I truly believe that one of the best ways to really succeed in the music business is to understand the perspective of all of the people you will work with. That’s part of the reason that I started the Featured Artist section, and that’s why today I’m posting an interview I recently did with Gene Pietragallo of Down Right Destructive Promotions. They are a small group of four guys who are passionate about what they do. What caught my attention most about them is that they care more about putting on a good show and helping out the bands than they do about forcing everyone to sell pre-sale and making tons of money.
Q: How did you guys into the booking/promotion business?
I’ve been going to shows for what seems like forever, (about five years) and I noticed that my hometown was dead when it came to any kind of music scene. There was nothing happening for a very long period of time. They host Coachella Fest, Stagecoach, and other festivals around my city, they even hosted The Big 4 last April, but there wasn’t a place for people to come and enjoy any kind of scene like Hardcore, Metal, Indie, Acoustic, etc. There was only one guy in town hosting shows – My friend, Josh, who runs Insane Panic Productions. I went to (and played) a few of his shows and eventually started doing sound for every show. This was just about the time that I started up Down Right Destructive. Before long I started booking at venues more than four hours away from me.
Q: What kinds of music do you handle? How do you decide what musicians to promote or book?
We handle a lot of Hardcore/Deathcore/Metal because it’s our style and the music we all grew up loving. I know heavy music is only a small portion of music in the world, but there are so many great bands and solo artists out there making some of the best music out there. I choose to promote heavy music because it’s what I feel like doing. That’s what’s awesome about all of this, it’s my company and I can promote whatever kind of music I feel like.
When I look for a band to book I don’t just find bands that are down to do presale. That’s some bullshit! So many booking agents do that now and it pisses me off. Look for talent! I know it’s hard to come up with cash to pay headliners, but don’t make bands who barely have a fan base do 40 presale. That’s just ridiculous and unfair.
When I book and promote I have bands submit their music and live videos of themselves playing past shows before I even consider putting them on a show. So far I’ve found some of the coolest up and coming bands just from having them submit their music to me.
Q: What kind of promotion do you do? How do you help draw an audience?
I do everything I can from promotion online to putting bands on compilation CD’s and handing those out outside of venues. Sometimes I’ll even sell bands merch for them and give them 100% of the profits. Promoting isn’t very complicated if you have a good group of people following you. I’ll go as far as I can to help a band draw an audience if that band shows me they’re serious and shows me some support as well. I can draw a crowd easily. My Facebook page has a lot of people that actually like the music I post. So whenever I post that there is a new band I can get them some recognition. If you work together with a band to help them promote their music, the possibilities are endless. It’s a bit harder when the band you’re promoting does nothing and expects you to do everything.
Q: What tools and methods do you find to be the most useful ways to promote? What kind of things can musicians do themselves to help out?
The best tools you can use to promote are sitting right in front of you. YOUR COMPUTER! Use that thing to your advantage! There were some days where I would get bands up to 200 new fans a day. I didn’t spam their music around either! I really shared their music to everybody I knew who would appreciate it.
As for bands helping themselves, the best advice I can give them is to record the highest quality you can. I can’t even tell you how many bands contact me with songs recorded on IPods. It’s really hard to promote something that nobody will listen to.
Q: A lot of musicians have a handful of horror stories about dealing with promotion and booking companies. What is it like coming from the other side? What are the most harmful things a band can do? The most helpful?
Hahaha! The most harmful things a band can do? I’ve never had a problem with any band before; I do nothing but help out. All I ask is that if I help your band that you share my name around a bit.
I have seen some pretty ridiculous arguments between bands and other promoters though. I once saw a band start a petition and protest with signs against a bigger booking agentThe person who schedules shows for a venue. They can be an employee of the venue, or someone who works independent of the venue. from LA once. It was hilarious! The best things a band can do are say, “Thank you” and play a killer show. That’s what it’s all about. I love booking a band and seeing them completely destroy the stage.
Q: How do you feel about presale? When do you feel it’s appropriate? How do you choose whether presale is required of a band?
Presale is necessary when you want to pay bigger bands to come and headline. The venue needs to stay open and headliners need to get paid!
I have seen some ridiculous presale where bands end up paying $300 out of pocket. My advice for presale is that if you don’t think you can sell half of your presale without struggle, don’t play. Even if it’s a huge headliner. There will be other shows.
I usually start every band off at the same amount of presale (20-25 tickets) then when they play more shows I’ll lower it down until they can just start playing for free.
Q: What makes a show successful? What makes it a failure?
A successful show depends on the crowd and obviously having some good bands on the line up. I’ve seen so many shows where people are pumped right from the start, but I’ve also seen many shows where people just stand in the back until somebody else starts to get into the show.
One thing I can’t stand is seeing a crowd that does nothing all night. It makes me want to punch things.
It’s not uncommon to find venues that seem to be clueless as to how to put on a good show. They’ll mix and match bands that don’t make a logical lineup, or do almost nothing to promote the show. How do you determine where to book shows? How do you choose the lineup?
Venues around my area don’t even know what a show is. They combine Indie with Hardcore, Rap with Acoustic, and pretty much any weird combination of genres you can come up with. My point of view is that it’s really a pain in the ass to get a line up sometimes and some shows end up very bad. Sometimes its luck and sometimes it’s how well you promote. The harder you promote and work on a show the better it’s going to be and the more luck you’ll have for a bigger audience.
I choose a line up by getting 6-10 bands that are similar in genre and usually I put one or two bands that are completely different to change it up. Maybe a couple acoustic acts at the end or in the middle while another band is setting up. Always…ALWAYS! Listen to a band before you book them.
Q: What kind of competition do you face being located in Southern California? Do bookers/promoters play nice with one another?
I don’t look at other booking agents or promoters as competition. Sure it’s kind of lucky if you get a venue who wants you to book full time. Shit that’s the best job ever! The only competition is finding a venue, then after that just be happy you’re booking and make friends. Too many booking agents try to expand too quickly and end up unorganized.
Q: What suggestions and words of wisdom do you have for musicians?
My best advice I can give is to practice and be dedicated. Book as often as possible. That’s the best way to promote yourselves. If you get haters, fuck them! Do your own thing and have fun with it. Just sound good and don’t be cocky. Also get the best recordings you can. Look around for deals and prices. Some studios are very affordable!
Down Right Destructive Promotions is based in Southern California, but are ever expanding. If you’re interested in working with them, the best way to get ahold of them is to E-mail Gene Pietragallo. You can also connect with them on Facebook and YouTube.