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Black Sky Thinking

10 Things That Need To Change To Save Independent Venues
Andy Inglis , January 27th, 2014 05:04

To mark Independent Venue Week, former gig venue manager Andy Inglis offers a straightforward and occasionally sweary list of ten things that need to change in order to make them survive. Photo by Seb Heseltine

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Let me state for the record: I've co-owned and run a live music venue (The Luminaire in Kilburn) and promoted shows for 26 years, so I see things from a venue / promoter's perspective. I've managed bands for 26 years so I see things from an artist's perspective. I've tour managed professionally, worldwide, and been of no fixed abode for two years so I know how it is to live on the road, and that it's not always easy to get the food you like, or need. With that in mind, let us begin with something guaranteed to get my blood pumping.

Artist Hospitality Riders



A list of requests / demands supplied by the artist / management / booking agent to the promoter. Twenty-four bottles of still water, three ripe avocados, a litter of puppies, that kind of thing. Imagine this happened in other industries: your toilet is blocked and you call a plumber. He arrives, gives you a quote, says he'll be back tomorrow at four. Before he arrives he emails a list of food and drink he'd like you to have waiting. He's busy and he'll not have time to eat, so he wants a late lunch, a bottle of Rosé, dark chocolate, a bowl of fruit, two cans of Dr. Pepper, a bag of salted Kettle Chips and a £10 buyout for dinner. On top of his £300 fee. You would rightly tell him off and to go on about his business without further delay. 

Band, you're getting paid for the show (I'm assuming shows where the band's on a guarantee in this case). The promoter isn't your mum. He's not got time to push a trolley around Sainsbury's for an hour, or pop along to the butcher for “Fourteen slices of finely-cut Parma ham” then haul it all back to the venue. Do your own fucking shopping. £200 worth of food and drink AND eight £15 buyouts? Fuck off. You can get a hot meal, some water, and two drinks each. If you want anything else, pay for it yourself. It shouldn't be the promoter's job to get you drunk because you haven't got the moxie to walk on stage sober. Hospitality riders have got completely out of hand.



More visits from Health & Safety Officers



To be blunt, we need to close a load of small venues down in the UK. I'd give them a chance to sort themselves out first, but ultimately, if they can't operate safely as close to 100% of the time as is possible, we should put them out of business. Any dark room containing a load of drunk people needs to be very, very safe and the staff who work there need to be reminded, daily, that the lives of a room full of drunk people might be at risk because they couldn't be bothered to check the fire extinguishers work, or that the emergency lighting comes on when its supposed to, or that the promoter hasn't covered up the smoke detector because the band wants to use a fog machine on stage. People die when Health & Safety is set aside in the name of “rock & roll”. A hundred people died in the Station Nightclub in Rhode Island in 2003, 242 people died in Santa Maria, Brazil, last year. I wrote about it here ). It's absolutely fucking terrifying. Don't ever, ever oversell your show, you fucking greedy bastard. A over-capacity room isn't “vibey”; it's idiotic.



Guest lists need to be universally banned



Thor Harris of Swans famously said “Guest list is for friends, family and people you might want to fuck. Everyone else can pay. They have day-jobs.” Thor Harris is wrong. If your friends, family and people you might want to fuck have day-jobs, they can pay too. If those closest to you won't support you, how can you expect anyone else to? One day, while bored on a bus, I worked out that in six years we gave away somewhere in the region of £250,000 worth of guest list at The Luminaire, give or take a few tens-of-thousands-of-pounds. That money could have gone into the pockets of bands, and into our tills which would have helped support us. Small venues are pretty much bars with stages. No alcohol sales = death. Guest list is a malignant tumour on the lactating breast of live music. I've lost count of the number of arguments I've had with promoters who've booked a band I've managed and they've found out I've bought a ticket. “But you're the manager!” they exclaim. Aye. That's why I bought a ticket.



Promoters, venues and venue staff: lose the attitude



Son of Dave says “Generally speaking, touring all over Europe involves fine food and wine, being met at the train station by beautiful hostesses, playing to enthusiastic, mixed crowds in well-organised, creative festivals and venues with great backstage and technical staff. Generally speaking, touring in the U.K. means all the tins of Red Stripe you need to kill the pain.” Britain, you once had huge political, economic and military influence, and the largest Empire since the Mongols in the 13th Century. Now you have Gibraltar and The Falklands. You're just a broke island off the coast of Europe. Stop swaggering around like your shite tastes like Ben & Jerry's. The Dutch make good music too and they've got far better venues and production staff than you. So do Norway. And France, Germany, Iceland, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark and every other country on the mainland and the Nordic Region. You sell alcohol and tickets. That means you're in customer service. Start acting like it.

Bands: lose the attitude



See that guy / girl behind the sound desk? That's your front of house engineer. You'll spend the next eight hours working together. Learn their name. See that big rectangular receptacle in the corner? That's the bin. That's where your litter goes, not on the floor. See that towel you've just put in your bag? Put it back. It's not yours. It belongs to the venue and every time you steal one they need to replace it. I once spent £200 pounds on towels in 18 months. That's two SM58 microphones that I really needed. In fact, I'd rather you stole a microphone. At least I'd understand why you did it. Bands should behave like they're a guest in someone's home when they arrive at a venue, because someone owns it and, in the case of small venues, has probably dedicated their life to it for the past however-many years. Setting off fire extinguishers isn't on (like The View did, the only band I banned from The Luminaire) or vomiting into a box backstage and not disposing of it yourself (like Carl Barat did, though I suppose I'm to blame for giving the talent-vacuum a show in the first place).



