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An interview with Dana Murphy of Unregistered Nurse Booking / by Jes Skolnik

Dana Murphy, 26, is one of Baltimore’s favorite punk and indie rock show bookers and promoters. Murphy is one of those rare promoters who can tread into the smaller-scale music industry, booking at aboveground venues like Ottobar, Metro Gallery, and Golden West, while also retaining a staunchly DIY approach. She handily won “Best Music Promoter” in a Baltimore City Paper poll last year, and it’s not hard to see why. Murphy is hard to not immediately love. When we first met, she immediately struck me as sweet, thoughtful, smart, funny and incredibly tenacious – all things that have proved to be true as I’ve gotten to know her. I recently sat down with Murphy to talk about the intricacies of her show-booking project, Unregistered Nurse Booking (, as well as the frustrations of working with the smaller-scale music industry and what she’s got on the horizon this fall.

JS: How did you get started booking shows? Can you fill me in on the history of U+N as an official 'thing'?

DM: The idea of booking shows was floating in the background for a while, but I had never really planned on doing it.  As a teen I often stayed at places that had bands playing. I was around shows a lot, and I'd do stuff like watch the door for a few minutes or tell people to leave at the end of the night. I really liked feeling involved, even in a small way. Around that time I started having bands play at my birthday parties. Adding live music was just to make things fun, I wasn't thinking about it as anything else.

Then when I was 18, I got a job at a venue. I'd help with ideas, like suggest bands to book or local openers. I loved it; it became a big hobby for me. In 2009, I set up a couple of benefit shows for a friend who needed money for some medical bills. The show that I consider the first "official" show I booked was one of those. They went really well, and I kept thinking to myself "I could totally do this all the time, why don't I do it?"  I started putting on a show here and there, and then it took off. Someone put me on the spot so I threw the name out there, then [I] was like "well, I have a name so I guess I'm doing this".

JS: One of the things I love about the work you do is that it's staunchly DIY while working with bigger acts that often have to interface with the sleazier business side of the music industry. It's incredibly refreshing for me as someone who also kind of straddles both worlds. How do you deal with that side of the industry without compromising your ethics?

DM: That's a solid question; I don't think there is one answer. I try to make sure the music I'm booking is legit, even if it's not for me. I try not to compromise for convenience or money, and I put quality before nepotism, which can be tricky. When you like someone, you don't want to hurt their feelings, but it doesn't make sense to say yes to every show. Not every show is going to be good, but I like to think putting thought into what I do separates it from the work of people just trying to make a profit. Unregistered Nurse is partially a business, and partially a labor of love.

JS: What do you think of DIY spaces vs. more traditional bar/club spaces?

DM: I like DIY spaces, but I don't book a lot of DIY space shows. I do a bunch of stuff at places that are kinda "half venues", like this converted Korean restaurant called Club K, but not much in warehouses. In clubs, everyone has at least an idea of what they're getting in terms of sound and money. As time goes on, smaller bands want more money and more things have to be done with contracts and agents, even for punk bands, and venues keep things orderly. The exceptions to this are the times when everyone understands beforehand that a show is going to be illegally set up for the purpose of chaos and nothing else. That’s not really a DIY "space" though, ha.

JS: Is there a favorite show or favorite shows you've put together that you'd like to mention?

DM: I have a bunch, although the ones that stand out most are the ones that got really wild. The last show at Sonar, that was chaos. I can't even explain that place now; we could get away with murder there. I worked for the people that owned that place for 7 years and had a non-permitted last show the night they were closing forever. I was bartending and made a big "liquidation sale" sign out of cardboard that sat on the bar… by the end of the night I was drunk and kicking down a wall, soaking people with Moet I stole. There was a foam party next door that a bunch of us kept running over to, so we were also all covered in foam. That was probably the most memorable.

JS: What's in the works for the next few months for you?

DM: Fall is always busy. I have a bunch of shows I'm stoked about; Oblivians, Death in June, Terry Malts, Yuppies, Spits, Pinback. This year I'm doing 2 fall fests, Unregistered Nurse fest and Projectile Violence fest. U+N fest is Oct 18th and 19th, and it's my take on a broader-appeal punk, garage rock, hardcore and indie rock fest. This year the Gories are playing, which is super exciting, along with the always great Pissed Jeans, Weekend, Disappears, Jaill, Hunters, Roomrunner, In School, Obnox and a bunch more. This year is a lot bigger than last year, and I'm really happy about how the fest is turning out; hopefully there will be a few more awesome bands before everything is said and done. Projectile Violence fest is a collaboration between myself and Nolen Strals (ex-Double Dagger, current mem. of Pure Junk). We're calling it an "experimental fest". It's our attempt at a completely egalitarian punk and hardcore fest. It's going to be one night, Nov. 23rd, and will be set up "round robin" style, which is a big thing in the art music scene here … bands play in groups of several at a time, song by song, on stages set up in various parts of the room. There will be no set times and everyone will be drawing numbers at the beginning of the fest, on stage, to see who plays when. We're working out a way to pay people based on driving mileage too. I wanted to do two kinds of fests with Unregistered Nurse fest last year, and was tearing myself in two directions … I'm really excited to be able to do two this year and do each in a different way. 

JS: Any advice you'd like to give younger women looking to get into the business side of the music industry?

DM: Good luck! Ha, just kidding. It takes a lot of tenacity to be able to work in music. It’s full of rejection and latent misogyny, from both bands and venues. Don't let people bully you, because they will most likely try. Don't get too wrapped up in stuff, most things aren't as urgent as people say. Take breaks when you need them, try to enjoy the product of your hard work as much as you can.

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