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Why you can't sign up to do support for one of my artist's tours

By Jacey Bedford

JaceyEvery so often I get hopeful emails from a performer askling if they can do support for a specific artist's tour. Sorry, guys, but, 'No.'

Why?

Here's a recent response to a North American artist who emailed to politely inform me (as the agent) that he had written to one of my performers [Artist X] to ask if he could do the support on his tour. His idea was to pay all his own expenses and to do a tour to get a foothold with my artist's British fans. All he would gain from the gigs would be CD sales and a growing mailing list. All fine in theory except it was obvious that he didn't have a clue as to the type of venues my artist was playing or how they operated. He also had a skewed idea of what is within an artist's power. I guess big rock bands pick their own support - or their management or tour promoter does - because on those types of tours the tour promoter books and pays for the venues. Sometimes the management will demand a fee from the supporting artist for the privilege of playing. But we're not talking about the rock circuit here. We don't hire the venues and put the gigs on ourselves. The artists are employed directly by the venues. The venue management or folk club organiser has the final say.

I told him:

Dear [Name],

Though your idea is fine in theory, it's not so good in practice because a lot of the folk clubs have their own regulars who like to play when there's a good international guest on. It's their reward for supporting the club throughout the year. They don't just have one support, either, rather they have lots of different floor-singers, i.e. club regulars, doing warm-up to the main act. Sometimes they only get to do a couple of songs each. If [Artist X] were playing theatres on this trip then having a support artist along might be possible, but it's mostly folk clubs and small venues so there is no tour support.

The decision who to put on as support to [Artist X] is entirely in the hands of the club and is not within [Artist X's] gift (or mine without me setting it up with each individual club and that means me 'selling' you to them even though no fee is required.)

You may have got the wrong idea because we stretched a point for [Artist A] a couple of years ago , but that was mainly because she was also playing with (and partner of) a member of [Artist X's] band. I did sell [Artist A] to each individual club - at much work and no profit to me - though obviously [Artist A] is now on my agency roster so in the end the benefit was mutual. That has only ever happened once, and it doesn't set a precedent.

It's not a question of your fit with [Artist X].

My recommendation is that this won't work on this particular tour. The local conditions work against it. This is no slight on your music, just a practical consideration.

But what about artists who are playing bigger venues. Is there ever an opening?

I often used to get people asking to do the support on Tanglefoot tours. Tanglefoot played bigger venues (rather than folk clubs), but the plain fact was that they liked to do the whole night themselves. They didn't want a warm-up act. They were hot enough as it was!

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