Small venues need money, and lots of it



The UK has one of the world's worst small venue circuits, in terms of production, customer service and conditions for artists and audiences. We're a global laughing stock, with a few exceptions. This is partly due to an almost complete lack of funding at the grassroots level. While The Arts Council dishes out £20,000,000 a year to London's Southbank Centre, almost every other non-charity venue gets not a penny. This has to change and we can't wait, and we can't we rely on Government. It is now time for the music industry itself to step up. Some of our labels, promoters, booking agents, artists and bigger live venues are - comparatively speaking - staggering wealthy. They need to step up and shell out. Colin Greenwood's an ambassador for Independent Venue Week but what I want to see Colin Greenwood do is give a huge sum of money to a few live venues. And if we can't get money from these people, then let's...



... redistribute the wealth we have



Arts Council England gives London's Southbank Centre £20,000,000 in block funding each year (which means they can spend it on what they like without much in the way of detailed accountability). Some of ACE's funding comes from you, the tax-payer, which makes it quite likely that, when you last visited Royal Festival Hall and took a shit, you wiped your arse with toilet roll that you helped pay for. And The Barbican? Only £583,000 in funding in 2013, but that's topped up by £19,800,000 from the City of London. Forty million for two arts centres. What do Le Pub in Newport or Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff get? Fuck-all. Why can't we take a million each off Southbank and Barbican, stick it in a fund which small venues could apply to, up to a maximum of twenty grand per venue, then we could transform one hundred small UK venues in one move. We could create a world-class small venue circuit. We could be the best. The Southbank is a charity too. Perhaps it could start being a bit more fucking charitable.



The nine major booking agents need to lighten the fuck up



Here I am again, putting the boot into booking agents, the biggest, most powerful gang of unaccountable thugs in the music business, with some exceptions. Nothing moves in the live industry without them. They can threaten to blacklist sixteen-year-old, first-time promoters if they don't get their way, they can threaten to sue you personally if the festival you were hired to book is declared bankrupt, and they can demand to speak to your male partner on the phone because you're a woman. All these happened to me, or those close to me. They need to calm the fuck down, recognise the worth of small venues and promoters, stop asking them to put their shitty bands on as openers when no-one wants anything to do with them, and generally stop using their frightening power and influence to get their own way. And they're rich. If they had an ounce of morality they would start funding small venues, in exchange for absolutely nothing
.

Everyone needs to shut up



No-one paid to listen to you chat to your pals. If you want to chat to your pals when the band is on, go stand in the bar downstairs. What's that? You paid to get in so you can do what you like? You're a moron. Get out. What's that? You're in the opening band and now you want to chat to your pals at the bar while the main support is on, despite telling me, during soundcheck, how much you hate people talking while you're playing? Oh so it's not a library you're in? I know it's not a fucking library but you're talking and I'm trying to listen to the band. And what's that, member of bar staff? You're bored and you just want to stand back there and throw glass bottles into the bin from a few feet away? How about I throw bottles at your head instead? You're in a public place. Keep your damn voice down you selfish prick.

Repeal the Live Music Act of 2013



The Live Music Act is a spectacularly irresponsibly thought-out piece of legislative bullshit, which (mostly, but not exclusively) serves to compound the misery of existing venues struggling to make ends meet. It potentially opens the door to countless pub landlords – who aren't collectively known to care much about production and hospitality standards for audiences and artists – and their five-band-bill gigs where the bands get a case of fizzy lager between them. I shouted at UK Music about it, and the Live Music Forum, and Fergal Sharkey, but it was circle- jerked through Parliament anyway. Ask any live venue operator in England & Wales who operated under the old rules what they think of the Live Music Act. You'll maybe learn some new swear words. I've not got space to explain why it's so bad here, so read this article, and learn why I have doubts that anyone involved in lobbying for the new Act had the first fucking idea about what the grassroots live industry actually needs to enable it to prosper.


Jan 27, 2014 10:20am

BANDS, LOSE THE ATTITUDE!!!

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Jan 27, 2014 10:20am

BANDS, LOSE THE ATTITUDE!!!

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Jan 27, 2014 10:38am

If you ever want to ruin your enjoyment of anything - music, life, breathing - then hang around with a group of booking agents for more than half an hour. Suicide inducing. Even Chaucer would have had a hard time satirising this capricious, hateful, greedy, ignorant bunch of idiots as the reality of their disgusting behaviour is often far worse than anything anyone can imagine. Come the glorious day they will be among the first of those to suffer the wrath of revolutionary hellfire.

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Jan 27, 2014 10:40am

My guess is a lot of those £250000 worth of guest-listers wouldn't have bothered if they had to pay to get in, mates or otherwise... but I bet they all bought a drink and the gig was ultimately better by being closer to capacity. A similar problem can be seen in football. It would surely be better that someone like Wigan Athletic charge next to nothing and actually had a few people in the stadium rather than empty seats. I do think that a lot of bands have their tickets at the wrong price in the first place.

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Louder
Jan 27, 2014 11:00am

Brilliant piece. What exactly does that ass hat Fergal Sharkey do again?
What ever it is, he should be replaced by Mr Inglis soon as.

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Tom Bellhouse
Jan 27, 2014 11:01am

A great list. That "£50 support fee" that hasn't changed in line with inflation for 20+ years can fuck right off too.

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Ollie
Jan 27, 2014 11:27am

Totally agree with this, although getting a drop of the funding from British Arts Council, is definitely an 'extracting-blood-from-a-stone' scenario.

I think what especially needs to be taken seriously is to accept that the way venues exist financially is because they are 'bars with stages', and then try to improve on it. There's great opportunities for getting alternative revenue, like free order apps such as Preoday (www.preoday.com), which let folk pay for drinks on their phone and collect them when they're ready- it helps manage queues better and also increases turnover.

