Kunal Singhal from Chaos THeory Music is passionate about new music and promotes underground bands
it seemed like a good idea to get his tips for musicians and bands on how to approach working with a promoter.
My favourite is “ring round the band to see if everyone is free before booking a gig”.
Super simple but have to say essential
To check out Chaos Theorys events click here
– check this video and see the more in depth written interview below.Share Tweet
I had been hearing rumors about promoter
Kunal Singhal and his company Chaos Theory
he is a promoter who likes music !
who is passionate about finding and exposing new and emerging talent!
and a diamond geezer to boot !
– so when I finally met him at Atul Ranas excellent rock bands meet up it seemed only natural to nab him for a quick chat
What is your Mission statement?
Basically, at Chaos Theory we’re coming at the scene from two angles. First, we want to provide a series of high-quality, well-run gigs for unsigned and independent musicians who would make a career of their music, if given the chance. It’s an attempt to prepare them for a more professional circuit and to get them exposure to people who are more influential in the industry than us. We try to only focus on musicians who create original music which is attempting to break new ground. Bands that play covers or follow trends that have been established for thirty years are great, but I think they are already looked after better than bands who are trying something fresher.
Secondly, it’s to provide a series of gigs for music fans who have their fingers on the pulses of whatever underground movements are current right now, as well as trying to encourage and educate new potential music fans who are unaware that ‘unsigned’ music doesn’t have to mean sloppy, untrained or unprofessional. It’s about keeping the underground scene nourished while bringing in new audiences and growing it once again.
Chaos Theory promotes several completely different genres of music from heavy metal to jazz with electronica and acoustic sandwiched elegantly in between
Does this represent your own tastes?
Yes, all the nights that Chaos Theory puts on are currently what I personally am into in a big way. Each and every other person involved with Chaos Theory loves specific nights that we do and/or is interested in exploring the different scenes and seeing what they have to offer. We can’t promote what we don’t like. At least, not well. It would be insincere. I tried to do nights in the very, very early days that I wasn’t personally into but I thought might tap into popular scenes (basically to keep demanding venues happy) but I cancelled them before they even started. I’m just not good enough a salesman to promote something I don’t care about.
Are there any types of music you don’t deal with?
Lots. For all of the reasons that I’ve already mentioned. That said, if any of the wonderful people who have become team members would want to start a new night, either a one-off or a series of nights to support a current genre, I’d be into that. This is bigger than my ego and the speed at which Chaos Theory is growing only since the others got involved is proof of that.
Are you a musician yourself?
I came to London to push myself as a singer and vocalist, having sung in various types of bands in England and France for almost 10 years before I moved to London. Chaos Theory was going to be a DIY label that I used to promote my own music. Then I realised that I could do more. It’s immensely gratifying and also frustrating because I now rarely have time to develop my own ideas and music, aside from random lyrical scribblings and coming up with melodies in the shower. I do a part time flyering job so I just stand by the tube doing singing exercises while handing them out. The lady at the flower stand says it’s annoying every morning but I think she secretly likes it. Just by being surrounded by inspirational artists of all styles, my creative mind is kept fertile and I do fully intend to one day return to the scene as a performer. Yvonne, Cyrus, David and Arthur are all involved with Chaos Theory and are all musicians too; I think a lot of the success of how the nights are run is that we all understand what it’s like to be on the other side.
Promoters are often made out to be the bad guys on the London music scene I sometimes wonder if that is because bands don’t appreciate the hard work going on behind the scenes so:
What makes bands and solo artist easy to work with?
There are many levels to the industry and I deal mainly with the up-and-coming artists, so what I say is relevant only to my experience. Bands that do not have management need to get good at their admin. If they do have management then they need to stay in touch with them. I send out lots of emails to musicians before a gig detailing everything, venue, equipment, pay structure, timings, promo etc. I prompt them to share the email with all band members so that everyone is fully in the loop. Bands that keep themselves completely informed, read everything I send them and stay in contact in the weeks leading up to the gig, are the ones who turn up updated and prepared, which sets us up for a smoothly run, well-attended gig. It annoys me when my head has to rule my heart, but no matter how much you love someone’s music, if there’s another equally good band who appreciates the slot and sees it more as a chance to support the scene and cooperate with other bands, which only then translates into more fans for them, then they are the ones that have made it easy to work with again and again.
What can a band do to boost their live following?
