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Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Some Tips For Running A Successful Gig Night -Some Thoughts From NHC MUSIC and ItsaXXXXThing Blog

In what will be an ongoing meeting of minds this is the first of a co-written update from my friends at the New hellfire Club and myself.
Comments can be posted over at NHC or following this.

One question we get asked a lot from the bands on our page is a simple one, but also an extremely important one.
It’s “How do we pull off a successful gig?”

It is one of those things that if you get it right then it can help your gig take off and hugely increase the size of your crowd.
Get it wrong?
Well, get it wrong and it could spell disaster for both your gig night, and your me on that as I am someone who has had nights fall apart due to a poorly planned and disastrously timed gig!

So first things first.

When is the best, and when is the worst, times to plan your gig night?

Well it's a tough one to answer, but there are certain things you can certainly do, and some instances you should avoid, to give you the best chance of success.

We will list them below, and also tell you a wee bit about our own badly planned nights of days gone by, so that way you can hopefully learn from our mistakes, and not have to make the same ones yourself.

1. Remember that time we didn’t look to see what else was on?

In a perfect world promoters and venues would all chat to each other, making sure that their big nights didn't clash with each other, thus pulling the fans away from each others gigs, rather than sharing the same fans on the same nights or over a couple as people can’t afford to attend everything..
Unfortunately it isn't a perfect world and more often than not no one talks to anyone else about anything.
So be prepared to lay the groundwork yourself.
One of the first things you should do is make sure there isn't a similar gig on the same night as your own.
If you are holding a metal night in Glasgow, then of course there are going to be other metal nights on elsewhere.
There is no way around this.
There are just too many bands and too many venues in the one city not to have competition nearby.
This means that you have to consider the competition.
Make sure the competition isn't a David and Goliath style night though, as in real life those types of situations rarely work out good for the David's.
So while another couple of metal nights in the same city is manageable, a super metal extravaganza all-dayer is not.
This might sound like common sense approach to most of you out there, but it's actually one of the most common problems on the local scene when booking a gig.
It will happen that sometimes the big gig nights are launched after your own night.
If that is the case then you will probably just have to suck it up and accept that some of your target audience will be elsewhere, best then to ignore the other gig and just get on with making your own night the best damn night you ever held!
Step up a gear on the promotion and push hard on it.
We had a gig booked last year and had a three months run at promo, then on week 6 of promoting it, we had an all day mini festival announce in a venue five minutes walk from ours.
There was no way to avoid it.
What did we do?
We got drunk and enjoyed our own half-filled gig.
It was still an awesome night with great music that cost us a fortune because we never made the target numbers that the venue wanted for a lower rate.
Nights like this are why I drink.
Also worth noting that it's not just other gigs you are competing against either, one of our other quieter nights was on a big Champions League final night, and there is also the festival season to worry about!

2. Remember that time we booked a gig on the Tuesday in the middle of the month.

Some people swear by Friday and Saturday nights, but it really does depend on who you are putting on the bill as NHC MUSIC has had some of it's busiest nights on a Sunday...and also had one of its (unexpected!) quietest nights ever on a Friday. Generally in our own experience Friday and Saturday are of course good nights for a gig, but you also have to take into consideration that there will be more competition from other venues who would also be scheduling 'big nights' on a Friday/Saturday. The venue will probably be more expensive to hire too, and there will be less drinks promos for your fans (drink prices are something we get asked about a lot, hey folk don't want to be charged 3.50 for a warm can of Red Stripe at a gig!).
So there is something to be said for NOT having your gig on a Friday or Saturday.
If you feel the bands you have are strong enough then just book it on a school night, the fans will still come, although don't be surprised if there are more 'early leavers' than normal.
 Personally we ourselves would avoid Monday and Tuesday though, but that's just us, there are pros and cons for both midweek and weekends, you just have to work out what's best for your particular line up.

