Just when you thought a label not paying their artist was bad enough TMV recently came across something as bad, if not worse afflicting small-time promoters in the UK. As it turns out this disease involves small time promoters ripping of small artists trying hard to break through the clutter.
The general scenario is this; in London when it comes to live shows, as an artist you have to pull x amount of people and then you as an artist receive one pound per paying person through the door to see your band only, not any of the other bands. The general rule is that an artist needs to bring a minimum of 25 people before they receive £1 per person and then if you bring 40 or more you receive £2 for every person after the first 40 that you as an artist brought to a show. So, if you attract 24 people, which is becoming increasingly difficult, the band receive nothing!
Now it gets interesting because most of these venues have capacity limits for health and safety reasons. Yet a lot of these unscrupulous promoters play on the fact that if every band was to bring a large amount of people, they would not legally fit into the venue and hence the promoter gets to walk away with everything because most of the bands could not actually get the minimum payers through the door because of the law. So, the artist gets nothing and the promoter gets anywhere between £5 – £8 per person.
But is something missing here? The title ‘promoter’ generally refers to someone who promotes music. Instead, this scum insists that the bands to do the promotion, and do not one single thing themselves except demand the artist sell a minimum number of tickets from their own fan base. Yes, the promoter has some costs associated with booking a sound engineer (generally around £80 – £100 per night), a door person (around £30 – £50) and that is it. Other than perhaps updating their website, they do not print or distribute flyers, posters nada, zero, and zilch!
On top of that, these promoters also generally get a percentage of the bar sales for the night. If they are really greedy schmucks, they also insist on stupid rules such as, if you’re an artist who has industry coming down you have to pre-purchase the door entry for a £2 reduction of the normal price. Going further they then insist the industry person has to turn up 45 minutes before artists is on stage or the artist has to pay for the full price ticket.
Now all of us in the industry all know that is a non-starter because A&Rs and agents go to several shows per night, and so cannot make it 45 minutes before any gigs. In effect, this means that these unscrupulous promoters are profiting by making unsigned artists pay for inviting industry to come and see them play.
Promoters do this and insist on artists using second-rate equipment to ensure quick change over times, which in turn usually compromises an artist’s sound. So, the artists do the work of promoting the show, which ensures punters drink plenty of beer, incur their own van hire and equipment costs, and all to be subsequently ripped off and be forced to play through absolutely sub-standard equipment.
Interestingly I attended a show at the Dublin Castle on Tuesday 5th May last week and was discussing this issue with an agent from one of the UK’s top five booking agencies. He introduced me to a promoter working with one of the largest live music promotion companies in the world. We all agreed that the scenario’s outlined above are giving legitimate booking agents and promoters a bad name. Furthermore, these two senior industry executives confirmed they avoid doing business which such “dodgy” promoters.
Drilling down further, we were amazed that at this particular show the promoter at this event Club Fandango charges each artist £110 for expenses? The expenses such a promoter has are a live sound engineer (£80 – £100 maximum) and the door staff (£30 – 50) for the whole night. So, a total of £150 maximum, and there were four bands on the bill! The promoter did bugger all promotion as that was supposed to be the job of the artists according to the contract when booking the band. TMV was shocked to learn all of this information, particularly as Club Fandango markets itself as a completely legitimate and respectable promoter!
The promoter makes a profit of £290 (after expenses of £150), also remember this does not include what percentage of drink sales the promoter also receives. The band that brought the most people on the night ended up only receiving £10 after the promoter’s illegitimate expenses fee. So, what exactly are you promoting Club Fandango? Nothing, except ripping of hard-working artists in TMVs view. In fact, we would go further and state you are hardly a ‘promoter’ at all, but more like a parasite! Especially considering they expect to get away with this highway robbery and not even provide the bands with any form of rider.
Are these types of promoters completely unaware of artists own expenses? It would appear so! Just to give TMVs readers an insight into an unsigned touring band, in terms of playing a show in London, it works out something like this: Van hire (£70), Petrol (£15 – 60), Sound Engineer (£60) – yes, some bands bring their own because often in-house PA’s are sub-standard, not to mention the in-house staff.
All in all, these types of promoters need to be put out of work. They prey on up-coming, often inexperienced bands telling them bullsh*!t about industry personnel attendance, insist they play through sub-standard equipment and then rip them off on payment. I’m all for payment for promoters, but you have to draw a line, they are collecting money earnt by other people! As previously stated, the parasites who at this low-level call themselves promoters and then do nothing to promote a show, instead putting all the pressure on artists, are nothing more than snake oil salesmen with no morals.
Looking at the issue from an artists point of view, often a hard working band will have played many gigs, often in front of their friends, when in reality they want to perform in front of fresh sets of eyes and ears, rather than supportive friends, and other bands on the bill!
If you have friends in bands that have experienced similar scenarios as mentioned in this post please do leave us a comment as TMV are looking to start a campaign to put these non-promoters out of business.