The first couple of months of any year are busy for the agency because once the calendar tips over into a new year, far sighted folk club organisers and venue bookers start to open their diaries for the following year and therefore those of us who search for gigs for our artists have to be aware that unless we get busy, we’re likely to miss the boat. It’s especially important if the artists we’re working for are travelling into the UK from abroad. What’s really important to them is that they get a tour which makes geographical and logistical sense without nights off in parts of the country where they have to spend on a hotel/motel or B&B.
In some cases, artists have ‘safe houses’ scattered around the UK, i.e. family or friends they can stay with for a few days when they have ‘down time’ and I try to take that into account when planning tours. Of course, when in Yorkshire, my artists usually stay with me. They have all become personal friends. I once worked out that Tanglefoot, over the course of several tours, had actually spent 13 months based in our house. Good job they are nice folks and good houseguests (though let’s not talk about the amount of hair in the shower plughole). I’m looking forward to hosting RPR in May/June of 2016 – that’s Tanglefoot’s two Ritchie brothers, Steve and Rob, with bassist Al Parrish, and percussionist Beaker Granger – the only one who hasn’t got prior history with Tanglefoot.
Right now I’m working on 2017 tours for Cloudstreet (over from Australia from late April through to the end of June) and Eileen McGann (touring from Canada in September). Plus I’m doing Dan McKinnon’s annual tour from Canada, so I’m still adding occasional 2016 dates for Dan whilst working mainly on 2017. Neither Cloudstreet nor Eileen tour every year, so their tours are always more self-contained.
The diary gets complicated, so I keep a grid of who’s touring when, which is on the website for organisers to check and also as a tool for me to use. It always helps to plan ahead.
Planning tours for UK artists is very different from planning tours for artists coming in from abroad. When music is the day job artists tend to want a different pattern of gigging from those who fit in music around their day job. And, of course, UK artists do have a home to go to when they’re not out at a venue performing. Some artists are very specific in their requirements and vary from: not more than two gigs in a row to go anywhere, do anything. Some artists are happy to take one-off gigs, others want gigs that are a distance from home to be part of a mini-tour. Some artists are self-employed or have day jobs (hey, making a living from folk music is not easy!) and for them I have to know how far they are prepared to travel on a work-night and when they can take time off from the day job.
A couple of my artists are hugely popular with festivals, but clubs tend to book before festivals, so I have to take that into account when accepting weekend gigs in festival season.
I also have to be really careful not to take gigs with overlapping audiences too close together. This is especially important for artists like Vin Garbutt who tend to have areas of the country where there are clusters of venues who want him back year after year. I have to spread out his gigs, especially in his home area (the North East) and in the West Midlands. And, of course, sod’s law says that two great gigs will be offered in adjacent towns in the same month, and we can only take one of them.
If you are a club or venue booker you are likely to get a small flurry of emails from me at this time of year as I start to put in lynchpin dates for tours in 2017 while still filling in dates for 2016. Bear with me, please, and if I email you for something specific (i.e. to fill in a date between two others) please get back to me quickly, even if the answer is no. No is the second best answer to yes because it frees me up to search out something else on that date instead.