Caroline Hilton is National Events Manager for The Big Music Project. She has worked in Artist Relations and Event Management within the record industry for over 10 years, producing events for the likes of Bastille, Kylie Minogue and Coldplay.
How I got started in music event management
Working on events in the music industry was my first full-time professional job after University but I had been working in various guises since I was 13; from papergirl to landscape gardener. I eventually honed my skills and started playing guitar, which led to writing music, moving on to producing then live sound engineering and ultimately I decided I wanted to be organising the performances and not to be the performer. I have been very lucky over the years to organise events for artists such as Bastille, Coldplay, Emeli Sande, Kylie Minogue, Lily Allen and Snoop Dogg amongst others.
How to produce your own music event
1. Be organised
Being incredibly organised is key to being a successful event manager. If you find you’re the one always arranging a group holiday or planning a night out and you like everything to be ‘just right’ then this is for you.
2. Put in the work
Having dedication is not just about being passionate because passion doesn’t always come with ability and doing whatever it takes. Running events takes a lot of preparation. Anything from a few days to years. Either way you’re not always going to get much sleep between now and then. It might be a 9 to 5 when you’re planning but on show days you’ll be the first in the venue and the last out! That can mean 6am start – 3am finish!
3. Communicate well
Communication skills are vital. You can only do so much, even as a one-man band trying to do everything yourself you will still need to converse with so many different people and ultimately you need them all to do something for you. Even if you’re paying them everyone deserves the same respect you’d pay your headline artist. Respect them and they’ll respect you.
4. Plan, plan, plan!
Events take a lot of planning; finding a venue requires good knowledge of the city you’re in. Using website resources are good but you need to keep your ear to the ground. New venue openings are happening all the time. Sometimes a walk around an area you’re interested in can bring up some interesting surprises.
5. Hire the right people
Depending on the type of venue you’ve hired it might have a full production installation or be a ‘dry-hire’ space, meaning there’s nothing in it; just a blank canvas for you to create an environment. You’ll need to hire sound, lighting, staging, dressing, security, caterers and/or bar staff and if you’re selling tickets you’ll need to make sure you source a ticket agent to sell your tickets and someone to manage your box office/guest list on the door.
6. Put together a schedule
So show day has arrived and you’ve brought all these people together and now you need them to realise your ideas and put them in to action. By this point you should have already communicated a schedule for the day and shared contact details where necessary. Your schedule needs to be meticulous. If you’re in a residential area for example the venue will tell you that you can’t load-in too early in the morning or load-out too late at night. Then you’ll want to make sure all your suppliers are NOT turning up at the same time. If you’ve got caterers bringing in boxes of glassware and some staging being loaded in at the same time you can’t be surprised when there’s smashed glass all over the floor!
7. Look after your artists
If your event is Artist/Performer focused then Artist Relations is just as important as the Event Manager role. Their time is money and it’s your money! Don’t tell them to ‘turn up whenever’ and then find they’re early and the PA hasn’t been set up yet or they’re late (more likely) because as far as they’re concerned they’re not on stage until 9pm. But if your doors open at 7pm then you can’t have them on stage soundchecking after 7pm. So you need them in early enough to soundcheck but late enough that they’re not getting disgruntled and you only have to pay for their dinner and not lunch too! Also, to note for your schedule; if you have multiple artists performing, you soundcheck in reverse order – although there can be exception if your headline act is particularly demanding (or late!). Therefore you finish soundchecking with the artist who is on first which means that the stage, lighting and sound desk are set ready for the first performance.
8. Promote it!
On a final note, remember, your venue can look great and your artist turnout might be off-the-scale! But if you haven’t promoted your event then its all for nothing. Really think about who you want there, what’s the purpose? Is it for the public or are you setting up a showcase for unsigned bands and need to get some music industry interest? Whatever it is, tap in to who you know. It might be a friend of a friend who works at a label and that might be enough to open a door. But remember no one likes a bolt out of the blue to be pushy, arrogant or ultimately annoying. Being professional but memorable is tricky but thinking about what you’d like someone to write to you is a good start.
Then you need to advertise and market your event. Of course social media is free but not necessarily easy. Again be vocal but not too irritating. If everyone receives 20 event updates on Facebook about your event happening in 6 months time; firstly you sound desperate so they’re not going to come, secondly its in 6 months time and you’ve used all your marketing power too quickly and too early, so they’ll forget about it and they’re not going to come. You have to believe in your event. You have to believe it’s the hottest event of the year.
Now think about other events that you think are cool and look at how they are marketing themselves. Get that Twitter profile up to as many followings as possible (and not just by following 5000 people in the hope 3000 follow you back) These might not be people that attend but it might be enough to flag interest and get a piece in TimeOut or local press or actually lots of things can happen if you keep on with regular updates with good use of #hashtags and @mentions. Be credible and clever in those uses. Don’t just mention someone famous or a trending hashtag for the sake of it. Think about a smart way to incorporate it in to what you’re promoting.
Be the best you can be, don’t be afraid to ask questions, be confident but not arrogant and you’re already on the right track.