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Do It Yourself – Put up a show

Maybe you already read the complete special in the first issue of my zine, or you read part 1 on doing a zine, or part 2 on running a label on this site. Anyway, here’s the introduction in short again: When I started to work on the first issue of my zine I contacted some people with questions about what would be the best way to do “x” or how i could get “y” done. I figured other people would have the same questions, not only with zines, but with all other D.I.Y. aspects, that pretty much gave me the idea to do this D.I.Y. special. But since issue #1 is sold out and I still see people asking these questions, it’s probably a good idea to put it on here. Just sharing the knowledge. The most important thing though is to do it by heart and enjoy what you’re doing. Make some mistakes, learn from it. This time we’re talking about putting on a show. Only 2 people giving their tips this time, but it’s quite a list so I’m sure you’ll be fine.

The more tips the better, so put your own tips in the comments!

Amsterdam Underground Collective

Make very good and clear deals with the bands (or their booker)
– Put all info in a contract and/or rider, so there can’t be any misunderstanding about the deal you made.
– In case the band/booker doesn’t work with a contract make sure you have the agreed deal in an e-mail and even print it out if you feel that might be needed.
– Don’t promise bands anything you can’t guarantee: if you tell them you will pack the place and 30 people show up it makes you look bad.
– It always helps to keep a little variety in the lineup. If you ask 3 same-styled bands from the same small town to play, all 3 of them attract the same small crowd. If you ask 3 clearly different bands you will attract several crowds. Besides that, people usually don’t want to listen to only mosh or only youth crew at a show. At least I don’t.

Don’t pay too much for the band
– Always pay the bands a % of the door money (in a lot of cases with a minimum guarantee). The money the bands and/or the tour booker is asking is in most cases more than they actually need, so try to get the band for a lower price.
– On the other hand make sure it’s a fair deal because if you think the band will draw at least 100 people and your ticket price is 7 Euro it’s not really fair to offer them for example only 200 Euro.
– Always (also if bands play for little money) make sure you have enough food and drinks for them. If you take care of bands, the next time you will contact them they are more likely to respond positively to you again.

Invite all you friends and tell the (local) bands to do the same
– Of course you want a lot of visitors on your shows. Starting with all the people that you know yourself. When you don’t start to invite them, who do you think is coming to the show then?
– Always ask the band to send out an emaillist, myspacebulletin and sms’s to their fans, friends, family, colleagues, etc.

Make a website, myspace, hyves, etc…
– A website, Myspace page, Hyves page is important, so people can keep checking what you are doing. Always keep this up to date, so people know that you are always working on new things and keep coming back to your sites.

Make flyers (& posters)
– Make clear flyers for the show (or put more shows on a flyer) and make sure you spread them through your town. Also important is that you spread them at similar kind of shows the two months before your own show.
– It is very important to put all info on the flyer (bands (with description!!!), time, venue, price, website)
– A lot of time you get posters from the (tour booker of the) band. Do the same with them as with the flyers.
– Don’t just stick to your own town/city but try to go to shows in other cities as well to flyer there or ask friends to do it if you don’t have the chance.
– Remember small shows are just as important as big ones. We have had a lot of experiences where so-called small shows with 3 local bands get a bigger crowd than 3 ‘bigger’ touring bands.
– Take care of your flyer- and poster-distribution, drop them of at all the cool record- and clothing stores. Don’t forget skate-, snow- and BMX stores or ‘hip’ hairdressers. Always ask if you are allowed to drop flyers there or maybe put up a poster.

Mailing list
– Because people are lazy… You have to keep them up to date with all your shows. The best way is to send them e-mails (newsletters) once in a while with all your up to date info. Don’t do this too much, because then people get sick of your e-mails and unsubscribe from your mailing list. It takes a while to get a proper amount of people on this list, but just starts with your own friends and you will notice that this amount will grow in time.
– Also try to get media attention from other types of websites then the usual punkrock/hardcore websites like or Websites like 3voor12, Kindamuzik, LiveXS or Vice Magazine are interested in hearing what’s happening in the underground. Use their forums to promote your show or send them an email if they are interested in writing a review or offer them some free tickets to give away in their newsletter.

Upcoming shows
– Don’t get worried if you don’t have any shows coming up for a month or so, because then you obviously didn’t get any interesting bands offered to you or they decided to go to another city. Make sure though you keep on working getting more shows and keep people informed of what you’re working on.

Looking ahead
– Keep checking regularly what the booking agencies are working on/having coming up regarding touring bands. In a few years (after you’ve done lots of shows and proved yourself) you might have the luxury of booking agencies contacting you first but this is not the case in the beginning.

– Try to stick to the time schedule you made (it might be hard and especially when things don’t go as you planned and you want them to) and try make it so that the last band finishes on time so people can catch their trains if they’re from out of town.
– Don’t book too many bands on one night as this might cause a lot of stress and your time schedule to get messed up.

Too many shows
– Before you confirm a show check how many other shows on/around your show are going on because if people have to choose you might get less people to your show resulting in a possible loss.
– The same goes for booking too many shows yourself (especially if you’re doing it all on your own) as also then people have to make choices so better to do a few good shows than a lot of average ones.


