Before your favorite band comes to town, a lot of work goes into getting them here. That includes countless emails, research, time spent driving to Portland and back to pick up an artist and hotel rooms booked for the band.
To understand what goes into creating that incredible live music experience you love—and why some shows get canceled last-minute—we take a look inside the life of four Bend music promoters.
Promoters bring established artists, as well as up-and-coming musicians, to Central Oregon every day, handling the process from booking to marketing to settling up the money part with the bands at the end of the night.
John Davis, founder of Red Light Productions, is bringing you B.o.B., Rhiannon Giddens and American Me this summer, spanning the music genre spectrum. Davis has a lot of experience both as a musician (he spent time in former local band Capture the Flag) and a promoter.
"I actually started when I was 14," Davis says. "I was playing in a local band and no one was bringing the music through that we wanted to see. I decided to reach out to the responsible agents and see if I could bring the bands through. Since myself and my friend Mikey were only 14 and 15, our parents would sign the contracts and drive us around, but we would run the shows."
Shane Thomas, who does the booking for The Capitol in downtown Bend, got a similar start. He grew up in Central Oregon and attended punk shows put on by Fireside Presents. He loved the DIY aspect of "make what you want to see, if you don't see it." After high school, Thomas began booking and promoting shows with the motivation of not only bringing good music to town, but bringing people together.
When it comes down to the day-to-day operations of being a music promoter, most tell a similar story. From getting the ticket links set up and out into the world to coordinating promotional efforts with the bands, the agents and the managers, it's the promoter's job to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Davis exchanges hundreds of emails a day. His day-to-day includes a lot of planning, email, organizing and phone calls. He's taken on a larger role in order to avoid outsourcing — from website and graphic design to marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) he relies primarily on himself.
Seth Fridae, also known as DJ Colonel, exclusively promotes reggae. His company, Simmer Down Sounds, brings world-class reggae musicians, such as Pato Banton, for example, to Bend. The day-to-day varies slightly for Fridae. As a radio DJ, he has the added benefit of airtime to help promote his shows.
Why It's Awesome
"I love bringing new music to Bend," Davis says. "That's one thing I kind of strive to do is bring in new and developing acts. It's a very special thing to see a crowd of people that never thought an artist would come to Bend. The energy in a venue like that is way, way different than a big city."
All of the promoters cite making people happy as one of the perks of the job.
"Making people happy is what it's about," Ian Egan of Egan Entertainment says. "I love helping the bands out. Taking a band from completely nowhere and getting people to see them and experience what they're doing."
"I like the feeling of giving these artists a livelihood and endorsing their art and supporting that," Fridae says. "To be a part of something I hold so revered."
Why It's Not So Awesome
While it may seem awesome to hang out with bands, check out their instruments and be in the scene, it's not all sunshine and rainbows. Egan, currently in the process of phasing out Egan Entertainment to focus on poster distribution with Central Oregon Street Team, experienced high levels of stress and anxiety, as well as minimal sleep.
For Egan, the lack of support for paid shows ranks among the most difficult aspects of concert promotion. Thomas, Fridae and Davis all agree to an extent. Egan thinks the prominence of free shows in Bend contributes to the issue. While having free entertainment is good for music lovers, it also decreases the chances someone will pay for a show—even if it's only $5.
"There's so much happening all the time in Bend, it can spread everything really thin," Davis says. "Sometimes not for any reason you can have an amazing act come through, but because of whatever could be happening in Bend, you could have quite a bit smaller show than you're anticipating."
Davis also talks about disappointing pre-sale tickets, which sometimes compels artists to cancel shows last-minute. In his experience, Bendites don't seem to buy pre-sale tickets, instead waiting to pay for entry at the door.
"You're not only kind of stressed about the show yourself, but you're trying to convince agents and managers and the talent that everything is going to be fine and there's still going to be a good crowd even though the numbers on pre-sale are small," Davis says. "I think that has something to do with a bit of the Bend culture."
With a full schedule of events on any given day, promoters not only have to find a gap in touring band schedules, but also in Bend's massive events schedule. Not only do promoters have to face the onslaught of events, but nice summer weekends also bring camping trips and activities outside of the music scene.
For the Love of Music
Bend music promoters have their work cut out for them. These are the people behind your favorite concerts — researching, finding gaps, making offers, postering bulletin boards, promoting the shows, blasting the information out on social media and making sure everything runs smoothly the night of the concert. And while it may be tough at times, it all boils down to one thing.
Egan says, "All in all, I just love music and that's what it comes down to."