And I'm sure there must be an app that lets you know if Carl Barat is in your local area as well, and give you the best route to avoid him.

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james strathallan
Jan 27, 2014 11:32am

Mostly bang on. On guest list, I do think that you need some places for some hard up friends and members of other bands. The most annoying are the industry people who want to be on the list and then don't turn up, meaning that you either have to guess how many will turn up (risking overselling if you underestimate) or sell less tickets.

The link to the article about why the Live Music Act 2013 is bad is broken.

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Sam Wild
Jan 27, 2014 11:33am

Great article - particularly regarding the attitude of staff..

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james strathallan
Jan 27, 2014 11:33am

Mostly bang on. On guest list, I do think that you need some places for some hard up friends and members of other bands. The most annoying are the industry people who want to be on the list and then don't turn up, meaning that you either have to guess how many will turn up (risking overselling if you underestimate) or sell less tickets.

The link to the article about why the Live Music Act 2013 is bad is broken.

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John Cleere
Jan 27, 2014 11:53am

Spot on! Here's a sample of a rider, from a moderately successful band and they sent back the sandwiches, because they didn't contain prawns!:
4 x organic real ale
12 x Budvar beer
8 x bottles cider

4 x organic real ale
12 x Budvar beer
8 x bottles cider
3 x bottles genuine French Champagne
1 x bottle Jamesons whisky
Coca cola
Diet coca cola
1 x Rubicon Passion Fruit juice
1 x Tropicana orange juice
Bottles of still water
Prawn & salad sandwiches
Veggie sandwiches
Crisps and nuts
Fruit
Cigarettes: 1 x Camel filtre, 1 x Camel non filtre, 1 x Lucky Strike (red)
Dinner: Hot meal 8 people
Dietary requirements;
3 eat everything
2 eat chicken, fish and vegetarian
2 eat fish and vegetarian
1 eats vegetarian only

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Stavros P. Leibowitz
Jan 27, 2014 12:03pm

One major thing was left out - the scummy so-called 'promoters' that do fuck all to promote a band and insist that the band brings 50 punters before they get paid. What the fuck is that? Places like Water Rats have really fucked things up in London by putting on conveyor belt line-ups of up to 6 bands, all completely mismatched. The result is a gig whereby bands play to just a few of their mates who then fuck off to the bar before the next band go on and so it goes to make for a really shitty evening. The only winners are the promoters who then tell the bands that they'll never play there again due to lack of fans. I've seen first hand where a band has offered to buy three extra tickets from the promoter so they can make up the requisite number of 25 punters in order to get paid and are then turned down being told, "It doesn't work that way."

There are plenty of good promoters out there but there really are some scumbags out there who deserve nothing but woe.

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Stavros P. Leibowitz
Jan 27, 2014 12:07pm

In reply to John Cleere:

The thing about riders is that they're negotiable. Most of the time, the agent just wants to see what they can get away with. Basic refreshments like food and water are acceptable. Fags, spirits, champagne etc is simply taking the piss and should be treated like the shit on your shoes.

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ted sourvinos
Jan 27, 2014 12:26pm

Amazing article Mr Ingls. I couldn't aggree more. Some really global points there too(even if I have to add that some other EU countries have bigger and different problems in their live cirquit, but as far as Britain is concerned,it's like that).

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Oliver Gray
Jan 27, 2014 12:37pm

In reply to Stavros P. Leibowitz:

Riders: I always ask the band: Do you really want all this stuff, wouldn't you rather have some extra money instead? They invariably go for the latter.
Latest thing: Agents demanding half the fee as an upfront deposit. I tell them I only get the money on the night so obviously can't pay weeks in advance. They normally accept this. Do they want the gig or not?
Guarantees: I always say I can't give a big guarantee because I have no idea how many people will come. As a rookie promoter I lost money on every show by naively accepting whatever guarantee was demanded. Now I say: I guarantee nothing (or something realistic when I know a band's pulling power) but I will pay a high percentage of what comes in. Do they have confidence in their band to pull a crowd?
Offers: Bigger agents often say "Make me an offer". I never understand that. I don't know if the band deserves £50 or £5000. We'll see on the night.
Circuits: In my particular field, the "Americana / roots" area, we have an alternative circuit of venues which are all run by music lovers who do it out of love, not as a business. Everyone benefits - bands, venues, audiences.
Shhh: It’s taken years of bullying to achieve our quiet audience. If people talk, we give them their money back and ask them to leave. We stole this from the Luminaire and it is hugely appreciated by both bands and audiences.
Work with American and Canadian artists: They are invariably charming, polite, friendly and appreciative.
Agents: Almost all of them I work with are really nice. I think they can get messed around a lot by inexperienced promoters or chancers. If you deal with them in a straight and honest manner, most of them are fine. And if any are objectionable, I tell the artists they are being badly represented. That usually does the trick.

Oliver (sc4m)

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Andy Inglis
Jan 27, 2014 1:08pm

In reply to Tom Bellhouse:

Aye, mind when £50 was worth something?

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Andy Inglis
Jan 27, 2014 1:11pm

In reply to james strathallan:

You're dead right. It's those who expect it as a given I've a problem with.

"I should be on the guest list..."

No, you fucking shouldn't...

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Andy Inglis
Jan 27, 2014 1:15pm

In reply to Oliver Gray:

Good post, Sir.

