Archive 2: Ever Decreasing Cirles

From 9th November 2009 as originally blogged on myspace

I got an email enquiry from a band who wanted to play my little festival. My 2009 programme is all signed sealed and delivered as far as paid acts go, but I have a couple of no-pay slots to fill in the afternoon. I said as much to [Band].

[Band] said this was a possibility, but followed it with the fact that they had no gigs in their diary at the moment but were trying to organise a local showcase concert and would I be interested. They also said they were looking for an agent to help them to play the right kind of places and any help and advice would be much appreciated.

Danger! Danger! Agent Alert! Help and advice to a band asking for a festival gig but not actually having any gigs in their diary yet. Err…

I responded:
“Re the festival. Could you send me a promo package please? I’d be happy for you to invite other festival organisers to the concert.”

I then  mentioned a couple of organisers who I thought I could get to come and listen to them, and then I continued:

“Re the agent thing. If you have no gigs in the diary of your own I doubt any agent will take you on. See my article on why you don’t need an agent: http://www.jacey-bedford.com/dontneed.html

“I have done business consultancy for folk artists taking a hard practical look at career building. I used to do it for free, but it’s got to the stage where I now make a charge for this.”

That was about as helpful as I was prepared to be – having other things to do with my time unless I was being paid. (And people who pay me for this do get their money’s worth I can assure you.)

They responded that they didn’t have a promo package (which is a bit odd because their opening gambit had offered me a live demo, but that’s beside the point…) and said they were putting together a website and would send me a link when there was something on it. They asked me to be patient because the band wasn’t anyone’s full time occupation.

Included was an invitation to see them locally  at  a venue they’d booked for the express purposes of playing to family, friends and interested organisers. Now, I really don’t have the time to go to gigs just to check out a band for a freebie spot on my festival. Evenings are my work time. And I especially don’t want to get trapped into being at something where there’s an expectation that I either will or will not give them a gig afterwards. (Damned if you do, damned if you don’t can sometimes be the result.)

So in the spirit of that help they’d been asking for I said:

“I appreciate the thing about the band being no one’s full time occupation but I have to say that if you are hitting the same market  as  the full-timers and you want the gigs, you’re going to have to do the business. It’s as much a part of performing as getting the music right.”

I think I hit a nerve:
They responded that they played for the love of music – so getting the music right was their number one priority because it was the music that stirred the soul and the business came second. They said perhaps they set their sights too high (i.e. the chance to play my festival) and that since I’d already ‘blown my whole budget on one band’ (their terminology) their best course of business would be to try an impress somebody else.

Big ouch! That told me.

They also said that they would continue to do their own thing and would succeed whether they played at my festival or not.

Even bigger ouch.

I thought back to when Artisan was first hustling for festivals and gigs

We started out playing for the love of it, kept getting invited to play at places, started being offered gig fees and… It seems like yesterday that we were young hopefuls, but now I’m looking back on a twenty year international career: http://www.artisan-harmony.com

I can tell you that learning how to do the business on top of the music came as quite a shock… but we couldn’t have continued ‘playing for the love of it’ unless we’d got that part right as well. You don’t stop loving it just because it’s your day job, but you quickly learn that there’s an awful .lot more to it than you had ever suspected.

Twenty years as a singer has taught me to be an agent, a graphic designer, a publicist, a web designer and also to sideline in applied band psychology, health and safety, travel logistics (national and international), preventative home doctoring, negotiation, contract law and music publishing. Plus the obvious things like stage technique and how to use the business end of a PA and a recording studio. I’ve also learned the art of sleeping on a fold-out foam bed (feet to the head-end if you need to know) and always to wash up after breakfast in someone else’s house even if their dinner pots are still in the sink.

It’s also taught me how to be gracious when someone says no, because I never like closing doors with a slam.

About Jacey Bedford

Jacey Bedford maintains this blog. She is a writer of science fiction and fantasy (www.jaceybedford.co.uk), the secretary of Milford SF Writers (www.milfordSF.co.uk), a singer (www.artisan-harmony.com) and a music agent booking UK tours and concerts for folk performers (www.jacey-bedford.com).
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