Mentioned early in the opening blog. My journey through music.
Venues featured highly in the Vortex. Especially reflecting now in this time. This year 2020. This madness and time of learning. It’s bizarre. Ha! But so were live music venues.
Operating them. I came into venues as I have mostly everything I’ve ever done . By accident. Certainly not by careful planning.
I was happily managing bands after leaving the country comfort inn of corporate record companies. We’ll come back to that.
I met Adam Oreagan.
I think from memory he was at the time managing a pub or something but essentially was the guy who booked the bands for this hotel. (north point tavern) We got talking one night after a show. One of my acts had just played. He mentioned. He loved this band. However, was frustrated as whenever he tried to book a show with us through our agency. He was handed a large door fee guarantee to pay, that literally put us in the high-risk category of the venue not winning off the door proceeds.
In a nutshell. The venue collected the door proceeds. The venue paid the agency. The agency paid us and sliced their fee off the top.
The concept being the door proceeds would out way the guarantee ensuring the bands and the agency expenses were met (Obviously heavily weighted to the agencies benefit.) with the venue receiving a split of the door and of course all the bar.
The band. An original act. Had radio play. Were doing ok. People came to the shows. It was ok. But what we didn’t need.? Were heavy handed agents. Double dipping on commissions. Putting large guarantees on the table that we weren’t aware of.
Inhibiting our option to play live. And venues losing on the door. Having to dip into the bar take to pay the fee.
Even as the band manager. That didn’t seem fair to me. And we were losing opportunities to play live and sell CDS and merchandise. Highly lucrative for us.
So that night. History changed somewhat. Adam had started a small venue consultancy business to assist venues. venue managers with booking their bands. Pretty much any venue worth its salt & cool were promoting bands.
Some had a dedicated band booker. A lot didn’t and they were at the mercy of some quite hard arse agency type people. I joined Adam. Kept managing my bands while Adam and I set out to get between the Venue and the agents negotiating the deals for the shows.
We tried to to keep the process honest and fair.
It was a business very quickly. We never set out to piss anyone off.
We just wanted to formulate deals that spread risk and built confidence encouraging more venues to get involved promoting live music.
We did however annoy a lot of agents that had it all their own way for a long time. It got very controversial. Confrontational and down right nasty at times. But truth be. We really all wanted the same thing.? For these Acts to be successful.
We kept the guarantees in the deal. Just greatly reduced. Upped the door split for the venue and the band.
The venues paid us direct for our services. Our only fault. We never charged what our true value was. We loved what we did but, really? We should have been better dealers on our own behalf. Then again. We were new. What we did? Was new. It was hard to put a price on it. There was still risk involved. Not every show worked. Far from it.
We brokered deals with audio and lighting companies with the venue to have inhouse production in the venues we worked with. This was a major win. It meant a band didn’t have to cart a PA around everywhere they went. Everything became easier. Everyone got paid on their work effort.
Before long we had a growing business.
Any given week via the venues we booked in Sydney . Over 7 nights. Upwards of 30 to 40 original bands playing every night. Maybe upwards of 350 bands played our rooms in a week. Week in week out. All genres, styles. Through this period, we literally worked, talked, walked, played and were a part of all the rising bands, all the losing ones and in betweeners. And? We were part of all of this happening all over Australia. Not counting the international acts that played our rooms.
Street power poles were covered in band posters.”On the street” was free music mag packed full on music news every week run by passionate people.
I’m not sure people today? Can get their head around that. It was massive. We were full on all the time. We never had enough stage time for the all the acts that came to us for shows.
We had to hire another person just to listen to the CDs and tapes we were getting sent daily. Order the advertising posters for the street poles. Adam and I just didn’t have time to do it. However, that said. It was my favourite part of the job. But you know? we had a business to run.
A&R guys from record companies came to us for recommendations. Our CD listener person was hearing it all and passing what they thought we could work onto us to program into the venues.
Again, we can reflect. Festivals like “Home Bake “ happened because of all the grass root venues and talent getting better at what they did. A big outdoor festival could operate profitably just with local talent. You couldn’t do that today.
The worst aspect. Right now, when we need to be able to fall back on our local talent to get moving again.
We don’t have it. We took out the core, the heart of the business. The growth stages. The small stages.
I mean. It was all inevitable. Change happens.
But. You know what? We just spent billions reviving a tram transport system in our city 40 years after taking it out in lieu of alternative options.
Perhaps we could think trams are venues?
Heaps more stories to come. !!!