Tipping Point's Charlie Dancer caught up with Adam Brooks at Ents24 about his work, day-to-day life, other pursuits and top tips for aspiring artists.
Tell us a bit about yourself Adam…
Hello! I’m a former record label employee (at Island, Atlantic, Warp and Modular) turned Head of Communication at Ents24, which is the UK’s biggest live guide, and helps 2 million people a month find accurate info and official tickets for more than 90,000 events. I live in Bristol, and do a bit of promoting, DJing and podcasting on the side.
How did you get into the music business?
I used to make scrappy zines at college and got heavily involved in student radio at Uni – something I definitely recommend. Not only was it a baptism of fire as far as production, presenting, playlisting and working with the wider music industry goes, it led directly to a job scouting for Island Records and then a job at Atlantic Records, which then led to the next job and so on.
What does a day in the life of Adam Brooks look like?
Work-wise, everything broadly revolves around putting live music, comedy, theatre etc in front of the people most likely to buy tickets and enjoy the show – sometimes that’s talking to promoters and ticket agents about what’s coming up and how we can help, or making sure event organisers know about all the free tools we offer that can save them time and effort.
Sometimes it’s finding ways to ensure live entertainment fans know that we’re their best chance of finding tickets and show info – as we work with multiple ticket agents and list more shows than anyone else. Outside of work I run a clubnight and host a couple of podcasts (about reviews and Alan Partridge respectively), so I’m usually kept pretty busy.
For anyone wanting to get into the music industry or live entertainment industry, do you have any tips?
When it comes to the music or live industry there’s no one way in, but the most important thing is to start things yourself. Publish a magazine, start a blog, write some music, put on shows. Don’t wait for permission, learn as you go, politely contact people who are doing the jobs you’d like to end up in along the way.
Also: Turn up. Go to that seminar, join that student radio station, get tickets for that talk, chat to that person at or after a gig. Make yourself available for opportunities to be possible. Most of the breaks I got came from trying something out that I could easily have skipped.
Sadly, parts of the industry are still geared towards people who can afford to take on an unpaid internship or already know someone in the business – but organisations like Arts Emergency (and even things like Twitter) are helping to level the playing field a little.
What advice would you give to artists just starting out?
With my work hat on, new artists and people putting on gigs should check out Backstage – it lets anyone add their events to Ents24, sell tickets easily, and promote one gig a week to people living locally. We also provide free widgets, so that bands and artists can add their gigs to their own website automatically, and know fans will always be able to find official tickets that way.
I’d also suggest checking what other bands are doing in terms of touring, what kinds of artists play what kinds of venues where you like.
As well as that, experiment with different ways of promoting your shows (starting with methods that are free/cheap), get the venue involved as much as you can, and try to remember to check what worked. If you can, build up a mailing list you own, so that you’re not at the mercy of social media’s changing priorities. And of course, play a lot and learn as you go.
Hard one but, best live gig ever?
Hardcore band Million Dead at the Camden Barfly in the early 2000s. Fronted by Frank Turner before he went singalong folk, it was ferocious, should have been in a room twice the size and I ended up on stage grappling with both crowd and band by the end. I think I briefly lost my mind.
The Ents 24 Rising list was announced recently, who’s your favourite emerging artist?
As well as the many great new acts and bands on that list (which was really fun to do, as it’s compiled from fan interest and so predicts the future as far as acts about to break through go), I’m a fan of all things heavy and got back from 2000 Trees recently – so I’ve been listening to a lot of bands who played there.
Specifically, Nervus and (not new but certainly emerging) Turnstile – who’ve only been around for a few years but sound like hardcore from the heyday of bands like The Beastie Boys. Also a lot of new bands on Holy Roar, Big Scary Monsters, Alcopop and my most local label, Specialist Subject in Bristol. You can’t go wrong between those four labels.
Finally, what track do you have on repeat at the moment?
‘Break-Thru’ from the new Dirty Projectors record has been a perfect match for the heatwave these past few months, so that’s a shoo-in for my most played tracks of 2018 when Spotify tots them up in a few months’ time…