By: Under the Rock Girl
I’m Under the Rock Girl and I am the blog contributor here at Rock.It Boy. I decided it would be fun to include an interview with “Rock.It Boy” Rob Warwick, concert promoter extraordinaire and owner of Rock.It Boy Entertainment, to find out what the life of a concert promoter is actually like. Here’s what he had to say:
How long have you been in the biz?
R: About 20 years…I lose track.
How did you get into the concert promotion business?
R: I used to work security at a club in Toronto called “Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven.” Cool hair bands used to play the room and I would often sit back and watch the bands perform. One day, I thought to myself it would be cool to be a concert promoter. And that was it. Soon after, I relocated to White Rock, BC and everything started to take shape. I started meeting agents, found a venue in White Rock and started booking shows. I was finally the guy to put it all together and I loved it.
Describe what it was first like being in the concert promotion business?
R: Even to this day, it is not for the faint of heart. It can be quite stressful, always juggling this and that. It’s actually a bit like educated gambling. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.
An established promoter told me a story once that sums up what it is like to be a concert promoter. Here it is:
A wannabe concert promoter goes to an old concert promoter and tells him he wants to be a concert promoter. The old promoter says, “So you want to be a concert promoter? Come to my house in the morning with a paper bag filled with 5 grand.”
The next day, the wannabe promoter, eager to learn, does exactly as instructed and shows up with a bag filled with $5000. The old promoter says to him, “Very good. Now go into the backyard, get a shovel and dig a hole 3ft wide by 3ft deep.” The wannabe promoter does as he is told and digs a perfect hole. The old promoter says to him, “It looks great. Now take the paper bag filled with money and place it in the hole.” The wannabe promoter is a bit confused but eager to learn, does as he is told. The old promoter says to him, “That’s perfect. Now here you go,” as he hands him a gas can, “Pour it over the bag.”
The wannabe promoter is now worried, but again, wants to learn, so he does as he is told. Finally, the old promoter hands him some matches. “Light a match. Once you do, throw it onto the gas soaked bag. Once the fire burns, hold your hand over the fire. If you can feel the heat from the glow of the fire, then you should become a promoter.”
Wow….that is quite a story! How did that make you feel? Did it dissuade you from continuing?
R: It didn’t phase me because I was able to feel the warmth of the fire.
How did you get bands then versus now?
R: This business is all about relationships and networking. When I first started, I had to get in front of agents and start building solid relationships. I was actively knocking on doors, going to agencies and selling myself. I had to start with smaller, more developing acts in order to establish a track record with agencies so they could trust me with their larger acts. My very first booking, before I established a relationship with a venue in White Rock, was a show at Animals nightclub in Abbotsford. Eventually, I built up trust and the agents began to call me. I had earned a reputation of being a reputable solid promoter who new what he was doing so everyone would just call and rope me into the mix.
Can you describe your best general moment (s) of your career to date?
R: Wow, there are so many of them. I guess one that definitely stands out is having a hand in developing a band like Nickelback. That is definitely cool. Being there in the beginning and seeing them take off like they did was an amazing feeling. Also, receiving a Gold Album was a tremendous accomplishment for me. The band Default gave me one for me taking a chance on them in their early career. And honestly, being able to work with so many bands that I grew up with and love is amazing. I feel lucky to be able to do so.
Describe on of your best live show memories.
R: One of my best memories involves a Vancouver-based band called Shocore that put on a show at Area 51 in Chilliwack. It was a sold out show and the band was great. The singer, Cory White, went to do that classic rock star pose where you put on foot on the monitor wedge and he overshot a bit and his foot went into the air. All of a sudden, the Cory is flying off the 6 ft high stage, lands onto the ground and breaks his ankle. So what did he do? The audience helped him back up onto stage and Cory finished the show from a chair. After the show, he was taken to the hospital where he got a cast. I was so unbelievably impressed with what a trooper Cory was and how awesome he was to finish the set. It was impressive and his fans loved him for it.
Have you ever worked with one of your favorite bands? What was that like?
R: I’ve been able to work with so many of them! Bands I grew up with and went to their shows like the Irish Rovers to bands like Nazareth and 54-40. I have had the opportunity to hang out with so many creative and talented people – it is awesome and definitely a perk to my job.
What some people may not know is that you actually gather and coordinate items on a band’s tour rider. This includes anything from food to instruments to whatever the band may need. Can you give me some examples of some more elaborate requests you have had from some of your artists?
R: Having to provide a backstage masseuse was probably the weirdest one. I’ve also had to provide sandwich baggies…
R: Uh, yeah…And I’ve had to provide socks and underwear from time to time.
Can you describe the pros and cons of being a promoter?
R: Being able to work with a lot of creative musicians and meet a lot of cool people is the biggest pro for me. And that actually outweighs the cons which include the fact this business can be extremely stressful due to the fact you never know what a show might do (sell out or fall flat). Plus, working for yourself has its own pros and cons too. I am my own boss but the hours I work can be around the clock and I don’t get a regular pay check to rely upon.
What does it take to be a successful concert promoter?
R: You need nerves of steel, you have to be able to react quickly to change, you have to be able to be aggressive when needed and finally, you have to be a skilled negotiator.
If you had to do it over again, would you choose this career again?
R: Absolutely! I love it!
How have you seen the music industry change over your career so far?
R: With the economy not doing so great, I find that people don’t come out to live shows as much as they used to. People are much more picky with what they want to spend their money on. So, I have to cut tighter deals, watch ticket prices and be careful about the number of shows being booked in a market. I have to be careful to not over saturate a market or I end up competing with myself. For example, if I have two awesome classic rock bands and book them relatively close in dates, chances are people will choose on over the other and not go see both.
You’ve dealt with so many up and coming bands. Do you have any advice for bands on the rise?
R: My advice would be to carve out a following in your own backyard first before you go on tour. You need to have that strong foundation to build momentum off of. Also, I would say always hone your skills as a songwriter – don’t stop.
What’s on the horizon for Rob Warwick and Rock.It Boy Entertainment?
R: On the Rock.It Boy Entertainment horizon, I’d love to branch out beyond the B.C. border and expand the territory to book cool shows across Canada. On the Rob Warwick horizon, I am considering writing a book on my experiences in the industry thus far. Still in the planning stage but I’m pretty excited about it! In the immediate future, you can see me attempt to kick my fear or heights and raise a lot of money for Easter Seals when I drop 20 ft from a skyscraper in Vancouver for the DropZone event.
Sounds awesome! Thanks for your time Rob!
R: My pleasure!
Learn more about Rob and the Drop Zone event. And don’t forget to support live music!