Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Unprofessional Attitudes Hurt Bands & Venues

Pleae note, there will be photographs of bands we do support in the Wichita area on this posting. Just because we don't have a photo posted, don't mean we don't support you. But some of the bands we have had bad experiences with, are not posted. The band photographs are hyperlinked and you can click on the photo to visit their page and listen to their music. You will also see additional hyperlinks in the article which I would encourage you to visit.

I have wanted to write this for some time, and have hesitated due to not wanting to offend or hurt people, but it is time something was said.

I want to be careful how this comes across as it is going to appear to be negative in some ways. That is not my desire; it is my desire that at some point people would learn, especially some of the bands and some of the venues in this local. I realize that people around the country are also reading this so if the shoe fits for your community, add your two cents.

Let me preface by stating that while I am now a pastor, speaker, and writer, I spent a great deal of time early in my life in promotions, marketing and management. In 1988 I had according to Performance Magazine, the Top New Agency in America, and Poll-Star Magazine had us listed as one of the top 10 agencies in America. I had the top grossing band in America in theaters 2,500 and under, Blue Oyster Cult was #2 and The Judd’s was #3 according to Performance Magazine. I also had 3 of the top 10 shows in America in clubs 800 and under, all according to Performance Magazine. I say this to make a point, I did a pretty good job in my field, and I knew the industry and business, especially as a musician, and manager. I was blessed to work with some really good bands, but I also realize that a lot of my work led to those associations.

Now let me address something that has bothered me lately as I have experienced first hand some issues with the Wichita Music Scene. While there are some wonderful bands in the area which I will work with any day, any time, any moment, there are others who have a lot to learn. As a promoter now, (as well as a musician and magician) I am shocked that some local bands have venues to play. I say this because it is not unusual to have local bands cancel, even at the last moment prior to a concert or event.

It is time bands learned to respect the promoting agency booking them in, and it is time, agencies and venues stood together to share with each other which bands are and are not, professional. I have had bands cancel within 2 hours of a show, one band who walked out of a show without telling me (after they arrived at 8:15 for a 8 PM show and wanted us to set up around their needs as opposed to the band which was booked as the headline act), and bands not even show up at shows that have been booked without ever even making a phone call. Let me make it clear, these are not the actions of bands that will “make it” in this industry. In the past I have played quite a few locations as a musician and worked as a manager, Athens Georgia, Greenville/Spartanburg South Carolina, Tulsa Oklahoma, Boston Mass, New York, Chicago and others. In none of these locations would a band do this but one time, and at that point, no reputable promoter or venue in the community would book that band again because those venues interact and let each other know what to expect, or possibly expect Simply put, they share experiences. Only in Wichita have I seen these types of actions occur, where a band can do these types of things, and “get by with it.” It is time for these types of things to stop. For those in the Wichita, or Kansas Markets, you want to know about my experiences with a particular band, fine, ask me and I will tell you exactly what I experienced.

Here is the problem with these actions, venues, even small ones, have time and money invested. Sometimes at Mosaic, we have great crowds, sometimes we don’t, but the promotions are the same. Let me explain.

I book a band, and the conditions of the booking are almost always the same. We work on an 80 / 20% split for anything over $200. The headline band gets 80%, Mosaic gets 20%. All bands are allowed to keep 100% of concession sales. I know this may sound strange to some, but there are many venues that charge a percentage for band concession sales. Our shows are all a recommended donation of $5. I always, repeat, always, personally contribute to the bands that are playing. We also do all of the free promo we can, including the local papers, and press releases to radio and television stations. Sometimes we get those aired, or played, sometimes not. Now another point of clarification; for bands we book, we also feed them, and provide drinks for them. I also pay a publicist 10% of all income from shows, including the shows where we get less than $200. On those shows I give the publicist 10% and the band gets 100% of anything under $200, at this point you can see that we are losing twice. That is okay though, we enjoy the opportunity to provide music opportunities to the bands, and we consider this a “ministry” so even for a small church that also provides various forms of entertainment, that gets by month to month, this is something we value and want to provide the community. For those having issue with a church doing this, most all shows we book in, (over 95%) of them, are booked in as non religious shows and I have no idea where the musician is coming from spiritually. Yet, we still do it, even though an expense to us.

