Planning Music Events & Showcases
There are few greater life experiences than incredible live music, which is why plenty of people want to know how to create a music event and put on a show. If you’re planning music showcases or even looking to plan a festival, we’ll cover everything you need to know.
When planning music events, you need to know what type of event you’ll put on. If you want to plan a festival then the plan will be very different from a gig or showcase plan. From hiring event venues to marketing plans, there is a lot you need to be on top of.
Fortunately, we have put a checklist together to help anyone planning music events. First, we’ll cover the basic differences between different types of event.
Planning a music event
Planning music events take a lot of work and project management. If you don’t have any experience running an event or working to deadlines then you probably won’t be able to plan a festival unless you get some experience first.
Find out who runs your favourite events in your area and get in contact with them. If you offer to help out at their event then you could learn a lot that will help you plan your own music event. Running a large event requires a lot of investment and effort so you want to make sure you understand what you’re getting into.
If there aren’t any events that you enjoy where you live then you are actually in a great position. You’ve likely identified a gap in the market where you live. Many promoters get started by diving in the deep end to put on events that they simply want to enjoy with their friends.
Music event planning checklist
How do you plan a music event or showcase?
Planning music events can be difficult, especially if you’re trying to plan a festival with few contacts, a small budget. However, you shouldn’t be deterred from bringing live music to the world. There are always ways to make it happen and below is our checklist on how to go about planning music events.
#1Plan your objectives
Planning music events require realistic objectives for what you want to achieve and how you’re going to do it. Knowing what you’re trying to achieve can help you guide your planning in the right direction. This could be a creating a single release or perhaps a gig or festival in support of a local charity or cause.
#2Establish your event budget
Your budget is so important to establish what you are capable of doing. Be very thorough in finding out the costs of booking venues and acts and understand what you can and can’t afford.
Your budget should be balanced across the production of the event and the marketing/promotion of it. You don’t want to spend all your money on putting on a great show only for no one to know about it.
Your budget should also have an aim to make money from the event. Think about where the revenue is going to come from and what it will take to create a profit.
#3Is it a gig, festival or showcase?
Think about the type of event and look for similar music events for inspiration. Were similar events successful and if not, why not? There’s no point trying to plan a festival involving camping in the centre of London or a family friendly festival in a student area.
You need to be very aware of your limitations and the opportunity that you have in front of you. If you want your event to be successful then make sure that the type of event is relevant and realistic.
#4Choose a date
The date and day of the week can be a decision maker on whether people attend your event or not. It’s wise to look at a date far into the future, that way you have time to plan and promote your event.
When deciding a date, do a quick search on other events on that date in your chosen area, there’s no point planning your event if everyone is going elsewhere on that day!
It’s also more likely that a good local venue will have less availability at weekend, so planning early is always the best way.
The type of event will help determine the date. Festivals should be held in the summer and showcase gigs should be at a downtime for industry workers. This tends to be over winter when there are more conferences and projects are either coming to an end or are in their early stages.
#5Hire the venue
The venue is one of the most important aspects of planning a music event. The location determines who can and can’t make it to an event. If you’re on a low budget, a small local venue may be your best option. Some won’t charge much at all if they see your event as an opportunity to make money via a ticket split or on bar sales.
However your gig is as only as good as the venue you choose, so checking out the sound system and engineer at work ahead of booking a venue can be time well spent. Research all the main local music venues and arrange to go down to see if it matches your aspirations for the event. As always planning is everything!
Selecting a venue that your fan base can travel to easily is vital. There’s no point picking a venue that your fans can’t get to!
Considerations when booking a venue:
- Location – it’s best to have a venue easy to find and easily accessible.
- Capacity – if it’s too big the event could look empty and if it’s too small it may not be able to accommodate all those wanting to attend the event.
- Ease of communication – are the staff at the venue helpful and easy to deal with?
#6Book your artists
As a singer, you’re likely to want to play at your own event. However, it’s essential that you also have other acts perform too. There are a few reasons to have more than one act play; it increases your potential audience numbers and also it gives you a chance to widen your own fan base.
It’s also important to pick other acts that will bring a fan base and promote the event too! It’s pointless to have 3 or 4 support acts that are brilliant but aren’t prepared to promote the event and bring fans because you will just end up with the same numbers as if you were playing a gig on your own.
Go and see other local artists perform at their own gigs, watch if they promote it well and are well attended. Better still; see if you can play at their gig too.
#7Create a marketing plan
Knowing your intended audience is essential so you should start making a marketing plan. This should tell you who you are going to target your promotions to and how you’re going to reach them.
This should also cover how you’re going to brand your event and what your audience will expect from you. Think about working with a photographer or graphic designer to help create content that can help promote your event.
The genre is also very important for marketing. We all have genres of music we prefer to listen to and some we try to avoid. For a music event, especially if on a small scale, it’s best to stick with the same genre throughout so that the audience is more likely to stay for the whole event rather than just one act.
