If you are a music lover then there are probably bands that you like who are trying their hardest to find gigs to play. I have put on gigs before and have been in a band that has played these small shows. In this article I will try to convey some of the knowledge and etiquette required for a successful show.
This article does not contain any of the legal side of things in so far as any paperwork you might need to do. As a promoter you stand to make a profit so this is a business activity. As a business activity the onus is on the promoter to make sure that they are legally positioned to run a show. This article is more a practical guide to the big picture of the show itself. The most probable interactions with the law at a gig will probably have something to do with the police. If you stay responsible then you will stay on the right side of them.
The first thing that a gig promoter needs to do is to raise the funding for the show. This often is the promoters own money and have no doubt it is at risk. The organisation of the night may be perfect but if the customers do not show up there is no chance of reclaiming it. How much money does it take? To answer this question the promoter needs to find out some initial costs.
How much will the venue cost?
What are the bands fees?
How much does the sound guy charge?
Are lights required, how much do they cost?
Do I need to find my own licensed security guards?
Finding a venue is the first step. You will need to take some things into consideration. Is the location licensed for live music? If the place is not suitable there is no point even finding out the cost of it, because if you go ahead with the show chances are the cops will show up with a noise abatement order. The venue is the most important thing to get right. Really you should find out where gigs are going on without any problems. A good way to do this is to look on myspace at the fliers that bands post on each others pages. If an address keeps popping up then this will be a good place to start. It is worth doing this detective work and one prominent advantage of using a venue that already has music is that the local music fans are already comfortable going there. There is also the fact that you can place fliers and posters
With the venue taken care of the rest of the arrangement process is relatively straightforward. Get quotes form bands as to how much they want to be paid and ask if they have a minimal requirement. Many small bands will play for nothing so long as you cover their gas, but they are probably expecting a cut of any profit. Sound engineers are usually more rigid. They will tell you how much their services cost end of discussion (more on this later). However a good way to reduce costs is to rent or buy a PA and d it yourself, if you know how.
Once you know all of the costs involved you will be able to determine how much you will charge on the door. be warned that price will be a major factor in whether people come to your gig or not so it is a good idea to check how much other promoters charge on the door. You will be able to do this by checking fliers on sites such as myspace.com to see what other promoters charge for your venue. If you find that to cover costs you will have to charge well over what other people are charging then someone is overcharging you. Remember that it is your money that you are putting at risk and you are entitled to negotiate the price of anything. Play hard ball with the sound engineer and the venue owner, you are providing incentive for people to come to their bar or club to spend their money, and if the sound man would prefer that you hire someone cheaper then that is his business.
Advertising is very important. I could (and probably will) write a whole article on this subject. Basically you must make eye-catching posters and fliers. These should be placed where music fans will see them. Fliers can be handed out at other gigs and posters can be placed in the venue where your gig will be. Make sure that there are no mistakes on them. Use the internet to find your target audience and put digital copies of the flier there. You should be able to do this fairly simply but if you really are confused about this part message me. I will be happy to answer any queries on the subject.
On The Night
Get to the venue first. You are the promoter and the organisation of the evening is down to you. You will need to bring the amount of money that you calculated to cover costs, preferably in cash. This ensures that everyone gets paid even if no one shows up.
Set up your desk by the door to stop anyone being able to sneak in. You will need to have some way of identifying those who have paid to get in. You can use wristbands but a cheaper alternative is an ink mark on the hand. This can be a stamp or a permanent marker pattern. If you use a marker make sure it is a strange colour such as pink because if you use black then chances are that people will bring a marker with them and cheat the system. Do not use a water based ink, if you do then punters will be able to print a transfer by pressing a marked hand against an unmarked one.
As and when bands and sound engineers show them where the stage area is. If the club is not equipped with a console booth then the sound man may require a table for his mixing desk etcetera. You may need an assistant to man the door while you organise everyone into the proper place. Security guards are not there to do this for you. Their job is to look scary so that nobody tries anything silly, not to be a box office clerk.
Have a running order and stick to it. Allocate times to each performer and make sure that you watch the clock. Some bands have a tendency to keep doing encore after encore, this will eat into the time for the next band and should be nipped in the bud.
If you follow this advice then your evening will run as smoothly as can be expected, but remember that your evening will only be a success if the punters turn up. Good luck and know that if you are putting on a gig then I for one have great respect for your venture.