‘Don’t Make A Scene – A field guide to putting on DIY gigs’ is a ‘zine compiled by Rob St John and Bartholomew Owl; two dedicated Alt.Folk musicians and all round decent guys.
The 2014 booklet was originally charged at a highly reasonable £4. Now it’s an even better deal as it’s just been made available as a free to download PDF. This generous offer is a way of sticking two fingers up to Black Friday zombie consumption and to embrace the spirit of buy nothing day.
The title is something of a misnomer since the thrust of the short pieces is all about creating, not avoiding, music scenes. The 82 pages are jam-packed with practical tips, experiences, ideas and anecdotes from UK promoters and artists mostly (though not exclusively) operating in Scotland.
Ultimately, these boil down to a series of fundamental principles such as to be honest and realistic; e.g. you should pay people decently but never promise money you do not have.
DIY doesn’t mean being amateurish.
As one contributor (Andy Inglis) says “small venues are pretty much bars with stages” so glamour and glory is usually in short supply. It is stressed by all that taking the plunge to set up small-scale music events is definitely not a way to get rich. Instead, it is very much a labour of love by all concerned and also happens to be a great way to make friends, have fun and build communities.
Matthew Young of the excellent Edinburgh label Song By Toad gives the best advice to promoters: “If you stop enjoying it, it’s probably time to stop doing it”.