Interview: John Badger of Badger Fest

After interviewing a lot of bands face to face and through email, I moved onto having email interviews with record labels Transcending Obscurity and XenoKorp to have their opinion of the business. I wanted to continue seeing different sides to the music business and caught up with the legendary producer/mixer/master Dan Swano.

The next avenue of the music business that I wanted to find out about was that of the promoters of the gigs that you and I attend and how things are on their side of the business. I took it upon myself to contact a few promoters and John Badger of the mighty Badger Fest replied. He shared with us the pressures promoters are under, gives advice to younger bands and what to do if you wish to become a promoter. Thank you, John, for your time and I urge those in the Manchester area and beyond to attend the festival and discover young upcoming bands mixing it with the seasoned professionals. You have to be quick though, as the debut year of Badger Fest last year was sold out. Announcements for this year’s festival are imminent, so keep an eye out for those in the coming days.

Comments form attendees from last year’s festival include:-

“Brilliant festival, well run and organised. Professional throughout would highly recommend going. Couldn’t recommend enough.”

“Literally the best All Dayer festival I’ve ever been to. Awesome first venue, insane line up. Thought up by some of the most involved and committed people in our music scene at the moment. The whole team did outstandingly.”

“Simply perfect is all I can say. Well run, well promoted and well attended. All involved made this one of the best underground metal fests ever and one that will be around for years to come.”

“There have been no announcements yet on next year and yet, without even knowing who will play, I am committed to going and supporting one of the most likeable and respected guys out there.”

“Badgerfest 2017 was, in my humblest of opinions, the best all day event I have EVER attended.”

You have been warned – get your ticket early!

Tell our readers at Moshville Times a bit about yourself and what made you decide to become a promoter?

Well I play drums for Impavidus and I organised a mini tour with Deified and God Shaped Devil in December 2016. Bands had a great time, they said it was well organised and fans loved it. A few people said you should do more promoting and maybe even arrange your own festival. The suggested name as a joke was “Badgerfest”. After a few months of deliberation I thought about it more I decided to put a post out for feedback asking “If I was to put a festival on would, firstly, bands be interested in performing and, secondly, would anyone turn up?” I was overwhelmed by the response, so I decided to give it a go. Before I did anything I decided to get some advice from Simon Yarwood at Resin Events/Uprising Festival, Steve Dickson at Terrorizer/Mammoth Fest and Jason McGuire at Breaking Bands Festival for research.

Their collective advice:

  • Don’t aim too high
  • Get a good headliner
  • Get a small venue (200 maximum)
  • Research the bands
  • PR & Marketing
  • Network (face to face)

You are renowned for Badger Fest based in Manchester as well as promoting gigs locally. What type of bands do you look for before you decide to promote them?

I mainly started with bands I already knew and had the pleasure of playing alongside, so it was a no brainer to want to work with bands that write and perform awesome music. I also keep a good eye on social media for hardworking bands who present themselves in a positive way as well as recommendations from friends.

Although Badger Fest is only in its second year, how much has it grown since last year?

I definitely think Badger Fest has grown since its inception in 2017. The reason for this is due to the branding and the constant push through PR. What also helped is that Badger Fest 2017 sold out and it was certainly a big surprise to people including myself. But I always knew it would be a success due to the insane lineup, the backing of the bands, the music community from gig goers, the marketing and most of all my commitment & desire to succeed. I took it upon myself to push it through social media, flyers, posters (having great outstanding artwork from Pedley Art and Badger Fest logo by Laimamori certainly made the event stand out. I was attending gigs to self promote, which puts a face to the name, as some do not and hide away. Bands and friends wanted to get involved by handing out flyers at other gigs and festivals. It’s nice to know they all believed in me and what Badger Fest could bring to the Festival table.

Catering for different genres of music, does this bring its own headaches when it comes to promoting and marketing the gigs?

At the moment I’ve mainly dealt with metal as it’s the genre I’m most familiar with, but I do listen to different genres. I thought it would be best to start with metal /rock bands as it’s the genre I have the most common connections with. I think once you’ve decided the headliner the rest is fairly straightforward as you’ll already have a good idea who you want on the bill. I have ambitions in the future to open the doors to different genres thus giving people a variety of choice and showing them bands they wouldn’t normally see.

How much of your personal life is taken up with promotion and marketing your gigs?

