I go to see a whole lot of live music. Somewhere between 40 and 70 nights of my year, every year, are spent going to gigs and festivals, in the UK and beyond. Which probably means that I go to more gigs than most – and I started at my first show twenty-two years ago this month.
Repeater: 002: Lessons and Questions from Twenty-Two Years of Gig-Going
Into the Pit – Live Review Archive
I’ve also been involved in promoting a handful of nights in the past, not to mention DJing at a few more, so I’ve seen both sides.
From all of that time spent in variously-appointed venues, drinking variable-quality booze, and listening to live music that is on occasions brilliant and others awful, there are a whole lot of issues with going to see live music right now.
Some of them promoters and bands need to deal with. Others, the venues can solve, and the rest? Gig-goers themselves need to think about their own behaviour.
So, enough preamble, here’s the amodelofcontrol.com thoughts on gig-going.
Firstly, the ticketing process. If you want to get really angry about it, read Ticket Masters, a book about how Ticketmaster became the pre-eminent promoter and ticket retailer. It’s a grim read, and gives an insight as to why we get fleeced time and again.
There are various bits to this, where the whole process seems to make it as difficult as possible for the punter.
Where do I get tickets from?
Now there is the million-dollar question. Different promoters will have deals with different places. I might be able to use my preferred outlet Stargreen for most, but some might have to be through Ticketweb (a subsidiary of Ticketmaster), others might be venue-only, others still might be direct from the band. Needless to say, what I pay in terms of additional fees will vary from outlet to outlet, but shopping around in advance of tickets going on-sale is nigh-on impossible, as often ticket prices are invisible until they go on-sale.
Those fees, and ticket formats
Some booking fees are understandable. But making me pay for the privilege of printing my own ticket?
We need to get beyond this. For me, apps like DICE are now the way forward. I can buy tickets through it, it holds my ticket in the app, and I can even arrange a refund (and thus re-sell my ticket) if I can’t make it for whatever reason – more on that in a moment.
Seriously, why the fuck are paper tickets still a thing? Also, why are paper lists of online ticket purchasers still a thing?
Let’s talk about paper tickets first. I have piles of them at home (I still try and keep those that I have, and some ended up in frame collages along with a few treasured setlists), but really, they belong in the past. Easily misplaced, easily lost in the post. Airline tickets and Boarding Passes have almost entirely gone to online formats (as we found in the US last year), and it is vastly quicker and simpler. Why can’t gig promoters do similarly, without charging us a fucking arm and a leg to do it? Surely the savings on printing charges would cover the costs.
Also, paper lists of online purchasers when I “collect on door” is seriously the slowest fucking system. A simple, collaborative google spreadsheet with search function would solve this (I could design such a form in five minutes), and more secure, larger-scale applications for this are not much more difficult.
Return, re-sale and Secondary ticketing
Sajid Javid is a big defender of touting, and he’s not the only one. But then, when the big ticketing sites all have their own secondary ticketing sites, and dump many tickets straight onto them, what chance do we ever have of changing the system?
All of us that go to gigs have, on occasion, not been able to make a show. Often informal offers on social media will find a friend willing to pick up a spare ticket at short notice, problem solved.
But not always. DICE – as noted above – now allow you to do it, and it’s time now that the rest of the promoters did the same. What I’ve never understood is that for London Theatres, “returns” are usually available for every show. Why are they different to gigs?
Various bands – including Radiohead – have experimented, of course, with differing levels of security on tickets. Requiring ID on entry, named tickets, etc. I know there is no magic bullet to this, but every single way seems to put the onus on the punter, with awkward conditions and plainly and simply making gig-going a fucking trial before you even get there. How about putting yourselves in our shoes for once?
How do I find out about your gig?
Back in the day, gig listings covered pages of the music press. The state of the music press being as it is, it is rare that I will find out that way – although I might see it on their website.
The reality is, every single gig is now on Facebook, or Songkick (or a few other places) – and if isn’t, it should be. This is the way pretty everyone now gets their gig information, these are easily shareable and allow free, word of mouth promotion for you, the band/promoter. We want to attend your shows, and find out about them – allow us to find out stuff easier, we will talk about it more.
What time is the gig? Who’s playing?
Please, promoters, post the set-times online. You know, on that Facebook Event you’ve invited everyone that likes your page to. Things can change, of course they can – that happens, but you’ve got an Event page to post updates to, right? So please use it. A recent show saw a whole number of unanswered queries on the day or two before the gig. Poor form.
Infest posted their schedule, for example, three months ahead of time for this August’s edition (and make great use of social media generally). But if I go to the O2 Forum in Kentish Town, as another example, I’m lucky if I see the set-times in the venue when I get there, never mind online beforehand.
If you’re not posting information in advance to ensure people turn up early to drink warm, over-priced booze (hello, O2 Academy venues), you’re Doing It Wrong.
At the show
Yes, security is important, no-one wants any nastiness. But treating punters like criminals with overly-aggressive searching and barked instructions? Be more like Neville Lynch (the legendary member of the security team at the Astoria for many years, folks. We’re there to enjoy ourselves, and the less you treat us like idiots, the better we’ll behave. And don’t even get me started on licensing that means I have my ID scanned and stored on systems, just to get into a gig.
Keep your hands to yourself
As per Repeater: 001, keep your hands and thoughts to yourselves. Respect your fellow gig-goers and don’t be a dick.
In the crowd
Your favourite song has started, and you’re at the back? Do us all a favour and don’t barge through like a fucking bulldozer. Once again, have some respect for everyone else.
Wearing a backpack/rucksack? Take it off and put it in the cloakroom. Seriously.
Want to smoke? Go to the smoking area. Smoking weed at a gig? You’re a dick, and I will report you. (Puritanical? Maybe. So what. It’s antisocial, and I don’t want it in my face at a gig).
A Forest of Light? No thanks
Want to take photos or video on your phone? Sure, but don’t hold it above your head for the whole fucking show. People behind you want to watch the actual show. If you’re using an iPad for said photos or video – firstly, why, and secondly, put it away.
Talk about it…somewhere else
Want a conversation with your friend about the night before? Save it for between bands, or do it outside. We’ve all likely played a lot of money for this show, and loud conversations are going to make the people around you very angry.
If you’re going to throw beer around, why not just buy someone who does want a drink a pint instead? And if you’re taking a pint or more into the pit, you’re a dick. Wise words from Reverend Horton Heat:
“In kindergarten they teach you not the throw stuff. In college they teach you not to waste alcohol. So if you throw alcohol at our gig, you better believe you’re getting kicked the fuck out.”
In the Pit
Talking of the pit, actually, if someone falls down, help them up. It might be you next time.
Rabbit punch me? I will actually floor you. I’ve done it before, I will do it again.
A Question of Time
Seriously, this pisses me off so much. I know bands need exposure, but no-one benefits from an over-ambitious, stuffed schedule. I’ve been to shows where there are four support bands, and the doors opened at 1730 on a weeknight. Er, really?
There is usually no need for more than two supports. Too many supports, too little changeover time, means less time for the headliner – and frequently suggests a lack of planning.
And if you’re going to make it an all-day show, or an extra long event, give us somewhere to sit?
Yes, this is a long list. And you’ve probably got more. Tell me about them.