Improvizone

Gigs, birds and listings

Andrew Booker 2007-10-27 00:08:45

Here in the Improvizone virtual office I have been getting comfortably used to a gap of a month or so between gigs in which to try and raise awareness of what we do, in between extended sessions of going out and earning a living, watching TV and practising the tubs. Spending only 20 minutes a day is bad enough. Generating interest is no easier when we only have one or two gigs booked ahead. Happily, as the gig list shows right now, we have six in the diary. And more...

The list does not include the Norwich International Festival of Live Looping on Saturday 17 November, at which Darkroom (Mike and Os) will be appearing, accompanied by me on the plastic pots. Nor does it include the third Music for the 3rd Millennium gig this evening (Saturday 27 October), in which I will be doing a few bits on electronic drums, and singing too. I'm taking part in a rare live performance of An Electric Storm by the current incarnation of White Noise, comprising founder technopreneur David Vorhaus and M3M organiser Mark Jenkins. I knew nothing about it, but An Electric Storm has achieved cult status since its release in 1968 as one of the first electronic albums of its kind. This is presumably why tickets are GBP 15.50. I went to the first M3M gig a couple of months ago and it was free. I'll be playing the drums in the final piece, The Black Mass, and singing in Firebird, which the lyrics make abundantly plain is a song about a man in love with a bird. Yes. One of those flappy things with feathers.

Ironically, the Norwich gig is very close to the Improvizone idiom, and that's the one I have rehearsed for with Mike and Os. For the M3M gig I have not. The drumming will all be improvised, but to a pre-programmed re-arrangement of The Black Mass that I have not heard yet. The vocal bit we'll nail in the soundcheck. If you think that sounds risky, it is. I haven't sung live for three years, and I'm only any good in my upper register. Firebird is in C, and most of the singing begins an octave below middle C. This is great at 8am of a raspy, groggy morning after a night on the source. In the excitement of a gig, with a microphone, it's much, much harder. Luckily I get the singing out of the way first, before having some fun clattering about on a mini stand-up electronic kit fed through a phaser which I believe belongs to Julia Cottam (wife of Nick). I found it in my attic.

Those are two gigs where I'm looking forward to the luxury of turning up and playing. The Improvizone gigs absorb a lot more effort from me in trying to grow an audience for them to make them worthwhile and keep them going. As well as pouring the odd tank-load of cash into promotional black holes, one zero-budget way of doing this is to submit listings to as many cyberspace or paper-based publications as we can fit in. Hunting for these is a continuous pastime. Filling them in takes hours every month. Keeping track of which ones I've done, for which gigs, and which ones need doing sooner than others, is about to get much more difficult if the Ember gigs which we're trying out in Farringdon in November work out well.

If I've been bumbling along with the listings an ad-hoc way so far, it's now time for me to get industrial. I need to make sure all the listings get to the right publications early enough, in a way that does not need me to spend 40 hours a week on the internet typing out the same stuff over and over. If I can cut that down to 37 I'll be happy.

Check out the blurry picture of my listings management screen. Down the left are publication channels, which are either email or web addresses. Emails are generally for newspaper or magazine listings. Those need to be done first. Web addresses are mainly for on-line listings. With a few exceptions, web listings don't seem to work, but they slowly increase web presence.

The publication channels are sorted in order of deadline notice. Notice The Wire at the top. They publish at the beginning of the month, and need about a month notice. I've usually been too late for them because our gigs have been on the last Tuesday, meaning I effectively need to get the Wire listings in two months early, and I often didn't have the gigs booked. The publication channels are also in three groups: the ones I've missed, the ones I've done (and when I did them), and the ones I need to work on, and roughly how many days I've got left.

As soon as I submit a listing, I tick the channel off the list and it moves into the done pile. I add items into the database directly, and these will then appear for the appropriate gigs. By appropriate, the only qualification I have so far is area. For example, TimeOut covers the whole of London so is suitable for any gig, whereas local newspapers in Walthamstow are no good for Ember.

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