Organizing and Hosting
a Christian Music event (Concert)
(and living to tell the tale)
Music plays such a large part in many peoples' lives today, that whether cruising through daily chores, listening to the radio, driving along in the car with a cassette on, or, for those fortunate enough, watching MTV, we have come to take this gift of God so much for granted. You also only have to look at the results from recent reports to find out how much music can affect our moods e.g. the reason behind major shops playing faster music at peak times, and slower more relaxing music at quieter times is to affect the rate at which shoppers move around their stores. The fact is that music is one of the most influential mediums pressing on daily life.
It is therefore unfortunate when listening to the charts to see how this privilege is misused and abused.
These days, in case you hadn't noticed, there is a wealth of talent springing up from within the church. They want to use their talents in differing ways to glorify God. This can take many different styles and forms of music. Quite a number of churches are now seeing the potential of using music for more than just entertainment. If your church, youth committee, or organization is considering having an event, I hope this article will give you some help and guidance.
Once you've decided to organize 'something' then the first thing you need to do is to define your aims. If you are unclear, problems will undoubtedly arise due to misunderstandings.
What are your objectives? Is the concert for evangelistic purposes to reach the unconverted? Is it supposed to be challenging the Christians, motivating them to action at the start of a mission or new work in the area for example? Is the idea to break into the local rock sub culture and show the non-Christians they don't own the copyright on good music? Alternatively it could be just an evening of good wholesome entertainment or an evening of praise / celebration. Whatever it is, be clear from the beginning what your objectives are.
Whatever you do from this point on will be affected by your aims, the artist you choose, the venue you use, the publicity you send out etc. In looking at your aims note your potential audience. It is no good deciding to have a thrash metal evening if the local youth groups are into 'Jason Donovan' - an extreme example but take note! Who will be interested enough to come along?
Linked directly to your aims is your motivation - problems will rise and quickly spread to those working with you, the artist coming along and amazingly quickly to the potential audience if you are not enthusiastic about what you are doing. A couple of examples of negative approaches often made to artists I work with are:- "We wanted you to come along so we could have youth in our church from now on" or "Well, personally I hate this style of music, but we thought we better have something for the teenagers".
This is, and always will be the 'Hot Potato' because as a rule Christians think it very 'Worldly' to discuss money. On the contrary, I believe it honorable to discuss your budget - especially when it is done prayerfully. Many Christian musicians are 'full-time' and unlike speakers who are generally supported by their church and so happy with ($, £)30 in the hand, they rely on whatever they get from their performances. Like everybody else, they have families, mortgages, bills etc. and when an artist goes somewhere on a gift basis, pays 35 on petrol and is then supposed to look pleasantly surprised when 20 is pressed into their hand, something is definitely wrong.
When looking at the budget - try to include everything:- Artist, hall, publicity & administration, P.A. & lighting, food etc., all ought to be accounted for.
Where is your money to come from?
As I see is there are eight ways to pay for the cost of an event:
1. By the church or organizing body 'buying' outright the services of the visiting musician or speaker. It can be viewed in the same way as the church would buy the services of a heating engineer or purchase a sound system, except that they will be investing in the Body of Christ and not just the building.
2. By ticket sales available from as many outlets as can be controlled.
3. By an administration charge payable on entrance.
4. By charges for programs where ticket sales are inappropriate or illegal.
5. By a collection, with any shortfall underwritten by the church or organizing group.
6. By inviting church members to make donations for the event.
7. By combining with other churches or groups and sharing the costs.
8. By application to Trust Funds and organizations whose aim is to promote the kind of event which you are planning.
An extra note on selling tickets - be pessimistic, expect the worst sales possible and have all costs covered or underwritten.
The artist / band you choose will obviously be the focal point of all you do and so it is important that you get it right. Once you have selected you aims, then it should be a bit easier for you to know exactly what or whom you are looking for. This is where the agency plays a key role - they can provide you with an unbiased view of whom would be best for your event, as well as tell you of other ideas that would be worth thinking about.
