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Emily Francis wants to make a difference. And now that Planes Mistaken for Stars is permanently grounded, the band's former manager has an idea that's ready for takeoff.
Francis, who's helped curate Denver Fest for the past three years, has teamed with Jeff Campbell, former NIPP staffer and current 3 Kings Tavern co-owner, to form Somethin Somethin Productions, an independent concert-promotions company. While Francis is well aware of how crowded the marketplace is, she's confident that Somethin Somethin brings something different to the table. Its primary focus will be to foster a sense of community, she says, and that means involving local folks in all aspects of promoting — from designing fliers to pitching in on other amenities it plans to offer bands, everything from catering to booking hotel rooms and arranging van/car rentals. Somethin's founders also plan to form alliances with like-minded indie promoters around town, with the idea of pooling resources in order to put together much larger shows.
"We're going to be competition just because we're a production company," Francis allows, "but we're just trying to get good music into Denver without charging way too much." For example, they'll try to keep guarantees from getting out of hand, as they are now. "These bands get offered a certain amount from one promoter," Francis explains, "and then the other promoter offers twice as much or three times as much, and it keeps going up and up. And that drives the overhead up, and then ticket prices have to be high so they can cover that and not go too far into the hole. That's the thing: We'll find out what they're getting paid in every other city and then plan it like it should be planned.
"We're trying to put a wedge between these bidding wars that are going on right now," she adds, "and hopefully bring down the ticket prices. For instance, Ministry was $45. That's ridiculous, but I'm sure it's because they had a huge guarantee."
Perhaps — but whatever lofty guarantee the act is managing to command for its final tour doesn't appear to be exclusive to Denver. Ticket prices here were about on par with prices across the country, which range from about $40 in places like Dallas and Chicago to $55 in New York City. And while bidding wars may impact ticket prices at some levels, there are other factors affecting the rates. AEG Live and Live Nation's list prices are actually pretty reasonable, ranging anywhere from $6 to $25 for average shows. But when you tack on Ticketmaster's fees, a local show that's listed at $6 at the Gothic can actually end up costing $15.75. Sometimes the fees are more than the list price.
And that's where Somethin Somethin Productions could really do something to make a difference. The company is considering using TicketWeb — which adds an extra $2 to $4 per ticket — or simply making tickets available via PayPal, with no service fee. Either way, Francis says, the goal is to keep prices as low as possible. "Music is about sending a message," she muses. "It has nothing to do with money. We want bands to be heard and want it to be like the old days, where you can go see a show for a small fee."
Somethin Somethin would also like to return to the days when booking shows was more about relying on your rapport with a band than about breaking out your checkbook. To that end, Francis and Campbell hope to parlay their longstanding relationships into memorable shows for the fans and the bands. "We want to take back our scene and make it so it's not about the money, but about the music," says Francis. "That's where we can hit home with the bands, because we feel strongly about it and so do these bands. They still have to make a living — which we understand, and we'll still be able to help them make their living — but they want to play for somebody who's in it for the right reasons, because they're in it for those same reasons. And we're approaching bands that have those same values, so it's not like we're just approaching anybody. We're approaching people that are our good friends."
And that's somethin'.