« Cloud Nothings released their video for "Understand At All" | Main | Glee did a rendition of My Chemical Romance's "Sing" (video) »
Sunday
Feb132011

Interview: Heath Miller, Excess DB

Heath Miller

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Heath Miller, long-time concert promoter, band manager, and New Jersey music enthusiast, about his career in the music industry. Heath is the founder and owner of Excess DB, a concert promotion company that books national and international touring acts throughout New Jersey and New York City. Interview below. Check out the upcoming shows that Heath is putting on and also add Excess DB on Facebook!


How did you get your start? What were the motivating factors for you to start booking concerts?

I started interning at a recording studio during highschool, and then started doing live sound.  When I was doing live sound, and some point I thought “hey I can just book the shows I’m doing sound at”  Overall my motivation was a love for music.

 

What is your current situation? ExcessDB? Where are you booking? Staff? Internships?

Our current situation is that we’re focused on smaller to mid sized venues, trying to book a little of everything musically, but a focus on new developing talent.

Venues we are actively booking are: School of Rock, The Studio At Webster Hall, Mexicali Live, Santos Party House & Maxwells. There’s also a few other random occasion venues we book.

I’m the only full time employee, everyone else is part time, a subcontractor or an intern.  There’s definitely some weeks that part timers are working close to full time though!

 

Approximately how many concerts have you booked? Which few were your favorites and most memorable?

I really have no idea. 2010 was 189 concerts.  I’d estimate it at around 1200ish total, first few years of “real” booking shows was only around 40 to 50 a year, and I’d say the last 5 years have floated in the 150 to 225 mark, usually a little under 200 seems to be my norm now. 

 

Memorable shows:

The 2nd or 3rd time I had Fall Out Boy at the Continental (now just a bar, used to be a tiny NYC venue) it became pretty clear that it would be one of those shows everyone would be like “wow, they really played there” type of thing.  It was a tour they weren’t headlining, and the headliner dropped off. I remember going outside and announcing to a very, very long line that the headliner dropped off so Fall Out Boy would be headlining now, and if anyone wanted a refund, now was the time to ask… and I just heard crickets. Everyone was there for Fall Out Boy. That was just a very memorable time in general – everyone that became huge in the mid 2000s played at Continental. It was pretty much all all ages Sunday matinees, and I was dragged myself to NYC early on Sunday’s after being out late on Saturday, got falafel for lunch next to it and had a blast.  Its pretty crazy looking back: Paramore, Fall Out Boy, Senses Fail, My Chemical Romance, Motion City Soundtrack, Hellogoodbye, Streetlight Manifesto, Cartel, Circa Survive, Gym Class Heroes, Chiodos, Hawthorne Heights, Dredg, and a ton more that I can’t name.

Aside from that, specific shows that standout for various reasons too long to go into: Hellfest @ Rexplex, Nas @ Club Krome, AFI @ Club Krome, and a ton others.

 

Of all of the venues you have booked at, which is your favorite and why?

In a way the Continental, because it was fun, most of the shows did well, and it was had that packed hectic energy going on. Like you know you’re somewhere special type of vibe. Krome holds a special place in my heart as well, but it was a completely different vibe and energy (and a much longer drive for me) than Continental was.  Its hard to compare the venues, because most of them have been very different.

Right now its hard to pick, each venue I book now has a completely different vibe and I really do book shows differently for each room to try to put the right show in the right room.  I really like booking at Mexicali Live because they have a great restaurant there and I can eat during my show and still get to be there which makes things easier.

 

You used to manage several bands a few years ago, which bands did you manage, how did you get your start doing that?

I really fell into it. I started managing Senses Fail when they started getting big and they needed a manager. I was trying to find a manager for them, and they were just like “Why don’t you manage us?” So I did.

 

What qualities does one need to have in order to successfully run a concert promotion and booking company?

It’s different for everyone.  For me, I’ve booked a lot of smaller venues, so you really need to be a multifunction type of person to make budgets work.  If needed to, I can mix sound, do lights, handle anything financial, build a stage, hang curtains, handle basic electrical work, fix a hole in a wall, load gear, update a website, find someone to fix a clogged toilet (I hate doing that!) or pretty much anything else that can come up.   Its not about doing all those things on a regular basis, but it’s good to know if the person that is supposed to do that either costs to much money or got sick that day, that the show will go on.

 

Of all of the concerts you have been to that you have not booked yourself, which was your favorite?

Probably the early days of Skate & Surf / Bamboozle when it was in Asbury Park – it was always just a complete party.

I also had a lot of fun taking road trips to shows in CT and at the Chance in Poughkeepsie when I was younger.  I used to love NOFX when I was 15 and remember showing up really early to see them play at the Stone Pony. I helped them load there gear, it was awesome, and they gave me an inflatable sheep (circa Heavy Petty Zoo album days)!  Fast forward about 10 years down the road, and I played poker with Fat Mike on Warped Tour. I didn’t bring up the sheep.

 

New Jersey, like it or hate it? Would you ever consider leaving the state and booking elsewhere?

I like New Jersey. Its close to New York City and we have a lot of fun stuff here too, and its way cheaper to live here than in New York City.

My wife would love for us to move to San Francisco area (she’s from there originally) but if that ever happened, I’d probably still book shows here just remotely somehow.  Its hard after 12 years of booking shows here to start again in another market.  Having 12 years of email addresses definitely helps! There are some people out there that have literally gone to shows I’ve booked for 10+ years.  I think most of them were at the Humble Beginnings / Lanemeyer show late last year.

 

What advice would you give someone looking to start booking shows or managing a band?

Booking Shows: Find a niche market that’s not being fulfilled, and fill it.  The competing with bigger promoters with deep pockets early in my career, although it helped establish me, also helped lose more money than it made.  Half the time by the time I’d get the show, there was virtually no money to be made. I was young and bullish and trying to make my mark, which I did, but I was basically taking money I was making doing computer consulting and giving it away to bands to book shows.

Managing a band: You can be friendly, but it’s hard to manage a band when they view you as a friend more than their manager.  You have to draw the line between when your friends and their manager, and when you’re just their manager. Sometimes you have to deal with some heavy stuff for them, and you have to be brutally honest.  When you tell someone that the song they just spend 16 hours working on isn’t good, they definitely don’t want to be your friend at the moment.

Reader Comments (3)

"Fall Out Boy at the Continental"

damn, forgot that place existed. that would have been a concert to see.
February 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHannah
Heath is awesome, it is so great what he has done to help music over the years here. I've been to at least 40 shows that he / excess db has booked. Def couldn't imagine my hs years without going to some of those shows
February 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermichelle
son of a btich! I want to play poker with Fat Mike at Warped Tour :(
February 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.