We recently managed to catch up with Inverclyde based events promoter and talent manager Gareth Gonet of B12 Entertainment to discuss his plans for 2021 with a hopeful return to live music.
For anyone who isn’t aware of B12 Entertainment, could you give an insight into your involvement within booking gigs and managing acts?
Sure, I started B12 Entertainment back in April 2018 as I always felt that I had the skills and imagination required to do well in organising, running and promoting events, so why not give it a crack and see what happens. I would observe lots of events taking place around the country which were half empty and didn’t look like something that you’d really want to go to unless you were friends with one of the bands.
I believe that to be successful in putting any kind of event on, you must ensure that it looks like something worth going to – when people (who didn’t attend) see the pictures on social media the next day, they have to think “that looks great, I’m going to the next one”. If you don’t achieve that then you’re never going to grow your audience. A lot of promoters are loathed to pay out over and above the necessities, whether it be for proper lighting or a professional photographer or videographer to come and film/photograph the event. These investments however are exactly what’s needed in order to attract new people through the door. The event is your product and if your product looks shit then no-one’s going to come.
Too many promoters solely rely on the bands to promote the show and drive the numbers through the doors. I didn’t think that was good enough – the promoter’s job is to promote, the clue is in the name.
So anyways, that’s what made me get into it and from there I started putting a few small events on. In the early days I saw it very much as a sideline. At the time I was working away from home a lot so it was just something to keep me occupied in my spare time – through my life I have found that I need to constant challenges to stop me going off the rails and B12 Entertainment was just another one of those.
Through 2018 & 2019 I put on a series of small gigs featuring some of the best up and coming talent from the Inverclyde area. This was always my plan as I wanted to provide a platform to local bands as opposed to bringing in bands from elsewhere that the man/woman on the street has never heard of.
At the beginning of 2020 I decided that I wanted to work towards turning B12 Entertainment into a full time business. Unfortunately COVID-19 hit and I haven’t been able to do that yet but I’ve been working harder than ever through lockdown on growing the business. Once things begin to open up again we’ll be putting on events more regularly and expanding into several new areas.
With regards to managing acts, this was something I only began to do around May – and also by chance. I hosted an Instagram live with Paul from Strange Dimensions (a recently formed Greenock based indie band). Following the live, I had a discussion with Paul and his bandmates Liam, Anna & John and we agreed that I would manage them for a trial period and take things from there.
As with promotion, I felt that my skills and abilities would lend themselves well to music management. Whilst most music managers to a great job for their clients I always found some to be short sighted and functioning more as booking agents than managers. In my view (in addition to booking gigs & appearances), the manager is responsible for devising and managing a strategy which will lead to the end goal. I found that many bands had no strategy or plan in place and are just bouncing from one gig to the next and as a result would often stagnate after reaching a certain level. I also believe that it’s important to have your eye on the long game with up and coming bands. By that I mean, not pricing yourself out of opportunities by demanding a fee which is at odds with the number of ticket sales your act is likely to bring to the show. Finally, I strongly believe that acts should aim to develop a solid fanbase in their local area and look to build from there, something which is overlooked by many. If you have a hardcore group of dedicated fans who are going to turn up at gigs locally and in surrounding areas, not only does it help open doors in terms of finding opportunities to play (as promoters & venues are always keen to book bands who are guaranteed to bring a crowd) but also nothing creates buzz around an up and coming band like a reputation for consistently pulling a large and passionate crowd – and the easiest way to achieve this in the beginning is to build in your local area. I’m not going to name names but I remember going to see a band whose Spotify streams run into six figures play in their hometown and there was probably about 15 people there to see them, all of whom appeared to be friends and family – the gig was free entry. I remember thinking at the time, “who the f*** is managing them, they are f***ing brilliant and are playing a free gig in their hometown and no one cares or knows about it. This place should be packed out!” – naturally I felt that this would be the case if I was managing them.
Anyways back to the question…..after beginning to manage Strange Dimensions, I was put in touch with Leah, the lead singer from Stereo Fire. Again, after a discussion with Leah and the rest of the band we agreed that I would manage the band for a trial period. You’ll notice a pattern here, I never look to sign anyone up straight off the bat. I believe that with my business acumen, knowledge, honesty, vision and work ethic, I’ll do a good job for anyone and I’d rather prove that first as opposed to slapping down a contract straight off the bat. I also don’t feel it’s right for a manger to start earning off an up and coming artist straight away, I take zero commission from acts who I manage on a trial basis and for all acts with whom I have a signed contract, I have written in a clause which entitles me to zero commission until the acts earnings hit a certain level. Again, eye on the long game.
Whilst this is a risky strategy (and I have been burned as a result of it on one occasion), I am comfortable with it. If an act thinks the grass is greener elsewhere, to be honest, I’d rather they left and freed up some of my time to focus on the acts who are 100% with me. That’s how I like to do operate. I buzz off helping people who I enjoy working with and who are 100% committed.
I am currently working with seven acts on a management basis and have a call with another on Tuesday who is interested in coming on board. I have enjoyed my time working with all so far and have ensured that each of them have remained active through lockdown and I have numerous opportunities lined up for each over the coming months. I can’t wait to get going properly once things start to return to normal.
