We’re delighted to introduce killer promoter and forward-thinker, Ben Rubin, to provide this week’s words for the London Promoters’ Society/NTIA blog…
Promotion is a vital part of the creative process in underground dance music.
It is the realisation of the dream.
The coming together of place, audience, experience.
The construction of an environment where good things will happen.
In the early days this would have all been done by the artists.
And they would have brought the soundsystem.
And probably built it as well.
And made the music.
Richie Hawtin’s early reputation was due at least in part to his parties in Detroit in the early 90s. Closer to home, dub artists like Aba Shanti are still to this day building their own systems and creating the spaces to share their music – whether on the streets of Notting Hill or the clubs and community centres of Bristol, Leicester or elsewhere around the UK.
The best artists always take a keen interest in this side of how they present their work.
For me this is what promotion is about.
Creating the right environment and platform for the artists who are the source of our incredible culture to present their work.
Building a space where diverse groups can share their love for a sound, an aesthetic, a set of ideals. A bit like a gallery curator, which is almost an art in its own right.
And, let’s be honest. promoters like this are what we need right now.
Luckily, they’re almost certainly what we’ll get.
Because the best ones do it when there’s no money on the table.
As they are, ultimately, artists themselves.
Our at least active participators in a culture they are invested in for the long term.
Not just here to make a quick buck.
Which is why I’m so excited about what happens next.
Yes the clubs are closed.
Yes we are in a recession.
Yes Babylon has got everyone locked up (and we should expect a much more draconian second wave).
But in destruction there is always the potential for new growth.
In crisis, an opportunity to move forward.
And in this crisis there is more opportunity than ever.
If you have passion, vision and something to say.
One word: technology.
It’s now entirely possible to build something with the functional capacity of a TV station using no more than two or three social media platforms.
On your mobile.
In effect, we all have the opportunity to become our own media platforms.
Presenting a unique vision to an audience we build ourselves.
It’s a simple step once you have an audience to start building a productive business using any number of technologies (some slightly less free) that have sprung up in the past few years in music, media, e-commerce and pretty much every other part of the economic system.
This is still, in essence, promotion. It’s a just a question of ‘what’ you’re promoting to your audience and the way you make money from it. Club promotion can be one arm of a vertically integrated creative business. And if you can establish a sustainable relationship with your audience now, then you’ll be in the perfect position to thrive when the clubs do finally come back. Which they will. Once we realise we don’t have to-accept these creeping restrictions on our personal freedoms.
Another word: localisation.
When you hear of big brands like Nike making cuts, don’t be worried you won’t get a job working there or a promo deal from their sponsorship team. Think about how you can accelerate their downfall and build something for yourself and your community in the meantime.
Where to look?
I’ve mentioned Nike, so I’ll start with clothing which is already a well established model for promoters to generate extra Ps. Dr Banana is probably the standout recent example of how to combine clothing and music in a really authentic way. EC2A are also doing an immense job of building a new brand in lockdown around a clear passion for underground UK music, that may or may not extend to parties at some point in the future. Shopify and even something like Squarespace make setting up an e-commerce platform simple.
Streamed content of every kind has proliferated. Standing out requires a clear vision and editorial direction. How to make money from it is yet to be seen, but a pay-per view or similar paywall model seems like it could be the most likely way of generating money online. Lukas Wigflex’s recently announced Fleximodal.tv looks characteristically mind-bending and I’m sure will push things to the limits both conceptually and technically.
Outside of music, Breathpod have done an exceptional job of building an online community focused on breathing and wellness. How can you provide emotional support to your community as well as music? The connection makes sense, given nightclubs are places of healing as much as hedonism.
And finally, the music itself. EC2A have been pioneering a new dubplate pressing model which takes the traditional record distribution supply chain (clogged up with backorders) out of the equation to get music more quickly into the hands of buyers. Currents.fm have created a really interesting new tool for allowing creatives to charge for access to curated playlists.
Finding the right model for you and your audience will take a bit of time and experimentation. But however you decide to approach it, make sure your aim is to get as much support to the artists who are actively creating our culture, while taking as much power and influence away from the global digital platforms that are currently in the process of destroying it.
And most importantly, have fun and treat each other well.
We’re here to have a good time.