This episode of Pro Tips talks about how to manage gigs - from choosing bands and getting in contact, to booking a venue, and working out how much money you need to bring in to keep everyone happy.
Firstly, Find Yourself A Venue
If you don’t have one in mind maybe use Google to see what’s available in your local area. Ideally you’re looking for somewhere with their own PA system, with an in-house technician, and is reasonably well known for hosting music events. Once you’ve found a venue, check their website for an events calendar or call them up or talk to them in person for their availability. Be sure you give yourself a good few months to prepare, especially if it’s your first event.
Lastly, ask if the venue is 18+ and whether it’s your responsibility to police that, (FYI, it should never be your responsibility but you can help the bar out in the way you advertise the event - we’ll get onto that when we talk about event promotion in the next episode). Well done, you have a venue booked, now you something to put on that stage.
Get in touch with the band, usually by email if you don’t know the band in person. If you can’t find their email you could always ask them informally over social media. Something like “we have an event booked this August in Leicester - would you be interested in playing it? If so can I have your email address?” From there you can talk and work out what kind of payment they would want - it could be a flat fee, it could be percentage of all door takings or a percentage of profits. If you’re lucky, they might just want you to cover petrol or travel expenses.
Now you want to find bands to support them, which is essentially the same process as the headliner, only the bands will be incrementally less popular or from further away. They would, ideally, play a similar style of music to your headliner. Your opening act should always be local - acoustic versions of rock bands won't usually work by the way unless it’s an acoustic rock night. It’s cheap and easy and very cringy.
Timetable the event - which band is on at what time? Make sure to account for the venue’s closing time, the set lengths of each band, and any equipment moving that needs to happen between sets.
Work out the entry price. The smartest way to do this is by working out your outgoings - how much does the venue or sound tech need? How much are you spending on flyers, posters and any digital promotion? How much do bands need? And what’s the least amount of money you’d like - realistically though. Add that all up, that’s your target. What we used to do was take the venue capacity, and half it. Let’s say the capacity is 150 people, so we’re going to aim for 75 people. Again hypothetically, let’s say you need to make £300 - divide that by the 75 people you hope will attend, and the ticket price is £4. I would suggest that, while promoting events on the indie level, if you’re charging more than £10 you’re probably doing something wrong - usually, it’s that you’re expecting too much money for yourself as the promoter.
You might need to find someone to act as a doorman for the event itself. Their job is simple - they sit there and take money from people as they enter. Maybe they put a mark on a person’s hand so you know they’ve paid. That person will probably want money as it is a boring job. You can do it yourself, but you might want to be available to walk around the venue and make sure things are going well.
In the next episode of Pro Tips we'll be looking at how to promote live music events, and actually get people to show up on the night.