How To Plan A Concert – Gig Checklist

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How To Plan A Concert

Ever wonder how to plan a concert or how to get more people to come back each time? When I was a touring musician, I did a lot of the booking for my band’s shows. Later on as a tour manager and label executive at Fearless Records and Sony Music, I learned even more. So here are some tips on how to organize a concert, event planning, and gig promotion.

PLANNING A GIG

  1. Plan a live music concert event using this concert planning guide.
  2. Review the gig checklist (click here) and customize it for your concert.
  3. Setup a concert with the venue, and confirm your budget.
  4. Do gig promotion online, street marketing, and print media.
  5. Handle logistics and technical aspects of the concert.
  6. Most of all ensure fans have a good time and come to your next gig.

Not just another show – Come up with an event concept

Make your concert an event, not just a performance. At most concerts activity is limited to waiting around, watching music, or buying merchandise and drinks. So plan other things for people to do while at the event. Give the evening a purpose. Is there a mission or cause? Convert concert goers to fans. Give these people another reason to come back to your next show. Furthermore the media will be impressed if you do something nobody has done before to market your event.

The GOAL is to have more people come out each time you play. At first you have 20 people at your show. Then 40…60. And onto 100, 200, and so on.

Pro Tip:

Branded concert series for your band. Four events a year. Make each concert bigger than the next.

I got this idea years ago from a Japanese band I worked with called Eastern Youth . They made it an invitational concert series called “Voices of the Far East”. Eastern Youth were the headliner each time, and invited one or two bands to support them. The great thing about it was… they always planned ahead. They got into a rhythm of marketing their events. Also, all of that effort went into promoting THEIR band and growing their fan base.

  • Provide an attractive price to entice people to come time and time again. Perhaps some proceeds from the show go to a charity of your choice.
  • Brand the concert series more like a festival with advertising, sponsors, partners, local press, radio, and it becomes a widely respected and recognized part of the community.
  • As a result, each time you do a local show, it’s a big event and well attended.
Pro Tip :

MARKET ROTATION – Regional Strategy

Plan to play regional concerts so that you don’t overplay your home market. You can apply all the promotional tips in this article to each event. The goal is to increase your turnout each time you return to these markets. Keep building your fan base through personal interaction on stage and at the merch table. Use an email signup list and keep in touch with fans on social media. 

The worst show ever – Pick your venue, location, and time

Imagine this. A band with an all ages (under 21) audience accepts a show that costs $15. The set time is midnight on a Wednesday night, and the club is 21+. There is absolutely no reason to waste time with this event. No amount of promotion and marketing will get your younger audience to this show. Keeping in mind you don’t want to overplay your market, choose your venue and show carefully. If your music appeals to a high school demographic, play midday concerts on a weekend at an all ages venue.

Consider your location, venue size, and costs to rent the venue. Outdoor venues are a challenge because of extra production costs and weather considerations. Developing artists should set a reasonable ticket price. High ticket prices can kill your concert turnout.

20 SPOTIFY PLAYLIST PROMOTION TIPS FOR 2018 – FREE PDF DOWNLOAD

We got screwed – Concert Budget

A thorough budget and careful planning will ensure you don’t get screwed. By planning and promoting your own event, you are putting the outcome in your own hands. You have control and can plan for problems.

First, determine what the financial goal is. Will it be a for-profit concert or for charity?

Some items to consider in your concert planning and BUDGET are as follows:

  • How many bands / groups will perform
  • The venue rental fee
  • How the venue makes money vs. how you make money
  • Staff / security costs
  • Production costs. i.e. PA, sound system, lights, engineer
  • If there is a ticketing company, what percentage do they take?
  • Advertising costs
  • Printing posters and flyers
  • Cost to manufacture merchandise
Mistake to Avoid:

Don’t just estimate the amount of tickets sold and multiply by the ticket price. That is not your budget. Do the reverse. First add up all of your expense on an Excel spreadsheet. Then work backwards. Take all of your expenses and determine what price you need to set for tickets. This will ensure you have your costs covered and some profit leftover for yourself.