I spend pretty much every day doing promoting. I have a few pages and groups that all link together. I deal with the upkeep of the Impavidus band page, also providing a constant news feed to keep it interesting. I have, as of December, been put in charge of booking bands at Grand Central in Manchester. Danny Daemon the venue manager (bassist/vocalist of Prognosis) kindly asked me to get involved, so he can focus on running the pub and doing sound engineering for the bands on the night. It’s more time consuming speaking and organising the gigs, but it’s something I enjoy so it was a no brainer for me to jump on board – plus I gain more experience. We have a great working relationship as we both have an understanding of what people like to come and watch. So it’s my responsibility to find new bands and bring them to Manchester as well as pushing our talented Manchester bands, but making sure the lineups all complement each other.

How many people do you have working with you and can that bring its own pressures as well?

At the moment it’s mainly me organising everything behind the scenes and all artwork handled by Jon Pedley of Pedley Art.

At Badger Fest 2017 I was fortunate to have volunteers helping such as:

  • Simon Robertshaw and Liam MacBeath getting bands on and off stage on time.
  • Paul McMonnies (Bloodstock Radio/TV) and Nick Gregory (Deeside Radio) were announcing the bands.
  • Helen Phoenix for managing the door.
  • Jo Spooner (Midnight Promotions) managing the merchandise table.
  • Media – Craig Hutton Photography, Jacob Kazara Photography, Distorted Magazine, Manchester Rocks, Totally Tankered, UMC
  • Sponsors Brunswick Mill Studios, Steel Needles Tattoo Studio.
  • Venue (Star & Garter).
  • Bands – Krysthla, Bloodyard, Impavidus, Deified, Amethyst, Beyond Salvation, Kringer and the Battle Katz, Obzidian, Reaper and Obscene Nihilist.

If you were to give advice for someone expressing an interest in becoming a promoter, what would it be?

  • Don’t jump straight in
  • Do your research
  • Speak to other promoters
  • Understand your target audience
  • Network with bands, venues, promoters, sound engineers, photographers, media and of course customers (gig-goers)
  • Have a good understanding of social media
  • To dedicate at least 10-15 hours a week for promoting
  • Go to gigs (be seen to show you take an interest)

What would you say is the proudest moment of your career so far?

Selling out Badger Fest year one, but most of all walking round the venue seeing every single person with a smile on their face all having a fantastic time.

What was the first gig you put on and how did that feel?

Badger Fest 2017 was the first one, I was extremely proud of what I achieved. By the end of day I was exhausted but it was well and truly worth it

What lessons have you learned along the way?

I suppose never underestimate the competition. Stay true to yourself and don’t let anything effect what you’re trying to achieve.

What pressures are you under every day as a promoter?

I suppose the main pressures and challenges you face are keeping your events relevant to your potential customers. So you have to be socially active through networking and utilising social media with fresh content that keeps them interested, which will give you the best idea of what people are listening to and what they want to see. I’m all about building suspense rather than handing it all a plate. “It’s about selling the sizzle not the sausage”. Keep them coming back to find out more. I feel I definitely do that.

Do you have any regrets?

Absolutely not.

What are your ambitions in 2018 and beyond? Do you envisage owning you own venue for your gigs to promote in the future?

Owning your venue comes with a much bigger headache, so I don’t envisage owning my own venue at the moment. That being said I have BadgerFest 2018 The Sequel, which is already getting a lot of hype and if it’s as successful as last year it will be bigger and even more amazing. I have plans for the future but one step at a time.

I have to ask – has there been a band that you were desperate to sign but who got away from you?

This is a tough one but if I could of sign all the bands that play Badgerfest events I would. I only provide the best.

A fun question to end this interview. If you were a DJ and were allowed to bring 5 CDs to the party, what would they be?

This question always comes up in band interviews and is more aimed at a desert island. I couldn’t pick 5, so I decided on 10.

  • Metallica – S&M
  • Ministry – Sphinctour
  • Hans Zimmer – Interstellar Soundtrack
  • Carpenter Brut – Live in Paris
  • Gojira – From Mars to Sirius
  • Bladerunner 2049 soundtrack
  • Death- Live in LA
  • Gorefest – La-Merte
  • Mastodon – Live at Aragon
  • Devin Townsend – Ocean Machine
  • Zyklon – World Ov Worms

Any last message for our readers here at Moshville Times?

Continue to support music whether it be signed or unsigned bands.

Photos provided by Craig hutton of G1 Photography

Video recorded by Ian Cassidy

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