Light The Fuse

First of all you need a venue where you can set up a show. So check out if there is a music center or youth center in your city or area where you can put up a show. Contact them and explain what you want to do. It would be helpful if you a have plan put together, including a budget.

There are several options to get the budget for a show.

1: You have money yourself you like to invest in a show.
When you haven’t put up a show before, I wouldn’t recommend this. Setting up shows and break even/make some money of it is pretty hard, especially when you’re doing it for the first time. If you do it, make sure you have put together a fairly careful budget or try to use a door deal (see point 3).

2: The venue or youth center has a budget for putting up a show
This is the best way to start. Ask what your budget is (and if it includes/excludes drinks for the bands, food, a sound engineer, protection, staff, backline, etc. Most of the times the bar earnings are for the venue and are not a part of the budget) and make sure you stay within the budget. If you like to set up more shows in the future, make sure you’re not using the full budget when you know you won’t be able to earn it back. If you stay within the budget, but the venue / youth center is making a big loss of the show you probably won’t be able to set up a new show. Try to make a fair judgment of how many kids will turn up and multiply it with the entrance fee. This is probably the budget you have to work with, if you like to make it a success. For example: you think at least 50 kids will show up for the show and you’re asking an entrance fee of 5 euro (and you don’t have to pay for a sound engineer, etc.), your budget to work with is 5 x 50 = 250 euro.

3: Door deal
When you don’t have a budget, the safest way to go is asking bands to play for a door deal. This means the bands get the money you get from the entrance fee. For example: You have three bands playing and the entrance fee is 5 euro. 70 kids show up, you have 70 x 5 = 350 euro to divide. You can divide it under bands in a percentage (and yourself, when you have overhead costs). For example: 40% for the headliner (140 euro), 25% for the other 2 bands (2 x 87,50 euro) and 10% for yourself (35 euro) when you have to pay yourself for the food and drinks for the bands.

Sometimes bands like to have a fixed amount (like compensation for gas). The best way is to exclude this from you budget and make a door deal which starts when you have certain of amount of paying visitors, for example: You have 3 bands playing, each band like to have a fixed amount of 50 euro. 3 x 50 euro = 150 euro. You’re entrance fee is 5 euro, 150/5 = you need 30 paying visitors to pay the fixed amount. In this case the door deal starts from 30 paying kids on. You obviously can make a lot more of variations on door deals.

Oh yeah, try to pay the bands cash at the show, it saves you a lot of paperwork. If it is not possible, the venue can help you with the paperwork.

When you set up a show, think of which bands you like to book. Keep in mind, try to be realistic. You probably can’t book Terror or Sick Of It All for your first show. The best way to book bands is to approach them through mail or at a show. Try to avoid booking agency’s, most of the time you have to pay more for a band when you book them through an agency. When you approach them, make an offer of what you like to pay (think of your budget, what are you able to pay them). When a band agrees, make further agreements. How late does the band have to arrive at the venue, at what time will they play, is there food an drinks available for the bands (don’t forget to ask if there are vegetarians or vegans in the band), is there a guestlist (and if so, how many people can they put on the guestlist), will they bring a backline, etc. Don’t forget to mail them a route description how to get to the venue and some contact info.

Sound-engineer (and other important people)
Make sure you have a sound engineer, most of the time the venue will have one. When they don’t, try to find one who is willing to do it for some drinks haha. Most of the times the venue will provide people for the bar, at the door and kitchen (if food for bands is involved). Always check if this is the case, if not: ask nicely if your buddy’s want to help out.

The backline includes the boxes (guitar and bass) and drums. Normally the backline excludes the amps and drum breakables. Every band has to bring them along themselves, don’t forget to mention that! Most of the times a venue has no backline available, so you have to hire one (which is pretty expensive) or the bands have to provide one. The best way is to ask the bands to bring a part of the backline, or ask a band to provide the whole backline. In the last case, it is fair to pay them a bit more. Make sure you have a complete backline (for example: when a band brings along the whole backline and they have 1 guitarplayer, but the other bands have 2 guitarplayers you still have to fix an extra box).

Don’t forget to promote you show as good as possible, some posts on the internet is usually not enough (unless you’re Deadstop and you’re playing a reunion at the last Linfabriek show haha).

First of, get a cool flyer/poster design for the show (and a cool name, if you put up a festival). If you can’t do it yourself, probably someone you know is able to help you out. Include the following info on the flyer: bands, date, doors/starting time, contact and address info.
Make sure you give your show a lot of local attention, invite all your friends to show up and spread the rumor in you area. Local kids are normally a must and backbone to make a show a success.

Besides good promotion in your area, it is wise to make sure you spread flyers at other shows. The best shows to flyer, are shows where the same kind of bands play. When you’re putting up an mosh show, it is probably not very interesting to flyer at an emo show (unless it’s a show in your city). And as mentioned before, also do some good promotion on the internet.

Running order
Make sure you have informed the bands on the running order and change times. This will help you to avoid that the show will be delayed all the time.

Good luck with putting up a show, it is fun to do and the best way to learn is to Do It Yourself haha.

Take care,

Up next, the final part: Act like a scenestar, pick the right make up, dress the right way, photograph at shows.

Also read: Do a zine, run a label.

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