Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Don't bring me problems, bring me.... the pledge...

Last week, SSGs raised some of the possibly-problematic issues surrounding Marcel Dettmann's Australia 'tour' - bounce is more like. One of the lingering thoughts that I've had since writing the post is that the key problem is that, as a model, music touring is primarily a business model (mostly about brands, events, and publicity, in any case)... ...which, although profitable in the short term, is corrosive of any kind of free association which is either un or non profitable... the social, at best, only ever breaks even - despite the fact that it is actively and immediately the producer of most things of value.

This week, Dave Slutzkin, of RRR's excellent To-and-Fro, where I've been an occasional guest...

...actually, that reminds me, you can find our last co show (really/actually Dave at the controls and me yapping out of control) here, and download it here... There are some - what I think are - great old Perlon and Kompakt records, as well as some discussions about the respective directions of said labels.... and we play an amazing single by Melbourne-based artist Kharkov, the b side of Kettenkarussell's 'I believe you and me make love forever EP, on Giegling (of which more soon), and finish with two of my favourite tracks ever... well, check the fucking show out, it's the only way of shutting me up...
No matter who you are and what your electronic bent is, you should really consider subscribing - Dave's taste is as immaculate as it is broad...

'nuff preambling... *ahem* Dave has come up with what is not only a response to the post on the Dettmann tour, but also one possible 'solution'... here 'tis:

On this side of the world, we lament the lack of great artists playing comfy venues with sweet sound systems in front of receptive crowds - seethis recent post. To paraphrase an incompetent boss: "Don't bring me problems, bring me solutions". Well, here's one which just might work.

Pledge-fund these tours. What's that mean? When you're considering getting someone out, solicit pledges from the punters who want the tour, and take the money later when the tour is confirmed, giving them a ticket to the gig. If you can't get it up, the pledge lapses and the money's never taken.

Essentially, interested punters are buying their tickets well in advance, with the security of full refunds. They're also getting something of a say in decisions - you've coalesced a nice little community around the shared interest who you can ask for advice. You'll probably sell to the general public later, but not until all your pledges are taken care of, and you don't rely on public ticket sales to make the gig viable.

It can all be done through Kickstarter:

This is currently US-only, though I know at least one Melbourne-based gig funded here, by the great Soundbytes chiptune collective:

The most important part is that the whole thing is not-for-profit, and the books are open wide. Yes, we still need a promoter (or team of promoters), but because they're personally motivated, we avoid the the usual profit-motivated-promoter problems of overcharging, overcrowding and under-equipping the venue.

And actually, because we're not worried by profit, these gigs should be attractive to venues. There's no reason for the promoter to take a cut off the bar, so the venue gets to keep that cash, and potentially a lump sum up-front payment can be factored in as well. If the gig's more profitable for the venue then the venue has an incentive to give a bit of slack in sound system outfitting, for instance, or allowing a tentative booking.

The bottom line is that it's cheaper all round because we're removing expenses - the promoter profit margin - and uncertainty - it's easier to predict crowd numbers directly from pledge numbers. Done properly, this should make a great gig for a bargain basement price. Yes, it'll still be more expensive than it would be in Berlin. But that's the tyranny of distance right there.

All you need is a motivated group to put it all together.



  1. "All you need is a motivated group to put it all together."

    I'm in. This way, I may actually get to see someone decent in Adelaide. (That said, Optimo in 3 weeks! Yay!)

    This makes so much more sense than the crappy overblown festival circuit in Australia atm.

  2. Sounds like a good idea, could also be run as a collective where everyone takes a turn being the promoter, as long as all funds made are put back into future events.

  3. people still need profit whatever you say , if a guy puts all his work for finding venues booking artists, he still needs to get profit and thats a good thing because he is doing something. yes you can amke a party once in a month oor a year for non profit visions , but that imposible to make it a regular party business. good idea , but sometimes its just not posible

  4. If you were to talk to the founders of most of the world's greatest nights and clubs, though, I'd imagine most of them could tell you a tale of how they had to overcome unfavourable economic circumstances and many other obstacles to establish what they did.

    Better to try and fail that never to try at all.

  5. @ Rokas: I can understand what you're saying in terms of earning a livelihood, but there's a number of assumptions driving your argument that I think bear questioning:

    1) people need profit

    2) that's a good thing, "because he is doing something"

    3) parties run on a not for profit basis might work on occasion, but could never be turned into a business...

    1) well, people certainly need to earn a livelihood, but do they need 'profit'? Or, more to the point, do they need to profit from the music they're interested in?

    What are the consequences of running parties for profit? Are there not other visions and venues we could think of?

    Do you run your lover for profit? Do you run your family for profit? Your friends? Would you charge them for dinner at your house? Or, if you had a big house party, would you charge admission beyond, say, recouping costs for the sound system and cleaning?

    2) you say profiting's a good thing - I dunno, if Chris and I and/or anyone else commenting here (who is producing web content) profited from SSGs, we're of the view it would change things for the worse...

    3) Well, perhaps the establishment of a 'regular party business' is the very thing we should try hardest to avoid... depends what your interests are though, doesn't it? And how this interacts with your needs and desires, no?

    ...the point for me would not be to replace one model with another. I am not saying 'abolish regular party business'... but to suggest other, small scale alternatives for passionate niches... isn't the sign of a healthy ecosystem the existence of a large number of niches?

  6. rules of acquisition:

    18) A Person without profit is no Person at all.
    21) Never place friendship above profit.

  7. I'm in for this. You are onto something really interesting here, with real potential given enough actually motivated individuals.

    There may perhaps initially be a trust issue involved due to the novelty of this funding model, on both the sides of the artists/agencies and the sides of the pledgers; both sides have to be sure that you aren't somehow able to scam them. It would have to be driven home to the pledgers that their money doesn't move until the tour is confirmed, and to the artists that we will then have control of the money straight away.

    Also you obviously need a highly desired niche-performer selected by punters who is up for coming here under this model and isn't being brought over by anyone else, but that's the fun part, right?

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  9. This is a really interesting idea.

    I think the way it would optimally work is if the artist themselves are actually in on it and understand how it will all work. Now that might not be workable with an artist as huge as Dettmann, I dunno. And this may be a viable alternative for now.

    But I can see the potential for future endeavors as well. I have done many events with my collective, SUBterror, as well as done several events bringing together female djs from my region, not only to play, but to meet up, network, talk about our mutual experiences, etc.

    With both of these, our goal was not big rockstar names, but building community WITH the artists involvement, as well as our own local/regional communities. So a huge part of the projects were having the artists themselves as part of the process.

    Is this feasible on a regular basis, if what you are attempting is to bring the top acts? Maybe not. But I definitely see the potential for making connections with like minds, and building something from that.

    Damn, I have been talking for days about collective vs individual and what success means to that, and wondering how to bridge the gaps again, and now my brain is going a mile a minute again. Thanks! :)


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