Eight years that I have been working with indie artists. That is a long time. I often reflect on my job with the school-board that I have been doing for four years and know that that is a long time for me. By far the longest "job" that I have ever done. And yet, that is not the case because I have been booking bands, booking shows and booking tours now for twice as long. In the scheme of things however, that is not a long time in the music industry. In the short time that I have been around however, I have seen some changes, a lot of them for the worse. But perhaps one of the biggest changes that I have seen is a lot of artists nowadays do not understand what the music industry is. Case in point, this is an industry. Maybe the better way to put it is not to say industry. Maybe the best way to put it is TEAM. Artists, promoters and venues. All of us are, for better or for worse, a part of a team. I can tell you that if we were a professional team, we would be at the bottom of almost any professional league in the world. Things have completely fallen apart.
I could harp on this subject and go in a million directions but for today I am going to choose to focus upon artists and what I see on a daily basis with artists that I work with and artists that other work with. This is definitely not an all encompassing thing, however it definitely is something that I have been seeing more and more instead of less and less.
With Break Loose for example, up front, before we even book an artist we state a few general rules and expectations that we have from any artist that we work with. One of those KEY points is that we expect all artists to arrive at the venue for a designated load in time and we expect the artists to stay at the venue until the show is completed. There are many reasons for this expectation. Respect being first and foremost. We expect artists to load in before the show starts so as to not be a distraction to anyone once the show begins. We expect the artists to load out when the show is over so as to also not cause that distraction. It is also simply a professional act in what should be a professional atmosphere.
Let me ask you a simple question. If your shift at your job was scheduled from 2pm-10pm would you arrive at 5pm because that was more suitable for you? If you did that, I assure you that you would not have a job for very long.
We all tend to call this the "music industry" correct. The word industry is described as "economic activity concerned with the processing of raw materials and manufacture of goods". That to me means that this is a job. Arguments can obviously be made that some promoters do not pay artists or provide ways for artists to economically advance, but again that is a discussion for another day...plus we do provide ways and desire for every artist on our bills to make money. So I will pass on that for today. Regardless of how you look at this business, it is just that. A business. That means that if you are worth your salt and if you are serious about it, you should treat it as such.
Two of the biggest gripes that I have; and that I hear in the trenches are as follows:
- Artists and their fans do not stay at shows long enough to check out the other artists on the bill.
- It is nest to impossible to "get noticed" in the music industry.
If you ask me, both of these points are tied together. To get noticed you need to create a buzz. To create a buzz you need to constantly be growing your fan-base. To grow your fan-base you need to be seen and heard. To be seen and heard you need to be a part of a community, a TEAM!
In my time in the industry I have seen many types of artists. I have seen artists that show up early, stay late and chat with the other artists on the bill. I have seen artists that show up early, stay late and hide in the corner and do not speak to anyone. I have seen artists that show up for their set and stick around for a while and then slip out the back door and I have seen artists that show up, perform and leave. We all need to be on the same page. Now, I cannot speak for all promoters, but I generally have my shows booked solid at least one month before the show. I feel that that is ample time for members of an act to book time off of work, switch shifts or make arrangements to be a part of a show. Not be a part of just one act on stage. (I do understand that there are a few exceptions to this rule. However I believe there is zero excuse for an entire band, for example, to disappear right after their set).
Recently I have had artists show up hours late for load in, leave shows early and even pull the show up, play, leave strategy. In one of these cases, I even had the artist complain before their set that another act had left and not supported them. It appears that often people are quick to judge but never quick to analyze their own decisions.
One of the sure-fire ways to rebuild what is a very fractured music scene in Ontario is to go back to how things should be. Be a collective. Work together. Share in the music and the work that is in this industry. If you are a part of a show that has a 4pm load in and artists on stage from 5pm until 11pm, plan to be at that venue from 4pm until 11pm. Check out the other acts and MEET THEIR FANS.
We live in a world where everything is based on online hits and what your presence is online but let me explain something to you. There are not a lot of avenues that connect artists and fans together online and nothing beats face to face interaction. Odds are that if a person is at a show, they are there because they at least in some small part enjoy music. That means that you have your customer right there in the room with you. Go talk to them about your product!
Fans are interesting creatures. If they come to a show to see ARTIST A, they may very well leave the venue when their set is over. However, one way to ensure that they will leave is if ARTIST A leaves. There is no need to stay if the people they came to support are out the back door. If ARTIST A sticks around to support ARTIST B, odds are that a few fans at least will do the same thing. If that happens there is a chance that the fans may find a new artist that they like and there is a chance for ARTIST B to make some new fans.
It is all about being on that TEAM. We are all in this together and they say that a team is only as strong as it's weakest member. We need to designate some teammates for assignment I believe and we need to start getting all of the members on the same page. Focus should perhaps not be on one artist being better than all the rest. Perhaps what we should be focused on is bettering the scene. If we better the scene and make it thrive...nobody can ignore what is happening.
Support your local scene folks. We all want artists to listen to in the future and that starts in the grass-roots.