My issue with agents is that they abuse their power. Maybe not with you, but with someone. A younger promoter, a female promote, a new promoter. They're nice to you, treat someone else like shit because they can. I've observed every sector of the business for 26 years and they are without a shadow of a doubt the most complained-about mob of the lot, buy a huge distance. There's plenty I get on well with, there's plenty I'll enjoy a 5 minute chat with if I see them out but I'm thinking with almost all of them - like I do with every police officer I come across - aye, I see what you are... I've got your fucking number...

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Andy Inglis
Jan 27, 2014 1:36pm

Broken link on the Live Music Act section. This one works: http://fivethousand.co.uk/wanted-nine-million-affluent-gig-goers/

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Dan
Jan 27, 2014 1:45pm

Out of interest (and playing devils advocate a little bit) you've clearly read Thor Harris' piece on touring etc. In that he states to bring in a flask to save on booze money and instead to use that money to buy from the merch table to support the bands. As someone who has a vested interest and belief in helping both venues and bands make money, where do you stand on Thor's view here?

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Mike D
Jan 27, 2014 2:18pm

YES! Excellent article that needs to be widely read.

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matt milton
Jan 27, 2014 2:23pm

One thing not mentioned that I think is crucial: ticket prices need to go up, and audiences need to acknowledge this. In the time I've been going to gigs, I've seen ticket prices at big venues - like the 02 Academies, Shepherds Bush Empire, Wembley etc – go up in line with inflation and changing times. But at small venues it still costs the same as it did 20 years ago. A fiver (or, at a push, maybe 6 or 7 quid) on the door to see three bands. How the hell is anyone supposed to actually make any money off that? That's how much it cost to go to see three bands at the Camden Falcon back in in 1991! If the price of beer has gone up in that time, there's no reason why ticket prices shouldn't - and they have for big venues, they just haven't for small ones.

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Wal
Jan 27, 2014 2:26pm

Generally I agree with most of what he's saying however venues do, and always will, have the upper hand over musicians who are desperate for exposure and that's why I've always tried to pay the bands at my SongClubs. The Luminaire and venues like The Charlotte didn't go out of business because they paid bands. The industry and the punters changed and they didn't adapt! As for Arts funding........imagine what the world would be like if we put as much money into culture as we do into sport. British Olympic sports funding alone was £265m in 2013 and this doesn't include grassroots schemes for highly commercial games like football, rugby, tennis, golf and many more and we continue to increase year on year above inflation at the cost of the arts. The real 2012 Olympic legacy may well be that it killed the arts! However we'll probably find a way to express it!!!!!!!!!!

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Chris
Jan 27, 2014 2:26pm

Great stuff, Andy. Spot on. Without wishing to labour the point about bands losing their attitude, the wonderful Grumbling Fur (Daniel in particular) behaved atrociously to the sound engineer at the latest Audioscope show in Oxford.

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matt milton
Jan 27, 2014 2:33pm

Re. guestlists, one thing I've found is that if you call it a "Donations Guestlist", suddenly all these supposedly Totally Utterly Skint people manage to find some kind of token payment.

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Ross Allmark
Jan 27, 2014 2:50pm

Excellent piece Mr Inglis, even if I don't agree with every point the agenda is spot on.

That said as a promoter and venue operator I'm (amiably) sceptical that funding is the way forward. In my opinion what we need is a fairer trading environment so we can solve the problem ourselves. This means fairer business rates, a balanced approach to noise complaints, an adequately funded Police force that doesn't need to pass on it's costs to venues, breweries that don't use the "tie" to screw independent operators out of their earnings and a VAT rate the doesn't send 20p of every pound we take straight to HMRC. In my humble opinion if there's funding it should go to those artists who don't have the luxury of living in their parents pool house, so I don't have to look at upper-middle class white dudes every day.

As for the other points: I've never begrudged the guestlist (they do buy beer), I don't mind hospitality riders (I agree a budget ahead of the show), booking agents aren't all that bad (as a policy I don't work with assholes), the Live Music Act is stupid (way to miss the real issues) and everyone involved could definitely benefit from being nicer and more respectful to one another.

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Marik
Jan 27, 2014 2:51pm

A fairly bourgeois set of concerns lacking any clarity as indicated by the author's esteem for the British Empire and by paradoxical ideas such as, 'No alcohol sales = death. Guest list is a malignant tumour on the lactating breast of live music' and by his contempt for working class employees. It is an error to believe that these 'small' businesses exploit workers any less than 'bigger' ones, and their cries for 'fairness' should be held in contempt.

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nickidbass
Jan 27, 2014 3:12pm

Beautiful hostesses? Come on.

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caonai
Jan 27, 2014 6:08pm

Great article. Personally I think a tightly controlled guest list is OK, and certainly if all the other points were followed (especially re: attitudes) it wouldn't be an issue. As has been said above, no-one should feel any sense of entitlement to a guest list spot however.

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Jan 27, 2014 6:09pm

In reply to Marik:

And the Marxist solution to the aforementioned woes would be?

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Marik
Jan 27, 2014 6:47pm

In reply to :

Quite simple. Until the revolution of the proletariat and the establishment of the common ownership of the means of production, middle class twerps like Andy Inglis who complain about how 'unfair' capitalism is can go and suck my dick.

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Luke Turner
Jan 27, 2014 7:15pm

In reply to Marik:

The idea that Andy "Not very English" Inglis is an enthusiast for the British Empire has been making me chuckle all day.