Adam Jankie and Sara Donelly from Illusive Entertainment have a great 3-part video series. They’ve booked hundreds of events over the years, and get straight to the point.

How to plan a concert – booking the show

Like any successful event, make sure you set yourself up for success. Don’t book a concert the same night as a major competing event that your fans will already be at. Avoid college towns when school is out of session.

Venue size and type are important. A low turnout can be be a bummer for you, the promoter, and most of all – the fans. So don’t book a venue that you can’t fill at least 70% or sell out. If you’re not confident, it’s better to book a smaller room and sell it out.

FREE PDF – GIG CHECKLIST – DOWNLOAD HERE

  1. Come up with a list of potential venues and contact information
  2. Rank them in order of how well they fit your financial goals
  3. Choose the date and time wisely
  4. Factor in total costs, demographics, size, and relationship with promoter
  5. Know what you want before approaching venue/promoter
  6. Be prepared to show your marketing plan
  7. Pitch your event
  8. Confirm date and budget
Pro Tip:

Twitter gives you a list of events. Click the profile icon to get a dropdown. Select “Analytics”. In the top navigation, click Events.  

READER QUESTION – PRESALE TICKETS:

“Many of the shows we play require selling presale tickets. More often than not, we find ourselves losing a chunk of money because we are covering a portion of the tickets that we couldn’t sell. Should we continue to do shows like this or should we focus our efforts on concerts that revolve around local bands?”  – Chris – ASHES

ANSWER:

Supporting other artists is a good strategy. Throughout this article, I encourage artists to earn a reputation as a headlining act. But when choosing to support, the deciding factor should be how likely the concert is to sell out or have a successful turnout. Review all of the factors in this article to determine whether this show was set up for success or failure.

Only agree to play concerts that are booked at the right sized venues, with good promotion, and at the right ticket price. Often times these promoters are using the bands to fill their venue on a slow night. If they were confident in their decision to book an artist, would they really need a local opener to sell tickets for them? Be cautious of this trap. If there are doubts that it’s going to be a half full room, don’t confirm the concert. If everything looks good, and it looks like a positive situation, do your best to promote the show like it was your own.

Here are 7 Helpful Touring Tips from 50 Bands

Finding marketing partners and special guests

Music fans like to attend exciting events and be witnesses to something great. Promote each of your concerts like it was a festival or big event. Major events have sponsors and partnerships with brands and local businesses. Pitch your idea to these sorts of companies, and get them involved.

CONCERT PARTNERSHIPS

  • Consumer Brands
  • Clothing Brands
  • Non Profit Organizations
  • Equipment
  • Beverage Companies
  • Screenprinter
  • Press Partners
  • Social Influencers

Choosing Special Guests

Choose your special guests carefully. They should be viewed similarly to brands and partners. What do they have to offer in the way of turnout or marketing? It would be great if they bring out a different audience, from a different part of town, or younger or older. Trade shows with regional bands so that you can support them in their home market.

Mistakes to Avoid:
  • Don’t overplay. Make each event special and don’t play with the same artists over and over. Play with a variety of new artists. Go outside of your market and build your audience in the region.
  • Avoid playing the same set too often in one market. Make sure to have new material each time you play. 

Gig promotion – Marketing and Ticket Sales

Now that you know how to plan a concert, you need to promote them like any other product. Some bands create a marketing plan for each live event. In my experience smaller venues and “promoters” for local bands and smaller shows don’t do a very thorough job of “promotion”. You have to take this into your own hands.

STREET MARKETING

  • Old fashioned flyering and hanging posters
  • Online street team marketing – digital flyering
  • Contests and incentives for street team
  • Spotify QR reader code can be printed on anything (sticker, business card size takeaway, etc). The code can lead back to a playlist of your music or music from the tour.

ADVERTISING

  • Google and Facebook ads that are geo-targeted for your concert, or tour markets.
  • BandsInTown campaign
  • Social media posts (free advertising)
  • Local music weekly print ad. Pool resources amongst other artists to place a 1/8 or 1/4 page concert ad in your local weekly or monthly music paper.
  • Finally, for national tours, if you have sponsorship partners, consider buying a print ad in the best music magazine in each market.

