Q – Why does Krakatoa apply a radius clause in respect of concert bookings?
How many local grassroots music venues are there, putting on how many paid gigs per week, featuring how many local acts playing their own original compositions, for how many weeks each year?
Calculating this will arrive at somewhere in the region of 1,000-1,200 slots per year. Sufficient to enable 80-100 local acts to each perform locally ~12x per year, with many acts performing more or less often, depending on their individual circumstances.
At Krakatoa we believe that touring is conducive to a healthy music scene, so subtracting touring bands along with Magma, Eruption, and the occasional tribute show from our calendar leaves us with around 180 paid slots open each year for local grassroots acts. In order to give everyone as fair a shake as possible, we try to limit our bookings to a maximum of 3 per artist, and we impose a 2 mile radius clause for one month either side of the booking. That still enables any artist we’ve booked to play 3 gigs in Aberdeen city centre within the space of 2 months, so it’s not a huge ask given the limitations on slots available in Aberdeen.
Provided an artist is performing in Aberdeen city centre 13x a year or less in the space of a year, then they’ll easily be able to accommodate a gig (or three) at Krakatoa, without being remotely impacted by our radius clause. If an artist is already playing locally more than 13x or more a year in Aberdeen city centre, then they probably don’t need a gig here anyway. It’s not like we’re forcing anyone to play our venue, and the radius clause doesn’t prevent anyone playing 2 miles away from Krakatoa, which isn’t very far.
As a non-profit, we’re committed to paying over the entirety of our admission receipts to the artists. Spacing performances out helps to ensure larger audiences, making each concert as lucrative as possible for the artists involved. A capacity concert here would typically see around £1,000 being split commensurately between 4 bands, and we aim to host as many of those as possible. The radius clause helps to achieve that.
We appreciate that there are those who do not believe there should be any restrictions attached to our bookings. In fact there are even some who appear to believe that we should exercise no control over our bookings whatsoever and acquiesce to demand… although it’s unclear how this would work in practice short of operating an open stage every night… but that would all be fine if we didn’t have to worry about commercial realities like being busy enough to pay the artists, cover the overheads, and keep a roof over our heads and food on the table.
There are lots of empty premises around Aberdeen, and anyone who’s confident in their ability to run a grassroots music venue can open one on Union Street and not even have have to pay any business rates for the first two years. We’d welcome this since more venues help create more slots, more slots mean more opportunities, and more opportunities encourage more people to take up music… helping to build a larger and more diverse local music scene.
But let’s not pretend this is easy. A quick gander at the Music Venue Trust’s 2023 report on the state of our industry will inform you that it’s far from easy:
So, bearing all that in mind, the best solution to maximising payments for artists, would be for venues and promoters to get together and agree to implement the following measures (please feel free to tag them if you agree that these points would be beneficial):
1. Impose a reasonable admission charge for every grassroots concert with an agreed minimum level;
2. Endeavour to feature a touring artist on every bill… because we kid you not Royston Vasey is not a healthy rolemodel for an increasingly cosmopolitan city like ours;
3. Venues to commit to paying the show costs from the bar, leaving the door to be distributed between the artists and/or independent promoter. That’s the fairest and most transparent arrangement, considered by some to be best practice, so lets make it our local industry standard;
4. Participate together in a shared online booking calendar in respect of local artists. Then we could all endeavour to space out bookings and genres as evenly as possible, in order to maximise attendances and give everyone a fair shake. Ideally give the artists access to this, so they can list the dates they are available to make it easier for them to secure bookings – the technology exists;
5. A no-compete arrangement whereby we all agree to act in good faith and refrain from scenarios that lead to artists cancelling their bookings to play at competing venues.
Implementing this would enable artists, promoters, and venues to optimise their schedules without any need for the hassles of radius clauses.
We’d very much like for this to happen, because we firmly believe that such measures would result in a thriving grassroots music scene that’s also more supportive of touring. Capitalism with its penchant for a destructive race to the bottom is not remotely conducive to culture. Even a blind monkey with a marble up its butt can see that cooperation would work out far better for everyone involved, so perhaps its time to give this go?
If you are a promoter or someone involved in a local venue, who’d like to discuss this, then please do get in touch: email@example.com
If you send us any queries on this, then we’ll post then here along with the answers.
Q – How does Krakatoa’s policy of offering free entry before a cut off time impact on admission receipts?
A – That’s a fair question!
We track the attendance/performance of every concert, and fine tune stuff like the cut off point and admission charge accordingly in order arrive at an optimal outcome. We do this because as a non-profit our objective is to maximise admission receipts rather than bar takings.
We did try operating a hard cut off for a period, but found that actually diminished the admission receipts rather than enhancing them. Although you’ll typically see 25-30 people in the room prior to doors, around half of those will be the performers themselves (who are of course exempt), and the rest will tend to consist of teatime drinkers (who aren’t there for the gig and mostly plan on leaving once it gets loud), a few lost souls who genuinely can’t afford the entry fee, and perhaps one or two arseholes who are simply too mean to extract door tax from and aren’t worth the trouble.
We time the cut off so that it’s early enough that usually no one else can be arsed taking advantage of the free entry. Having a little crowd there encourages those who arrive just after that door charge starts, to pay, since they won’t be walking into an empty room. We also track the number of people who are inside prior to the cut off every week, in order ensure that we are optimising the timing.
If we reckon a gig is likely to sell out, then we don’t advertise free entry, and instead impose a hard sweep, where everyone is asked to pay and those that don’t aren’t wrist-banded, can’t buy any more drinks, and are made to leave after drinking up.
If we get caught by surprise and for some reason a lot of people who likely would have paid arrive early (just because they like being in Krakatoa or whatever), then we run a soft sweep where we go round and ask them to pay anyway, and most of them do either because they aren’t cognisant that it’s free entry, or because they want to pay to support the bands they came to see.
Where there aren’t many people in the room early, and the attendance is sparse and mostly just made up of teatime regulars… but those who are there particularly enjoy the show and stay in the venue longer than they usually would… then Krakatoa contributes admission receipts on their behalf out of the extra bar surplus their drinking has generated. Occasionally a teatime regular will also pay on the way out, if they particularly enjoyed the show.
You’ll also notice that once the door charge is in effect we’ll ask attendees who they’ve come to see, with one of the options being “no preference”. While we don’t pay precisely according to preference as that can lead to massively skewed outcomes, it is used to weight the payments to achieve a fair outcome.
Apologies for such a long answer but it’s a fine art and wanted to be as transparent as possible.