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Syd
Jan 27, 2014 7:22pm

Agree so much with this, had to comment! Thank you for writing/publishing it Andy! My number 11 item would be the lies that riddle the industry more than anything I have ever experienced elsewhere. Too many people, off stage, creating their own vain self importance & reality by bullshit which is easily & always uncovered eventually & cuts short future growth. "Some" agents lieing about the band pull to get a deal, "some" venues lieing about how many were in to avoid paying overage just fuel the bad vibe flames. I realise it is hard to adjust when we witness "pillars of society" like MP's & Police officers at it but we are all responsible for our own moral standards & the "that's business" excuse is just that for a low standard of personal ethics in this industry all too often. So is the answer regulation? I hope not!

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Ben Perry
Jan 27, 2014 7:40pm

I run the railway inn winchester. The reason spinal tap is so painfully funny is because it's true. A perfect account! Well said that man!

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Jan 27, 2014 7:58pm

What would a reasonable amount for Colin to donate to privately owned venues Andy?

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Jan 27, 2014 8:15pm

In reply to Oliver Gray:

You don't know whether the band deserve £50 or £5000? You're not doing your homework then.

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Andy Inglis
Jan 27, 2014 8:52pm

In reply to Dan:

I wouldn't do it in someone's house, wouldn't do it in someone's venue. I've been on the dole three times and just figure that if you can't afford something, you don't get it. If you can't afford to go to the show, you don't go to the show. You can't afford to eat out then it's beans on toast. You don't duck into the restaurant kitchen and swipe a leg of lamb.

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Andy Inglis
Jan 27, 2014 8:55pm

In reply to Marik:

I've had to wait for a couple of minutes to respond to this one, because I couldn't see the screen through tears of laughter. And now I can see what I'm typing, I still don't know what to type. Oh wait; you've made another comment down there. I'll try that

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Andy Inglis
Jan 27, 2014 8:56pm

In reply to Marik:

Nope, I'm still at a complete loss as to how to address you, Marik. Something about never arguing with idiots on the internet.

Happy to suck your dick though.

Please send a photo to andy@fivethousand.co.uk

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Andy Inglis
Jan 27, 2014 8:58pm

In reply to :

Some just want the mic. they had stolen replaced last night (£100), some need a new sound desk (2-4 grand maybe). Or a grand might do to tart up their backstage room

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Andy Inglis
Jan 27, 2014 9:00pm

In reply to :

No, it's whether the band are worth £300 or £600, which can be the difference between being able to pay your security and bar staff on an evening

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gob
Jan 27, 2014 9:02pm

PROMOTERS, PROMOTE YOUR GIGS

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Apop
Jan 27, 2014 9:33pm

Good article - doesn't entirely mirror the US experience, but it sounds pretty close.

"Lose the attitude" would help just about every situation. Have had miserable experiences with the house sound engineer 'cos he's "been doing this for 30 years and once was a roadie for the opening act on Alice Cooper's 2nd tour in '75...", etc., etc. Have had even more miserable experiences from musicians in other bands who were literally moments away from being signed and were none too happy to share the bill with us(still waiting to hear about that record deal).

I don't get along with everybody, I don't need to like everybody (and they sure as 'ell don't need to like me), but it seems the overriding message coming across in this article is, let's all remember a bit of common courtesy when making our way through this maze. Nobody's curing cancer, we're all just trying to put on a good show.

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mark Oliff
Jan 27, 2014 10:22pm

BOLLOCKS to most of that. Theaving promoters lying promoters er promoters who don't promote er I think that's in you job description, that is your fucking job. Promoters who don't even turn up at the venue. I could certainly go on for ohhh a few hours!

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Mike S
Jan 27, 2014 10:44pm

In reply to Apop:

Perfect.

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Marik
Jan 27, 2014 10:47pm

In reply to Andy Inglis:

You've got mail.

But honestly, I don't give a fuck about your shop keeper's wish list. Toss off.

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Jan 28, 2014 5:39am

In reply to Andy Inglis:

The guest list is a reward at someone else's expense, "Thanks for being nice to me, that guy over there will pay you in to have a good night". Picking up on the plumber theme, you wouldn't ask him to pop next door and tighten up your neighbour's leaky tap for free. Because you fancy his wife. It's a general tenet in life, or should be, if you want it - pay for it. Or fuck off. I suspect that from the cushion of the benefits queue, to which he has a divine proletariat right, Malik doesn't agree.

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Jan 28, 2014 6:45am

In reply to Andy Inglis:

You're having a dinner party and visit Marks & Spencer.

As you go for the tills, a shelf stacker calls you back, "Hang on mate! I'm just about cool with the beef you've asked me about every day for the last month but I need to approve the vegetables you're having with it".

He rummages around in your basket.

"Let's see. Peas OK, carrots yes, but this broccoli no. I don't agree, please submit another suggestion and I'll get back to you next week".

He quietly slides something else in your trolley, "Oh, and you have to take this week's special offer we're being paid to sell ... curried beetroot and custard topped with chocolate sprinkles and a cheese straw. £50. It's the next big vegetable combination. Now off you go to the check out".

As the bored girl beeps your stuff through she sternly reminds you that she needs to approve the design of your invitations before you send them out, and also a list of your potential invitees. She will also want to send out some invites of her own, at your expense, and every Monday and Friday please update her on how many people are confirmed to come.

She will also be adding £75 on to your bill for a Facebook event a loading bay trainee will set up. He will be using this approved photo of Mavis the cow from whose arse your meal has been kindly allowed to proceed with our exclusive permission.

The farm hand who drives the tractor will be writing your invitation text. He doesn't possess a scintilla of spelling nouse or syntax. He thinks grammar is married to gran'pa and his pre-school prose sums up the excitement of your event much as a lamppost anticipates the next dog.

Such is booking a band these days. Years ago, the agent used to telephone and we'd sort it in five minutes. Two months later the band would bowl through the back door to be royally fed, watered and, if they were lucky, get shagged after playing their anthems to a full house.

