David Chavez, Arts Programming Coordinator with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, rarely has the same day twice. Coordinating performances from artists such as Maceo Parker, King Sunny Ade, DJ Spooky, iLe, Femi Kuti + The Positive Force, and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble has given David valuable insights into the world of booking and performance artistry.
RPS: When you get a solicitation email from an artist or artist rep, what elements make you want to become more involved?
David: I look them up and do some research on who the artist is and what they sound like. I look at live YouTube videos and I look at what their assets are, like if they have intriguing photos or an interesting story. I look at where they have performed and try to get a full scope of their work. Once my mind is made up on the artist and their skill and interest to me and possibly the public, I then start to look at how I can help sell this artist to a public that is not familiar with them. That is where good photos and good videos come in, all those things go into the mix that take it to the next level from being interested to how can I convince the public that this is an artist they need to see.
RPS: When you are watching an artist live, what elements do you look for that could make you consider booking them?
David: If they are skilled musicians and as a group they work well together. Is the music interesting and somewhat unique from any other artist in the same genre? How they interact with the audience and how they perform and their stage presence.
RPS: What is a major shift in the live music world that you think is important for artists to consider?
David: Being good at social media. Those are things that I feel that some artists aren't good at for whatever reason and it does go a long way at moving your career forward. If you can have that kind of engagement with the public and being on the edge of the industry.
RPS: What’s changed in the last 5 years in the world music scene in your experience?
David: Everything is about video now and having good videos, either good music videos or good live videos. Everything is about where people hear you, whether it's Pandora or Soundcloud or Spotify. The more presence you have on those things, the more convinced that I am that you are on top of your career and the more interest the public has because there are different points of exposure for them. The more that you can be real and put yourself out there, the fans and the public become more interested in you and become a deeper fan, a true fan of you and your work. You are your product.
RPS: What is one piece of advice you would like to give to all artists or artist reps?
David: I would say the one thing that I feel like has been disdained since I have been in the business is the lack of research and not becoming familiar with who they are approaching for a booking. To just send out cold, mass emails never works. When you can actually do your homework and see what kinds of artists have performed there and find out who is involved in putting on the festival, the better you can pitch yourself. There are so many artists who are just pitching and expect the producers to come jumping at them. It just doesn't work that way. A lot of people still don’t understand that there is a disconnect between musicians and the industry of music. Musicians can't go out there and think I'm the artist and I will just do the art. It's a business and you have to be savvy and have to be well informed. I am still puzzled by how that is still an issue. Definitely think strategically and do your research and do your homework.