Why is it that the Riddler is the only villain at the rouges bar I work at the only one to tip with actual cash? Everyone else keeps giving me stolen items or fear gas instead of money #onlyingotham #SomeOfUsHaveRent
The days of calling a weekend a festival and it being an automatic success are over. Hellfest, Krazy Fest, Positive Numbers, The Rumble, and plenty of others have fallen to the wayside over the past 10 years. A lot of different reasons but we will see a decline in the most popular festivals in the next couple years as every new promoter and agent love to get in bed with each other to create these new “fests” that fall short in all the categories, and yet as they fall their collective drop brings the weight down on the big names like This Is Hardcore, Black n Blue Bowl, United Blood etc.
What is going on? Why could this ever happen?
The simple answer : Over saturation. Too many bands, too many shows, too many fests. Nothing is special, nothing is a one time thing. Kids today live in a world where a show is like a bus, there is always going to be another one. There are many kids that would drive 5 hours or more out of their hometown to see a band somewhere they don’t live but won’t put effort into coming into the city they live closest to on a weeknight. The bands today are coming out so fast, they aren’t even taking the time to write songs that may not have been written before, let alone bothering to Google around to see if their new band name was used by a hardcore/punk/metal core band before. Its a rush to get 3 songs on a bandcamp, 2 shirts on a merchdirect site and a 10 day tour supporting 2 other bands that can’t draw 100 people in their own home town but want $250 plus each to play yours for the first time.
There are too many people using numbers for their own advantage with a wanton disregard for the way it effects the scene as a whole. Promoters aren’t off the hook here, as many young, green promoters get their first shot at a band or tour by offering 50% more then the band is worth in the area to a greedy agent who will take the bigger money over the better show for the band. I could write a book on the bands that play for the bigger money and the agents who validate this mentality. But instead I’d rather laugh as they spend more money in gas playing further drives then they would if they went to the right people in the first place and would walk home with some more of the money the putting all through their gas tank- but that’s another tale. When you have something like the hardcore scene, you’re dealing with an finite number of people interested in spending time, energy and money. Lets look at it as a pizza. Every time there is something called a fest that pops up, the whole pizza is sliced again and every piece gets thinner. In a communist pizza, all slices would be equal and the pizza wouldn’t be bought, it would distributed based on the work etc, but that’s not my point here. The ideology of the “big fests” not being hurt is a fallacy and it is being proven in the last 2 years as fests have seen smaller presales and lower walkups. I would stress to say this isn’t hearsay, this is real numbers and facts.
We could bicker and argue that hardcore is dying and that isn’t what it was in the 90s etc. But if we look at it, its better then it ever has been, its just being sliced up so thin, that its becoming something that isn’t worth what it used to and yet somehow is costing more money each year for the end user (the ticket purchaser)
Gas goes up, hotel rates go up, Insurance goes up. Wages aren’t going up, yet door prices at shows are going up. Merch is going up. Everyone is taking a little bit more money each time it goes around. A show should be safe to book with about 50% to 60% of the room filled. If you are booking a room that holds 500, that means around 250-275 the bills and guarantees should be covered. Only now it’s more likely that the show will need to have 400 paid in a 500 person room to breakeven. More kids needed, more money needs to be charged and it pushes smaller promoters in small scenes to constant breaking points and makes every show a bitter contest of not what is best/fair/smart but what makes the most money for the band and agent and in the case of the promoter – how do I figure out how to lose as little money as possible?
All of this falls down on the kids. They are overstimulated, over immersed on new, new, new every single day. New bands, new tours, new tshirts, new tapes. Its no wonder old and reunions seem interesting- its at least established music that had some kind of impact somewhere.
The term hard work is dead. Its been misused for years now. Hard work, is when what you are doing is difficult or tasking over time and yet you persevere. A band whose members have no responsibilities who can tour 6 months a year aren’t 100% hard workers. They get told where to go, they get told what they are getting paid and they often have little to no real idea as to what they are doing because as long as the ride is going on- they will do whatever they think or here is best for the band’s career.
Career. A hardcore band who probably didn’t Google their name. Definitely didn’t design their cool logo. Stole some riffs, re-worked some lyrics into songs. Got the cool ripoff merch Got an agent 2 weeks after they dropped their demo on bandcamp.
