In my first guide, I’ll teach you the basics of throwing your own rave. This is meant for readers looking to throw a mid-size EDM event around 300-1000 people. You might be a DJ looking to farther your career or an electronic music lover who wants to bring the music to your isolated city. This guide will get you to the point where you can successfully throw you’re own parties.
This is going to be a constant work in progress since the scene is always evolving. If there are any parts that aren’t clear, need more explanation added, or you think need rewritten, please feel free to email me at email@example.com.
I’m mostly writing this because there is a demand for electronic dance music events in regions of the United States (and the rest of the world) that don’t have anyone supplying the events. Some of these regions are too remote for large production companies to enter to make money on, so the areas need to rely on local people who are dedicated to the music, but might not necessarily have the knowledge of how to put an event together or don’t know where to begin.
There isn’t any specific guide for this as far as I’m aware. All the guides I can find online are “1. Find location; 2. Get DJ; 3. Throw rave.” We’re going to dive in way deeper than just that, and supply some tools and extra guides along the way.
This guide is for those people who are dedicated enough to make events happen in their hometown. Just about anyone can throw a party starting with $100 and a passion for the music.
Marketing strategies change with technology, so some of this information may become irrelevant, like the specifics of setting up Facebook event pages and how to properly set up ads, so hopefully I can get some time to revise this in a couple years. However, most of the information shouldn’t be time specific.
Even if electronic music isn’t your thing, I’m sure this information applies to many other genres of music and other kinds of events.
I’m hoping this will be a fairly comprehensive guide that will cover all aspects of small to mid-size EDM event production.
If you’re looking for something to help you throw the next EDC Las Vegas, maybe this isn’t the guide for you, but it could give you a decent foundation to work your way up there in the future.
We’re going to start from the beginning with basic money management, learn how to plan a lineup, cover promotion strategies, how to run the party on rave-day, and everything in between.
I think it’s important to stress that these are just guidelines and not considered ‘laws’. You can feel free to pick and choose which parts you want to follow, and find places where you might want to venture off and try something new. A lot of this guide will show you the ways that we throw our smaller events and I’ll be the first to admit that there might be better ways of doing things.
Budgeting is one of the first things you should do when planning your event. It’s important because you need to know how much money you can possibly bring in, and where the money is expected to go. If you start overspending on your artist budget, you need to know which other areas of the budget will need to be cut to make up for it.
Many new even promoters don’t care about making money and plan on losing as much money as possible in the name of having fun. My philosophy is that you need to at least break even. It’s important to break even so you can continue throwing great parties instead of just doing one and losing all your money. You may make $1,000 on one party and lose $1,000 on the next, but in the long run you can come out without losing anything if you plan correctly.
Generally, you will be basing your budget off of your venue capacity, expected turnout, and ticket price. We know our local scene fairly well, so we know a 300 to 1000-person turnout is normal for our events depending on the city. We select our venue based on our expected crowd.
We usually price our events between $10 and $25 depending on the lineup, venue, city, and event purpose. If we are breaking into a new market and just need to get people in the door, we will stick to a lower price.
Lower prices can serve multiple purposes. Low admission prices are good to get your brand name out there by catering to a wider market and expanding the scene in your area. Once you have some brand recognition and attendees know that you provide high quality events, you can charge higher prices.
If the total scene in your area is less than 1000 people where it’s difficult to get a crowd of 300 people, I would suggest sticking to the $10-$15 range for door price.
Major cities like New York and Baltimore can easily get away with charging $25-$30 and still get away with well over 1000 attendance. I would recommend establishing your brand in the area before raising ticket prices.
Using these numbers, you’re almost looking at a logarithmic revenue scale where smaller events can charge less and larger events can charge more. Again, this comes with establishing a brand first. The larger cities also have high overhead costs, like more expensive venues and equipment.
By selecting your venue and ticket price first, you can then establish your potential revenue for the event. Here’s some quick examples of how this is done.
For a smaller, 300-person capacity party (250 expected attendance), you could try to budget it like this:
50 comps = $0
$10 * 50 people = $500
$15 * 150 people = $2550
Total = $3050 possible revenue
For a larger, 2000-person capacity party (1,600 expected attendance), you could try to budget this:
500 comps = $0
$20 * 400 people = $8,000
$25 * 700 people = $17,500
Total = $25,500 possible revenue
The entire revenue calculation is something that you can do in your head in about three seconds when you make a list of possible venues and ticket prices, but it’s a major key to making the event profitable.
