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Groups of guitars are on the way out Mr Epstein

April 25, 2013

My normally positive outlook is going to take a backseat for this blogpost.

Back in January I repeated an annual process I’ve been doing for the last 2 years: I started sending in submissions to the various festivals that take place around Ireland.  Rather than a scattergun approach I deliberately researched each festival looking at previous year line-ups to make sure my material/show was a good fit. This year was going to be different: I had an album under my belt and a strong video channel on YouTube with clips from my album launch show.

From the dozen or so submissions made I received no responses. None. Nada. Not even an automated response to say “sorry we cannot reply to individual submissions because we’re overwhelmed with your emails”.

Not liking my music I can deal with. I know what I’m producing isn’t to everyone’s taste. I get that. I don’t like it but can take the rejection.   Copy-and-paste “thanks but no thanks” communications I can also deal with. I process a lot of email and communications in my day job and I completely understand why it’s necessary to take an impersonal approach.

Getting no response whatsoever is getting beyond a joke. Weeks/months later when I revisit the festival websites I then see that they’ve announced artists.  Don’t get me wrong: I’m not looking for a seat on the right hand of Calvin Harris.  I’m looking at the “independent” / “emerging artist” stages.  I recognise some of the acts from previous years and festivals/gigs from around the country.   What do they have that I don’t?   The doubt monsters start to creep in.

There was one very notable exception to this. In February I sent a submission to a festival to be held in Dublin this June that looked very credible. In previous cities & years it had guest panellists of great repute. This was the real deal.  “Peter, just to let you know that I’ve been listening to your music and I really like it” went the gist of the email.  I thought to myself: at last!   Sure enough last week I got confirmation that I was one of 100 acts to be confirmed for the festival. I immediately confirmed my availability and sat down to plan how I’d take advantage of this opportunity.  I was ready to pay again for rehearsal rooms and to do the rounds of pulling-in-favours to get a band together for the gig possibly even having to shell out to pay the musicians. More expense in order to play. I’m about to release a couple of songs to radio as “free download singles” so this invite couldn’t have come at a better time. I could use it to try create a bit of a buzz around the release and it always looks very credible to radio programmers.

Before I go any further, and for the benefit of non-musicians who might read this blog, I should point out that the emerging and independent artists for this and most other festivals do not get paid and do not get any expenses covered. You’ll be lucky to get a beer!  What you get is a chance to play on a stage and hope that some of the audience will stick around for your set. If you’re really lucky you might get a handful of people to sign up to your email list and if you’re really,really lucky you’ll sell a couple of CDs.

Yesterday morning an email arrives marked “high priority <name of festival>”

I am writing to let you know that unfortunately due to an error in the artist selection process, we over-invited 14 artists to play at <festival name>. I am extremely sorry for this error and to have to
give you the news that you are one of the 14 that were over invited. Please accept my most sincere apologies.

All members of your band will still receive an access all areas pass (other than to workshops), if you could give me the names of the band members, I will arrange for them to be put on the guest list for the event.

Whatever about the rights and wrongs of this I’m sure dear reader that you agree this is a crappy way to handle the situation.  The sender didn’t even realise that I was a solo act: that’s how much attention was paid to this.   In a city the size of Dublin there is little difference between finding stage-time for 114 acts and 100 acts.

And then it begins.  I did a little Facebook status rant to blow off some steam. Some encouraging responses from friends helped.   Looking on Twitter I saw a few acts that had confirmed their participation in the festival (boy am I glad I didn’t post anything on social media or my mailing list!)  and every single one of them was from outside the country.  “WTF?” as the kids say.

Last night I found myself in my hotel room unable to sleep (travel will broaden your mind but disrupt your body rhythm unlike anything else in the world). I looked at the (lack of) sales of my album, the black hole of gig requests: half a dozen asks for support slots ignored in the last month alone, the demoralizing non-response from festivals, the 20 blog submissions for reviews that went un-written (or even acknowledged).

I was THIS CLOSE to closing my website, blog, bandcamp store and Facebook page. I’d had enough. No more.

Of course I didn’t do that.  Once I got over feeling sorry for myself I remembered every past rejection and screw-up and finally fell asleep thinking about the bollox who stiffed us after a club gig in Dublin back in 1987.

So where to next?  Keep on plugging away I suppose.  There’s a caseload of CDs in the studio that need new homes. Reality check: a small but very appreciated fraction of the Facebook fan-page likes and mailing list members have bought my album. A fraction – nobody is obliged to buy but I thought I should share the reality of releasing an album. There’s some really great work being done by a friend to create single sleeves for my ‘radio singles’ and I’ve been inspired by an old Thomas Dolby live concert DVD to revamp my live show and remove the reliance on favours from musicians. It might even set me apart from the other singer-songwriters out there.

Which means: there’s still people out there who might buy my CD, there’s still gigs and festivals out there and one of my radio singles might just get a result. 

It still grinds my gears though . . .

This blog post  I Think You’re An Asshole, So I’m Going To Tell You, Asshole resonated with me.  I don’t think anyone associated with the festival that stiffed me is an asshole. I reckon most of them are barely, if at all, getting paid to put up with egos, slackers and assholes (that’s “musicians” to you and me).   So, I’m going to move onward an upward and not be a dick.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 25, 2013 2:24 pm

    Chin up..

    Like

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