3. Remember that time we thought that everyone would want a gig on a national holiday weekend?

'Hey, let's have our punk night on Easter Sunday to see how well it goes, the Monday is a holiday anyway and folk might be wanting to do something different on Easter night!'
That particular idea was one of our worst to be honest and a lesson learned the hard way.
Just because people are off work, doesn't mean they are willing to go out, (to be fair to us a pissing down, cold and windy Glasgow night also kept some bodies at home with their families).
Bank holidays weekends, and national holidays might look attractive for gigs due to people getting a lie-in the next day and thus more likely to hit the town on the previous night, but remember people also have other plans for holidays too...that's why they are called holidays.
Other popular holidays look attractive for gigs too, such as Halloween and New Year, but again remember that the competition will be huge on these nights, so it'll take a lot of work...or deep pockets, to pull off a sell out gig on these nights.

4. Remember how that band thought playing every week was a good idea?

Bands who gig constantly in the one city don't do anyone any favours, (themselves or good promoters) and a few times in the past we have realised that a band who has asked to play one of our showcase gigs, was actually playing the week before it in a venue nearby...and the week after it...and a couple of weeks later too.
Now it might seem a good idea for a band to gig regularly, but doing it in the same city, while always pulling from the same fanbase (no matter how big that fanbase is) just leads to ever diminishing crowds.
While you may get better at what you do, the fans won't be there to appreciate it as there won't be any excitement in coming out to watch you play anymore...who wants to see the exact same show every week?
Try and get bands on the nights who aren't playing in your city that same month, or at the very least a few weeks either side of your own night, that guarantees that the people who want to see that act live come down to your show to do it.
A bigger crowd is better for everyone on the night.
It stops the promoters arse making buttons, stops the venue moaning, and most importantly it gives the bands on the nights a bigger crowd to play to and the chance to pick up more fans for their next gig, which is what it's all about after all.

And now the common sense bit about promotion.

I expect you have all seen people talking about lack of promo leading to no one attending a gig.
Do you know why that is?
It’s because a lack of promotion means no one will come to your gig.
Honestly. That’s it.
It’s not code for something else.
It means that if you don’t cover the bases then the chances of you enjoying a good well supported night is nil.
So if you think that creating a facebook invite page and booking a venue is all you have to do then think again.

1. Posters for online and distributed around the city/town is always a good idea.
Something eye catching that has the basic details on it.
Names of bands, venue, date and cost.
It’s not rocket science.

2. Flyers. Same deal as the posters. Hit the gigs in the lead up to your own and hand them out.

3. Listing sites Use them.

4. Social media. Don’t just use it yourself. In a perfect world every member of every band playing on your night should be sharing links, posters and inviting friends.
They won’t though so be prepared to give a nudge. It’s not as if you are asking them to stand on street corners with a placard.

5. General promotion. Hit up online radio stations, the local press.
All of the above can swell your audience by a solid percentage, and the thing is that f it doesn’t then that’s okay, because no one can accuse you of falling short and not doing what is required.

So there you go.
When to put on a gig, when not to and how to promote a show.

Print it off and pin it to your wall, fold it up and carry it in your wallet.

Do what you want with it, but remember it. 


  1. May I add another bit of guidance for bands... Be honest about how many people are coming to see you... Dont tell the promoter/booker that you have a massive crowd arranged when the reality is quite the opposite.

    Being honest let's the promoter know that they need to do more promotion than initially anticipated. Granted, they should promote regardless, but a bit of honesty goes a long way.

  2. Totally agree.
    Communication with bands is often quite poor and there's no reason why this has to be.
    Emails and messages on SM go unanswered for days, if at all. Claims of being able to bring twenty people when they mean 3 abound.
    A professional attitude is a bonus. Coupled with a degree of honesty it makes the booking of the act a more positive experience that leads to more business for the band and a good rep being spread word of mouth..

    Here's another thing to think about for bands.
    See when there has been no arrangement about guest lists spots and a member hassles the promoter to let a girlfriend/boyfriend/mate in then that then has to extended to every member of every act on the bill.
    Say it's four bands with four members.
    That's sixteen people.
    And if the door charge is a fiver that's eighty quid.
    So when the money gets divided later that each band down twenty quid.
    It's nice to be nice, but if the night falls short of covering costs then it is the booker/promoter carrying it.
    At a certain level asking for passes is pretty much counter productive.
    If a mate is doing merch for the band, roadying or such then fine.
    They're actually working on the night and there's no way they should be paying to do so, but there you go.
    Something else to think about.