I have always been a massive fan of live music and in the last 45 years have seen some extraordinary concerts including The Allman Brothers at the Beacon in NYC, Bill Frissell at the Village Vanguard, Pink Floyd playing Dark side of the moon, Tori Amos’s first UK tour and some extraordinary Nick Cave concerts. I also in recent years have enjoyed playing live gigs with my current band The Caravan of Dreams and my previous band The Small Change Diaries in the UK and overseas.

In setting up the Music for the Head and Heart platform I have had the opportunity to talk to a wide range of artists from the UK and overseas. We have talked a lot about live playing opportunities and earnings opportunities. I’m increasingly amazed at how artists are often disadvantaged and how promoters make basic business mistakes.

The Art of Artist Demotivation

Often promoters mean well but are wholly unaware of the effect they are having on both artists and audiences. I was at a recent gig where an artist had travelled hundreds of miles to play a small club. As well as receiving a fee, the promoter had a bucket to pass around for tips for the performer. The promoter commented “Please give some change for the artists to buy some chips on the way back home” Although this may be done with some humour, the effect is to devalue the artists contribution and all the audeince members then did as instructed putting in some small change for the artist. The promoter could have said “Please give generiously to this terrific artist who has travelled a long way to give us such a great evening of entertainment today” My guess is that the artist take would be much more rewarding. BTW, I threw in a ten pound note which I though was great value for a superb 90 minute set…

Another artist was telling me about play a set at a local club for payment in drinks rather than money. When she went to request a coke for playing a set, she was told that the “payment’ could only be made in a specific beer and she’d have to buy the coke herself. This is truly the art of artist demotivation guaranteed to kill live music opportunities.

Make it hard for people to find the gig

Another great strategy in how to kill live music opportunities is to make it almost impossible for people to find the gig. I was recently looking at going to a gig and found the date on the artist’s webpage. I went to the venue webpage to find ZERO EVENTS listed and “site under construction” I then went to a fb page to find the date and time. Thirty minutes before setting off, I got a message suggseting the time had changed. I rang the venue and was told “Ignore social medial” the time is the original time listed! Needless to say the venue was only 30% full…


I’m increasingly hearing about venues closing down and artists who have stopped playing live as its not financially viable. The tragedy is that often promoters miss “the elusive obvious” in promotions, such as looking after the performers who are the ones who provide the entertainment in the first place!

How to kill live music opportunities

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