I apologize ahead of time for not having any of the actual messages used in these conversations. I’m at work and thus have no access to either my facebook or myspace accounts.
I recently replied to a post on Myspace by a certain booking agency about playing a show this Sunday at the Dave and Buster’s in Farmingdale with my band, The Red Season. Approximately a day after, the woman replied to me saying she’d like to have us play, as long as we sold 30 tickets at 12 dollars a piece by Sunday. I messaged her back explaining to her that she and how she runs these shows are why the Long Island music scene is in such bad shape these days. Everyone, from the venue to the promoters to bands are far too focused on the bottom line and making some cash and they forget the basic fact that 99.9% of these bands aren’t, in the long run, going to be at all profitable. They forget that most of these bands are making music in order to have fun with their friends, and using them (generally naive kids between the ages of 15 and 20) to make yourself a quick buck is pretty despicable.
Now, I’ve been through this type of situation before. My old ska band, Grandma’s Little Boys, had the opportunity to play a show at The Crazy Donkey in Farmingdale, the shithole that replaced The Downtown as the place that Long Island bands got respect for playing at. Rumor has it The Downtown was shutdown because the owner went on a coke binge and misspent all his business’ money into, um, coke. We were required to sell30 tickets at 10 dollars a piece in order to play, or we had to pay the money for the extra tickets. It came with some bullshit incentive that if you sold all 30 tickets you’d get (OMFG!) 50 DOLLARS or something like that. We sold a decent amount but not all of them, then the snow came. The show was cancelled. It was rescheduled to a date that Kiki my cousin and bassist couldn’t play, I had strep throat and no one we sold tickets to besides Andy, Bryan and I think Pita could come. Of course, I had to give the promoter all the money we made from selling CD’s and that was essentially the end of the band.
Granted, this wasn’t entirely the promoters fault, but if there were no mandatory ticket pre-sales my band wouldn’t have been put back into the financial hole we were working so hard to get out of after paying for recording and CD’s and the usual stuff bands pay a lot of money for.
I, along with my band-mates, have a couple of problems with the way that shows are generally run these days. For one, 10 dollars is far too much. The general person attending the show (again, probably around 15 to 20 years old) may be a bit iffy about paying 10 bucks to see their friend’s shitty band and a couple other bands they’ve never heard of and probably won’t like. They’re more likely to just spend it on half-price appetizers at Applebee’s or something. And on the other side, when these bands don’t sell the tickets, where are they going to come up with the $150 or so to give the promoter? Teenagers rarely have that kind of money just lying around.
If more shows cost $5 or EVEN LESS more kids would be inclined to go to these shows as a place to hang out and have a decent time on a Friday or Saturday night. And guess what, if more kids are showing up, there’s STILL a decent amount of money being paid at the door, so everyone is happy. Maybe you won’t make as much, but stop being so fucking greedy, shit. Hell, if someone with a sizable basement and pretty cool parents can get a hold of a PA, then they can have a basement show and money won’t even have to get involved in the situation unless bands want to sell an EP or stickers or something.
What’s the point of booking these huge venues that overcharge for everything, anyway? Kids are FINE with cramming into a basement or small Knights of Columbus, they’re not afraid of brushing up against others like stupid adults. It just creates a gap between the bands from the fans, which is ridiculous considering the only difference between the bands and the fans is that the bands can strum a couple chords.
Of course, people generally don’t get famous for playing shows in a basement, but at least it’ll help develop an actual SCENE, a real grass-roots community of bands and fans that continues to grow and grow. From there, bands can make some money off of CD and t-shirt sales and go on tour, where they can play cheap shows in surrounding areas and create scenes there, as well.
From my experience, kids are going to less and less shows, and from my estimation its because they’re less connected to bands and other fans. Paying so much money to see a local band creates this aura of superiority around these bands that doesn’t actually exist. If bands and promoters just swallowed their fucking ego instead of acting like God’s gift to shitty Indie-pop they’d get a hell of a lot more done.
Sure, I can preach it till I’m blue in the face. At least I’m trying to better the situation. The Halloween show is a step in the right direction. From there I’ve got plenty of big plans.
All I know is that capitalizing on punk is ENTIRELY against everything punk stands for. It’s also pretty fucked up to capitalize on kids who just want to be creative.
P.S. I’m exhausted and in a bit of a daze, I’ll fix any typos after I get some sleep.