PRINT & ONLINE MEDIA

  • Create a press release
  • Team up with the other bands. Make a tour trailer for YouTube and Facebook Video
  • Reach out directly (or through a PR) to local press and media
  • Promote the buy tickets links on social media regularly.  Update the header of your socials to call out the concert or tour (poster art)
  • Concert previews and interviews running on key outlets
  • E-blasts from media in addition to your band email list to promote the event
  • Contest (ideally with a tour sponsor or media partner with a large email list) (Autographs, guitar, drum heads, meet & greet, hang with the band, etc)
  • 5 Ways To Get Press Features On Your Own
Pro Tip:

Ask the promoter for their local press list. They will probably be happy to share it with you if they know that you will be helping with the promotion effort. And this shows them you know how to plan a concert.

Mistake To Avoid:

Many artists assume if they simply make music and play shows, they will build a bigger fan base. It’s assumed that each concert will lead to a bigger concert and their fan base will grow. This is the wrong way to look at it. It’s actually the other way around.

First of all, make as many fans as you can online, with street marketing, and with media. Then get fans to come to your concert. Therefore, if you’ve already softened the ground before the concert, you have a much better chance of growing your audience and selling merchandise. Also, you will impress the promoter because your band will stand above the other bands on the bill. Most artists don’t try to convert concert goers until the night of the show. That’s a mistake.

Mistakes to Avoid:

Make sure to list your concert on Songkick, BandsInTown and the other concert listing websites. Many artists forget to go and update Facebook and their website with the concert information. So it’s crucial to add dates on Songkick because it will show up on your Spotify profile.

The best show ever – At The Venue / Event

If you want your audience to continue to grow from show to show, don’t sit back and expect the same people to come to every show. Because each concert presents a challenge to reach new people. Therefore promote and market the concert to a new audience each time.

Here are some tips to make it your best concert ever.

  • Dress up the stage. Use scrims (printed screens that go in front of the amplifiers, or paint your amplifiers, bass drum head)
  • E-mail list signup / pen & paper / iPad. Offer something free in exchange for a sign-up.
  • Merch Table
  • Info / Welcome table (for your marketing partners & sponsors)
  • Bring a videographer / photographer to the concert or on tour to use as content on social media and YouTube
  • Spotify QR Reader Code can be printed on anything (sticker, business card size takeaway, merch item, shirt, whatever). The code can lead back to a playlist of your music or music from the tour
  • Backdrop for the stage (or projector image). Brand the poster art / tour ad mat. (for touring)
  • Finally, sell/pre-order something new. New album or track coming. Take pre-orders. Leave them with a sticker that has a link to check out a free MP3 of a new track coming out. (could be included with any purchase) Here is an article on how to make your venue sales count towards the album charts

For more detailed tips, grab this Free Gig Checklist  – HERE

Conclusion

So, I’ve set out to show you how to plan a concert that will entice people to come back to your next event. Getting more fans and repeat business is key. You can apply the tips in this guide for one off gigs, concerts, and festivals, or for your regional and national tours. The same rules generally apply.  What are some creative ideas you’ve seen from other artists or your own? Share them in the comments below.

Todd McCarty

Over the past two decades, music industry leader Todd McCarty served as GM of rock/punk indie label Fearless Records, and SVP Sales at Sony Music / Century Media. He still consults for record labels, but is actively blogging and working to educate new artists through www.heatonthestreet.com

2 Comments on “How To Plan A Concert – Gig Checklist”

  1. Good read! Once again an article that I will use time and time again! Another tip is at the end of the night submit a live performance report with your PRO so you can collect royalties from the performance. US ASCAP: https://www.ascap.com/help/registering-your-music/performancenotification US BMI: https://www.bmi.com/special/bmi_live UK PRS: https://www.prsformusic.com/royalties/report-live-performances Australia APRA: http://apraamcos.com.au/about-us/faqs/performance-reports/

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