Central Scotland’s music scene is an amazing mix of extremes and some of the bands we’ve had the pleasure of seeing live, specifically in Glasgow, is due to one of our homegrown talents in the world of organising live music events. Harris Douglas is the owner and single employee of HD Music. Harris had some time to speak with us and give a little insight into the world of booking bands, some high profile shows on Glasgow’s gig circuit and describe what gives him the inspiration to do the tireless and, at times, thankless job of promoting live music.
How did HD Music become a business opportunity for you?
I played in bands when I was younger and got fed up with shite promoters basically and, like loads of people, thought “I could do that” and from there I just did it.
Was it difficult to get your promotion brand off the ground?
I started by booking a venue and approaching bands that I knew. it’s all grown from there – putting on local bands in Glasgow to talking to big agents.
What is the toughest aspect of getting bands to play your shows?
A lot of the time it’s politics. Trying to convince people that you should put on a band. luckily there’s a fair bit of loyalty. If you catch a band early on and their show goes well then they’ll come back. Even approaching an established band who’ve never played a gig in Glasgow before can be hard. Who they work with can be an influence on them as well.
Does the loyalty stick when a band blows up and makes a name for themselves in the wider scene?
Yeah, it goes both ways. If you show loyalty to a band when they’re starting out, they’ll show that loyalty when they make it out. It’s all quite a big risk because it’s all about getting bands before they get big. Promoting is like being a professional gambler.
From speaking to the bands who play your shows, it’s clearly paying off. They have some very kind words to say about you. Is that perhaps because you put on bands that you’re a fan of and find you’re more driven for them to succeed?
Yeah. It’s mostly bands I listen to which makes it easier for me to promote. Whereas, if it’s a band I don’t listen to it can be much harder. There’s been a load of times where a band isn’t in the genre I listen to but I think it could potentially make loads of money and it doesn’t turn out that way. At that point you’re like “fuck”.I don’t just think, I like this band – I’ll book them. There has to be some kind of substance there too. A following. I have to look at this as a business as well but initially I’ll look at their songs and if I like them that’ll be a start.
You recently booked Norma Jean to play a 100 capacity venue in Glasgow – The Hug and Pint –how did you pull that off?
I know their agent pretty well and we were just chatting back and forth when they were announced for Slam Dunk. Originally they were wanting to do a B-city tour, taking in Edinburgh and he was asking for too much money but I got a call from him a few weeks later saying they could do Glasgow. They were offered Stereo or Hug and Pint on different days. They said let’s go with the Hug and Pint. There was no barrier in the place so I had to be the barrier that night. That didn’t last long though, after about two songs I just gave in, there was no point. When we left the venue there was just sweat everywhere. On the floor, the bar, the ceiling.
How did the hug and Pint owners respond to that show?
They’d never put on a heavy show before although they kinda knew what to expect. They were really cool to work with. They had someone down that night to make sure everything was alright.
You have a network of venues to rely on now, does that make things a lot easier?
When I first put on shows I’d email someone at a venue and maybe two weeks later I’d get a response from them. Maybe about a year ago that had changed and venues were emailing me to put on more shows and saying how they could be able to make it cheaper for me. It was around that time I realised I was starting to make an impact. That’s when you know you’re putting on the type of shows that the venue want to be associated with.
Do you try to fit the venue with the band?
Yeah, like I wouldn’t even attempt to book a pop-punk band in (nice N) Sleazy’s because of the age restrictions in there. That would impact on the younger crowd who usually attend those types of gigs.
Which show would you say has made the biggest impact on your business?
The biggest one would probably be when we did a Flood of Red gig in 2014. At that point I’d been doing shows for around a year and a bit and that was the first band that I knew a lot of people had already seen and that show probably put me on the map. It was then that it felt like people were looking at me and saying this guy knows what he’s doing.
You like to get involved at your own shows. You’re well known for getting in amongst it when you get the chance to step away from manning the doors.
I’ve literally paid for some of these gigs so I’m going to enjoy them. I’ve paid my dues with shows, some that don’t make money to pay my way. I’ve lost a lot of money and I have a lot of t-shirts. If I work out how many guest-lists and t-shirts I’ve had I’ve probably done alright from it but there’s definitely a misconception if you think I’m making a lot of money from this so I’m going to get everything I can out of it.
How is the local music scene in Glasgow changing when it comes to booking shows?
A lot of local bands who play shows with me for the first time are so used to getting really shit deals and pretty much playing for nothing as well as being left to do everything themselves. There are also bands in Glasgow who are taking the steps to book it all themselves, which I can understand as they can make more money out of it. That doesn’t bother me and it’s the same for me at times. Sometimes it’s nice to just go to a show and not have to organise it.
Is there any particular style or genre of music you’d steer away from promoting?
I like a wide range of music from hardcore metal to pop so probably not if I knew it would do well…
…so you sing along to Bieber in the car but wouldn’t let anyone know, yeah?
..oh no, I’d let everyone know that. ‘Baby’ is my jam.
Apart from Bieber, who are you listening to at the moment?
Pulled Apart By Horses, Lower Than Atlantis, Holding Absence, Palm Reader and Stormzy.
…and what have been your favourite shows of all time?
Rolo Tomassi at Stereo (the infamous pole hugging episode). Norma Jean was a really fun show and were probably the biggest band I’ve put on – although they may not be as big as they once were around ten years ago. Any time I see Enter Shikari, who are one of my favourite bands.
Harris is one of a handful of promoters putting in the effort, not only to book shows, but to be an actual presence in the music community. He is a familiar face, a talent and probably most importantly – a genuinely nice guy who wants to see bands play for fair money and succeed. I’d like to thank him personally for doing what he does and for taking the time out to have a chat with us. See you at the next show Harris.
Photos: Alan K. Gray at akgphotos