Everyone has a friend or relative who at some point in their life, decides to put on an independent music event. Maybe for fun, maybe for a good cause or maybe because it’s their job. If you’ve ever fancied putting on a music event, or put one on that wasn’t everything you’d hoped for, here are 10 handy tips for novices to help you put on an enjoyable, successful one.
1. DO YOUR RESEARCH
It may sound boring but it’s a must. Don’t just pop up in a random town with no prior knowledge just assuming you are ‘gonna rock this city!’, it’s more likely you’re about to make a right tit of yourself and probably lose a shed-load of money too.
Say for example you want to put on a club night, you need to check what else is out there. Ask yourself questions like:
What music do they play? What venues/area are they at? What nights are they on? How much is it in? How much are the drinks? Are they well attended?
It’s not going to bode well if you decide to start a very specialist night in studentsville on the same night as the only other rival night in town that just happens to be round the corner.
2. BE REALISTIC
As much as you might want to put The Arctic Monkeys or Alt J on at the Albert Hall, you need to think within your means, or think of how to increase your means before planning the next Waynestock.
It’s better to start small, sweaty & sold-out then build up to the bigger events. That way the mistakes and mishaps will be a lot less expensive and embarrassing.
3. BE INTO IT
Being realistic doesn’t mean do something that doesn’t excite you. You want there to be buzz about your event and you want there to be a great vibe on the night, this starts with you, it’s your event, if you’re not into it why would anyone else be?
Love the music, the venue, the poster – everything! Hand pick the bands and DJs, or work very closely with the person who does.
4. DON’T BE TOO INTO IT
Enjoy yourself, but you know, not TOO much. Remember you still have to count money, or tell bands or DJs to hurry up and get on stage – in fact all manner of things which require you to be kinda with it.
It’s not going to look too good if the headline act has to ask you to stop drinking their rider, or pull you away from being sick in the toilet to ask where their money is or to ask where you are, only to hear you’ve been taken home to ‘sleep it off’.
Hold it together, wait until the after-party to let yourself go. That’s your time to shine!
5. BE DIFFERENT
So Billy puts on a live band punk night every Wednesday night at the Dog & Trumpet, Sally puts on a trap club night on every Friday at the Whistle Club. Both venues have shown interest in you doing a regular night, it’s a good idea to do something they don’t already do.
It’s not just about picking different genres though, how will your night stand out? For example there are bound to be several house and indie nights in any one city, but what is different about each one? Find the gap or niche that suits you.
6. PICK THE RIGHT VENUE
The venue can make or break your event.
Think about it’s location – is it central or in a suitable area & is it easily accessible? What’s their sound/technical set-up? Inspect the venue don’t just rely on a phone call or email – visit in person if possible when a live/club show is on. A daytime visit to a nighttime venue doesn’t give you the proper feel of what the sound, clientele, door men and so on are like.
What are the costs? Is there any financial support from venue? Sometimes venues will back an appealing concept if they can split the door money or get their costs back off the door before you start taking money. Some will pay you to come in and do events at their cost. Others will expect you to pay for everything from security to PA hire. Just make sure you know the score beforehand so you don’t get any nasty surprises.
Think about things like age restrictions, availability, drinks prices and venue capacity. I prefer too small to too big, but if you have a 12 piece orchestra, make sure there’s a big enough stage!
7. BE EXCELLENT TO EACH OTHER
This is very important. Especially if you decide you want to do more events. Word gets around, bands and DJs tell each tell each other who are the good people to play for and who are the bad people. Don’t get me wrong, there will be some things that you just can’t help, but if everyone can see you’ve done whatever you can to make sure everyone is happy then it goes a long way.
Make sure you give the bands/DJs drinks and for touring acts make sure you feed them. This is normally in the contract for signed acts, but either way if they’re on the road they’re going to be hungry. It costs peanuts to make vegetable pasta or chilli and rice, make it at home and heat it up at the venue. Or ask the venue if they’d consider providing the food either for free or at a discounted rate.
Be nice to the sound man/woman, the last thing you want is rubbish sound, they hold the power, respect that.
8. PLAN HOW THE NIGHT WILL RUN
Sounds easy? It is! Well it can be. It just takes a bit of time, messaging people in advance and so on. Thinking through all the things that need to be sorted big and small.
Things like planning timings for bands arrival, unloading, sound check, doors, onstage and so on. Arrange equipment share between bands. Checking with DJs what equipment they need beforehand and check the venue has what you need. Ensure everyone knows when they have to be at the venue & what they are bringing.
Ask reliable friends to help you on the night with things like taking money, stage production etc. Buy the rider or arrange for the venue to provide it. Arrange for a float to be ready either ask venue or get from bank/post office.
9. SPREAD THE WORD
If you want more people than your best mate and your auntie Violet to turn up, you need to start your promotion at least one month prior.
A good eye-catching flyer/poster/eflyer design can really make a night, branding is important if you want it to be an ongoing thing. Get online, social media is a good way to spread the word for free (although costs are creeping in & up!). If you’re not good at it then enlist the help of some friends who are. Make sure you get in the listings – magazines, blogs, websites and so on, most are free.
Try to get some press coverage, you can start with local blogs and fanzines. Get the bands and DJs involved in the promotion, they need to be at least shouting about it on social media, sticking up a poster in their rehearsal studios and telling their friends.
The most important thing is to create a buzz, that can happen from the natural excitement of creating your first few events, the people who work with you will feed off that and it will spread like butter!
10. DON’T PANIC
Things might go wrong, in fact they almost certainly will, it might be something minor like running out of £5 notes, it might be something major like only 5 people coming, or the PA blowing up. Whatever happens, happens, you can’t rewind the clock, just take it in your stride and learn from it.
No one wants to see a stressed-out, angry promoter/event manager. No one. It’s the least appealing thing there is. If it’s something really stressful just take a minute to calm yourself then come back out and deal with the sh*t storm.
After all, as an independent promoter you probably care a lot about this event, the people at it, the acts you booked and how it went, so you may take things to heart a little, just remember to keep smiling :)