A couple of weeks ago I wrote my guide about how to be the best Metal fan you can be, and it set me thinking as to what other elements of our community do we neglect and even perhaps take for granted.
One area that I had almost never considered was promotion, more specifically the promotion of shows for underground, up and coming metal bands. Its easy to turn up and watch a show, but what exactly needs to be done behind the scenes to get the doors open and keep the bands happy? What kind of person do you need to be to even have minor success in this field?
The role of promoter is often forgotten about by the fan. I too have fallen prey to the magical thought that shows spring up, fully formed, from holes in the ground, complete with bands, back-lines and venues . Or if promoters are remembered, they are often cast as daemons, hiding in the shadows, counting money, looking for the best moment to run off with the takings.
In an attempt to diffuse and correct these assumed aspersions I caught up with Angelo Pandolfi of Anivian Promotions. To hear his experiences of being a promoter, some vital home truths and hopefully allowing us to untangle fact from fallacy about this misunderstood and much maligned branch of the metal family-tree.
How did you get into promotion?
I kind of just fell into it. About 3 years ago I was in a band, my first band and you know how it is; no one wants to book you because you’ve not played a gig. So we hired out the local venue, got a few of the local bands to be on the bill and it packed out. We made a bit of money and the guy who ran the venue was very impressed and said if we wanted to do it again he’d offer us a discount of the venue hire.
So the next show we did was an EP launch for a friend’s band. They brought loads of people down, my band played. It was a real family feeling. I guess I was slightly naïve as to how things actually worked but it was a great time in my life; having fun, getting drunk and putting on shows with and for friends.
Do you have a particular ethos when it comes to putting on a show? What do you expect from yourself and of the bands you put on?
There are a lot of differences of opinion and misconceptions here. I personally believe that as a promoter, you are offering a service to bands. I mean they are on tour, living out of a van and the little things can mean a lot. After a 10 hour drive they’ll be tired and after unloading all of their gear; having some food and some beers set up ready really goes down well.
I let bands stay at my house, which doesn’t cost me anything but it means that they have a night with a roof over their heads, get to wash and dry clothes, be warm and recharge. Plus it means I get a lift home ha-ha. But seriously, as a promoter you have to understand the kind of conditions that touring bands exist in. Some promoters get pissed off too easily and don’t or can’t consider how much money, time and effort these guys have put into their bands, let alone what it takes to get from gig to gig.
You can’t blame anyone for people not coming out to a gig. You can’t blame bands and you have to remember that no one is obligated to go to a show. You can’t get angry at a scene for not supporting your night.
How do you conduct yourself personally? Have you developed a system of Ethics that you live by professionally?
Always Pay! If you agree a guarantee with a band, always pay it, regardless of anything. Everything that’s pre-agreed, whether or not you’ve signed a contract, no matter how big or small the band. Everything that you’ve agreed to do, do it!
You should be positive and open when the band arrive, which hopefully inspires them to be the same and put on an amazing show. It just makes everything easier, if you’re organised and ready for them, so that they can go with the flow of the organised chaos of the get in and not get agitated or stressed. Being nice goes a long way.
I used to be obsessed with doing everything myself. People would ask to help and I was reluctant because it is a business and I didn’t want to delegate. But now I can sit here and do an interview with you because a new addition to the team is running the load in and I can relax. I took me quite a while to realize that some people just want to help out; lug things around, turn up early, to feel part of something, part of the scene. It took me longer than it should have to realise this and things have been much easier for me since. But treat your team mates fair and don’t abuse their kindness.
Its friends and its family and its wonderful.
What was your best show?
It was a show here [Scream Lounge, Croydon, UK]. An EP launch for a band called Reign of Tyranny [now called Deny the Flesh]. It was the first time I’d had the confidence to message more established bands within the scene and say would you come and do this show, I can pay you, but you’ll be lower on the bill than you would normally be because its an EP launch.
I asked Foreboding Ether, Doomed From Day One and Subversion to play and when you first start out, you don’t expect people to be so cool and agree to perhaps do a favour or help out and play for a local band.
It was a real epiphany for me – realising that there is so little ego in the [UK Tech] scene; that people generally aren’t looking to be arseholes but to support and help smaller bands and keep things vital and energised.
