After 10 years of promoting concerts, Mightypop shares secret to success

Jud Haynes didn't set out to promote concerts, but after 10 years of booking shows, Mightypop has now become one of Newfoundland's biggest promoters.

How whale tours and coffee at soundcheck make all the difference

Jud Haynes of Mightypop at his studio in downtown St. John's. (Lukas Wall/CBC)

Jud Haynes didn't set out to promote concerts, but after 10 years of booking shows with his fiancée, Krista Power, he's made Mightypop one of Newfoundland's biggest promoters. 

"It wasn't something that I was necessarily dying to do or wanted to do, but at the same time, I just hated seeing people come to Newfoundland and not have the best experience of their lives," said Haynes. 

As both a musician and a graphic designer of album covers and posters, Haynes made some lasting connections with musicians across Canada, and his home in St. John's became a residence of sorts for touring acts. 

After hearing the stories of those visiting bands, he and Power thought they could help with some of the issues.

I'd seen every aspect of it. I'd seen the really great promoters and I'd seen the really terrible ones.- Jud Haynes

"Where the idea kind of started was when they were staying at our house all the time, they were always talking about what was going well and what was not going well with their concerts in Newfoundland," he said.

"Myself and Krista were sitting around chatting about it one day and realized that we could help a lot of them out and fix some of the things that they were having problems with. They were having good experiences and bad, and we knew we could probably fix a bunch of the bad ones."

Mightypop's first show featured Share, also known as Andrew Sisk, and St. John's trad group the Dardanelles. (Jud Haynes/Submitted)

In his time playing bass with Halifax indie rockers Wintersleep, Haynes toured across Canada, the U.S. and Europe, and learned the little things that made life on the road easier — like making extra musical gear available and having coffee at soundcheck.

"I'd seen every aspect of it. I'd seen the really great promoters and I'd seen the really terrible ones," he said. "Basically everything from the minute they land in Newfoundland to the minute they leave, I've got it covered."

The lure of whale tours and icebergs

In the beginning, Haynes recruited a lot of musician friends to play gigs in St. John's, and put on about 30 shows a year. Mightypop does fewer shows these days, often with bigger acts that he's never met before. 

Many of the acts, such as Constantines and Timbre Timbre, are still among Haynes's personal favourites. But it was his experience with singer-songwriter Will Oldham, better known as Bonnie "Prince" Billy, that stands out from the rest. 

"I still can't believe that worked out. We had put out so many weird feelers trying to get him to come here," he said.

"We wrote a little letter being like, 'Please come to Newfoundland, we'll take care of you.' And then it was so weird, like two years later, I got an email out of nowhere one day, and it was like, 'Hi, I'm Will Oldham and I would love to come play Newfoundland.' It was like, yes! It actually happened. I can't believe it." 

In addition to booking concerts, Haynes also designs the posters to promote the shows, like this one for Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Bahamas. (Jud Haynes/Submitted)

Haynes said that it sometimes takes convincing to get musicians here, but he's found ways to make it worth their while.

"I have used the lure of whale boat tours and icebergs and all that stuff … that is what got some artists to come here," he said.

"Those are very exciting because then I also slide into tour guide mode, and you're loading up the van with all the band members and taking them around and showing them all the sights."

Caring for the concertgoer

Mightypop's focus has shifted over the years, however. Haynes said he's turned more of his attention to people watching the stage, rather than people on it.

"We care way more about the concertgoer and the music fan — obviously we care still about the musicians, but we make sure that the people who are buying the ticket and showing up are taken care of."

Haynes said one act was suggested over and over for a Mightypop anniversary show: Bahamas, seen here with Tom Power in the CBC Radio q studio. (CBC q)

Heading into the promoter's 10th year, Haynes said he'd like to book a special concert to mark the occasion and he's asked for ideas.

"So, we put the feelers out on social media, and we started getting a crazy amount of response," he said. 

"We're taking all that into consideration. All these people have been sending us suggestions and if we can manage to get a couple of those acts in this year, then why not?"

Among all the suggestions, one act came up again and again.

"The name that was mentioned the most of all of them was Bahamas," he said. 

"Hopefully over the course of this year, we'll be able to make quite a few people happy with a few cool shows." 

About the Author

Lukas Wall

CBC News

Lukas Wall is a journalist in St. John's.