An everyday easy –to -assemble guide to putting a gig on in 14 easy steps:
Before the gig
1a) Who do we want to book? The starting point is to see if and when a particular artist is available
b) Who has approached us for a gig? I did wonder whether the Jazz-Funk band or the young man who “cites Pharrell Williams as an inspiration” had done any research… My view is that if someone has approached us they could have taken a few moments to look at our website.
2 Will they get an audience? However good an artist is, can they be sold in our venue? We also need to consider whether they have a body of supporters who will turn out on a wet Friday night to see them.
3 Are they playing other gigs in the area at around the same time? If they are there is little point in booking them unless they are extraordinarily well-known as it will split the audience and reduce the possibility of breaking even further. Conversely it is unreasonable to expect an artist to travel across the country just to play for us.
4 How much money do they want? There are three main ways in which this is negotiated; firstly a fixed amount is agreed, secondly a fixed amount against a percentage of the net takings or lastly a straight percentage split for example 70% to the artist and 30% to us. We also need to establish at an early stage, prior to signing a contract, what the artist expects/wants in the way of facilities and refreshments.
5 Do we have a good sound-man available; will he liaise directly with the artist about technical matters? Ideally he will be familiar with the venue and the artist and will know where to access power etc.
6 a) Publicity: although it is our job to work hard to promote the gig it is reasonable to expect some input from the artist or the representative. We need to establish whether there is going to be media publicity if we are part of a tour, whether there are eye-catching generic posters( and whether there are any local businesses prepared to display them), and whether the artist makes effective use of social media.
Part of the skill with publicity lies in the timing: too early and people forget, too late and they have something else arranged. The other important factor is to find a “hook” for any local papers or radio, for example, the artist’s granny was born in Wigan!
7) Ticket sales
a) Make it as easy as possible for people to buy tickets: use a reliable ticket agency, facilitate rapid bank transfers, sell through local businesses, accept cheques and post out tickets or sell to personal callers.
b) What if sales are not happening? Have we covered all possible bases with publicity? What more can we do? It may be time to enlist the further support of the artist/agent and it may be time to consider whether the potential losses are greater than the cancellation fee.
The day of the gig
8) Setting up: Does everyone have clear directions to the venue and have mobile numbers been exchanged? When can we have access to the venue? Do we have help to get the equipment in? Have we scheduled adequate time for a thorough sound-check? Have the portaloos arrived?
9) The artist(s): They should be welcomed on arrival and given a safe place to park and helped in with their equipment. They should then be shown where the loo is and where they can wash and change and have some personal space. A cup of tea /coffee should be offered! Water should be available throughout the day.
The timing of the rest of the day should be clarified i.e. sound check, meal, time of performance; length of set(s) Artists should also be asked if they want an introduction and whether they need any help with selling their merchandise (a merchandise table should be provided)
10) Just before the performance; is the adequate help on the door, do they have a float, guest-list and pre-paid tickets for collection? Are we aware of any other town centre events, for example football matches?
11) The performance: needs to run to time as far as possible with sufficient interval for the audience to have a drink and go to the loo. There should be time for an encore.
12) After the show; ensure that the artist has a drink and time to sell merchandise/socialise. Pay the artist and the sound man and take note of any comments they have about the way things were run.Ensure that that there are enough people to help clear up and check that nothing is left behind. Leave the venue as we found it.
Go home and have a large glass of concert medicine
13) Next day; lie on sofa and ponder why we do this
14) Day after. Remember why we do this and start promoting the next gig!