No convoluted tech specs with monitor desks for a trio, riders with coconut water, buy-on supports or £15 a head handouts to get a KFC.

Just a bunch of musicians who would sit at the bar and chat up the staff, drink your tea and scoff your chocolate biscuits. Nowadays they're all on laptops talking to anybody but who's looking after them or coming to the gig.

And don't get me started on the "I'm a musician and on that basis alone I am deserving of your money" brigade.

Pay to play? Pay to promote ...

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vince ward
Jan 28, 2014 7:08am

Very, very well said. But will anyone listen?

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Tim
Jan 28, 2014 11:53am

Some very good points here Andy but I have a few thoughts to add for what it's worth.

1. Guest lists. My old band used to put our friend Amy who designed all of our flyers for free on the guest list. They were bloody good flyers too (better than the band). I think this is fair as she was, in our eyes, a non-musical member of the group. And she drank a lot.

2. Arts Council funding. I agree in principle with what you say, but from a selfish standpoint I fucking love the Southbank Centre and even more so the Barbican and I will form a human blockade to any attempt to cut their funding!

3. Talking at gigs. This can be annoying I agree but half the time it wouldn't be a problem if the sound at the venue was up to scratch. I don't object to people talking by the bar in a live music venue either.

4. I love how Marik has completely failed to grasp the basic tenets of Marxism. I hope he writes more...

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Andy Inglis
Jan 28, 2014 12:42pm

In reply to vince ward:

Nope.

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Andy Inglis
Jan 28, 2014 12:45pm

In reply to Tim:

1. You're right. It can be useful. I expand on that here (http://fivethousand.co.uk/guest-list-a-plague-on-all-our-houses/). I just hate when it's expected.

2. It's a world-class venue and London needs world-class venues. I just think it could be a world-class venue with £19,000,000 a year

3. Won't make a difference if a girl singing quietly with a guitar is doing it through a D&B rig or a Peavey

4. He hasn't emailed me yet, which is a shame, because he sounds dreamy

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Tim
Jan 28, 2014 1:21pm

In reply to Andy Inglis:

Haha, you have unearthed a treasure there. As for talking at gigs, yes if it's an acoustic / solo / folk set etc then yes it's just disrespectful. Student venues tend to be the worst for this in my experience. The basic rule of "if you're talking loud enough to annoy others don't do it" should apply, again coming back to simple courtesy.

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Andy Inglis
Jan 28, 2014 2:00pm

In reply to Tim:

Exactly right, Sir.

Exactly right.

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Jan 28, 2014 5:00pm

In reply to Marik:

Marik(does that rhyme with prick?). You want him to suck dick AND toss off. At the same time?

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David Bell
Jan 28, 2014 5:53pm

It'd be an awful lot easier to get behind 'small venue week' if small venue owners/promoters didn't keep texting 6music boasting about how little they've paid bands. A manager of Clwb Ifor Bach was just on smirking about paying The Killers £50 when they supported British Sea Power (and he was on the radio in part to promote Small Venue Week!). I appreciate the author of this article can't be held responsible for this, but I can't say I have too much interest in keeping open venues that so blatantly rip bands off. They're not good for musicians and they're not good for music, because with pay like that it can only ever be the preserve of the well-off. You can pour scorn on Marik all you like but that's a prime example of the bourgeoisie's parasitism: they make a profit off other people's hard work by dint of the fact that they own the means of production (the gig venue in this case). No wonder bands are stealing towels and asking for guestlist.

With reference to this piece: there's a lot in here I think is of merit, though I can't help but feel that Arts Council money would be better spent on DIY scenes than professionally run 'small venues' (that would help them DIY venues meet costs like health and safety, for example; and an awful lot less money would end up in the hands of unscrupulous booking agents). And as I understand it, the Live Music Act has helped a lot of small (sub-200) DIY venues no end.

As for Inglis' comment that "I've been on the dole three times and just figure that if you can't afford something, you don't get it. If you can't afford to go to the show, you don't go to the show." Well, I think that tells us what we need to know about where your interests lie (and the stealing analogy is false because people *do* steal to get by) - though of course we shouldn't expect anything else from someone who runs a music venue for profit (that's not meant as an insult, just a statement of fact). Still, I can't help but feel it hits the nail on the head: people can't afford to go to shows, so they don't.

What really irked me about this article (and Marik too, I suspect) is the hating on 'bored bar staff' at venues who lob bottles into a bin during a band's performance which, given its rarity*, is clearly supposed to stand for 'rude bar staff' at venues more generally. And given how much bar staff are paid - and some of the shit they no doubt have to put up with (from punters, bosses, etc.) - it's entirely understandable why they might not be the most welcoming people. As a rule of thumb I would argue that if staff are rude to the public it's their manager who wants to look at how their staff are treated.

Given Inglis' complaint about the sexism of booking agents it's sad to see him quote Son of Dave on 'beautiful hostesses' (the point can be made without the sexism) and I don't think there's any excuse for comparing guestlists to breast cancer.

*I can remember one gig where I was disturbed by the sound of glass, and it was probably someone emptying a bin so they could do their job properly - or, possibly, to conform to health and safety regulations. Far more often have I been disturbed by people pushing past me to get to the bar during a set. The way round this if it really were such a problem for the punter would be to close the bar for the duration of the set, but of course that would hurt the venue owner too much.

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Apop
Jan 28, 2014 8:34pm

In reply to David Bell:

50 for the garbage Killers is 50 too much

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Marik
Jan 28, 2014 9:40pm

In reply to Tim:

What's your take then, Timmy? I must have missed the chapter in volume one where Marx examines the politics of getting your mate into a gig because she's sacrificed her labour.

