The saying “it will be alright on the night” is something you’ll likely hear a lot when hosting your music event. You have to have faith that, on the night, things will fall into place. Taking the right organisational steps will help and having a clear plan for the day is essential.
While it’s impossible to simulate exactly what will happen on the day, there are plans and contingencies you can put in place. We explore these in our tips to hosting your music event.
1. Setting up the space
The space you have been allocated for the event is your domain. This includes the stage and the area for spectators. Whether you are using the basement room of a pub or a thousand-seater venue, think about how it needs to be set up (and what work will be involved).
The space also includes stage equipment. If the tech staff at a venue have a specific way of doing things, this could be taken off your hands. If not, it will be down to you and your staff to set up the stage and have it ready for performers.
Tip: For considerations for stage setup from an audience perspective, check out this on setting up your event stage.
Set up in a way that accounts for how the gig is going to sound. This is arguably the most important thing. There is a reason we sound check in advance: It’s the ideal way to make sure everything is running (and sounding) as it should.
Tip: To make sure you’ve effectively tested the sound in your venue, check out this full guide on sound checking.
Seating and viewing areas
You should have worked out well before the day of a gig whether you will be having seated or standing spectators. This will likely be decided by the venue. The type of concert will also play a part. A metal gig probably won’t be as popular if there is seating. Metal fans tend to like a “pit.”
If you have booked an orchestral ensemble, your customers might expect buffet seating.
On the day, make sure that the viewing space is ready well in advance of any punters arriving. Check that precautions such as barriers have been put in place.
If you are fortunate, the technical staff at the venue will be in charge of preparing the viewing area. This will mean one less thing to worry about.
2. Many hands make light(ish) work
Don’t go it alone. Even if you are hosting an event on a small scale, you should take people with you to help. Friends will likely be happy to come along. Warn them that if anything goes wrong, they might have to muck in.
By the same token, ensure the event is properly staffed, including:
- A sound engineer for the mixing desk
- Technical staff for carrying and setting up equipment
- Security staff
- Ticketing staff
Check what the venue provides and which of these jobs are your responsibility. Being short of bodies often leads to stress and errors. Even doctors make more mistakes when stressed. Don’t leave it to chance.
3. Have a running list and detailed timings
People skills are key if you’re organising an event. Music events mean dealing with creative people. There are lots of links between creativity and disorganisation, so you might have to “mother” people a little and keep their time for them.
Leave spare time
For this reason, leave a time buffer for everything. Arrive early and ask performers to do the same. Get your sound check out of the way and try to get ahead of the game. Everyone has their own way of doing things, but sound checks should be a few hours before the show is due to start. Even if you expect the show to start at 5:30 p.m, ask the band to be there by 5:00 p.m.
It is also key to check time restrictions with the venue. What time can you load in? What time does the event have to be finished by? Establish these in advance.
4. Take a toolkit and a crisis kit
Having to go and get something at short notice can be a major inconvenience on the day of an event. Take a toolkit (literally take tools in case you need to use them to repair something). Fill it with items you might need in a crisis.
What should go in the kit?
The sort of things that should go in a crisis kit include duct tape, chargers, money, scissors, notepads, a first-aid kit, and more.
Specific music items to take in a crisis kit include:
- Spare strings for all instruments
- Spare cables including XLR cables and 1/4 inch jack cables
- A tuner
- Earplugs to protect hearing if alterations need to be made near a speaker
- Drum sticks
- Spare batteries for monitor systems, tuners and any other equipment which needs them
- Extension cord in case you need extra power outlets
- Electrical tape
- A multi-tool or a Swiss Army knife
- Spare change and cash
- Markers, pens, pencil, and paper
- Towels or paper towels
There are scenarios where all of these items can come in handy at your music event. You can fit all of it in one box. Even if there are items you can get at short notice, assume you will have no time to go and make purchases.
Tip: You can find a list of items you might need in this list of commonly forgotten event planning details.