If possible, try to get to see the artist / band beforehand. Talk to people who have had the band before (look through Gig guides or ask the agent for previous concert contacts) and then get in touch with the artist themselves. Tell them your ideas and aims, ask them what experience they have had in this area before, ask them if they have any additions or adjustments they would make to your ideas.
Again the timing comes back to your aims. Seasonal concerts work well, e.g. linking in with Fireworks night (4th July, national events etc.), Christmas, Easter etc., provides a theme. Remember that during summer a lot of people go away for holiday so do a bit of consumer marketing to find out how much support you are likely to get.
If you are doing a schools mission, discuss first with Headmasters (Principle's) for term and exam times. If you know a Christian member of staff they are usually a good first point of contact.
The venue you choose can dramatically change the atmosphere of a potential evening, e.g. large cavernous churches are great for choirs but less than ideal for your local rock band. The venue unfortunately can be very much determined by what is available to you, or within your budget - so all I can say is liaise with whoever you have booked. Points that need thinking about are:
1. Acoustics - -reverberation of the building and generally how sound reacts.
2. Size - A small building packed creates a better atmosphere than a large hall half filled. Try to be realistic - -if you haven't got the support or track record, don't necessarily expect 1000+ people to turn up on the night.
3. Hall access time - as a rule of thumb, you need three hours before a concert and one hour afterwards - chat to whoever you have chosen to take the event for advice on this matter.
4. Power sources - it is not unknown for bands to turn up with 3 Kilowatts of P.A. & 12 Kilowatts of lighting to find only one 13 amp socket available. Do check this out YOURSELF!
5. Stage lighting - it is amazing how much an atmosphere can change even with the smallest set of lights - again chat to the artist about what they recommend, or if they have any special arrangements which they can provide.
6. Dressing rooms - not just for dressing, but also for relaxing before, during and after the event. (remember to check that there are enough for both sexes if necessary).
7. Access - especially applicable if the venue is out of town, is it easy to get to? What time do the busses stop?
8. Facilities - Disabled access, toilets, provisions for possible refreshments etc.
Again this is a key area if you are to attract the type of people who you want to come along to your event. Check whether the agent / artist have either their own posters or clip-art to put together you publicity. It is important that you look professional, and surprisingly this can be done on a low budget. Letraset, or more commonly these days, computer printed writing is especially easy to use (Good programs like Corel Draw, MS Publisher, Serif Page plus, or the more advanced and expensive Quark Express and Pagemaker are great tools for publishing and producing attractive posters and flyers - Corel tops the bill if you are on a tight budget.). Unless they are exceptionally good, don't give artwork to a friend to work on as you will be more or less bound to use it whether it is good or bad. Publicity should include:-
· Admission price (even if free)
· Ticket outlets
· Concert info.
If you are organizing either a series of concerts or a series of publicity items, it helps to have a common logo which people can recognize.
Your publicity, depending on your target audience, should include church mailing lists (if a youth event, try and get in touch with the youth leader direct), schools, Christian bookstores, tourist information, libraries, pubs, record shops, hospital Christian unions / chaplaincies, shops, factories, universities, community centers - need I go on!!? Don't forget the local 'What's on' which will normally take any type of information on events.
Avoid using religious language or cliche's which the potential audience and papers will neither understand nor relate to.
A press release and / or biography should be available from the artist which can be sent to the local papers and radio stations. Cobham agency provides a comprehensive guide to help you with your publicity - as well as individual advice.
This is an area that does not require a lot of effort, but will make a huge difference to your turnout if properly done. Talk to the leaders (e.g. for a youth event - the youth leaders) before the event and get them involved in the organizing meetings. Make them feel that they are part of what is going on, and most of all have their prayer support as well as their interest. Listen to their suggestions - but be wise, you don't have to use every one of them.
This is the most important aspect to pay attention to. I once heard a great comment "Work as if only work can make the difference and pray as if prayer was the only thing that can make the difference." Remember that you are stepping on territory that the enemy considers to be his. He is not going to take lightly what you are planning to do - HOWEVER music is the invention of our God, for His pleasure as well as ours - all we are doing is reclaiming what was stolen from us. Remember the authority we have and tread boldly (as harmless as doves, yet as wise as serpents).
