Running events is a multi-faceted, electrifying and challenging business as I’m sure any of you event managers out there will already know. Any of you who haven’t seen behind the scenes of organising and running events, in particular variety events, let me divulge.
First comes initiating a boom sauce idea that gets your own toes curling in anticipation. Then comes setting up a date with a venue, meeting with them, convincing them that you’re night is gonna be MA-HEGA and all of the liaison around that. Next comes gathering the fabulous artists to make your show a real extravaganza! As you can imagine, this process can take anything between days, weeks and months, depending on the size of your show, the amount of people in each act, whether Dave from Cardiff, who’s still in the band, happens to be in your ends that weekend or whether the reduced band still means that they are comfortable to play.
After booking your myriad entertainers, you have to make sure your space and facilities accommodate for them so next comes accumulating all of their widespread needs, wants and desires. In particular technical requirements, spatial needs and other miscellaneous requests. Whilst you’re thinking, oh wow this show is gonna be UH-MAZING, you’re also pondering how on earth is this night going to run smoothly? So next comes recruiting your team. Your team may include door staff, security, set-up and take down crew, co-hosts, folks with vans, people to cover social media at the event and even some people to engage with the audience.
Then you’re thinking, WAIT! I want people to remember the show in HD, so you book a sound technician (please never consider running a music event without one of these experts, this will be the difference between your night sounding like an awkward village fête and a truly memorable gig) and of course a photographer and videographer if you wanna capture the magical wonderment!
Okay, so now you have a pretty strong team and you pray to all of the gods that your large crew show up on the day. Next comes logistics, how, who, where, what time and WHY did you sign up to organise this mayhem?! I jest, you still writhe with excitement at the prospect of this legendary show! You knuckle down to some of the most fervent admin wizardry you can muster and disperse it to your newfangled team. Be prepared to answer every single question under the sun; the more information you can prepare initially, the less stress you’ll feel when you receive this magnificence of queries.
Be prepared to answer every single question under the sun; the more information you can prepare initially, the less stress you’ll feel when you receive this magnificence of queries.
SOUND THE ALARM!!! One vital element you must not bypass is promotion. Of course, you may have the raddest, most dynamic spectrum of a variety show in history but if no-one is there to witness it, it will never go down. Your decision here lies with streamlining your promotion, which ways are best for your audience? Where will you distribute posters and leaflets? Who will design them? Who will print them? Who will collect them? Who will distribute them? Will you write a press release? Will you try get a slot on a radio show or a piece in the paper? Will you send your event to local events’ listings? Will you share your event across social media channels? Into local online groups? ARE YOU EXHAUSTED YET? Just take one step at a time, you really can never do enough promotion so just make informed decisions about which routes to follow, know your budget and remember to delegate wherever possible!
A lot of these facets will overlap and continue up until very close to the event day/s. A verbal or mental walk through, even a role play, can help with combatting each and every to-be-hiccup or issue. You might realise, oh wait! We need 5 more hangings as this venue is bigger than last time! Or my usual van guy just broke his foot, WHO HAS A VAN? Freaketh thyself not, things will come together in the end. Remember, people are your resource and if you’ve got an issue, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Someone will know someone who knows someone…
In short, leading such a multi-dimensional operation brings a variety of challenges and knowing where best to invest your time and energy is vital. Along the way you learn how to multi-task and be the most productive, how to build a strong core team of people who truly care, how to build business resilience, to delegate and how to make sure everything gets done. Having organised events over the last 5 years for House of Verse, new investments have had to have been made to support our growth. These things include storage space for our expanding gear, insurance to cover our escapades and financial support – thanks to the fantastic Pro Active Resolutions – to help keep track of our records.
And just incase you wanted an extra insight into how the costs for House of Verse are broken down (for a single show), check out the beautiful info graphic below, made by the fabulous EM Design Studio.
In 2014, House of Verse began as an interactive, immersive installation exhibition which I piloted in my third year at De Montfort University, to attempt to make people find poetry more accessible. It evolved instantly after feedback clearly favoured the live performance element and snowballed over the last 4 years into a great big variety platform welcoming all artforms. It’s been one of those rides that I feel like I don’t remember getting on, I didn’t buy a ticket and somehow I’m 4 years in to a self-started creative business rollercoaster and piecing together a giant unknown jigsaw. Brain deep in managing the breadth of ‘departments’ of an entire business flying solo is certainly quite the voyage. Discovering just how many sides there are to one business has been wildly mind-opening. FYI, I’ve got it down to Admin, Liaison, Marketing, Finance, Web, Design, Business and Logistics.