Now let’s not stop there regarding our expenses, we print posters, around 100, flyers, around 200. When you figure in the cost of this, the time involved in promoting at various locations including MySpace, Facebook, and RokICT among others, can you see why I would get upset over the actions of some bands?

Back in the day when I was working with Steppenwolf, Marshall Tucker, Kansas, and Nantucket among others, Steve Morse of the Dixie Dregs started calling me Twiggs Jr. This was a unique compliment coming from Steve, especially with the closeness he had with Twiggs Lyndon. It is a part of that attitude that I still have which has motivated me to write this. Enough is enough, and some bands need to grow up, and some venues need to “band” together to protect our expenses and efforts. I am asking; if you as a venue have a bad experience, let me know, at that point, Mosaic won’t allow that band to play at our facility. You want to know about a band that has played our venue, ask me. I’m not talking about a bad night, or a new band coming out, I’m talking about a band that has little or no respect for the venue which is hosting them or isn’t professional.

I have even heard some bands bad mouth other bands in the area, again, enough is enough. One of the bands I have heard several people mention is one of the most professional bands I have worked with. I guess that is the problem, that band is professional. That band and others, who are professional, are getting bad mouthed around town by other bands, to those unprofessional bands that would do this, shame on you. You have no idea how close I am at this point now in mentioning names of some of those bands who have done this. Some of this comes from bands who have cancelled and walked out of shows.

While there are rare reasons for cancellations, and especially late cancellations (very rare), those reasons still costs the venue money. “Sorry” can only go so far, but when sorry costs me in the neighborhood of $50 - $100 in actual cash, (comes out of my pocket, not Mosaic) or 15 – 20 hours of my time, hearing “sorry” is a hard word to swallow. Again, there are rare appropriate situations. I had a recent act have a serious illness in the family recently, I understand that. I also understand though, there is still a loss, even for this.

I now have for Mosaic, and would encourage venues to draw up cancellation contracts, if a band for any reason cancels a show in an inappropriate time frame, then that venue will be paid for their time and expenses. The venue and promoter have provided free publicity; bands should have to pay for those services, expenses, and time. I believe in logical argument, what logic would dictate that the promoter or venue should have to eat these costs?

Now let me be clear, there are many wonderful and professional bands in this community. There are also those that need to grow up. If a band is going to take on the professional act of playing, asking people to contribute money for their service or product, then they need to act professional.

In the future, I plan on organizing workshops to assist bands in becoming more professional. I also plan on trying to organize venues around town to work at protecting our investments and reputation. I firmly believe that until we do this, then the bottom line is that Wichita will not get the overall respect within the industry that will help both bands and venues. If our reputation improves, then bands get better gigs, larger audiences, more money, and potential music deals. Then venues get better draws and make larger profits. In both of these scenarios, the fans and audiences win.

I realize some will take this wrong, it is not my intent, there are some who will say negative things, or even say, forget playing at Mosaic, that is fine, with those attitudes we would really rather have more professional bands or acts I am tired of having to explain to fans why a band or act never showed, or why one walks out because they threw a pitty party about not playing when they wanted after showing up late for a concert. It is my desire to frankly, not loose any more money than I have to, but also see some great talent do more than be a hit on their block. Every one of the bands I have had a bad experience with is wonderful musicians, whose music I liked, otherwise I would have never booked them. There are some things to learn though, and just as a band should protect their reputation, they need to realize, that without venues to play or exhibit their talents, they will be limited as to the places they can play. As a musician, I can’t imagine not wanting to have my music heard. That place would be an awfully selfish place to be, but then again, I guess the attitude of being selfish is one of the things I am addressing here.

For those in the music industry, those who read this, either local to Wichita or nationally who will be reading this; what say you?

The following is a video of one of the bands that we support that has played Mosaic, in fact our house band and I enjoy it for an obvious reason, again, a rather professional band at that. Just click on the video, if the video don't appear, click on the following link:

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