In this week’s Blog we wanted to feature some advice on planning major concerts from a different perspective through a special guest contributor. Samantha Mutschler, is a recent graduate of the University of Tampa where she served as a member of the programming board’s music committee and as Music Chair leading two major concerts (while also interning here at Degy). We hope you enjoy her in-depth report and on producing major concerts on a college campus!
COLLEGE REPORT: How to Plan a Major Concert at Your University
What is your budget? Make sure that you are staying in your budget but also making sure to use every penny of that budget!
I cannot stress enough that budgeting is the most important first step in planning a show. Consider appointing someone or having a co-chair to specifically help with the budget. When looking into your budget you need to incorporate many different things. You cannot just confirm an artist and say “well the show is done we got everything booked”! When you contract an artist that simply means you have paid for him/her to perform, but that’s just one part of the budget equation.
Look at the venue; will your venue be an extra cost? Some schools may be fortunate enough to not have to pay extra for the venue but others may have to pay a flat fee to rent a venue in town or even on campus. Another large cost in the budget can be the cost of stage and production. The stage, lights and sound are typically contracted out to a professional third party company unless you are lucky enough to have a venue and production team on staff at your school. Also something to take into consideration is how much building is required for the stage. Do you have to build the stage from the ground up or do you just need to add lights and sound to an already built stage within a venue? Consider these into your budget, get your quotes from a few companies before signing off on anything and definitely before you officially sign a contract with an artist. While the artist, stage, venue, production are the biggest costs you will face, you should also consider things like security, staffers, food for your crew, rider items for the artist(s), event marketing, giveaways, agent fees, city permits, porta potties, water stations, barricades (Blowthrough or Bikerack), and anything else that could pop up.
- What is your overall budget? Is it specific or flexible?
- How will you break everything up?
- What is the cost of your venue/stage, production?
- Will there be ticket sales you can count on?
What is your goal? purpose, audience, & timeline?
After budget, these will be your most important things to determine. Discovering what is your goal in all of this planning. Of course we all have the same goal, put on the best concert there ever was. But it is important to be realistic. It is important to set goals that are you are able to reach. Maybe your goal is to have a certain attendance at the event, than you really need to get a gage of what your audience wants in a show. Maybe your goal is to make the show a BIG experience an put a bigger budget towards production and effects. Either way, your goal is what you make it! With that being said you need to develop a (realistic) timeline and set a series of short time goals. It is also important to look at your other priorities. If you are a student who is in charge, consider that education is number one and maybe you also have a job. Make sure the plan out YOUR schedule each week so you are able to keep up with everything on yoru plate. The very first step in your short-term goal list should be determining your budget. Once that is established, answer these questions:
- What is your main goal?
- Who is your audience?
- How long do you have to plan and then execute the event?
- What are my other priorities to take into account?
CHOOSING THE ARTIST(S):
Who’s going to be your artist?
Now that you have the “WHY”, “WHAT” and the “WHERE” you can focus on the “WHO”! It is important to understand who your audience is going to be. First looking at the age group. For example if you have children under the age of 18 the language and content should be considered. It would not be ideal to bring an artist that uses foul language a lot in his/her music. In settings where the audience is 18 and older the topic of language and content may not be a deciding factor.
Another very important aspect to look at is the price range you need to stay into. As discussed before it is important to factor in other aspects to the concert. If you have $100k in the budget your price range for an artist could be between $50-75k depending on the tech and hospitality rider. Speaking of the technical and hospitality rider it is important to take a look at those before any offer is made. Ensure that the technical rider does not have items that your venue cannot provide. Another aspect that may beneficial to looking at is your artists box office numbers. If your show relies solely on ticket sales, you need to examine what the artist has made in the past in your market, or markets similar demographically/geographically to you.
Who are your key contacts?
How are you going to reach out to your artist? While it is not impossible to do this on your own, a middling agent can be a tremendous help to you. I know what your asking yourself right now; “What is a middle agent?” A “Middle Agent” is professional (either independent or part of an agency or firm) who has the proper and legitimate connections to the managers and responsible agents for the artists you are looking to book. These agents and managers often know, and do a great deal of business with these middle agents so they are happy to take their calls, consider the offers they bring to the table and make deals. In general, they can help the process go smoother then if your school was to go to the artists responsible agent directly.
Katie Drake, a previous student concert chair for the University of Tampa’s programming board states, “It takes another thing off your to-do list of trying to negotiate back and forth with agencies…”. Even after the contracts are done and signed, a middle agent will be there in case there is something that you need help approaching the artist with. If you are uncomfortable telling them there is something on the hospitality rider that you cannot and will not provide for an artist the middle agent can help make the process go smoother. But keep in mind, while a middle agent would be ideal for every show, you must consider your budget. A middle agent will typically take 10% of the artist’s fee as payment for their services. For smaller artist that fee may not affect your budget but when artists start getting expensive the fee for an agent could really affect your budget. So take it into consideration when looking into a middling agent. It is always important to ask up front what their fee is before you are surprised with the bill.
- How big is your artist?
