This week Still Burning catches up with Ross Calder, the man behind local promotions company Aberdeen Gig Promotions (AGP), who seem to be trying very hard (and managing) to get new and up and coming artists to perform in Aberdeen these days.
So, Aberdeen Gig Promotions… how long have you been going for now and how did it all begin?
It doesn’t feel like it but we’ve been going for two and a half years now. Basically I was managing a friends band at the time (10 Easy Wishes) and wanted to put a show on for them. There was no intention to do it full time at that point but it’s all worked out well.
What was the line up in your very first show?
It was The Hot Puppies from Wales, 10 Easy Wishes and Edgar Prais. It ended up being quite busy and I really liked the buzz from doing it so kind of got hooked after that.
Was it hard to `get going` or just a case of making calls and emails and taking it from there?
I did find it pretty difficult to make the connection with some agencies at first. There were already a fair number of good promoters who had been in the game longer and had built up relationships with a lot of the bands I wanted to put on. For every 100 enquiries I was sending there would maybe be only a couple of positive outcomes at first. Slowly agents and bands get to know you though and it’s all about treating the smaller up and coming bands well so that the bigger acts on those rosters are more likely to jump on board too.
I’d imagine it’s a bit easier now, with bands and agents often contacting you, as opposed to the other way around?
Yeah we do get lots of show offers now which makes things a bit easier. I’ve built up good relationships with most of the major agencies as well as those looking after the smaller bands too. I think we have a pretty good mix of new and established acts on our bills now which was always the aim. There is still a fair amount of groundwork to do keeping up to date with new additions to agents rosters etc to get in there first.
I always think your listings seem to be very fresh, always new names (to me anyway) on there, is this something you strive to do?
Yeah, new music is something I love. I get a lot more satisfaction from putting on an unknown or lesser known band and getting a good turn out than I do from the guaranteed sell outs. Not that I don’t enjoy those too obviously. I find it exciting hearing a new band, booking them on a personal preference and then seeing other people enjoy it too.
Most of your events seem to be at Cafe Drummonds and The Tunnels?
The Tunnels and Drummonds do tend to be the venues we use for various reasons ie the cost of hiring the venues, the facilities, the reputation of both with the major agencies and so on. I feel the size of both places is also just about right for the shows we do in that they don’t feel too empty when there’s 100 people in but can also cope with the sell out shows. We have used Snafu and Warehouse before so they are always an option.
How do you find the Aberdeen Music Scene in general, regards venues and current gigging artists?
I feel there’s a bit of a tendency to be too negative about Aberdeen. You read some people criticising venues like Tunnels and Drummonds for having some broken backline or something yet people should appreciate the fact there even is a backline. Everywhere I’ve toured with bands out with Aberdeen is a lot worse off in that sense.
Sometimes it can be hard to get people to go to bands they don’t already know about..but to be fair that’s my job to encourage them to check out new bands. I’ve found now there’s a consistent group of people who come to our shows on the basis they trust us to book quality bands, which is quite rewarding.
The city has a pretty decent metal scene I think. Despite not being my thing, its good to see the likes of Deenfest doing well and doing successful shows in that area. The work Interesting Music & Vocustics do is also really positive for the city and 9 times out of 10 you know whatever they put on is going to be brilliant.
Music wise there’s some brilliant bands going around just now…on top of the usual suspects like The Little Kicks & Right Hand Left, I’ve been really impressed with The Deportees and Farewell Singapore more recently. Some of the younger bands such as In Atlanta that we had playing our Chew Lips show last week have great potential too.
How would you improve it (within reason, obviously)?
It’s a weird one. Short of doubling the population of the city so there are more potential music lovers, who knows! I think cities like Glasgow have more of a “scene” where lots of bands support each other and make sure they go to each others shows etc. Maybe that could help Aberdeen as you don’t tend to see other bands going to their mates shows quite as much. Minor complaint though!
Did I notice that there is an Edinburgh gig in your latest listings or did I dream that up?
Its ok, you aren’t dreaming about us! Yeah we are doing a show for Cats and Cats and Cats there in May and I’m also putting one on for JJ Bull in July. There’s a few bands who we have related to really well and end up doing all their Scottish dates for them. We’ve done 3 tours now for Cats x 3 and also done a few others in the past like Cats In Paris and The Muscle Club. It makes a nice change!
Are gigs outwith the City something you’d like to do more of?
I don’t know if it’ll expand or not as its harder to make sure the shows are being promoted properly from up here but they’ve all gone pretty well so far. I think in the short-term it will stick to the bands we have already agreed to work with but you never know.
I attended The Jim Jones Revue gig a couple of weeks back and really enjoyed it. What have been your favourite AGP gigs since you started?
Oh god! I have two different sorts of favourite shows, I would say Los Campesinos! was great as it was clear that everyone was enjoying it. It was great to see Tunnels absolutely packed and the crowd surfing was a nice touch. it was just a really enjoyable night overall – the band were lovely, the crowd was great and even the tour manager was nice! Then there’s the ones that you maybe don’t expect to be that busy like A Genuine Freakshow when there was over 250 people in and loving it for a band that had no releases out and had never been to Aberdeen before. They were visibly blown away by the reaction they got and now class Aberdeen as their second home.