If you have forgotten to bring anything, this is where our tip about taking helpers can come in very handy. Even a helper with no musical expertise can run out and buy scissors if you need them.
Tip: This guide covers pretty much everything you could need on-stage and will help you decide what needs to go in your crisis kit.
5. Think about what others will need
When hosting your music event, you will have to be…well, the host!
This means that people will look to you when they need anything. It doesn’t mean you’re going to have to look after them like children, but providing things everyone needs is vital.
For instance, ensure there is plenty of water backstage as well as snacks, spare chargers, spare plug sockets, tea- and coffee-making facilities, and things to do in downtime. WiFi for the bands will also help them stay entertained.
A lot of people go down the route of letting performers have a rider. This details items they would like or expect to be in their dressing room.
For large bands and artists, it may well be the case that a rider is built into the contract they sign for the performance. There are plenty of famous stories about bands having a laugh and joke with their demands. (Check out some example riders from real tours.)
This may be expensive. There’s every chance a performer is going to try their luck and ask for a crate of craft ale or a bottle of expensive whiskey. But a rider makes sure that any dietary requirements are met. It’s also advisable to have a technical rider. This helps technical staff be on the same page about what performers need.
Tip: For more information about riders and how to be smart with them for your artists, check out this guide.
6. Expect the unexpected
It may not sound like much of a “tip” but this advice is essential. The chances of everything going exactly to plan are slim, but that’s okay if you are able to think on your feet.
Don’t be married to one idea of exactly how the event needs to go. Setbacks are almost inevitable. For instance…
Bands or performers might not turn up. Some musicians have a reputation for being unreliable. In a show with a few bands, this isn’t such a big deal. If you lose someone at short notice, see if you can rope in a solo artist at late notice or offer other bands longer sets.
Disagreements and clashes
Ego attacks, disagreements, and personality clashes. Many creative people are quite outspoken and even rebellious. People skills are a must.
Equipment can break on the day of an event. Without preparation, you can be one broken microphone away from disaster. Have spares of vital equipment (see #4), and discuss the idea of sharing gear if something goes wrong.
You can’t rule out illness or injury. A first-aid kit could well be needed if your band likes to get the crowd going.
If security is slow and you end up with a big queue, see if you can send out a support band to busk and entertain them.
If the weather is bad, be ready to dry floors as much as possible and have the correct safety signs to ensure you aren’t liable if there’s an accident.
Tip: Here’s an excellent walkthrough of things that may go wrong and how to deal with them.
7. Keep communication clear
Communication should be clear in the planning stage of the event, but things can quickly get out of hand on the day when everyone is rushing around. Choose a group communication tool. This will make sure you don’t have to relay messages to multiple people.
WhatsApp is a good tool for this. Teams and employees will be more productive with a group chat. WhatsApp is cross-platform, so it can be used on any smartphone. It also lets you know whether others have already seen the messages.
Don’t bombard people with too much info in a group chat. Use it for essentials. Changes to running times and the running order, important health and safety information, and technical details. These should be broadcast to everyone, so nobody falls out of the loop.
As the organiser, you will also have to do a lot of the one-to-one communication. This includes letting bands know if they need to finish at a certain time or asking a technician to check on a failing piece of equipment. Keep this type of communication out of group chats.
8. Be flexible, be calm
We know. Easier said than done. It can be tough to stay calm, and event planning is a very difficult job if you aren’t.
Key skills for dealing with this include creative problem-solving. Flexibility can be a difficult skill to learn, especially if you are a control freak.
But remember: Flexibility does not mean not having a plan. It means being prepared for it to change.
Tip: For tips on dealing with stress, read up on these very useful tips for staying calm during an event.
Seize the day
Without wanting to sound like a motivational speaker, it is vital to go into the day feeling like you can stay in control.
If things are bugging you beforehand, do everything you can to fix them.
That way, when the big day comes, you know you can go out and make it a roaring success!