Live shows are extremely entertaining, but can also be a lot of work to put together! I have been dating a musician (Kwame Badu) for over six years now, and he has taught me a lot about the pros and cons of the music industry. Some of the pros include amazing collaborations between musicians, discovering local bands and performers at artist showcases, and combining creativity with the mathematical aspect of music composition. I barely played any instruments as a kid, but I’ve always admired the people that can create songs in some way or another. The major con of the music industry is what I would call the business side of music. As in most industries, you cannot solely rely on the basic art form to keep loyal fans. There’s the media (videos, interviews, etc.), the marketing and sponsorship, the album sales, the nightclub scene, and so much more that comes along with being a successful musician. Since my boyfriend has recently released his album, Mixed Signals, he wanted to use his most recent show (which was at the Observatory in North Park on April 1st) as an initial promotion for it. Since this venue is one of the larger ones in town, he decided to go all out. I soon became the Beaker to his Dr. Bensen Honeydew (that’s a Muppets reference in case you didn’t catch that).
Lesson #1: Have a Game Plan
This particular show entailed a lot of different things and we only had about a month and a half to plan for it. First, we had to sell at least 50 tickets on our own. Since we had physical tickets on us, ordering online was not an option. This meant that we (but mostly he) had to meet up with at least 50 people over the span of a month and a half. Second, he had to actually get ready for his set. Part of this was Kwame preparing his audio tracks accordingly and rehearsing with his feature artist and DJ. Third, we were giving free copies of his CDs to everyone who bought a ticket. This meant individually burning 13 tracks onto 50 CDs, printing the cover art on CD labels, putting those labels onto the CDs, and printing the front/back covers. Fourth, there was a party bus taking those 50 people from the venue to the after party at the club and back. For that he had to arrange the bus schedule and gather the contact info for each person riding the bus. Last but not least, was organizing the VIP section at Side Bar in Downtown for after the show. As you can imagine, my poor boyfriend was stressed out and I was trying to be the rock (or pebble) of stability in the process. I’m not going to lie, I was stressed too. Luckily, I get a sick thrill out of planning, so I knew that as long as we had a game plan that we were going to be okay.
Lesson #2: People are Difficult and Like to Procrastinate
Unfortunately, no matter how much I like to prepare, many people do not. Despite a month and a half of advertising tickets and contacting people individually, many of them waited until the last couple of days to purchase tickets. Unfortunately, we didn’t end up selling all 50 tickets until the day before the show due to some last-minute complications. If we had sold all 50 a couple days beforehand, we would have been able to pick up more to sell. As luck would have it, people started contacting us left and right for more tickets as soon as we had sold out of the 50 we were given. If they would have bought the tickets sooner, we probably would have been able to sell at least 10 more. There’s not much you can do when it comes to others, but you should be aware of the possibilities that could happen. I also procrastinated on my actual role in the show: being the videographer and photographer. I was so caught up in helping prep everything else, that I almost forgot to charge my camera and set it up properly. Luckily, I remembered to charge both batteries the night before, but I didn’t actually configure the best settings for my camera until before the actual sound check. Forgetfulness is a common human trait, but this is why planning is essential!
Lesson #3: Expect the Unexpected
I hate acknowledging this, but sometimes you just can’t plan everything and have to roll with the punches. There were many little “surprises” that popped up during this experience. Every time we thought we had something completely handled, we were proven wrong. One person short-changed us on a ticket, someone couldn’t make it last minute and asked for a refund, I ran out of printer ink and CD labels (which were really hard to find replacements for in most stores), plans with the bus changed a few days before the show, and the headliner was hours late causing Kwame’s performance to be postponed by 40 minutes. Frustration doesn’t even begin to describe how Kwame and I were feeling the 48 hours before go-time, but we somehow pulled threw and worked our way around all of the minor inconveniences.
Lesson #4: There Will be Drunk People
Trying to lead a group of drunk people is similar to herding cats and dogs. You don’t want to come off as the bad guy who doesn’t like to have fun, but you need them to pay attention and follow basic instructions. So, what did we learn that night? People will miss the bus if you do not let them know individually that it’s there, some of your friends will be too inebriated to get into the bar afterwards, some friends will end up going home with each other causing your other friends to be stranded, and some friends will ask you the same exact question five times in a row. Even though some of these things were pretty funny to witness, they definitely tested my patience after a while. After Kwame’s performance, I finally had a drink at the venue. Even though it wasn’t enough to do much, it definitely made leading a group of intoxicated people even harder than before.
Lesson #5: People in the Industry Will Try to Rip You Off
People are shady, especially those in the business side of the entertainment industry. Everything you hear in TV shows about broken promises, hidden fees, and favoritism is pretty accurate. Every place that gave a discount expected an increase in “gratuity” amount. Promoters also changed their minds on things at the last minute, such as the opener lineup and pickup locations. Even my Lyft driver tried to rip me off at the end of the night. That’s more of a side note, but I’m still pretty upset about it. When you’re in these kind of situations make sure you have extra money put aside just in case, but also stand your ground. This also brings me to another point. Make sure you get initial prices, quotes, and details in writing of some sort. When something is in writing (or typing), it’s more concrete in the eyes of others.
Lesson #6: At the End of the Day, Partake in the Fun
It’s easy to get so caught up in the behind-the-scenes aspect that you forget to enjoy all of your hard work. Yes, it’s better to make sure everything is all good to go before you have fun, but don’t end up suffering from fun deprivation! Luckily once we got to Side Bar, I was able to relax and talk to all of our friends, but it definitely took a while for my boyfriend and I to unwind. Luckily his next show is just a show! The free CDs, party bus, and bar were just bonus thank you gifts to everyone who came to the last one. I’ve definitely learned a lot from this experience and hope it carries over to other big events that I will personally need to plan for the future.
Even though it was stressful, I had a wonderful time! Thank you to everyone that came out to support Kwame. It means so much to both of us! If you would like to learn more about where to purchase Mixed Signals or about Kwame Badu Music, watch this video produced by yours truly.
Infographic of the Week:
Question of the Week:
What is a lesson you’ve learned from planning an event?