Sustainable gigs (or, What we learned from eating muffins at Cinnamon... ), By Steve

For more or less all of Whalebone's existence the idea of 'sustainability' has been part of our landscape, though not necessarily because of any high minded principles. We played some of our earliest gigs at Cinnamon, a funky arts cafe run (in those far off days anyway) by fiddler Sarah. Cinnamon was firmly rooted in the concept of using Fairtrade and organic ingredients, so while we were working our way through a mountain of organic muffins post gig (well, there wasn't a TV to throw out of the window) there were also benefits both for the farmers who produced the raw ingredients and the soil the food was grown in - a win-win-win situation (though as far as we were concerned, the main issue was the muffins... and those flapjacks with all the seeds in, food of the Gods...)

We've also been enthusiastic users of Taylor guitars, using them on every gig and recording we've ever done from day one. Taylor are a company committed not only to using timber from sustainable sources but also to giving the workers in the timber industry a better deal. So, while we love Taylor guitars for their gorgeous tone and looks we can also feel good about the ethics behind their creation - once again, everyone wins.



So... what's this got to do with gigging? Well, we realised a while ago that a 'take the money and run' policy was not going to benefit us in the long term. We'd heard many lurid tales, including those about so called 'brilliant' agents who manage to get astronomical fees for their clients, negotiating two or three times the going rate at venues. Good news for the artist, yes? Maybe not... The trouble with this sort of deal is that you can only really pull it off once - the venue more than likely loses money, resulting at best a loss of any return bookings for the artist and at worst a decision by the venue to give up on live music altogether. So, a few good paydays later, the artist's work starts to dry up as the agent runs out of venues to pull the trick on...

After a lot of time spent looking at which methods have worked for us in the past, (and maybe more importantly trying to figure out why we've sometimes fallen flat on our faces,) we've come to a simple conclusion; Rather than negotiating hard for a fee that's unrealistic (and incidentally making the venue feel bad about you before you've even arrived,) we now work in partnership with venues and concert promoters, with both the venue and ourselves having a stake in the outcome of the gig.

Taking this approach means the promoters are keen to make the concert a success, which results in better promotion locally, which in turn results in better attendance, making both the venue and ourselves happy. We honour our side of the deal by working our 'taters off to give the audience a memorable and entertaining evening, and hopefully the audience do their bit too by applauding, heckling, and when they're not doing either of those things, spending money at the bar. Result? The audience leaves with a smile, the venue makes a profit and we have a great gig. This all-round happy outcome makes everyone feel enthusiastic about doing it all again, so we get an invitation to return in the future.

And there you have it. Sustainable gigging. A win-win-win situation. Just like the muffins at Cinnamon...

Whalebone Muffin

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