Live music gigs and festivals are some of the most exciting and entertaining events to be a part of. However, days of back-to-back artists playing across several stages don’t just materialise without proper planning, budgeting and strategising.
Knowing how to plan and organise a music event can have its challenges. In fact, when planning a gig or a festival, there are numerous obstacles to overcome and steps to consider, but with the help of the tips outlined below, you can get started on the right foot.
Common challenges faced by music event organisers
Firstly, it’s important to understand the types of difficulties that you are likely to face in your time as a music promoter.
Budgeting — It can be difficult to estimate how much your event will cost, and it’s very easy to go over budget, particularly when unforeseen events occur. Creating a budget and sticking to it is the easy answer, but it doesn’t always go to plan.
Understaffing — Planners sometimes fail to account for the amount of work that needs to be done, or the number of staff needed on site for specific purposes, not least functions like security, bar staff, technical crew, sound engineering, health and wellbeing, among others.
Technology — If not working properly or used correctly, technology can let your event down, which is ironic considering the help it can be. These issues range from poor signal coverage to insufficient amounts of communication devices between disparate teams.
Choosing the wrong venue(s) — Finding a suitable space is crucial, especially one that is available at the right time, has the necessary amenities and can accommodate your budget. Unfortunately, many first-time organisers get it wrong when it comes to venue choices.
No contingency plans — The UK isn’t known for its cyclical weather patterns — if anything, they’re more unpredictable than ever. Promoters often fail to prepare appropriately for bad weather, or other scenarios like last-minute lineup cancellations, travel delays or schedule changes.
Lack of promotion — Not promoting the event can lead to disappointing ticket presales and lower return on investment (ROI). Conversely, if your event attracts more attendees than you planned, you must ensure they can be accommodated in your venue, otherwise, it will pose a safety risk.
Poor time management — There are always exponentially more things to do, particularly as you get closer to the event and while it’s ongoing. It’s easy to get overwhelmed if you don’t have a priority and task list, or delegate to your team.
Insufficient experience — Event planning is challenging, to say the least, and many people simply undertake the endeavour without a proper understanding of what it entails.
Music event planning checklist
Thankfully, after a disruptive two years brought on by Covid-19, the live music industry seems to be showing signs of promise. As far as promoting your event goes, whether you want to establish a grassroots presence in a local area or aim high for a regional or national music festival, take these steps below as a loose guide to help you get started.
Understand your target audience
Ask yourself who you are creating your event for. All good music events start with a concept or goal that defines the rest of your subsequent planning. What makes your event unique? Will you plan an event focused on specific music genres? What do you want to achieve with your event?
Set realistic goals
Setting specific and measurable objectives can range from selling a minimum number of tickets or generating a particular amount in ticket sales. It’s easy to overlook the role of goals in music planning, but they help you stay on track when you get down to organising the event.
Set your budget
If you don’t set a realistic budget, you will most likely overspend and possibly cause yourself financial hardship. Some gigs don’t require a huge amount of upfront cash, but the bigger your event, the more important it is to have a steady cash flow. Budgets will need to account for venue hire, performers’ fees, staff wages, insurance, catering, marketing, equipment rental, and so on.
Decide on the type of music event
Music events come in many shapes and sizes, from two- or three-band local gigs to national festivals spanning entire weekends. Your chosen event should align with the goals that you set in the previous step. Ask yourself if you can feasibly attract the right audience to your type of event.
Find the right venue
Venues will largely depend on your budget (and their availability), but for outdoor events or festival locations, you can afford to be a little more creative, provided you understand the confines of its scale and capacity. Set a date early on to maximise promotion efforts. Also check whether your venue has a strict curfew. It’s also worth looking at competing events to see if they could cause travel issues or lower attendee numbers.
Secure permits and insurance
Purpose-built venues will likely already have licences and permits for events to be held, however, it’s not always as clear-cut when it comes to outdoor event organising, even if you will be using private land. If you use public land, you will need to consult the local authority, and obtain temporary event notices, and potentially even traffic orders (for road closures or diversions) and premise licences (for alcohol consumption onsite).
Organise your staff
You will need to determine the extent of the personnel you need on hand to ensure your event runs smoothly. This includes event security on hand at stages to ensure effective crowd control, as well as production crews to ensure swift stage setups and close-downs, food vendors, bar staff, and so on. Some venues will provide in-house security, and some performers may have their own production teams. So pay close attention to see what is needed from your end.
Contact sponsors and potential partners
For additional cash flow and revenue boosts during the event, you may wish to source sponsors and partners that may be willing to support the event. Consider whether the sponsors you approach will align with your target audience, and vice versa, and see how your brand positioning aligns.
Gather your lineup
You may have certain bands or artists in mind when scouring venues. Consider booking acts that are suitable for your event scale — it can be easy to go too big or too small. Don’t waste all of a shoestring budget booking an immensely popular act, and conversely, don’t ignore potential draws for your event. Many event organisers have dedicated booking teams that handle this task, as it takes time and patience to materialise.
Sort pricing and ticketing
A ticketing platform allows you to easily launch tickets. Make sure that you are using a reputable and secure provider that allows mobile ticket purchases, as that’s what most attendees will use.
Build a website for your event
Promoting your event across digital platforms from the start is an important step. Building and hosting a dedicated website enables you to source and share your own (and supplied) adverts or promotional material to highlight the event before and after it has happened. You can also sell merchandise and share photos on your site that showcases its success. Regardless of the scale of your website, make sure you check the reliability and security of your technology as failing to do so may put consumers’ data and finances at risk.
Define your marketing strategy
Social media is one of the most effective ways to promote your event, as is email marketing and using the services of influencers. However, you will also likely need to do some face-to-face activities, such as flyering, leaflet distribution or direct mailouts to local businesses or suppliers, or in neighbouring venues to maximise attendance.
Make sure you allocate enough budget to run targeted social media ads that attract your target audience. Encourage your artists and suppliers to promote the event to their followers too, as dedicated followers may only hear of your event through them.
Don’t forget to set a timeline and make backup plans in case of bad weather or other disruptive circumstances!
It’s clear to see that planning a music event requires dedication and patience to master. However, as you gain experience through several attempts, you will improve each time you organise one.
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