A Deal Is A Deal -
I am writing this blog on behalf of artists everywhere.
(this blog is dedicated to The Eclipse in Montevallo, AL, The Breakfast Club Cafe/Billy Morris/Arcanum in Berea, OH, and The Box Social/ The Blue Owl in Sarasota, FL)
Let me start by giving a short explanation about the position in which my perspective is derived. I am blessed to be surrounded by great people on my team. This includes the label that signed me, the visual artist that works with me, the team of publicists working around the clock for my art, my attorney, and of course, the great musicians that have the patience and understanding to continue working and traveling with me. I have a strong passion for music and for allowing my voice to be heard on certain topics. I book shows to perform my art in front of people who enjoy it. Music is not a part of the service industry. I spend my days at a day job when I’m not touring, my afternoons booking shows, my evenings writing and recording. I have very little down time. Certainly not enough down time to renegotiate deals that I’ve already spent weeks negotiating.
You don’t have to like me. You don’t even have to like what I do. I have been shunned by people whom I thought were friends, solely because the music I released wasn’t deemed “hip” enough. I’ve been left in the dark by a venue/booker in my own hometown that I had a working relationship with and still have yet to hear back from him. No explanations. Every time I played his venue, I would bring at least 200 people. Not to mention, I spent hundreds of dollars putting ads in the local publications to promote my shows at his venue. Yet, he feels no obligation to explain why he won’t return a phone call or email after booking me for three years. I had a friend, for over a decade, act as a sounding board for my ideas. All he ever said was how much I sucked at writing until I wrote something he liked. Then he attempted to take credit for MY work. I told him to never contact me again. I trusted that fat son of a bitch and that’s how he treated me.
I share this with you to say that I don’t make music for these people. I make music for myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased when someone finds a connection to my art. I also hope that my music makes a positive impact in others’ lives. Bottom line, I do what I do because it’s who I am. I do this for myself.
The past couple of weeks have been difficult to survive. So difficult that I feel the need to document the events which have taken place. Over these two weeks we played six shows. The first two shows were great. Then we headed to Lexington, Kentucky. The sound guy (Brad) was our only issue with the place. He never acknowledged our existence until I forced him to give my band a sound check. We use an acoustic pump organ in the third song of the set which is extremely easy to mike. When the sound was not amplified, I inquired of the problem. There was no comment from the sound guy. The headliner walked back to the sound booth to find the Brad passed out from his recreational drug use. He was fired on the spot and a new sound guy was there in fifteen minutes. This reminded me of fat boy Calvin who USED to run sound for a local venue. He didn’t like that I had brought a band with me (he was expecting an acoustic guitar although my entire project was booked) and so he caused a scene because he was too fat and lazy to do his job. I was booked by a national celebrity to open for a national touring act. It was a big show for everyone. He proceeded to call me an asshole and then treated me like trash. The owners fired Calvin on the spot. Both of these venues know that artists should be treated well and both venues took care of a bad situation.
Back to the last two weeks: We returned home for a couple of days before heading to Berea, Ohio. During this time, I was informed that our neighborhood cat, that I had treated as my own and mentioned in my song “Wes Anderson”, had died. My heart broke. Also, my family lost a good friend during the time I was gone. This is also when The Eclipse decided that they could redesign our deal. Just to top things off, I broke a tooth on a nacho chip and came down with a fever and sinus infection.
By Monday morning, it was time to head back on the road. We left a day early so we wouldn’t have to make the entire trip at once and so we would be on time to the radio station. It started snowing on us in Clarksville, TN and didn’t let up until we got back to Birmingham four days later. We spent the night in a hotel somewhere in south Ohio ($). The next morning, we set out for the radio station in Berea. Keep in mind, my band and I were still sick but we had a deal with the station and with Billy Morris of the Breakfast Club Cafe. Thank goodness for the radio station or the $200 in gas and $ in hotel would have been all for nothing. Not to mention, the twelve + hours we spent on the road traveling and the time away from our families (see #2 The Breakfast Club Cafe below for details of what happened once we arrived at the venue). Luckily, we knew someone living in Cleveland and he offered us a free place to sleep. The next morning we headed for Chicago.
We played Chicago the next night and fortunately had a free place to stay. Thank goodness because the toll roads were driving me to bankruptcy! We woke the next morning to find out that my wife had been attacked by an animal and needed medical attention. Because I spend my time touring, I was unable to be there for her. My fever was still spiking and I had a twelve hour drive ahead of me. We made it back to Birmingham around 11pm. I was glad to be home.
