Before we go into this, I shall address some points that came up in discussions I saw after the last article (How To Be A Goth DJ). These are also important to today's article as when running your own event you need to be more mindful of these things.
I didn't address these last time mostly as the last article was focused on getting started. These are more things you pick up with experience and learn as you go.
Reading The Crowd
Reading the crowd is important and knowing what people want is tricky to master. I would even dare to say you never really master it as tastes change as people come and go from the local scene, different people turn up on the night and so on. But you can made educated guesses and see what works.
You can say this is kind of covered by taking requests/asking people what they want to hear. That said, you will get some people who will make a single request or just ask for an artist where others will give you a long shopping list. Requests help but you can't do everything based on what a couple of people want. Learning what works and what doesn't takes time. A good way to get a head start is go to events and see what works firsthand.
But there are no guarantees. I have seen crowds go sour on surefire fillers for a few years then suddenly like them again. If you go too obscure - even if its a known artist - it can kill the dancefloor. If you kill the floor there is not much else you can do but pick up and rebuild it with the next track.
Sometimes they will be easy to keep dancing, other times they won't want to dance at all even if you are playing the good stuff that usually works. Some events are just more chilled out (for example - everyone wants to hang out in the beer garden instead of inside) while others are filled with dancing machines. As long as I can see people enjoying themselves the night is a success. People telling you later they liked what you played is even better.
We can dance if we want to, we can leave your friends behind...
The Right Time
The time of night is a factor. People often want to get drinking on arrival and dance later. Prime time tends to be in the middle of the night like a bell curve. So you don't want to waste all the good dancefloor fillers early when the crowd isn't ready for them yet. When its prime time (or drive time as I sometimes call it too) you want to keep people dancing as much as you can. Later in the night the alcohol sets in, people start to leave and things slow down. A great time to play slower yet still danceable tracks. Maybe keep playing dancefloor bangers if the crowd is up for it until close. It ties back into reading the crowd.
Educating The Crowd
Sure, there are the obvious dancefloor fillers (if you are DJing you have seen what songs work by attending events - why else would you be DJing if you didn't want to contribute too?) but a DJ wants to do more than just that. You want to mix stuff people know with new or obscure stuff they don't. Finding the right balance is tricky but if done right new tracks can be introduced into the mix and over time become dancefloor fillers in their own right.
You can inject some of your personal taste into things and maybe even shape your local scene's taste in music. This is why DJs have been held in high regard in the past as they are seen as the experts for the music side.
When They Aren't Drinking, They Are Dancing
This is a general philosophy I follow while DJing. For a mixed genre event its easier to do as you can transition between genres to give people a break and get others dancing. For more niche events allow fast and slow periods or music from different eras. Also the venue needs to sell drinks too for your event to survive. The more booze your crowd buys the more likely they will have you back, maybe even give your event a regular spot or a better night.
...Cause your friends don't dance...
Do Not Play Lists
Personally I see these as a bit of an in-joke but there are events/venues that take them seriously. For one event I was even given a "Must Play" list by the manager. Ironically, when I tried to play the must play stuff it either killed the dancefloor or couldn't rescue a dead dancefloor anyway. I would say if an event has a do not play list take it with a grain of salt. Avoid the tracks if you can but if a couple of people request it just play it. As long as its on genre give the people what they want.
Playing Tracks You Hate
This will happen. I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate The Cure's Lovecats. Yet I have played it many times. Why - the crowd want it. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and take one for the team. I also tend to get lumped with fringe stuff people like such as Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie and Rammstein. Our crowd loves it and someone has to play it. Not saying I don't those bands but if I could choose I would opt to play other music.
Many DJs see it as beneath them to play music they don't like. My DJ persona ego isn't so fragile that I refuse to play the devil's music. The event's success comes first, you play music appropriate to the event and crowd to make it happen.
Now we have all that out the way (that was enough to fill another article - consider this a two for one.
Starting A New Club Event
When you haven't done it before it can be pretty daunting. Where do you even begin? Hopefully some of my ideas listed here can help.
Again, like in the DJ article, these are just ideas and opinions based on my personal experiences and observations. Different places and people will work differently and likely will not agree with me. These are more helpful hints and ideas.
Again, this isn't just to cover goth. This stuff can be applied to many types of club events. But what I have to say here is geared more towards goth and industrial events.
Before you even start planning your new event, there are some major things you need to consider.
- What type of club event do you want to run?
What is your target audience, what types of music do you want played, what aesthetic do you want? You need direction and a goal for what you want to do.
- Is there room in your local scene for the event?
