"How To" Organize a Concert
This is a collection of experiences, lessons learnt from the past. Failures become stepping stones to success only if learning goes along with failing. We hope that this document will be a bare bones instruction list for AID chapters organizing their maiden event, and a check list for the experienced chapters.
Now that you know what a concert entails, before you decide to organize a concert or any other event in a large scale, conduct a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat) Analysis. A SWOT Analysis will reveal any glaring loopholes, which can affect the success of your concert.
Strengths and Weaknesses are internal to your chapter, and Opportunities and Threats are factors that are external your chapter. Make a list of these and classify them either as a S,W,O, or T. Ideally, you should take on a concert when your strengths are far greater than your weaknesses, and there are more opportunities than threats.
Strengths and Weaknesses:
Choose an artist who has certain level of name recognition, who can communicate with the audience, who has an identification with AID’s cause, who understands that the concert is for a non-profit group, whose agent is easy to deal with and most importantly someone who is affordable for your chapter and your local community
While it is important to treat the artist with utmost respect and offer him/her the best hospitality and convenience, you should not lose sight of the cause. Make sure you offer the artist only what you can afford and communicate the same. Try to explain to the artist what AID is about, so that he/she can also identify with AID and make a few comments about the organization during interviews or during the concert. Try to get in advance a list of what the artist absolutely needs (including, in the green room) and work at meeting all those needs if affordable, else explain to the artist well in advance about any changes. Make sure the artist has enough time to do a sound check before the concert begins. Have one person dedicated to stay with the artist and taking care of all travel arrangements
This is done by analyzing the opportunities and threats which you have previously identified. Caution: Note that this is only an estimate, so be flexible enough to respond to changes
Decide on a venue which can accommodate your expected audience. Too big an auditorium might leave empty pockets giving an appearance of poor turnout and also make ushering very difficult. Choose the right size and make sure that there will be sufficient technical help from the auditorium. Also verify, if space is available for food stalls and AID merchandise tables. Identify if parking lots are sufficient for the audience you are expecting. Auditorium should be in a convenient location.
Put together a sponsorship packet. Spend some time on designing the packet, as you can reuse some of the material for the concert brochure. Get a list of all companies, Indian restaurants and groceries, and other personal contacts and assign volunteers for follow up. Remember that sponsorship can be the “make or break” factor for your event. Not all sponsors will identify with the cause, so make sure you communicate what would be the benefits to the sponsor for placing an ad in the concert brochure. Carry samples of previous brochures to show to a prospective sponsor.
This is the key piece of the puzzle. If you have this done right, you are almost there! What are some of the key issues in publicity?
Segment your audience. 3 categories are generally applicable, the Indian Music/Art loving crowd, the Indian who has no specific interest in Art but identifies with the cause, the non-indians.
Choice of vehicle depends on your local community and your budget. TV, Radio, Newspaper ads, Web Sites, Newsgroups, Flyers, Posters, Banners, Mailing lists. Do not restrict yourself to one or two and try to use as many vehicles as possible within your budget. Assign one volunteer to look into free listings. Take the help of other non profit organizations in your area.
temples / mosques, Indian grocery stores, restaurants, movie halls. While posters and ads have to be put a month and a half before the concert, the last 2 weeks can be spent handing out flyers and talking to people at these locations personally (preferably during Friday evenings and the weekends)
Non- Indian community:
Art museums, Yoga centers, International grocery shops, Music departments in schools, Music shops, web sites, coffee shops
If the artist requires it, get his/her approval for the flyers and ads. Try to have a uniform “look and feel”, although glossy paper is not required, color certainly helps. Make sure all relevant information are on the flyer (artist, date, venue, time, ticket information, if possible directions, AID information, contact). Have a write up ready (in PDF format preferably) about the event, artist and AID and send it out to local newspapers, or put it up on web sites event listings well in advance. Creating the publicity material requires people who are creative, technically competent and good in writing. Make sure all these 3 are represented in your team.
Try to arrange for online ticketing as it is convenient. When making the tickets make sure to color code them according to price and have all relevant information printed (Artist, date and time, venue, directions, ticket number, price). Assign one or two volunteers to co-ordinate all ticketing arrangements. Keep track of complimentary tickets. Decide on a cut off time after which tickets will not be available in any of the locations except at the gate and communicate it. Maintain an account book for ticketing. For credit cards, make sure you have enough pads and pens for people to fill up the form.
Try to start your brochure work a month before the concert. Get the content ready and approved by the group (or a small team within the group). Use information from other chapters and information provided by the artist. Do not try to do everything from scratch, except those particular to your chapter. Team for the brochure should comprise of people who know AID well, who can write well, creative, technical people, and people whose grammar is close to perfect. Always err on the lower side when printing brochures. Remember to include a feedback form as part of your brochure (it can be a free standing insert)
When choosing a MC, make sure it is someone who has done public speaking before and is someone who is flexible to guide the day’s event according to unexpected situations. Let the MC meet with the artist before the concert to make sure that the artist is also comfortable with the proceedings for the day.
The AID presenter has to be someone who has been with AID for a considerable time and knows AID well, is passionate and can communicate his/her passion to the audience. Remember it is an impatient audience wanting to get to the event. So the speaker must be able to capture the audience’s attention in a short time and still communicate all relevant facts about AID. Verify if the facts are accurate, and have at least one practice session. Keep in mind that the purpose of the presentation is not only to introduce AID to the audience, but also secure pledges from them. So the presentation should have a good balance of philosophy, AID projects and request for donations and pledges.
Never underestimate the importance of signs. Clear, visible signs must be pasted around the auditorium area from the exits from major freeways and main roads. Make sure that signs are visible to people driving on the left and right lanes as well. Signs should be in place a good 4 to 5 hours before the concert. After placing the signs have people drive around to check if signs are visible and sufficient.
It is important to create a good atmosphere on the stage, do not get too carried away by the decoration. Simple, elegant and inexpensive decorations should be used. Try to reuse decors from previous concerts and use easily available materials. Be creative, but avoid complicated arrangements so that everyone can participate in making the decorations. Make sure you have a good visible banner and that everything fits well with the stage.
Ushering requires a considerable number of volunteers. Some of the key issues here are, to identify the rows for the various ticket levels (can color code them based on the tickets’ color code), to spread people around the hall so that no large empty pockets are visible from the stage, ensure people with kids are given aisle seats, help people to their seats in the dark (make sure you have sufficient number of torches)
Have 2 varieties of food items. Decide on the menu such that non Indians are also familiar with the items. Taste the items prior to ordering. The caterer can serve themselves or have volunteers do it (depending on what you can afford). Make sure you do not have too many combinations which people can order. Give people food coupons so that those who serve do not have to handle money. Remember you typically have 20 to 30 minutes to cater to about 400 people. So have that many lines open. It is better to sell out food than have excess – this should be your golden rule when ordering food. Pre packing the food will also save you time.
Display your merchandise well, so as to attract attention. Remember to have the stall set up well in advance before the concert starts as most people will browse the merchandise when waiting for the gates to open.
Request the audience to complete feedback forms once at the beginning of the concert and once before you announce the intermission. Have clearly marked drop boxes for the same. Ensure you have a number of pledge forms available. It is important to secure donation pledges when the audience’s mind is fresh with facts about AID.
Have 2 to 3 experienced volunteers roaming the food area during the intermission to talk to people about AID.
Decide on simple, inexpensive elegant gifts, preferably some merchandise from AID projects.
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