THE TALE OF TWO GORILLA SHOWS - Other accounts of Gorilla events - Milwaukee, WI / Spokane, WA


Since my unbelievable experience at a Gorilla Battle of the Bands was over five years ago (read it all here) I thought sharing some other experiences might be helpful. Wisconsin musician Peter Kissane filed a report for the Musicians Against Pay to Play facebook site at the beginning of 2013. It is a thorough account of how these battles work and actually, even if it’s years apart and in a different part of the country, mirrors my story very closely. Peter gave me permission to use his story and photos for the Gorilla Battle of the Bands he attended. He told me that, like I tried to do, he purposely took photos of the crowd and didn’t concentrate on the bands. The band names are not important to the story. They could be any random band, and the way Gorilla Music books their events, they most likely are. Taking photos in a huge auditorium is tricky since the lighting is usually only pointed at the stage, but I think Peter did a great job of letting us see who attended this show.

The show was held on December 29, 2012 at the Miramar Theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Peter describes it. “The theater holds about 300, and would be over capacity at 500. Peter says that most of the time people at a concert are on the floor in the front of the stage, but sometimes people will take a seat in the back.”

Let’s start with Peter Kissane's original post from January 3, 2013:

Time to shine light on Gorilla music. I attended a Gorilla music finals battle at the Miramar Theater in Milwaukee WI to see my friends band that I know from work play. I got a free ticket from him as a gift so I said sure why not. I show up as early as I could in case they got stuck playing first. I end up sitting through a ton of mismatched, weird sounding and just god awful sounding bands until the band I knew was up. to

The turnout was more than I thought. Probably because it was on a Saturday night and being a finals round. It started out with 20 people sitting in back of the theater while the early bands played to the empty floor. The crowd by n large filled up to the end of the night with over 150 people. Gorilla claims you'll play for over 500 people and a sold out show. YEAH RIGHT! (jerk off gesture). Most of the people sat in back waiting for "their" band to go up while the hand full that each band brought went up to the floor in front of the stage. After each band was done their people sat back down for the most part but a few left. Most stayed to hear the winner since this was a finals round and determined by applause.

Now for the total load of BS. The winning band won by what we mostly see cheating the system. Supposedly they had a sponsership that bought them their win. From what I was informed, the company bought all the tickets up, gave the band the money to hand over, they then paid for a bus type limo to charter all their people to Milwaukee from Madison. Their crowd got a free ride and ticket admission.

For the most part, there was close to 100 people before the bus load pulled up. Of course this band wins according to Gorilla cause they worked the hardest to bring a crowd. They essentially payed to play. Some contest this is, weather it's rigged or a band buys themselves to win. I got pictures to proove this fieasco I was at along with other evidance my friend has.

Bands, do yourself a big favor. Book your own gigs or with people you know. Don't waste your time trying to make it big on these lame contests. No contest leads to stardum. The winner ends up screwed and scammed anyhow.

“First band, empty floor.” (As I experienced in Seattle, this is what you can expect for the opening band.)

“Notice how everyone is sitting.” (It looks like the majority of this crowd is probably made up of other bands waiting around for their turn.)

“Here’s another view of the seated audience waiting for ‘their’ band.”

“Second band’s audience.”

“Third band.”

“Just like most bands, only a few people on the floor.”

“Fourth band. Few people watching this noise maker.”

“Most everyone else is sitting down. Few doing a swinging of arms and legs claiming that to be moshing.” (Peter also said that many of these people sitting were band members. Also remember that the audience has already seen four bands and from my experience this is the point where the Gorilla show starts wearing thin.)

This is the audience for the fifth band.

This is the sixth band. (They invited Peter to this show.)

Peter’s “band”. "There could have been more in the audience but only supported from the ones they know.”

Seventh band. “The 80s metal band’s audience.”

The eighth band. “This band also had a fair audience but again they were only there for this band.” Peter wanted to show that many times “Gorilla is bluffing when they advertise that they will play to 500 people for a Finals Battle.”

The ninth band. “The last band’s audience. The bus load of people that got the free ride to help them win.” (This band won the Gorilla Music Milwaukee Gorilla Battle of the Bands.)

Dan Cull says

John Michalak says

In all Gorilla’s information on their battles of the bands, the one thing they stress is that they do not condone musicians who might just purchase their own tickets to win. Well, how about if a company does it for them? Peter was exactly right to say that the last band brought in a bus load of people. Michalak states: "Bands are never required to sell tickets or buy any tickets themselves. In fact, we ask that you never buy tickets to try and improve your band's time slot. We've seen bands try this before and it never works out to their benefit." Wanna bet? Read on...

As Peter described, the last band who “sold” the most tickets actually had a liquor company buy the tickets and then offer them for free, along with a free ride from Madison, WI to Milwaukee! “Let’s help Colorxxxxx take home the title.” Yeah, free tickets and a ride certainly ought to “help”.

The Scorpion Shot company posts this message to let everyone know they could meet at 5:45 to leave for the Mirimar Theater.

That first bus was so popular that a second was lined up for the show. Not only is it a free ride and free entry into the show, but also free food and booze! Now who wouldn’t want to go on that trip?! Talk about taking an unfair advantage! Too bad, other bands who just tried to sell tickets to mom and dad! ain’t got a chance in hell!

So in an unbelievable turn of events, (get ready for the big surprise) the band that Scorpion Shot sponsored, won! It made this band feel “like the rock stars we are working so hard to become.” They got $500 and studio time. How much Scorpion Shot sank into this “win” wasn’t disclosed but you can bet it was more than the Gorilla BOTB prize.