Yes, you may call me Jellyfish Circus.
Managing so many creative souls rustles up a lot of creative and logistical questions. As I experienced working with more and more artists, I learnt that some people require a lot of information whereas others require far less. Preparation takes a lot of time and throughout my 4 years of experience, I have streamlined the information that I distribute to artists and partners to guarantee that they have received what they need to know and feel comfortable when it comes to the event. I have learnt how vital it is for communication lines to be friendly, consistent and reliable. It is very easy to communicate with a few artists; I started with 8 per show. Now I am in touch with up to 50 artists per show so saving time where I can is paramount to fluid coordination.
There was a while where I lived and breathed House of Verse, all thanks to the Crucible Project at The Innovation Centre, DMU, an entrepreneurial programme offered to postgraduates with grassroots business ideas. It was on this programme during an accounting workshop that I met Mahmood Reza, Business Owner of Pro Active Resolutions. I really appreciated receiving support from Mahmood, he is very down-to-earth and encouraging. I had hoped that our business relationship would not end after the Crucible and we kept in touch. After meeting the terrific team at Pro Active Resolutions’ homely office, a three-year sponsorship deal was drawn up and I felt truly blessed.
It felt so empowering to think that such a successful entrepreneur and his colleagues valued my business!
Since then, I have met monthly or bi-monthly with Pro Active Resolutions and they have supported me in countless ways: figuring out strategies, talking through complicated problems, simplifying numbers, keeping me calm when thinking about scary things like finance and tax.
More things Pro Active Resolutions have helped me with:
- Business planning
- Thinking about the future
- Thinking logically and realistically
- Systems and templates
- Valuing my time
- Quoting up jobs
- Managing professional relationships
- My personal and professional development as a Business Manager
Working with Mahmood and his team feels like a second family; they are warm and personable human beings. As well as being supportive of me as a Business Manager, I really feel cared about on a personal level which is above and beyond what I had expected. Mahmood is a patient powerhouse of productivity and excellent at explaining business jargon. Maybe, one day I’ll be a jargonaut like him.
This is a subject I’ve found to be interesting, and I’ve mainly come across it via frustration. More and more people are using digital means to make music, and DJs are being inundated with the newest tech that can make their mixes/performances even more badass. There are now PGCEs that offer a teaching qualification in music where you can specify your instrument.
And this is where the hurdle starts.
I’ve tried to apply for such courses and roles but they won’t take you on if your instrument is the turntable because *quote* “It’s not a traditional musical instrument” *unquote*… I really do believe the principles and modules of these courses can be applied to turntablism, and I’m sure it has been done as well. Why are we still living in the dark ages when it comes to the curriculum?!
Turntablists have used scores and developed scratches in the same way people have learned piano and guitar. These days, to be brutally honest, ANYTHING can be an instrument.
EVERYTHING is an instrument.
There are videos of women using the water from rivers and seas as drums, link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7ba1CNOLiI
There are videos of people busking using pots, pans and buckets as their drum kit, link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rk-q-TBdU4k
The things turntablists can do can be mirrored in traditional music performance, and vice versa. I guess because its original purpose was to be a device in which you play records, people are still having trouble seeing it as a music instrument STILL, even after all the technological advancement we’ve had. It hurts my brain, it really does. Look at the DMCs and what those crazy people can do on some 1210s! :
Jon 1st: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYKGgktOL_M
DJ Brace: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44F0d2CbjM0
Regardless, thanks to people like Grandmaster Flash and others, and many more since then, the turntable has ultimately transcended its original role. Youtube is regularly updated with DJs and turntablists showcasing a new bit of kit and/or routine, further demonstrating its versatility.
This blog entry may go on forever, and it could to be honest since this is an area I’m looking expand on in my studies, but all I’m saying is that people need to recognise the no-longer-hidden power and versatility of the turntable, especially now that it’s evolved from simply being a music playing device.