FEATURE: Don’t Make A Scene zine #2 | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Don’t Make A Scene is an independent zine created by Rob St. John and Bartholomew Owl from Edinburgh-based band eagleowl. Having drawn together advice, articles and features from a range of music industry insiders, promoters, bands and music obsessives, their beautifully illustrated zine is a must-have for all those interested in gig promotion. Two of the North East’s scene stalwarts, Fakeindielabel‘s Narbi Price and John Egdell, have enjoyed a strong connection with eagleowl through gig promotions and events of their own over the years. Here, enjoy the second in our series of serialised articles from the zine, as John Egdell offers up some of the honest truths of gig promotion.


Image: Rachel Lancaster taken by James Grey at a fakeindielabel show, Newcastle Arts Centre, 19 March 2009

When Rob and Bart asked me to write an article for Don’t Make A Scene, having been around the block a bit, I thought the best thing I could contribute would be some some portable little parables, intended as broad-stroke, universal and generic advice that I’d like to think could be applied to almost any situation a promoter may find themselves in – so if you’re considering stepping up to the challenge laid down elsewhere in this publication and Doing It Yourself, feel free to print this out and stick it in your tool kit along with those other show-day essentials, your Leatherman and your Rescue Remedy, and think of the lessons below as some trusty Blu-tac of tactful succour, a Sharpie of sage counsel, or an XLR of excellent recommendations on how to deal with the everyday pitfalls and pratfalls of promoting gigs.

If, having spent the first six months of 2007 (and indeed the last two months of 2006) methodically making arrangements to host a rare-as-hens-teeth North East show by one of your favourite bands of all time*, at a newly reopened venue in a city ten miles away from your home-town, circumstances conspire to make you miss them playing your very favourite song, which would otherwise have more than likely been the defining highlight of your gig-promoting career, because you were stuck in the box office staring down swathes of invoices and receipts, engaged in the Herculean task of weighing them all up against the shorter-than-you-anticipated stacks of crumpled tenners and piles of pound coins, then don’t worry unduly, because more career defining highlights will come, probably.

If, at ten to eleven, with last orders looming, and curfew just around the corner after that, the US act** touring by train who have misjudged the distance between London and Newcastle are just arriving at the station over the road from the show, full of apologies and East Coast sandwiches and warm tins of Stella Artois, intent on fulfilling their contractual obligation to perform the whole of their hour long set, then it pays to have a good relationship with the venue, so hanging out and regularly attending other gigs there isn’t a bad idea. If, however, one year, along with the rest of the staff, you get a Christmas Card from the owner, then you might want to think about reining it in a tad.

think of these lessons as some trusty Blu-tac of tactful succour, a Sharpie of sage counsel, or an XLR of excellent recommendations on how to deal with the everyday pitfalls and pratfalls of promoting gigs

If, an hour before doors open, in a taxi heading to an out-of-town shopping centre on a frantic mission to relieve Boots The Chemist of all nineteen Continental-Europe-to-UK Travel Adapters they have in stock on behalf of an Italian rock group*** who arrived in England two hours earlier with a shipping container of effects pedals, blissfully unaware of the idiosyncrasies of British plug socket design, you find that you’re handling your frustrations by allowing your otherwise crystal-clear leftie conscience to entertain mildly xenophobic thoughts – specifically the idea of Nintendo icon Super Mario and his brother Luigi clowning around as incompetent electricians, shorting out all the street lights on Yoshi’s Island – then remember that it doesn’t make you a bad person: it’s probably just the taxi driver’s unabashed racism rubbing off on you, don’t beat yourself up about it.

If, in an attempt to answer allegations of nepotism and clique-creep when it comes to your line-ups, you throw caution to the wind and book as an opener an act**** who you’ve never seen live before, but who had sent you a single unsolicited MP3 via MySpace that you thought was ‘well, OK’, in a move not unlike a football manager signing a star striker on the back of a rather-less-than-inspiring YouTube highlights reel, and that risk blows up in your face when they turn up to the show wearing leather trousers and proceed to wallop a heinous noise out of a purple acoustic guitar for what feels like the World’s Longest Half Hour Ever, then don’t beat yourself up about that, either. If, however, six years later, your mate is still using this story to best you in arguments of taste, then feel free to beat him up.

If, on the eve of a show by an American act***** you’ve been looking forward to seeing for months and months, the band are denied entry to the country by an overzealous UK Border Agency drone, costing them thousands of dollars in lost fees, merch sales and non-refundable equipment hire deposits in the process, then you should definitely halve the ticket price and press ahead with the show, promote the tour support to headliners, and, in a gesture of transatlantic philanthropy, send all the proceeds, plus the contents of a collection bucket back to your stricken pals – you should however, draw the line at trying to raise funds by raffling off the uneaten pitta breads from the rider; charity does not begin at houmous.

If, after having deemed it totally reasonable to mark the occasion of your 100th event by filling an actual art gallery with posters, ticket stubs, photos and other memorabilia celebrating your centenary of shows, thanks to a heady mix of idiocy and apathy you totally forget to do something similar after reaching the big two-zero-zero, then it’s totally ok to convince yourself that milestones are millstones, maan, and that this stuff is supposed to be ephemeral anyway – you’re an activist not an archivist!

If, on waking up the morning after a show to find that your favourite band of the last two years****** have done all the dishes in your flat, deflated your air beds and folded up the spare blankets they slept in, and are in the front room quietly writing songs with your crappy guitar, then savour that moment, because this is the career highlight you missed while banking up in that box office back in Sunderland, the proud pinnacle of your gig-promoting journey, the apex on the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with dealing with bands, agents and labels, landlords and licensees, TMs and techs. Especially if they’ve made you a cup of tea.

* Deerhoof

** These United States

*** Three In One Gentleman Suit

**** [redacted]

***** Cars Can Be Blue

****** [redacted, but for different reasons]

Order your copy of Don’t Make A Scene here


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