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Grassroots Music Events

It’s no secret that music venues across the capital are at risk and London has lost over 35% of its grassroots music venues since 2007. Kingston Upon Thames has a rich music heritage but has also suffered from the closure of venues hosting live music. However a number of venues are developing, or are interested in developing, their live music offer. This project, supported by the Mayor of London, aims to support that ambition, whether in bars, pubs, clubs, churches, academic institutions, libraries or other public spaces. We want to see live music supported and championed. For local business owners, putting on a live music event can help to generate business and bring in new audiences.

CirKT is all about making it easier for local people, groups and businesses to experiment and host live music events. There are many good sources of information to help you to do this – the Music Venue Trust and the Musicians Union both provide invaluable information.

To get you started we have put together a short guide for venues, promoters and community organisations. This is not a comprehensive guide, but hopefully gives a few useful tips to assist you in planning your live music event. 

If you wish to host a music event in the borough, whether indoors or outdoors, please check out Kingston Council’s guidance and application process

Kingston Council has a single point of contact for all event enquiries. Our aim is to support event organisers to host a safe event by providing advice on what needs to be completed and who to speak to.

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Step 1: Find a venue

Whether you are thinking of hosting an event in a public space, community hall or a licensed venue, there are a few practical considerations to think about:

  • What is the capacity of the venue and how many people will attend?
  • Does the venue have the right facilities? For example, disabled access, toilets, backstage areas and safe exits and entrances for customers.
  • Is there space or parking for musicians to easily unload equipment?
  • Is there a stage or performance area with access to power?
  • Are there good transport links for potential customers?
  • Do you need to think about an age limit for attendees?
  • If operating in quieter residential areas, you need to think about how to be a good neighbour and ensure your customers leave quietly and keep noise to a minimum.
  • You’ll need to manage noise levels and ensure volume does not become an issue
  • You’re likely to need a PPL licence, which covers music copyright. You may also need a licence from the council, depending on the circumstances. For example a licence is not required to stage a performance of live music, or the playing of recorded music if it takes place between 8am – 11pm, at an alcohol on-licensesd premises and the audience is no more than 500 people. You can find out more on the Kingston website.
  • Do you have the appropriate level of public liability insurance in place?
  • Have you thought about health and safety and have you the appropriate risk assessments in place to mitigate any hazards?
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Step 2: How to budget

Whether you’re organising a one-off event, a festival or a band night, you need to think about the costs of setting up your event. This might include:

  • Paying for extra staff, sound or lighting engineers.
  • Hiring equipment.
  • Transport costs.
  • Ticket offers eg early birds, 2-for-1s, free entry or using an online ticketing agency.
  • Securing local business sponsorship.

Whether you’re a booker, promoter or business owner, you need to agree payment T&Cs with your artists before the gig. There are many different types of deals – from agreeing a flat fee – to sharing the risk and agreeing a small guaranteed fee, plus a share of the box office. Whatever you agree make sure you have a contract in place.

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Step 3: Book your band

When booking your music acts, think about the audience you want to attract and how far they are likely to travel. It might be useful to think about any competition to ensure your offer is distinctive, but still appeals to the local demographic. Before booking your artists you can:

  • Check out their online profile and listen to their music online.
  • Look at their social media following – are they new, emerging or established acts?
  • Think how they would fit into your programme e.g. as a headliner, support act, or at mixed bill/open mic night.
  • Be clear about what you’ll provide e.g. food, drink, equipment, car parking, travel costs, and any other T&Cs.
  • Confirm how long the band’s set will be, the type of audience expected and ticketing arrangements

The Musicians Union has a standard live performance contract and provides guidance in relation to fees and negotiating fair deals.

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Step 4: Promote your event

Allowing enough time to plan and promote your event is vital, particularly if you’re planning a one-off event or launching something new. The tools of the trade include:

  • Using an online ticketing platform.
  • Social media and digital platforms offer opportunities for the greatest interaction e.g. Facebook and Instagram. 
  • Online music platforms and entertainment forums provide opportunities to connect with fans.
  • Local magazine and online event listings to promote your event
  • Keeping your website up-to-date and encouraging people to the event.
  • Promoting via marketing materials sent to local businesses, community noticeboards, libraries, leisure centres and other public spaces.
  • Using the venue to display posters and promote in advance.
  • Make use of your artists’ social media following and ask them to promote to their fanbase.
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Step 5: Get feedback

Briefing your staff and volunteers beforehand and ensuring everyone understands their role and responsibility is key to organising a successful event – and being prepared when things go wrong.

Building success means understanding your audience, so it can be a good idea to gather feedback by thinking of 4 or 5 key questions you’d like to ask. You can collect this informally, via a chalk board or simple postcards and by asking:

  • What have they enjoyed?
  • How could the event be improved?

If planning on developing a live music offer, forging good relationships with artists, agents and promoters is important.  Gathering feedback from artists can help to promote your business/venue, particularly if you use their suggestions to develop your programme