Presenting Arts and Cultural Entertainment to a community is generally speaking an act of service, requiring a good bit of work, but hopefully resulting in a good deal of satisfaction. We have a few venues on campus that are suitable for hosting live music, and when timing, and budgets, and people-power and audience interest all line up correctly it can be a great night. There are things every student considering hosting live music should know - outlined here are the key starting points.
Connect up with the professional staff of Student Programs and let them know of your interest. They will guide you some of the next steps.
If you are not bringing the project forward as a particular student org., expect to be asked to gather a programming team of committed students, who might be interested in seeing the project through to the end. This committee should be involved from the beginning in the brainstorming and goal setting of your potential concert. Before even selecting an artist as a group you need to be clear about your goals for the program, and your available sponsor skills and resources.
- Are you hoping to raise money, or do you have money to spend on presenting a show even if you have few or no ticket sales? Do you have available to you funds that you can risk on this venture without incurring any debt?
- Has your group done this before? What were the pros and cons of your last effort?
- If you haven’t done this before have you already consulted with Student Programs staff to begin to shape your game plan?
- Do you have a vision of the space/ atmosphere for your event? And do you know if the space, staff, and equipment to make that happen are available when you need them, and at what cost?
- Do you have an audience core you can count on to attend this performance? How large? How much will they spend to attend? Are there scheduling concerns to consider with respect to your core audience?
- Are there other potential audiences for this performance beyond your dedicated core? How will you reach them?
- Are there other community organizations that might be interested in co-sponsoring a performance with you?
As a group do you have a good understanding of what it will take to produce a concert (from first ideas to the clean up after the show)? Take the time to be sure – they are skills every student can learn, but they are not all as obvious as they may seem to those on the audience side of a show. Ask in Student Programs for advising before you contact any agents or musicians! You need to understand the contract negotiations process before jumping in!
Shaping your goals into a plan
Now that you have some of the “why” answered.. you can think about the “who”, and the “when”. If you have a very specific artist in mind, researching the act might come before selecting a date and venue. If you are more flexible about your choices the opposite is generally true – find an available venue to hold tentatively until you can find an artist who is available on that night. When selecting an artist (or evaluating the potential for success of an artist who has asked you to consider booking them) you’ll want to research these topics:
- How well known is the act you are thinking about hiring? Do they have an audience already established in this area? (Be careful not to expect that acts that are well known in your hometown will also be well known here.) Ask a lot of friends – is there genuine interest?
- Look up the artists’ tour schedule – have they played the region before? Is there a college or club presenter you can call to see how the shows went? Are you sure they are not playing competing gigs too close to your potential date? Does it look as if they might be in the region around that time so that you can avoid costly travel expenses?
- Have you checked out music tracks and YouTube as a group to see if everyone likes the work? Be careful, as some recorded music might be very different than the live show results.
- Does this artist/group offer educational activities (like workshops, master classes, post-show discussions) that might add valuable to a campus visit? Is there an academic dept. that might take interest in co-sponsoring a related workshop?
- Do you have reason to believe that you can afford this talent ? (are they playing small clubs and college campus centers? Are they local? Are they looking to build a name for themselves, and therefore willing to keep costs down as they do? )
- Do you think our facilities can accommodate the acts technical needs without additional production costs? And if not, what costs need to be factored in to your budget? You won’t really know this for sure until you talk to the band, but you can make some educated guesses in consultation with Student Programs.
- How much will you need to charge for tickets, and how many will you need to sell in order to meet your goals and cover your expenses? See the event budget worksheet for additional help with this question.
Now that you have discussed these elements with your programming team, you are ready to INQUIRE of the artist regarding their availability and requirements. It is really important at this stage to make certain that you communicate that you are at present only inquiring about feasibility and not yet prepared to make an offer. You want to avoid any misleading communications.
Contacting (initial inquiry with) your selected artist(s)
Ideally you will consult with Student Programs staff BEFORE reaching out to an artist!
You'll be guided to include the following in your first communications with the artist/band, whether by email or phone:
- How did you hear about their talent? Why are you interested in their work – honest compliments will set a very friendly tone.
- Is the artist interested in perhaps performing for your event? (You must be VERY careful not to frame your INQUIRY as an invitation, or contract to perform! At first it is about gathering information only.)
- You’ll need to tell them some things about our college, your plan, when, where, for who in the audience, the goal(s), theme, beneficiary, etc.
- You’ll want to ask where else in the region they might be playing that semester and if they have any fan lists in your area? (This cold impact your audience potential positively or negatively).
- You’ll need to ask the artists’ specific technical requirements, letting them know that their needs could impact upon your available funds, so you need to discuss this in advance.
- You’ll need to also ask if the artist would have any additional touring needs that might impact your budget (travel, rented gear, housing, etc._
- And lastly, even though sometimes you think this would be first…What is the artist/bands performance fee for an event such as the one you have proposed.
- Given our generally small budgets, you may want to address this point early on, and name what you are able to spend on this event rahter than ask the artist for their fee. Discuss this with Student Programs.
Close your inquiries by thanking them for all of the information. Letting them know who to keep in contact with, and making a reasonable commitment to them about when you will be able to let them know if you can make an offer. Emphasize that your communication thus far was only an inquiry, not an offer or contract. Ask them to please be in touch with you if they have a competing interest in the date you have discussed, before they offer that date to someone else.
If you would like any assistance drafting your inquiries, or would like us to look over your letters before you send them, please don’t hesitate to ask the event advisors in Student Programs.
Taking it back to the team again.
Now you’ll need to match all of this info up against your goals and budget one more time. Can you proceed? Do you need to re-negotiate any details? It’s ok to go back to an artist and explain your limitations and ask if they are willing to work around them (e.g. less money, no available housing, no available drum kit, etc). As long as you communicate respectfully, they will be able to answer yes or no depending upon their needs. If you get a ‘no’ move on to your groups next choice. If you get a ‘yes’ from the artist and your team - move on to contracting the presenter. Rememebr these should be team decisions!
When contracting your performer(s), you will communicate all the details in writing and get college contracts and w-9’s completed. This serves several purposes, and contracts must be co-signed by a professional MHC staff member. Your contracts assure both parties of the details that you have agreed to, and hold you both accountable for fulfilling them. They also provide the mechanism our college requires for payment to a performer, but even when an artist has donated their services and you will not be paying them any funds, a contract is still necessary to codify your agreements, and protect both parties. If an artist asks to use their own contract, you will need to have it reviewed by the Office of Student Programs ahead of time, and we will assist in binding our terms to their contract.
Blank contracts, W-9s, and instructions (print and electronic) are available from Student Programs.
Feel free to email Student Programs with questions or to set up an appointment to discuss your presenter plan.