Sunday, October 14, 2018

How to make a small fortune in the music industry.

In short, start with a large one. Out here in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy (despite the inference offered by their name, media and publishing behemoth Universal have been conspicuous by their absence in my career trajectory to this point) the industry is largely self-financed. You’ll note I didn’t say ‘financing’. Even as I embark on my nascent career as a gig promoter, I am grateful to the good folk at HMRC for doing their sums properly and giving me back enough liquidity to temporarily play the Harvey Goldsmith card here in the heart of swinging downtown Ipswich. At the library.

Yes, I though that too. Nevertheless, in ringing round the venues and cubby holes of Ippo, the one place that was cheap and available happened to be the County Library, where they are keen to make much of the available space and where Police Dog Hogan once put me on the guest list because I had berated myself on social media for being stupid enough not to get advance tickets for a sold-out show. In addition, due to the volunteer-based status of this evening’s staff, it is one of those hen’s-teeth rare gigs where the bands are getting paid and the bar staff aren’t.

Along for the ride are Californian songstrel and serial open-tuner Hanna Haas, and rising stars of the UK Americana scene Morganway, who sound like nothing so much as Fleetwood Mac in their pomp, but with an added fiddle player. All the members of the band who aren’t women have impressively Big Pink-era beardage. We, by way of contrast, can barely raise two and a half between us, but I have bought a new gig top, in a striking Paisley mode, which has de facto lighting tech Kilbey in rhapsodies. Also thinking of striking is TAFKAOGL*, here in the role of sound engineer, to which he has taken in an impressive fashion, all black t-shirt, cargo shorts and sturdy boots, and also seemingly able to exist on a diet of air and Timothy Taylor’s Landlord. I don’t think I’ve seen him eat since he started the job, although there was that Facebook post about a Scotch Egg once, so I guess he’s making the best of it.

He is also faced with the conundra of the multi-band gig format which means that once you’ve set up and soundchecked the headliners (Morganway) you then have to deconstruct the whole lot in order to mic up the openers (Helen and The Neighbourhood Dogs) who seem to have, unaccountably, brought a vibraphone. This will be operated by Young Young Bob, who I fondly recall used to come to SftBH gigs with his Dad and sit, bored, reading Harry Potter during the set. There is so much percussion euipment banging about that we decide not even to try to get him onto the stage and so he is secreted behind the PA and lights at floor level like some sort of shameful add-on that we’re not really supposed to admit to. At the sound of a bell tree many of our audience may have temporarily considered dark thoughts regarding triggers and samples. I get the impression that James, simultaneously manipulating an iPad and miking up a cajon, may be harbouring certain dark intentions of his own.

Mr. Wendell, over on stage right, is impressively bushy of face, and has transcended his intended initial role in the band as lead singer and strummer to take over harmonies and lead guitar and has reached the stage in his career where he has two identical Telecasters – one capoed at the fifth fret, one let to run wild and free in standard tuning – on stage alongside his trusty Gibson acoustic. Needless to say, his guitar amplifier is set up on the opposite side of the stage to where Kieron-out-of-Morganway’s is. James make a Fawlty-esque harrumphing grunt. “Right...” he says.

The doors are scheduled to open at seven-thirty. At seven thirty-one, we are able let the first of our impressively susbstantial audience in. Much of the past few weeks has been spent worrying about the number of online ticket sales, the potential walk-up and managing the guest list. We have fourteen musicians alone performing, so it’s not like anyone’s going to be playing to an empty room, but it’s still gratifying to see the bar area filling up, the tables all occupied and extra chairs being retrieved from behind the photocopier. It would appear that I’m not going to lose my (Paisley) shirt and I’m not going to have to pull any of that Peter Grant shit after all. I’ve not really put on a gig since all you had to do was put up a couple of posters in your local record shops, but now there aren’t any of those either**, as I ruefully reflect with a local radio presenter who gently chides me that I hadn’t been in touch with him at all and the first thing he knew about the show was when Morganway’s drummer called him on his mobile asking to rent a hi-hat stand. “I’ll play their CD on the show” he says after their barnstorming performance, before adding pointedly “I’d rather have played it last week...”

The good folk of the library are delighted with the outcome. Our unusually thirsty patrons have given them a good night, we’ve rattled out a couple of new songs and given away some flyers, Hanna’s sold some of her beautiful tote bags and lightened her Merch case considerably, and James is deep in conversation about a couple of festivals he might like to get Morganway to play next year. “How was your first promotion?” he asks me. “First one I did I got nine people, and that was with Matt Cardle”. I am relieved and very slightly post-gig euphoric. “Hey” says a passing Morganwayer. “Nice shirt”.

*The Artist Formerly Known as Our Glorious Leader. 

**Thanks to Chris at Out of Time in Fore Street for exemplary gig poster display, by the way.

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