Tokyo Damage Report

BOOKERS SUCK, AND I’M NOT EVEN IN A BAND!

 

Bookers are a kind of scene-weasel. Bookers are the people who put shows together, and decide which bands get to play shows. Which means – ahem – deciding which bands DON’T get to play those same shows.
 
On the one hand, you could say, “In return for all my work in putting together the show, I deserve the freedom to put my friend’s shitty band on, or black-list any band that does not kiss my ass. If they don’t like it, they can book their OWN shows.”  That is an excellent argument, in a world where everyone has the phone numbers and email of big touring bands, or in a dimension where everyone has their own live venue.  But there is an equally logical counter-argument which goes along the lines of, “Fuck you.”
 
What burns me up is how SECRET all this shit is. It doesn’t matter if it’s city politics or rock and roll, secret agreements, unspoken rules, horse-trading where the quality of music is the least important thing,  where the people most affected by the decisions are kept in the dark  -it just burns my balls.  Bad bookers and too much politics result in bad shows, period. Too many shit bands that used to be ex-members of cool bands 10 years ago. Too many good bands being black-listed. Bands from only one label dominating a scene. That fucks up the fans, which makes it EVERYONE’S business,- me and you – not just the booker’s.
 
You think the Woodstock guy is going to give you Dr. Dre’s phone number? You think Bill Graham is going to give you Led Zeppelin’s phone number ? Fuck no! But that’s because they’re corporate sell-outs, not DIY guys, right? Fans on the same level as bands! Punk over Profit, right? Um, naw. The only difference between your average “underground” booker/show producer, and Ticketmaster is that Ticketmaster is honest about what they are about, and doesn’t complain or make excuses.
 
 Look, I’m a grown man. I don’t think punk is some magic realm where there is no hierarchy. I don’t mind the power plays, it’s the secrecy and fakery that disgusts me.
 
For example, here is a typical western booker talking:
 
“I am single-handedly saving the scene! Ok, so I get in shows free, get to go backstage with big touring bands, get my ass kissed,  but that’s just gratitude for how I save the scene! But no, it’s all for the kids, man, for the kids! I refuse rad new bands with no cool people in ‘em, in favor of terrible bands but that’s because. . . I’m so open-minded. I’m so open-minded that I think even crappy shit bands should be given a chance, provided that their guitarist used to be in a hip band 10 years ago and he’s still a popular guy. But I’m definitely not in it for anything besides the kids. In fact, I wish someone else would help book shows. It’s such hard work singlehandedly saving the scene and being soooo busy. How dare you be ungrateful to me, after all I’ve done!”
 
and here  is the Japanese version (although I’m less familiar with it and probably getting details wrong)
 
"I’m caught in a web of secret relationships of powerful people. The same guy controls 90% of clubs in town and if you dis him, you’re blacklisted. I’m friends with a guy who is friends with a certain label so I have to include a band from that label otherwise my friends’ friend will get in trouble. I have to book older bands over younger bands because of the KOUHEI/SENPAI system (‘senior/junior’ system) – one must show respect for the elders regardless of how good their band is, because they have seniority and more tattoos.  I owe favors to people for personal reasons, so their shitty band gets on. Whatever crappy band whose members work at the live house gets on, otherwise I don’t get to book shows there again. The day before the show some band whose singer does "loan collection" for the mob asked if we had room for his band, so there’s that. And after that maybe I can put on a few bands that actually have fans and/or are good. But frankly, I don’t have RELATIONSHIPS with  the fans, and I don’t have an HONOR DEBT to them, so whatever."
 
Keep in mind this is how convoluted and fans-come-last a bookers’ thinking is . . .  EVEN WITHOUT A PROFIT MOTIVE.
 
 
You know why these dudes can run the scene? Not because they like punk more, or they “contribute to the scene more”, or are smarter, or whatever – it’s because they have phone numbers and emails for important bands and label people in other countries. But here’s the important point: At the same time they’re complaining about the stress of their job,  how hard it is and how ungrateful people are. . . .at the same time, they’re holding on to all their contacts with an iron grip. Dude, you have to hang on to the contacts for dear life – if that information was common knowledge you would just be another middle-aged douche in tight pants with nobody kissing your ass and plenty of people looking to pound you.
 
These guys deliberately shut out as much competition as they can, and then run around saying they deserve the ass-kissing because of all the great stuff they accomplished – come on, man.
 
Let me break it down more:
 
Say your band wants to tour, say .. . um. . . oh, for instance, Japan. You want to tour Japan, and there’s only one guy who has the contacts for the top Japan bands, that guy is the gate-keeper. He alone can decide who goes to Japan or not. Of course he’d never put it like that. He’d be like, “Aw I’m sorry man, but Gauze/Corrupted/Kriegshog is recording an album right now, they don’t have time to tour with you.” ORLY?  Actually the real reason is, that your band is not on the booker’s dumb little indie label, so you’re not under his control, not part of his monopoly. So much for anarchy!  Likewise, If a Japanese band wants to come to your town, they have to play with Mr. Scene-guy Booker’s friends’ bands or his label’s bands, otherwise the Japanese band doesn’t get to come at all.
 
