November 24, 2014

Organizing Gigs: The Fundamentals

Whether you’re a performer who wants to take a more active role, or you just want to dive straight into the music industry minefield, everyone starts by running a gig somewhere. The size of it doesn’t particularly matter, you still have to follow the rules if you want it to go off without a hitch. The biggest problem with live music is the time it takes to set everything up. DJs rarely have this problem as their entire set list can be downloaded onto a USB stick, but musicians require instruments, equipment, sound checks, etc. This short guide will outline the basics of running a gig, but before I go into it, let me ask you this; what do you want from your event? If you don’t know the answer, don’t bother. If your answer was along the lines of ‘keeping the music alive’, then here’s how you do it:

 1. The G-Team

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You cannot do this alone, take it from me. I made the mistake of trying to be the master of puppets for a small pub event, and it was a logistical nightmare, even on a small pub scale. Before you do anything, assemble a team of reliable people who all understand the stages of event organization. After my first gig hit a bum note, I understood the value of searching for people to make a team. It’s easy to find willing volunteers on LinkedIn so long as you’re serious about your project. You can find all sorts of people in your area if you search online including; techies, musicians, reviewers, transport, photographers and designers, all of which can help amplify the night. Just be sure you can afford them, or that they know they’ll be doing it for free; getting this wrong may result in a Blues Brothers-esque scene, without the comedy.

2. The Venue

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 The size of the venue itself doesn’t matter all that much, I’ve hosted gigs in the smallest pub in Lancaster and managed just fine. Try to find somewhere with good traffic and friendly staff, even if they aren’t used to doing live music. The reason I’ve put this as number 2 is because of how long it takes to get a free space in a venue as well as work up a decent enough relationship with the owner to be able to throw your event. When it comes to sourcing the venue, you need to have good communication with the venue owner, make sure they know exactly when the gig is, and whether you have everything you need, and if you’re really charming, you might get it at a discounted price. It’s also worth checking on hse.gov to see if the venue matches health & safety criteria. Everyone’s going to be drunk and rowdy by the end of the night, it’s worth making sure no one can slip or fall onto anything dangerous.

3. The Equipment

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Before you go gallivanting off after bands and performers, it’s worth knowing what your equipment will be like. I like to use Gear4Music to order anything I might have missed, and owning a spare microphone has made me the hero of the hour on multiple occasions. Most bands like to bring their own equipment, so be sure to separate amps, leads, instruments etc and keep them safe. Safety equipment like crowd control barriers might seem a bit excessive, but they serve more than one purpose. Wernick Event Hire provide excellent barriers which can be used to fence off equipment from the crowd, and you can stick on adverts/promos of your own across the barriers too! While your job on the night will be to keep everything in check, your priority should be the musicians and their instruments, so things like crowd control barriers might be more welcome than you think. Their guitars alone might be worth more than you make in a year, so keep them in mind at all times.

4. The Talent

This is the easy part. Musicians are addicts, they want you to ask them to play so they can act all cool about saying ‘YES! PLEASE! WE’LL PLAY!’ Finding the talent shouldn’t be a problem, and if like me you’re a performer/promoter, you can always fill some time promoting your own work, you’ve surely earned it at this point. A great example of this is Carlo Solazzo’s Birmingham Promoters which you can find on Twitter here: a venue/gig finding business that started off doing exactly this: promoting and playing. I advise hanging around town and getting to know the musical community as a rule anyway; you might find a hidden gem at a local open mic, or get an established town band to play if you ask nice enough. You might even find an experienced promoter to lend you a hand, it’s how a lot of industry relationships begin.

Most of all, don’t try and do everything yourself. You’ll want to, it’s your gig after all isn’t it? Wrong. You might be the driving force behind it all, but it’s a team effort hence why ‘gather a team’ is the first on the list. Use your assets and get what you can out of people, but never rely on new contacts: chase everything up and leave yourself plenty of time for mistakes. Worst comes to worst you can always do an acapella set!

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