10 Tips for Musical Event Planning

Planning a spectacular concert requires plenty of time and lots of careful planning.
Planning a spectacular concert requires plenty of time and lots of careful work.

When you're looking for an event that's a real crowd-pleaser, it's tough to go wrong with music. It spans cultures, ages and tastes, and you've got a lot of options in terms of event size, style and budget.

Basically, if you've got a crowd, or you hope to, music is a pretty sure bet.


Not that it's the easiest type of event to coordinate. A concert can come with multiple elements to coordinate and endless possibilities to plan ahead for. But with some research, forethought and attention to detail, anyone can pull it off.

Some of the bigger considerations, such as budget, and getting one or more musicians to show up, are fairly obvious. But there are other factors -- important ones -- that people sometimes overlook. Here, 10 tips to help you put together a great show from inception to encore, starting with the most important thing to keep in mind when planning this type of event: These things take time, and often lots of it, to get it right.

10: Extend Your Lead Time

Whether you're planning a benefit concert, showcasing a musician friend or bringing a bunch of bands to the campus quad, you'll find out quickly that hosting a music event can get complicated.

Arranging for the actual music is often the simplest part of the plan. You may need to get into promotion, equipment rental and venue research. You might discover a scheduling conflict deep into your well-laid plans and have to move the date -- and promote all over again. It could turn out you got the wrong permit and have to start navigating the local red tape all over again.


So give yourself more time than you think you need. For a small, casual event in your own home, a few weeks lead time might suffice; but for larger events, you'll probably need months. It's not always easy to get everything lined up just right.

Next, for those on a tight budget ...

9: To Save Money, Think Local

Make sure you book local musicians unless you want your budget to also include transportation and accommodations.
Make sure you book local musicians unless you want your budget to also include transportation and accommodations.
Hulton Archive/Fin Costello/Getty Images

We all want to fly in Adele for a show, but unless you've got the budget of a record company, major musicians are probably out of reach for someone just starting out.

The fact is, even a lesser-known act might be tough to swing if getting them to your show would require travel. Travel costs, including transportation and lodging, add significantly to the cost of a performance, so if you're on a pretty tight budget, your best bet is probably going to be a local act. It will cost you a lot less to book performers who live close by.


If there's a an out-of-town band you've got your heart set on, it's worthwhile to find out if they're already scheduled to be in your town for a different performance and see if you can book them in that time-frame sans transportation fees, since they've already been covered. You never know.

Next, don't book anybody until ...

8: Know Your Audience

Just because you're booking a great act and selling tickets doesn't mean people are going to buy them.

Something to keep in mind: A band that sold out a small venue two towns over may not be as popular in your area. To put on a successful show, knowing your audience -- and using that knowledge to do some precise targeting -- is essential. Who's especially popular in your area? If you're not sure, check Facebook pages to find out how many of a band's followers live nearby, or try looking into past shows to find out what sold out quickly (or at all).


A sold-out crowd is never guaranteed, but doing a little local-market research increases your chances substantially.

Next, another way to make a sold-out show more likely ...

7: Choose an Appropriate Venue

If you're choosing an outdoor venue, pay special attention to the type of stage you'll need.
If you're choosing an outdoor venue, pay special attention to the type of stage you'll need.
Photolibrary/Jeff Greenberg/Getty Images

If you're planning a concert you'll be selling tickets for, you want it to sell out; short of that, you want it to look sold out; and short of that, you want it to look full.

A half-empty venue is a something of a downer for everyone -- the band, the audience, and, of course, you. But if you're a relative novice at hosting these types of events, or if you choose to feature an act that doesn't already have a huge following, selling a huge number of tickets can be tough. The easiest way to avoid this type of downer is to book a small venue. Sell out a 200-person show first, and then set your sights higher.


Other venue considerations include acoustics, on-staff sound engineers if you don't want to find your own and price. There's no point in renting an extra-impressive space if it means you have no money left for an extra-impressive show.

Next, if the venue isn't fully equipped ...

6: Rent the Right Stage

Not every venue is going to be able to provide everything for your show. One of the pieces of equipment you might find you need to rent yourself, especially if you hold the show in an outdoor space not designed specifically for concerts, is the stage itself.

You can't just get any stage, though, if your act is a band. An acoustic guitarist or solo singer is one thing, but for a full band with lots of heavy equipment, you need a music stage that can handle a lot of weight and, most likely, a lot of movement.


