An entertainment venue since 1886, New York City’s Webster Hall has seen notable growth in recent years. Some of that credit goes to Heath Miller, whose talent bookings helped them earn last year’s Pollstar Nightclub of the Year award.
From Sound to Booking
My first foray into music was an internship at a local recording studio. That taught me how to do live sound, so I bought a PA system and started doing sound at local shows. One day, I was like, “Hey, the people who run these shows aren’t any smarter than me. I’ll try booking shows.” And I started going in that direction.
I started working with Webster Hall at their studio as an outside producer, shortly after The Studio at Webster Hall started. I was a freelance person booking events there. The owner noticed I was booking successful events and approached me about coming in-house.
My first interaction with the artists I’ve worked with was when they were a local band. For example, Coheed and Cambria, I remember when they were called Shabutie. I came across them and thought, “they’re pretty good, but I don’t know if it works live.”
Now, they’re massive. I had them on a battle of the bands that they didn’t even win. They probably should have won, but they got there late because of traffic. That knocked points off their score. I think they came in second or third.
[I’m looking for artists] who have a good balance between talent and originality, as well as actually having fans or the potential to have fans.
I prefer an email that gives me a link to the best place to hear and learn about a band. I hate when people send really long emails with MP3’s attached. I don’t want to have to read through the email if they’re not good. [Approach me] any time but in the fall, which is incredibly busy.
Faith in Artists
I’m open-minded to taking risks that, on paper, don’t always make sense but my gut says there are fans out there. It’s taking that leap of faith ––“this is good, I think enough people know who this is, I think this is going to work.”
A lot of it’s being forward thinking. When I’m booking six months out, I think “What’s about to be the new single?” or, “This will be big enough by June that this could sell at the main room.” If I was booking this for a show tomorrow it’s not big enough, but there’s enough of a team, a story and an exciting song that in six months this will work. Sometimes we’re right, sometimes we’re wrong—we’re more right than wrong.
Many people have no idea Webster Hall is an independent-owned and -operated family business. It’s not a faceless corporation like our competitors. We’re not a public company playing with shareholder money. If I do a bad job, it directly affects people. It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s also inspiring that you work hard and hourly employees make more money.
The Feel Good Industry
You go to the doctor because you want to feel better. You go to a concert because it makes you feel good. Nothing has to be wrong to enjoy a concert. No one aside from people who work in the industry says, “Ugh, I have to go to a concert.” Music is fun and it’s awesome to do something people get to have a great time at.