Paperlate: Could bands do more to help the live music scene?

A paperlate illustration

Last issue we looked at gig attendances, and wondered if it was a mix of misplaced recalcitrance and entitlement amongst some fans that has led to sparse attendance at some gigs where one might normally expect a healthier showing. And lo and behold, within a matter of days of the last issue of Prog hitting the shelves, a band – a reasonably big band who I shall not ‘name and shame’ here – pulled a handful of forthcoming live dates due to poor ticket sales.

Now, I should point out that this column is a think piece, putting forward various ideas around a theme. It is not intended to provide a solution to any issue raised, but rather to try and inspire debate amongst the fanbase.

Naturally there was plenty of healthy and fervent debate on social media on the back of this discussion, but one factor which struck me was that I was well aware of these dates, and of the effort, or lack of it, that had gone into promoting them. From where I was sat, I’d venture so far as to suggest that probably not enough was done by the band themselves to push the dates, hence, in this instance, the poor sales.

This would not be the first instance of a band thinking that a few posts on their social platforms was good enough to secure at least a reasonably healthy footfall, but I venture that in today’s climate, much more is required. These aren’t the first group of musicians I’ve seen fall foul of failing to realise their own social page is preaching to the converted. Way more effort is required in reaching out and engaging with those you need but may not have reached yet.

“In this digital age, it’s easy to be blasé with social media, assuming that everyone in the world will know about a tour or event just because it’s been posted on your band page and a few mates have shared,” is what one promoter friend of mine told me in regard to this. “Bands, promoters and fans need to get behind gigs and tell everyone they know via every medium they can think of. There’s a lot to be said for flyering and word of mouth but bands on the lower rungs of the prog ladder need to pull all the stops out if they want to see a decent crowd in attendance.”

I don’t think it’s all doom and gloom, mind you, despite the content of recent Paper Lates. I look to The Pineapple Thief’s recent selling out of Islington Assembly Hall, and Haken’s equally strong showing at the same venue. Of Steve Hackett’s tour doing brisk business and ARW’s own good showing recently. And of course, Marillion selling out the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in record time.

We just need to guard against complacency. At all levels and at all times!

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Jerry Ewing

Writer and broadcaster Jerry Ewing is the Editor of Prog Magazine which he founded for Future Publishing in 2009. He grew up in Sydney and began his writing career in London for Metal Forces magazine in 1989. He has since written for Metal Hammer, Maxim, Vox, Stuff and Bizarre magazines, among others. He created and edited Classic Rock Magazine for Dennis Publishing in 1998 and is the author of a variety of books on both music and sport, including Wonderous Stories; A Journey Through The Landscape Of Progressive Rock.