When you do the calculation, make sure you figure the expected turnout to be much lower than the capacity. There’s no magic number. You’ll learn to estimate it with experience, but for your first time, expect maybe half the capacity.
Now that you know the possible revenue you can bring in, choose a profit goal. This is completely dependent upon your goals and the goals of the people who you team up with. Sometimes, we’ll shoot for a $1000 profit for a 300-person, other times will be $4,000 on a 600-person party. Sometimes we just try to break even and have fun.
The next step is to set the artist budget. We’ll talk more about artist pricing later, but artists will more than likely take up the majority of the budget. We typically set half of the budget aside for artists.
Equipment is the next major expense. The equipment list will be found in a later chapter. The budget for these will depend on what the venue already has to offer. Some venues will come with sound, lighting, and equipment and others will be barebones where you need to bring literally everything. The prices on equipment will also vary by city and quality of the gear.
Networking is the best way to cut equipment costs. Rather than paying a large company that rents equipment, try to find a local person in the scene who owns some decent gear who will rent it to you at a reasonable rate.
Many locals will rent their CDJ’s and DJM’s as a package for $150-$200 for a night. Our lighting can typically range from $400-$2000 depending on the scale we’re looking for, our connections in that city, and what the venue already has. We usually try to get venues that already have sound, but sometimes the subwoofers will need to be boosted, so we'll pay a couple hundred dollars to bring extra subwoofers in.
Other expenses to look out for:
- Videographer (rarely used and depends on your company)
- All production costs
- Venue fees
- Paid advertising
Here’s a basic example of what a full event budget could look like for a small party:
50 Comps = .................................................................... $0
$5 * 50 Paying Customers = ................................... $250
$10 * 50 Paying Customers = ................................. $500
$15 * 250 Paying Customers = ........................... $2,550
Total Possible Revenue: ...................................... $3,300
Profit Goal: .............................................................. $1,000
Amount Left: ........................................................... $2,300
Artist Budget (including riders): ........................... $1,000
Artwork Design: ......................................................... $200
Flyers: ......................................................................... $150
Stage gear: ................................................................ $150
Extra Lighting: ........................................................... $300
Extra Sound: .............................................................. $200
Photographer: ..... Paid with comp and plus one (Free)
Wristbands: ............................ Provided by venue (Free)
Security: ................................. Provided by venue (Free)
Sound and Lighting: ............. Provided by venue (Free)
Venue: ...................................... Free with bar guarantee
Promoters: ................................... Paid with comp (Free)
Facebook Advertising: ............................................. $100
Contingency/Leftover: .............................................. $100
As you can see, we’re cutting it extremely close with the budget. If we only get 200 of those $15 tickets instead of the full, sold out 250, then we’re already losing money. In this situation, I would look for ways to cut the artist budget without sacrificing quality.
I've included a basic event budget calculator on this site to get you started. This is a great resource for quick preliminary estimates to see if an event is feasible. It includes all major expenses that an event will most likely incur.
I've also included my full event spreadsheet to assist you after you're farther into the planning process.
An important aspect we’ve discovered to saving costs is working with other local promotion crews. This can be a very complicated topic that will probably have to be revisited with another guide at a later date. It’s just like working in any other project team, but you could find yourself collaborating on events with people you have never even met or talked to before.
It’s EXTREMELY important that you can trust the people you’re working with if you choose to team up for an event. You’re going to be dealing with a lot of money throwing parties, so if you don’t think that you can trust the other team, then don’t collaborate with them.
Make sure you choose crews who have similar goals as your own. If they’re concerned about making money and you just want to have fun and blow as much money as possible, that team is probably not going to work out well.
Characteristics we generally look for when partnering with other crews:
- Solid communication
- Looking to at least break even, preferably better
- Believe that the quality of the party will reflect on people’s opinion of future events
- Reliable with assigned tasks
- Have good connections for gear and venues to save money
- Have a local crew who works under them
- Can be trusted with money
When working with other teams, trust and communication are, above all else, the most important factors. There are plenty of apps to use to communicate, but the most common apps to use are Facebook Messenger, Telegram, and WhatsApp. My suggestion is to just use Messenger since everyone who throws events is on Facebook.
