Apologies for the lack of posts lately, we’ve been completely caught up in promoting Charlie Parr at The Victoria. Doing so made me realise that it would be great to share how we go about promoting an event. This is by no means a definitive guide, it’s just how we go about things (or try to) after a couple of years making it up as we go. Hopefully it will prove useful to others and aspects of it are transferable to other types of events beyond live music.
We’ve always strived to offer something a little different to the standard gig experience and we prioritise this over making a profit from Colour. I believe that these endeavours should always be undertaken for love before money.
Read on for Part One: parts two and three will follow on Thursday and Friday.
Define Your Event.
Whether you’re putting on a one-off gig or setting up a regular night, it’s critical to take a moment to define what you want to achieve from the night and how you’re going to reach this goal. Write a statement of intent that includes the following:
- What kind of acts and genres would you like to focus on?
- Who is your audience?
- What can you do to make your event stand out?
- What are you going to call it? Try to choose something that will stick in the mind.
Writing a manifesto of sorts will help you focus as you flesh out the concept – your event will be defined as much by what it isn’t as what it includes.
Finding Your Artists.
Although MySpace has been usurped by Facebook as the social network of choice, it’s still one of the best ways to find new music, explore communities and get in touch with bands because everything you need is centralised, from listening to communicating.
There are also some great music blogs out there promoting exciting new music. Check out their Blogroll or links sidebar; blogs are often part of a (loose) wider network, which taken as a whole will give you an idea of what’s hot in a particular genre or location. Hype Machine is a search engine for music blogs and is a great way to instantly access MP3s, although legality is a bit of grey area.
It’s also important to get out there and see live music locally; gigs can often surprise you with up-and-coming support artists. Don’t be afraid to approach musicians and enthuse about what you’re doing, and never assume you can’t afford to put an act on before you’ve asked. I’ve made this mistake before, but being a little daring often pays off.
Another route is to contact labels that promote artists relevant to your events and ask them to keep you up to date with tours and new artists on their roster. Give a brief explanation of what you’re doing and what you’re looking for.
Once you’ve found an act and they’re up for playing, it’s key to be up front and find out and confirm the following before you book them:
- What kind of fee do the band want and do they expect a food and drinks rider?
- What instruments and equipment will they be using and what will they expect you to provide?
- Where are they travelling from and are they able to get there for soundcheck a couple of hours before doors open?
- Ask them to provide you with a concise biography, audio and video files/links, press quotes and possible interview opportunities. These will all prove essential when you get to the promotion stage.
- Be sure to get as many contact details as possible; phone numbers and emails of the band and any representatives or managers they may have. Keep them safe somewhere other than the original email. I’ve learned this one the hard way.
- Update: If you’re putting on an event in the West Midlands, check out The Autumn Store’s list of 101 West Midlands Bands.
With a regular night things tend to snowball: as you tap into music communities and your reputation grows, you’ll find bands come to you. That’s why it’s key to promote yourself and your night well (more on this in Part Two).
Finding Your Venue.
There are many stunning venues out there, but it’s important to consider a few things before rushing out and hiring one:
- Does the venue suit the concept of your night? Also, do they have a reputation for live music? It can be rewarding to do a night in a venue that doesn’t ordinarily host live music, but it does introduce a whole new set of challenges.
- What’s the hire charge for the space and is there a minimum bar take you have to reach on the night?
- Does the venue have its own PA and do you have to leave a deposit or pay a fee to use it? Do they insist on you using their sound engineer? This isn’t always a bad thing – if they have an in-house sound guy, he’ll (hopefully) have a feel for the space. Even if you’re capable of doing the sound yourself, it’s worth considering getting someone else in because your priority on the night will be running around like a headless chicken making sure everyone’s happy.
Above all, trust your instincts – if you love a venue, there’s a chance other people will too.
It’s critical to work out a realistic budget that factors in the following:
- The musician’s fee, any rider requirements they may have and any accommodation costs if you’re providing it.
- Venue fee, including the sound engineer if you’re using one and any equipment you need to hire or buy. Also factor in how much it will cost if you don’t meet their minimum bar take (hopefully this won’t be a worry!).
- Printed posters and flyers. Be sure to get several quotes (more on printed material in Part 2).
- Your travel costs.
Being realistic about the budget will prevent panic later on, and also help you work out a door charge for the event. You need to be able to cover costs even if you aren’t interested in making a profit.
In Part Two tomorrow, we’ll look at the best ways to inform people about your event. Part Three will cover the event itself and how it can help promote your future endevours.