As important as knowing your crowd is, it just as important knowing your local scene when running an event. You need to be aware of what else is on, what events are getting the numbers, what missing piece needs to be filled. At bare minimum its to make sure events don't needlessly clash. Also you need to take into account if your local scene has enough action to support the event. Timing is also important. An event that wasn't viable a year or two ago may be viable now due to local changes.
- Do people actually want your event?
No point running an event if no one turns up. If people locally aren't into your ideal event you may need to compromise in the name of survival. For example, running a mixed genre event instead of a purist goth event. Its easy to ask around and see what people want.
- Do you have the time to do this?
Organizing and promoting the event before the night is most of the work. Your job may not allow time to do it. In the case of having an organizational team it may be hard to get everyone together to meet. The internet and social media are a big help in this regard as people can work at their own pace.
- Financial concerns
If it can't be done because of financial restrictions, it can't be done. Unfortunately that is the world we live in. It can't be ignored. Personally I try to run things as close to zero cost as possible with minimal income via door entry to cover expenses. But you may take a financial hit so be prepared for it. Don't go planning a party you can't afford or overreach by being too ambitious. It ties back into knowing your scene and what their habits are like. General rule of thumb financially with estimations is to maximize your expenses and minimize your income for a better picture of what is viable.
- It is a popularity/credibility contest
Like it or not this is true. If people don't like you they are less likely to attend even if its the only event running. Also your credibility comes into account. Do you have a reputation for knowing your stuff? An unknown newbie starting an event is less likely to find success than an experienced person who is known in the local scene.
Feeling overwhelmed yet? Welcome to the world of event management!
...and if they don't dance well they're are no friends of mine
Okay, so you've read all the above and I haven't put you off yet. Great! Now you need a venue to run your club event at. To keep things simple I am going to keep it to established venues licensed to sell alcohol.
Its best to start by working out how many people you expect to turn up. If you know your local scene you will see the numbers at other events and the size of venues they are run at. If you are starting a new event with no others its probably best to start small (say 30-50 people) unless you know the support is out there for more. It also depends on how niche your event is. A mixed genre event that plays a lot of 80s will generally get more people than a niche industrial event.
Next, look into local venues that are around the size you want. If they are alternatively minded all the better but its not necessarily a dealbreaker. Also be aware of other events currently run at that venue. If a similar event is already run there its generally considered poor form to run one there too. Talk to the other event's management and see what they think. Some events don't mind sharing venues, some do. Best not to create friction. You want a crowd going to everything and not being split up by rivalries and scene politics.
Sometimes you will have all your options limited to just one venue. Small town, everything else is booked out or you may even know management so you have a foot in the door.
Contact the venues and compare what they have to offer as well as costs. Work out the one you like most and approach them first to meet with the manager (or owner) in person or make a proposal electronically (email etc).
You want to go in with a plan. Consider this to be like a job interview or selling the event. If you do it well you may end up with a great deal better than expected.
With The Attic (my first event and my first event with a managerial role) it actually was a job interview but the plan I had is similar to what I do with new events now. I had zero experience DJing yet I got the job because I sold myself well and my event concepts were sound. Attic was free entry and I was paid by the pub directly.
RvM Adelaide we had a management team of three people. I was involved in a lot of the planning initially and apoproaching the first venue (all three of us were there for that) and we also used a similar plan method. Later I settled back into more on the DJ/doorperson/online promo side.
Cybermorph I am the outright manager. After having trouble with teams in the past I decided an event needs a head person. I want it run my way. It means I do a lot of the work myself (I make the flyers, do promo, organise DJs, organise decorations, bring DJ/mixer equipment, sometimes I'm the event photographer too) but it ensures it gets done. I try encourage my team to take ownership of the event too. This worked well for us as when we needed to change venue one of my staff found our current venue (The Bunker) which is even better for our needs. Cheers DJ LVNA! The first venue was a proposal via email, the second was in person. I had LVNA and RavenDjinn with me but I did most of the talking.
A new event I am running soon (Hashtag Memecore) is in partnership with another manager at the same venue as Cybermorph. The rapport I have built with the manager is strong enough that he just let me book the new event with a short rundown of what we wanted to do.
So what do you include in a proposal? You need to explain what you want to do, maybe even bring some samples of the music. For the email proposal that was easy - just link some youtube videos. With The Attic I submitted an audio CD with my proposal. For Cybermorph and RvM Adelaide we didn't submit any music at all. We let the description speak for us. We let the description speak for us.
You may want to make a mock flyer as an idea of how you will promote the event. If nothing else it shows you are keen and willing to put in the work. I did that with The Attic.
Be eager, talk up the venue. Make an offer on how things can be handled financially but be open to counter offers. Ask about things like potential drink specials/happy hours being available. Maybe offer to do the first gig for free to gauge interest.
