MUSIC NOTES 2

This started out as a small pointer for Leeds bands and it just grew, it's more philosophical than bitter, it's a generalisation and a reflection on the way the live scene has changed over the last few years and...maybe a warning of what may lie ahead!

I've been promoting in Leeds now for 23 years and a while back I could make a fair living and afford to take a few risks. Over the past 10 years we've seen the emergence of major promotion companies like SJM,  Metropolis and now the U.S. backed SFX (who look set to take over Europe).

These companies could afford to sit back and watch myself and my provincial counterparts struggling to break new acts at ground level and, when a band looked like taking off, they would swoop in and buy up the tour...therefore depriving us small promoters of a second (or even third) crack of the whip.

Then came the battle of the Summer Festivals. Embargoes on bands (and the fact that practically any act of note was booked up) made the Summer months for small venues very dry indeed.

No money was coming in, so the venues could not afford to spend much on improvements, the promoters couldn't afford to take risks on even the smallest bands, the venues became run down and eventually some died, enthusiasm dimmed and most small-time promoters found other jobs.

This has happened all over the country.

The Agents, who were party to this (it's much easier to sell 12 dates at a reduced fee to one company than to negotiate with 12 promoters, even though the acts lose out a bit) now find themselves with less venues and less breaking acts. The Agents' glib response (reminiscent of Norman Tebbit's 'You can get on your bike') is that "Promoters should be more creative".

Yeah! Like we should spend our time and money creating venues to build and break acts so that the fat cats can lick the cream!!!

If I am to be realistic I know it's all part of progress and that we live in a Capitalist society. The same society spawned the greedy, giant supermarkets and I now know how the small grocers and newsagents felt.

The Duchess which was unique to Leeds City Centre is being replaced by a far from unique frock shop, the T&C is to be turned into another disco (how many is that in Leeds now?).

Money talks and there is no conversation at grass roots level.

Over the years I've stood in some deep financial holes and I've thought..."If one of those groups, that I had faith enough in to push and promote up the ladder, would come back and do one big show, I could be out of this"...it hardly ever happens, only in promoters' dreams. The fact is that an artist's ego won't let them accept that their success is due to anything other than their own supreme talent. They forget the journalist who gave them their first write-ups, the local manager who flogged them round the small pubs and clubs...who pestered the promoters, journalists and A&R men...who wasn't good enough once they'd secured the big deal...they forget what they said to the local promoter who ( when there were only 12 people in because the single, due for release 2 weeks before, wasn't out yet ) still paid them the 100...

"Don't worry mate! When we make it we'll come back and do you one".

How many times did I hear that?

All the money, all the goodness has been sucked up from the lower levels and nothing is being put back. Soon live music at ground level will wither and die, if nothing is done. The only outlets for rising acts will be the Internet or Cable TV. The only singles reaching the charts will be those perfect people picked by big managers with bigger bankrolls and an Autotune tucked under the table.

To the bands who expect to make it in the near future I'm saying you will have the power to change a few things, remember where you started and try to put something back. Talent alone is not enough, you need champions, backers, people to boost you up. The ones who support you now are your true friends, remember them, they see the potential in you now and are happy to see you succeed. Once you've made it, covered in kudos and glory, you'll never again know who likes you for what you are. The music business is full of certain parties who will only like you for what they can make out of you.

Good Luck!

John Keenan.

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