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03/01/23 Here's the little article I wrote for the Bucks Herald the way they edited it.


04/01/23 When DIY become Help Me out?


I’ve been talking to a few venue owners recently. And of course the talk is about getting people through the door. 


Here are a few ideas, but I don’t pretend expertise, inside knowledge or having any guaranteed answers. They are not in any particular order apart from the fact that I’ve separated out social media from other methods.


I’ll start with ‘other methods’.


  • Leaflet other events. You remember what it used to be like going into or leaving a gig in any big city. Sometimes a dozen leaflets would be thrust into your hands based upon your obvious musical interests. ‘People who went to this gig might also like…’

  • Make posters - and hang them on to lamp posts near road junctions. Make sure you don’t cause any physical damage though (A4 poster on a bit of hardboard, drilled in the corners and attached with wire).

  • Write articles for the local newspapers. They love stories and as long as you can hook onto a real story, you can advertise your venue for free.

  • Make contact with any local community radio stations. Promote the bands you are booking directly to the DJ’s on the station. Get your venue into the consciousness of people in the local music community.

  • Diversify - run different events for different audiences. Maybe people actually like jazz and wish there was somewhere to listen to it.

  • Engage young people. If there is a college or (better still) a university near you make contact with their Entertainments Manager. See how you can help each other.

  • On the subject of young people, always try to book different local young groups and they’ll bring their friends!

  • Could you organise a ‘battle of the bands’ for local schools to give them a taste of a professional venue with a decent back-line.

  • Encourage any local buskers to use your doorway when you’re not busy. You might even be able to lend them the use of a power lead!

  • Make contact with local charity shops. Run a fashion show for them with live music. Good for you, good for them.

  • Engage in a  bit of guerrilla marketing. Do something completely random like having a pavement artist work right outside the venue. Write it up, send it to the local press, contact the local radio - you get the idea.

  • Make you own Merch. Use a ‘print on demand’ company like Tee Mill. Profit margins are low, but people who like what you’re doing might end up paying to advertise you as they wander around wearing a T with your venue on it. Best of all, it’s free to you.


Social media

  • Create a website and promote, promote, promote.

  • Use instagram, Youtube and twitter. Use the hashtags and link to everything else you use on social media. Make a template that you can paste into everything you produce.

  • Make posters for all of your events to use on social media

  • Use social media to promote the bands you book.

  • Use bands social media to promote your venue.

  • Start conversations with the bands you book online to engage more people.

  • Promote on community groups and local groups. Have links to you, your bands, and other social media you are using.

  • Promote other bands. Especially local bands. Make them interested in you.

  • Get to know if the bands use PR agents - promote them.

  • Write blogs - promote them on your social media. Share with other social media.

  • Create your own Youtube channel.

  • If people comment on your Youtube posts, ALWAYS answer them, but answer them in the form of a question that encourages answers and further engagement.

  • Always ask questions. Who do you like? Who would you like to see? What new bands are out there that I don’t know about.

  • Encourage debate which has nothing to do with your venue. Do you call it a bread roll, or a cob? (A great ongoing debate on one fb group).

  • Promote other, non competing, local events and artists. Make sure they know!

  • And of course, use social media to promote any of the ‘other methods’. For example someone (not you!) might post that they’d seen a poster, or that there was an opportunity for local bands, or had seen someone wearing a T shirt - well any of the above!


I’ll leave it with this, but I’m not (necessarily) advocating it. A few years ago we saw a bunch of guys from the North East. They had a very strong social media presence because they did wacky things. On being booked to play a local pub which had poor ticket sales, the band went onto social media. ‘We’re playing XXXX tonight. If you haven’t heard us, or heard of us, then we’ll give you a sneak peek. Don’t tell them (really don’t), but we’ll be in the fruit and veg aisle of Waitrose on XXXXX St at 5.00pm. If you like what you hear, the gig’s just down the road.


Waitrose must have been surprised that so many young people decided to ‘shop’ that afternoon, and the band only made it through one song before being asked ‘to leave’. They filmed it course and got  twenty people to walk down the street to the actual gig. 

