How To Put On a Gig


The lovely team at Oxjam Edinburgh Takeover have asked me to do a guest blog post on how to organise live music events. I’m by no means an expert in this field, but thought I’d let you know the mistakes I’ve learned from over the last few years…

Organising live music events, be it outdoor events, gigs in venues or anything else a bit quirky is great fun! This blog post will focus on organising a band night here in Scotland’s capital and touch on subjects such as choosing a venue, choosing your bands, promotion, finance and moving forward.

Choosing your headline act


If you’ve decided to go ahead with planning your first live music show, it’s time to choose your headline act. Depending on the scale of your event there are numerous ways of going about booking the artist. For larger scale events and artists you will need to contact their agent, who’s contact details can usually be found on their website or Facebook page’s About info if they don’t have a website. An agent’s job is to get the best deal for their clients (the artist) and will negotiate a deal that works well for all parties.

For smaller scale local shows it would be best to contact the artists’ manager or them directly with an offer of a show.

Depending on the nature of the event it is always worth booking an artist that has something to promote; an EP, single or album launch for example or for touring acts it may be a date on their tour. There are loads of digital tools to help decide which acts may or may not do well in your city. Next Big Sound is a free tool that allows people to see how popular an act is in their town in terms of record sales, social media engagement and past events.

Choosing a venue


Edinburgh is a hot bed of top quality live music venues! If you’re planning a live music event there are a few things to consider… Depending on the agreement with your bands and their popularity this will determine, among other things, what venue will be best suited. For example, you wouldn’t try and book an international touring band into a 100 capacity venue or a local unknown band into a 2000 capacity venue – you’ll be having interesting conversations with your bank manager post-event.

Some local venues to consider for small scale shows would be Sneaky Pete’s, The Mash House, The Voodoo Rooms, Henry’s Cellar Bar, and Paradise Palms. Smaller venues have a much more affordable hire rate than others, which can be handy if you’re just starting out and don’t have a huge budget for your show. It’s best to shop around and find the best deal you can that’s not going to break the bank and will make the venue, you, and the musicians money. Don’t be scared to contact venues – people are nice and want to help.

You can find a handy list of venues that offer live music and their contact details on 7ahead’s website.

Choosing support acts


Once you have your venue and headline act, it’s time to start thinking about supports. This will normally be local bands unless you have booked a touring act. In some cases there might be a support band on tour with them already. This should be a band/musician that fits the overall theme and sound of the night (you wouldn’t have a death metal band supporting an acoustic act). Be creative! It also helps if the band you choose to support the headline act have a track record of playing live, good social media presence, are easy to deal with, and can bring a crowd along too.

Promoting the event


As a promoter, you need to promote the event! That’s not to say 100% of the promotion should be on the promoter – the bands need to play their part in this too to make sure the show is beneficial for everyone involved – but, it is your job… Social media, love it or hate it, is a good way of promoting an event, especially using their targeted ad service but by no means should that be the only method of promotion for a show.

Get creative with the marketing for your event. If you have a small budget ask a friend or art college student to help you design a poster. Make it different and eye catching. To save yourself from wondering the streets of Edinburgh for hours putting posters up, only to have them ripped down hours later, you can use local distribution companies, such as Hanging Rock. Again, make sure you have good poster distribution if you’re on a tight budget. Contacting local press should also be on your list for promoting an event. Ask local newspapers, music press, and local radio to help promote the event. Offer them free tickets for an interview with the acts. You provide them content, and it promotes your event – it’s a win-win. List your event on the local music listings websites and magazines too.

Finance & Other


Finally, finance. That dreaded word and the ‘boring’ part of putting on live music events but it’s the most important. There are hundreds of free budget templates online that help you work out your break-even in tickets sales and detailed budgeting. Keep track of your cash, especially if you’re on a tight budget.

Offer the musicians a rider when possible – alcohol, a hot meal (especially for touring acts), and make them feel at home. A little bit of hospitality goes a long way.

Other things to consider would be booking a live music photographer for the event, again maybe a friend as a favour or a photography student looking to build their portfolio if your budget is tight.

Always try and pay people. They’re in the same boat as you and trying to make money out of something they enjoy!