To the company that paid for the tickets: “Couldn’t have won last night without your support.”
Well, it would have been nice if they’d tried. “Kenny” says: “You guys are rock stars already. Now the rest of the world is going to find that out too.”

The winning band annihilated the competition. (Yeah, a couple of party buses and free food and booze will help that out.) “...this band is going places.” To which one of the bands members replies, “We’ll continue to bust our asses, and with the support of the Scorpion Shot family, we will climb the rock star mountain!” Wow, where exactly is “rock star mountain?”

This comment is the icing on the cake. The winning band got hate messages from the competition. “One of the other bands keeps sending us sore loser messages. Laughable. Haters gonna hate.” (Okay, I can’t keep quiet about this one. So you cheated, and another band called you out on it, and they are “haters”? Well, if you meant that they hated that your band cheated, I guess you could call them haters.)

So it’s been a year since this band achieved the fame and fortune of winning a Gorilla Battle of the Bands. My main question is always: How are they doing now? Did they take that studio time and turn it into a hit recording? Did they manage to climb rock star mountain?

No, actually they broke up. They won only one year ago and they couldn’t even manage to stay together for that long. Their website is listed “for sale”. They deleted their facebook page. The only evidence of them are old shows they played with some other bands last year. And this is so typical. This is the type of band that Gorilla preys on. The band just starting out who might have some potential but instead of just working to stay together, they get caught up in thinking they’ll “make it”. And that can kill you faster than anything.

Again, I want to thank Peter Kissane for allowing me to share his photos and experience at a Gorilla Battle of the Bands.

WHAT HAPPENED IN SPOKANE? (When a Gorilla BOTB really is packed)

Gorilla makes a big point to tell people that their shows are packed, that you will play to 500 people at one of the Battle of the Bands Finals. As you saw from the reports I and Peter Kissame filed, there are times when that doesn’t happen. In fact, after seeing other accounts, I’m willing to bet those big shows don’t really happen much at all. But once in awhile Gorilla will get bands who are just so good at ticket sales, that the show really is well-attended. But is that really a good thing? Check this out.

The Gorilla Battle of the Bands Finals was held on February 14, 2014 at the Knitting Factory in Spokane, WA. There were 14 bands scheduled to battle it out for the $500 / 20 hours of recording time grand prize. All of these acts had already gone through one round of ticket selling to get here.

Yes, it was Valentine’s Day which you might think would make it a harder sell - and even the bands mentioned it. That didn’t deter them from trying to sell as many tickets as possible like this band.

On February 13th they keep posting on their facebook page that it looks like they’ll open the show but that it will be awesome.

February, 14th! It’s Valentine’s Day and bigger yet, the day of the Battle. Tickets are still $10 so come on out.

AND THEN this post. Keep in mind that it’s the day of the battle! And this band gets cancelled! Gorilla actually cancels a band on the day of the show! Oh that’s right, it’s “rescheduling”. So much for any warning. Gorilla absolutely hates bands who do this to them, but it’s perfectly okay if they do it to the bands? And of course, these beginning bands just take it in stride. Grrrr. Gorilla also makes a big point to say that you can play without selling any tickets. How about when you sell them and then can't play?

February 2nd. This band posts a heartfelt blog about how important this battle will be for them. They want to use the studio time to record an incredibly awesome album and urge everyone to help support them. “Let’s make this a movement.”

Feb 7th. Their Cleveland based Gorilla agent also posts a big link to ticket buying on the bands’ facebook page.

And on February 11th, this band got their bad news. Yes, they too were kicked off the show, Gorilla terms “rescheduled”. You can tell how new this band is by how calm they are that this happened. They did everything Gorilla asked of them. They worked to tell their friends and family about the show, they sold tickets (because they now have to give everybody a refund) and yet, three days before the show they are bounced. If this had been an established band, they would have thrown a fit and they should have. What kind of company does this to people? And by the comments, Gorilla also knocked a third band off the show. This is unacceptable. And Gorilla has the nerve to tell people they can still play if they don’t sell tickets!

Gorilla reps make sure they keep spreading this idea around. It would be hard to convince a few Spokane bands that this is true.

So how was the show? It was packed! Yes, for once a Gorilla show is so packed it probably was over capacity. All the bands sold as many tickets as possible and it paid off. The crowd was huge. Obviously Gorilla underestimated these bands and that’s why it got overbooked. They had to knock bands off the show in order to compensate for the bands who were selling tons of tickets. Again, this is the problem of booking too many bands. If they really do sell all the tickets Gorilla gives them, the club will be over-capacity.

So the show was good, not because of anything Gorilla Music did, but because the bands playing obviously promoted the hell out it. Again, this is something that these bands could have done on their own. And guess how much these bands got for the show? What was their percentage?

Bands pay for this show: A BIG FAT ZERO

I contacted one of the bands who played. They confirmed that Gorilla got 100% of the money collected for this show and the bands got nothing. Yes, there was a winner, but like with all Gorilla battles the winning band turned in more than what the prize was worth.

The band I contacted was not the winner but they graciously told me how many tickets they’d sold for both rounds. For the first round (where the tickets were $8) they sold 87 tickets. On the Finals round it was 55 $10 tickets. This made a total of $1,246 that this band handed over to Gorilla to play their battle. Multiply that by all the other bands on the show. And Gorilla still asserts they are not a pay-to-play company. It’s difficult to call it anything else.

Upon seeing the photos of the show, Gorilla agent Ashley Grey makes the comment “OMG This is beautiful!!!!!”

It would have been more beautiful if Gorilla hadn’t kicked bands off last minute and paid nothing to the bands who worked so hard to make this show a success.

So next time Gorilla Music trots out one of those few photos of big BOTB crowds, keep in mind that the bands don’t see a dime of that. Shame on them!