These are not complaints. I choose this lifestyle because of my deep and everlasting love for the art of music. I believe art is essential for humans to sustain progress. The culture of a people is far more important, in the big picture, than the charts and graphs of Corporate America. Music/art helps us all enjoy the the good times a little more and helps us survive our times of great despair. We need music/art more than any of us truly understand.
Here is a quick recap of what we went through in order not to break a deal:
my buddy, the neighborhood cat, died
A family friend died
I broke a tooth
I broke my phone
We were sick/running fever
I have to work multiple jobs so I can tour (a decision that I make everyday, voluntarily)
We spent 500+ dollars
traveled over 1200 miles
spent time away from family
My wife was injured while away
Continued to book a tour while on the road
We had a spot on radio/tv in Berea, OH to promote
We had press in Chicago to promote
I took my band mate away from his life and loved ones
I damaged the car/trailer
We spent 24 hours on the road
I had to buy two new tires for our safety
... and let us not forget the hours I spent booking the shows
What has happened to humanity?
If you are mentioned below, I feel nothing for you. If you wish to contact me, Don’t. I will not remove this post under any condition. Your actions have been noted and now they will be aired out for everyone to see. If I were you, and I’m glad I’m not, I would think about how I treat bands, costumers, and acquaintances. Actions matter. Most people who have dealt with me in the past know that I am respectful of others and treat people the way I expect to be treated. I have not felt the need before now to openly discuss my business. If you have been named in this blog, it is because you deserve to be.
I try to treat people with respect and that’s all I ask in return. The venue has never made the artist. A venue is just a place to plug in and perform. If you are a venue booking bands, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Bands do tell other bands their experiences. If you mistreat a band, it will get out. Whether it be on Facebook or any other social media. You can’t hide your actions no matter how embarrassing the outcome (this comment is directed towards: The Eclipse, The Breakfast Club Cafe, The Box Social/The Blue Owl).
1. The Eclipse - Montevallo, AL
Over the course of the last two years, I’ve played this venue a number of times. I’ve been interviewed by the local publications and have gone out of my way to bring people to the place. I have had a guarantee EVERY time I’ve played there. The first few times I was booked, I even sent FREE copies of my album to the venue to pass out to customers. I ALWAYS sent posters and visited the campus a couple of times to promote the show. The venue did nothing to promote except hang the posters (which is unfortunately more than I can say for some venues). The booker (who guaranteed my shows and was recently let go) was the ONLY one with connections to The Eclipse who helped promote (Thank you for your help Brook).
In late December, they booked me for March 25, 2011. Because of my upcoming schedule, I could not come back for the same guarantee. They decided to book me with a bigger guarantee. It was a fair price on ANY level. I budgeted the next few months with this money in mind. Because I don’t have a team of people helping me book, I must book several months in advance. Most venues want to string artists along without understanding what all is involved. This was never the case with the former booker of The Eclipse.
I received an email on February 5th from the new booker of the venue stating that they were having to renegotiate the deals the former booker had made. That is not good business. Remember City Stages? Attached was the new agreement that wouldn’t have even covered our gas money. When I shared my frustration, it was lost in translation. So, I posted the ordeal on Facebook to share with other bands. Needless to say, The Eclipse did not like that at all. The co-owner, who happens to be a “professor in philosophy,” emailed me asking that I don’t continue telling people of the situation. Well, this is something he should have thought about before breaking the deal. He even mentioned that he thought I had handled the situation with little class. Go figure! FYI: Breaking a business deal shows a lot of class, Michael. My comments on my own facebook page are accurate and remain posted in case anyone wants to read them.
I would have understood their position if the price had been unfair or even unreasonable. But for three hours of my time, the price that I agreed to was extremely kind and fair. I WAS a fan of the venue until this ordeal. In order for me to continue performing there, I just needed the paycheck to make sense. The deal they broke was the least amount I could have taken. Had I thought that they would have done their job in promoting, maybe (and that’s a BIG maybe) I would have entertained less, but not too much less, considering their past attempts of promoting.
Side note- I drove to Oklahoma City last year for ONE show because I had a deal with them. Every other show on that leg had fallen through, but because a deal is a deal, I held up my end of the bargain. And I lost money doing it. But I did what I said I would do.
I feel sorry for the town of Montevallo because this is the one venue that bands play. Montevallo is a great town with wonderful people. I hope that a new venue pops up soon. You must understand that if the one venue you have treats bands poorly, it reflects poorly on the city. I hold no grudges towards Montevallo and would come back if there were any other place to play besides The Eclipse.