Andy Tns.jpg

This, from Andy Tns looks from the perspective of a DIY label. Wise words, but the bottom bit is really important - be part of a community.

As Ferocious Dog put it, TWAS - Together We Are Strong

And from Traci Heaslewood, of the Dead Hombres - Stickers!

Cheap to produce and everyone loves them. Get a variety of stickers printed and give them out as permanent reminders of the bad, venue, or even gig.

08/01/23 On the way to see Charlie Harper last night we were talking in the car. I recounted a story of a band who had told me they were doing a fundraiser and asked if I was going to go. I replied that I was thinking of going, but hadn't got round to buying tickets at that point. Brilliant, they said - can you take some photos?

To be honest, I forgot to the buy the tickets, but got another message from the band about a week later, 'Are you coming? Did you get tickets?

Sorry, I forgot, I replied. Remind me where to get the tickets from?

Oh, we've sold out. Never mind though, we've got another photographer coming!

Hmmm. If I'm buying my own tickets and getting my own drinks in, then I don't owe you anything.  Next time we see that band (and I do like them)  there'll be no camera, but in the words of Gaz Brookfield, there'll be a drink in my hand.

The message is simple, don't take people for granted. If they are helping you, thank them. Make some gesture to show that they are appreciated. I'm not talking about money. Often a smile, a handshake, and a friendly greeting is more than enough.

You can't expect people to support you, if you are not prepared to support them!


It’s been quite a couple of weeks, gig wise.


Our Easter break got off to a start with the Damned playing the Oxford O2. It was heaving, but not really in a good way. As it was put to me, the Damned are less ‘Smash it up’ and more ‘Phantom of the Opera’ these days, and that really wasn’t what a lot in the crowd had paid to see. Tanked up on ever larger amounts of overpriced beer, breaks in the set were filled with shouts of abuse about what should be played.


I, for one, go to see and hear the band, not the conversations of drunks. From where I was standing I could see the decibel meter on the sound stage. When the Damned were played it was about 110 dbs, but when they weren't playing it was still in the 85-90 dbs range.


While the Damned were good (in my opinion) they weren't great, which was a shame, but as most people there seemed to be there simply to say they’d been to a Damned gig, I doubt they noticed.


Later in the Easter break we went to a talk by Dave Robinson, co-founder of Stiff records. This was really interesting and it’s easy to forget how influential Stiff was when punk was young. Rather than going through the lists of artists, I’ll mention a question at the end. How, one member of the audience asked, do we preserve live music in the pretty awful times that we live in? Well, Dave replied, we have to get bums on seats!


How very true. The next night we were a few miles up the road at MK11, a great live music venue, to see Millie Mander & The Shut Up. On paper it was just about perfect. Firstly a great venue with excellent sound. Secondly the lineup was  straight out of the textbook. A local group who brought their friends opened. Predictably, all their friends disappeared after the band went off, but as long as they bought their tickets, all’s good. Main support was Eat Defeat from Leeds. A new band to many in the audience and they were great, getting the tempo and energy going for Millie. Classic. And then MMATSU were just fantastic. High energy songs with powerful messages, delivered at 110mph with enormous passion.


The venue was only half full! In fact, there were as many people watching the free ‘open mic’ night upstairs as there were watching Millie. The audience were quieter than at the Damned, but some were just as drunk. I loved the set - as expected, but felt that the power of the songs should be reaching a larger audience.


When I’ve discussed this with venue owners they point to the fact that we have a lot of choice, the economy is in the tank and there are only so many people interested in punk music to share around.


Well the choice aspect is certainly true. The next night (Saturday) we had masses of choice. Within reasonable travelling distance we could have gone to a Blues night, or to a Beatles tribute band. Neither seems likely, but three great punk bands were playing near where I work, MK11 had a massive punk name playing and there was a three day punk festival not so far away. Choice indeed.


