The venue can make or break the event. The best venues according to performers and audience members are the venues or rooms that as well as having all the basics have that hard-to-measure something extra about them, ‘atmosphere’ or ‘vibe’ and they ‘go off’. Everyone will tell you stories about his or her favorite venue and everyone will tell you something different. Things like ‘great sound’, ‘good toilets’, ‘comfy’, ‘friendly’, ‘cool’, ‘funky’ and ‘happening’ will all be mentioned. Do not under estimate how important your venue is to your event.
Selecting a Venue
Selecting the venue should be on a ‘best fit’ basis. It is important that the venue selection process feeds back at every step of the way to inform the event theme. The marriage of the venue with the theme is what makes for a successful event. You may change your ideas and plan to suit the venue, you may modify or set the venue up to suit your theme, you may shelve your original idea and go with a new one for that venue or choose to keep looking for the right venue for your theme. Keep your options open.
Get out there!
You may have more choices than what you realise.
Warehouses, empty shops, carparks, halls, amphitheatres, swimming pools, cinemas, function rooms, sport centres, parks, showgrounds and club rooms are all possible venues. Then again, after going through the venue checklist you may have fewer choices than you thought, and have to go with what’s available.
Whatever the venue, it is up to the event organisers to maximise the potential of the venue and manage any down sides. Below is a list of items that should be considered when selecting and managing the venue and event.
- Location eg. public transport/public access, outside area/safety and local neighborhood characteristics and features
- Occupancy permits and essential services - the size of the venue, location and number of exits and other essential services like toilets and fire safety equipment are taken into account when determining whether you can legally occupy a building for ‘a place of public entertainment’ and the legal capacity of the building. The local council building department is responsible for managing building use and issuing permits.
- Public Liability Insurance
- Size - choose a venue large enough to accommodate the crowd you are planning for but not too large. A venue that is too big can detract from the atmosphere of the performance and your crowd can get lost in the space. If your break even is 300 people and your target is 450 people to attend then ensure that you can accommodate 450 people. If in doubt about the capacity you can arrange an inspection by the Council Building Inspector.
- Building eg. entrances/exits, load in and load out access. This is important because some venues have stairs or small doors. Inform the PA company so they are prepared, as they may need to allow for more loaders, smaller cases, trolleys or extra time.
- Power facilities - where is the main switchboard? If the venue has a stage there is usually a second switchboard for stage and house lights. Check and count the number of general-purpose power points (10 amps) around the entire venue and stage area. Locate the 3-phase power (32 amp) outlets. Ideally there will be at least two: one for the sound and one for the lighting.
- Dressing room(s) and facilities suitable for band and equipment
- First aid station
- Other rooms and features, for example public telephone, secure rooms
- Venue condition. Report on existing damage, broken windows etc.
- Special conditions. Check if the venue has any special conditions including noise restrictions and curfews.
- Liquor license. It is important to check whether the venue has a liquor license.
Make sure you discuss any issues with the hall keeper or venue manager. If necessary seek further information and advice from a relevant agency.
Prepare a report on each prospective venue. Highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the venue. Outline any measures you can take to improve the overall appeal or rating of the venue. Make sure you highlight all the positives, as these may be able to be used in the event promotion. No venue is perfect but all venues can be made to ‘work’.
Take a long-term view if looking for a home for your events. Alternatively, mix it up using new and different venues for each event to create that unique standalone or one-off feel.
Once you have done a thorough inspection or audit of a venue it should remain on file as a reference for future events and be updated as needed.
The FReeZA Program aims to empower young people to take ownership of the entertainment options in their community. In most cases FReeZA groups present young developing artists from their immediate area and often these shows may also include a ‘headline’ artist popular to local audiences. When presenting a line-up with a headline artist, the model for the show is likely to vary compared to a line-up of local artists only. The inclusion of a headline artist may influence items like: ticket price, venue choice (for capacity), security numbers, a wider marketing campaign and of course a larger working budget.
An essential factor in selecting your headline artist is to have data to assist with your decision making. By this, you could simply survey your audience to see which artists or genres they would like to see commonly creating what’s known as a ‘wish-list’. A FReeZA Committee can action this survey via their Secondary Colleges, local bands and via any other young person that could be a potential audience member or stakeholder – it can be done online using tools like Survey Monkey or social networking. The committee could also collate anecdotal feedback on paper by quizzing their friends. With this tool completed, you can identify trends that young music communities want and create a list of priority artists to approach.
