If you stick with quality and give them a chance the crowds will come – Cosmo Ferraro
MM: How long have you been booking bands? How did you come to be the booking agent at Cameron House?
CF: I have been doing the booking at The Cameron for two and a half years. My uncle and mom started the bar over 30 years ago, and I have recently taken over running the place.
MM: Cameron House has been at the centre of Toronto’s music scene for a while. How do you maintain that tight-knit, community vibe?
CF: Its hard to say exactly why The Cameron has been able to stay relevant in the Toronto music scene for so long. It has always had a very artist friendly policy. Musicians have often lived upstairs and played downstairs as rent. The place is always full of artists.
It’s where people can come to be inspired, make contacts or just have a pint. It has always maintained a high talent level and over the years built a reputation as a safe bet to see a great band.
MM: Your bar has a long tradition of booking bands that go on to have successful careers. What kinds of things do you look for in the bands you book?
CF: Honestly, I book bands that I like. I think if I enjoy and believe in the band, then the experience will be better for all involved.
There is always a struggle between bands that are not great but bring a huge crowd, and really talented musicians that play to an empty room. I have found that if you stick with quality and give them a chance the crowds will come.
The Cameron often books bands to a “residency”, meaning the same band plays every Monday night for months or years. I think this has been key to many musicians success. You get to see a band slowly build an audience, and get comfortable and confident putting on a great live show.
MM: For a band trying to get a gig, what types of things help get them noticed? What makes a good application?
CF: A good application is short and sweet. I like to see a brief description of the artist, what they want from their booking, and an easy link to their music. It is always nice when they are familiar with the bar.
Sometimes they mention a show they saw here etc. It also helps to have good musicians. The Toronto music scene is a pretty tight community. When you see certain musicians names popping up, you know its a good band.
MM: What are some things bands should definitely NOT do when applying for a gig?
CF: Don’t lie! Our back room does not have a built in audience, and I warn all of the prospective bands of this fact. The room works great if you have a crowd, but if you do not, then it’s not the best fit.
I can’t tell you how many times they have acknowledged this point and then shown up to play for 3 people. It’s not fun for them or us. Often this is the fault of the manager. I hate dealing with managers.
This is a small, humble bar, and there is really no need for a manger to book this type of gig. More often than not it leads to a broken telephone and complaints from both ends.
If a band tells me, you know we can really only guarantee 5-10 people, and they are good, I do my best to find them an opening slot or add them to another bill. It is typical for a band or manager to ask about dressing rooms, guarantees, and riders, they just do not have a clue about where they are trying to book.
MM: What does a typical venue expect from the artists once they’re booked?
CF: Once a band is booked, promote the gig! Do your best to get some folks out to the show, and then play your ass off.
MM: Has digital media/technology changed the way you book gigs? Do you find more bands are applying digitally? Do you have a preference between digital or physical applications?
CF: I haven’t been doing this long enough to see a real switch to the digital application. I know the past booker would prefer a physical CD. This was mainly to weed out some of the less serious inquiries.
I think that the ease of digital recordings has made it possible for almost anyone to make a recording. Unfortunately this means way more applications and makes it harder to get to the good ones.
MM: Do you have any other advice for bands looking to book shows in a competitive town like Toronto?
CF: Booking shows in Toronto is tough. The best thing to do is start frequenting your favourite places, and meet musicians.
For upcoming shows, be sure to check out The Cameron House. They’re at the corner of Queen Street W. and Cameron Street in Toronto, Canada.