We will now cover how to find a venue and what to look for while venue hunting. It might be a good idea to have a venue in mind before you even start planning your event. You should, however, have a venue locked down before you proceed with any other step. A change in the date or venue can have ripple effects, such as the artists being booked on other events or partygoers having other plans on the new date. The reason we choose the venue first is because it’s easier to get artists for another date than move the party location, due to lack of possible venues and abundance of artists.
The venue is one of the most important aspects of your party. Everything about the venue from the number of rooms to the reputation of the previous events thrown there can affect people's decision to go to your event.
You can find a venue by using the same location as a previous event, searching online, or asking around.
One quick way of finding venues is to look for locations where EDM events have been done before. I’ve seen them thrown in some pretty unique places like firehalls, hotels, and upscale sushi bars. Those aren’t locations that I would typically choose, but if you can’t find anywhere else, then those locations are worth a try.
You can even search for places that host music events that aren’t necessarily EDM. Most venues that host underground music shows like metal or punk will be open to other alternative music styles, but you can develop your own strategy for targeting venues.
Some venues that other promotion groups have used in the past may currently have issues to look out for. For instance, maybe companies have stopped using a venue because neighbors have started complaining or cops have started cracking down on that venue. It might be a good idea to ask around and see what potential customer’s opinions are about a that venue before you choose that location.
Online searches are another way of finding venues. There are a couple sites that you can use to search for venues, but most of them are expensive halls used for wedding receptions and similar events. This method hasn’t yielded me many successful deals, but it’s a good place to start looking.
Often times just asking around to friends and other promoters can yield some results. Your friend's uncle might own a struggling bar from the 80’s that doesn’t currently host events, but could benefit from the extra traffic. You could team up with him to host events at his venue. Or you might have a friend who owns a farm without any neighbors who would complain about a festival being held next door.
Venue permits vary greatly by locations, so I’m just going to cover the common ones that I can find. Always check the website of the municipality in which your venue exists to look for any applicable permits and ordinances.
If you’re doing an outdoor festival, you should look into get a mass gathering permit. You can check the local municipality ordinances to see what they require. If your location is super remote, the township may not have one available.
If you can’t find one on the municipality website, you can call their office and try to be discrete by not mentioning any specific details in case there might be any issues.
I’m going to cover a basic negotiation strategy. If you want to dig deeper and get a better handle on any negotiation situation, then here’s some suggested reading material:
3-D Negotiation by David A. Lax and James K. Sebenius
When negotiating a price with a venue, you may need to get creative. I like to keep a pretty open communication route by explaining how many people we are expecting, what kind of music there will be, how much revenue they can expect to make on the bar, and the 18+/21+ ratio (so they know how much water and alcohol they will be expecting to sell). To lower the price, I let them know their price is high due to the fact that we'll be spending $X on sound and lighting because they don't have any, so it'll be extra expenses for me (or whatever the situation is).
Sometimes a deal just doesn't work out. Don't get emotionally invested and always be prepared to walk away from a deal, but don't be a dick or burn any bridges. You might need to use that venue for a future event. Also, some venue owners own several venues in the same city and might be willing to make a better deal on a different venue.
Most of the time, a venue will want a 50% deposit up front and the rest paid the day of the event. Some might even want the whole venue fee up front.
Try not to let the venue take anything from the door if possible. Sometimes a venue will want to add a couple dollars to the door price, so they would get a cut of door sales. I would highly discourage this since it doesn't work in your favor.
What we try to do is work out a much lower price (sometimes free) and a reasonable bar guarantee that we think we can hit. A bar guarantee is when you make sure the bar needs to hit a certain revenue minimum. Say we set a bar guarantee of $2,500 and we only bring in $2,300 at the bar. We would then owe the venue $200 out of the door revenue. We’ve had bar minimums range from $1,000 to $15,000 and mostly depends on the local market. Bar guarantees are a calculated risk and you need to decide if they are right for you.
Don't negotiate a bar minimum unless you're confident that you can bring enough people in the door. Here's a quick formula to determine if you can hit the bar minimum or not:
Expected Bar Revenue = (Expected Number of Guests) * (Average Drink Price) * (2 Drinks)
So, if you're expecting 100 people and average drink prices are around $5, you can expect $1,000 minimum at the bar. Don't agree to a $3,000 bar minimum in this situation. It's just going to cost you a lot of money.
