In our latest Industry Spotlight, we talk to Joff Hall of VMS Live about working in the music industry booking shows and working with renowned touring artists on a daily basis. Here, Joff also offers key tips for success…
S] How did you get your start?
There’s a few key moments really. It all started as helping my friends’ band put on shows, which then turned into putting on various small gigs around York. For the first 2-3 years this was just as a hobby which I juggled alongside another 9-5 job.
I started putting on bands from outside York on some of the shows and made an effort of treating them as well as possible. One of the bands I’d put on then signed a major record deal and started working with one of the big booking agencies. This band then recommended me to their booking agent and instructed them that they only wanted to play shows for me in York. This meant that not only did this band come back and play a bunch of sold out shows for me over the years, but it also meant that this booking agency started offering me the chance to work with many of their other bands on the roster. Once one major booking agency starts working with you, then many of the others are happy to follow suite, and all of sudden I had a number bands/booking agents offering shows.
My first opportunity to do this full time came in spring 2008 where the promoters job came up at Fibbers in York. I got the job but it certainly wasn’t a walk in the park. I’d never been a full-time booker or promoter before, and now I was working for a national company who had various targets that needed meeting.
I remember working nearly every hour of every day, helping to run the venue and the shows, and trying to build relationships with the right people in the industry.
S] What are your golden rules for success?
Make the most of any opportunity that comes your way, and be prepared to go the extra mile.
Networking can be key, it’s important to go to industry events and make friends. Having allies, or friends in industry can make your job loads easier and can help you out, and offer advice if times get tough.
With bands and booking agents always be clear about what you can and can’t deliver, and always be upfront and honest with them. If there’s an issue with a show for whatever reason always try to go to the band and booking agent with a solution, rather than just a problem.
Try not to make any enemies. As much as some people may do things that annoy you, you never know how things will turn out, and what contacts will be useful in the future.
S] What would you say your biggest challenges are?
A general challenge of the job is securing the right artists and the right price. It’s not very often an artist or their booking agent will tell you that you are offering to pay too much, so making sure we’re working to budgets and targets that are achievable is an important factor.
As a company one of the biggest challenges for VMS has been keeping up with the speed in which the company has grown. I joined just over three years ago when we managed just one venue. We’re now work with 16 different venues, some of which have multiple rooms, as well as working on a number of outdoor shows and national tours. So that’s been quite an adjustment for the company to make and has meant we have constantly been reviewing/upgrading various back of house systems and have needed to bring in additional staff to handle to work load.
S] Tell us what a typical day for you is like at VMS?
My days can really fluctuate depending if I’m attending a show or have any meetings. Our venues are right across the country, so sometimes there’s a lot of travelling. Due to the amount of shows we do, I can’t get them to all, so I generally pick out key ones to attend myself and also try to schedule any other local meetings around these.
When it’s just a standard office day, I’m usually awake and up around 7am and will do a couple of hours work at home before heading into our Liverpool office for around 10-11am where a number of our staff are based. We’re generally in until 6pm, however obviously during busy periods we can be working until much later.
Of course as a promoter, whether I have a show that day or night there is likely to be someone getting in touch at any time on any day, whether that be by email or by calling, so I spend a lot of my life ‘on call’ but that’s part of the parcel of the job and I’m certainly not complaining.
S] What’s been a career highlight?
There’s many, obviously some highlights are based on events that have sold the most tickets, or made the most money. However sometimes the most satisfying moments are we when you’re working with smaller artists and you get to deliver a show that both the audience and artist love and remember.
In 2015 we promoted Gary Numan’s three nights at Kentish Town Forum playing his classic albums, which all sold out. These were my first ever shows I’d ever promoted in London, so obviously a very significant personal milestone. We then went on to promote Gary’s full UK tour the following year, selling out every show. We’ve also had some really memorable shows this year in Hull and selling out outdoor events with Primal Scream, Ocean Colour Scene and Flaming Lips in Zebedee’s Yard.
For more information on VMS Live, visit the following link: http://www.vmslive.org/