Part eight of a series of posts reflecting on almost a decade of DIY culture - focusing this time on door prices. For an introduction to this series, click here.
2008: Back when I first started going to shows, there used to be two door prices. One was for those people in work, and the other was usually a pound or so lower and for those people who were unemployed. It was a system that worked on trust and honesty. I don’t know if it was successful – I haven’t seen any one do it at show for a while and I used to get sick of asking if people were waged or unwaged – but I like the idea that as punks, we try to support each other in hard times and try to give subsidies to those who otherwise might be put off coming. Naive? Perhaps. Other ideas for creative door tax include – raising the price by fifty pence and giving this extra money to a charity. Offering discounts to people who donate tins of food for the homeless (both the STE and Andy Fairfight have done this in the past to great success).
2017: This post is an edited group discussion inspired by fragment #13. Ben plays bass in Latchstring and books DIY shows as part of the A Public Disservice Announcement collective. Geraldine was involved in booking punk shows as part of the STE collective (and its afterlife). Jordan co-runs Circle House Records, books shows as part of DIY Exeter and plays as Phaedra’s’ Love. Kristianne is a spoken word artist who also runs the bi-annual event DIY Southampton at Planet Sounds. Enjoy.
Jordan: There’s a lot more divisions in a society which stops one having that disposable income in order to go to a gig than waged or unwaged. I don’t know if that’s an age thing because a lot of scenes I actually play to are university based. So when I first read this, it wasn’t something that seemed wholly relevant to me. And I recognise that is completely privileged saying that but instead of the things like putting the price down by a pound, I like donation shows and it’s based on honesty, people just put in what they can. And even in a more honest setting, when you have the tin of money there, you can put in a fiver and you take out a pound without someone watching you like a hawk. Cos asking people if they’re waged or unwaged, that can seem a little bit intrusive to some people who might find that really sensitive to be asked that. And that’s why maybe that honesty thing is really great. Or instead of having like I said the two pound suggested donation, we put on a queer punk fest in Exeter earlier this year and we had suggested donation £3, £5 , £7 and underneath it no one turned away for lack of funds.
Ben: I’ve not got many nice things to say about Barrow in Furness, but a lot of the hair dressers have got an unemployed rate for hair cuts for people who are going for job interviews. They have an unemployed rate and everyone else rate and I see that as quite a similar thing. I largely agree about the honesty situation –I feel deeply uncomfortable asking anyone “waged or unwaged?” I don’t think anyone should feel awful because their unemployed but you can’t help it if someone does because people are taught that they should feel bad about that. I do think out of all of this there’s loads of permeations as to how it can be done well or badly, that no one turned away for lack of funds is pretty much the prime thing that – it would be odd if I found anyone that disagreed with it. My thing I’m concerned about is how to implement it well and in a way that’s relevant.
Geraldine: The whole waged unwaged thing goes back thirty years to the mid to late 80’s. Thatcher’s Britain - when I suppose generally a lot more people coming to shows were unemployed. That’s where it stems from, the politics of the time.
G: It did get to a point where people would ask to be let in for free and then go and buy six pints at the bar. That didn’t go down well. So that was kind of managed, as it were. Gigs that have been organised by people that I know, people that genuinely qualify as unwaged were let in at a discounted rate or let in for nothing on the grounds of you wouldn’t want people to miss out on seeing bands who couldn’t afford it, but there’s a certain amount of human nature isn’t there that if they don’t have to pay, some people won’t.
Kristianne: I really kind of feel like if you want to go to the show, that’s your first thing, you know, so if it’s in a venue where you’re gunna make sure you’ve got money for a couple of pints, you buy your ticket and you make sure that those bands that are travelling get their petrol and get fed and are able to get to wherever they need to go to because that’s their job, you don’t turn up at Tesco’s and say I don’t work so I’ll just pay for a little bit of the shopping – the way I see it, it’s a luxury to be able to go out and see bands playing, it’s a nice thing to do and when I haven’t got much money, I’ll go and I’ll have water at the bar. That is just my opinion on it. And I know it’s not a popular one. I’ve had times when I’ve had no work, when I was at university as a single parent with a child and no family support. When I really wanted to go see a band, I found the money to go and do it. If there is a good enough will there is a way. And I really think the world is unfair, you know, and sometimes it’s really hard to get a job. But there are so many things that we live within our lives these days that we consider that we should be entitled to. You know, we all have to have mobile phones, we all have to have, I don’t know, satellite TV and I just think actually we don’t. And perhaps we shouldn’t.
