Sam Meaghan from The Pentatonic returns to Liverpool Noise with a guest feature examining the growth of DIY on the Liverpool music scene.
The term, DIY, when used in the context of a genre in music, or indeed within the inner workings of bands, does seem a bit odd. To think we separate the term of bands doing it themselves anyway, for bands who really do it themselves just never really seemed to make sense. Until, well, now.
It’s the inner crux of the Liverpool music scene, possibly even the politics, that makes this term more and more applicable. Bands, as far as I can look back, never got paid. Rather, bands would pay. Jesus, remember that weird phase when bands were paying to get on as a tour support, that was mad wasn’t it.
Well now everyone’s onto it, and that’s great. But venues are shutting down left, right, centre, forward, backwards, north, west, south and east. So what Liverpool bands in particular have had to do, is pull their fingers out. Musicians in our city no longer have the capability to look for gigs. Why? Because well all the promoters have gotten bigger. It’s just business.
Very few promoters are putting on those small gigs. You know those shit gigs? The ones you’re there to see your mate play? You try and love it, but you can’t… And why should you? It’s subjective. You aren’t a soulless robot. That £5 door fee entitles you to an opinion, and if your opinion is that all the bands are shit apart from your mate Bob, then fair enough.
There is however, this huge gap in the gigging market. Smaller bands are having to spend months pontificating over their sound, their release schedule, and all sorts of meaningless things just so they can land a gig. Whatever happened to just getting one?
The thing is, too, is that a lot of promoters have had to stop the smaller gigs because they simply can’t afford it. Again, it’s business, and you have to support them through that. I remember Kong, they’d give you a gig, jesus if you sold enough tickets they’d pay you and you’d get a rider! A bloody rider! Felt like I was in Van Halen.
Yet the world of promoters is an ever changing, will-we-won’t-we-break-even anxiety attack. A lot of the time, it certainly comes down to naivety when promoters aren’t making profit. For example, why would you book a 250 venue for 4 bands who haven’t proved they are going to get even 25 in. And that’s when the ticket prices go up, and that’s when people don’t come to the gig.
So, back to the point of DIY, it is, almost certainly the new black. Everyone’s wearing it. And it’s not middle-class grammar school kids, or art school drop outs doing it for namesake, because they’re like totally quirky. It’s you average Joe, he’s putting on gigs in venues that make sense. He’s putting shows on in venues for their mates to play with a nominal door fee, and a split in money made to pay the band’s petrol. That Joe, eh? Good guy isn’t he.
Take Yeah Buddy for example, they put on some great lineups for the same price as a pint. Yet with that money you get about four hours of entertainment. That’s well worth it. The recent demise of KDS Promotions is a shame, too. They charged £3 for three acts they saw fit for a show. It’s these kind of promoters that we as a city need to encourage.
But again, both of these promoters specialise in music that needs the push the most. Indie bands however don’t have that in between. Your mate isn’t going to get a gig with Evol, because Evol do second album bands. It’s their reputation on the line, they can’t just give someone a first gig on the spot, because it mightn’t help how they look to potential bookings.
That seems shallow, but you have to remember Evol put on some of the best gigs in the city. They bring in great bands, so you should be willing to let that slide if you love music enough.
I Love Live Events, are another. But again, that company put on some of the best bands and best gigs on in the city. Most of them sell out now, and they again can’t afford that risk. Which is completely fair enough. It’s not a matter of business over music, it’s a matter of making sure people are entertained with their name being left intact. You have to respect that.
So now I am left to plug myself like a shameless promotional whore. I put my first ever gig on under the moniker of The Pentatonic on the 28th September. I took the risk in booking an artist from Amsterdam. What happened? She brought about 6 people through the door. But everyone who watched her, absolutely loved her.
This is the thing, Liverpool does need to start looking out on the rest of the country and thinking about what people will want to see. Just by putting on Pip Blom, Huw Stephens caught wind of the show and plugged it.
I think people often forget that music runs in the veins of Liverpool. It’s embedded in us, it’s in our DNA. The out of towners may not be your mate Joe, but I’m sure you’ll listen because they’ve got the mic. It’s time that this competitive culture with the “Indie” music scene comes to an end. It’s time we made friends with bands everywhere, and supported them. We’re all in this together, but not in the way David Cameron said it, because that was disingenuous.