Artists & audiences deserve better: a pleaFeature
After much deliberation & consultation with members of the local musical community, I've decided that since matters are getting worse in terms of how artists are being treated in certain circumstances, I ought to speak out on their behalf in my first polemic for the magazine.
After writing hundreds of positive articles on local music, I've increasingly needed to drop in more critical observations, regarding the above issue. These refer specifically to a slew of "lifestyle" events in the Leamington area and I can only hope that they don't apply elsewhere.
I recognise that these are not primarily music events, but I would have thought that if you decide to invite high quality artists to play then it's in your interests to let people know (to increase your footfall with their fans) and ensure that their performance is as stress free & audible as possible: even if they are only one of many attractions.
The trigger for this piece was the appalling sound engineering at last weekend's Leamington Food Festival. I added some comments at the foot of my review of Carrick's set on the Saturday (trying not to detract from the description of their own excellent performance) but sadly none of the issues were addressed & were merely repeated on the Sunday.
This alone might not have caused me to put pen to paper (so to speak) had one of the Sunday victims not politely and professionally raised their concerns with the organisers, only to receive a written response (which sadly I've seen) of staggering complacency & lack of respect, laced through with a patronising tone which, having voiced a hypocritical claim to being open to criticism, dismissed every single point & furthermore blamed all the faults on musicians. I really could not let that treatment of musicians pass could I?
What can be done? Well I for one have decided to continue reviewing music, both live and recorded which I think I can respond positively to. However I no longer feel inhibited in calling out poor treatment of artists: I feel part of my mission to support them is to do so.
One would like to think that over time, the message will get through to organisers of events like this & that they'll take the simple but effective steps being advocated. Otherwise, artists will simply vote with their feet: over the summer, several have privately spoken to me about refusing to play certain events or settings. The band referred to above are sufficiently offended that they'll not play the Leamington Food Festival again.
What can artists do?
Well I'd suggest:
(a) If invited to play an event, whether it's a charitable one organised by well meaning but inexperienced people or by alleged professionals, ask them to publicise both the fact that you are playing and when you are: that way your fans will hopefully swell attendance.
(b) Ask that the publicity be on social media: that's where people get their information from. Leaving it to obscure websites not known for "what's on" activity is not adequate.
(c) Check the facilities offered to you: especially if the weather is abnormally hot, cold or wet. Organisers ought to have carried out risk assessments covering this & you are entitled to see them & the action plans in case of such conditions.
(d) Ask for the name & credentials of whoever is going to be doing your sound. There are some excellent professionals in our area (and I feel I should support them not losing income) and it's worth their being given the gig over "someone's boyfriend who fancies himself as a DJ", however cheap the latter might be. Great sound will improve the event and I'm sure you'll want the excellence of your performance to be properly communicated to the audience.