The Joys and perils of hosting live music events

During covid I realised how much I missed live music both as a player and also as an audience member. I also realised as a band leader that there is a huge variation in the quality of live venues. My good friend and fellow artist in my first band Jessica Bowie once wonderfully commented “Nick, there atr lots of shitty little gig opportunities out there…” Only later did I come to truly appreciate the wisdom of these words and that lead me to running my own events. This means a lot more investment in time and money, BUT it means that I can create an experience which is for music lovers, with great sound and facilities and where artists receive fair payment for their work.

Selecting the right artists and venues

I live in Leeds which has a music college, so there must surely be a ton of great music venues for artists? Well, not really in my opinion… I’ve asked to help out with filming and photos for some album launches which have been beyond terrible in terms of a listening experience. Two memorable ones were where the lighting was so bad it was impossible to get any decent video and another time where the sound was terrible as the venue wasn’t right for any kind of musical entertainment. In my Small Change Diaries and Caravan of Dreams ensembles, we’ve played many of the local venues and now have a great idea of what makes for a good night out.

I’ve seen many excellent artists play such local venues (often for free or a minimal fee) to have to battle against an unattentive audience, who are not really there for the music. Its in my view pretty soul destroying and these days I’m super picky about where I go to for live music. I’ve seen endless examples of artists playing half empty venues with no actual stage or proper PA or capable sound technician, so the whole experience is pretty poor.

Working with true professionals

A few years ago I started to host Music for The Head and Heart showcases where we would feature evenings of music from 2 – 4 artists. These were different to standard gigs and many attendees only knew one of the artists. To date they have all sold out and we’ve had great feedback. This means really thinking about the whole experience for an audience and making sure the audience and the artists get the best value for money. It also means being really selective about who is involved in any events, so that we are on the same page. I’m pleased to say that to date nearly all those involved have been brilliant and of course this means building long term relationships where everyone benefits.

I’ve always capped numbers for these live events at around 200, which in my view is a great sized audience. To date I’ve mostly used two venues, one which holds 80 people and another which holds around 200 seated. The above video shows some of the artists to date that have provided great entertainment.

In the last year I have decided to expand the MHH/Green Eyed Records showcases and bring in more established artists like Jon Gomm and Martin Simpson. I need to plan 12 – 15 months ahead if I want the best venues on a weekend rather than mid week which is less attractive for audiences. Special thanks to all those who have embraced the spirit of Green Eyed Records and who have made this live showcases so special.

These are true professionals and the increased investment in securing such entertainers has been more than worthwhile. Both have been very generous in assiting with promoting events and I’ll certainly be working with both in the future. In 2024 I’ll be running more GER/MHH showcases, and of course next month we still have a terrific 2023 event with Towse from USA, Harry Orme from the UK, and my ensemble “The Heartache” appearing on Sept 23rd and HEART in Leeds. Tickets available HERE