Why I gave up playing gigs.
18 months ago I decided to focus on playing live while I still could. I found trying to get gigs myself was difficult, in that I naively assumed that people were polite enough to answer emails. I then discovered that venues were inundated with requests. Much later I discovered why: because of the dichotomy in the music business between big stars with record and publishing deals, song pluggers, PR people, managers and agents, etc, and the small fry without those bulwarks, it was hard for the small fry to sell CDs, etc. The only outlet was live gigs, with the result that venues were hugely over-subscribed. I heard earlier this year that there were over 20,000 acoustic artistes in the UK looking for gigs.
So I decided to find an agent, which in itself was hard because they were inevitably over-subscribed. I then found one in Exeter who took me on. She only got me one gig, and I had to push for it. Very few turned up. Those who did, loved it. Then she decided to quit because of ill-health. I managed to get about five more gigs last year, most of which were poorly attended, despite local newpaper articles, FB and Twitter.
Then I managed to get another agent whom I knew as a friend. She has been excellent using FB and Twitter, got me radio interviews, etc. But, apart from The Green Note gig in London, all had poor attendances. In Bristol, despite an hour-long interview on BBC Radio Bristol, etc, there were only nine in the audience. I’d flown the album producer over from San Sebastian and paid for hotels, etc. Then recently my agent announced that she was calling it a day (she has been over-working), having got me three gigs this month. One, in Exeter was cancelled: insufficient ticket sales. One booked for Sat 23rd at The John Peel Centre has been cancelled because of NO ticket sales. Brighton looks ok and I’ll have a guaranteed fee.
So I have to face the fact that, while individuals here and there might like what I do, the vast majority couldn’t give a toss. In addition, I look on Twitter each day and it seems full of musicians vying for attention, pleading with us to crowd-fund their album, come to their gigs, etc. The majority are young and eager. I’m old and often tired! I also know from experience that you can rehearse till the cows come home but nothing hones a performance in front of an audience like regular performances in front of an audience, otherwise, you’re simply not match-fit. And there we have the catch 22.
I love playing to audiences, and we’ve had some great evenings together, but I think the time has come to continue to write, and possibly record (but I’m not sure to what purpose), sit in the conservatory, read all the books I keep meaning to, and drink vodka cocktails.
PS. Re Brighton gig: drove for five and a half hours on the hottest day of the year; less than nine in the audience; paid less than what had been agreed; drove five and a half hours back in similar sweltering heat (windows open; fan full blast). Barking mad.
Tony Hazzard July 2016