B: When we were talking about fragment 13, we were talking about the value that we ascribe to things and that its totally fine to need a “luxury item” to get by – what if you were to put a gig in that content? In terms of someone really needing that thing to get by, like reading a book or listening to a record or getting some food they need to make a really nice meal – just because someone is poor doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a quality of life that involves enjoyment and I would say that having two separate door prices would be a way of allowing that. I can draw a parallel between those two things that we’ve discussed and I found it interesting on the one hand you were very pro the former but saw it slightly differently for the latter –
G: It’s two slightly different things, isn’t it? You’re swapping something you don’t need any more and you want somebody else to be able to use it rather than it going in the bin because you don’t want it clogging up the house. But if you’ve got a touring band, they need to get round the country and they need to get home –
K: And they need to be fed and they need to pay for the maintenance of the vehicles touring with them. But, and I do see where you’re coming from Ben, I totally feel that going to a gig is a bigger luxury. We do need music and the arts to stay well. But when you need something that much, you can find ways to participate in it, to get access to it that don’t require other people having to stump up those costs for you.
Phil: One way of thinking about it might be that one of those things you desperately need to get by might be a sense of community. Money that stops you going to a show is kind of a tax on your ability to access that community, isn’t it? In some ways. I just wondered if that kind of is worth thinking about in that sense. I’m thinking when I used to go to shows regularly, I’d walk into the room and I’d know like 75% of the people there, but there would be no other context where I would have that. If I couldn’t afford to pay to get in then I wouldn’t be able to access that particular resource.
B: Particularly as you get older, cos people don’t hang out as often any more cos they don’t make the effort to do so. But if I need a big jolt of socialisation, which I need quite a lot, I’ve learnt that the older I get, the more I notice that I don’t hang out with friends as much, I would hate to be a lot less waged. And it wouldn’t be the case that I didn’t get to see a band I wanted, it would be the case that I don’t get to go and have a shared experience with a lot of people which I needed.
G: If you’re saying £5 or £4 if you’re unwaged, is a pound really gunna make a difference to whoever’s paying in? If you really wanted to go, are you gunna pay £4 but stay at home if its £5? When it started, it was £5 waged, £3.50 unwaged, which made a bigger difference 30 years ago than it does now.
K: Probably used to get a pint and a bag of crisps for that! [laughs]
G: I’ve been at donation shows before where there’s been three of us there and we’ve put £10-15 in, and people are shocked. But I’d pay that £5 each for DIY on the door of a show. If I was seeing 4 bands in a house, what’s the difference? Other people just like put a pound in. If a pound is all you can afford, then fair enough but if that gig had been in a pub and you’d have paid £5-6 to go to that gig in the pub, then you could put more than a pound in.
K: I’ve been to shows where people have collected next to nothing because they’re relying on their mates that come to the show to put some money in and they’re all just more interested in the fact they’re getting hammered on cheap beer. And I’ve done the same as you, if I’m at a house show and I’m seeing 4, 5, 6 bands, I don’t have a problem with paying £5-10 that night. I’ve seen people go “Woah, are you sure you want to put all that in?” And I go, “Yeah, it would cost me more if I was at a venue because I’d have to pay a fee to get in on the door and to pay their stupid drinks prices!”
G: Food donations doesn’t happen round here that often now, it did used to be more common and Charlotte in High Wickham does it at the Phoenix and gets an awful lot of donations there. I think the pub let her have the space for free but then obviously she can’t charge on the door so she just does food donations. And the other place I’ve seen it done recently is Wonk Fest. They do an all dayer thing up at the Dome in Tufnell Park – there’s free food there all day for everyone that attends and then there’s donations for a food bank. You do have to pay in as well but there were like two massive wheelie bins full of food and they were overflowing and there was just heaps of food, it was really successful up there. So that’s really good. Adding 50p on, I mean, that’s fine long as you trust the person whose gunna hand the money over. Cos there was a famous benefit show where that didn’t happen in Southampton [laughs] that still gets mentioned now! But yeah, so that’s fine long as people don’t take the piss. Which is basically, what all of these things are, aren’t they? Don’t take the piss.
Jump to fragment (links added as fragments are posted): Intro // One // Two // Three // Four // Five // Six // Seven // Eight // Nine // Ten // Eleven // Twelve // Thirteen // Fourteen // Fifteen // Sixteen // Seventeen