(Who are these bookers? Well, if you scrutinize all the foreign HC bands that come to Japan and see what labels/connections  they have in common, maybe you can draw your own conclusions)
 
 
 
Now compare all that stuff I just said, compare that with  my website.
 
You can like my site or hate it, but either way you have to admit 3 things;
 
1 – I never had ads.
 
2 – Everything I know about Japan, I share. Stuff I learn about kanji gets put on the kanji page. Every cool place I know to go gets put in the tour guide. Every cool show I find out about goes in the show schedule. I make an effort to let people know what I know.
 
3 – My shit is transparent. No scene politics, no favors owed. If I like a band I say it and if I don’t like them I say they are bad.  What are they going to do? Not put me on the guest list ? Boo hoo! I never was on the guest list in the first place! No secrets, no name-dropping.  My personal life is secret, I guess, but that’s just because Kim said we NK spies have to keep it on the down-low.
 
Like it or hate it, that’s the facts. That is how I have always operated. I don’t get in shows free, I don’t get to go backstage, I don’t party with big scene people. I strictly go for the music. I don’t owe anyone a damn thing. I’m doing this for schlubs like me, the not-connected, the newbies, the people who are just trying to have fun. I try to give you guys everything I know, when I know it. Fuck this “you got to pay your dues” bullshit. This is the REAL DIY.
 
Even if you don’t think that noobs or shlubs or tourists are important or cool, you got to give me my props for integrity and consistency, because this is how I’ve operated for 9 years.
 
So I guess that’s why I get steamed about people who profit from secrecy, favor-trading, string-pulling and all that good stuff.

 

 

13 comments

13 Comments so far

  1. ali January 5th, 2010 6:12 am

    the points 1 to 3 are exactly why i like your website so much! keep up the good work! greetings from yokohama!

  2. AnokPanda January 5th, 2010 7:19 am

    You don’t get into places for free. I just figured you did, but weren’t douchey enough to brag.
    Bookers sound like pot dealers. Even if they like hanging out and smoking with you; they’ll be pissed if you jump their gate to save some money (the metaphor doesn’t go far, but think about it for sec.)

    last thought= Vote Yes on the Freedom of Damaging Information Act

  3. Lydia January 5th, 2010 11:14 am

    I gave you props a while ago for your HK studded jacket getup.

  4. z January 5th, 2010 11:31 am

    You mentioned the kouhai/sempai thing a bit, and it kinda weirds me out that its that pervasive even in the punk scene

    i mean the idea of respecting older guys seems kind of foreign to me… old punks are jaded anti-social assholes who do nothing but reminisce about the good old days

    granted, when they are still awesome people who genuinely still enjoy the music and the scene, they’re probably the coolest motherfuckers around but i don’t need some archaic social system to tell me what five minutes of conversation would

  5. Josh January 5th, 2010 2:26 pm

    I know I don’t say it often enough but, I love you man: you’re website is so great. I am sorry if you are feeling neglected.

  6. I January 5th, 2010 4:46 pm

    Long time reader (7 or 8 years? I feel old.) first time commenter. I feel compelled to tell you how much I love your site. I’m sure you weren’t playing for sympathy but I totally appreciate everything you offer up on TDR and the honesty with which you report on things.

    Every fool on earth needs to lose the ‘what do you have to offer me?’ attitude and start sharing. Sharing is caring.

  7. Deze Nutz January 5th, 2010 7:20 pm

    There is a similiar but slightly less intense attitude in a lot of punk scenes.. the people who book gigs get special treatment, have the contacts, won’t share information, book shitty bands for kudos, wait a minute, it’s just the same. Seems like its always easier to find someone in a rad band to book shows. And then kiss their ass, or yours, and be the lowest of the low, noob-douche-ass-kisser.

  8. chris catfood January 5th, 2010 11:10 pm

    transparency owns!

  9. Adam January 6th, 2010 4:00 pm

    Hear, hear! Lets hear it for those who do it for love, not money or power!

  10. Kevin January 7th, 2010 1:54 pm

    Steven,
    As always, great blog post. I have really enjoyed reading it over the last couple of years. Fuck the kohai/sempai thing and all the old geezers who think that the band that they played in 20 something years ago should be bowed down to. Maybe they should tattoo “Sempai” on their forehead to go along with the “Anarchy” tattoo on their neck. Although there were some good bands back then, I have seen a ton of great new and young bands in Japan over the last couple of years. Whatever happened to the free gig? I heard that Gauze puts on a 100 YEN show or something, but anyone else?

  11. adam January 9th, 2010 6:19 am

    good stuff man, keep the fire burning.

  12. JapanSoc January 9th, 2010 7:11 pm

    Why Music Promoters Suck…

    Why does it cost 3000 to see a no name band in a shitty place? Guest list??!?!?! Ha ha ha. I could see Motorhead in the US for the same price! He know the scoop!…

  13. szaszha January 10th, 2010 12:57 pm

    fuck yeah. you know, i like your whole website, but my favorite parts are your insane drunken ranting and your dream posts.

    i always wondered how people put shows together, how you become “that guy”. well i guess you just have to be a cagey asshole who knows the right motherfuckers! i can scratch that off my career list now, cuz i dont know shit!

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