We opted for some great guys called The Useless Eaters (a cover band) who were supported by a group of teenage punks. They played in the upstairs of a ‘craft ale’ pub on High Wycombe and although we know the bands, we didn’t know what to expect from the pub.


I don’t believe there’s any such thing as a free gig when IPA is £7.50 a pint, but at least you can control what you spend. It was a brilliant evening. People who could have never heard of the Damned were singing along to Neat, Neat, Neat. I’d be pretty sure a lot of the members of the audience would have forgotten The Ruts, but everyone sang Babylon's Burning. The largely 18-25 year old audience loved every minute of the set. The pub even let it’s staff off to join in and it was genuinely the best fun we had this Easter break.


How I wish they’d been able to experience the power of Millie Manders. It’s not that younger people cannot relate to the music. I’m sure that the younger people would have loved the music, the message and the band. The music can reach everybody, but perhaps there’s an image problem. At the other punk gigs we could have gone to the same night it would have been the same crowd it’s always been. The 60+ aged punks with a multitude of patches on their classic jackets and bald heads replacing the multi-coloured spikes of their youth.


Don’t get me wrong. These old punks are my people. I’m the same as them. I am aware though, that the number of old punks knocking around is diminishing. If the venues are going to survive so that the next generation of great bands have somewhere to play, then we need to somehow let go of the idea that punk is only for people like me who can remember the release of New Rose or saw the Bill Grundy interview live.


I don’t know what the answer is, but like so many, I can see the problem.

21/04/23  I’ve often commented that I’d be the last person to be put in charge of anything, but here’s my formula for a great gig. You don’t have to agree. In fact, debate is excellent. Again, my disclaimer is that I pretend to have no inside knowledge or special insight. This might or might not work, but this is what I think.


First you need a good venue that is already established and has its own following. The sound has to be great as you only ever notice the sound when it’s poor!


First on - a local band that is growing in popularity and has a strong social media presence. The hope being that they’ll tell all their mates that they’re supporting a bigger band. They should be strongly encouraged up front to hang around. If they have merch, it should be there with the headliners, not hidden away as an afterthought.


Second up, (and part of me can’t believe I’m saying this) a really strong cover band that will play  the songs that will get people up and dancing. We all love a catchy tune or ten. It helps if that band is local and well established.


And finally, the headliner. The artist/band that people will travel to see, The one you will pay to see.


I totally get it when people moan about cover bands, because a lot really aren’t very good, but here’s the reality check. A local venue ran a fundraiser as they are struggling and a local cover band offered to play for free. The door charge was £5 and the venue had their best night’s takings  ever. A few weeks later the formula was; a bunch of teenage punks, then a great punk cover band and then  an original  punk band. This resulted in the venue’s second best night ever with a door charge of £10 per head. Everyone that has a great experience will remember the venue, even if they don’t remember every band!


Yes, I’m going to be there in the audience for the old bands who are playing great songs to 20 or 30 people. They’re great and I love them, but the venues will die unless they change and the old punks will have nowhere to go. And here’s the thing. In my last blog I mentioned that on the same night as four punk venues, I could have gone to a Blues night or a Beatles Tribute band.

So, of the six venues I could have gone to, which had the biggest audience?


The Beatles tribute band, of course. The next week I was talking to the manager of the venue. At £15 per head, they had over 100 in the audience to listen to covers from nearly sixty years ago. Most of the audience would not have been born when the earliest songs came out and of course, they know that the artists (regardless of their undoubted musical ability) are a kind of preprogramed human jukebox. And actually that’s fine. Fine that is as long as they experience new music as well as the songs that they have grown up with. 

05/06/23 It’s been an interesting few days. A massive downside has been the loss of our local venue, The Petri Dish; another victim of Covid and the cost of living crisis. Maybe I’m too close, but I’m really bitter about this. On one hand the virtue signalling keyboard experts are all too keen to give advice and bemoan the loss, but rarely if ever went to the venue. On the other hand there are the landlords who would rather have a locked and empty building than trying to maintain some sort of a future for a new business and indeed a town with already too many empty shops and venues.


