Why don’t more bands come to Wales: Promoting Live Music In Wales

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On Friday November 14th, the ATRiuM’s Music Academy, Centre For Small Nations and the Welsh Music Foundation hosted a day of music industry seminars as part of the Cardiff based SWN festival. Over the next several weeks I will upload downloadable links to podcasts of each of the four seminars, and discuss the seminar content via this blog. The first seminar featured promoters Dave Driscoll (Push 4), Guto Brychan (Maes B), Steve Tilly (Kilimangero) and moderator John Rostron (SWN co-organiser). For more details about the presenters please click here.
The initial discussion centred around the reasons why many artists don’t come to Wales, or indeed Cardiff in particular during their ‘national’ tours. This was something I had noted during my days as a professional musician, with very few James Taylor Quartet tours of the late 1980’s/early 1990’s taking in Wales. In fact Cardiff was the only venue we played back then. This pattern seems to have continued, with Fleet Foxes being an indicative example of an up and coming ‘buzz’ band not playing a single gig in Wales. The seminar also raised a number of questions that I would welcome responses to:

  • Why is it that some agents don’t feel compelled to send their artists to Wales?
  • Is there a misconception that there are not enough venues in Wales?
  • Is there a lack of mid sized venues in Wales? Once bands get to a certain size, can they continue to play in Wales?
  • Are the transport systems good enough to get people to and from Cardiff and some of the more remote venues (should some ticket sales include transport and/or gigs be flexible to comply with trains buses etc)?
  • Is the perception that Cardiff people can simply go to Bristol to see a gig?
  • What is the infrastructure in Cardiff in terms of generating media coverage for bands.
  • Regarding the last point, do potential audiences feel informed in terms of what is happening in the Capital of Wales? The Joy Collective was noted as a good example of a web site that included South Wales and Bristol.
  • Should promoters always continue to promote gigs after the venue has sold out?
  • Are bands in too much of a hurry to play bigger venues before they are ready?
  • How could the Welsh Assembly Government help with some of these issues?

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I think the discussion reminded everyone of the central role that promoters play in the UK music industry, and the financial risk they take when acting as middlemen between agents, venues and the general public is considerable. When one considers that a local promoter like Push 4 can be working with around 25 artists and associate venues at any one time, it provides a lucid snapshot of the skills involved. Dave Driscoll did note that the slow speed of ticket sales in Wales generally provide a series of challenges to up and coming promoters that may not be apparent in other areas. It means that Welsh promoters in particular need to have a ‘hook’ when promoting many gigs, and Push 4’s work with Donny Osmond and The Lost Prophets were used as indicative examples. The seminar did illustrate that ticket sales in Cardiff have an idiosyncratic trait of selling very slowly, so there needs to be mutual trust between agents and promoters that can only develop over time.

The fact is that there are more venues in Cardiff now than there was 10 years ago, and it would be interesting to discuss if the city is now saturated. This however does not seem to be the case in mid/north Wales, there been very few venues north of the m4 corridor.

I am very interested in anyone’s thoughts on any of this. An RSS feed to this and other podcasts can be downloaded here. If required you can add to I Tunes and simply update when future posts are documented. Alternatively you can access the podcast directly below:

Please note that the start of this podcast is very quiet.

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