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Why I gave up playing gigs.

April 3, 2017

T Hazzard Sterts Nov 15

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

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8 Comments
  1. Owen Bell (Nyckelharpa and Horn Fiddle) permalink

    This is very sad Tony and I find it utterly baffling, given your amazing extertise and ‘track record’ over the last 50 years.
    i won’t pretend for one moment to suggest my musicianship and experience is in ANY way, shape or form, comparable to yours, but I can tell you I have experience exactly the same situation.
    While I’m no composer, can’t sing and have never recorded, as you know, I play two very unusual instruments (the only ones of their kind in this entire state) and play dance music from many countries. I was naive enough to think this combination would be an attractive option for pubs and clubs, corporate events, private parties, weddings etc, but like you, I find most email enquiries go unanswered. I also had an ‘agent’ but after not getting ONE gig through them (or ANY communication) after 5 years, I let them go. Their excuse? Said what I offered only appealed to a ‘niche market’ but rather than use that as a ‘positive’ selling tool they chose to use it as a ‘negative’. So apart from one guy who owns a bar some 90 minutes from here saying he will book me ‘soon’ and an annual gig at a country fair in a town 2 hours drive away, I have no gigs and expect none. So I just play at home, continue to learn new tunes and post the occasional video on YouTube (which hardly anyone watches) If all people want is crap ‘tribute’ bands, so be it. Bottom line is, It’s my music that matters to me, not who chooses to listen to it. Like with you, but to a far FAR lesser degree, it’s THEIR loss. Keep on keepin’ on, mate. X

  2. Thanks, O, but it’s all ok. I have no sense of bitterness. My mantra is : “That’s that’s the way it is”. Things move on; times change; the music business has changed. I’m glad I’m the age I am. I wouldn’t like to be young and battling along with thousands of other young people to make my mark. Thankfully I did that in the sixties when the world was much kinder. 🙂

  3. Steve permalink

    Wow just reading this (now, 2018) such a sad but familalr tale. I’ve sat with less than 20 people watching Focus, and less than 15 the Strawbs.

    I first discovered your beautiful and vastly underrated music via my Mums vast but battered 45 collection (i’m 37 now), so this would have been in the 90s… I kept seeing Hazzard as a credit; Manfred Mann, Herman’s Hermits etc. Always my fave tracks… but who was this mystery man?

    Fast forward a few years and I started to collect label anthologies; the Bronze records double cd arrived in my collection and a cinnection was made.

    Loudwater House, enraptured me – doubtless you’re sick of it! But it’s a beautiful, haunting, simple yet complex timeless gem. I hope you’re proud of it and your three late 60s – 70s solo efforts. I read a review somewhere and the journalist called them twee etc. (idiot, ahem) Well I love Deep Purple etc. but there is a place and a time for soothing thoughtful beauty… anyway, I digress.

    So sad to read your live performances are over… I’d love to have seen you perform, but Northumberland is a trek from the south west. We come to Cornwall regularly, so if you hear someone whistling Loudwater… well… it’ll probably be me!

    Keep writing Tony, your music is brilliant.

    Best wishes,

    Steve (a fan 🙂

  4. Thank you, Steve. That’s very kind of you. Since writing the blog I seemed to have been dragged back into the business. I’m playing a house concert for a friend (and fan) in San Sebastian in a few weeks and I may be doing some songwriting workshops in the US in September, so I’ve had to start practising again! And another song has recently emerged, so I’m still not off the hook! You can find more info at http://www.tonyhazzard.com and listen to some more recent stuff on my Bandcamp page, which you’ll find there. Next time you visit Cornwall drop me an email (from the site). Cheers, Tony.

    • Owen Bell permalink

      Hi TH I had seen this already and have decided to print it out and stick it inside my nyckelharpa case as a constant reminder that I can hardly expect anyone to show any interest in my music if they show little interested in yours. I no longer have any expectations of how many will take any notice when I play in public and just play for the joy of playing. If people choose to listen, that’s a bonus. If they throw money at me, even better. I’ve always been in awe of you as as musician and composer and will remain so. So glad to know you and so enjoy your friendship.

      Cheers O

      >

      • Thanks, O. I’m touched. Don’t underestimate your own abilities. You never know where and who is appreciating your talent. And I appreciate your talent and friendship. I’m always surprised by compliments these days, but they help counteract the ever-present self doubt. 🙂

      • Owen Bell permalink

        Thanks TH. A little self doubt is a good thing and keeps you grounded. I can’t stand hubris. It’s a big turnoff for me.
        I don’t expect anything really amazing will ever happen with my music. If I’d discovered my affinity with the nyckelharpa around 50, even 30 years ago, it might have been a different story but having only discovered it in my mid 60’s I think that ship sailed long ago, but at least we found each other and that’s what counts.

    • Steve permalink

      Hi Tony,

      Wonderful to read – also thank you for the reply, as a fan that means a lot.

      Genuinely glad you’re picking up the guitar and giving it a go live, and that you’re looking to do some teaching and song writing mentoring – I could think of no one better.

      We’re already booked (the kids and my other half) for two weeks in Mullion next Easter, so i’ll drop you an email when we come down. We love Cornwall, and lived near Helston briefly prior to the kids arriving! Such an inspiring landscape.

      Best wishes and good luck with all your new ventures.

      Steve

      Ps – currently learning (by ear) Loudwater, nearly got it 😉 even the brilliant almost psychedelic “exorcise a few ghosts…” section.

      Take care 🙂

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