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Andy Inglis
Jan 28, 2014 10:59pm

In reply to David Bell:

Re. Clwb Ifor Bach manager
I’m in agreement

Re. bourgeoisie’s parasitism
I’m not sure who you think is running UK venues, but other than being able to pay their staff wages, there’s not a lot of profit going around. I paid myself less than my bar manager at Luminaire and - I’m not kidding - less per hour than the bar staff (since I worked 14-18 days most days, including most weekends).

Arts Council money/DIY venues
No reason why - if we combined ACE and money from the industry itself we couldn’t help both

Me
We didn’t make a profit at Luminaire. We poured money into a black hole for 7 years. And we’re not talking about people on the breadline. I’ve been there (in my early youth) We’re talking about bands stealing towels, not a leg of lamb from the venues kitchen to feed their kids. Jesus.

Bored bar staff
For fuck’s sake, they’re in customer service. If you can’t offer customer service, don’t work in customer service. How about a bit of personal responsibility here? And of course a bin full of glasses needs to emptied during a gig, so you pull it out of the bar during a break between songs and you do out back, or in the stairwell or wherever the fuck it’s quiet.

Son of Dave
SoD neither said nor intimated he was prejudiced against or would discriminate against a hostess based on the fact that she was a woman but, despite your not knowing him, you crack on and suggest he’s and I are sexist anyway. I mean, I referred to Marik as “dreamy” and you seem fine with that. The worst thing about SoD’s statement is its inaccuracy. It’s rare to met by women at a venue.

Breast cancer
Oh give me a fucking break you miserable bastard

You know how, on Youtube, it’s only a matter of time before someone turns a conversation about an R&B singer into one about white v black or “we shood kill all islamix”?

It’s like that on here

It’s only ever a matter of time before someone turns it into a class war.

I’ve enjoyed the debate, but I’ll leave everyone to it now.

*bows out*

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David Renn
Jan 29, 2014 1:31am

Clwb Ifor Bach, which makes money mainly from its DJ nights, DOES receive public funding whereas the two year old live music club The Full Moon/Moon opposite, that strives to put on fabulous music every night, doesn't receive a penny.

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David Renn
Jan 29, 2014 1:39am

I've often heard bar staff lobbing bottles into the bin during sets, even acoustic sets. Not a rare thing.
Ten Feet Tall in Cardiff: they are shaking cocktails while folk are trying to listen to acoustic acts.

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David Renn
Jan 29, 2014 1:51am

In reply to Marik:

Someone mentioned exploitation of staff. So I thought I'd ask: which venues pay above the minimum wage to their bar staff?

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Danny
Jan 29, 2014 9:54am

In reply to David Bell:

To be fair, the guy from Clwb Ifor Bach was responding to a specific question from Steve Lamacq: "What's the least amount of money you've paid to put on a band that went on to make it big". Didn't sound like the guy was taking any great pride in paying a support band £50, it was more 'dearie me, isn't it strange the way things work out'.

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Marik
Jan 29, 2014 10:34am

In reply to Andy Inglis:

What you seemed to have failed to understand is that regardless of how much profit you did or did not make, Andy, you were implicitly defending the rights of the land owning class. Therefore, when you 'joke' about lobbing bottles at employees heads ('LOL') or use casual sexism to make a point about hospitality ('ROFL') it's likey you are not going to endear yourself or your argument to many people.

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Jan 29, 2014 11:28am

In reply to David Renn:

can you shed a bit more light on the public funding Clwb Ifor Bach gets? my understanding was that it doesn't get any

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David Bell
Jan 29, 2014 3:06pm

In reply to Andy Inglis:

"Re. bourgeoisie’s parasitism
I’m not sure who you think is running UK venues, but other than being able to pay their staff wages, there’s not a lot of profit going around. I paid myself less than my bar manager at Luminaire and - I’m not kidding - less per hour than the bar staff (since I worked 14-18 days most days, including most weekends)."

I can well and truly believe this, and I'm not in the least surprised to hear how little you made. It's similar for a lot of small business owners. There is, of course, the *possibility* of you making more money from the venue (presumably you stopped when you realised this wasn't possible, and I don't blame you). But to me, this (along with a lot else) points to the fallacy of running for-profit venues. It doesn't work, even for the owners! A more collectively run/managed/financed venue can avoid such problems (though they will face their own problems, of course). The point of my marxism, if you will, is not to blame individual bosses (they can be good/bad/indifferent/greedy/caring) but to suggest that the system is structured in such a way that the poor will *always* lose out.

"Arts Council money/DIY venues
No reason why - if we combined ACE and money from the industry itself we couldn’t help both"

Yeah, totally agree.

"Me
We didn’t make a profit at Luminaire. We poured money into a black hole for 7 years. And we’re not talking about people on the breadline. I’ve been there (in my early youth) We’re talking about bands stealing towels, not a leg of lamb from the venues kitchen to feed their kids. Jesus."

You were seeking a profit though, presumably? Even if wasn't your primary aim, it was a consideration? It clearly is for a lot of small venue owners, even if wasn't for you. And this, I think, is the problem. Instead of saying 'how can we make it possible for small venue owners to make a profit' (even if it's a small one), the question should be 'how can we make small venues good for music and communities more broadly'. Those interests may sometimes overlap, but they will often clash. And I wasn't comparing stealing towels to stealing food, just pointing out the flaw in your analogy (which you've essentially just repeated).