Bands need to step out of the mindset that one member is in charge of social media, another is in charge of bookings, etc etc. If we look at bands that have shot to fame, it’s because they all deal with all of it! Rolo Tomassi are a great example; they each had Twitter accounts linked to the band one and each were admins of their Facebook and Twitter pages, so they’d all be banging on about their music, gigs, random crap they liked and their merch at different times, with different styles and voices that a wide range of different people related to. They also did their own merch stands after their gigs and chatted with their fans. Great stuff. Variety and strength in numbers. Same with bookings. When I get independent emails from two or three different members of the same band who are looking for gigs, I’m more likely to take notice. If you expect one band member to deal with all of that, you’re making your ascent a much harder trudge in an already difficult industry.
Don’t be ashamed to promote your gigs, merch etc. I used to feel so embarrassed about nagging my mates to come to Chaos Theory gigs (until we started to get punters that I’d never met). But you have to. How else are people going to find out about it?
Tell people well in advance about all of your gigs. And tell them regularly.
Once you’ve got some good gigging experience, it would be worth being more picky with your gigs and playing them less often, like once every six weeks in the same city. Otherwise fans and supporters will just think, “oh well, I’ll catch them in a few days”.
The less often you play in the same city, the less guilty you’ll feel about bombarding fans with gig updates and the more special each one will become.
I know we all want to keep gigging lots, that’s part of why we became musicians, but if you want to play more often, choose gigs that you’d be proud of and excited to play, not just any old random gig, and you’ll be more excited about promoting it anyway.
You should be proud of what you do and unashamed of promoting it.
Which brings me to another surprisingly often overlooked point: play good music!
The amount of musicians I’ve met who are great at admin, promotion and press but have rushed it and not developed their sound is ridiculous.
Children of a cutthroat era.
All of what I said about promo etc is meaningless if you haven’t thought through what you’re doing and what you’re trying to achieve with your message and/or sound. We have a rule when scouting for bands at Chaos Theory: if you weren’t looking for a band to book and you wouldn’t genuinely follow this musician as a fan and buy their music, merch and gig tickets, then you shouldn’t approach them.
Same should apply to musicians. Instead of comparing yourselves with local musicians, you should compare your music to the musicians and bands that you grew up listening to, who moved and inspired you, who blew you away with their technical prowess.
Does your own music have that effect on you? Would it if you hadn’t made it? If not and you want it to be more than just a hobby, I’d start there.
Is it evil to expect bands to promote their own gigs and bring people along ?
No. Well, it depends on what you’re doing as a promoter as well. With the greatest respect to the musicians I work with, even the ones with cult international fanbases are not always so famous that they’ll sell out concerts just by their name being spotted on a poster.
We all need to tell our fans about gigs, Christ, even major artists on major labels send out newsletters, update their websites constantly and have all their gigs listed on all of their social media sites. They need to do it, what makes anyone else think they don’t?
However, it’s not good practice for promoters to solely rely on the bands.
All of us at Chaos Theory are really excited about the music we promote and are genuinely touched that these people agree to work with us when we’re still so small, so we work really hard at promoting the gigs online, with posters and flyers all over London, online listings and soon we’ll be doing regular mass press releases, student union offers and deals with hostels.
Doing all of this, we get a humble amount of regulars and random new punters coming to each gig.
It’s a great start, but we aren’t filling out any venues ourselves. Neither would most bands if we expected them to do all of the work.
The reason why our nights have started to generally do well is down to the cooperation between us and all of the bands.
It’s only in working together, to promote the entire event, that we will be successful.
That means people don’t just come expecting to see their mate play then leave, they come expecting to spend their whole evening watching an awesome night of music, that happens to include a band or two that they know.
It’s with this simple cooperative effort that musicians share audiences and play to new people and gain new fans, which is the point, right?
If I was performing and was expected to do all of the promotion work, I probably wouldn’t be happy about playing that kind of gig, but that’s just me. There’s no right answer though, do what you’ve got to do, just make sure there’s a good reason for you to play each gig that you do.
What kind of info can a band provide that really helps you ?
I love an organised band. Some have press kits and all sorts to send me. What I find useful are links to websites, photos or album art that we can use in the newsletters, as well as biographies/histories, lists of any notable previous gigs, festivals, press coverage, press quotations. All of that stuff helps me big up a band.
Make sure you update your links. Don’t send me a soundcloud link that has none of your current material on it, for example. And don’t send me a link to a website that still has your next gig as April 2011 or something. If musicians send current, updated links, then that obviously will make it relevant to fans that I send them to.
What is the worst thing a band has done to you (as a promoter that is)?
We’re actually pretty lucky now, most of the bands we work with are really supportive and easy-going.