If you are on good terms with the venue, you can work out a deal where you get a certain percentage of the bar over the bar minimum. Again, with the example of a bar guarantee of $2,500 and a revenue split of 10% over that. We bring in $3,000 at the bar. We would then get $50 from the venue [($3,000-$2,500)*10% = $50]. While that’s not much, it can add up if you bring in a lot more, and is a good incentive from the bar for you to bring in a ton of business.
These are the things you're going to want to look for when checking out potential venues. It might be a good idea to write them down on a piece of paper so you remember to ask the venue owner/manager if you can't visually see it. I keep a template made of all these items and fill it out when I check out a new venue to keep it on record if the venue doesn't have a spec sheet of everything that's included (which they normally don't do if they’re a smaller venue).
We’ll cover more of the lighting and sound in a later chapter, but there’s a couple things to look for when scouting venues. Quality sound is one of the big things we look for in a venue. I would recommend testing out their equipment to hear it for yourself if you haven’t been to a show at the venue before. If a bar has sound equipment, but it’s old and busted, you’re going to have bring in all your own sound anyway.
Places that specialize in rock or metal shows will have lighting, but it’s mostly par cans and a strobe, which doesn’t scream “party”. Unless you’re hosting at a club that does a lot of EDM parties, you’re probably going to have to bring your own lighting.
We mostly go through friends to get lighting. Most professional grade lighting companies are going to cost too much for the amount of lighting that you need.
When inquiring for venues, you may want to ask what permits they have. The necessary permits will vary by state/city, but most of them will only be permitted to serve alcohol and have live music until a certain time.
The max capacity is also determined by occupancy permits, but most venues will be uncomfortably crowded before you reach that limit.
EDM events almost always need a bar. If you’re going to do a warehouse party and want to remain legal (depending on your state), I’ve seen promoters get one-day permits to sell alcohol if they’re available in that state. I’ve been to plenty of warehouse parties that had a bar in the corner and sold drinks without a permit, but I obviously can’t advise you to do this.
We try to choose venues with reasonable drink prices for the sake of our patrons, but depending on the area (like New York City), low drink price might be nearly impossible to find.
Age restrictions for your event can be selected at your own discretion. We always aim to make the age limit 18+ and 21+ to drink, but some events will go for 21+ entry or even all ages. It mostly just depends on personal preference and the average maturity you’re looking for in the crowd. 21+ crowds normally have less issues and drama, but it can be harder to get enough 21+ attendees for some parties.
Parking is one of the less important issues, but it’s still something to consider when choosing a venue. If parking is difficult in an area, it may deter people from driving to get there. In most cases, if people want to go out to a party, they’ll find a parking garage or lot and just absorb the cost to park there.
We have run into situations in Philadelphia and Baltimore where parking lots just don’t exist within many blocks of the venue, and on-street parking is difficult in the area. This may deter locals from coming if there is another, easier to park event in the area. For people coming from out of town, parking isn’t a big deal since they were already willing to drive that far.
The most common fee imposed is a venue rental fee. This can typically range from $0 to $15,000 depending on the size, location, and what’s included.
If you’re going to use a bar that does other types of shows where the venue runs the sound, they’re probably going to want to use their own in-house sound guy. That’s fine, but make sure you explain to them that they don’t need all the fancy compressors that they would normally need, and they should only need a brickwall limiter.
With rock shows, they run all the gear into the mixer, then the signal gets compressed so the band doesn’t blow out the sound system. The problem is some of the sound guys compress electronic music and the compressor can cause some weird things to happen to the sound, like random loud spikes or too much distortion.
Another thing that rock shows do is that they start the openers with low volume and work their way up through the bands so the headliner is at max volume. You’re going to want the same volume for the openers as you do for the headliners.
You can resolve both of these problems by having a discussion with the sound guy before you do a soundcheck.
I’ll admit that it’s easier to find venues in high crime areas because the venue owners are usually more desperate for business and are exposed to different kinds of patrons.
For the safety of your guests, I would suggest staying away from the really bad areas. I was going to do an event in the worst area of my hometown, but the venue owner ended up getting shot in his own venue a month before my party. After I had to cancel that one, I’ve tried to avoid high crime areas as much as possible.
You should note the number of rooms and the layout of the venue. Ask yourself all the following questions to figure out if there are any issues that you might have to deal with later.
