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By Gigantic Tickets
Posted on Tuesday 14th August 2018 at 12:00
Everybody loves a good night out, enjoying live music to unwind and have fun. But what about the people who work hard to book the bands, hire the sound tech, ensure the fire safety regulations are met and put up the advertising posters? Events promotion can be gruelling yet immensely satisfying work and while the stars on stage may receive all the applause, often little thought is given to those who made it all happen.
Managing Directors Hannah Larham from Audacious Face and William Robinson of I’m Not From London are two of the most successful independent events promoters in Nottingham. The pair frequently collaborate on some of the region’s most exciting gigs and shows including the Waterfront Festival. Taking place at the scenic Canal House on Saturday 18th of August, Waterfront Festival is an annual highlight in the calendar for music lovers in the city and surrounding areas. Encompassing a wide range of genres, you can see some of the best local rock, psyche, garage and folk acts the city has to offer – plus sets from awesome DJs too!
With Waterfront Festival just around the corner, we talk to Hannah and Will about the challenges of being an independent promoter and just what goes on behind the scenes to make sure everything runs smoothly.
What made you guys first want to become event promoters, and how did you get started?
I got involved in promoting live music as part of the Rock Soc when I was at Uni and quite quickly got addicted to putting on events. I think it’s because it combines my love of music with my love of spreadsheets…
I think someone said I wouldn’t be able to do it which made me start. I was also working in a Nottingham events ticket company and surrounded by bands. The job made me a bit more aware and involved in the industry and it kind of married up my social life with the career I wanted to go into.
What many people may not understand is that it’s not just a job, its more of a lifestyle choice. What else do you think people don’t know about what happens behind the scenes?
It definitely is that which is a blessing and a curse. If there’s still people who don’t know about my gig then there’s still work to be done and you deal with creative types who hold late hours and are often not as professional as you’d like so there’s often lots of going back and forth before an event is made live, the organising can take up more time than the promoting sometimes and there’s so many variables. It’s a job but it’s also often a very intense form of gambling.
Especially with an event like the Waterfront, often people don’t really realise how much goes into the logistics of it. It may look like we spend the whole day swanning around drinking beer and chatting to people, but there’s been a good 6 months before that of organising equipment hire and staff, liaising with the venue, sourcing beer, budgeting, getting sponsorship, chasing bands for info, sourcing raffle prizes, décor… the list is endless. It’s all worth it on the day though!
What are the greatest challenges about being an independent promoter?
Staying strong when things aren’t going so well. I’ve got a day job now so I caved, but I don’t know how Will does it sometimes!
Making sure the bands you book are relevant and popular. Trying to make sure your nights are making everyone money but not being overpriced. Trying to maintain good relations with bands once they get on say a booking agent’s roster who’s contractually tied to a bigger promoter than you and trying to make sure every one of your nights is well ran, promoted and attended with quality acts and also knowing when to take a rest is probably one of the biggest challenges.
Live music has never been more popular. With so many amazing gigs being put on all the time, how do you make sure your events stand out?
A bit of extra personality and looking after the little things. Stuff as simple as getting the lighting and the seating right can have a big impact on atmosphere and people’s enjoyment of the event.
I try and make the night an experience and make it personal to the people involved. I’ve always been very community focussed and I try to make the night a social occasion as much as anything else. With our brands like Fuzzbox we tailor them specifically to psyche and garage and that sort of consistency really helps build a crowd. Our Bamalamasingsong night sells out regularly as we make sure it’s always a big party atmosphere, put people we know who’s birthday’s it is on the guestlist and let people know as early as possible when the next one’s taking place! The Waterfront Festival for example is always themed and that sort of fancy dress element is always fun, this year (next Sat 18th August) is old school sci fi, it’s gonna be out of this world (sorry).
There is a huge amount of knowledge from many areas required; everything from the sound and lighting equipment needed to about bar licensing, fire safety regulations, online marketing and employment laws. How do you find out what you need to know and cope with such a steep learning curve?
Most of it is experience – we’ve put on so many events previously that we’ve already made all the mistakes that you can make and learnt from them! We also have a great team of very experienced and knowledgeable engineers, organisers and venue staff around us to help pick up the slack!
The first is the worst then you accumulate all that documentation and a lot of it is tweaking it as laws and the venues change. The online marketing is a daily job so you kind of organically know what to do in that respect though you can become too reliable on your own methods which is dangerous as online promotion like any business is constantly evolving. Learn and talk to your peers about it and I think that’s it, if you’re not sure, talk to someone who is and learn from your mistakes!
