5 Tips on How to Bug Music Event Organizers
Today's set of "guaranteed Friday tips and hints" can serve as a hyperbolic example for musicians of how to become a band with a black mark for concert and festival promoters. Of course, before you read on, it should be pointed out that this is a thrice-distilled hyperbolic list of the worst that could happen. In reality, bands and musicians are mostly fine, and when things do go wrong, it's more likely to be a combination of unfortunate circumstances or the result of bad communication that just happens – we're only human, and many times a promoter makes a pretty big mistake, too. However, if there was a band that could use all five (or more!) of these "tips", then woe betide any music club or fest that has the pleasure of having them.
1. Push it
You'd like to play at a club XY. Ideally next month, and at the exact hour of the full moon “between a dog and a wolf”, because that's the only time when no one in the band is on holiday, giving birth or having a company party, and when even your aunt from Vrchlabí and her grumpy Chihuahua can come to the gig. The club will politely tell you that it's unfortunately too soon, their schedule is already full for two months in advance or that you don't exactly fit their genre.
Don't be discouraged! Instead of accepting a date in the distant future or looking for another venue where your work would fit more and you'd probably find it even better for playing, try the broken record method – repeat your request and ask if you can do it on Tuesday instead of Monday that week, swear that "it sounds completely different and better live and with drums" than on the demo you have sent them or try to squeeze into the venue with the help of a friend from the club circle who promised to put in a good word for you and somehow box out the slot.
2. Promotion is for kids
Times are bad and there is no time to even bother writing, let alone reading anything other than short slogans and teasers. Therefore, when you first contact the promoter in writing, show them your purposefulness and strong-mindedness – without any introduction or even address, write that you simply want to play with them, period. Don't put such embarrassing trivialities in the mail, like more info about the band including links, or god forbid samples of their work ("we only have low-quality demos from the rehearsal room, it's not worth it")! If the organizer wants to get an idea about you, they should google all the information themselves.
Do the same if you have already agreed on some cooperation. Leave the promotion to the organizer, but stand your ground that good photos or a few sentences about the band as annotation are a relic of the past and you as a proper independent group don't need it. Yeah, and even if you don't play for a fixed fee, insist on a low entrance fee so you don't piss off your friends who might pay a hundred for a coffee with a picture or a beer in a hipster buffet, but two hundred for a gig of their favourite band would be too much for them.
3. Screw communication
If you get an email from a promoter telling you about the time of a sound check, the technical equipment of the club or parking options, or asking for a rider, stage plan, setlist or personal details for a contract, don't respond! Let it fizzle out, after all, it all gets sorted out somehow on the spot before the gig.
Alternatively, take the strategy of "I'm only responding to the first point" and leave out all the others in your reply. The great thing is that when you finally get your head around all the organisational stuff, you can start bombarding organisers with questions about everything they have sent you before – an email is a much better tool to make someone angry than the phone.
4. Behave like a prima donna
The most important point of all – the one that will give you an undying reputation of a band you want to give a wide berth to. The first thing you need to do is arrive at the venue late enough, not because you're stuck in traffic or because the drummer broke his arm and the cast took some time to set, but simply because you stopped for a cold beer on the way. After all, you have the instruments unpacked in five minutes, stick a kick drum in there, strum E, say into the microphone "one two three, hey hey" and the soundtrack is ready, right? The sound engineer will do their job, and at worst, you can then go around saying "what a great time you would have had that night if the sound hadn't been so shitty". Well, if you think...
Or, on the other hand, you can sound for a very, very long time, endlessly wanting to get more of this and less of that, more reverb here, less percussion there, until the sound engineer stops feeling like a god and the start of the gig is delayed by an hour or so. After all, the start time was just a guideline, basically just "doors" for the audience, and a proper band can keep its audience in suspense – especially when the hall is already full and you have played almost a whole song, only to tell everyone that "it was just a sound check" and, regardless of the instructions of the local stage manager, go to the bar for the next twenty minutes for further refreshments.
Further, it is necessary to demand things that were not part of the original agreement at all, but you now simply WANT them. A separate backstage area even where there is no other room, separate refreshments as a buffet menu, a bigger budget for bar consumption, more people on the guest list, two more performers who weren't even mentioned in the original stage plan (and who end up sounding longer than the rest of the band combined), a longer setlist, a shorter setlist, a parking space for a third van in a backyard the size of a handkerchief, an extra microphone for the triangle players, instrument stands (or extra DI boxes, cables, pickups, nine-volts or even whole instruments) that you forgot or even deliberately didn't take, knowing that you hadn't read the list of local technical equipment beforehand and a good club should have all this somewhere in reserve in several copies! And so on, the possibilities abound.
5. Leave a trace
What kind of party would it be if "no beer was poured from the windows"? Nobody has to fight, we're not at some stupid wedding. And it's not cool to smash your own instruments on the speakers anymore – even the Chinese Squier costs something. It's enough to rebelliously destroy the local gear: blowing up speakers by inappropriate cable ripping, spilling beer into the sound engineer's mixer, smashing the microphone stand during the "Elvis" rampage, smashing the DI box, and finally vomiting on the carpet in the lobby.
If they have a well-set-up contract at the club and have the nerve to haggle with you, they'll take it out of your fee or try to recover damages from you. Whatever the outcome, they will love you. They will remember you. You'll be famous. And next time, you will be unwelcome.
P.S.: At the end of the show, don't forget to ask the promoters if you could leave your instruments or the whole band van with them for a few days, because someone would (maybe) come and get it next week.
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