- How is the flow of the space?
- Are there any small hallways that will be inconvenient to walk through when it's crowded?
- Where are the bathrooms located?
- How many stalls are there in the bathrooms? You may need to bring in portable toilets if there aren't enough.
- How any bar areas are there where drinks can be sold? If there's one small area with just one bartender, it might be too busy and people will get upset with a long line.
Ask the venue owner who's responsible for providing security. Many times, they will want to use their own security for insurance purposes. This may come with an additional fee depending on how many they need to bring in.
Ask the venue owner for a list of available dates. If it doesn't line up with your schedule, you can consider using them for another party. We keep a list of all of our venue contacts and constantly reach out to them for lists of upcoming open dates.
When planning a lineup, you can just book all your friends if you want. That doesn't mean it's going to be a quality lineup, or that the party will have a large attendance.
If you plan the lineup strategically by booking artists based on what they play, how many people they pull in, and their connections, then you're setting yourself up for success.
One of the major impacts of the number of rooms in a venue is the variety of genres available.
The traditional way of booking artists for the rooms is that each room will have a separate genre of music. Like Deep House/Tech House in Room 1, Hard Dance in Room 2, Dubstep/Drum and Bass in Room 3, Chillout in Room 4, etc.
Lately, some promotion companies have been having some of the rooms switch and rotate. This would be where the genres from the previous example would change after every set.
Switching the styles of the rooms causes several things to happen. First, it will switch the entire vibe of the room, which can be fun for the crowd. Second, it will cause people to move around and find what they like. When people are moving around and interacting with each other, it can create a friendlier atmosphere which the crowd is going to remember. If you do this, don’t do ridiculous changes like going from UK Hardcore to Chillout to Drum and Bass. Try to make more logical progressions in the genre rotations.
The way we do it is to have the less energetic genres play at the beginning of the night and work our way up to higher BPMs.
Single room events are cheaper to throw because the venue fee is usually cheaper. The downside is that they are harder to promote, because they offer less variety to the crowd.
You are typically only catering to one type of crowd (bass heads, hard dance heads, etc.) when booking a one room venue and I can be difficult to get the crowds to mix. While this is difficult, it’s not impossible.
After you have a venue picked and your budget set, you can start looking at potential lineups. Start with your headliner slots first and work your way down to the locals. This way, you can be sure not to over book the party with too many acts or go over budget.
Generally, you will want one hour slots for each act. If your party runs 9:00 pm to 3:00 am, you will need 6 acts per room.
If you’re stuck with a certain venue time restriction, but you want to squeeze in another act to the lineup, you can reduce some of the timeslots to 45 minutes. We have found this to be unfavorable unless we have a one room venue and we’re out of options. 1 hour timeslots seem to be preferred by most crowds.
One way we add more artists to a lineup is to have back-to-back sets for artists of the same style. This can get expensive if you’re not working out good deals for the artist payments, but the extra talent can add a ton of hype to the party promotion.
There are a lot of ways to choose local talent. Some people book their friends. Some book whoever will play for free. We’re going to discuss how to book strategically.
First off, make a list of everyone in the area who you could possibly want to book. This can include genres that you maybe wouldn’t normally want, but could still pair well with other acts.
Out of this list, look for the people who have the most popularity yet don’t get booked overly often. If artists get booked too often, it will wear out the novelty and not pull as big of a crowd. You’re going to want people who will provide some promo support as well. While the artists aren’t going to be doing the bulk of the promoting, if they aren’t going to invite their friends or make a couple social media posts a week, then they don’t care about their career as an artist.
Most artists who have made it above the local and regional level will have a booking agent represent them so the artist doesn’t need to deal with promoters directly. The agent's job is to protect the artist by making sure their image is properly represented and the artist gets paid.
Most agents are pretty quick to respond to you and will get back to you within a couple minutes or hours, but some may take up to several weeks to make any progress on a booking. You can more accurately plan your schedule after you have done it a couple times and if you have an idea of which booking agency you're going to get the artist through at the beginning of the planning process.
When initially contacting an agent, it will almost always be through email. There’s no need to have some kind of introductory email introducing yourself, but I suppose it couldn’t hurt to add a very small paragraph at the beginning with some information about you and your company.
