concert production

How to Start Throwing Shows and Become a Live Music Club Promoter

Have you ever thought about what it takes to produce your own concerts? From house concerts and concert halls, to corporate events and large arena shows, concertizing has become an increasingly important source of revenues in the music business over the last two decades, as revenues from recordings have declined precipitously. Organized resources on the web for learning about how to produce concerts and live music events are few to none. That is why I decided to create a course called “Concert Production Techniques: Artistry and Business Development.” It’s designed for anyone who ever dreamed of producing concerts.

I offered the course as a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) on the canvas.org platform in 2016 and 2017. I may offer it again in the future. I want this information to be free to anyone who wants to acquire further knowledge and skills in how to produce live music shows, regardless of their current ability and level. If you have the dream of being a concert producer and want to make it a reality, you can start to zero in on the specifics by reading this article.

I’ve been producing concerts of all kinds for many years. Here, I will share some of my experience and knowledge about the nuts and bolts of producing concerts and live music events. I’ll take you from how to formulate the initial concept, all the way to the encore performance. This article will prepare you with information and describe some of the specific skills needed to produce successful concerts and events using live music in a variety of professional settings. Thinking about these skills is a good first step to becoming a successful concert producer.

Concert Production Techniques: Artistry and Business Development

There are many opportunities in the live music industry. To leverage these opportunities, professionals must be prepared with the right skills, knowledge, and strategies. Acquiring the basics and details of the business of live concert and event production will prepare you to work independently or as a team member in producing concerts and shows in both for-profit and non-profit settings.

Specifically, the artistry and business of producing concerts demands techniques and expertise relevant to project management, programming, budgeting, directing, personnel, marketing (especially social media), performing, music direction, promotions, stage movement, lighting, and art direction; some knowledge of experiential communications and branding will also be useful. Special consideration should be given to marketing, talent procurement, venue selection, sound/lights, backline, ticketing, security, sponsorships, and all logistical, regulatory, legal, artistic, and business aspects. I won’t be able to cover everything, but I have a framework I’ve used in my own role as a live music producer.

Keep in mind that the audience experience must always stay front and center every step of the way. The audience wants to have fun and enjoy the music. The performers also want to relax and enjoy their performance. As a producer, you get to make this happen.

You’ve Decided to Produce a Concert. What Kind of a Producer Are You?

People sometimes wonder what a producer actually does, and with good reason. There are potentially as many kinds of producers as there are people, and creating an exhaustive job description would seem to be an impossible task. To many, the role of producer seems quite mysterious. I view this as an advantage; since most people don’t know what we do, we get to invent our own role from scratch. For the moment, you may start to define what kind of producer you are, based on your own perceived personal and professional strengths and weaknesses.
The very first decision you get to make is what kind of role you wish to assume as a producer. Let’s begin by describing some typical roles, capabilities, tasks, and challenges for live producers. These are the nuts and bolts. Try to visualize yourself working in any or all of these areas:

  • Financial/Legal
  • Logistics
  • Technical
  • Artistry
  • Management
  • inspirational/Motivational

I’ll briefly outline what each area entails.

Financial/Legal

The producer acts as the guarantor and executive of all fiduciary (financial) and legal matters, including budget procurement and oversight, revenue enhancement (ticketing, broadcast rights, merchandising, sponsorships, etc.), licensing, intellectual property rights, insurance, payment of artists and vendors, and so on. In this role, the producer often takes on the greatest share of risk, although this risk may be shared with other parties via direct investment schemes or by financial institutions extending credit to the concert venture.

I like to think of each production as a separate joint venture in partnership with sponsors, artists, and/or Promoters and venues. Having a solid business approach with well-written clear legal agreements enhances the likelihood of success of any concert venture. It’s always a good idea to put everything down in writing.

Keep in mind that the audience experience must always stay front and center every step of the way. The audience wants to have fun and enjoy the music. The performers also want to relax and enjoy their performance. As a producer, you get to make this happen.

Logistics

Logistics “make the show happen” and includes everything from hiring the venue (hall), staging requirements, equipment, performer schedules, rehearsals, transport, lodging, dressing rooms, communications, training, and personnel planning.

You might think about logistics on a scale from “macro” to “micro.” Macro considerations include securing the venue(s), date(s), artist(s), budget, ticketing, and any major plans having to do with the marketing and promotion of the show(s). Macro is all the big picture stuff. Micro logistics include smaller details such as travel and lodging preferences, communications, and daily schedule items. Other micro considerations could be related to technical or artistic practices. For example, whether to use a wireless handheld or headset microphone for a certain song would be a micro-logistical consideration. This doesn’t mean that it is unimportant, just that it doesn’t have as great an impact on the overall outcome of the show. Also, the style of arrangements or the stage set details could fall into the micro category.

Another way to see this difference would be that macro-logistics are aspects crucial to the ability of the show to actually happen, where micro-logistics pertain more to smaller details and aspects that make things run more smoothly or enhance the audience experience directly.

Technical

This could be seen as a component of the logistics area but will require more in-depth analysis and planning. Within the technical realm, as with logistics, there are also micro and macro applications that come into play.

It’s crucial to think through all exact details and technical specifications related to sound, lights, and staging. Types of equipment needed, models of and placement of microphones to be used, backline (amplifiers, drums, keyboards, etc.), lighting and soundboards, wiring and wireless technology might all be important to achieving artistic success. We need to consider the experience of the audience, and the needs of the performers, and make sure all the equipment we will need is available.

