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Promoters are often the unsung heroes of a healthy and vibrant live music scene – it’s all to easy to forget that those gigs you go to, those festivals you get drunk at, wouldn’t happen without the energy and dedication of the hidden folks behind the scenes. Some promoters make a living from what they’re doing, but the vast majority do it out of love of music: arranging venues, dealing with bands, and getting people to their shows in numbers that hopefully make the bands and the punters have a good time. One such outfit is the London-based Knom, who put on an ever-increasing number of shows that reflect some of the best live independent music that there is out there. I caught up with Mr Knom, Howard Monk, for a brief insight into why he does what he does…

Give us a quick overview of Knom.

Knom is best described as an agency for live music. We put on shows and book tours. We’ve got a number of regular nights going:

The Local – started in Crouch End, monthly, and we’ve captured the imagination of the new folkies and old ones alike. It’s because we can’t go loud that this has happened. We’ve done some crackers here. Nina Nasasia, Tom Brosseau, Tunng, Broken Family Band, Alela Diane. I could go on. We started another Local in Stoke Newington, and now we do The Local presents in other venues around London. The name has stuck. People and bands like it. We do a pop quiz. And the acts get introduced. It’s rather less like your normal gig. It’s at The Local that we do the Folk Idol event, and we’ve got a Local stage at End of The Road Festival.

It’s About Time nights started in January and these are dedicated to bands who manipulate time in an interesting way, and/or have kickass drummers. This is still pretty new but we’ve done some cracking nights – Fulborn Teversham/PiterPat/Quack Quack springs to mind (that was a tour we booked too). Psapp, One More Grain, All Traps Set are acts to have played at It’s About Time.

One more is the Shh! all day festival of quiet music. This again has captured folks imagination. It is with the Birdwar Records people from Leeds. They had already done one in Leeds and we tried it in London last December. It was a great success. The next one (end June, again at Spitz) is less folk oriented as the freedom to programme an event according to volume means it isn’t genre specific (same with It’s About Time really) so we’ve some folk, some neo-classical weirdness, some electronica, some improv and it’s going to be a cracker!

Is it just you that runs Knom? Is it a full-time job for you?

It was just me, for some time, and for a while it was my job. I would sometimes get help in for shows, but in the last year and a bit I have had people helping out on a more permanent basis. Currently I have Lucy Jamieson helping, and she’s fantastic. It’s hard to give up parts of something you’ve had sole control of but we run so much better these days! The shows go off much better!

How long have you been involved in music promoting?

With my band Billy Mahonie we would organise a lot of stuff ourselves but my first show as a promoter was in about 2001, when I put on Karate at 93 Feet East. They needed help to get a show and so I did it. It went well and was quite a buzz so I thought I’d try and do some more of it. I also worked at 93 Feet East when it opened and for a while after that so I was involved in promoting stuff.

Do you promote only in London?

We do mostly London shows but have a plan to take The Local out and about a bit. I guess when we book tours we assist the regional promoters but we’re mainly in London.

How do you find the bands that you put on?

We’ve got a decent enough network these days of people who refer bands our way but many do contact us direct, and we know about bands and contact them.

What’s your preferred way of hearing from a band about a prospective show – CD? Myspace? Massive MP3 file sent by e-mail?

I completely prefer Myspace these days. I have had so many CDRs hanging about the house over the years that it’s a real breath of fresh air. OK, so it’s Murdoch and all that, but think of it as an online CV for your band and it works well enough. If not Myspace, then definitely online somehow. NOT big files to the e-mail, NOR bunches of CDs in the mail.

Do you find there’s much of a community of promoters in this country?

I think this happens in an informal way. There are definitely people you would specifically contact in a certain town with a certain band. I think the nature of it all means that it would be difficult to formalise an arrangement like that, but the beauty of it is that there are so many different promoters each with their own identity in different towns. London is perhaps different in that there is a lot of crossover (and too much stuff happening!) But there is an informal kind of community I guess , and it’s nice. It stems from being into music, into bands, and kicking around with the same kinds of people. Of course there are some tossers, but most people are super cool.

What’ve been your personal highlights in your promoting career so far?

Hum… loads recently… but biggest have been Giant Sand and Magnolia Electric Co at Bush Hall (we have Magnolia at Scala end of this month). Dead Meadow at Barfly. Constantines at Barfly. Nina Nastasia twice in dead small venues. Quack Quack anywhere (my favourite UK band). One show was Pit er Pat, Quack Quack and Fulborn Teversham. That was a classic. Past shows include early ones by: Bloc Party, Jose Gonzales, Youthmovies, 65DOS, The National, Nina Nastasia, Animal Collective, Cocorosie, Juana Molina…

What does the future hold for Knom?

It’s quite exciting. We’re very much on the ball across all our activity at the moment and it feels great. We do great shows and tours and we’ll continue to do more of the same. We’ll build a little exclusive agent roster, and look after the artists well, so they come back, and the punters too, so they come back as well!

One idea is to do The Local… to you… where anyone anywhere (hopefully in smaller towns) can get in touch, and work with us to put on a version of The Local, in their local. So if they have a backroom of a pub they know about, or a community centre, they can get in touch, we’ll work together and put on a show. We can bring artists and DJ and whathaveyou in a van, and we’ll have a great time. This might have as a legacy, someone who got into doing a show, and then continues to do so afterwards. So then there’s a show in a place where previously there wasn’t one! It’s a bit of help in setting up a show really.

Knom website