Sean Simmons has just launched his national touring agency Press Play Presents, preparing for post-COVID touring with a massive roster of national and international artists such as SWANS, Mick Harvey (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, PJ Harvey), Cash Savage and The Last Drinks and many more.
His 25 years of industry experience ranges from working in radio to Head of Programming at Leaps & Bounds, while most recently was booking with Mushroom Group at Premier Artists for seven years. In between readying his clients for future tours and his kids for school, Sean gave us a rundown of how a week on the job typically looks.
Job description in your own words
I run my own company, Press Play Presents and am a booking agent of Australian acts and tour promoter of International ones. Both involve the booking of gigs/tours and negotiating deals as well as artist development while the internationals require me to have more of a hand in the logistical side of things. ie. flights, accommodation, transport, backline, promotion, visas and crew etc. I have also on occasion curated or acted as Festival Adviser for the Leaps & Bounds Music Festival and DJ regularly at clubs, pubs and festivals but above all I am a lover and creator of music.
It’s best I give you a run-down of my Pre-Covid journal because at the moment whilst stuck in Melbourne’s Stage 4 lockdown, I juggle being a home-school teacher for my 10 year old and 6 year old twins with the daily running of a booking agency…. And to be honest “rescheduling agency” is probably a more accurate description of the business at the moment.
Every weekday morning is a mad bustle to get the kids to school. As soon as that’s done, it’s straight to the computer to smash out replies to the emails that have come in over the weekend. To avoid “inbox anxiety” I always like to have attended to at least 10-15 of them before my first coffee. Makes me feel like I’ve cleared some decks even before the day has begun.
Monday is my “set up” day. Weekly “To Do” lists are written, invoices are sent out and ticket updates are done. Matt, my Tour Coordinator comes over and we discuss what he and I will be working on for the week, what acts we recently saw and a general catch up. Currently, he books one act and [is] in charge of chasing up all worksheets and sending out and retrieving contracts. We both work remotely but like to have at least one day where we are in the same room.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and the weekend
I try to give Monday some clarity because the rest of the days can sometimes all run into each other.
Booking is a cyclical job. While there is a beginning and end to a gig or tour, I always have so many on the go and they are all at different points in their cycle. Whether it be routing a tour, chasing festivals or handling logistics like booking flights and accom or processing visas if international, it all happens within the working week at any given time. That’s why some form of organisation is important so you don’t lose track of where every show is. Excel is probably my most useful tool. That and coffee.
Sometimes the week gets broken up a little with off-site meetings with prospective clients. I occasionally give a presentation at Collarts or do other talks for the likes of APRA and Music Victoria too. The sub-contracting work like the Leaps & Bounds Music Festival is great. It really provides some variety that can often be much needed.
Weeknights and weekends are usually filled with going to gigs either for prospective new acts, my own or just ones I like.
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Challenges and accomplishments in your week
Keeping a cool head in a crisis is one of the best assets an agent or promoter can have. Things can often not go your way and you need to be flexible in your thinking and act fast. I’ve had an artist miss 3 planes from the States after he decided to get a new passport because he didn’t like his photo without telling me! He then fell asleep at the airport and missed the rescheduled flights to arrive in the country 1 hour before his soundcheck. Luggage gets lost, hire vehicles get crashed, artist’s get sick, bushfires occur, pandemics happen – Some days can be spent only fixing things.
Highlights of the week (pros of the job)
The thrill of finally securing that festival, international support or gig is still the high that a booking agent craves. Everyone wants a sell out so of course that is also the ultimate quest but the element of booking or promoting that really drives me is being involved in the development of an artist. Taking an artist on a journey from 100 cap rooms to 2000 cap rooms and beyond brings the highest satisfaction. Working out what works for a given artist and applying that strategy to achieve the best outcome for both of us.
Before this pandemic hit, I became lucky enough to be invited to music industry showcase conferences around the world. Not only a great time to discover new talent but also an opportunity to meet my peers from other countries as well as time to hang with Australians I don’t always get to. I would also tack on a working holiday to a territory I felt I would gain something from. So many opportunities have come from these. I ran into Lydia Lunch at a dive bar in New York while she was celebrating her bass player’s birthday. I’ve toured her 3 times since.
Lowlights of the week (cons of the job)
Cancellations, low selling shows and not getting that elusive festival you thought you had. All lowlights that are a part of the booking rollercoaster – Oh and pandemics. Pandemics are really, really bad.
Words of wisdom for people considering a job in your field
- Go to as many gigs as you can. Network and meet as many people as you can, as you never know what meeting or event can lead to the next opportunity.
- Be organised and prepared to work around the clock. Work with integrity and realise that you’re a cog in the wheel and part of a team. Communicate effectively and be a good listener.
- Build up your resilience and try not to get too emotional about the things that can’t be helped. Booking and promoting can be wild rides with lots of extreme highs and lows. Your ability to get through the downturns will determine how strong you are to achieve the wins.
- And if at all possible, try not to begin a company that relies on large gatherings in a pandemic.
Head to Press Play Presents for more on Sean’s work. Images supplied.