All of the acts who I manage are in the very early stages, as I wanted to prove myself as a manager by building and developing acts from the ground up as opposed to piggy backing on an act who is already established and claiming credit for their success which I had nothing to do with.
How did you adapt during lockdown in order to still provide music acts with a platform to showcase their talent to a live audience?
As soon as it became clear that lockdown was imminent, I knew that remaining active on social media would be critical during the period and immediately began hosting interviews & charity livestream gigs on the B12 Facebook & Instagram pages. I wanted to provide acts with a platform to both grow their profile and get their music heard whilst they were unable to perform live. From my point of view, it also helped keep B12 Entertainment is people’s minds and also grow our own social media follower base whilst we were unable to host any events.
To date we have hosted several charity livestreams for local causes and I have become a part time interview host. I have also recently launched a spin off platform (B12 Over and Above). The aim of this platform is to help grow the audience base for live music (initially in the West of Scotland) by showcasing the personalities behind the music. I have always believed that this is another crucial step in bringing in new fans, as people are more likely to gravitate towards acts with whom they can relate. I believe that in time B12 Over and Above will help to achieve this. I have appointed someone to run and manage the platform as I feel that the channel can only succeed if it has someone in charge who is fully dedicated to its success. Whilst I will conduct interviews whenever I can, I don’t have the time required to give a spin off platform the attention it requires to be successful.
As lockdown restrictions started to ease towards the end of summer, I began to plan a series of socially distanced gigs. Unfortunately, these never came to pass, after spending evenings and weekends writing up risk assessments, socially distanced seating plans.etc. Lockdown restrictions were once again tightened up before we were granted permission to go ahead. This is something I plan to revisit in early 2021 – I have submitted a proposal to host a socially distanced test event in the new year which will hopefully be granted. I feel that as a promoter, it is my duty to expedite the return of live music. We must be able to demonstrate that live music events can be hosted safely if we want to see gigs return anytime soon. In order to do that someone must take the bull by the horns and force the issue and I’m happy to be one of the people to do that – although it is excruciating at times.
Once the aforementioned lockdown measures were re-introduced I turned my attention to hosting virtual gigs – not just the type we had been doing where acts played acoustic sets on our social media pages but properly produced full band gigs which will be streamed on a pay per view platform. My reason for doing this was to proof the business against any future situations where we were unable to host live events for whatever reason. This is not something which would have crossed my mind pre-COVID however as I work towards turning B12 Entertainment into a full time business, I’d be an idiot not diversify our offerings to enable the business to continue to function should any kind of lockdown occur in future.
I’m letting you into a secret here but our first gig of this nature was due to be recorded today (Sunday 22ndNovember) and broadcast the following Saturday. Unfortunately, as the venue falls under a tier 4 zone, we have had to postpone – lookout for an announcement on that over the next few weeks. Putting on such an event is a risk as the set up costs are much higher than a regular gig (film crew, production, editing.etc) and I have nothing solid on which to gauge what kind of numbers we may hit in terms of PPV buys however I feel that it’s something worth exploring for the reasons which I have stated above.
What is it about B12 gigs that attract audiences and encourage young fans to travel from Glasgow and beyond to attend them?
If I’m being honest, whilst I have strong beliefs on how gigs should be promoted, I have only be able to implement a fraction of what I plan to as I was pretty much coasting for the duration of my time running B12 Entertainment pre-2020. That said, I feel that we have still been able to attract audiences to some degree through the effort I put into promoting each event. Simply booking the acts and putting out the poster on social media then letting the acts do all the work isn’t good enough. As I’ve stated previously, I feel that getting across the personalities of the acts is an important and often overlooked means of getting people people engaged with the event and I would always try to do this for each show through hosting interviews, Q&As.etc with the acts involved.
You’ve got to make the event seem exciting to the average person and that is what try to do.
What are your plans for 2021 relating to live music events?
Provided we’re able to go ahead with events, I plan to hit it big in 2021. I will be launching a number of new events which I have devised during lockdown – some of which I can’t yet reveal. Those which I can include our Secret Raves series, Gary Faulds live, a new series for up and coming local acts from Inverclyde and surrounding areas (01475), an outdoor event (depending on how soon lockdown restrictions are lifted – if lockdown extends into the spring this may be pushed into 2021) and a number of other medium to large events.
As I look to grow B12 into a fulltime business, my focus has shifted into larger events than we hosted previously. In-spite of this, I didn’t want to abandon Inverclyde grassroots music as one of my objectives from day one has been to help grow the local scene. This was the reason behind launching 01475, as I believe that by creating some branding around the events and making them seem exciting to the average person we can build a platform for local acts through which they can both grow a fanbase and gain experience playing live. This in time will also serve as a feeder system for support slots on our larger events.
In the short time I have been running B12 Entertainment so far, I have seen youngsters who had attended previous gigs begin to form their own bands who are now scheduled to play on our gigs post lockdown. With a regular night providing opportunities for up and coming local acts to perform I expect this trend to continue and the local music scene to flourish as a result.
To summarise, what you have seen from B12 Entertainment could be described as a leisurely stroll compared with where we want to get to, in 2021 we’ll break into a slow jog.