I’ve been meaning to write a post about how to plan a gig for a while, and on Sunday I went to Hackney Weekend and felt inspired. There’s something really special about discovering musicians that you really like or seeing your favourite band live. So the more opportunities to see and hear live music performances, the better, and I hope this post will help and encourage anybody wanting to plan a gig.
1# Why plan a gig?
Before doing anything, have a think about why you want to organise the gig and what others involved will want to get out of the event. As the organiser, understanding everyone’s motivations will make it easier for you achieve what you want, will be useful during negotiations and will ensure that everybody working on the gig wants to be there – so that ultimately you put on a good show.
Here are some examples of objectives when planning a gig:
To sell records, for audiences to hear their music, raise the band’s profile, more live performing experience and make cash
Agent or band manager:
Raise the band’s profile and make cash
Make money, build their reputation and a name for the event
Entertain existing customers, attract new customers, raise the venue’s profile and make money
Get event planning and management experience and make contacts
Increase awareness of the organisation and raise money
Depending on the size of the event, you may be one or even three of those roles, but whoever you are, and whatever your reasons for putting on the gig, your main job is to put on an awesome event and exceed your audience’s expectations. If your audience is having a good time, they’re more likely to buy your CDs or raffle tickets, return to the venue for another event, look out for other events you’re organising and want to see you perform live again.
#2 Find talent:
The music style, size of your event and budget will impact the type of band you’re looking for.
If you’re new to this and looking for new talent, visit open mic nights, do specific Google searches (including location) or browse bands on websites like Myspace and watch numerous videos on Youtube is a good starting point. If you get the opportunity try talking to organisers, bands, fans and band managers at gigs and ask them for recommendations. Tip: ensure you keep in contact with anybody you speak with. They may not be able to help this time, but could in the future. Facebook and Twitter makes keeping in contact really easy, without you coming across as a stalker!
Alternatively, if that seems like a lot of hassle, you could check out a live music showcase in your area (here’s an example of a monthly showcase in London: POP-ROCKTIC live music showcase) or if you’re looking for a more established act contact a talent agency.
3# Select the band(s):
Choosing the band(s) is probably the toughest decision you’ll have to make and the wrong choice could ruin the event and be very costly. Here are a variety of questions you should consider when selecting bands for your event:
- What is your gut feeling about the band and their music?
- How well-known is the band and what is the size of their fan base?
An indicator could be how many likes they have Facebook or followers on Twitter
- Will the band sell?
Have a look at how many hits they have had on Youtube. What are the comments like, do people like them? Try and find out how popular their gigs have been in the past
- How experienced are they at performing?
- Have they got enough music to run a whole set?
- Are they reliable?
You’ll have enough pressure on your shoulders on the night and won’t want to be worrying about whether they will turn up
- Will the press be interested?
The interest of the press could raise the profile of the band, you as an organiser and the event
- Have they got a record to promote and sell?
- Does their music suit the chosen venue, area and community?
For example a pub singer doing covers might be popular in the countryside where there is limited choice, but would struggle in Camden, Shoreditch or Soho
- Where else have they played or planning to gig?
You don’t want to overdo it, especially in smaller cities, towns or villages
#4 Choose the venue
Not only is the venue the backdrop of your event but the right choice will make your job a lot easier. A poorly managed venue can lead to problems on events, such as a lack of preparation, staff shortages, rooms being too hot or cold and you may find yourself spending the event chasing venue staff to sort out unnecessary problems.
So when searching for potential venues consider:
- Does the venue suit the type of event you’re organising?
- Is the location easy for your audience to get to?
- Does the capacity of the room/area suit the gig you want to organise?
- Does the venue have a reputation for live music?
And if so, is that a good reputation?
- What is the venue’s overall reputation like?
Check out reviews, do people usually leave the venue happy?
If possible try and visit the best potential venues beforehand to get a feel for the ‘atmosphere’. Look for whether you think it’s well run and if the customers seem happy. Most importantly, visualise your event happening at that venue.
Once you’ve narrowed it down to one or two venues ask if you can do a site visit to have a look around to see whether it’s safe and suitable for the event you’re organising. Check factors like access into the venue for the bands’ instruments and kit, equipment available for you to use on the night and secure parking. For more details about doing a site visit check out this post: what to look for when doing a site visit
Sometimes the idea of going for the cheaper option (like a pub) sounds like a great one, but if it’s not geared up for events, you may find yourself spending more kitting out the venue with equipment, and a venue with a good reputation for live music attracts people.
#5 Select the date
Before settling on a date ensure you investigate what else is going on that week (especially music events of the same genre). It’s also worth Googling local and national sporting events to ensure you give yourself the best chance for a good turnout.
#6 Marketing the event: under promise, over deliver, but get people there!
Your job is to sell the entire experience, not just seeing an artist, but meeting with friends and having a fun evening, drinking and socialising. Your job is to balance – setting the right expectation so no one goes away disappointed and be attractive enough to get people buying tickets or just leaving their house.
Obviously your tactics depend on what resources you have available to you. Whatever the budget, ensure to spend it and time wisely.
I’d recommend getting others to help with marketing the event, for example ask the venue to advertise the gig, contact the band’s email list, post the gig on their social profiles and website. If the venue or the band’s other gigs are planning to advertise anywhere relevant, discuss the idea of getting involved.
If you have an email list, tell them about the gig and if you don’t start collecting email addresses on this event for future events you organise.
Please note: avoid fly posting, it is illegal in most cities and towns throughout the UK.
#7 Event costs
Thorough planning is important, especially if you’re looking to make cash.
Sample costs include: venue, band, sound equipment, lighting, staffing and crew, hospitality, security, marketing and promotion, ticketing, press costs, additional rooms for changing facilities/green room, car parking, programmes, CDs, uniforms and DJ (for before, during breaks and after the gig).
It’s worth knowing that some venues charge for every single item required, whilst others charge an overall fee to use the entire venue including all facilities. Don’t forget to negotiate, and the best negotiating tool is all the additional people you’ll be bringing to the venue that night. Plus, you’ll probably do this again.
Good luck if planning a gig – I’d love to hear how others are getting on, or if anyone has any other tips to share.
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