THE WAVE – a brand-new Silent Radio feature. We speak to the city’s venue owners, promoters and new music advocates. The guys (and girls) behind the magic and probably the very people responsible for one of your favourite live music experiences…

Jay Taylor - Classic SlumJay Taylor, Manchester
Director, Classic Slum promotions | Gig booker, The Ruby Lounge | Ex-Musician | Lovely chap
RECENT GIGS: Marnie Stern, Liam Frost, The Besnard Lakes, Terakaft, Come, Chrysta Bell
A tried and tested, no-nonsense guide for new bands & budding promoters; Manchester’s musical offer; gig etiquette; that Simon Cowell guy and why what’s next for Classic Slum doesn’t include a bowling alley, but a post-punk, supergroup.

I was a professional musician for a while. When that proved an unreliable source of income, you have a choice; either get any job or you find something in the secondary or tertiary circle about being a musician.
I paid attention when I was a musician; I understood what a press officer did, how studios, publishers, managements, agencies and promoters worked, so I did a bunch of those things. I wrote about music, recorded a few bands, promoted a bit. Then slowly but surely, one rose to the surface and that was putting on rock and roll bands.


The transformation of Manchester’s musical landscape over the last 10 years
The big change is more venues. I took over running Night & Day in 2002; there weren’t many small venues. There was Roadhouse, Star & Garter, The Retro Bar…Now, you’ve got The Deaf Institute, Soup Kitchen and all those other places; kind-of copying Night & Day’s template. Night & Day should be given credit for showing how great a small rock and roll venue can be. It’s structured brilliantly, even though it was chaotic and weird. I loved working there.
Not only are there more venues, there’s more people putting shows on in spaces that weren’t traditionally venues, shows in churches, cafes, basements… If something won’t fit here [The Ruby Lounge], the agent or management want something different or there’s something here in the diary already, we’d rather put it on somewhere else. Most things in other venues tend to be what we really want to put on.

The city’s music venues
We’re really spoilt.  You can play a tiny little shop and right at the other end, you’ve got the City of Manchester stadium.
Venue’s? It’s just a bunch of bricks. The acts that play are what’s going to draw people, it’s not a bar, it’s a place that hosts things. It’s not about décor, it’s a utilitarian space with a thing at one end and hopefully, that thing’s going to be magical. The thing on stage is the main thing, you should just be glued to it, it doesn’t really matter how great the drapes are.

The gaps in Manchester’s musical offering
We’ve got places for emerging bands to play, but we haven’t always had the amount of space for them to rehearse. It needs someone who wants to do it. But what do you get, loads of bands paying 50 quid for two hours? Hats off to those people who persevere with those places.


classic slum logoThe realities of life as a Promoter
I’m sure that there’s plenty of people who like to romanticise their promoter role, they like their brand as big as the name of the bands on their posters. You’re an administrator; let’s make no bones about it.  The run up is poster printing, cost projections, chasing press, making sure national ads have gone in, organising ladder ads, Facebook ads. But it’s to an end, and if you care about the end, you crack on.
By the time you get to the show, ideally all the work’s done and you are reaping the cultural benefits, the excitement of it and hopefully the financial benefits.

Advice for new Promoters on the block
Start off really small, find a space that works, put on a friend’s band that you care about and maybe co-promote with those bands. Maybe not even use venues; find some interesting spaces, learn as you go along. Ask questions, pester people. If a young promoter wants to come and sit down with me, yeah, come round here, it doesn’t bother me, it’s not a secret.

Make sure that you are on top of the finances. Don’t just hope that enough people are going to turn up on the door to pay for the venue, the band, money you owe other people, posters and yourself. It’s better to have a successful night that wipes its face, then over pitch yourself.

Pitching for a gig
There’s a lot of people promoting in Manchester. You’re not always aware that there are other people pitching for things. So, that comes down to how you sell what you’re going to do to the agent. Vagaries about how that job’s done are going to start to disappear when you start talking numbers. Money is going to be the thing that decides it.

How the internet changed how the Promoter job’s done
It’s much easier. You can trace how something’s working. It is data that you can see which of things you are paying for is working. Back then, you assumed by ticket sales. But it’s much more of a promoter being an administrator, administrating that Twitter feed, administrating the email databases…
It’s also cheaper, it used to be really expensive, you were using stamps, you had to advertise in papers more often…

How the web’s changing how musicians get the word out
The whole digital thing has made things easier for bands with no money to contact venues, to send them music and information. It’s used to be poor bands burning CD’s, putting it in an envelope and sticking a stamp on it and doing it over and over.
Everyone sneers at MySpace, but it was dream for me. I was getting 30-40 CD’s some days. It was a lot of work going through these. There was this thing that some 16 year old didn’t have to spend money on, it was a free website. The moment MySpace appeared, all those CD’s just vanished. Good riddance to them.

liam frostThe career-advisor side of being a Promoter
The bands that are just starting out, who want to support someone, or just want a gesture of faith from a promoter, those people ask what you think and you tell them.
I tend to be pretty encouraging. The fact that someone’s formed a band, that has rehearsed and created something, whatever the quality of it, and whatever I think…that’s a brilliant thing in itself. I was a musician; I know how good it feels to be in a band, to do shows and to be part of that energy exchange.

Being nice to newcomers and that bloke from XFactor
You get sent things that aren’t ready, terrible, out of tune, ill prepared, derivative…but I’m never going to be snooty about it. I think all those people give a shit. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be sending it out. It would be pretty mean spirited to give those people a hard time.
It’s like a small version of Simon Cowell. Those people give a shit enough to queue up all day long, be put in front of these millionaires and a bunch of cameras. Those people, however misguided, give a shit. My sympathies with those competitions, is entirely with the contestants, not that fucko at the table. He’s not an enthusiast. If you’re into music, the arts and culture you’re an enthusiast. He seems like he doesn’t give a shit about anything that’s got beauty.

