was won

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Festivals -

I spot a “but” com­ing down the line. In re­al­ity, many agents pre­fer to deal with one of the “big three” for nearly all their acts. They have a re­la­tion­ship with an in­di­vid­ual pro­moter so they will chan­nel all their gigs through that pro­moter. Of­ten, they will seek bids from other pro­mot­ers (if the mooted venue is al­ready booked, for ex­am­ple, or the dates don’t suit) or give one of their newer acts to a dif­fer­ent pro­moter, but usu­ally they stick with who they know.

Of course, there are times when cash plays a part. An agent is not go­ing to say “no” to a fee far in ex­cess of what the band usu­ally gets. Acts who may be with one pro­moter for in­door shows will and do play fes­ti­vals for a dif­fer­ent pro­moter, but this usu­ally only hap­pens af­ter a huge fee is paid for the band’s ser­vices. Surely the act has a say in all of this? To be hon­est, the band usu­ally goes along with their agent. Af­ter all, they’re look­ing at the big­ger pic­ture and the agent is the go-to guy when it comes to big pay-days. Bands don’t tend to ar­gue with large wads of cash com­ing their way for a 45- to 60-minute set. They may have heard that Elec­tric Pic­nic is a great fes­ti­val, but the size of the fee for play­ing Ox­e­gen trumps that. To bands, one fes­ti­val is the same as the next. You ar­rive on site in your tour bus, have your din­ner in the cater­ing tent, play your gig and leave town right away. This re­la­tion­ship be­tween the agents and the “big three” must make it dif­fi­cult for new and emerg­ing fes­ti­vals to book acts. True. Agents for high-profile acts pre­fer to deal with a small num­ber of Ir­ish pro­mot­ers; they’re un­likely to con­sider of­fers from new fes­ti­vals and indie pro­mot­ers. The lat­ter com­plain time and time again about this, and it is why their fes­ti­vals ei­ther fea­ture ris­ing in­de­pen­dent acts or vet­eran bands who are happy to play any­where that will have them.

The indie pro­mot­ers may have ¤1 mil­lion to spend on the likes of The Ea­gles, but get­ting the band and their peo­ple to say yes is an­other story. So if a band are ini­tially booked by one pro­moter when they’re start­ing out, they’ll most likely stick with that pro­moter when they’re sell­ing out Croke Park? There are plenty of ex­am­ples of such loy­alty. REM’s first Ir­ish show in Dublin’s SFX in 1984, for in­stance, was an MCD pro­mo­tion and they’ve stayed with the com­pany ever since. Like­wise, Bruce Spring­steen has al­ways worked with Aiken when it comes to his block­buster Ir­ish shows.

But there are acts who do go around the houses for sport and in­creased fees.

Crys­tal Cas­tles, for ex­am­ple, will have made three vis­its to Ire­land this year by the end of 2008. Their Dublin show in April was with indie pro­moter For­ever Presents; they’re play­ing at Elec­tric Pic­nic, which is a POD/Aiken co-pro­mo­tion; and they’re com­ing back for shows in Oc­to­ber, pro­moted by MCD. At least they’ll be able to com­pare how Ir­ish pro­mot­ers work when it’s all over. Get­ting back to fes­ti­vals, I’m very curious about how bands end up where they do on the bill. Who de­cides this? The agent? A lot of it re­ally comes down to com­mon sense. Some bands are sim­ply more pop­u­lar than oth­ers and it would be rather silly for the fes­ti­val or­gan­iser to have them lower on the bill or on a stage other than the main stage at the fes­ti­val.

For ex­am­ple, you wouldn’t have ex­pected to see Rage Against The Ma­chine any­where other than top of the bill on the big­gest stage at Ox­e­gen.

As most bands spend the en­tire sum­mer on the fes­ti­val cir­cuit, they soon learn their place in the greater scheme of things. They prob­a­bly know with­out even look­ing who will be on be­fore and af­ter they take to the stage.

And the agent does play a role. They’re usu­ally there to en­sure their act get their proper dues – but, some­times, the agent will in­sist that his or her charges get a higher slot on the bill than to sooth trou­bled egos or make a point. But there must be times when this place­ment goes awry? Yep, it hap­pens. Back in 2006, NME’s an­nual awards tour was head­lined by Max­imo Park, with Arc­tic Mon­keys sec­ond on the bill. But be­tween the time the dates were an­nounced and the tour be­gan, the Mon­keys went su­per­nova and I Bet You Look Good On The Dance­floor went to num­ber one in the charts.

The vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple, then, were there to see the Mon­keys, but they were sec­ond on the bill – mean­ing many peo­ple had left for the near­est pub by the time head­lin­ers Max­imo Park came on­stage. So we’re un­likely to see any “sur­prise” head­lin­ers when the fi­nal line-up is re­leased for the Elec­tric Pic­nic? I think it’s safe to as­sume that you will see the most prome­nient acts on the line-up - such as My Bloody Valen­tine, Sex Pis­tols and Sigur Ros at the top of the line-ups for the big­ger stages. Any­thing else would be a bit of a sur­prise for fans (and prob­a­bly the bands too).

Pro­moter loy­alty? Michael Stipe of REM and, be­low, Alice Glass of Crys­tal Cas­tles

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