Find out what your obligations are too. For Cybermorph we initially had to pay for security and mixer hire. But I started helping The Bunker with promo stuff so I was helped in return to reduce costs.
Ultimately you are trying to form a business arrangement. They give you a place to play, you help them sell more drinks. When it works everybody wins.
But who is the devil? The venue or you?
Staff and Equipment
Time to get some staff for the event. You will need DJs at a minimum (unless you plan on DJing for hours on end on your own), door staff (if charging entry), photographer (if you want an official one - its pretty common at events nowadays), dancers (something for people to look at and encourage people to shake their booty if you want them), performing artists (if you want performances) and so on. You may also want merch tables. People need to be contacted and brought on board.
One of the best ways to do this I find is my making a secret Facebook group to manage the event from. You invite all your staff in and you can keep them all updated at once and get feedback/ideas.
With equipment you need to know what you have to provide. Many venues have DJ equipment, most will have a PA at least. Some will have a projector or TVs you can use to display stuff on. With Cybermorph we used a venue projector at the first venue and a couple of TVs (with pictures/videos on USB) at The Bunker. But of course when using visuals you need to be aware of copyright limitations.
As far as official music licensing goes, most venues pay an annual fee to the local organisation that handles that (in Australia that organisation is APRA). If the venue requires setlists as part of licensing make sure you record them. I find its handy to bring pens/paper on the night anyway for door tally and requests anyway.
Other equipment you might need includes a cash box for the door, a stamp/ink pad(I had a special one made for Cybermorph), stickers and tickets if you run a cloak room. I also have ziplock bags as they are handy for counting out money and paying staff. For an all ages event (or 18+ in places like USA where legal drinking age is 21) you may need different coloured wristbands so bar staff can determine who can drink alcohol and who can not.
Decorations will depend on what the venue allows. Using stuff like Blu-Tak to put up posters some are ok with, other not. Also you want to check to see if you need access to a ladder for set up/tear down and if the venue will provide it.
You got a venue, booked a date, you have opening and closing times. You have a team of staff. Time to let people know your club event is happening.
This is where I make a flyer. I design them at A2 paper size so I can print as A2 or A4 posters or make smaller ones as 4x per A4 page. Depending on your budget you may get someone to design for you. I mainly do it myself to keep costs down as I can't afford to pay designers and artists. I don't like the idea of insulting them by asking them to work for free.
As for what you put on the flyer the bare minimum would be the event name, date, time, location, entry fee. Other details are up for contention.
I like to list the DJs and some music genres that will be played, possibly a line describing the event too. Depending on local laws you may or may not be allowed to list drink specials/happy hours. I also add the URL for the facebook page for the event too.
Some events prefer to list bands. I don't like to do this as it makes me feel obligated to play something from each band else its false advertising. And usually they will list 10-20. 4-5 genres I can make sure is covered easy and it shows the scope of the event.
Speaking of false advertising... don't say your event is goth unless you play goth music. You will piss off the local goths and it will turn people off going. Or they will turn up once never to return when they learn the truth. Better to be honest even if it keeps a few music snobs away.
After you have your flyer, promote it! Print physical copies and have them in appropriate stores. Share it around the internet in appropriate places. Make an event page on Facebook, invite people and share it around. Maybe even shell out for some ad space in a magazine or paid Facebook promotion. Get the word out! Also encourage your staff to promote too. As I said in the last article DJs are expected to promote gigs they are playing and if they don't they won't be asked back.
Hey! Jerks! Come to my event! We have jerky!
The Club Event
Its on. You have everything prepared, people are lining up to come in (we hope) and your first DJ is ready to play. Did you forget anything?
Actually I did. Make sure you have a couple of lists of the DJ line up and the door roster for who is staffing the door. I like to only have people on the door for about 30 minutes so they don't get too bored. Keep a copy of each in the DJ booth and at the door. I often keep a copy on myself too.
As the night progresses work with the venue staff to solve problems. If you see a potential hazard fix it or tell venue staff so they can. People will be drinking so glasses might break, people might get too drunk or maybe even violent. If venue staff or security make a decision(For example your best friend got too drunk and is getting thrown out) you are generally expected to go along with it. They work for the venue, not you.
As far as paying staff goes I usually close the door a couple of hours before close which gives me time to count up the loot, cover expenses and divide up the rest. The best feeling in the world is when the night has been successful enough that you can pay staff a lot. But don't forget to pay yourself too, its only fair if the money is there everyone gets a slice.
Hopefully it runs smoothly, they sell a shitload of booze over the bar and everyone has a great time.
The social media never ends. A post to thank people for coming is always nice. Also let them know when the next event is if you know. Get photos from the event up as soon as you can - preferrably in the next couple of days after. People love to be seen, especially at a cool event like yours.