"Bored bar staff
For fuck’s sake, they’re in customer service. If you can’t offer customer service, don’t work in customer service. How about a bit of personal responsibility here? And of course a bin full of glasses needs to emptied during a gig, so you pull it out of the bar during a break between songs and you do out back, or in the stairwell or wherever the fuck it’s quiet."

I just don't agree here. Some staff are shit, yes, of course. But how much are they paid? A boss hating on staff paid minimum wage makes me fucking furious.

"Son of Dave
SoD neither said nor intimated he was prejudiced against or would discriminate against a hostess based on the fact that she was a woman but, despite your not knowing him, you crack on and suggest he’s and I are sexist anyway. I mean, I referred to Marik as “dreamy” and you seem fine with that. The worst thing about SoD’s statement is its inaccuracy. It’s rare to met by women at a venue."

Sexism doesn't just mean being rude to or discriminating against a specific woman. I'm sure SoD wouldn't be rude to the hostess; and his comment could, of course, have been made in a knowing/ironic/self-depreciating way. But that doesn't come across above. It does, however, play into some pretty unpleasant stereotypes of what women are supposed to do (look pretty, greet men so they are 'made at home', etc etc). I don't care about you calling Marik dreamy because presumably Marik is male and, erm, men aren't oppressed.

"Breast cancer
Oh give me a fucking break you miserable bastard"
You compared losing money to breast cancer and you compared live music to a 'lactating breast'. Again, if you can't see the problem with this it really suggests you don't understand how sexism operates. Yeah, I'm a fucking killjoy. Whatever. I don't have a problem with that. Such joy should be killed.

"You know how, on Youtube, it’s only a matter of time before someone turns a conversation about an R&B singer into one about white v black or “we shood kill all islamix”?
It’s like that on here
It’s only ever a matter of time before someone turns it into a class war."

Or, to put it another way, it's only a matter of time before some people raise some entirely relevant issues. Or, to put it another way, 'I don't like the fact some people disagree with me'.

"I’ve enjoyed the debate, but I’ll leave everyone to it now."

Oh bugger. I've wasted a looot of typing!

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David Bell
Jan 29, 2014 3:08pm

In reply to David Renn:

But that's hardly the staff's fault. If the manager was concerned about this they'd stop serving cocktails during acts. But then the venue loses money. Just a minor example, but one that shows how the interests of profit and the interests of live music don't necessarily overlap.

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Jan 29, 2014 5:25pm

In reply to :

I couldn't decide which word to use and "deserve" probably wasn't the right one. What I mean is if I get asked to make an offer for the So And Sos, who I haven't heard of, I don't know if the agent is expecting £50 or £5000 - it could be a brand new breakthrough artist that hasn't come to my attention. It would be simpler if the agent simply said "Would you like to book the So And Sos, this is what they cost". On the subject of "deserving", I had seen many bands that deserve £5000 but only get £50 - and vice versa.

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Daniel
Jan 30, 2014 7:54am

So true! Great article...

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Ruth
Jan 30, 2014 1:07pm

Basically, promoters/venues are dicks, musicians are pussies and the audience are assholes. Everyones fucking each other.
And it's chicken or the egg situation - musicians become pussies because they aren't getting anything for it (money or drinks or guest list) it costs money to do an originals gig in London if you haven't been featured on BBC or NME yet, and the promoters are being dicks because they can't make any money because the bands aren't bringing enough assholes in (because they haven't been featured on BBC or NME yet) everyone is penniless and fucked and it's depressing. I've now decided to forgo gigs all together and just make the best music I can in my little cave until there is a reason to come out of it. The struggle is just NOT worth it in any sense at the moment. Three metaphors down and I still feel like I could have explained myself better.

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Toni Weekes
Jan 30, 2014 4:58pm

Yes lots of good points - I'm an agent and one of the good guys - deal with grateful artists most of the time and appreciative venues - believe that the artist, the promoter, the venue, the audience and me the agent should all come away from a gig feeling happy about it. One major thing we should campaign for.. end the VAT on tickets !! Why should the government profit in this way... by all means add a small premium to each ticket but let the money go back into Arts Funding or a special development fund for each venue to keep live music going..... loads of cut backs, no funding, venues run by volunteers, managers having to cut back to working 3 days a week - dreadful, dreadful....

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Feb 7, 2014 7:04pm

In reply to :

mgfashdnbekhg n siuck ny dick

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peter
Feb 12, 2014 7:43pm

What an awful article, for someone who has 'been in the business for 26 years' Andy has really missed the point. Andy wants to polish and clean up the live music scene like in Europe? Right? Have it all slick and friendly? Right? Wrong. As soon as music becomes easy and bands are pampered whilst getting there rear ends licked it becomes watered down. Britain produces great music for all the reasons that Andy will never understand.

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oli
Feb 12, 2014 8:19pm

This guy is always going on about giving bands towels! He should run hotels instead of venues. What a loser!

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Peter Makowski
Feb 15, 2014 5:12pm

Truth!

Give us a gig.

www.dubellows.com

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Danny C
Feb 15, 2014 5:26pm

Half Man Half Biscuit had an idea to keep the small clubs afloat - sponsoring the moshpits!

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john byrne
Feb 26, 2014 12:53pm

Much common sense there, but I can't believe that somebody could write an article about the survival of small music venues, and not mention the beyond-bubonic scourge of covers bands. Perhaps a venue may think it's easy money to put on THE PUTNEY PINK FLOYD, AND I'm sure it's solid any-term-you-want-to-consider kind of profit. However it is 100000% stonewall death for music as ANY manner of creative art, and I'm sure I'd get great kudos as a parliamentarian banning this rat-tunnel second rate shite from EVERY size of music venue.......

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