#8Promote your event
Using social media is the easiest and cheapest way to promote your event, you just have to ensure that you have enough people who care about the event to share it across their profiles and invite other people. ‘Word of mouth’ can be a great way to advertise and social networks make that very easy!
You can also use local websites or newspapers to list events on and get radios to advertise too. Posters and leaflets can now be produced cheap and are effective and professional in promoting events.
Make sure you stick to your marketing plan and that you aren’t promoting your event to people who would never be interested in it. This will only be wasting everybody’s time and you want everyone you speak with to be excited about the event.
Although selling tickets in advance is more work than selling them on the door, it does mean once someone has bought a ticket they are committed to the event. Ensure you get all the support acts selling tickets too.
Even something as simple as a rainy day can sometimes lead to potential gig goers deciding to stay in for the evening rather than coming to your event. If their ticket is already paid for then they are far more likely to attend.
#10Build a team
The larger your event becomes, the more people you need on board to handle all the responsibilities. Planning music events requires staying on top of the bookings, the technical productions aspects (live sound and lighting) and the marketing/promotion.
It is unlikely one person is going to be a specialist in all three fields. Find people who can cover your weaknesses and get them involved. It will only make your show better and you could build long term partnerships if you can demonstrate it as financially rewarding.
#11Ask for advice
You might find yourself under a lot of pressure and getting stressed will only make mistakes more likely. Find someone who has a lot more experience than you to be a mentor and help guide you through the process. This will make things significantly easier than doing it by yourself.
Plan a festival
Unlike gigs and showcases, which typically take place indoors, you will need to look at booking an outdoor venue when you plan a festival. Many outdoor locations are public spaces so you will likely have to go through the location’s council.
You also need to consider setting up stages and amplification equipment in an area that spends most of the year as a park or a farm. Regardless of the size, you’ll have to think about transporting and setting up a stage, backline, bar, portaloos and basically everything a venue already has built into it.
Alternatively, you could look to plan a festival with multiple venues in the same city. Festivals such as Brighton’s Great Escape spend a whole weekend setting up gigs across loads of venues. It also acts as a showcase festival and is accompanied by an industry conference.
If you’ve decided to plan a festival, it is going to take a huge amount of coordination and it will be hard to do it by yourself. If this seems overwhelming, try getting involved with planning a gig or showcase first.
Plan a gig
When it comes to planning music events, gigs are by far the most common. They can vary significantly between venues and genres but there should be plenty of opportunities to get involved at a grassroots level. It’s definitely easier than trying to plan a festival.
Targeting smaller venues and speaking with new performers is the best way to get started. Make sure you keep going to gigs by a venue you like and speak to artists after their shows. Find out about what it takes to put a gig on and if there are any artists who are interested.
This will help you get to know the artists in your local scene and the people who operate venues. This will get you into a position to put yourself out there and ask to put on a night. You could even start by helping other promoters fill their empty slots.
You might find yourself capable of planning and delivering larger music events with the more experience that you gain. This means that you could be able to book bigger artists and draw in bigger crowds. If this happens then you might be able to put on a showcase gig.
What is a showcase performance
Showcases tend to be opportunities for talented up and coming artists to perform in front of industry gatekeepers, such as A&Rs and managers. A showcase event tends to be more exclusive and focused on connecting a hyped artist with people who can help them progress in the music industry.
A showcase plan is very different from planning a gig or festival. You aren’t marketing it as a great night of live music for the public. You’re marketing it as an exclusive networking event with a chance to see a future star in an intimate environment.
You first need to find the talent to showcase. If you are putting on a lot of gigs then you should have a good idea of who the best performers are. Think about who has the best chance of a successful career and be their champion.
You then need to make sure you have the network to get people who can help the talent you are showcasing. Planning a showcase requires a strong network with key players at record labels and management agencies. You will be judged just as much as the artists so you should look at this as an opportunity to progress your career too.
A showcase will require something that is going to pull in these key members of the industry. You ideally need to build up a reputation for putting on gigs and championing new and undiscovered talent. You also need to be able to put on a smooth show without delays and exclusive invitations with free drinks can do a lot to get the industry on your side.
Types of music events
There are many types of live music events but they can typically be categorised as either as a gig or a festival. When you’re planning music events you need to consider your own experience and what type of event you’re going to plan.
Types of gigs
- Grassroots gigs
- Ticketed gigs
- Showcase gigs
- Conference gigs
- One-off gigs
- Fly-Date gigs
- Stadium gigs
- Tour gigs
- Support gigs
- Charity gigs
Types of festivals
- Local festivals
- Arts festivals
- Day festivals
- Weekend festivals
- Multi-week festivals
- Urban festivals
- Camping festivals
- Showcase festivals
- Family-friendly festivals
- Charity festivals
Tell us what gigs or festivals you’ve planned or recently been to in the comments section below?