The televised Fast Track to Fame vs the Conventional Path
I’m not sniffy about it. It’s as valid a route as the traditional route which is as perilous and fraught. You may end up in an office, in front of a Senior Exec having the shit ripped out of you, or your demo, I don’t think they are that dissimilar. It does imply that the rock and roll world is more pure and caring and has a nurturing approach to young bands and it’s not the case.
I’m not buying that ‘pop world – evil’ / ‘indie world – pure’ because it’s bullshit. It’s just as aggressive and just as horrible and full of just as many horrible fuckers like Simon Cowell.


How to secure that hallowed gig
Make sure that your art, is as good as you can possibly make it and persevere. I don’t think you should play week in, week out. It’s better to do one great show than 10 shit ones. Avoid those four-band, local showcase bills like the plague. You’re with three other bands that don’t sound anything like you and no-one cares about. A promoter will say ‘you’re going to be playing to ¾ of a crowd that aren’t your own’. It’s not the case; everyone’s fan base turns up, watches their friends and fucks off again. It’s better to hold out and if you can’t find anything from a promoter, do it yourself.

Win new fans at your gigs…
Make use of the people there. Don’t go and sit in the dressing room. If you are a musician, you’re a communicator. It’s supposed to be this thing that goes backwards and forwards, a conversation. Why would you not want to, after the show, carry on that conversation?
If you haven’t got merchandise, wander around with a clipboard going ‘Can I have your email address?’ Just hustle. Because down the road there’s going to be someone hustling harder.

terakraft…Then build up a fan base beyond your own doorsteps
Don’t tour until you are ready and create a buzz in your home town.

“The buzz” according to Jay…
A&R people phone me and ask ‘What’s happening? What’s cool?’ If there’s good news about a band in Manchester, that news will get to London way quicker than they can. What’s the point in doing ten dates, dotted around the country, six or seven of which will be utterly soul destroying; no-one will be there, [they’ll be] bad pay, bad accommodation, onerous deals…
If you get to the point where you can pull 300 people in your hometown and everyone’s getting excited about, someone, somewhere is going to go ‘Fucking hell, what’s happening in Manchester?’ I don’t think you need to keep going round the cities.

Get on tour without an Agent or Promoter
If you are going to tour and haven’t got anyone to book you, find bands around the country that you can gig swap with. I have friends who just did a four band bill tour. The basis was the four cities that the bands were from. It worked and it wiped its face, it made money.


Audience members, take note; Support the Support please.
Culturally people don’t like to turn up to see support band, because people are fucking stupid about when you are supposed to turn up to a show. I saw Nirvana support people; it was a good idea to turn up early that day.
I always want to get in dead early to see everything. I never understood that mind-set of people turning up to gig at 9.25, when the headline act’s on a 9.30. Some support bands are terrible. Sometimes, I saw things that were miles better than the headliners.


Upcoming Classic Slum greatness…
Melt Yourself Down, they’re my favourite band in the UK at the moment. They are like an indie world music band, but fast. They sound like one of those post-punk bands, there’s some electronica in there as well. They have a guy from Transglobal Underground, from Zun Zun Egui, from PolarBear … it’s like a ‘super-group’ really, but not as shit as the word super-group. They are just sensational.

Plans to expand the Classic Slum empire: burger joints, bowling alleys….perhaps.
Do you mean a bowling alley in the same way Manchester invented the burger? It’s almost like there weren’t burgers before gourmet burgers. I hate the idea of high-end bowling, it’s a working class pastime bowling. To make it some kind of highfalutin pastime, cocktails and stuff… seems mental to me. I’d rather go to Parrs Wood.

chrysta bell


Co-founder, Producer and Presenter of the weekly Silent Radio show. Part of the Silent family since 2010.Over 10 years experience of working with national, award-winning youth charities and in the creative industries. She’s the former Deputy Director of, Europe’s leading promoter of emerging creative talent. Here she helped secure new creatives secure massive media exposure (BBC R1, 1Xtra…), showcases at mega impressive locations (Downing Street, V&A...) and kudos from the best in the business (Brian Eno, Boiler Room, Peter Saville…).She also flies the flag for women in the media as Director of Manchester’s independent music website Silent Radio and co-Founder, Exec Producer and Presenter of the Silent Radio show on MCR.Live; Further radio includes BBC 5Live, BBC Radio Manchester, plus the odd bit of TV Production Management with international broadcast credits (BBC, ZDF / Arte, Smithsonian…), she also dabbles with playing records to people and her first podcast is currently in pre-production.Bestest gigs: Pulp, Sheffield Arena, ’12 | Micah P Hinson, Sheffield Lantern Theatre, ’12 | Dream Themes, Manchester Star & Garter, ’14 | Patrick Watson, Manchester Gorilla, ’15 | Less Than Jake, Nottingham Rock City, ‘01 | Frightened Rabbit, Manchester Deaf Institute, ’12 | The Decemberists, Manchester Academy, ‘11 | Passion Pit, Manchester Academy 2, ‘09 | Iron and Wine, The Ritz, Manchester, ‘08 | The Verve (with Beck), Wigan Haigh Hall, ‘98 | Take That, Manchester Eastlands Stadium, ‘11 |Worst gig: Fall Out Boy, Manchester Roadhouse ’05 (subject to change)