Thinking about putting on a gig or two but not sure if it’s for you? Feeling anxious about it and need a bit of a kick up the arse? Here’s some advice from our INDIE50. These people are the best at what they do and work tirelessly and passionately to promote the music they love and support the independent scene. Here are six handy tips that just might help you make your mind up:
1. Do it for the love…
“If you don’t love music and going to see a band on a Tuesday night who you’ve never heard of and might be absolute shit, then there’s no point in doing it.” – Ronan Munro
Ronan is founder and editor of Oxford’s Nightshift publication, designated to unearthing the best local talent and covering the city’s infamous music scene. He’s been doing it for 25 years and god knows how many gigs and how many shit bands he’s seen in that time. If you really live for music – whether it’s writing about it, promoting it, making it – then go for it and try your hand at putting a gig on, starting up a mag or playing to an audience. You won’t regret it. And if it turns out you don’t love it as much as you thought, then you’ll soon find out and there’s nothing lost.
2…and not for the money.
“If you meet a promoter who isn’t a music fan, then something’s gone seriously wrong. If they consider it just a business or just a way of making money that’s a pretty bad state of affairs.” – Chris Horkan
You don’t start out promoting grass-roots music in order to make money; instead you should be looking to do something you love, support new music, develop talent and contribute to your community. Chris Horkan from Hey! Manchester has been instrumental in the city’s thriving independent scene, and cities and towns all over the UK are dependent on aspiring promoters going out there, putting on gigs and taking a punt on bands they believe in. If promoters were only in it for the money, let’s face it, your local scene would be bland, homogenous and unaffordable.
3. Be your own scene
“There’s something about growing up in a place that’s really bland and doesn’t have much going on that can push you a little bit more…the great thing is if you can make that scene in your area and it can continue to thrive and survive.” – Dominique Frazer
Dominique Frazer owns The Boileroom and has helped shape Guildford’s independent music scene, creating one that appealed to her (and, it turns out, loads of other people too). If you live in a small town and find there’s no place to scratch your musical itch, or you live in a bigger city but your own tastes aren’t catered for, go out and make it happen. The chances are there are others who feel the same. Worst case scenario, you get to see some of your favourite bands play to just you and a bunch of your friends.
“Never trust a promoter that’s never lost money. Because until you’ve lost money you don’t really know what it’s like to promote.” – John Rostron
Ok, so your first few gigs might not go great, they might even lose you money, but it’s all part of the learning curve. You need to make these sort of mistakes in order to progress and refine your offering. Immy and Risa from Green Note told us how they jumped in to promoting with a kind of youthful naivety, but it’s been through their mistakes that they’ve managed to run one of London’s favourite and most iconic venues. Don’t give up basically, as long as you are learning from your mistakes then you’ll be fine.
5. Be nice to people (aka “Don’t be a dick”)
“If people like you then you’ll go a long way. If you’re a dickhead then no one will want to work with you.” – Sarah Cole
When we sent photographer Dan Wilton and journalist Josh Jones off to meet our INDIE50, “don’t be a dick” was the piece of advice that they said cropped up the most. So much so that it seemed the perfect choice of title for the Zine. With grass-roots music you can afford to keep your integrity and it actually pays to be nice. It can be a close knit community and promoters often look out for each other as they are all out just doing something they love. Don’t piss them off then, be nice instead as you might need their help in the future.
6. There’s no perfect time
“I came to it as a 47-year-old lover of music. My ethos was if we could break even within a few years it’s worth it.” – Jules Bigg
If you want to try your hand at putting on a show, or are fed up of not having any local gigs that appeal to you, then why hang around? Jamal Edwards, the founder of SBTV who sadly passed away earlier this year, started out when he was only 15, so it’s good to get into it as young as you can. Having said that, don’t think your opportunity has gone either. Jules Bigg has put on artists like Sleaford Mods, Fat White Family and Neneh Cherry over the years, and he started out as a 47-year-old. There’s no time like the present.