Photo Credit: Connor Lenihan
This week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Nick Lowney of The Hammer Collective, a local jack of all trades.
1. Can you give a little run down of exactly what the hammer collective is and what you do there?
Of Course! So to introduce myself- I’m Nick, owner and talent buyer at The Hammer Collective. The Hammer Collective was originally formed in 2018 as a collective of bands that I was booking super DIY tours for. It was basically just myself and a group of some close friends that were sick of the pay-to-play promoters that were dominating the Providence music scene at the time. Since then, I’ve kind of strayed away from tour booking just because of how tedious and time consuming it is, especially since my priority is to continue building a better scene and a welcoming community at home in Providence. The name stuck though haha. Despite it being The Hammer “Collective”, I am the only “employee” I guess. I do have a friend of mine that just started handling some new Boston bookings though!
2. Not only do you handle booking, you handle merch, flyers things like that? What drives you to do everything in house so to speak?
Yeah! So when I was over at The Shop Underground in Taunton, I learned how to screen print, heat press, etc. When I left there and started my own thing, I figured it would be a smart move to take that skill with me and offer that service alongside booking shows, especially with affordable prices that would be appealing to me if I were still in a band. As for flyers, I handle a lot of the artwork on my end as well. Unless I’m getting sent a tour admat or something, I’m usually sitting in Photoshop for hours at a time trying to make a decent flyer haha. I think what drives me to do everything in house is saving money. I have a lot of expenses and a lot of money constantly on the line between shows and other necessities, so if there’s something that I can handle on my own, I’m going to carve out some time in my day to do that.
3. What was your first introduction to the music industry? Did you always want to be behind the scenes booking or did it start out as something else?
I started out in different bands. My first band was The Fairview actually, which was started with some friends from high school right after I graduated, back in 2013 I believe. I bounced around between 2013 - 2017 in all different bands, but in 2017, I was introduced to someone at an old record shop / DIY venue (The Shop Underground), and that’s where I booked my first actual gig. It started with booking my own band and then finding other local support to join the bill, but soon enough people were discovering The Shop through facebook groups and we were getting a lot of small touring acts into the room. I didn’t really ever picture myself doing behind the scenes work in the music industry, it kind of just fell into place once I figured out that I was good at curating bills and putting together a show that was a good experience for everyone involved. It was refreshing after years of dealing with quite the opposite among other Providence-area promoters and venues.
4. How do you feel about the local music scene post-Covid? Do you think it's better, worse, or about the same as it was pre-Covid?
I’m not sure. I don’t necessarily think it’s either, I think it’s just different. There are so many new bands that have emerged since I started booking shows, which is great because it gives me a chance as a promoter to link different artists together and put these artists in front of each other’s crowds. I think that covid was a make-or-break situation for a lot of artists, venues, and promoters. It really made a lot of people choose whether or not this was the right industry or something that they wholeheartedly wanted to pursue. And I don’t mean that with any disrespect to anyone that chose to go separate ways. This is the hardest, most emotionally draining job that I have ever had. I also think that covid introduced us to a very digital age of music promotion. I’m still learning algorithms and how to make sure I’m doing the best job I can to get the word out about things. Prior to covid, I feel like it was a lot easier to break the algorithms and get my shows in front of people that would be interested in attending. As for booking artists, it’s definitely weird. With artists blowing up on tiktok and breaking out on Spotify playlists, these numbers can be crazy high, and then when they come through the area, nobody rolls out to the show. This is something that I’m still in the process of trying to figure out as well. It’s definitely harder to gauge how shows are going to go attendance-wise in a world that is so digitized at this point.
5. What sort of thought processes go into determining a lineup for a show?
I think there are three main factors that go into every show I book. Genre, draw, and talent. I try to keep genres relatively the same, however, I don’t necessarily like doing shows that are exactly the same for 4-5 bands straight. It’s nice to throw in an emo band on a harder bill, or a harder band on an emo bill, etc. Gives the crowd a break from the monotony that can tend to happen when you have 5 bands on in a night.
Draw is a big factor to a lot of shows, especially when I have a national act passing through. Some bands can draw 100 people to a show, some can draw 10. I’m here to give everyone a chance, as that’s my job as a show promoter, but I always have draw as a top priority in mind when I’m booking a show. So if I have one band that’s capable of drawing 100 people, I can afford to throw on a newer local with a smaller following that may only bring 10 people out. But If I put a bill together of 3 newer acts that can only bring out 10 people each on a national headliner that I have a high guarantee on, it’s a recipe for disaster.
Talent is also a huge part of booking. Again, I’m here to give everyone a chance at playing on a stage, but there are a lot of times where I’m getting emails and messages from bands that haven’t played a single show with 2 demos on bandcamp asking to get on national shows. I have to strategically place these bands on smaller, more local shows first before I gradually give them chances at bigger shows. That’s why a combination of these three factors is so important. I’ve seen promoters put some bands on big bills that can draw a massive crowd, but they just aren’t as tight as they should be to be sharing a stage with an act that big yet.
6. What is your proudest accomplishment as a promoter?
I think that my proudest accomplishment as a promoter is being able to go full time as a promoter / talent buyer. Back in 2021, Alchemy gave me the opportunity to start working more directly with them rather than just being an outside promoter renting the room every once in a while. Since then, our relationship has grown immensely, and I’m at that club at least 4-5 days/nights a week whether it be working shows or watching shows. I never thought that I would be able to escape the corporate hellscape that I was stuck in, and I think that my proudest accomplishment is being able to say that I made it out of that on my own by actually being a genuine promoter.
7. In your opinion, what sort of benefits come from having good promoters in a local music scene?
There are so many benefits. You meet a lot of great people, you can become friends with artists you look up to or that you listen to regularly, you get to attend shows constantly, you discover so much different music. The list goes on. I have been able to learn so much and meet so many people that I otherwise wouldn’t have if I wasn’t involved in the music scene.
8. What do you consider to be a successful night as a promoter?
Success is definitely subjective based on the night. For most shows, success, for me, is based on whether or not the artists had a good experience, sold some merch, and want to come back to Providence. Money comes and goes, and just as long as I’m not losing a ton of money, it’s more important that people have a good experience while they’re on my time rather than a profit.
9. Do you have any advice for bands out there that you think they should know when it comes to working with promoters in their scene?
My biggest word of advice is that you should have some form of music ready to send over, know that you’ll have at least a decent draw, and ask if there are any LOCAL opening slots that you can hop on. This is the best way to build a new relationship with a promoter, and any promoter will respect the fact that you are looking for shows. Also, don’t only ask to open for big shows, we catch onto that very quickly and that’s honestly annoying to deal with and does nothing to build your band or contribute to the local scene.
10. If you could book a dream show with any combination of bands or artists, who would you choose?
This is a tough question. I think with what I’ve been listening to at the moment based on Spotify, nothing,nowhere. headliner with Joeyy as direct support and a Transit reunion for the opening act. I’m not entirely sure if that’s my DREAM dream show, but if I saw a flyer for that right now, I would lose my mind.
As someone who has attended countless THC shows over the course of the last two years I cannot recommend you come out to one more, when ether you are a band looking to book a show in Providence, RI or you are a fan looking for something to do a few days a week. You can find all of the information needed at thehammercollective.com