Then there has been the sniping from competitors and the stealing of good ideas. Our society has descended into a ‘dog eat dog’ dystopia where people fight each other rather than coming together.


All you downtrodden people

Always bear the brunt

Just sit back on you fat backsides

Till you have to face the Front

Waiting till the bullyboys get you

Don't make no kind of sense

And pretty soon there'll be no room

For sitting on the fence (Tom Robinson)


On a positive note I attended the San Demas record launch at the Wycombe Arts Centre on Friday 2nd June. A solo singer/songwriter and three fantastic bands. In an audience where I was a minority due to my age, each of the bands thanked me for coming and the venue manager bought me a drink. That was really nice and none of them had to do that. They were a genuinely welcoming bunch of people. It was a great evening, apart from one thing.


I feel a repeating theme. We claim to be accepting, and by and large, we are. It’s when you see younger bands you realise that the punk community could be a lot more diverse. How many gig audiences are fairly homogeneous in their make-up? That evening, apart from the venue staff I knew no-one there (well, at least at the start), so where were all the Wycombe punks? They have their own facebook group, and although the venue makes huge efforts to get the word out via social media, it seems that punks don’t like new things. If I go to Hemel, or Guildford I see decent crowds, but they are of a certain age. 


16/06/23 Yesterday I and a few other volunteers helped pack up the Petri Dish in Aylesbury. It’s when you have to carry the boxes, that you really realise what goes into setting up and running a music venue. The things we take for granted, like being able to buy a drink, take a huge amount of organising - and money to set up. This venue used to be a charity shop, so everything had to be bought from scratch. Drinks, food, seats, tables, staging, the sound system, the lights; they all had to be sourced, purchased and installed. Then, sadly, it all had to be dismantled, sold or stored. Added to all this was the fact that this was also the home of the venue owners. So as well as the business side of it, there were the personal possessions of the family that had to be moved as well. It is truly amazing how much ‘stuff’ we accumulate in a short time, especially if space is not an issue. It was a horrible job, seeing a family’s hopes for the future being sent off to storage containers.

08/07/23 Friars Inn in Hemel delivered a real treat on Saturday. An all day punk festival with twelve bands over twelve hours. A marathon endurance event for those who managed to do the full day.


I got there at 2.00pm and left at 7.00pm, so I saw five bands for my £15, and I photographed three of them. Photos of Public Service Announcement, Plague Uk and the Dead Hombres are now incorporated in my main gallery.


The turnout was good and the crowd appreciative of the talent and hard work the bands put in. The landlord, Clint, and a few of his mates worked tirelessly over many months to make sure that we had a great day. Many thanks to all of them.


I have no idea if the event made money for the venue. I hope so, because Friars, like so many venues, is feeling the pain of forces outside their control (By the way, Fuck the Tories for their greed and incompetence) and is constantly balanced on a knife edge.


From a photographer's point of view Friars is fairly challenging. A white background covered with graffiti is my idea of a nightmare. Add a window right behind the artists and it becomes near impossible to achieve what I consider (possibly immodestly) to be my signature shots. As a wise person on the day pointed out, a black curtain at the back of the stage would have solved both the lighting problems and improved the sound.


Still, I took nearly a thousand photos and there are a couple of dozen that I like. In that respect it was the 40:1 failure to success ratio that I expect. Henri Cartier Bresson once said that the first 10 000 photos are your worst. In the digital age, I’d say it’s probably ten times that many!


Frank Turner once wrote about taking a toothbrush and spare T shirt to the pub. My version is the spare batteries and memory cards I take to gigs. If I can park nearby, there’s usually a spare camera (or two) left in the car - just in case.


I hardly ever need these ‘spares’, but you never know. I don’t try to photograph every band, nor get every shot. The three bands I shot on Saturday, I shot because, a) I love their sound, and b) they’re great people. In addition there is a connection. I’ve photographed Plague UK a number of times. Simon always comments on the photos  and asks before sharing or using my images, which is great. The Dead Hombres, likewise, and of course I’ve been (and soon will be again) a client of Traci’s at her tattoo studio. PSA are a great bunch of guys and we've developed a great connection since we first saw them at the Holroyd before the pandemic. 


