Clacton) actually has to offer.

Colchester's finest : Catrinas

Bands like Catrinas and Ordinary Noise who have barely finished their A–Levels but already have set’s full of songs that could spark more of a mass sing along than a thousand London bands who have sold out The Barfly 100 times could. Admittedly both of these bands have had some success there but not half as much as I believe they truly deserve and they shouldn’t have to take 25 million people to a gig for them to achieve that. If your music is good enough, which theirs is, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be asked to play at a venue again. However, so many of these promoters just don’t give you the light of day if you can’t get flocks of people to the gig. For example, I once replied with ‘if you want us to bring a load of people to come watch us it’s unlikely to happen’ to a promoter who emailed me. Funny enough, I never heard back from them – surprising that.

I myself often like to compare my worst gig ever, (my first/only experience at The Dublin Castle under promotion company Bug Bear), to being stood up by the groom at the alter of your own wedding. Like a good gig, and wedding, you arrive on time, commonly expecting the other person that is needed to make this work, to be eagerly waiting there for you. Unfortunately though, that person you’ve put your trust in, has taken all your money and never actually turns up, leaving you with 7 family members just watching you gradually deteriorate into a Pete Doherty like mess because your mentality now is, ‘if there’s no one there to impress, what is the point?’ Nothing a two-hour Cher sound tracked car journey home at 1am can’t solve though.  

Nowadays, for reasons I relate quite possibly to age, not as many people want to go and watch gigs anymore either. In the first band I was in, we used to put on a night ourselves along with three other bands and could easily sell 40-50 tickets each band and the place would be rammed, no promoters involved – but that was when no one was really old enough to go anywhere else. It was exciting back then, they were getting out the house of a night, it was something to do. Now however, understandably it’s not as ‘cool’ anymore to go watch people you don’t really care about strum a few chords whilst singing about how bad their own life is. Girls who used to think boys who could play guitars and sing were the most attractive thing in the world now want to dance till 5 in the morning at a nightclub and pull a 27 year old man whose right arm alone is wider than my own waist.

Now then, however hard it may be to believe, I do have some positives to mention before concluding. These positives come in the form of promoters Mark Young and Maria Antoniadou, promoters who I’ve actually had the PLEASURE of working with and never let how many people I bought to their gigs be at the forefront of their decision whether to ask me back or not. I know this, because they have invited me back. Quite simply because they liked my music and believed that other people at gigs they put on might do to. Maria even went around during my set at Proud Camden collecting money from the audience to ensure our travel cost was at least covered whilst Mark always ensures you get paid if it’s your second gig playing at The Royal Oak under him. They actually understand that petrol, instruments and dark sunglasses to wear indoors so you look like a ‘rock star’ all cost money and that is why people like them will always be a musician’s favorite type of promoter.

So to conclude, I shall leave you with this point. Hypothetically, say The Rolling Stones were a new band in this generation, say they still had the hit filled back catalogue they do now but didn’t take anyone to watch them at their gig, would the promoter not ask them back due to their 30 people minimum policy? Despite how amazing the songs are that they would of played? My answer to that unfortunately, is no. Yes, of course, you may well think otherwise but if that actually was the case, just think of all the other new potentially world dominating bands that no one might ever get to hear – and that’s quite a sad thought isn’t it?
George Henry King

Hear some of my music just below!

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