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…

HEY! ManchesterChris Horkan, Manchester
Founder, Hey! Manchester promotions | Web Company boss | Journalist | Crackin’ beard

RECENT GIGS: Owen Pallet (review here), Generationals, The Ballet, Jesca Hoop, IntroducingLive, The New Mendicants, Advance Base, Nancy Elizabeth

THE WAVE:  Behind the scenes with the bloke responsible for bringing the best folk & Americana gigs to Manchester over the last seven years. With promoter top tips, Johnny Cash, Jarvis Cocker, new brewing ambitions and why what’s next for Hey! Manchester, sees the audience going on tour.


Hey! Hey, who?
I do about 100 shows a year, independently, around mostly Manchester, but occasionally Bristol, Liverpool, Leeds, Brighton and a few other cities. It’s always been folk and Americana that I promote, that’s my niche in the city. It flirts with other stuff as well; I’ve done electronica, a little bit of jazz, the odd dance artist…

Any other business?
I run a web company, that’s my day job and then fit in promotion around it. I’m my own boss, so I can do that. I’m the editor of ‘Manchester Wire’ as well. Being multi-skilled just makes life more interesting.
I used to play music; I’ve got a flat full of equipment. But I stopped soon after I started promoting. I realised I was never going to be as good as the guys I was putting on.


Hey! Ho! Let’s go.
Jens Lekman was the first one. I was studying to be a journalist and I had a lot of free time on my hands, because it’s not that intensive. I spotted that he was touring and at that time he was probably my favourite artist. He was doing this big 10-12 date tour, with no Manchester show. So, I just emailed through his website and he forwarded my email to his agent and booked a show. I’d never done it before and never had any aspirations to do it, but it didn’t seem right that he was touring and not playing Manchester.

Fanboy turned promoter…
I think that’s how everyone starts. Most people want to put something on that they’re a fan of, everyone I know anyway

Manchester’s Americana & Folk scene, 2006 BHM*
When I started, I’d been to about five years of shows by a some promoters called Pop Art Vs. Industry. They were just stopping as I was starting. I used go and see things like Joanna Newsom at Matt and Phreds, Sufjan Stevens at the Night and Day, these are all shows that these guys did. But they slowly stopped doing it and the same time I started. It wasn’t intentional; it’s just what I was into.

*Before Hey! Manchester

Manchester promoters Vs. Manchester promoters
I think healthy is the right word. There’s definitely competition, because there’s plenty of independent promoters around happy to give things a go. But it’s certainly not cut throat. If I bump into Ciarán (Wotgodforgot), Wes and John (Now Wave), or Luke at SJM, I’ll have a nice chat with them, have a beer with them, go out with them and play football with them.
We will be bidding for the same bands and we’ll be out bidding each other. But it doesn’t affect the day-to-day going for a beer with someone. I can’t walk down the road without bumping into promoters.


CocoRosie at Manchester Cathedral. Photo by Magnus Aske Blikeng

CocoRosie at Manchester Cathedral. Photo by Magnus Aske Blikeng

From band to stage, in layman’s terms
The question I get asked quite regularly is ‘How do I book the bands? Do they come to you or do you go to them?’  It’s a real mix, it might be people recommending stuff, me spotting things online or hearing something on the radio or an agent I have worked with before might say ‘come and listen to this new band’. Nothing’s more dominant than anything else. That’s how I find the bands.

Once you’ve found them, you offer them a set amount of money to come and play and when it’s booked, you get a venue for it. You offer them maybe two or three venues, and you say ‘this one’s slightly bigger, but it’s slightly more expensive’, ‘this one’s cheaper, but it’s a slightly nicer place’.
When you’ve got the right mix of venue, band and date available, that’s it, it’s confirmed. After that, book the support band, get the promotion running, the print; posters and flyers, all the online stuff as well and that’s it really. Then run it on the day.

Making it all sound like a walk in the park
Like I said, doing around a 100 shows a year, it is a part-time thing for me and it doesn’t really affect me that much.

The skills one has to hone to be a pro-promoter
You’ve got to improve by making mistakes. There’s no way to avoid making mistakes.
You have to work out what lesson you need to learn; when a show goes wrong or when you don’t get a band or when the venue’s not right. That’s the only way to get better and better.
It helps to speak to other people. But there’s not really a course for promoters or how-to, I’m sure there is somewhere, but there’s not really one that I’d recommend! You’ve just got to do it and see what works and what doesn’t.

Learning lessons and seasonal audiences
There’s been a few shows where they just sold no tickets, what so ever. There’s all sorts of reasons for that, like summer for example; you can have a show in September that will sell two hundred tickets, but because it’s late July it sells fifty tickets and again you’ve got to learn from that. I try and keep my summers as free as. I think has to do with festivals and summer holidays and the weather. If you do a show on a nice day, you are almost guaranteed that no one is going to pay on the door, because they are probably out in the park somewhere or going for a bike ride or whatever.