When I set up this site, about 16 months ago, I would contact all the bands  performing at a gig and ask them if they’d like some photos. Many didn’t reply, which is fair enough. I might take one or two shots, but don't expect me to share them. Now, I don’t need to do this as much, but there is sometimes a level of expectation from bands who make assumptions that might be unfounded.


As I’ve said many times, if I’ve paid for my own ticket and I’m buying my own beer, I don’t own you a thing.


Wow - how things change. So, locally, we've lost Friars, but the Phoenix in Wycombe is back.  Utterly gutting to lose a great venue like Friars after only ten months of providing a brilliant venue for original music. Tomorrow, we'll be checking out the new revamped Phoenix, but my attention has been focused recently on the Wycombe Arts Centre. Their fantastic manager is booking some great bands. Some are Punk, some are covers, but some are more metal, and some are playing entirely their own material.

It's always great to get out and experience slightly different styles of music. This is the way we get to meet new people. From seeing Justin Sullivan solo gigs we've made contact with people we wouldn't ever see on the tradition punk circuit. This list is long, and I am so grateful to have met them all. Some have become friends and that's just amazing. The things I like may not be what you like, and that's fine. I'd only ask that people are at least open to different musical forms.  As I'm typing this I'm listening to a Laura Marling album. It's good, it really is.

On a related note, Nigel from the Dead Hombres (great band) made the point only yesterday that he and Traci are out supporting live music even when they are aren't playing themselves. Someone commented that while they used to be the same, it got boring seeing the same bands booked by the same promoters.  Yep. It does and if we want live music to continue, we need new bands, younger audiences and a greater mix of music.

I'm not arguing that older bands should throw in the towel, but we need new exciting bands as well. So, it was a brilliant evening down at the Holroyd the night when we went to see Voodoo Radio. To be fair, there were other bands playing, but it was interesting that as soon as Tony and Paige got kicked off the stage, all - and I do mean all - the younger members of the audience lost interest.

On a slightly negative note, I saw a promising band of teenagers recently. I was there to take photos for the organisers, but offered the band a shoot if they were interested. As they were under 18 I needed parental permission to do the shoot and that's where it got interesting. In a conversation with the lead singers' father he basically said that they would very much like to have the band photographed, but they wanted all the images and that I wouldn't be allowed use of any of them. It turns out that the lead singer has an exclusive contract with a modelling agency and the parents could not give permission for anyone else to take ANY professional images. At that point I walked away, removing all reference to the band from all of my social media. You have to feel sorry for the other members of the band who were, in my opinion, much better than their lead singer.

Lastly (well for now) the fantastic Any Minute No are supporting Wonk Unit in Swindon  on the 18th of November. The extremely kind Paul Dobson  has given us tickets so we'll be there at the Victoria down the front. Another great venue with lovely staff. 

08/03/24 So we start the year with more venues closing and risk adverse managers playing safe and falling back on cover and tribute bands. It's depressing and getting worse. Wonk Unit in Swindon had a fair crowd, but hardly sold out. We went to Margate to see the Headsticks and there were only 80 in the audience.

On a related note, in the village we live in, there is a planning notice in to convert a closed pub into a house. Naturally all the people who didn't go to the pub are now fuming that a beloved local drinking hole is going to be a rich person's home. Well, it's going to happen if you don't support local businesses. Due almost entirely to government greed and incompetence the costs of doing business have skyrocketed at exactly the same time people are poorer than they have been for years. While the rich have never been richer, the majority of people are on their knees and our corrupt government are actively working to distribute wealth to the already super rich.

Personally at the moment I'm contemplating just giving up. I plough considerable resources into what I do and I'm absolutely fine with working with bands and venues for free if it helps spread the love for the music. Recently, however, it's all been a bit too depressing. While, at the moment, I can afford to help, all to often people basically take the p*ss. People (in this case some bands and some venues) absolutely do not value things they do not pay for, but at the same time actually can't afford to pay. They expect (well, some do) things to magically happen, but as they don't have to shell out, place little value on those things. The result, inevitably is that people stop helping. 

