Promoting through the good and the bad in K-W

Photo by Will Huang
Photo by Will Huang

We all start somewhere.

At just six-years old, Kyle Wappler made his foray into music with classical piano lessons. A likely start for many, Wappler soon found interest in rock music at the age of 10 and in grade eight, attended his first punk show. Yes, he’s a musician, but Wappler’s role as a prominent concert promoter is what makes him a standout in the Kitchener-Waterloo alternative, hardcore and punk music scene. Organizing local shows featuring acts such as Silverstein, Protest The Hero and Counterparts, Wappler’s actions often go unnoticed by the general public.

Beginning his stint in his early teens as an assistant to Andy Schoch, a K-W concert promoter, Wappler has watched the music scene ebb and flow over the course of a decade.

“When I was maybe 13-years old in 2003, we would go to a local show at something like the Chrysalids Theatre and it would be all bands from the area and there would be 500 to 600 kids,” said Wappler.

“Something changed around 2007 or 2008 and suddenly numbers started going way, way down … a lot of venues closed down and a lot of people stopped allowing this type of show to happen.”

Upon the exit of Schoch as a promoter in 2008, many bands in the area risked stagnating due to the lack of organized concerts and available venues. To ensure his band at the time didn’t meet its demise, Wappler took matters into his own hands by putting on a couple shows.

“Things kind of snowballed from there,” said Wappler. “All of a sudden I started getting messages from bands and booking agents asking if I’d put on shows for their bands.”

Wappler began operating his promotion company A New Era Productions in 2008, and in 2010 joined forces with Schoch once again to create HAVE HOPE. Schoch left the company in 2013, but Wappler has continued to operate under the HAVE HOPE brand for the past three years.

Although Wappler entered the scene at a volatile time, its popularity has “been on a steady incline again” due to more venues opening and welcoming the music community with open arms.

“Maxwell’s has played a massive part in the growth of the scene,” said Wappler. “There’s a lot of new faces coming out to all ages shows, a lot of old faces at 19+ shows.”

With the advent of social media, Wappler’s role as a promoter has drastically changed. Before the boom of heavyweight social media platforms, such as Facebook, Wappler turned to guerrilla marketing tactics to ensure a strong turnout for a show.

“Thousands of posters and flyers, run around to every street poll, high school, anywhere we could put up a poster, anywhere we couldn’t put up a poster but we did anyways,” Wappler described of their early promotional strategies.

“Now for $7, I can have how many thousands of people on Facebook for a fraction of the time and a fraction of the output.”

But soon this may change. Wappler mentioned that Facebook has begun to restrict invitations to events and screen paid advertisement. Regardless, Wappler indicated social media promotion is “still so much more simple.”

However, Wappler hasn’t managed to scale up his operations to make this his full-time job. Concert promotion is a tough gig and getting the right lineup of bands and selling a lot of tickets is a challenge in and of itself. To make the job sustainable, one must do this on a consistent basis with a diversity of lineups.

Wappler said a substantial barrier to overcome is his inclination to throw shows for bands he and the punk and hardcore community may enjoy, but lack widespread appeal to the general public.

“I’m very picky when it comes to anything outside of that alternative spectrum of hardcore, punk and metal. But maybe I need to start looking more into it and allowing myself to open up more to other genres,” he said.

“When I have, I’ve found a lot of music that I like.”

Throwing concerts for hugely popular bands like Silverstein is certainly commendable, but Wappler noted that his greatest achievement to date is sticking with the trade.

“I’m just proud that I’m still doing this despite different obstacles … I’m glad that I never lost sight of what I was doing it for,” said Wappler.

“It’s a labour of love.”

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