Here’s a quick template for sending one that has all the information the agent needs:
PROMOTER COMPANY NAME:
PROMOTER CONTACT NAME:
OFFER (plus hotel):
PLUS FLIGHT OR INCLUSIVE:
PROPOSED SET TIME:
OTHER ARTISTS ON BILL:
OTHER ARTIST SET TIMES:
It’s ok to skip some or leave them blank, because you might not know the other acts or even have the venue locked down yet.
When writing to an agent, you should make it professional, but keep it as short as possible. Some of the larger agencies get hundreds of emails a day and don’t have time to mess around reading 10 paragraphs of rambling.
Negotiating price is a pretty standard procedure that can intimidate a lot of new promoters. After you get some experience, you’ll know what an artist is worth and what a decent offer is.
We try to rationalize a headliner’s value based on how many people we know we can bring in from putting their name on the flyer.
My best advice is don’t get overly attached to one artist and don’t be afraid to walk away from a discussion if you’re not getting the price you want. Some agents will give an unreasonably high price and try to hardball you, but come crawling back weeks or months later when they can’t find a promoter willing to take the high price.
I’ve seen new promoters try to book an artist for a pretty high price and get turned down, then get mad at the artist because they think that the artist is being unreasonable. You need to understand that sometimes the artists can get very high booking fees in their home country or local area. If they can continue getting booked at that high price and there’s no slowdown of demand for them, then there’s no point in lowering their price, taking a few days off their normal schedule when they might be producing, and flying to your area. Unfortunately, you’re competing with every other promoter in the world for price.
Some of the artists we want from the Netherlands will consistently play for crowds of 5,000 or more people so they can get booking fees of maybe $7,000 minimum. Here in the United States where demand is much lower, say 500 person crowds, we might not be able to offer more than $3,500. A lot of promoters say “They’re still getting paid something, so they should just take it.”, but if you had the option of making 100% more money, you’d probably take the higher paying gig.
Pricing can vary depending on whether the person is on tour and if they are international.
One-off events for international artists can be fairly pricey. An international flight is can be figured as $1,000 and decent hotel as $300.
The artist booking fee for a headliner can range from $600 to $10,000 for a reasonable artist, so have a good idea of what to offer ahead of time. If you offer too little, the agent might not even respond to you. If you offer too much, a booking agent isn’t going to say “Hey, you might want to offer less. You’re paying us too much.” They’re just going to take it or even ask for more and pretend you’re still not paying enough to make you feel like you’re getting a good deal.
After the artist price is negotiated and most of the details have been worked out, the agent will send you a contract with the details and some general conditions. Most of these conditions cover extreme case scenarios and you don’t have anything to worry about, but you should still read the whole contract carefully so you know all of your obligations.
It’s very important that you check the contract to make sure it says who is responsible for the hotel, transportation, and flights. We’ve seen plenty of other promoters run into situations where they didn’t check for that and they overran their budget by a few thousand dollars because of flights that they didn’t account for.
The artist’s riders will accompany the contract. There will be a technical rider with the gear they need and a personal rider with what they want to drink, eat, or any transportation requirements, like a limo for the much larger acts. I’ve only run into a couple situations where the artist needs some kind of upgraded transportation, and in those cases, that would be such a small percentage of your budget that it doesn’t matter.
If you’re expecting an expensive rider, you can put a limit on the rider so it doesn’t exceed a certain cost in negotiation with the agent before you sign the contract. You need to discuss that before you sign the contract because after it’s signed, you’re responsible for all the incurred costs.
After the contract is signed and the deposit has been made, the agent will send you the press kit. This contains all the information that should be displayed when promoting the artist. It will contain a logo, headshots, a description for the Facebook page, and some social media links.
After you get this package, forward it on to your graphic designer with the instruction on which items to include on the artwork.
Local artists don’t usually have booking agents, so their process is much simpler. The best way to contact them is to either find their email on their Facebook page and send them a short email with the details and an offer, or just add them as a friend and give a short introduction, details, and offer. Some local artists use contracts, but most will just use the emails or messages you send them as agreements.
The standard rate of pay for locals is somewhere between $50 and $300 for locals depending on their popularity and what they can do to help the party out. Some local artists will be able to provide promotional support, provide lighting/sound, or other services.
