Keeping it DIY in the Digital Age: An Interview with Gigfly.ca's Eric Cammileri

Back in my music playing days, when the various bands I was in decided we’d had enough of playing to people who didn’t care in our hometown and we made the move to play in other cities for people who didn’t care, much of the booking responsibility fell on my not-at-all-like-Atlas-like shoulders. Back when the internet was in its infancy, and even before it was a thing, booking somewhat decent and reliable tours on a DIY level came primarily via the use of Maximum Rock and Roll’s Book Your Own Fucking Life. Annually, the folks at Maximum R’N’R would compile a list of people who'd book and promote shows, and make them available for blind contact via snail mail, phone, fax and maybe email if you were looking to tour. It was a definitely time intensive, absolutely laborious and potentially expensive process, but it was the best option for bands with miniscule profiles and fanbases to get out of town. As well, and if I remember correctly, BYOFL wasn’t limited to promoters; also included were lists of friendly record stores, cheap eateries, people who hosted touring bands, distros, radio stations, etc.

When I spoke to Eric Camilleri, he had never heard of BYOFL. Eric is a metal/hardcore promoter in the city of my residence, Hamilton, ON and despite having no knowledge of the tome that got so many bands on the road in the ‘90s, his latest venture, gigfly.ca could be construed as a digital equivalent for the modern age. Gigfly.ca is his recently launched website designed to assist working members of the music community develop and maintain a more hands-on approach to business outside the rehearsal room. Originally designed to assist touring bands of all stripes book shows and keep track of their lives on the road, the site has progressed to where it also functions as a tool to help bands, promoters, venues, vendors and support staff (this includes sound techs, tour managers, merch producers, merch vendors, etc) get and stay connected. Essentially, gigfly.ca it’s a more sophisticated and immediate digital rendering of the ethos that drove BYOFL, which made the move to cyberspace years ago, but is pretty sparse activity-wise and, by my estimation, hasn’t been updated in almost a year.

I don’t want to take away from what Eric has to say in the interview below and I don’t think my blabbing about the website is any substitute for rooting around the site, exploring and seeing what it has to offer and testing out some of its features. If you’re looking to help yourself, check out the YouTube tutorial and the links following the interview.

Where did the idea for gigfly.ca spawn from?

As you know, I’ve been a promoter for about ten years now and I’ve seen the ups and downs of the music industry; the good and the bad and a lot of it is bad. A lot of indie bands aren’t making any money, even the ones that are making money have to give a cut to everyone else, including the agents, who can take up to 50%, sometimes for just sending a couple emails here and there. So, gigfly.ca started with this mind. It was in my head and I had the vision for a very long time. I wanted to help artists out, big or small, and I had a lot of ideas. I just had to figure out how to piece them together with the right website with the right materials for the artists. I got some other guys involved originally but it wasn’t turning out how I wanted it to be, so I went in a different direction. I’ve been working on this site for probably about a year-and-a-half.

How has the site changed over that year-and-a-half. Was how it turned out the way you pictured it?

Actually, it turned out exactly how I wanted, but when you start these things you eventually realise there are so many little things you have to deal with and you have to deal with them and roll with the punches as they come in. The website is exactly how I envisioned it. My programmer and I worked very hard on all the details, on how easy it is to use for the artists or any venue, promoter or anyone that signs up for the site.

So, how would you explain Gigfly.ca to the average person on the street?

It’s a website that connects bands, musicians, venues, promoters, sound techs, tour managers and vendors in your area and around the world. Whoever signs up gets added to the gigfly.ca database and can get connected. This will make touring a lot easier and promoting shows a lot easier for everyone. We also provide a tour planner, edit-able contracts and advance sheets, we developed a merch calculator for merch people to keep track of sales, costs, percentages and so on. It’s very simple and makes it easier for them to add stuff up at the end of the night in terms of inventory. We also have an online community and some very useful tools for musicians.

Funny and timely you should mention all this. I’m in the middle of reading Martin Atkins’ Tour Smart and Break the Band and I used to use Book Your Own Fucking Life religiously back in the day. Did you take inspiration from any other sources in putting this together?

