Words by Kinch Kinski
Photography by Meg De Young
Band booker. Music Promoter. Entrepreneurial whirlwind. Rock’n’roll DJ. Tiny human electrical storm….these are just a few completely valid combinations of words one could use to describe Cassie Walker. We meet in a bustling cafe in Brunswick’s Sparta Place and she is instantly engaging — all smiles, mile-a-minute talk and passion for music and the business of promoting it.
Walker has booked acts like Michael Franti, British India and Hunter Hayes, and currently keeps the music flowing across the stage of The Prince Bandroom in St Kilda. On top of her work as a booking agent Walker also presents for TV, events and online radio. She also gets hips swaying as half of Heels on Decks.
Walker was a self-starter from a young age.
“I came from Davistown – in NSW – and there wasn’t much opportunity there so I created my own,” Walker says.
“My brother’s best friend was in a band and I saw an ad in the local street press for a band comp, so I entered them, and then I became their manager. That’s how I got started.”
In 2004, while at TAFE studying music business, Walker sold her Datsun 200B and used the money to fund a showcase of hardcore bands at The Beachcomber Hotel on the NSW central coast.
“There was a lack of shows in my area at the time. I knew all of these talented people and thought ‘Why not put on a show?'”
Since then Walker has kept putting on shows from both sides of the aisle, booking venues for bands and booking bands for venues like Revolver Upstairs and currently The Prince Bandroom.
“I tend to just fan out when I’m asking bands to play,” Walker says.
“I THINK YOU’RE AMAZING! PLAY MY VENUE!”
This loud-and-loving approach seems to be working, with hip-hop collective One Day, US death-metal act Red Fang and Andrew Strong among the acts set to grace the Prince’s stage in the near future.
For bands approaching a venue Walker says the basics are what matters — a strong history of successful shows, a good live rep and solid PR and marketing plans.
Plus some basic courtesy measures: “Make sure you’re approaching a venue that suits your band’s sound and always check their gig guide before asking for a date.”
It also pays to keep track of attendance rates for gigs. This information will help you track your success and convince venues to hire you. The venues are doing the same thing, so get in on it.
“Every show I keep a record of ticket price, attendance, sort of crowd and external factors like festivals or competing shows,” Walker says.
“It’s great to monitor growth — any small business in any industry should.”
Walker likes the hands-on approach once the gig is locked in…
“I’m a huge fan of old school DIY marketing. Visiting the city where you’re playing the month prior; doing an old school poster run; radio interviews.
“Tell local businesses about the show; they’ll probably put up posters and flyers in return for a double pass — I’ve even used an A-frame poster board!”
When bands want to graduate from smaller venues to bigger places like The Corner or The Prince, Walker says don’t do it just for the sake of it: “Make sure it’s for a good reason so your fans get value for the extra money they’ll be spending.”
Walker also points out that big venues will do a lot of promotion, publicity and advertising for your gig, but in return you need to bring your A-game.
“Be prepared,” Walker says.
“Have all the required information ready at once and have professional looking photos and posters because you’re competing with big promoters now.”
And of course – too easily forgotten – wherever you do land a show, be it Meeniyan Town Hall supporting your hero or a hole-in-the-wall bar paying you in beef jerky, bring it for the crowd. As Walker points out, “the punters’ reactions are by far the best thing.”
Walker is excited perennially, but in particular about big changes she’s part of at The Prince Bandroom — the endless stream of great rock’n’roll bands Melbourne continually pours forth. Despite this love of all things local Walker’s vision goes far beyond the alleys of Melbourne.
“The scene in the USA has a very welcoming industry – it’s thriving – and there is a lot of money for bands. My goal is to be based here, but also there some of the time.”
Walker is a self-described “big dreamer”. Unsurprisingly her fantasy job involves both intercontinental-and time-travel: booking LA’s Viper Room in its steamy 1980s rock’n’roll heyday.
But with her US career currently in the future and the 1980s safely in the past (for now!) Walker will grace the Melbourne scene a while longer; winding her way from Davistown to the stars.
If you think your act might be right for The Prince Bandroom book through princebandroom.com.au.