Give specific prayer requests and expect specific answers.
Keep everybody informed all along - even with the smallest endeavor or step forward.
Finally, very important, though sadly often forgotten, give Praise once everything has finished - you may not see in this life the difference your event has made in peoples' lives.
Okay, so the day has eventually arrived, after all your months of hard work and planning we are now here, or are we? Most of these points, though they relate to the day, need to be sorted out well before:
1. When the artist / band arrive, do they require a drink / snack? Will they want to eat before or after the event? Do they have any dietary requirements?
2. People will be required to help lift equipment into the venue. Do not expect the artists to do this themselves, especially if you expect them to be fresh for the event. You should have arranged a rough arrival time with the artists, so make sure your helpers are there in good time to help unload. Make sure also that there will be plenty of helpers available to reload at the end. Do not leave it to the 'oh so and so should be around', set the time and confirm the arrangements with your helpers the day before.
3. Is overnight accommodation required? Try not to have it too far from the venue - and do not assume that people will share beds or sleep on the floor. A lot of full time artists are on the road all the time and so will not appreciate either of these arrangements. Try to organize transport for the accommodation if the artists / band are being split up. Think of where large vans (if applicable) with all the expensive equipment in them can be safely parked. The police will be helpful about this last item - prevention is better than crime!
4. An interval is usually the normal arrangement, roughly half way through. Are you going to provide and / or sell refreshments? Who will staff the stall?
5. Announcements which need to be made should be made clearly, confidently and concisely - no mini-sermons, no waffling, no embarrassments, do them as professionally as possible.
6. Most artists carry around some stock which they will want to sell. They will require somebody to staff their stall. You could also ask a local Christian bookstore to come in and provide some additional material.
7. Are ushers required to direct people to their seats? Even if it is not really necessary try to delegate this to someone, especially to move people back into the venue for the second half after refreshments and to make sure all fire regulations are conformed to (exits unblocked etc.). They could also double up for security if necessary. It is useful to have a trained first aider among them, or the local red cross / St. Johns will help - but remember to ask in plenty of time.
8. If you have sold tickets, try to control the numbers. As stated earlier, you will need to exercise tight control over numbers and on the evening itself to have an effective ticket stared. Who will handle them beforehand and on the night?
9. Make sure that the dressing rooms can be secured during the performance, and possibly when the artist is out talking with the crowd afterwards.
10. Allocate somebody to the lighting switchboard to switch lights on and off (unless there is a pro lighting arrangement for the band).
11. Often missed out, but it can make a marked difference to the atmosphere of the evening, the hall temperature. In cold winter, make sure that the heaters are on in good time to have the hall warm (and off in good time so the people don't boil - lots of people in one place jumping up and down to a rock band creates a surprising amount of heat!).
A subheading to the above, but important enough to warrant a separate title. The follow up to any possible appeal, or even enquiries should be planned. Choose your counselors carefully, and if not known personally t you, it might be an idea to contact their pastor / youth leader. Ensure they are familiar with the materials you are using. It is advisable, if possible, not to mix the sexes i.e. Male counselors for male inquirers etc.
Obtain names and addresses' and follow up properly. A competent counselor will know the routine and there are plenty of sources of advice on the matter.
It is very important to pray together before the event. Invite the artist / band and all those who have been working with you on the event to join you.
This again is often forgotten, but especially for an on going work, let people know how things went. Direct anybody who was counseled and not in a church into a local one and make sure that there is a thorough and effective follow-up.
It takes time, but go round and thank all those involved on the day. Thank pastors / youth leaders etc. Personally or buy a personal letter. You cannot expect people to be as enthusiastic for your next venture if they don't know how the last one went. Even if you feel it was a disaster, pick out the good points and be positive with them. Listen to other peoples' criticisms and compliments and be equally prepared to accept both.
Okay, so this one has finished, what next? Be a dreamer, reflect upon the lessons you've learned from this event and look to the future.