Not so long ago, a young woman at a gig presented me with her camera and asked how it should be set up as she hadn't shot a gig before. While chatting it emerged that she was the 'official' photographer and was getting paid to shoot the gig by the promoter. When I talked to the promoter, he shrugged and said that as he  knew I'd be coming along and I'd shoot the gig for free, he had the cash to pay someone else. Well, cheers for that and good luck in the future. I may be a bit of a prima donna, but I'm not going to be exploited.



Shirley Manson’s (Garbage) comment about the loss of working class bands is particularly  telling, but should be placed in a wider context. (


In the UK we live in a poverty based economy. Let’s take the example of two people (over the age of 21) living together who are both on minimum wage and working 35 hours a week each. 


The Institute for Fiscal Studies provides a simple to use calculator to see  how each of us fit into the UK income distribution. ( Taking our hypothetical couple (and assuming council tax of £250 per month) the IFS figures place them in the 65th centile. In other words, two people living on the minimum wage are just about edging into the top third of all household incomes in the UK today.


Minimum wage, but earning more than two thirds of the working population. This is shocking!


Ask them if they feel rich.


With crushing prices, most people are struggling to keep a roof over their heads because we live in a society where most people are poor. Poverty saps the energy out of people.


For bands, the costs of living do not go away. They still have the bills the rest of the population have, but they also have substantial costs associated with their music. Equipment, hire of rehearsal and recording spaces. The simple requirement of getting equipment to venues is not without costs. 


And the time. The time to write, practice skills, rehearse as a band. Travelling time. Sound checks. Performance time. And that end of the night process of having to pack everything away so that it can be found for the next night!


Add these pressures to people who are already running flat out in the eye of the storm just to keep still and you can see what Manson means when she says that only the wealthy can break through in music.


Then there is the increased pressure on venues that are driving so many out of business. All costs are rising at the time customers are under  the same huge pressures themselves. Hard working people facing struggles of their own are less likely to go out for an evening.


To this almost perfect storm we should also add the very real feeling held by many that they should not have to pay to see bands at all. In almost every town, every weekend you can wander into pubs to see cover bands playing  and not pay a penny. If you hear a new band that you like, but don’t want to buy the album that cost the band  thousands to produce, it can always be found online.


Oh, let’s not forget that many venues aren’t interested in new music at all. When all it’s going to cost is the time to check a new band out, many will opt for the bands covering the same old singalong songs that their parents grew up with.


Talking of struggling working class bands, Manson ends her piece with, ‘Somebody in government should go and help them out, ‘cause this is not right, it’s abusive’. She’s right, of course, but this is an inevitable part of capitalism. The rich get richer, while the rest of us live in relative poverty. The reality is that you cannot have the insanely rich, without vast poverty. With a media owned by the rich, is it any wonder that as a society we punch down on those worse off than ourselves rather than holding the rich to account.


A sign of current government thinking is the cutting of funding to creative courses planned for next year as well as cuts to programmes designed to  help people from disadvantaged backgrounds to access any form of higher education. (,damage%20the%20country's%20cultural%20industries.) Arts simply do not matter to the Tory government. Anything that fills the spirit rather than a rich man's (sic) bank account is to be discouraged, unless of course it is arts for the already rich which is priced so that working people cannot attend them even if they wanted.


For the rest of us, well we have cover bands, tribute bands and spotify. If we can save up, then maybe the once a year trip to see Ed Sheeran or a festival. 


We do, however, have a vote. There is an election coming. We should be applying pressure on the opposition parties to end the current madness and (among so many other priorities)  ease the pressure on working people and particularly venues. Only then will the bands have a bit of breathing space to get out there, show what they can do and breathe a bit of life into what is a dire situation. With the current Government, not only is the patient dying, but they’re trying to find further ways to steal from his pockets. Unless you’re rich, of course.

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