Putting on gigs is so stressful! Why do I do it? Why do I make a life out of taking a bet on bands five nights a week in the vain hope that I’ll have a full house of people having a good time; dancing, singing, drinking, getting into it? It’s hard.
Yes, if you’re a large promoter you can bring in the biggest bands in the world and be pretty confident you’re going to sell out but if you’re running a small venue you’re fucked whichever way you look at it. Getting a decent act is the least of your problems. There are alot of good acts out there; struggling to find time to write and rehearse, working hard at building a fanbase, developing a decent circuit for themselves, trying to get onto festival programmes, recording new tracks, putting their music out, etc. No, it’s not the bands, nor the music, it’s you, the venue, the promoter. The bands I deal with have no manager, no promoter, no network, no money. They do it themselves and hope that you, the venue, will make it happen for them; get the audience in, promote them, market them. But it doesn’t work like that because I’m in the same position but in a different boat
Everyday I have bands emailing me with their myspace, reverbnation, soundcloud, facebook, bandcamp, website links pleading for a night, any night, what does it matter so long as they have another gig under their belt. And me? Well I’m looking at my schedule for the following two months wondering how the hell I’m meant to fill the venue, make money for the owner and create a good vibe for everyone which in turn will make the venue the place to be, the place to go, the coolest little place on the planet.
Like the bands I have no marketing budget, meaning I can’t even print posters and even if I did I don’t have time to put them up. So I end up on the computer, all day and night, creating facebook events, sending out emails, twittering, updating websites, forums, online listing sites, sending out listings to local papers and so on. It’s a vicious circle, a much to do about nothing. For all the time and effort you expend there’s very little return. For a small venue, running smaller gigs there’s only so much you can do and even more that’s out of your control; the storm outside, the cold, the heat, a bigger gig on at the same time, a bank holiday, student holidays, any holidays. And if it isn’t busy all you can do is sit there, in a half empty room, and clap half heartedly after each song and afterwards make some pithy excuse about the weather, the problems with running gigs, the recession, the rising price of oil….anything at all to make the band feel better after playing to a half interested couple in the corner and to yourself because you have to clean up and do it all over again the next night.
Being the promoter of a small venue means you have to cover your costs on a weekly basis, there’s no room for error, screw up enough, have a bad run of gigs and you’re out on your ear. End of venue, end of job. It’s alot of pressure. And you can never know when you’re going to do well or do badly. Too many times I’ve booked ‘a sure thing’ only to be disappointed. On other occasions I’ve rebooked a band after they’ve had a great night only for them to flop the second time around. You can never tell. On the flipside of that I’ve booked bands I knew little about and they turned out to be a revelation.
It’s not all bad. I wouldn’t do it if it was. No one would. When it goes well its magic; the gigs are wonderfully intimate, the atmosphere is electric. Above all and most importantly the musicians feel the love, feel vindicated, feel wanted, needed. It’s a wonderful moment, to be savoured, to be kept for those days when it all goes terribly wrong.
If you’re ever about Cork and looking for a good night of live music why not check out ‘The best smallest venue on the planet’ @ theroundy.com
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