Generally things that have happened in the past might be a band not being supportive, which usually means not staying in touch, not telling any fans, just turning up, using everyone else’s stuff, playing a set then leaving right away, or hanging out at the bar in another room and not bothering about any of the other bands.
Generally being inconsiderate, like using all of the soundcheck time without any care for the other bands, over-running.
I’ve had a couple of bands turn up late on the night and tell me that they can only play a certain timeslot, different to the one I’d emailed, or they can’t play at all.
None of that is fair on the other musicians.
Hardly any of this stuff happens nowadays though, as I don’t work twice with people who do those things, plus the musicians we work with now are generally really helpful and switched on to the fact that we’re all better off working together.
It all comes down to cooperation again.
There are many musicians who have been so jaded by poor promotion practices in the past that they tar all promoters with the same brush and have an “us versus them” attitude. This is a shame as I don’t feel that it helps anyone, including themselves.
We’re all trying to achieve the same thing and none of us can do it completely alone.
What is a standout gig Chaos Theory has put on ?
I was given the opportunity by cellist Jo Quail to promote an extraordinary event in St Leonard’s Church in Shoreditch in 2011. It was a full performance of her album with 9 special guests collaborating with her, the launch of her new EP and a photography auction. Electric cello, video art, improvised pole dancing and avant garde percussion all featured alongside the musicians. We packed the place out and Jo really set the standard in showing me on what scale I really could be doing things. All the programming was done by her, I just did the promo and stage management. I was pretty amateur back then so am immensely grateful that she worked with me on that.
What exciting gigs have you got coming up we should know about ?
23rd November will be our biggest one to date. Jarboe, singer of Swans and collaborator with many artists including A Perfect Circle, Neurosis, Merzbow and more, will be performing an acoustic set at St Leonard’s Church with support from Jo Quail, Bitter Ruin and Mary Hampton. Will be a cross between experimental, acoustic, classical and folk. In a candlelit church. We’ve never done anything like it.
7th December is our last one of the year, with a stoner rock, doom and psyche lineup at The Facemelter with Earthmass, Sonic Mass, Mother Trucker and Three Thrones.
What is your top tip for an artist
1) Stop being so self deprecating! Be proud of everything you’ve achieved and accept that in art, there are no right answers. Look at every musician on every lineup you play in and ask yourself: what am I better at than them? That should boost your confidence.
2) Stop being so damn cocky. You may have a bunch of people telling you how great you are and you may have achieved a lot, but don’t stop now! Look at every musicians on every lineup you play in and ask yourself: what are they better at than me? There’s always something that you can learn from everyone and add to your repertoire of strengths.
Whats with the name Chaos Theory ?
Basically, I’m a geek. Well, I would be if I was clever enough. I was most interested in theoretical astrophysics in school, what little we touched upon, and found the means and concepts of using maths to discover more about the universe and nature fascinating. I did a degree in philosophy and again we touched upon Chaos Theory, so it was fresh in my head when my good chum Robert Rumba and I hosted a late night radio show called Caius Theory (Caius because everyone had started calling me that back then as opposed to previous nickname K. Boring and true). The whole point of the show was that you cannot say that there is any genre that is bad, you just don’t understand what the pioneers had achieved that was relevant to music of the time. So Rob and I would play each other music that we felt was important in history and explain, discuss, argue and banter about it. I loved it. Anyway, the name was always in my head because of the label I thought I wanted to run and here we are.
What kind of bands are you looking to put on and how do you like to be contacted?
Any band that produces high-quality, interesting music that is a little bit off the norm. For our regular nights we’d be looking at contemporary jazz fusion, progressive rock and metal, post-rock, alternative folk, contemporary classical and electronic producers of anything including deep house, techno, bass, jungle, washed out beats and lavish, silky tones. We also do the odd avant garde special nights, so experimental musicians, do get in touch.
We have collaborated with certain musicians in the past to create an album launch for them, so can put together one-off nights for musicians that don’t fit into our regular nights. If it’s original, daring and not pandering to the X Factor-drunk masses, it’s worth looking at.
If a musician sends us links (to music that they’d actually be playing, not another project or old material) plus a phone number and email address, they’ll hear back if it’s of interest. If it isn’t what we’d do, I still try to reply with feedback or to suggest alternate promoters who might be better suited, but that’s becoming harder to find time to do, so apologies to anyone who finds that rude.
There’s a contact form on the site. Please do check your links and contact details work. It’s worrying to think of the amount of musicians who’ve emailed me who would have received interest not just from me, but from lots of promoters/labels/etc if they’d just sent the right details.