What is the most satisfying part of the job?
When you’ve put on an event and it’s packed full of people having a ruddy good time… that’s a pretty good feeling. Or when a band comes up to you after a show to tell you how much they enjoyed playing. It makes all the stress worth it.
When it all goes right it’s brilliant, when everyone’s enjoying themselves, the venue’s happy, the bands are happy and you’re happy, your wife’s happy and your bank manager's happy then that’s the buzz that makes you think. Yeah, let’s do another one!! For me I still get a buzz every time I get a new poster made!
Do you get to enjoy any of your own shows, or are you just too busy?
Every year at Waterfront I promise myself I will watch more than 2 bands, but so far it’s failed miserably! There’s always someone who needs something, or the venue has a question, or the door staff need a break, or a band is stuck in traffic and timings need rejigging.
I try to go to as many as I can though I have a two-year-old son and need to spend family time when I can plus sometimes in the summer we have three nights on at the same time so it’s physically impossible. We have a team that are in the business to learn about these things so we always have our reps there and our sound techs have been with us for 13 years so when I can’t be there, they can stage manage and always fill me in on how the night went and how the acts played. I do find sometimes on the multi venue city venues though that even though we have our team there, there’s always some reason that means I have to go to the other end of the city to pick up some sort of cable or piece of equipment that a band has forgotten or broken. Then I find it, come back and the problem’s sorted. It’s that sort of thing that makes you wonder if it was a good thing being there in the first place haha!
Has there ever been a time when you just wanted to pack it all in and do something simpler or less risky?
Yes. I’ve had a riot kick off after I put on a grime night that went wrong, literally all horses and helicopters and I’ve had to lock the doors of a club when we had ejected some thugs from the club for there starting trouble and they were outside, we needed to get the bands and punters who had left back inside as it was getting quite dangerous with cars being set alight and police were not responding to us quick enough but thankfully those days are way behind me now and in a way that was actually quite exciting. The lack of security like a pension and the fact you’re only as good as your last gig and that you could lose your shirt on the next one does take a certain type of character to live with that as a career but you always have to look at what’s going on around you and see where your skills might be able to extend. The job is a great one for meeting new people and I think if I had a very high powered, well paid job elsewhere before I probably wouldn’t like it and would never have made the leap to doing this full time.
Looking back, what do you wish you could tell yourselves when you first got started?
Chill yer beans and enjoy yerself! And don’t get so hammered that you forget whether you or not you’ve paid everyone!
Save your money, get into more national festivals, avoid managing bands and don’t think that just because you’re friends, you don’t need contracts!
Which previous events are you most proud of?
Waterfront is probably my proudest moment. It’s raised over £20,000 for charity, sold out every year and we always get really great feedback. There’s all sorts of warm fuzzy feelings going on there.
The Waterfront Festival’s our baby and we have a great time doing it every year, it’s a music festival but community and charity led. We always have a lot of fun and looking back, it’s been a great platform for a lot of Nottingham’s music acts. It was that sort of experience that led I'm Not From London to relaunching The Hockley Hustle after its break which we are very proud of. The founders Adam and Tommy are doing an amazing job with growing that every year, now incorporating a Young Hustlers event/stage and it’s still really nice to run a few stages for it each year. For me and I think Hannah too, probably organising and promoting The Invisible Orchestra gig at The Albert Hall with James Waring (band leader) was one of our proudest moments. The sheer opulence of the venue combined with a 32-piece funk orchestra and the most debauched crowd you’ll ever see was a lot of fun plus got to come on stage as Elvis and try and tell the crowd to stop dancing and sit down sensibly. Which didn’t happen.
Oh my yes, what a night that was. There was no way we were going to get 700 people to sit back in their seats. I think I ended up hiding in the end!
Tell us about what you have coming up.
Next Saturday The Waterfront Festival on Sat 18th August- A festival on earth more awesome than anything in space! 35 bands all playing their hearts out for you £7 a ticket in advance and profits go to the Cystic Fibrosis ward in Notts City Hospital and local homeless shelter Emmanuel House, come join us!!!
Bamalamasingsong on the 14th September at Rescue Rooms
A big gig for our INFL/Wire & Wool Records band, 94 Gunships at The Rescue Rooms on the 30th November and another INFL enterprise I’ve been considering for a while but can’t really tell you about until it’s in stone but exciting!!!!
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