2. The Breakfast Club Cafe/ Billy Morris/ Arcanum - Berea, OH
This venue confirmed on January 7 for us to perform there on February 8. This was after five weeks of negotiating a date. Everything was set and they had even put together a local act to perform with us. I had spoken to Arcanum (booker) over the phone to discuss payment in mid- January. Everything was a go. Nesting has been receiving airplay on the college radio station in Berea and has even charted in their top 30 . I saw this as a great opportunity to promote my show. The girl in charge of promotions for the station went out of her way to set up a radio/TV performance and interview in order to help promote. Thank you Markanne for your kindness and hospitality!
Because other shows had fallen through (stressful for someone who spends his days booking) we drove straight to Berea from Birmingham (12 hours and $200 in gas). A deal is a deal. We made it to Berea in time for our interview/performance at the radio station. Once we wrapped up there, we headed to the venue. It was roughly 6pm. When we showed up, the lights were off and the doors were locked. The hours of operation were 8am-9pm (as was stated on the door). We had not been contacted about them canceling the show. I emailed the owner (Billy Morris) and attempted to call the venue. The hours of operation which were stated on their answering machine were 8am-10pm. They clearly should have been opened. I panicked because we had come such a long distance to play this show. Finally, after a couple of hours, Arcanum called my cell. He said that he was under the weather and had not gone into work that day. He had no explanation for why Billy had closed the shop down nor did he seem to care. (I have 7 weeks of emails to prove all of this and will post them if necessary)
He offered to come down and open the doors so we could play. The problem was that the venue hadn’t promoted at all. Not one poster was in the window. They didn’t even put the show on their website calendar. So, I saw no point in performing my art in a place with such little respect for my time. Also, had we played, those assholes would have made more money than either act.
The next day I learned that the local artist hadn’t gotten notice of cancellation either. He ended up standing outside the venue in three feet of snow turning the audience away. The venue had not attempted to contact either one of us about closing. So my band mate wrote a note on their facebook page asking for an explanation. Many people commented on the page about trying to come to the show. Everyone was pissed. The venue deleted the comments in hopes of containing the issue. They were unsuccessful. People from all over Berea had noticed and were commenting on their facebook page. Even comments asking why they were deleting comments. Two days later the venue offered a half-ass apology but by now was far too late to matter. War had been declared. Comments continued to be posted about how unfair it was to treat, not only a local artist, but a touring artist with such disrespect. A day later, Billy Morris commented that they were closing down the venue. Good riddance!
Side note- He owns another venue around the Cleveland area as well... BOYCOTT that piece shit.
Billy Morris/Arcanum - don’t feel like you should apologize for shutting your doors... or for not communicating to the bands you booked... no one cares about your pathetic attempt to run a business. I wish you the worst and if I ever meet you face to face, I am going to break your fucking skull.
3. The Box Social (now called The Blue Owl) - Sarasota, FL
This is a small venue owned by a young and not so business savvy girl that attempted to fuck me out of our deal. This event happened in May 2010. I was to receive a split of the door. The posters that were hanging stated that the door charge was set at $7. Four bands were on the bill. We were set to play third.
When the show began, the door guy had yet to show up. There was already a nice size crowd in attendance. I asked the bartender where the door guy was and why he hadn’t set up the entry table. He had no answer but shared with me his attitude that he wore with sheepish pride. Twenty minutes later, I had him call the owner after pleading with him to do so. She swore that she would take care of it. By the time the second act began, there was still no door guy. Most of the crowd was there by this point. I had the bartender contact the owner again. She swore she would take care of it. Five minutes before we were to go on, the door guy showed up. There were 150+ people that had not been charged (estimated profit lossed= $1,050). I announced over the microphone what was happening. The crowd applauded my decision to walk and then yelled at the employs of the venue for their blatant disrespect of a touring artist. I packed up my stuff and left.
The venue later tried to blame me for them not having a reliable door man. The nerve. The bartender even called my cell to pick a fight. Why would I waste my time fighting. Are we twelve? I had done a radio spot and promoted the show for weeks prior. We had airplay in Sarasota and south Florida. The crowd had come out to listen to my art. The venue had backed me into a corner and left me with no choice. I was not going to let them exploit me or my talents. I strongly urge bands to boycott these people as well. They are not worthy of your art nor of your business.
Over the course of three years, I have played over 200 venues. I have only mentioned three venues by name in this blog. That should tell you something about how I do business. Most of the time, touring is a pleasure. Most of the venues I deal with are extremely hospitable, professional, and understand that artists should be paid to perform. I mention these three because, not only was I disrespected as an artist, I was disrespected as a human being.
Three points to be made:
1. If I had made a deal and broke it, I would have paid the consequences
2. If you can’t treat bands with respect, maybe you shouldn’t be booking bands
3. Just because other bands are fine with you redesigning their deals, that doesn’t make what you’re doing right or legal (contracts, verbal or written, are binding)
“To open a shop is easy, to keep it open is an art”