Approaching Managers and Agents
With your wish-list in hand, it’s important to look at your budget and be realistic about which artists are likely to perform at your event. If you are unsure about any artist on your list, you can contact The Push to discuss these artists and whether they are a good fit for your all-ages/under 18’s shows.
Depending on an artist’s career timeline, your approach to the artist may be to a band member, a manager or an agent. In many cases when an artist’s career is developing, they will engage a manager and when they are achieving market-success on the live scene they often add an agent to their team. In some cases you will need to exclusively book through the artist’s agent; however you can always query their manager who may refer you back to the agent if they’re on an exclusive booking arrangement.
In approaching an agent, it is best to put forward some basic information in a ‘deal memo’. This includes the date, venue, capacity, ticket price, line-up, billing, announcement/on sale dates and the performance fee offer. You can augment this information with other statistical data about your shows, e.g. artists that have previously performed at your shows, your audience attendances, your reach to young people, demographics from 12-25 years of age, number of Secondary Colleges and youth friendly businesses. In closing the deal memo, you may also wish to advise the period that the offer is valid in order to maintain your event timelines. After all, if your first preference can’t play your show, you will need enough time to move on to the next artist and so on.
Types of performance fee deals
You may have heard the terms ‘Guarantee’ and ‘Door’ before – these relate to various payment structures that can assist you and the artist achieve a good fit that not only shares the profit but also the risk between the two parties. Let’s look at some terminology and combinations of deals:
- Guarantee: this is a set amount of money as a performance fee, e.g. $1000+GST. This is the most common fee
- structure for FReeZA groups.
- Guarantee Plus Door: this is a combination-deal involving a set amount of guaranteed money (e.g. $1000+GST)
- plus a percentage of the ticket sales after a nominated break-even point in the budget (e.g. 25% of ticket
- income from ticket number 301-500)
- Guarantee vs. Door: this is a less common combination-deal involving a set amount of guaranteed money (e.g.
- $1000+GST) vs. a high percentage of the door of which the artist takes which ever amount is ‘greater’. So in
- summary, if you have great ticket sales that exceed the nominated guarantee, the artist takes the ticket sales
- percentage as the higher of the two fees.
Getting creative: deal add-ons
While you’re negotiating the performance fee deal, you may also want to look at creative ideas that translate into currency from a marketing perspective. In a FReeZA group, committees have access to young audiences which make up a percentage of a target market for an artist – some artists more so than others. Your ability to bring young communities and the artist together in an experiential environment can translate to a valuable currency ‘add-on’ that could help get a deal across the line. Some examples of this could be organising an artist-signing at a local record store after school which gives the artist a chance to connect with fans, sell CD’s/merchandise and create an urgency that may result in some last minute ticket sales.
The opportunity to sell CD’s, merchandise and meet young audiences who become ‘fans for life’ translates to a valuable currency that may well be the bridging gap you need to get the deal done. The various parties you need to get on board include the artist’s management, their record label, a local music retailer and the FReeZA committee to market the opportunity to the community.
Another example of a deal add-on, could be to run a series of lunchtime school performances or workshops in the lead up to your show. It could be an acoustic set which is a stripped-back version of what punters can expect when they attend the show – this works like a ‘teaser’ campaign. Again, this is about providing access to young audiences in an experiential environment which can be really valuable. If you have options at your disposal like tourist attractions, accommodation and dining to offer interstate artists, this can also be a good add-on especially for an artist touring Victoria for the first time.
Trends: fees, merchandise & deposits
It is good to be aware of developing trends that may assist your decision making when negotiating an artist. With the decline in CD sales over the past decade due to online file sharing, performance fees and merchandise sales have become an increasingly valuable income stream to artists. Promoters often retain 20% of merchandise sales as a ‘promoters-fee’. It can be worth keeping this percentage flexible as it may become useful if your negotiation is down to the final dollar. The ability to retain a high merchandise net sale will often be important to the artist, especially at an all-ages/under 18’s show where merchandise sales are often lucrative. Another trend worth noting is the upfront deposit of the performance fee guarantee. Agents are often now requesting 50% or some cases 100% of the guarantee as an upfront payment which typically is deposited into a trust account and released to the artist the following business day after the show. If you also have a door deal, typically this is invoiced after you have reconciled your ticket sales and is often treated as a separate payment to the guarantee. This pre-payment trend can be challenging to promoters, especially those that are attached to Government funding in terms of paying for a service that is yet to be received. If you’re operating out of a local Government, it may be worth having a meeting with your accounts department in advance of booking a headline artist to make them aware of this trend as internal procedures may require adjusting.
