Booking The Big Acts

Posted on Sunday 31st January 2016 20:35 by FreckFest

D’you know who you should get to play Freckfest? They’d be a guaranteed sell-out…


If we had a pound for every person who’d ever started a conversation with us using this as an opening line, we might actually have enough funds available to book the acts suggested. It’s not that we’ve never thought to ask The Proclaimers or Paul Weller or Deacon Blue or Primal Scream or Arctic Monkeys or (insert your own favourite band here), but it’s extremely difficult to attract these artists to our town. If it was that easy and straightforward, every month would see the biggest and best bands roll into Irvine.


There are numerous reasons why this is the case. One of the main factors is finance. When you first make contact with an artist’s management, what follows can be months of drawn-out negotiations. It costs a lot of money to book an act, perhaps more than you realise. Every act has a ‘price’, but landing them isn’t as simple as meeting that price. For one, they don’t actually tell you what that price is. You make them an offer and they say “yes” or “no”.


If the act says “yes”, they require half their fee straight away. As we are a charity run by volunteers, this can stop the ‘show’ there and then.


If they say “no” and we’re still keen for them to play, we might re-negotiate their fee based on the capacity of the venue and projected ticket prices. We pride ourselves on promoting affordable concert experiences for all. If we had to put our ticket prices up in order to bring a popular act to the town, we’d be in danger of keeping people away rather than attracting them to the event.


Then there’s the question of venue. Irvine isn’t blessed with the ‘ideal’ concert hall. Over the past year we’ve had no option but to put a couple of shows on in Troon Concert Hall and Kilmarnock’s Grand Hall, purely and simply because those venues were perfect for the concerts. This is great for Ayrshire, but ideally, we’d put all our shows on in Irvine. The HAC is a terrific venue, perhaps the best in this part of the world, and it lends itself perfectly to those intimate, acoustic gigs we do so well. Every act that plays the Magnum Theatre is super-impressed by its acoustics and ‘feel’. For many of the artists that have played under the ‘Freckfest’ banner, it’s almost the perfect venue. When our town fathers finally bring the Magnum to the ground, we’ll have one less venue to offer our potential bookings. We could talk all day about the social needs of Irvine and North Ayrshire, and many folk would argue that a concert hall would be way down on the list of priorities, but bringing culture to the area, in whatever form that might be, is extremely important for the growth and economy of our town.  


However, it’s never been easy – proximity to Glasgow has always been the issue, even when Willie Freckleton was attracting acts to the Magnum, this was due to Glasgow having licensing issues and no venues suitable in the city. We wonder if Ayrshire will ever enjoy regular visits from household names again.


As a promoter we are also up against the ‘big boys’. Other promoters have more muscle, more financial clout and more status when it comes to the big acts. Most acts will be prevented from playing elsewhere within a certain radius and within a certain timeframe. Put simply, if a major act are playing in Glasgow or at T in the Park in July, they won’t be playing in Irvine any time between Easter and October.


Maybe now you can appreciate the task we face. And maybe now, you can appreciate that despite the reasons above, we continue to punch well above our weight and attract the very best artists to our town.

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