Career. Hard work.
These are words put together by people who profit from having a stable of bands just like this in every single sub-cultured genre you can think of from pop punk to death synth core.
They showed up after their own band’s failed at making a splash and took all the business savvy thinking and turned their tour dreams into pseudo punk styling office life. Often have no regard out of sheer ignorance for who they are dealing with on either end (band or promoter) they live for numbers. Bigger or better. They can’t get on a telephone because they stutter like a 12 year old boy staring at his first real bare breasts. Yet on the email they are cut throat bastards who play hardball and drain the last cent out of everything because at the end of the day – each show they only receive 10-15% for a good hour’s worth of emails. A tour to them is 10 to 20 to 30 times that 10%. That’s it. Towns, drive times, scenes mean little to them. Get the biggest money, act like the biggest dickhead and think that the world will always cater to you because you book the greediest bastards out on the road.
I’d derail this further by describing the atypical early 30s scene celeb turned manager, but suffice to say, there are a few thousand words I have for them, but none of them are nice or worth posting. I’ve got 3 friends that are legit smart, good people that come from the management world of things and they probably quiver the most at the thought of their contemporaries and their cantankerous ways.
As a dumb kid, I wrote letters to bands and labels. With my own hand in pen. I mailed letters and received mail. I spoke via payphones and dialers, house phones and prepaid calling cards to adults who probably didn’t realize I was 16 years old. I wrote easily over 200 letters, probably got only 50 in return. The names live on, many are great friends, some have gone onto being the leaders of our scene and I’m happy to have said that I wrote a letter to them now in the day and age of smart phones, snapchats and emails.
As a young adult I was schooled by Sean Agnew of r5 productions and others in the R5 camp on how to be punk but professional. What I hold so dear to these lessons is the ability to know when what you are after is not financially smart or worth it. There is a breaking point in a negotiating period where what you want is out of the question and what you need to stay interested is gone and its just sitting around being insulted. You don’t want to leave on a bad note, because the weight of the agent’s stable and relationship may hold you from booking other things, but at the heart of it is a contempt for the business side of the thing you do because you love it. There is a pain that comes with learning your favorite band is a painter at heart. He loves the band, but its his job and he does it because he can live off of it but aside from that its far from this fantasy lifeblood we envision our heroes to hold their music and our scene in their hearts. Thankfully for each one of these bands, is the band who is battered and beaten down by crooked agents, bad label deals, shitty promoters in the times before the internet when only scoundrels in rock clubs paid poorly to the band. I love them, but they have a scene of scorn and distrust until the end of the night when the show is over and the money is in their hand. They gave their heart and soul and feel like they’re still owed more then what could ever be put on the table today for them. I have sympathy, empathy and apathy for them at various times, but I just try to work for them as hard as I can because they remember what it was like to play a show and go to a town and see physical fliers for the show in the venue when they pull up. Not today. Not in a world of admats, .jpegs, fliers made for instagram and kids telling me that they don’t collect fliers.
So much disdain and open apathy to things that were so sacred. The flier- its design was to stand out, its use was to spread word, invoke fear and terror and surprise and bring the mystery of the underground to the forefront of the mind upon first glance. Now we have the admat. Where many dick face agents place their whole tour upon. The next agent who tells me not to use my own flier and to stick to the admat is going to get a bill demanding 0.05% of all profits from all the dates of the tour for my co-promotion of the other dates on the tour.
There is much to gripe about, much to write obsessively about and wait for the likes and comments to roll in. What I wanted out of this piece was to explain that things are great, really just amazing and just as equally boring, sad and just kind of too repetitive all at the same time. Too many kids want the fame of being a band on tour at the cost of going through the bumps and bruises of learning how to book a weekend for themselves, not just jump onto something already in the works. Too many kids want to play 3000 miles away before playing their own hometown for 6 months straight. There is too many good intentions going on with enough people working specifically with maximizing profit potential for this to continue to be prosperous for too much longer. Door prices are climbing to $20 yet the guarantees aren’t much higher, we are just seeing 4 to 5 band tour packages as a must. Please refer to the part where the agent makes 10% off of each show, so more money per show means more money in his pocket, regardless if it draws. In his mind, the guarantee will be paid even at the cost of putting an up and comer out of shows for awhile, or being the straw that broke the camel’s back for an old vet who wants to stay in the game but can’t make his small scene come to 20 shows a month like in the old days.