Once your artist and performance fee deal has been confirmed on email, the agency will generate a performance contract to be cosigned by your organisation and the agent. At this stage it’s important to go through the terms and conditions of the contract, specifically looking at items such as cancellation clauses, catering & production riders. Occasionally you may receive a generic catering rider that applies to an over 18’s show which may include the supply of alcohol in which case you can strike these items from the catering list. In some cases the production rider could add a significant cost to your budget so it’s worth getting this list of equipment across to your production supplier as soon as you receive the contract. Your supplier should quote and advise on any substituted equipment availability in order to contain your costs, however you should get an approval on these production variations by the artist. In addition to the agencies contract, you may wish to consider creating a local contract for your organisation as an appendix to the agency contract. In your contract, you can add specific employment clauses relating to FReeZA, e.g. ‘drug, alcohol & smoke-free show’, ‘limit the use of coarse language’, ‘expected behavioural standards’ and ‘following direction of event/production/risk managers in case of emergency’.
The ability to secure your headline artist begins and ends with the relationship you develop with their agent and manager. Each communication and interaction you have is a representation of your organisation, your event and your town/suburb. Remember to keep your verbal & written communication succinct and professional. Continue to do your research, talk to other promoters regularly and be informed as information sharing is a key ingredient to a healthy live music community.
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Marketing and promotion go hand in hand. Generally speaking marketing can be broken down into ‘The 4 Ps’:
- Product (i.e. – your event)
Marketing should start early on in the planning stage of an event. The stronger the promotional identity, the quicker your core market will get the message. And that is the whole point.
To market, or promote your event, you need to identify your core audience first. This will be worked through when you are in the initial planning stages. Once you are aware of this, you can begin to formulate your plan of attack for potential sponsors and begin to coordinate your promotional schedule.
Partnerships / Sponsors
Events cost money. To alleviate some of the pressure (i.e. on your ticket sales), it’s a great advantage to source partners or sponsors. Ensure your budgets are confirmed so that you are clear on exactly what you need to ask for. Once this is assessed, you can start to write your sponsorship proposal.
Assume that the potential sponsors don’t have a lot of time to read a bible length document as a proposal. So keep the sponsorship kit short, concise and as informative as possible.
It’s a good idea to send proposals out well in advance of the event (3-6 months is advisable). Although this may sound excessive, most companies plan their sponsorship allocation only once during a financial year.
There are effectively two types of sponsorship:
1. Cash in return for having the sponsor’s name or message being associated with the event.
2. In-kind support, also known as ‘contra’, where goods or services are provided free of charge. This can be just as valuable as cash. If, for example, your local printers will print your posters, passes and flyers for free, then your promotional budget is reduced.
Prior to approaching potential sponsors, it is critical that you have a comprehensive package of information about your group and the event you wish to stage, including as much detail as possible. Avoid conflicts of interest. For example, with all-age events do not approach alcohol companies for support.
When approaching companies for sponsorship, be innovative. Essentially you are asking for financial assistance, and this doesn’t only have to mean asking for money. Don't forget to ask companies for in-kind or ‘contra’ services.
Compile a list of potential sponsors (businesses or associations) to target for support. Start with all of the companies providing services to your event. It is also advisable to approach organisations and businesses in your local area as they may be more inclined to support you and might be easier to deal with.
Make a list of all other potential sponsors (large businesses or associations). They should be relevant to your core audience (Will the sponsors get any benefit from being involved in your event? Will the people attending your event want to support the sponsor in the future?).
Your list should include: your local council, youth and community services, local service organisations such as Lions, Apex and Rotary, large businesses, record stores, printers, newspapers, fast food outlets, clothing stores and radio stations.
There are three basic sponsorship deals you can offer:
1. Naming rights: means that all promotional material must include the sponsor’s name in the title of the event.
2. Logo acknowledgment: the sponsor will have their logo displayed on all promotional material.
3. Event signage: sponsor signage displayed at the event.
If you present your sponsorship proposals well and demonstrate you are serious about the event, it is possible to receive a lot of community support and sponsorship.
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FReeZA provides young Victorians with a unique opportunity to celebrate music, culture and community events together. So how do you get the word out?