Not really. I just took my years of experience as a promoter and dealing with bands and seeing what they go through. There was one time when I had a big band on stage – and I’m not going to mention names – and they were selling a ton of records and everyone thought they were making a ton of money. Well, their singer lost his shoe on stage and later was at the merch table trying to drum up enough money for another pair. When he doesn’t have enough money for shoes, that’s a problem, right? I’ve seen dudes with cracked phone screens and they can’t get replacements, dudes who can’t afford data on their phone to connect with their friends and families. These are things they should have and they don’t even have them. I want to put more money in band’s pockets. Even the people that tour with the band’s as their crew, they should have money more money in their pockets. On that note, I should also mention we have a tour manager profile and a tour planner for tour managers where you add in your load-in times, sound check time, wi-fi password, addresses and so on. And you can do it tour date by tour date. So, if you have ten dates for example, you can preview the tour. From there, it’ll connect you straight to Google Maps and show you the route and include info for the whole tour. You can print off information and itinerary as needed, so everything is one place. Essentially, it’s a template for day sheets.

A bit of a tutorial via YouTube

Obviously, you’re based in Canada, but earlier you mentioned going worldwide with the site. Was that always your intention?

Well, most of my usual connections are in Canada, and mostly in Ontario, but already since the launch of the site it has gone beyond that. We have people signing up from all across the country and my programmer said that it’s actually easier to do it worldwide because it is Google Maps-based. It’s easier to have the whole world involved than trying to keep it to a certain country. So, anyone can sign up. So, say a venue has a particular type of band playing, say a tech metal band, and they or the promoter can’t remember, doesn’t know or doesn’t have contacts for any suitable local bands, they can look up tech metal bands in their city or in the surrounding area.

I noticed there’s a free aspect of the site versus a paid aspect of the site.

Yeah. When you sign up you get your free 30 day trial which gives you access to all the tools. So, you get the templates for contracts, day sheets and merch calculator, the tour planner, the community and the Gigfly search engine that allows you to search other profiles. After the 30 days, if you don’t want to use the pay features, you’ll still have your profile, you’ll still have access to the messaging system, you’ll still have your contacts and you’ll be able to message people. You just won’t have access to the tour planner, the templates and the community tools, but you’ll still have access to everything else.

Outside of general social media sites on which people end up coming into contact with one another around music, do you know if there’s anything out there like this that’s specifically geared to musicians and industry?

There was one, or is one. I’m not even sure if it’s still around and I can’t remember what it was called, but it wasn’t very user-friendly and I think it was more for getting in contact with agents. It didn’t have the different categories like Gigfly has. As far as I know, there’s nothing like this that has all the tools and everything in one place.

I guess the biggest issue in getting this to work is getting numbers of people to sign up so as many eyes as possible are seeing the profiles. Have you figured what you need number-wise to consider this a success?

Well, obviously I won’t know that until a couple months from now when people start using the site and people start paying for the product. Since we launched the site, we have had a couple hundres sign ups and those numbers will always speed up and slow down depending on word of mouth and how much we get the name out, but we’re going to be investing in advertising in magazines and handing out stuff at some fests. We obviously do a lot of Facebook promotion and some paid ads there. We’re getting some other people involved as well which I don’t want to let too much out of the bag about and we’re also constantly working on updates to Gigfly, updating users on who’s signed up since their last login, what new templates are going to be added to the template folder, simple things like that so people are aware of what’s happening on the site. We’re also going to be adding a rating system so people can rate sketchy people, promoters, businesses or situations. There’s a bunch of stuff coming up that we’re working on; it’s not like, “this is the site. Here it is” and that’s that. I have about three white boards on the wall in front of me covered in ideas and plans. We’re listening to people as well, to what they want. The users are the ones who are obviously using it and giving feedback so you have to listen to them.

What are your goals and hopes for this?

It would be nice to start collecting thousands of users to the site and having everyone connecting through the site; having it be a staple of the music community around the world. I feel that this site can work for a lot of different people. Venues can post on the community board that they have spots open, tours can get posted and venues can pick them up. If bands are looking to tour new areas, they can connect with other bands. If a venue has a sound tech call in sick, which happens all the time, they can go on Gigfly and search their local listings for sound techs in town, message them and hopefully get them on site last minute. I should point out that while the site did start with artists in mind, it’s not just benefitting artists. It’s benefitting everyone because everyone can stay connected and that’s what I’m striving for. To get as many people connected as possible will be my ‘mission accomplished.’

Gigfly.ca

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