One of my main goals for this blog has been to bring to you the type of people making a difference in the community, and Nikolas Decker is just what I'd like the rest of his generation to be: dedicated, passionate, consistent, persistent, and their vision focused on their future.
I was welcomed at the door by his mother, who handed me treats to give their dog to avoid any issues. Beautiful dog, by the way! We ended up going down the street to the park, since the day was sunny and nice to sit outside. We found a table a few feet away from the pool, and he waited patiently as I got the camera, my phone, and iPad ready; once I set up, we started from the beginning.
What does a booking agent do?If I'm a booking agent and I want to throw a show, or have a band come out and play, I would contact the venue and see what dates they have open, then I'd contact the bands and see if they're available to play that day. Then I go back to the venue and say I want to have a show this day with this type of band, and they'll tell me if I need to do anything special for it; if not, I call up the bands and have them book the time for the show. I see if other bands can play along with them.
I've read that a booking agent is like a political campaign. Would you agree?Yeah. I'd say it is very much like one. You gotta start somewhere for your campaign, find what you want, and what you want people to hear. In my case, I want people to have a great time and discovering new music. For instance, The Sons of Rome, Psycho Relay, and House Arrest as well just played their actual local show at a venue, where they got paid.
How do you choose the bands?If a band comes to me and asks for a show, I set them up with the similar sounding bands; but if I just want a show with the type of sound that I listen to, then I book the bands that I like seeing a lot from Omaha. Or if a band already has band that they like to play with, then I ask them to play.
Do you have specific bands you represent or book often?I usually book local Omaha bands because I don’t really know any bigger bands, and I don’t have the money to pay them to come out and play. But I really want to change that, other than that, it's just all the local Omaha bands, and whoever contacts me. The one that I've booked the most is Psycho Relay; they're really good friends of mine, and they've played at most of my shows, under various names because they can't choose a name (giggles). And also, my Dad's band.
How long have you been doing this?I've been doing this for five months now, and I'm going to be on my fourth show. I can see myself doing this until I can't… I really enjoy it, although it's really stressful if a band can't play, and I need to find another band to replace them. But it's a great time when everything falls together on the day of the show.
Top three skills that a booking agent must have.Time management. Also, knowing how to talk to people, how to get the word out. I know I can do this. I'll have my friend Rick Bennett helping me along the way. I have the time management down. I'm a straight A student. I can get it all done, and I'll have the contacts that I need for this.
You are also a musician. How do you manage being in two bands now AND booking shows?I try to book show around practice days and my job; but when it doesn’t work, I take days off work and miss a practice if I have a show.
What turned you to Booking shows?I've loved music for as long as I can remember; I've always been going to shows, and I just kind of realized that Omaha doesn't have any people who books shows -maybe three main people, and one big guy that books the big bands that come through. And I want to be one of them because they're getting older and they won't be able to do it for too much longer. So I thought might as well start doing it now, and getting my name out there so when I'm older I can start booking the bigger bands.
You're being trained to take over No Coast Booking. When are you going to be doing it alone?We're actually talking about booking the first show with me and her, the owner Emma Reker. It's a non-profit; all the money goes straight to the bands so if I'm making flyers, it comes out of my pocket. So she's going to show me where to go, the best places to put flyers up, and everything else she does… She's known my dad for a while since she's been booking in Omaha, and my dad has always been in music. I started going to shows when I was little, and I really didn’t know her, I just knew she was a person that I saw at shows all the time. Then I started talking to her, I started going to her shows, and she booked my band, and started being friends because we have similar taste in music (laughs).
In this short time that you have been doing this, what's one thing that you weren't expecting?I'd say bands dropping out at the last second. If they're not sure they're ready, I tell them to just go for it; it's punk-rock usually what I book so you know, it doesn't have to be perfect. Just do it! We have tons of punk bands, yeah, but they just don't get many shows or publicity; because Omaha's punk music scene isn't big, but we want to make it bigger and better.
Are you going to only book at the same venue?I'll be booking with MAS, a collective group that wants to keep the music and arts going in Omaha. We’ll have slots for four shows a month; I'll be taking two shows and my friend Rick Bennett, who is A13 Booking, will be taking the other two show slots.
How do you approach a venue?For The Lookout, since they don’t really charge a fee to book there, I just ask them what days they’re open for a show, but if they're minors that'll come, they usually take a percentage away for the alcohol sales that they're not selling. So it's not really paying them; you get to do it for free and make money doing it. I've made zero dollars because I don’t pay myself; all the money goes straight to the bands.
What do you expect from the bands that you book? And what would they expect from you?I just expect them to be nice; to be nice to the crowd, not assholes, because if they're going to do that, I don’t want to book them again, and that will give me a bad reputation too. It hasn’t happened to me, and I hope it never does (laughter). And they can expect from me some good hospitality, I'm going to be nice to them. I want them to do what they have planned for the show, and have them contact me again if they want a show.
What challenges have you faced in this time you've been doing this?Definitely time management. And finding rides, because I don't drive, and what I have to do to get around for like, putting up flyers all around town. I pay my friends in gas money, I mean, I have a job, but I want to make sure I don’t spend much of it.
Do you ever make suggestions to the bands?Yeah! That's being like a producer because I'm learning how to record also. So after the show, I give the bands suggestions like what they should do or can do. For instance, The Sons of Rome, when they play they need a little more energy; I see their drummer got it, he's doing it. And also their lead guitar player. But I see the bass player and the other guitar player… and I'm like, jump around! Get some energy flowing! (laughs). Not sounding mean, or anything, but I'm talking about their performance.
I've interviewed The Sons of Rome before, and their opinion on covers was that new bands need somewhere to start. What’s your take on that issue?I feel like people are there to discover new music; no one wants to hear what's always on the radio. I mean, covers, they're good, but I don't want to do cover band shows. I mean, one or two covers ok and the rest originals. Would I book cover bands? It depends on what kind of show I'm going for, or if there are other bands in the same genre, I'd let them play.
Growing up in this environment with your dad being a musician also, did this influence you to follow the same path?I love my dad so much. I want to be just like him; like, the type of shoes that he has, I have them. The style of music he plays; I find that when I'm playing drums, I play like his type of beats and how he would change from different rhythms. He's just the coolest dad, he plays shows, he records music, he's in a band. He's the perfect role model for me.
What's your ultimate goal?I want to have my own band, but if I was asked to be a band's manager, I would take it in a heartbeat because I get to do what I love, being in music, and help out my best friends play awesome shows.
Besides music, what else do you do for fun?Pretty much music is everything I do (laughter). I do BMX, but not too much lately because I have school and I have to worry about music a lot more. So I have been vinyl collecting, writing music, hanging out with my friends, listening to music, playing music…
Speaking of music, what kind do you listen to, that people wouldn’t expect you to?I really enjoy the newer pop-punk stuff. Not necessarily the band, but the sound of the music. I also enjoy ska and reggae, and the 20's style music, like swing…
I believe that our future needs more people like Nikolas, driven and perseverant; as adults, we need to raise our children to never give up on their dreams, to support them, and show them that they can achieve anything they set their mind to.