Frank Burkitt is one of our favourite songwriters in the whole country, we count him as a Kiwi now, he’s been here from Scotland long enough. A tour or trip around NZ is not the same without a booze filled, late night jam session in Wellington with The Frank Burkitt Band. Frank has put together a new (hopefully annual) showcase in Wellington​, called the Wellington Independent Music Showcase, and it’s going to take place at BATS Theatre from September 27th – 30th. Frank wrote a little piece discussing how it came to be. 

The quest for new music fans goes on!

How do more people hear my music? Not just family, not just friends, not just fans of my particular genre even, but all people. This quandary motivates me almost daily. Perhaps I am more vain than most or perhaps it really does just come with the territory when you embark on the long, hard road of becoming a self-made musician. I accept that there will always be people who will never like my music but think of the millions of people out there that have yet to hear it. How…do…they…hear it? This is not a particularly original sentiment and I suspect one that will strike a chord (excuse the pun) with many independent musicians, which let’s face it, is probably around 75% of all musicians out there.

This was the catalyst for the Wellington Independent Music Showcase or WIMS if you will. When looking for a new and exciting venue in Wellington for my band to put on our annual ‘home’ gig, I was told about the good people at BATS Theatre. Being a theatre, a run of performances, rather than a one off gig, was the preferred option and so it got me thinking. Why not do four gigs, with four different bands and call it something catchy? Voila! You have an event. Granted, the name could have been catchier.

I was over the moon to get such a strong line-up of acts to agree to perform; busker turned seasoned folky Graeme James, folk-country duo LOST BiRD, folk-rockers Miles Calder & The Rumours and of course my own American Roots outfit The Frank Burkitt Band.

PictureMr Frank Burkitt

As a songwriter, I have always preferred the concert rather than the gig. The listener perhaps more than the dancer. And the beautiful Heyday Dome Stage at BATS is the perfect venue to create the intimate, boutique concerts that I have envisioned. Each performance will start with a short film that we have made, with all the acts talking a bit about their work and lives as independent musicians. It has been a fantastic process and very comforting to hear other people share the same uncertainties, stresses, strategies and general approach to music that I have. The one thing that linked us all though was our love for creating, playing and performing music. This is how it should be.
A large part of life as an independent musician is making your own work. Three years ago I wouldn’t have had the courage or skills to put on this showcase but here I am doing it, taking the gamble. It might all be a complete disaster admittedly but let’s keep the fingers crossed. I’ve sat and listened to so many friends of mine in the music world lament the fact that there aren’t enough venues (which there aren’t) and talk about how hard it is to make people even aware of live music, let alone get them to gigs.

​To me the answer is simple. Find a venue, pick a day, do a tonne of promo and see what happens. You’re creating your own income, as well as contributing to the arts in the best possible way. Plus, the venue you choose, whether it’s a town hall, a bar or someone’s house, may just become the next hot place to play. This is how venues are created surely. But the more times you put on your own gig, the better you get at it and each time the gamble remains, but becomes less and less terrifying. But like the person who complains about the price of everything but doesn’t vote, I feel you can’t complain about a struggling music scene if you’re not trying in some way to make it thrive, however that may be. 

I am filled with nervous excitement every time I think about this Showcase. If we sell out, which is easily doable with only 70 seats available each night, then I will look to do it again in 2018 with a whole new line-up, and possibly a slightly bigger venue. What a dream it would be if it evolved and I could write another article about it in 5 years time. But let’s just hope for now that come the end of September, the seats are full, the lights go up and the music plays. Tickets from www.bats.co.nz

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