Anyone you’d like to put on but never been able to fit them in for whatever reason?
The list is endless. I’ve got a notebook of about 2000 bands Id like to put on but either due to financial reasons or the fact the band don’t plan on heading this far north and so on, we havent been able to yet. It’s hard to get the timing right with bands from America for example as you have to be quite lucky putting an offer in at the same time as they plan to visit the UK. The list keeps getting longer too! I’m sure I’ll get there eventually!
You always seem to have ticket offers on the go these days… is this something you think is needed to get bodies through the door?
I don’t really know if its needed, but its something I like to do. Why not try it to encourage more people to go. Maybe someone wants to go but their friend doesn’t – why not do a 2 for 1 so they can go for free and who knows, they might end up loving it and coming back again. It bugs me when venues and promoters are charging well over the odds for tickets when I know how much or rather how little some bands get paid for those shows. By keeping ticket prices low it means we should get more people through the door. I’d rather have a full room of people paying £5 than a half a room at £10! The offers are good for drumming up some interest and hopefully rewards the people who come to most shows. Venues that have expensive tickets and then still have the cheek to charge you a booking fee even when you are paying at the door really annoy me. I shall name no names though!
As a fan yourself you must hate how ticket booking fees, delivery charges etc seem to rip off the regular gig go-er? (not a dig at AGP, just a general question. I recently got charged £2.65 to print my own ticket ffs!!!)
Absolutely, its a disgrace. We use ticketweb and to be fair it’s an essential service for those who can’t get to One Up or can’t risk just buying on the door. Without wanting to ruin our chances of ever selling another ticket on there, I totally agree that they are ripping people off. Im actually looking into a new system just now that’s in our MySpace blog that would let people who buy on ticketweb get the tickets for half price for the first week they are on sale so that at least that absorbs the fees. We are also away to trial using PayPal for ticket purchases which would take the fees down to about £1 and let us handle them ourselves without a third party. I’ve felt for a while that for shows we are putting on at say £5 face value you are sometimes almost doubling the price with fees and postage so we need to try something to make that more attractive.
Whats the most unusual rider that’s been requested?
Mmm i don’t think I have any “only red M&M” stories. Most are fairly normal. What is clear is that everyone in a band must love humous! Its on every single rider!
Whats the worst cock up you’ve made via AGP, as I’m sure there’s been a couple?
I think putting the wrong date on some tickets for a show with Go:Audio we did quite early on was up there. It still ended up selling out but then 4 days later there were 14-year-old screaming girls turning up at Tunnels. I say they were screaming, it was more crying after they realised I wasnt joking that the gig had happened 4 days before! Thankfully it was only a small amount of tickets, but it’s certainly made me check things twice on that front!
Whats the one artist that `absolutely fking rocked the place` when you least expected it?
Again it probably comes down to A Genuine Freakshow. I had literally sold 2 pre sales and was bricking it all day but to then get 250 people in, with the front 10 rows properly singing along to songs that weren’t out yet, was one of the best surprises I’ve had. Would have to thank The Form, Headlight and Indian Red Lopez for their help with that one actually!
Almost finished now mate, how should bands or artists get in touch if they want to be considered for an AGP show?
Im a bit of an internet junkie so anyway is good. Email is probably best email@example.com but myspace/facebook/phone I don’t mind – as long as they are good!
What do you think of Flares n Seagulls and the like?
Its brilliant. I said above about improving the whole scene with people taking an interest in things and sites like Flares n Seagulls are vital in that. It’s good to have something that is featuring great music and yet is different from the normal sites..and you did a pretty decent review of JJ Bulls album (who I manage) which I have quoted to the max in trying to book shows for him! Aberdeen-music is also brilliant and the work The Kiosque do with the listings is brilliant.
Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, where’s it all at nowadays Ross?
Seems Facebook is the one at the minute. MySpace is still great for listening to bands but I think as a promotional tool it may be dying to a degree although having said that we do apparently still get 50 odd views a day so as long as someone is looking at it, its all good! I’m slowly getting into Twitter too and the followers are going up which is positive.
Who makes the best butteries in Aberdeen?
Ha, I’ll go for my friends at Ross’s Bakers on Chapel Street although given my body clock and drinking habits anything would probably taste good at those points!
How would you fill the (many) empty seats at Pittodrie?
Get Elton John back! I really don’t know. Its horrible just now and I can’t see any miracles happening in the summer. We shall see. I am firmly in the “told you so” brigade about sacking Calderwood but am still behind the team and hope McGhee works some magic. It can only get better. Maybe! I actually had a M Kerr due to pick up tickets for the Chew Lips gig a couple of weeks back and was seriously considering banning him from AGP gigs if had it been him! Thankfully it wasnt him.
Your five desert island tracks?
I am rubbish at these questions but going on current listening trends Ill go with…
Radiohead – Paranoid Android
Band of Horses – Ode to LRC
Pixies – Where Is My Mind?
David Ford – State of The Union
Modest Mouse – Float On
Your favourite flavour of crisps?
Tangy Cheese Doritos all the way. Dipped in tomato ketchup (optional)
Thanks for your time Ross and we’ll see you at another AGP show (yet again!) on Sunday. Still Burning
Aberdeen Gig Promotions MySpace
Aberdeen Gig Promotions TicketWeb Listings