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Fightback: Grassroots Promoter

A year after its launch, Music Venue Trust is making a call out for new partners and sponsors to take forward its successful Fightback: Grassroots Promoter initiative. The programme helps young women take their first steps into promoting live music, providing them with the financing, tools and support they need to bring together their first event.

In March 2018 MVT, in partnership with MusicPlanet Live, launched Fightback: Grassroots Promoter which offered a package of resources, mentoring and financial underwriting to encourage more women into a field in which they are underrepresented. One year on, the scheme has been hugely positive, while also flagging up some ongoing challenges to the industry, not least how to continue the project and what follow-on might be developed for those promoters who completed the training and put on their first show.

In the past couple of years there has been a lot of discussion of the need to offer more opportunities for female artists. Alongside this, a change in the make-up of the bookers and promoters of live music events is needed to ensure that the full diversity of music in the UK is represented and shared with audiences. Toencourage young women to give promoting a go FB:GP initially offered 100 under 25s the chance to sign up to the project, receive the training pack, be assigned a mentor and work towards promoting a gig to raise money for Music Venue Trust’s Emergency Response Service which offers free expert advice to venues in peril. The response to the call out was so huge that a 2nd call out swiftly followed, expanding the parameters to include older women and men who might want to give promoting a go.

From the 200 initial applicants, 55 of them progressed through the project to submit a show proposal and be paired with a mentor. Our team of mentors came from across the live music industry and gave their time to work up the show proposals with their mentees, offering real life experience to bring the training pack to lifeand testing the feasibility of the show each fledgling promoter wanted to put on.
One of our mentors, Kelly Bennaton from DHP said, “This initiative is a really important step in tackling inequality in the live industry. The wealth of talent and innovation amongst the mentees demonstrates that given the right tools and opportunities young women can create great live experiences and be the promoters of the future.”

22 shows have taken place since May 2018 in venues in Manchester, London, Bristol, Belfast, Corby, Cambridge, Nottingham, Guildford, Brighton. As a result of the training and mentoring, a number of FB:GP participants decided not to progress with actually putting on a show in the short-term, mainly due to external pressures such as studies or other work. However, 25% of the shows that took place broke even or made a small profit (donated to MVT) - a statistic more or less in tune with experiences of promoting emerging talent in grassroots music venues across the UK.

Lauren Gibson promoted her first show in the White Hart, Corby and said: “The advance funding available from MusicPlanet Live helped me put down a deposit to secure a bigger act (Jordan Allen) than I previously would have been able to. To bring a signed act to a small grassroots venue has boosted my own confidence in my abilities as a promoter and also the status of the venue. From this whole experience I’ve learnt that preparation is key – the success of the show lies in the 90% of the work you do beforehand, flyering, press releases, signing contracts, organising people, times, equipment etc.
Another FB:GP participant, Mackinlay Ingham, promoted The F Word Presents: Gal Pals, Rebecca Garton, SADIE and Shunaji in The Sackler Space at Roundhouse, London, selling 100 tickets. She said: “I cannot thank you enough for giving me the opportunity to put on this gig, helping me every step of the way, through the stress of artists dropping out, maybe not having a venue and ticket sales! ...I have learned so much and gained confidence from this experience and getting to work alongside MVT, Bonita and everyone at The Roundhouse! I can't believe it’s over, but what an amazing night. I have had nothing but positive feedback from the audience and artists!” Encouragingly Mackinlay has since told MVT that participating in the scheme helped her secure internships with a music PR company and PRS Foundation.
One year on, with the partnership with MusicPlanet Live coming to an end, Music Venue Trust believes that the FB:GP pilot programme has demonstrated it has the tools and the connections to effectively train the promoters of the future but the challenges it must now face are:
  1. How to fund or underwrite further first time promoters to put on their shows, particularly those who applied in the first call out but did not have time in their own schedules to follow through.
  2. What to offer the 22 promoters who successfully delivered FB:GP Shows and now need to build on that to further their career development.
Music Venue Trust’s Strategic Director Beverley Whitrick stated: “There are passionate young people keen to work in the music industry who often lack the confidence to give it a go, or have no idea how to find a way in. We believe that schemes such as Fightback: Grassroots Promoter are vital in tackling diversity in our grassroots music venues and need to find partners to take this work forward. Please contact us if you could support further development of this essential work.”

AFO: 21st Apr 2019 08:50:00

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