Promotion is an important area of event planning that can sometimes get lost within the chaos of venue hire, band booking and so on and so forth. Word of mouth straight from the source can work, but is often not enough to pull the punters in.
Posters and flyers are a good way to catch the audience’s attention. Any artwork should be colourful and vibrant, and leave no questions unanswered – include all relevant details to ensure that the person reading it is well informed about your event.
Strategically placing posters and flyers around your community is a big factor in the success of your promotional campaign. FReeZA committee members can put posters up at their schools, local shopping centres and other places they and their friends go. This ensures that likeminded people are finding out about the event.
To move promotion outside your community, advertise in street press magazines like Beat, Inpress, Forte Magazine or Buzz Magazine.
To further extend on this, take your promotion online. Facebook is a great promotional tool. You’ve got your page, you’ve got your followers, and you’ve got a direct way of targeting the people who are most likely to be interested in your event.
Making an event is a fantastic way of getting fans to notice you; use it to plug the details, time, ticket prices and location of the event, and provide a link back to the home page of your Facebook page so that users can find out more. Include a copy of your flyer as well – sometimes users can get bored if a post is too text-heavy, so photos and colours work well to break this up.
Aside from mass invitations through events, Facebook allows you to target the individual young person by using demographical boosting, plus you can make various posts for your followers to share, and essentially gain more reach!
Along with Facebook, listing your event on The Push All-ages Gig Guide (external link) and on the FReeZA Event Guide gives young people yet another way to find out about it. Searching ‘all ages gigs Victoria’ in Google lists The Push Gig Guide at number two, making it a point of call for many young internet users. This can be done by sending your Event Notice at least 2 weeks prior to your event into The Push.
The all ages music industry is a very different place compared to when I was on a FReeZA committee. Keeping track of the shift in popularity between different genres of music in the all ages scene can be the hardest part about running FReeZA events, but this is where your committee comes in.
Think of your committee as amateur promoters. They should be a selection of young people representative of the demographic in your community: they go to school, speak to other young people about what music or entertainment they are interested in and then feed the information back to you and the committee. Remember, FReeZA events don’t have to be music events. They can be any type of entertainment that young people in your area are keen on checking out. Have a read through your guidelines to see what else fits within the FReeZA model and develop entertainment options that suit your local demographic.
Whatever event you are thinking of planning, there are certain things that will ensure it will be successful either in terms of numbers through the door or by the participation and enjoyment of your committee members.
Firstly, pick a date for your show and create a timeline with the committee so it’s clear as to how many weeks/months they have to plan and implement the show. Once you have a date and a timeline sit down and begin brainstorming. This is a chance for your committee to put all their ideas down on paper. Events need to be designed for a specific target market, which could be any number of things: style of music, choice of recreation activities, age, sex etc. Your marketing strategy will also be designed around your target market, where the demographic spends their time, what school they go to, what websites they visit. Marketing your event can be done without spending a lot of money. If you have a small budget, utilise online forums, photocopy posters or get them printed in either mono or one bright colour that makes the key points stand out from a distance.
When you have an idea of what kind of event you will be running, design your budget. It makes things easier if you can split your funding at the beginning of the year into the amount of shows you are contracted to do, that way you will have an idea of what kind of dollars you have to spend before you get to the planning stage. Your budget is very important - keep an eye on it and don’t be afraid to chase deals with production companies, security, venues etc. if it means you will save a few dollars.
Now that your budget is secure, book everything in! This includes venue, entertainment, security, first aid, production, staging and any permits you may need (i.e. APRA or EPA if an outdoor event). If you can get this all booked in straight away then you won’t have anything to worry about apart from marketing your event and getting young people through the door.
Next is your Marketing Strategy. Develop this with your FReeZA committee and design the artwork that will promote your event. Split the roles of promotion up between your committee members. Have some people doing the ground work with poster runs and handing out flyers after school or at train stations and local hang out spots, have an online street team that will hit all your forums, websites and MySpace pages (the internet is a great way to promote without spending dollars) and then have someone else to look after any street press, news papers and gig guides.
With everything booked and your marketing strategy in place you can focus on the admin. Get the committee members to draw up contracts and worksheets and send them through to the entertainment. Your worksheets should go out to any contractors involved in the event. This will give them all the information they need - where to go, what time to get there and what the event will include. Your contracts should outline all information needed for performers (performance fee, venue access, performance time and guidelines for performing at a FReeZA event). In a small FReeZA event setting contracts aren’t hugely important but good practice for the committee to know how the real world works. Also if a performer breaks any part of the contract (i.e. they drink alcohol at the event or they use explicit language on stage) they then forfeit the right to payment - this is a good situation for young people to realise the importance of a contract.
