Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Animal Farm

Many of you out there (and indeed sitting right here writing this) have played in bands far and wide across the London pub circuit trying to scrape together a few quid for beers as well as promoting your group to a usually ever diminishing audience. You would have found out soon enough the hard truths of a gigging band along with the tools of the trade required to deal with angry sound guys (they're all angry) as well as meeting a variety of dishonest promoters looking to rob you blind and convince you that the prestige of playing in a half empty backroom in Camden is reward enough instead of readies in your back pocket.

Animal Farm are a brand new promotions agency looking to turn things on their heads and offer a new template that will share the profits between the bands and the promoters more fairly and in a way that will benefit all involved.

Below is a quick Q&A with Ben Widdall on behalf of Animal Farm.

Q) Describe your new company

A) The Animal Farm Tours started off as a boutique booking agency within the artist development company/label The Animal Farm by myself and Tom Green in January 2012. For the beginning we started booking shows for a small handful of bands for their releases and eventually built it to a point where we were booking national tours and gigs for 20+ bands. Over the summer I decided I wanted to get more involved in live gigs so I now run the monthly label gig nights called "The Hog Roast" (currently at The Spice Of Life in Soho). The plan now is to keep running regular London shows to get some notice in the promoting world and slowly move across the UK so we can eventually run nights all over for our touring bands.

Q) What engrained problems do you hope to change with your new company i.e. profit shares, more exposure for bands etc.

A) Over the years we have heard a lot of horror stories. I myself have been victim to them when I used to play in bands as well. I am not going to name and shame but anyone who gigs in the big cities know who I'm talking about! As we all know we have gone through a financial crisis and with this have seen a lot of venues and promoters offer door split deals. What most companies do is say to a band they have to sell 20-30 tickets before they start to make any money back (even then it is maybe £1-2 per ticket after etc). Now we know why people do this, to cover their costs and make profit, that is just a standard business model but this does leave the bands in the dark.

What we plan to do is to follow the same model but in a much more band friendly way as we are a company who believes the music comes before the business. Obviously we do not want to loose money, that is a given, but we also want to give the bands a chance to make some money on the road and give them a chance to work together with us at making a successful show. All profits get split equally between us and the bands. This is straight away better than any door split promoter I have come across for sure as everyone makes equal amount of profit.

Alongside this great deal we are trying to be more involved in terms of promotion. We will target all local radio, publications, blogs, listing sites, papers, twitter feeds, facebook groups etc to try and get coverage and work side by side with the bands at coming up with a targeted social media strategy. If everyone is equally as involved than it becomes OUR night (bands and The Animal Farm) which gives everyone more incentive to make it successful.

Q) Will there be a specific genre of music the new company will promote or are you open to all kinds?

A) As a company The Animal Farm are open to genres all over the board. We work with folk artists, solo singer songwriters, indie bands, hard rock bands, electro/dance bands, pop rock bands etc. We tend to stay away from rap and r'n'b as we just simply have no knowledge or experience in that field. But who knows, there's always time to learn!

Q) How exactly will it work? Do you have a select number of venues that you’ll work with and act as the middle men for or will you deal with the bands/artists directly?

A) So basically we are having 2 test shows, one in London and one in Hull, both on hard nights (Wednesday & Sunday) to test the waters and find out what works/doesn't work organisational wise. We will then start running more regular shows in London to start spreading the company name and get a bit more awareness. In the new year we have got quite a few tour plans so we will run a few shows on each tour ourselves in different cities and slowly grow to eventually running full tours our selves all over the UK for bands. We will hire the venue, book the bands, organise the night etc. Who knows maybe even a festival or similar event in the pipeline?

Q) What do you think are the main things wrong with the current model of promoting bands and paying them for their efforts?

A) This is a tricky question. You see as we book bands all the time we hear all the different deals and everything the promoters have to say about paying bands: "We simply don't have the budget", "It's a charity event", "It's a free entry event", the list is endless. You get promoters, who I have come across myself being in bands previously, who will pay bands a small percentage of tickets sold after they get 20 people through the door. Door splits are the most common way of doing nights now as 1. we are in a bad financial time, 2. it makes the bands actually work for the show and do something to get people through the door and 3. having the ticket retainer makes sure that costs are covered. Although it's only good if you make it a low ticket retainer so that you are just covering costs and not purely making money, that should be split with the bands!

The other side of the argument is that due to their being soo many bands out there in the country now, we are just inundated with bands left right and centre, and most of them are not very good. Most of these bands are very lazy, they will tell a friend or two on their Facebook they are playing a show and then just turn up on the night, not having discussed anything to do with equipment so just expect to use everyones stuff and play to an empty room expecting to be a pre-made crowd...the world doesn't work like that I'm afraid boyos. You have to work hard every day personally contacting everyone, targeting people n twitter and other social media who like bands that you think are cool, so possibly they would be interested in you. Go busking in your local town, get street teams etc, but that is a different conversation!

At the end of the day a band needs to be paid for the efforts they have put in. As a promoter, you need to be paid for the effort you have put in. If you are a promoter like we are trying to be, then A LOT of time and effort has gone into it, so you should be paid too. As long as the costs are covered, everyone should make equal money. That is what we are trying to do, make it so everyone splits any profits equally!

Q) What’s coming up next?

A) So next up we have our monthly label club night "The Hog Roast" in Soho at The Spice Of Life on Saturday 28th September. Some really cool bands in an awesome location. Our two test nights will be at The Dalston Victoria Pub in London on Wednesday 9th October and at The Adelphi Club in Hull on Sunday 6th October. Those nights are featuring brilliant local bands plus our band Base 11 who are out on tour then.

Q) What do you hope for the future?

A) For the future I hope for our company to be responsible for the big great shows that stick in your memory as your greatest moments. We want to put on awesome bands who put on amazing shows all over the nation.

Q) Where can someone find out more about the company?

A) You can find out more about The Animal Farm by checking out our website at, looking us up on Facebook or just send us an email and ask!

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