Interview: Music Networker at Riff Taff, Ivan Roberts

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There’s a sort of magic that happens during a good gig. The electricity of the crowd, the intoxicating concoction of nerves and excitement emulating off the band; the vibes built to connect a room full of strangers. However, let’s not forget the person behind the scenes who made all of this happen, the live events organiser. Diligently conducting the night and putting together all the pieces leading to a its climactic crescendo of energy.

ALT-MU Music Editor, Tuala Kiernan, recently attend a Riff Taff music networking event in Brighton and met the organiser Ivan Roberts. We found out what it took for him to be a successful Live Events Organiser and how that eventually evolved into him becoming a Music Networker:

Where did your love of music start?

It started in my late teens. A close group of friends took me a long to rock and metal shows and I absolutely got the bug. Loved it. As I grew older I became a sort of gig junkie, so to speak.

You started as a Live Events Organiser. In your own words, can you explain to us what that is and what it entails?

Well, it’s someone who does all the groundwork to put gigs and events on. I like to pride myself by making sure the band know exactly what time they were sound checking, what they had to bring along and what their set times were. I’d like to put my heart and soul into something and make sure a night would run as smoothly as possible. If you’re going to put a gig on you need to do it properly.

How would you describe the typical day of a Live Events Organiser?

Well, being single helps [laughs] when you’re fitting it around a full time job as well. I spend a lot of my spare time sending emails and calling around really.

Sounds like it keeps you busy. So, how would you usually approach putting on a gig? Do you tend to approach the venue first and then the bands or visa versa?

Generally you make a connection with the venue and then use them again and again. You can then call around and get the bands together. It’s about making that initial consultation, then once you’ve put on one or two shows and they’ve proven successful the venue would usually happy to have you back for more.

So, do you do all of organisation single handedly?

I have collaborated on some gigs but I tend to do it alone. You collect a wealth of bands that you use for different gigs and occasionally I contact someone to enquire about a certain band in their circle.

Tell us about the common problems you might face?  

Oh, where do I start. [laughs] Well, you put a lot of effort into putting a gig together and then at the last minute someone might pull out. I’ve had bands pull out, like, two hours before a gig. It makes it a little hard to find a replacement. It’s quite a common occurrence.

If a band were to drop out just before a gig, how would you resolve that?

There’s not really much you can do. I would just explain to the crowd what’s happened. Depending on the circumstances I may knock a little off the ticket price, but that’s all you can do, really – apologise and get on with the show.

How do you stay up to date in such a vast a growing industry?

Social Media is key. Bands get sent your way when you build connections and they approach me now but I trawl through Soundcloud, ReverbNation Bandcamp etc.

At what point did you decide to start putting on Networking Evenings?

Well, I started to notice people on social media platforms reaching out for certain things within music and it just gave me the bug. I’ve worked in customer services, I’m good at bringing people together and helping make connections. To provide an evening where these people can meet and network – it just made sense.

How do you think meeting face-to-face benefits creatives in comparison to online networking?

It’s a totally different ball game. It’s fine networking online but there is nothing like face-to-face contact. You are more likely to bring about life-long connections and friendships. However, it actually works well doing the two in conjunction – using a social media platform alongside live events where people can connect.

Can you tell us a little more about Riff Taff’s online community?

Yeah, we’ve got the Riff Taff Music Networking group. We now have over 1100 members which is just astounding. We bring people in via Facebook, they turn up on the night then they can reconnect via the platform that we offer and also using their own.

Many musicians have their own pages so they can share on our page and collaborate.

What obstacles did you face when starting up and what lessons have you learned?

In regards to organising gigs, I went into it far too quickly without building a solid base. If I went into it with the strong social media presence I have now, it would be far more successful.I would have had a bigger following and wouldn’t have had to dip into my own pocket. Social media and computer skills are very important tools for an event organiser.

You must have met a lot of musicians in your time. What top tips would you give to readers who want to reach their full potential in the music industry?

Well, the absolute key word here is ‘respect’. Respect for those trying to help you out. There are sharks in the industry who need a wide berth, but there are some genuine people out there who are trying to help unsigned musicians. If there is someone trying to help you then help them.

Respect and communication is so important. If you break down the communication, then everything goes out the window. You need to support each other.

Well, we’ve obviously dragged you out of your evening. How would you say tonight’s going?

I think it’s going great. There’s a load of people who have come in this evening, they’re giving out business cards and CD’s, people from all walks of life. This is the first in Brighton, we’re doing another tomorrow night and we’re really pleased with how it’s gone.

You started off in London didn’t you?

Yes, we do the first of each month. We’re having a little break over Christmas and New Year then go back on February 2nd. Maybe look at doing alternate months between Brighton and London. I’ve got people approaching me about potentially doing some in Reading, Southampton and Bristol. We’re just looking to expand and bring in new venues.

Excellent. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

If you’re involved in the music world then get in touch via the Riff Taff Music Networking Group on Facebook. If we’re in your area then pop down, meet new people and make connections. We can enhance what you’re doing in music and even make new friendships.

The Brighton Music Networking Evening we attended was an excellent experience – we even came away with a few contacts ourselves.

You can find out more about Riff Taff on their website or visit our  careers archives for plenty of music tips and interviews.

Interview by Tuala Kiernan

Author: ALT-MU

A digital music magazine for musicians and music lovers with alternative ideas and careers.

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