I’ve been mulling over Gigbeth. Here’s the thing, as you can see and read, I enjoyed Gigbeth. I like watching music, having a pint, being out with mates. I can happily tick the Sugar Hill Gang off my list of bands I wanted to see. I’m so glad that Musical Youth are happy and not bitter has-beens. It’s good, in places, but it’s not great.
As Ringo Starr might say, I offer this feedback in “peace and love” and hope that the constructive criticism herein is taken in the spirit in which it’s meant (which is to improve the thing, not to knock it):
The low turn-out. I don’t know the figures, but no gig I went to was anywhere near what I would call at capacity. Something needs to be done about this if Gigbeth is to continue, and it’s no good blaming people’s apathy. Drop Beats Not Bombs was packed by all accounts, gigs at the Academy in all its forms regularly sell out, Capsule gigs always seem full. A full gig feels more of an event, people enjoy them more. If there aren’t enough people there then there’s something stopping them coming — either the publicity isn’t getting to them, or what’s on isn’t to enough people’s tastes.
The publicity is a difficult one to solve, I’m guessing that the many (and interesting) column inches in the Birmingham Post etc aren’t read by hordes of new music fans. The music press is in dire trouble, and seems to see fragmentation as the route to safety. With a line-up as wilfully diverse as Gigbeth, there isn’t enough of any genre to push to any particular section of the press (or online music, or music TV). Where do you publicise it? I don’t know, maybe it has to be packaged into something easier to publicise. Which leads to…
What is Gigbeth? A big part of Gigbeth for the organisers is the conference day. For the punters, that’s neither here nor there. A music industry conference has exactly as much to do with a gig as a fruit growers’ and distributors’ conference has to do with eating an apple pie. It might hugely affect further apple pies some way down the line, and the people at the fruiterers’ conference might like apple pie but for the attraction of this particular apple pie, no one cares.
I don’t know if there are synergies behind the scenes, all well and good if they are — but it’s not a way to get paying gig-goers interested.
Is it for families, new music fans, serious gig-goers? Who? If it’s meant to attract people who wouldn’t normally go to gigs, why hide some of the big names at 2am in the morning? By that time gigs at the Custard Factory have developed an air of pissed menace more likely to put people off.
Lack of internal structure. There was still no coherence between ‘stages’, why wasn’t Kano on before or after the Sugar Hill Gang on the same stage? Why wasn’t the line-up Bryn Christopher / Musical Youth / Sugar Hill / Kano on one stage? Why were the Young Knives and Guillemots scheduled on different stages? Why wasn’t the big room in the Sanctuary used instead of the a stage in a place with no drainage under a tent on a November evening (cold and wet are almost a given).
Not one stage had an MC or gave the sound guy a mic to say “That was Kano, now over in the Custard Factory pool the SugarHill Gang.” Not one poster had ALL the info on, not one venue or stage advertised another. So easy to solve.
Putting on something as big as Gigbeth is a huge effort, and I appreciate that. It has ideals wider than simply being a gig, which are also laudable. But the effort and the outside ideals will come to naught if Red Stripe sponsor a promoter to put on a Camden Crawl-style event and grasp all the punters. Gigbeth needs to compete at that level, and it can, it could. And it would be better ‘cos it was in Brum.