Also thank your staff team, get any feedback from them that may be helpful. Keep an ear out in general to see if people say anything about their experience at your club night.
Bask in the glory. You did it! And now it all starts again as you plan for the next one...
Was the event good for you too?
Everyone Wants A Piece Of You
You had your successful club night. And in come the requests...
"Hi can I DJ at your event?"
"I am a photographer and I can see you need one"
"I'm a burlesque dancer and I am available for hire"
"I'm an artist. Can I design your next flyer? First one is free!"
"What do I have to do to get involved? I want in! I'll do anything!"
You get the idea. When you are successful (even in a minor way) people want something from you. Many assume you are raking in a lot more cash than you really are. I have covered this sort of thing before in regards to people wanting in then backing out when they realise the money isn't there.
Some people want to be your friend for the status of it. Everyone likes being able to say "I know the manager" for something. I found I had a spike in friend requests after starting new successful events. Some people you genuinely meet and find some awesome people that way. Others are just along for the ride.
Its not all ego boosting and arse kissing though...
As big as the positive side is, being up on a pedestal means some people just want to knock you off it. The negative side is just as big, if not worse.
You won't be able to make everyone happy. No matter how well run an event is, whether the music is spot on, whether people danced, whether they even turned up or not people will complain.
Yes you read right - some people will complain even if they didn't go and see it for themselves. Maybe they won't like an aspect of promotion or they assume you advertised falsely. Hell I advertise Cybermorph as a Cyber Industrial event and I have heard someone complain along the lines of "Is this what goth is now?" - I deliberately avoid the word goth like the plague in promo as its not a goth event!
It clearly says "World Cyber Day"
Will they offer anything constructive that might be helpful? No. They just want to complain and you are the target. Maybe its a case of the green-eyed monster. Its hard to tell. Maybe they should spend the time and energy they waste being needlessly negative working on something positive.
But yeah, you are on top so you are a target.
You will be dragged into local scene politics one way or another. At minimum your event can be used as a staging ground for others to butt heads, at worst they will be butting heads with you. Do we have time for it? Nope. But it won't stop them.
It is good to have some awareness of your local scene's politics too. A power couple break up and people have chosen sides? Its going to effect things. Both of them turn up on the same night? Potential fireworks. Two ladies in a hair pulling catfight on the dancefloor because one kissed the other one's partner? It happens. People not turning up and vocally boycotting your event because they don't like you or one of your staff? That can happen too.
Oh the rumors... the best ones I have heard about me is how some of my event staff became event staff by giving me sexual favours. *rolls eyes*
"They" like to talk. And they will. And for the most part you have to brush it off and not react badly else you give them more fuel to work with.
All Ages Gigs
Venues generally don't like doing these because they don't make a lot of money over the bar. So they have to charge a lot for entry which pisses off the drinkers. Then (as talked about above) a method needs to be in place to determine who can and can't drink alcohol.
Then there is the legalities of kicking an underager out if they are causing trouble. You are pretty much forced to let the police handle it and even they don't want to.
If you are wondering why all ages gigs don't happen much this is why.
Gimmicks and Themes
Personally I am in the camp of using gimmicks and themes sparingly. If every event is a themed event then it gets boring and people start ignoring them. A lot of the time people have bought as nice outfit and want to wear it out as opposed to feeling obliged to costume up every week/month. At The Attic I thought we ran way too many performances. The arty space we provided was gimmick enough and non-invasive. We didn't do many themed events as such.
A local event I DJ at called Neko Nation has catgirls serving sushi as their gimmick but its a regular thing. Its only on 1-2 times a year so thats special enough.
Also performances can create an arms race between events trying to outdo each other. If this happens events bleed money and the only people who really benefit are the performers who are on for maybe 10-20 minutes and get paid more than the DJs do. I'd rather give money to my regular staff who make the event work.
If I had to do a theme or gimmick I would do it occasionally at most. For a weekly event maybe every couple of months, for a monthly event 1-2 times a year. For Cybermorph (which is more like every 3-4 months) I have considered doing something once a year but no idea what yet. If its done its worth doing right and I have to take aspects like physical space in the venue intro account. Better to have guest DJs.
DJ SK3LL-e-TUN inda haus!
So there you have it. Go get that new club event started!
"But wait Aytakk, there scene in my area is dead!"
Next article : some tips for getting your local scene going!
-Aytakk has been active in the goth scene since the mid 90s both online and in real life. He firmly believes in the old line "if you don't get the joke, you are the joke". As well as this he produces music for a couple of music projects: Corpulence On The Catwalk (goth/darkwave/coldwave) and Hypnophile (aggrotech/power noise). He is also a club DJ and nemesis of DJ Jelly.