When looking into a stage, make sure you get one that can safely support everything that will be happening in your show. You do not want to cut corners when it comes to safety, and paying the rental company for damaging its stage will cut significantly into your proceeds.

Next, speaking of safety and property damage ...

5: Get Insurance

Insurance will cover damage or injury that results from the show.
Insurance will cover damage or injury that result from the show.
Inti St. Clair/Digital Vision/Getty Images

If you're just starting out in this event-planning thing, it may not be entirely obvious that you need to protect against any possible damage or injury resulting from your show.

You do. Event insurance is easy enough to come by, and it's worth the investment. This type of insurance will protect you should (certain) things go wrong, such as a stage mishap. If the stage you rent turns out not to be able to handle the weight of all that music equipment, you could be on the hook for some serious cash unless you have an insurance policy to cover the damage.


You also want to make sure any contracted workers or entertainment have the proper insurance, too. Otherwise, you could end up paying for their mistakes.

Next, before solidifying your plans ...

4: Check for Scheduling Conflicts

With a venue in mind, an insurance provider on the line and a band ready to book, you've got one more piece of business to look into before signing on the dotted line: scheduling conflicts.

If there's another event happening on the same day as your show, and that event is appealing to a similar target audience, you're going to have more trouble selling tickets than you need to. Before solidifying a date, check all local-entertainment calendars, concert venues and bars to find out if there are any same-genre concerts happening on the same night -- or even the same weekend. People will be quicker to buy your tickets if they don't have anything else going on in that immediate time frame.


If you find a conflict, just pick a new date -- and then do another search for conflicts.

Next, once you know your date, you may need to tell the city.

3: Research Permits

Before your concert takes off, make sure the city won't be shutting you down.
Before your concert takes off, make sure the city won't be shutting you down.
Taxi/Jutta Klee/Getty Images

If your musicians will be performing at a bar or concert hall, the government isn't going to care much. If, however, you hope to have your music event in a public space, like a park, you've got an additional step in your planning process: obtaining a permit.

It's possible you won't need one, but you probably will. To host an event, especially if it's a ticketed event, in a space like a park, you'll have to book it with the city, which typically means filling out paperwork and paying a fee. Without the proper permits, you risk being kicked out the space.


If your concert will be held on a campus quad, consider the university as your "city." Make sure the higher-ups know what you plan to do, and arrange for any permits they require.

Next, you've got your date and you've got your space; now you need your audience.

2: Promote!

If you're putting on a show for your closest friends and relatives, all you need to do is send out an e-mail or make some phone calls. If you're looking to draw your audience from a larger pool, though, you'll need to actively promote.

This basically means getting the word out, and you can do this in any number of ways, from Facebook and social media announcements to flyers around town to newspaper ads. You can notify local-events and music Web sites or ask at music stores in your area if you can put some flyers in their register area.


Whatever you do, make sure the information you provide in your promotional materials is complete and correct. There's nothing like having most of your audience show up on the wrong day.

And finally, in case of rain ...

1: Have a Weather Plan

A covered stage is great, but if you're expecting otherwise, plan for the weather not cooperating.
A covered stage is great, but if you're expecting otherwise, plan for the weather not cooperating.

While it's wonderful to plan your outdoor concert on a day the Farmer's Almanac predicts sun and a light breeze, you've still got to have a back-up. If it rains on your outdoor concert, you want to be able to tell your paying customers when to come back for their money's worth.

Arrange for a weather plan that lets you fairly easily rebook everything should rain or hail get in the way of a good time. Even if you can't say for sure when the new concert will be, you'll be able to set tentative days, which can save you a lot of work. You don't want to be starting from scratch if the Almanac turns out to be wrong.

It's not much of a crowd pleaser when you have to refund everyone's money -- which, by the way, should be covered by your insurance.

For more information on event planning and putting concerts together, check out the links on the next page.

Lots More Information

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More Great Links

  • Action Tips: Organize a Benefit for Your Cause. Do Something. (March 5, 2012) http://www.dosomething.org/actnow/actionguide/how-organize-a-benefit-concert
  • Antonow, A. "Stages." Business.com. (March 5, 2012) http://www.business.com/sales-and-marketing/stages/
  • Entertainment. The Event Helper. June 8, 2010. (March 5, 2012) http://theeventhelper.com/articles/entertainment
  • How to Host a Live Event: For Music Bloggers. Sunset in the Rearview. June 16, 2011. (March 5, 2012)
  • Outdoor Events. The Event Helper. June 22, 2010. (March 5, 2012) http://theeventhelper.com/articles/outdoor-events