“If you want something done right you have to do it yourself,” is an adage that doesn’t necessarily apply to setting up your own show. If it’s your first time you are going to do some things wrong. Maybe a lot of things. Talk to anyone who’s booked a show, for their own band or friends or strangers, and they will probably give you an earful on how many things they should’ve done differently the first time. This may call for a Part 2, but here is a partial checklist to help you get through the night:
Flyer Well and Flyer Early
Facebook is a great way to promote a show, but a cool, ubiquitous flyer is still going to be your best bet when you book your own show. Make sure the price (which should be as low as you can reasonably make it) and date are prominent as well as the club. Then try to put it absolutely everywhere possible. If you don’t have time for a full canvassing then pay someone. There are people who do this service in most cities, and if not you probably have a friend who could use twenty bucks and some beer for an hour or two of work.
Don’t Put too Many Bands on the Bill
Three is great, four is pushing it, five is painful and six is an outright tragedy. More bands is not the way you get more people to the show and it only increases the chaos.
Don’t Let it Run (Too) Late
Unless you have a well-trained team of people to move equipment on and off the stage, you are going to lag behind. A band will take too long to set up, or they’ll play too many songs or they’ll have technical problems or you’ll push the show back waiting for more people to come. But no one wants to be watching a set when it’s time for last call. Nobody. You need to make sure every band is given a set time and are kept on task, not noodling with their reverb pedal while people check their watches.
Pay the Bands Before You Pay Yourself
Booking a show is often a thankless job, and can also be costly. And while you may be staring down a sizable financial loss, that is part of the game. After paying whomever you have to (sound guy, the club, etc.), see what you have left and divvy it out as fairly as possible. If you can afford to pay all the bands and recoup some of your expenses, then congratulations! But if paying the bands (ALL the bands) means you take a bath, then pull out the bubbles and rubber ducky.
Accept Your Mistakes
Read the intro paragraph again; this night will not go off without a hitch. You’ll kick yourself for something or other, but when you are trying to keep this many plates spinning at once, something will slip through the cracks. Don’t let an oversight or dumb mistake keep you from trying again. But, if you genuinely hated it (and this is not for everyone), there is no shame in letting someone else sweat through the next show.