Promoter Spotlight: Pilot Promotions


Mike Hartley has been playing in bands for over a decade now. From the jump rock party antics of TFO to the heavier prog rock overtones of Underground Pilots, Mike will be familiar to those who follow the Portsmouth Music Scene. Over the last five years Mike has moved away from the drum kit and transitioned from performer to promoter, forming Pilot Promotions with his band mates in 2013. Weekly gigs at The Fat Fox would eventually develop into a full-blown music festival in 2014 with the arrival of Icebreaker. With its emphasis on local acts, Icebreaker has become a regular fixture on the Portsmouth gig calendar and a great showcase for local talent. This Saturday Pilot Promotions bring local indie favourites The Collision back to The Wedgewood Rooms for a huge hometown show. We thought we’d ask Mike some questions ahead of the big gig.

Wedge Bot: What inspired you to put on shows?

Mike: I really got involved in music during my last years of high school. In music classes the teacher would regularly put on Metallica DVDs and I began listening to Slipknot, Korn etc. which inspired me to want to perform. I subsequently taught myself how to play the drums but sadly, for noise reasons, I wasn’t allowed my own drum kit at home. I had to settle for the bass guitar which led me into joining my first band in 2001. Since then I’ve been in 4 different bands from 2001 to 2017.

I spent years and years dealing with good and not so good promoters for bands. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to put on shows which are about the acts & the venue rather than about who is promoting. I was finally given the opportunity to do so in 2013 and I was determined to make a difference to the local scene; a view was shared by the group of us that set up Pilot Promotions and Icebreaker Festival.

Wedge Bot: What was the first show you put on? 

Mike: The first show I put on as a ‘Promoter’ was 27th September 2013 at The Fat Fox. It was our former band (The Underground Pilots) with The Light Brigade, Red Seals and The Acoustic Experience. I remember it being special not only because it was the first show we put on as Pilot Promotions but mainly because people recognised it being a new local band night and came out to watch all the acts which was refreshing.

Wedge Bot: How have things developed or changed since then? Any difficulties/learning curves along the way?

Mike: The scene is very fortunate to have a good selection of venues for acts to perform in which has come a long way since 2004/2005. We’ve sadly lost some over the years but venues such as Edge of the Wedge are such an important venue for our city. We are fortunate that there are venues in our city for acts to perform in and not take the opportunities for granted.

Not so much a difficulty but a concern for me personally is witnessing acts who are repeatedly playing in venues too close together over a short period of time. It serves no positive purpose for the venues or the band long term if they are playing across Portsmouth 2/3 times a month, in my opinion.

Wedge Bot: What is your favourite gig/line up that you have put on so far? 

Mike: My favourite has to be Icebreaker Festival 2018. The biggest one to date with the inclusion of the Friday night as well as Saturday. We were very lucky to have BBC Music Introducing Solent broadcast live from site, which enabled us to reach a wider audience but also opened doors for some of the acts scheduled to perform. Some of the members of my all time favourite bands, The Cooper Temple Clause, bought their new band Type Two Error to Icebreaker Festival which was a real highlight, as well as over 160 bands performing over the two days in 12 venues in Southsea which thousands came out to enjoy!

Wedge Bot: What can we look forward to in the future?

Mike: I’m hosting The Collision show on the 29th September 2018 which will be as amazing as it was last year, if not more so. After that? We’ll be working hard on making sure Icebreaker Festival 2019 is the best one yet!

Following Icebreaker, Pilot Promotions will return in the spring.

Wedge Bot: Any advice for people wanting to put on shows or local bands/DJ’s looking to get more gigs?

Mike: My advice to promoters looking to put on shows is to gain as much experience as possible and to learn from and work with those around you. Put the bands and venues before yourself and be passionate about the job you are doing. Carve your own niche and be unique.

For local bands looking to get more gigs – keep an eye on our Pilot Promotions page for opportunities that will come in next year as well as Icebreaker Festival 2020 applications opening in February.

Wedge Bot: Describe the Portsmouth music scene in one word.

Mike: Eclectic

Pilot Promotions bring The Collision home for a headline show this Saturday (the 29th) with support from Marmalade Moonshine and Submariner. Tickets available from  

Icebreaker returns 25th-26th of January

Pilot Promotions

Icebreaker Festival


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