Whether hoping to increase the fanbase or grab the attention of agents, for an act at the very beginning of its career, success depends on the promoters willing to take a chance.
But what does it take to make the shortlist of promoters keen to keep their standards high and their audiences happy, and how does an act impress once it makes the cut?
Ryan Balch is agent assistant for LPO and a promoter under the name of Bad Math, and has built Brighton shows around the math, post & noise rock genres since 2012.
He notes that picking out an act from the multitude of hopefuls largely depends on equal parts charisma, effort, and timing.
“Firstly, I have to like them – I’ll always take chances on acts I really like and are active on all forms of social media, which is so important nowadays,” Balch says.
“Good songs – recording quality isn’t as important when just emerging – are also important, and live videos are always nice to have to check an act out beforehand.
“Touring dates certainly matter too, as you want to be able to get people to your show.”
Balch, who has put on emerging acts including Alpha Male Tea Party, Wot Gorilla, and Quiet Lions at Green Door Store (cap. 280), Komedia (140) and The Hope & Ruin (150) among other venues, says that the smart money is on shows promoted within specific genres of music.
“Within specialist scenes, the fanbases are always so dedicated, and if you get the shows out to the right people and promote them well, people will turn up,” he says.
“When I started promoting at 20, I admittedly lost a bit of money, but it was a learning curve in promoting shows well and being active, or a figurehead, in the scenes you’re a part of and want to champion.”
Nicholas Barnett, in-house booker for 200-capacity The Water Rats and promoter in other venues including 229 (620, 200) and The Workshop (250), says that the biggest priority for any act is finding nights and promoters that can potentially help them to secure representation.
“There are loads of great acts and the audience responses are generally enthusiastic,” he says, “but the goal for them all is finding industry personnel or investment.”
“Other than giving musicians a platform to just enjoy performing their music, the point to these shows is that they are stepping stones to bigger things.”
He adds that when you’re dealing with acts who are brand new, there has to be an assumption than they’ll only be able to do so much when it comes to bringing people to shows, noting that keeping prices low generally helps in attracting punters.
“I concentrate on emerging artists and my bills have no big headliners
or seniority on the bill – all acts are pretty much on an equal footing,” says Barnett.
“I therefore charge £5, because I’m a big believer in keeping the door price as low as possible, especially in these tough times.”
Stewart Black of BM Concerts has been promoting in Doncaster since 1996, and currently puts on shows at local venue The Leopard (200). He echoes Barnett’s sentiments with regards to the limited ability of new acts to make their own crowds, explaining that good promotion means refraining from bombarding the potential crowd.
“In this game we don’t expect anything – it’s always wise to ensure we do what needs to be done,” he says, “and if bands do their own promotion it’s always a bonus.
“We do have a core group of regulars that we can promote new bands with, and use Facebook, Twitter etc, but in that regard you need to be careful lest it become overkill.”
Black adds that a night is only as good as the talent to hand, and in recent years has noticed something of a lack of local potential in the area.
“The local scene is non-existent at the moment due to artistes not really being good enough to work,” he says.
That doesn’t mean, of course, that Black hasn’t seen national artistes impress at the venue on their way up.
“Foals was a massive highlight, seeing them in such a small venue and being a part of it,” he says.
“Charlotte Church [having left opera to pursue an indie music career] was amazing too – I was so shocked how an A-list celeb could be so down-to-earth.”
Carlo Solazzo, who promotes in venues across Birmingham and the midlands including The Sunflower Lounge (120), The Flapper (180) and The Actress & Bishop (600), says that it pays to know your limits.
“When it comes to being noticed nationally, timing is everything,” he says.
“There’s no point in waving your guitar around your head if you’ve got four songs and a 10w Marshall amp behind you.”
He adds that no two paths are the same when it comes to an act finding its feet.
“It’s our job to help develop acts from grassroots and pull them up the ladder,” he says.
“Some acts will eclipse this quickly, but for others it can be a slower burn.
“We will regularly promote purely local band nights, but these tend to be outside of touring season.
“However, a lot of the new nationally emerging acts rely on local artistes fanbases to help develop themselves, so at emerging level local artistes and touring acts are hand in hand.”