Finally you need to develop a risk management plan; the safety of your staff and punters is the most important thing at an all ages event. Your risk management document should include any and every scenario or situation you can envisage at an all ages drug and alcohol free event: from young people turning up intoxicated, to fires and even bomb threats. Although unlikely, if a bomb threat does occur you want to make sure you have a plan that can be implemented straight away to manage the risk.
Finally, remember in a youth participation model you want to make sure the committee members are not only taking part in brainstorming the ideas for the event but also making informed decisions about what kind of event to run and how it should be run. You are there purely as a guide holding the reigns and steering the committee in the right direction. Try not to make too many decisions for them. Sometimes it’s better for them try their own ideas, fail and learn, rather than be told what to do, succeed and never learn how or why it actually worked.
So you think you can put on a hip hop event? Hip hop events are different to regular band events. Has your community expressed an interest in attending a hip hop event? The most important component to the success of these types of events is A. Know your audience B. Know your hip hop. Hip hop has been around for 30 years but as a music culture in Australia it still has an underground feel to it. It is, however, slowly starting to spread thanks to Triple J, Triple R, the internet and more media exposure. Some would even say a special props to the Hilltop Hoods. Don't know who Hilltop Hoods are? Then start back at B.
What is a hip hop event?
A hip hop event can have DJ's, emcees, beatboxers, dancers, breakers but is expanding to live instruments and different sounds. What makes it a hip hop event is the heavy bass and the rhythmic rhymes of a rapper or singer (not to mention the fresh gear worn by all those in attendance). Hip hop events can be broken down but not limited to these 3 types of events:
DJ - check
Turntables/CDJs - check
Sound system with a decent amplifier - check
Dance space - check
Hype man/Hype girl or Host - check
The Jam is an event that purely has hip hop beats and sounds whether it be from the DJ, beatboxer or the rhymes from an emcee to create a party-style feel. This allows the audience to have more freedom to dance, listen and have a good time. It's a good way to have a hip hop themed night where the audience can make it their own. In order for such an event to be successful you need to be sure that young people in the area want to come and actually enjoy dancing, because essentially, this is a dance party.
Breakers - check
Hip hop dancers - check
Emcees - check
Beatboxers - check
DJs - check
Beatmakers - check
Judges - check
Hype man/Hype girl or Host - check
The Battle requires the performers to sign up and register for a battle and can be any one of the above battles. The battles will require rules, guidelines, judges and prizes. The Battle allows young emerging performers to be showcased in a fun and interactive way for all involved. You must first decide what and who you will be battling. Do you have many DJs in the area? Dancers? Beatboxes? It's a good event to partner up with other organisations/affiliates to assist in generating sign ups and good attendance numbers.
The Rhymes can be run very much like a live band event but the acts are replaced with hip hop acts. Hip hop acts that feature emcees, DJs or live instruments will be a key feature to the performances. These type of events need to have acts that will generate local support. These types of all ages or underage gigs are still new to the game in terms of generating large crowds. Why do young people go events? To be entertained! If they have never heard of the acts before why would they go? They would only go because they know or know people that know people in the act personally or if they are an act such as Hilltop Hoods, Bliss N Eso or possibly TZU who have generated fans through widespread media, radio and print. How do band events work? They have local acts who have large local support and a headline act that appeals to all under that genre. This also applies to hip hop events. You must be aware of local support for local acts and what awareness the community has for hip hop groups in general. Just because young people are interested in hip hop doesn't mean they will rock up to an event purely because it has the two key words stated on the flyer - HIP HOP.
A suggestion for a hip hop event is to combine all three events into one. Allow the audience to experience first-hand what hip hop is all about. Most hip hop events separate the forms of hip hop and only look at fulfilling one type of audience need. The breakers, as an example, often organise events for other breakers and their friends. Most forms of hip hop don't feel the need to celebrate hip hop as a whole, and as a result, young people have not as yet been overly exposed to the wider spectrum of what hip hop has to offer.
Events run by The Push such as Our Backyard and the Push It! Hip Hop Stage are paving the way for youth to be engaged in the ultimate hip hop setting. The interest is there you just need to be clever on how to engage it.