The benefits of going alternative with your venue choice
Because I’ve been doing it for so long, the prospect of putting on every show at a standard venue is a bit dull. The acts that I book keep it interesting, but also the venues that I use. Takk for example, the little coffee shop on Tariff Street is a really, nice little venue, so why wouldn’t it be nice for a gig?

…and the bands will come a knocking
It’s the way to keep it interesting from my point of view and it helps to get bands too. We started doing gigs at The [Manchester] Cathedral about four years ago and off the back of that we got people like Grizzly Bear, Beach House, CocoRosie and Bonnie Prince Billy.
They would have just gone with a standard national promoter, but because we had a cathedral, then we got the bands. If you get a really special venue from the artist point of view, it makes a big difference.

Beach House at Manchester Cathedral. Photo by Magnus Aske Blikeng

Beach House at Manchester Cathedral. Photo by Magnus Aske Blikeng

Being a promoter for living
It could be and it has been, but I don’t want it to be.
I have done that before. It is possible, but it gets a lot more stressful, because you’re reliant on it. You might just get it wrong and it could end up losing you £500 easily. To rely on that for to pay your bills and your rent, it’s pretty horrible.

Mixing business and pleasure
Be realistic within your musical tastes. There’s a New York based-musician I’d love to put on called East River Pipe, but there would be just 5 people in Manchester that I know would come.

Missing the boat on the next big thing
From a size point of view, I’m sure there was some point where I could have maybe got the XX. I had probably seen the name somewhere and if I had followed it up or put a bit more research into it I could have had a chance at getting it. It doesn’t really matter who it is, it just happens all the time. Someone like the XX will attract something like 3,000 people the next time that they are in Manchester, which is slightly annoying.

It’s quite often, when you get into an album after they’ve already done one or two shows, you’ve kind of missed the boat a little bit. Youth Lagoon for example, they played at Gorilla two weeks ago. I heard of them about six months after their last album came out and I was too slow on them. They are a great band, one of my favourite bands of the last year or so and I just missed it. What you can do? You can’t listen to everything.

Listening to music all day would be an ace job
It would be, but like the way I do it now, it is a hobby, where I’ve got to put the money in and take some risks, but it’s a good one. It means that I can spend my time listening and researching music, and as part of that, is a means to an end, which is great.

Bucket list bookings
I really wish I’d done a show with Johnny Cash. That would have been my ultimate; obviously it’s not going to happen now.
Quiet often you do get the chance to do the shows you want to do; like Phillip Glass.  I ended up doing a few shows with him and that would have been an aspiration of mine before I did it.
I’d like to do a show with Pulp; I’ve always been a big fan. I saw them at Primavera a year or two ago and last year in New York at Radio City Music Hall, when I happened to be there. We got tickets and paid a fortune for them but it was worth it. But, the weird thing was it was a seated show; imagine watching Pulp doing Common People, seated? It was a bit strange.


Just what is it with Manchester
More people are willing to put stuff on around here. The thing about Manchester, people are just up for stuff and they get on with it. That’s why there’s loads of independent promoters like me. If you go to Liverpool or Leeds there might be three or four, but in Manchester’s there’s twenty to thirty, and we’re all just getting on with it.

Beach House at Manchester Cathedral. Photo by Magnus Aske Blikeng

Beach House at Manchester Cathedral. Photo by Magnus Aske Blikeng

The best place to put on a gig in the city
The Deaf Institute is my favourite place, and it has been for a few years. Everything’s taken care of; the bands can have nice food from the restaurant, they’ve got a flat they can stay in, it’s easy to run a show there, it’s a nice building and it sounds great from a music point of view. There’s very few negative things about it. One of them is that you are on the top floor, and there’s no lifts, so you have to lug up all your amps and things, that’s the only real negative.


Maybe look at a little festival. I’d also love to do a venue. It can be difficult not having a venue; financially you are relying on just tickets for income.
I want to start making beer, I’ve got all the equipment, I’ve read all the books. I want to do it properly.

Upcoming Hey!  musical wonderment
I’m doing something in October as part of The Manchester Weekender. It’s starting at the Cornerhouse and it’s going to be a processional tour. The group, mostly about 30 people, will work our way down Whitworth Street West and stopping off at places along the way. You’ll see yourself as part of a doing a tour, so I think that’s going to be quite fun.

The venues are secret so, the Cornerhouse is the only one I’m saying because that’s going to be the meeting point, beyond that…

We’ve got a great one [venue], it’s the kind of room you walk into a go ‘wow, I can’t believe this is here!’. They are happy with us putting on a little gig and it’s going to be great, but I’ve got to keep it quiet!


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)