- Do you feel you need a middle agent?
- What is your budget / can you afford a Middle Agent?
Now, on to the fun stuff!
First step is considering how you will reveal who the artist is. Will there just be a simple social media announcement or will there be a big, on-campus event that reveals the artist? Consider your options when revealing the artist. There can be fun and cheap ways to reveal.
After the artist reveal is scheduled, plan out how you will continue marketing the show. In a school setting, tabling in student unions, making posters and banners, and blasting students with social media are all easy and beneficial. Maybe your university has a popular local radio station or newspaper you can reach out to as well, however you can get your message across to the most amount of people you are targeting.
Another fun part about marketing is purchasing giveaways for either before the show or during the show. First consider the marketing budget you have already put in place. T-shirts, fanny packs, cell phone accessories, cups, foam sticks, glow bracelets, and many more are fun giveaways.
IMPORTANT: Make sure that all of the marketing that is posted or used on social media as well as your giveaways have prior approval from the artist’s team.
- How will you reveal the artist?
- What will be your marketing techniques be?
- Who do you want to target?
- What is your marketing budget?
- Do you want giveaways?
Community involvement and sponsorships, how to engage.
It is always good to keep in touch with the community around your university regardless of whether or not your show is public or private. If you are putting on a public show the community can be crucial to the success of the event (ticket sales and foot traffic). If the show is closed to university students, staff and guests, it is crucial that you get this message out to the community as a whole. Make sure you are clear in your message to different community segments and keep lines of communication open and friendly.
One way to increase community involvement and awareness as well as offset costs of your production is to get local businesses involved. Be sure to put all key info of your event into slick, clear, concise marketing materials (a deck or a one sheet are great ways to do this). Be sure when reaching out to go through all appropriate university channels and respect people’s time and attention. This is also a great way to develop professional relationships when you are getting ready to enter the workplace!
- How can you best communicate with the community?
- How can you get the community involved?
- Are companies willing to donate in exchange for advertising at your event?
- Can other community organizations help you advertise your show?
Be Prepared, be organized!
I know I said that maintaining your budget is the most important aspect of the show but I think that being prepared and organized is tied for first! A successful show is an organized show. But the question is how to stay organized? Everyone is organized in his or her own way which is fine, but ensure that everyone around you understands your organization. Be sure to store all contracts, riders and other important documents saved in the same folder on your computer and are easy to access. Make sure to either e-mail AND print copies for all parties who are involved in helping plan the event. It is so important to have a team and keep the communication so that everyone understands what is going on at all times.
Brian Cicero, another student music chair stated, “Stay organized and communicate promptly and effectively to best maintain positive relationships and progress on the event”. Communication is key, not only with your team but with your middle agent and the artist’s team. The day of the show is one of the most important days to be organized. Ensure that everyone on your team and the artist’s team knows the day’s schedule. Make sure everyone has a specific job and that everyone understands their jobs.
How to stay organized:
- Keep all documents in the same file/binder.
- Make copies of everything for you and your advisor for future reference.
- Create an excel sheet to keep track of your budgets and income.
- Delegate! Delegate! Delegate! Split up the work and get the job done.
Stand your ground, but know your limits!
Now that a lot of the details have been planned out, you have one last thing, dealing with the artist and their team on the day of the show. Make sure that before the day of the show you have already spoken to the tour manage about the hospitality rider and make sure he/she is clear on what can and cannot be provided. Be sure to stand your ground and know your limits. If an artist’s Tour Manager is requesting small things, do your best to politely accommodate. If they request things that you simply cannot get (or afford), make sure you politely tell the team that that is something you cannot provide and point back to the rider you fulfilled. Also let the tour manage know before hand a list of things that cannot be requested under any circumstance. For example, many universities CANNOT provide alcohol or even have alcohol on the premises. Ensure the artist’s team knows that. Lay everything out in the show advance to the artist’s team weeks before the show to ensure that they are aware of what you can and cannot provide day of show.
Helpful Tips when speaking to a Tour Manager:
- You should always point to your institution’s rules and policies for your show. Know what you cannot help with and simply say “I wish we could help but due to school policy we aren’t authorized to do that…”
- If it something small, or relatively easy, do your best to help them out!
- Understand that some artists and their crew are on the road A LOT and don’t live the “normal” life we do, so a request that may seem silly to you is normal stuff you might not even think of!
FOR EXAMPLE: “Can you run to Walmart and buy me socks?” or “Do you have a basketball? We saw the court and would love to shoot some hoops and get some exercise!”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Samantha Mutschler, is a recent graduate of the University of Tampa with a Bachelor of Science in Criminology. She served as a member of her University’s programming board’s music committee her freshman and sophomore. Her junior and senior year she was nominated to serve as the music chair. She lead two concerts including Hunter Hayes and Mike Posner. Samantha is also a sister of Pi Beta Phi fraternity and served as the Vice President of Scholarship on the Panhellenic Executive board. In her free time she enjoys going to the beach, visiting Disney World, and of course planning concerts.
Interview with Katie Drake and Brian Cicero