Once we figure out how to get all the equipment we need, we will also need skilled people to run it. Most producers have at least basic knowledge of the capabilities, advantages, and disadvantages of various staging, sound, and lighting systems available, but will hire skilled Stage Managers and Sound and/or Lighting Technicians to set up and operate the systems. In some countries, not all equipment may be available, or even if it is, there may be a lack of skilled Technicians who know how to run it.

Artistry

A producer should have an innate vision for how they want the music to sound and look to the audience. Since the audience (or a client) is paying for the concert experience, the producer must decide in advance what will be most likely to satisfy and entertain and devise a strategy to do so. We always strive to deliver the highest quality experience, and we never want the audience to demand their money back! The key to this is artistry.

The producer must decide on programming, how to present the talent, movement on stage, costuming, lighting, sound, musical arrangements, and all aspects of the production that will impact the audience experience. These are all important artistic decisions. A producer must also recognize and work within the limitations of the budget, audience knowledge, and capabilities of the artists. The role of the producer is often to work collaboratively with the musicians and artist teams on the artistic direction, to fulfill a shared vision.

Fulfilling artistic vision is one of the more challenging and critical aspects to success in the concert business. The most successful individuals tend to be master collaborators who can follow a strict interpretation while demanding high-level results. There is no single way to achieve artistry as a producer, and it can feel quite intangible. Nevertheless, it is one of the most crucial success factors, and can also be one of the more satisfying.

Management

A producer is a team leader and a project manager and must manage variable resources. Knowledge of organizational behavior, psychology, social and cultural norms, effective communication techniques, and motivational skills are important to a producer. A firm grasp of financial matters and accounting techniques is also paramount to success. “Making the numbers work” is a key task of any manager, and no less so in the concert business.

At the most basic level, a producer must oversee individuals and teams using a well-defined strategy to reach the goals. Clearly articulating the vision and mission for the concert operation is also a requirement. A producer could employ assistants to help them with preparing and leading the team. They must be able to delegate tasks and avoid micromanaging. It’s smart to pay attention to your management style and tweak it for maximum effectiveness.

Having a solid business approach with well-written clear legal agreements enhances the likelihood of success of any concert venture. It’s always a good idea to put everything down in writing.

Inspirational/Motivational

This is the area that intersects with all other areas, in that the producer is the leader most responsible for the “vision” in all aspects, and will need the dedicated efforts of many people to reach success. Regardless of how “hands-on” a producer is in terms of decision making and getting things done, they will need to communicate the vision and strategies consistently and clearly to everyone on the production team, from the beginning to the end of the process.

Successful producers tend to be inspirational communicators and motivators. They have a special knack for articulating their vision, delegating tasks or decisions, resolving conflicts, and must motivate everyone else in the organization to do their best work. Fortunately, all these capabilities can be cultivated and developed by anyone, though it will always take some work.

While there are no single or agreed ways to improve as a motivational leader, there’s no shortage of literature available written about and by great leaders. I have always admired successful business leaders such as Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Zig Ziglar, and John Wooden, albeit for different reasons. While all famous leaders have their flaws and shortcomings, no one can deny their vast achievements. It’s important for aspiring leaders to study and analyze their cases in order to gain from general principles of motivational success. I also enjoy observing the great leaders in the world of sports and politics, as there are often analogies to business, especially regarding the formation and leadership of teams. Besides the literature, there are also wonderful TED Talks and other video materials where motivational and inspirational leadership are discussed in detail.

Observing accomplished leaders at close hand has helped me immensely throughout my career, both personally and professionally. Working under some of them exposed me to interesting and effective techniques for leading teams. I also had a chance to observe what I would choose not to do, based on the results. By working on some great teams, I learned what works, doesn’t work, and formed my own opinions as to why certain techniques succeeded or failed. I’ve also had the opportunity to learn from my own mistakes, and to try out my own theories of success on the producer stage with live audiences.

Become A Top Pro Producer

Whether you’re a group of musicians wishing to produce your own house concerts, an event planner, venue operator, or an entrepreneur getting into the music industry, to be an effective producer you’ll need to acquire some knowledge and understanding of the event management and the live entertainment businesses. Having introduced to you some of the key aspects of producing shows, I can recommend next that you do some soul-searching to determine what kind of a producer you’d like to be. Assessing your strong and weak points in relation to the various roles of producers might lead you to consider partnering with others who complement your own skill set. It may help to write down some things on paper about your vision for producing your own concerts.

As you dig deeper into your vision of yourself as a producer, think carefully about the different tasks involved, and practice seeing yourself producing concerts or shows as you move forward. There is much you can learn by watching and doing, so find ways to get involved in the business, as a performer, writer, technician, assistant, or volunteer. Analyze the live music industry from as many angles as possible. Read the trade magazines, such as Pollstar. Perhaps you can find a mentor to learn from.

Producing professional concerts can be extremely rewarding, but also brings its share of frustrations and difficulties. Do your best to set your standards high and commit to sticking to them. Always keep the audience experience foremost in your mind, and pay close attention to the performer’s perspective as well. These are good guidelines. By learning as much as you can, studying the large and small details, and then taking consistent steps to make your dream a reality, you can move in the direction of your concert producer dream.

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