For payment, most locals will be fine with either cash or PayPal/Venmo. The way it normally works is you would have all the cash in envelopes with the artist name written on the envelope. When the artist comes in the door or at the end you give them the payment. Sometimes the local artists will give you a contract that might require a deposit a couple of days before the event, but it's not normally the case.
Your Facebook event page will be the main point of contact for people attending your event. If the information on the event page is disorganized or confusing, it's going to cause people to not attend.
When you create the event page, make sure you do it from your company Facebook page. Your page will have people who subscribed to your event list and they will be notified whenever you create a new event. Add all the co-promoter companies as admins so all of their subscribers are also notified.
When you're first creating the page, make sure you create it as a public event. After you create the page, you can't change the visibility settings and if you create a private event, it's going to be much harder for people to find your event.
The information that you NEED to include is:
Location (Venue name and address)
The optional information you can include is:
Event description (Sometimes a short backstory)
Social media links
Hotels in the area
Transportation methods (In big cities you can give the nearest subway stop)
Scheduling can be a very simple or complex task depending on how large your event is and how many events you plan at one time. We try to use scheduling so our team has a good idea of when which kind of promoting needs done at which part of the process.
When we're planning one event at a time, we can come up with a fairly accurate schedule, but it can easily be thrown off by any small disturbance. The artwork can show up a week late, the headliner's agent might be on vacation and not responding, there may be issues finding the right DJs. Something always comes up and throws the schedule off.
If we're planning 5 events at once, we just throw scheduling to the wind and use our instincts and experience to judge it because we would spend all of our time updating schedules and not actually get any work done.
Here's a basic outline for a schedule. You can place time values next to the items and place them in a Gantt chart or calendar to find out how far ahead you need to be planning for an event. We typically use two to three months as the minimum planning period for a small event.
The artwork for your event has the ability to make or break your party. For consistency sake, all of your artwork should have the same branding style across all the templates.
Unless you have a lot of experience with graphic design, I recommend you hire a designer who has worked with other promotion companies. Some graphic designers leave their name on the flyer, so it’s usually easy to track down designers who have worked with rave promoters in the past.
Thanks to the wonderful communication power of the internet, you don’t necessarily need to choose a local designer. Many of our graphic designers are from Europe or across the country.
Contrary to what you may believe, it’s not going to cost you a crazy amount to get a professional graphic artist, and will be one of the most important investments you make. The artwork will be everyone’s first impressions of your event and will have a huge impact on their decision to attend.
Flyers have always been the most important piece of artwork for raves. They’re used on social media, printed flyers, posters, and for online ad space. The flyer is essentially what’s going to drive the branding of the event.
A flyer should include the party name/logo, date, venue name, address, ticket price, lineup (logos for the headliners and text for the local acts to make things easier for the graphic designer), the promotion company logos, and possibly a shortened ticket link or website.
Many times, the headliner will have headshots or promo pictures that their agent will give you to put on the flyer.
Text shouldn’t be too small so it isn’t difficult to read and can still be read when printed. The text also shouldn’t be so large that it takes up so much space that it feels crowded. Most designers will have the common sense to make it look good.
Banners are mostly just used for the Facebook event page, but they can also be used for individual promoter profiles. You should check for the most recent update, but the dimensions are currently 828 px by 315 px.
The banner should include the event name, date, location, and production company logo at the bare minimum. You may also want to include the headliner logos, headliner headshots, and possibly the local acts typed out.
Most events won’t need a profile picture, but they’re good for giving to your street team for some extra hype. These squares can also be used on Instagram and other social networking sites to raise awareness.
The profile picture should be the most simplistic of all the artwork. It will just include the event name and some text like “I’M ATTENDING…” to let people know it’s a party.
Depending on how the flyer was designed, we sometimes just crop the flyer to a square and use that as a profile picture.
Artist spotlights are an additional method of promoting that should only be reserved for huge parties because of the extra costs involved. We’ve found that they are probably the least effective promotion method we’ll be discussing.
The artist spotlight image will include the party name, artist logo, and a headshot.
You should do a write up along with it that has the artist’s name, bio, and social media links.
Any decent graphic designer can knock a batch of these out in a couple minutes because they would create one template then switch out the artist logos and headshots for each one.
When posting the artist spotlights, you should schedule a couple of them (maybe 2 a week) in the weeks leading up to the event. You don’t want to post them too far before the event or you’ll lose the momentum you built by posting them. It’s a good idea to start with the least popular artist spotlight and work your way up to the biggest.
