Housekeeping + How to (Not) Behave at a Live Show
Sweetheart Pubstack #44
We’re Rachel Hurley and Frank Keith IV, co-owners of the Sweetheart Pub. We’re music industry veterans with over 30 years of combined experience in the music business, having worked in licensing, talent buying/booking, label management, tour management, and more. Once a week (hopefully!), we’ll publish a new edition of this newsletter, where we’ll share some philosophy and actionable advice on all facets of the music industry.
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This newsletter was originally created to be an easy-to-understand guide for anyone trying to navigate their way through the music business who wasn’t sure where to start or even what questions they should be asking ('you don’t know what you don’t know’). Often the very first person a musician will hire is a publicist and we bear the burden of trying to help our clients understand all the different aspects of a professional music career and how they work. We figured that if our clients were unsure of what to do next, or who was in charge of what, others were likely to have the same questions. We figured, why not put all of this information in a newsletter that we could direct new clients to, and also share the info with anyone else who found it useful?
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What we’re thinking about this week…
I don’t usually discuss our clients directly here, but something happened last week as SXSW that we would like to address. I didn’t attend SXSW this year, but I did have four clients attend and perform. One of them, Mercy Bell, was playing her official showcase when an incident occurred and ended up becoming a talking point on social media. At first, I brushed it off as a simple, honest mistake…but the more I watched the video, the more it bothered me. As more people have started to discuss it (Lori Majewski brought it up on her SiriusXM radio show and lightly delved into the gender politics of the situation), the more I felt like even if it was a simple mistake, highlighting it here could, if nothing else, be a good lesson in live-show etiquette for all.
I’ll let Mercy explain what happened:
I have been playing music for close to fifteen years in almost every type of environment, from choir and theater as a child, to busking street corners, to rowdy dive bars and DIY festivals, to highfalutin showcases. I love it all. I'm used to adapting to the environment and having loud noises everywhere. We're performers, we roll with the punches, that's part of the job. However, this past week while I was playing my official showcase at SXSW, I had a situation happen that felt like it could have been easily avoided. As I began my song "Codeine" — one of my most heartfelt and emotional songs — a sound tech from a different venue, a man no less than six feet tall, walked straight up to me as I began the song and started to retrieve some equipment left on the stage by a previous performer, while standing directly in front of me.
To say it threw me off my game is an understatement. I had no idea who the person was, but I assumed that since he approached with an attitude of ownership, there was something wrong with my sound, which is usually why techs approach the stage mid-song — to make the artist sound better. In these emergency moments, we're all working together to make the show sound as good as possible. When I realized it had nothing to do with my sound or set, I lost my train of thought, got flustered, and I stopped the song. He grabbed the transformer and walked off.
My tour manager found the stage manager of the Driskill (the venue in question here) and immediately complained, but he did not know who that tech was because it was someone from another portion of the festival.
It's hard enough to perform in front of a crowd to the best of your availability when everything is perfect, the crowd is listening and attentive, you don't have phones and cameras in your face to throw you off, you can hear yourself and you are emotionally present enough to not only perform but to make a connection with the audience. The least we should be able to expect from our colleagues is a little respect. Everyone knows the stories of the indie musicians who scrimp and save and take off work for tour.
I know mistakes happen. I'm just sad that the song got interrupted and the experience was disrupted for everyone there. It’s a moment that I will never get back or be able to fix.
My dude, if you're reading this, next time, wait until the song is over.
If you'd like to hear the song that got interrupted, here it is, "Codeine":
Side note: I'm grateful for SXSW for including me this year and the amazing unofficial showcases put on by New Nashville Live, the Cosmic Country Show, and Queer Country Roundup for creating curated, mindful shows that musicians and music lovers could enjoy.
~ Mercy Bell
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