Hardcore Warrior talks to a Guy on a Soap Box
January 18, 2011
I know what you're thinking. You're probably thinking, “Oh hey, my favourite emotionally crippled wanna-be writer has another article out! His life is a total wreck and its funny when he talks about it. Oh how his tears fill me with mirth! Cry for me, Benjamin, cry for me that I may laugh!” Well, I have news for you. Today I'm not sad, today instead of spending my night the way I usually do (which is listening to Tom Waits by myself while crying and apologizing to a picture of my mother) I went out to Mikado's with a friend! You hear that? I have a social life! I'm not a completely miserable shut in! At least not at the moment. I'm sitting down with Justin Weaver, also known as Hardcore Warrior, who runs Breakthrough productions and we're having a conversation about what he does, how he does it and how much sweet sweet money comes rolling in (here's a hint, its not much!) He's been active in the local music scene for quite some time now. This guy is one of the most upbeat and optimistic people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting and at the very least one has to admire the energy he puts into what he does, especially considering that he does this in addition to working full time and having a girlfriend. What follows is a series of questions and some slightly paraphrased answers by Justin. I wish I could type fast enough to get what he said down verbatim but I can't and I lack a tape recorder so you guys are just gonna have to deal with the fact that I'm paraphrasing a little.
What got you started with Break Through Productions?
Back in 2005 I was in a metal band. I wanted to get out there so I started booking my own shows. Once bigger bands started recognizing my potential as a promoter they started booking through me. Any day of the week is a good day for a show if you promote the show properly. No right or wrong, just book a show and get the word out! What defines a tour package is band's popularity. Seen band's guarantees go from the low hundreds to the high thousands.
Sometimes you lose money, sometimes you make money. When you book a show you take a risk. Each show is risk taking and its a lot of work. You have to work hard, you can't just sit around and let facebook hold your hand.
When you promote a show, what do you mean, like what do you actually do?
Ask local bands to sell tickets and guarantee them that they will get a cut out of every ticket sold. I print posters and put them around the schools, street poles, various stores in windows, various bands are willing to hand out flyers. Its pretty much all by hand and word of mouth because to pay someone for advertising just isn't right. If you have packing tape and a poster you tape it around a telephone pole and bam, there you go.
How do you build a relationship with the venue owners?
Basically just tell them, “Here's a show I wanna book,” and present the idea in a professional manner and convince them that the bar will benefit from this. Communication with venues is key to a good relationship. Without a venue its a lost cause unless you want to stick to basement shows.
What do you require from a band before you can begin getting a show set up?
I usually think, “can these bands draw enough from the area that will make it worth it?” I have to check how popular they really are around here. It depends on price and how well known they are around here. If they're from around here and they can convince me that they can bring people out. You gotta work your hardest. You gotta put your heart and your soul into every show you play.
What do you look for in a venue?
Price. Size, you don't want to host a show at a venue that can only hold 40 people. One of my first shows got way out of control because I didn't expect so many people to show up. Ideally I want a place that doesn't cost too much. You have to factor in the bartender, the security guard and a sound guy for that night but a lot of the other charges just aren't worth it. I'm thankful Mikado's and Mansion House are my two main venues right now. It usually works out for me pretty well because I already have a great relationship with the two venues and I already know a lot of the people that book through them. Because I used to be in a band myself people know I'm out there to help people, I'm not just here to make a name for myself, I want to help out the local music scene just as much as the next guy.
How do you get people out to shows?
Honestly, its always been a tricky thing for me.
It all boils down to politics in this area. People seem to have forgotten that a show is about fun and that's the number one main thing. Who cares if your girlfriend dumped you that night or if your best friend jerked off in the bathroom and didn't invite ya? You gotta come out and have a good time! People need to start coming out to shows and appreciating the music. A lot of people go to shows just because they want to support the scene, which is great but if you wanna support the scene there's more to it than just going to shows, you gotta go for it! You gotta get involved! Why do you think S.C.E.N.E. fest calls for so many volunteers?
Steve Stumble and Jen Anderson, the two co-founders of S.C.E.N.E. Fest are two of the most amazing people I know. They've done such a good job of running it so far.
How is the revenue from ticket sales divided up?
Depends on how well the bands wanna promote themselves and bring people out. Depends on how popular overall the show really is. Once I break even with the venue I start paying the bands. I gotta cover my costs before I pay anyone anything else.
So basically if you want to make money by bringing your band to a show you have a lot of promotion work to do?
Yep. There is no such thing as too much promotion. You have to be out there handing out flyers and telling friends.
What is the most difficult part of the whole process?
Not seeing results! Nobody wants to lose money with a show. There is such thing as breaking even and making cash, but if you don't then you just feel like crap at the end of the day.
What services do you wish were available that you believe would make it easier for the local music scene to flourish?
A [good] street team is one of the biggest things. You get a bunch of people from different high schools and colleges who want to get into the show for free and there's your street team right there. You gotta get all your bases covered with the different crowds.
So it seems like the big thing is grass-roots style campaigning.
Yep. Honestly, if you want to promote anything its a real do-it yourself kinda deal. DIY is the best thing out there.
Its very political sounding. How political does it get?
It can get political because you get arguments about what's good and what's bad, what's important in the music industry. Life should be more laid back and easy. Instead of having to complicate yourself with questions. It should be about the music, not about politics or who likes who.
Beer tickets or cash?
Both if possible! But honestly, you can do everything with cash. Depends on the venue.
That's all I've got, this things is too long already. Let's go get h*gh!
Justin Weaver has been putting on shows in the Niagara region with Breakthrough Productions for quite some time now and specializes in metal and metalcore. If you want to get your band out there or have any questions at all regarding the mechanics of getting yourself out there you can get a hold of him via facebook as Justin Weaver or through email at email@example.com.
- Ben Krawec -