Q&A: The Beat Surrender
Blog by Louise Dodgson under Media
Kevin Trotter is Editor of the Beat Surrender website and promoter for nights at a bevy of Leeds venues including The Northern Monkey, The Well and Milo.
What do you look / listen for when deciding to put a band on?
It really does vary, but after some early mistakes in promoting I decided to only put on and work with bands I like in some way. It doesn't always have to be one of my favorite genres of music, but the band or artists at least have to have something about them that I think people will either enjoy seeing live, tick an emotional box with me or be something I'd want to listen to at home and am interested to see in the live arena.
I'm not massively into rock music or heavy metal, but I do occasionally put the odd night on like that because there are a core group of local bands in that field who I've worked with in the past, got on well with, enjoyed their live show and can see some potential in.
What’s the best thing a band can do to get your attention?
Friendly, professional communication that contains all the info required (links to hear music, ways to contact the band, rough availability of dates, where they are from etc) goes a long way to help. With the website and the gig promotion I get around 250 to 300 emails a day and it's amazing how many bands contact you asking for a gig but forget to tell you who the band is or give you any way to listen to them.
What’s the worst thing a band can do to get your attention?
The opposite of everything I've just said, but bands can get your attention for the wrong reasons. If I have a bad experience with a band because of their attitude or something they've done on the night that could potentially cause me a problem with one of the venues that I'm using, then I'm not going to book them again. If they do that often enough in a city or area they will quickly find that they run out of decent promoters to play for, especially in a close-knit musical community like Leeds.
What advice would you give to bands trying to make it?
Believe in yourselves to start with. When you first start out nobody else is likely to (outside your Mum and Dad and a few friends). Work hard and don't expect success over night. Don't look for shortcuts to the big time by signing up to an unsigned competition that offers you the earth but in reality is going to drain your time and your friends’ money while delivering nothing for the band.
Finding your own sound is important; a lot of bands especially young ones are too keen to sound like a big band around at the moment (the Arctic Monkeys are a prime example of one that a lot of young bands aspire to). Nothing wrong with being influenced by whoever, but eventually if you want to make any progress, you need to find your own sound that you are comfortable with.
Beyond that just play play play...it's rare for a band to get worse the more they practice and play live!
Any pet hates that bands can sometimes do? i.e. turning up late for soundcheck
Turning up late is bad, not turning up at all or cancelling at late notice for a less than believable, or no good reason is something that really winds me up.
Booking a date well in advance and then booking other dates in the same city really close to that date isn't likely to work out well for any of the promoters involved or the band themselves. Promoters probably have a harder job than people imagine in putting on a gig with the venues, the bands, the gig goers all relying on you to make nights work and provide the best possible experience for everybody that you can.
What do you love about the music scene in Leeds and your job?
From talking to bands and promoters outside of the city, it feels like we are really lucky in the community spirit we have in the Leeds music scene. People are generally very willing to work together, help each other out and very supportive of what each person is trying to do; be it from a band, a venue, a label, the media in Leeds or the promoters. A lot of other cities and towns sound very insular and sealed off from each other as they see everyone as potential competition...I don't get so much of that feeling in Leeds.
As far as what do I enjoy most about my job, well from the website perspective, being able to give positive coverage to bands I really like; be they a big international band or an unsigned band who are just staring out is a big thing for me. The free gigs and CDs don't go amiss that me and the review team get either! I've been introduced to a lot of music that way that I probably wouldn't have stumbled on otherwise.
Promoting wise there are probably two things. The first is seeing a young band who you've given one of their first ever gigs to (maybe even their first) when hardly anybody else would put them on and you see them getting better and more polished every time they play. The second is when everything just comes together perfectly - the bands have loved the night, the venues are beaming as it's been busy, the crowd have been really into the music and loved the bands and the atmosphere of the venue. That really does make up for any bad times....
Any favourite bands around Leeds at the moment?
Oh god there are so many but I'll give it a good go! Soul Circus, Club Smith, Blood Oranges, Ellen & The Escapades, Cowtown, Chickenhawk, South View Juniors, James Owen Fender, Matt Bentley, Last Night's TV, Insect Guide, Cyanide Pills, Talk To Angels, The Despondents, Mr Gary C, The Little Black Hearts, Tigers That Talked, Arthur Rigby & The Baskervylles. Apologies to anyone I've missed off!
The Beat Surrender website
The Beat Surrender, Leeds, Promotion, Kevin Trotter, Gigs, PR