But that show was just greater than the sum of its parts. It was rammed, pits forming everywhere but still room to move away from them. Such so much fun to be at.
It was a real game changer for me, as I think it impressed so many people with how good a show it was and just how worthwhile it is getting out and going to a show. Don’t be afraid, you make the scene by being there. If you want to go to a show, go. Don’t look for an excuse not to go.
What was your worst show?
It was probably the 3rd or 4th show e ever put on. We’d had a couple of successes and thought “Is that it? You just book some band and a venue and everyone turns up.”
At this point I knew nothing of local scenes or the industry so we were a bit deceived by Facebook likes and that kind of stuff. We found this band, we liked their music, it was the kind of thing we were into at the time. They had a few thousand FB likes, they had been on tour with some really established bands.
I messaged them and it was my first experience of negotiation and setting a fee. We offered them £100 plus 10% of the door to entice them in. Bearing in mind it was the first occasion we had offered any band any kind of guarantee. But we thought it tied in really nicely with them being on tour with a pretty big band. Hype, hype, hype – home to London, big show for us as there was no London gig on the tour.
Well we put our own band on the bill and a couple of other bands we had got to know in the few shows that we had done. It was a solid line -up but no one fucking came. It was empty. I was embarrassed and shocked. It was a real “ I don’t know how to deal with this” moment. I just couldn’t work out why no one was there. We were at that level of delusion.
You can’t blame the band, we just didn’t have enough reach, our pages weren’t active enough yet.
We had the venue to cover, the band to pay, I’d offered them a rider- just because I’d heard that was something you had. We lost quite a lot of money but it just made me realise that shit shows happen. Sometimes you just get a dead-out. But it taught me a valuable lesson which is knowing your limits. Not biting off more than you can chew. It can be quite demotivating but overtime you develop contacts and get more experienced and work out your own style.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time? What ambitions do you have for yourself?
With promotion every gig is a different story; different fans, bands, scenes etc. Its not predictable enough to be a realistic career, like, this will make me money. Some shows do some shows don’t and you can’t pay rent when you know there is a possibility that you could go £200 short a couple of times a month.
But its necessary for the scene to exist -somebodies got to do it- for bands to keep playing shows and you do make small profits sometimes and that balances back out. But more importantly we have a great, great time. We put on a lot of free shows, its a great buzz knowing that people are having a awesome time at your show.
But nevertheless I would like to make music my career. I’ve recently started working with Simon [Garrod] at Monolithic Music and we’ve taken on management of bands. I had originally wanted to expand my promotion brand to a general music brand, but when I saw what Simon was doing, I plucked up the courage to ask him if I could get on-board with him and we work really well together. The two aspects: promotion and management work well together.
So in 5 years time, I hope to be able to be making enough money from music so I can focus all my energies, full time on it. Not be rich out of it but so I can do what I love. And because I have found that when I’ve been able to dedicate myself 100% to this I’ve been much more successful at it.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into promotion?
Just be cool! Whatever happens, whatever goes wrong, whatever situation you find yourself in; be cool and let it flow over you and respond rationally because that one time you do fuck up and lose control and are really rude to someone, that can spread like a virus.
What I said to myself was, “Put your reputation before your profits.” give people a reason to want to work with you. Put the effort in to make sure your product and your service is great and results will come off that.
Don’t set things up to try and make a load of money and risk loads of money on big bands when you don’t know how to get it out to people. Pace yourself! Be patient. Take it a step at a time.
If you put on a couple of shows and they work, booking agents will find You because its their job to look for people who can put on bands, because there is a shortage of promoters.
Be organised, be prepared. Always have your notepad on your, have all your details to hand at all times. Be prepared for things to go wrong, because if you are ready for that and have considered how they might go wrong beforehand, you can respond to it in a much more appropriate fashion than if you hadn’t.
Stay calm and focused on the service that you are providing. Think about it from the perspective of the other person and the experience they are having with you and that you are responsible for that. Because if you provide something that is easygoing and fun for them, they’ll remember you and want you to book them again and they’ll go back and tell people; tell their manager and booking agent – We liked that show, we liked that guy, he treats us well. That’s the best advice I can give.
– John Whitmore