Writing an artist review is as important, if not more important, than obtaining a client review. Unfortunately, not enough people realise this and we were too late to realise this in one instance.
Back in 2014, certain issues were raised by the artists regarding the logistics surrounding an event in Canterbury. The problem was that these issues were not initially communicated to the key stakeholders in the organisation of the event: the producer (artist liaison), the manager in charge of booking the musicians and liaising with the client, and the clients in question. They were only discussed among the musicians.
By extension, the initial lack of communication between parties meant that there was no accountability mechanism in place for future reference. This is required in order to establish a) what these issues were, b) how these issues might affect the event enough to warrant them issues in the first place and c) how to resolve these issues - however trivial and insignificant they might seem.
Rea rightly points out that Jo needs to know what goes on on the gigs with equipment etc., and sometimes it's hard for people to understand unless they are there and going through the circumstance.
Ever since then, Jo implemented it as a standard policy to get some sort of producer's report for every event. This is simply a piece of feedback (written or verbal) commenting on the perceived success of the event, a brief rundown of what happened and disclosing any issues in so that the key stakeholders are on the 'front foot' in terms of addressing these with the clients.
The 'front foot'
Here is a positive example of an agent requesting us to do exactly this. In this scenario, the duo turned up on time as agreed. However, due to an oversight on the part of the venue, the duo were prohibited from performing at all because of a noise restriction that was in place, and the performance couldn't go ahead.
From: DG Music - Professional Music Services
Positive advice here. David quite rightly re-enforces an open playing field of communication so that the agent (acting on behalf of the artist) is able to be on the 'front foot' and address any issues at source, ahead of these issues being picked up by the clients. Some wise words from David which we've taken on board.
This producer's report could be sent to the client (agent or promoter) in charge of the booking with the manager on cc, or as a safeguard the manager alone in case there were any negative issues; in case the manager needs to 'translate' these issues into a message that's more 'agent friendly' to prevent any unforeseen misunderstandings of working with less familiar and potentially volatile people.
Which leads us onto...
Abuse of trust
Herein lies our next problem. Following a successful event at Leeds Football Stadium in 2014, an unexpected client critique arose. Jo was open, honest and up front enough to relay this client critique to the agent who was in charge of the booking so that they might be in a better position - on the 'front foot' strictly speaking - to establish the nature of this critique (if any), and address it first hand with the client.
Have a read of the following emails between Jo, Jason and Guy.
On 30 Nov 2015, at 12:13, Jason @ Book Live Music & Entertainment wrote:
From: "Jason @ Book Live Music & Entertainment"
Instead of resolving the issues and communicating any subsequent feedback back to the artist: the agent (Jason) has used it as an opportunity to strike the artist off their books! This is a very serious abuse of trust. It's taking advantage of the artist's trust to the grossest extent.
Jo was honest enough to communicate these issues to the agent. We appreciate that the agent acted primarily in the best interests of the client. However, had the artist not been honest enough then there would have been a risk of the client critique being passed directly from the client to the agent. This would have been worse, because it would have been the artist withholding information from the agent, rather than vice versa.
As you'll see from reading the main article, Jason refuses any of Jo's further attempts to substantiate or resolve the client critique. Therefore the exact nature of the client critique is never established, setting up the possibility for the same pattern to reoccur in future.
On 1 Dec 2015, at 09:56, Jason @ Book Live Music & Entertainment wrote:
As a result, the artist is left in the dark, wondering why these issues have come about, and constantly worrying that they might resurface in future. Have a look at the below photo and also consider how Jason's actions might have severed his relationship from the musicians who participated in this event (as well as the label): some of whom had transported themselves and their equipment from London, Manchester and Liverpool to the event which was in Leeds.
- "I was trying to be polite by not answering."
Excuse me? I'm sorry, I must have missed something here. Please can you define exactly what you mean by 'common sense' in this case? Please also disclose your expectation of the correct response you were expecting from us relative to this case. This should effectively be a written list of rules and regulations which - I hope - was available either on the Book Live Music & Entertainment/relevant website or among Jason's email communications.
Please, in addition to sending me the rules and regulations document (and its location where the artists should have found it), also let me know (for redrafting/final draft) whether any recommendations have already been made.
It's true that the rules and regulations of artist/agent/client contact are not always easily accessible/understandable. So in this case, yes, we don't have much recourse. I'd advise in future to have the rules and regulations of artist/agent/client contact (i.e., the 'review' in this sense) emailed to all parties and for it to be in writing.
As for the matter of Jason: we pretty much hit a dead end on this one. Jason was reluctant to enter into any further dialogue let alone qualify any of his seemingly false allegations and forced a premature end to the conversation, and, by extension, a breakdown in communication. We never received the information from Jason regarding the client critique, and therefore couldn't draft an informed response in order to implement a measure by which such issues could be avoided for the future. Boo Hoo.
Moreover, by asserting a 'common sense' stance: one effectively invalidates the experience of another. Why? Because one is asserting their own experience above another's experience. This creates an artificial, invisible and unquantified boundary between that one other person vs. the many. It segregates a 'minority' from a 'majority'. It branches from the same logical tree as racism, sexism and many other forms of discrimination. These frequently arise out of misunderstanding and ignorance. They can invariably sow the seeds of war, terrorism and other forms of conflict.
Alternatively, the assertion of 'common sense' presumes that the other person hasn't thought things through, when they have. The only problem is the misunderstanding - the language barrier.
This sort of behaviour, despite being pitiable, can have adverse, damaging psychological effects on another. It's precisely this attitude - withholding information on the grounds of 'common sense' and laissez-faire ideology - which is a cancer in (not only) the music 'industry', and something we challenge at root source. We exercise our right and entitlement to freely ask a question until it is answered, and attain knowledge in order to progress forwards: stopping that knowledge from transferring = stops forward progress.
Are musicians 'programmed' to stumble blindly through a chain of hoops and not have the autonomy to question anything? We think not.
Strike while the iron is hot
Even more effective that striking in a non-time sensitive fashion (although both are better than nothing). As it happens, feedback works both ways.
Musicians constantly air their views during the performance on how things ‘should be done’. Yet these things occur in the heat of the moment and are very often contradicted later on. Of course, it’s great to talk about these things and clear the air, but we needed more than a 'producers report'. We needed some way of capturing in writing those separate conversations that take place at the musicians' level so that they can be actioned in a more concrete way; an all-encompassing message to check if there were any issues and to 'strike while the iron’s hot’. Without taking advantage of course, there needed to be an authoritative tone reminding musicians re: the importance of fulfilling their side of the contract and stipulating things in advance etc., so we can realistically manage their expectations.
Thank you for doing a great job. I hope you enjoyed performing at the event and that things ran smoothly.
Read & Blog
The "Watch Blog"
Please note: full names, addresses and contact details of private individuals are omitted for data protection purposes (unless already made public elsewhere online).
A category naming and shaming unreliable musicians to watch out for.
A category reporting unscrupulous venues and traders.
A category exploring the issues faced working via agents and promoters.