There is a lot of really positive stuff and I plan to talk about it now. There is instantaneous ways to be able to enjoy 30 plus years of punk rock for free at our finger tips anywhere we are at. Yet kids in hardcore today prefer radio music, nu metal from the 2000s and death metal over learning about the bands that influenced the bands that got their favorite bands into hardcore in the first place. There is more kids into hardcore then when I was young. Younger, brighter, less violent and more apt to make friends then I’d ever imagine. They take trains, buses, airplanes. They sleep on floors and outside shows, They pay in quarters and they hang with strangers just to see bands come together across a weekend of shows, sometimes they even do this a few times a year. These are the kids I write for. These are the kids I book shows for. Not the perennial guest list hoppers. The plus 1ers. The kids who never like anything from 2 years or more behind them but always onto some new shit. The ones who got money for anything else besides door fees, merch or even food at shows. They stand on stage, drink their own sorta friends in the bands water and spend the whole time texting a girl in the back of the show. I’m tired of the smart phone. I’m tired of the insta moment. I’m tired of the need to put it in the air and capture it to say you were there. Moments worth documenting find you in the frame of someone else’s camera, not in the palm of yours to say you took the picture of 2,000 kids going off. You should be jumping to be number 2,001.
How does all this go back to affecting the fests??? Why does this rant never end?
The more your favorite band tours with 2 or 3 bands that you just heard of or haven’t seen but 20 kids on twitter called them amazing, the less excited you will be to come to one city for 3 days to just catch them. Its proven because I’ve seen better festival lineups in the past 2 years then I’ve seen in the 5 years before that and its sad to see despite the enthusiasm, online talk, the hype so to speak, the money isn’t there. Not because you’re broke, but you already drove 5 hours to see band x in a small town and you ended up standing outside talking to friends and missed most of the lineup anyway. Or you wanted to go and were saving money til you heard they might be playing a smaller fest closer that you could drive to instead of flying. I can’t fault you, but I can say that the powers that be to make these things great and continue to happen can’t create money out of thin air to make the bands that are over saturated with an exhausting tour schedule want to come and play for less then what they were told by greedy agent A through C thinks the fest might bring in if its at 80% capacity.
I personally hate feeling like the bands don’t get paid enough. They are my friends. They are either in their 40s and when they were 20 and had the 6 months to tour there was no scene, no tour routing or agents to make the shady people pay whats fair. I also remember being young and hungry. In a van with no real plates, no insurance driving on stolen gas to shows. We couldn’t suck more but our friend’s booked us. My own agent friends nicely told us no but we didn’t care. We booked it ourselves and rode every miserable mile to the end just to get home and regret every leaving “tour”.For them I want to feed them and place them in front of everyone I can so they may reap the rewards of the growth of this thing we call hardcore punk. I want them to experience 2000 plus people surrounding the stage in a fury, smartphone less, in a manic rush to exert all the energy they have for 20 -40 minutes. These are the moments that drive me to come home from pouring concrete and give hours up to conversation, debate and negotiations. I have few real life friends that I see more then 2 days a week. I have failed in every relationship because my priorities have been the emails, the phone calls, the struggle to bring things to light that need time and energy. I feel happy when I succeed, and I nearly jumped off a bridge when I failed. I can’t do this forever, and before I throw in the towel, I want everyone to know that this thing we have and hold is dear and sacred and worth fighting for and living for. There are amazing agents that are better managers then they are agents to the bands they’ve worked for almost free for years. There are bands that have no desire for financial success if it means they can just break even and get to come home happy because of great shows. There is so much good in all of this that when we all work together for something good – its so pure and excellent that no one walks away unhappy and it lives on forever. The last few years have been happy and good times, but the politics, policies and problems that I’ve written about just now can weigh this thing of ours down and sink it to the bottom of the sea .