Videos are one of the most effective way of promoting your event. You should throw a couple good events with a videographer so that you can build up a quality archive of footage to pull from for promo videos. The expense of hiring a videographer is offset by the amount of people a good promo video will bring.
There are an infinite number of ways to promote your event, so you can get very creative with ways to get people in the door. I’ll just discuss ways that are tried and true, but it’s fun to invent news ways of promoting that maybe haven’t been tried before.
Flyering is one of the oldest ways of promoting events and is still fairly effective. Many promotion companies are opting for online only advertising because you can reach more people in a smaller amount of time with fewer street team members flyering events.
Printing posters can get very expensive very fast. I would only reserve this for large parties with large budgets. They aren’t as effective as many of the other methods in this guide. Because posters are fairly expensive, you need to place them strategically to get the most bang for your buck.
When putting up posters, find areas that have a lot of traffic. If the venue you are throwing your event at hosts similar events, hang some up in that venue.
Telephone poles outside of other venues that host events, inside your other events, in small businesses like coffee shops and hookah bars that party people frequent and areas around your venue are probably the only other areas to put them up that are worth the money for small events. Large events can afford hang them up all over their city and even neighboring cities.
I know some people will disagree with me, but I don’t believe in making spammy looking posts like “!!!PARTY THIS WEEKEND!!! INViTe ALL UR FRIENDS1!! *insert 50 hashtags* *event link*”. It looks like spam and usually gets ignored. Sometimes promoters can get away with it on their personal page if they make posts like that all the time, but it still reflects on the event and the promotion company. If everyone ignores your posts, there won’t be any interaction, which will lower your EdgeRank (Facebook reach) score.
The best way to get your posts seen is by paying to sponsor them. You should sponsor almost everything you post to make sure you're visible to as many relevant people as possible. Use the Facebook targeting features to make sure you’re focusing on just within your local states and targeting fans of pages relevant to your genre.
When I sponsor a post, I’ll pick the state we have the party in, every surrounding state, the headlining artists, any artists similar to those, and the genres themselves. Choose a good variety of tags so you can reach a larger audience.
Facebook’s typical organic reach on posts has dropped down to around 1%, so paying for advertising is the most effective way to have your posts seen. A way to increase your EdgeRank score and organic reach is to have your team share posts from your page wall to their personal wall and any groups they’re in.
Going hand-in-hand with sharing posts to increase visibility, contests should all be posted on the promotion company page. You can do a contest where you post a flyer or contest image and users need to like the photo, comment on it, and share the post to be entered to win. Set a date so users know when to stop and so you can pick a winner.
We’ll usually run a sharing contest for a week before the event, and up until a day or two before the event. We will then select a winner and announce who it is publicly. How you choose the winners is up to you.
Try to share your event or post something about your event at least 3 times a week. Make sure all your promoters do the same.
Some ideas for items to post on the event page:
- Artist mixes
- Artist tracks
- Photos from previous events
One of the advantages of posting your event in groups is that it will notify all the group members that something has been posted in the group.
Find a couple large groups in your area by using Facebook’s search function by looking for “[YOUR LOCATION] EDM”, “[YOUR LOCATION] Ravers”, etc. Also try general locations like “Midwest”, your state, or cities in your area.
Artist spotlights are normally reserved for larger events where there are many large artists worth highlighting and due to the extra work involved.
You should have all of your artist spotlights prepared ahead of time and scheduled before hand using Facebook’s page post scheduling feature.
As mentioned before, I would suggest having 2 or 3 artist spotlights per week and ascending from least popular to main headliner to help build hype. With the spotlight image, you should include the artist’s name, bio, and social media links.
After the spotlight is posted, have your promotion team share the post on their timelines, groups, and post it in the event for everyone to see.
Instagram has quickly become one of the leading social media sites, especially for the under 21 age group. Make sure you take advantage of this by squarifying all your images and posting them to Instagram as well.
When you don’t have an event coming up, post interesting or funny pictures to your account to keep people interested.
If you keep a promo company website, keep a calendar on it to inform visitors of all your upcoming parties.
Online ticket sellers will give you the option to download certain information about your customers. One of the items you can download is the email address.
Sign up with an email marketing company and load all these email addresses into it. The best companies I have found are MailChimp and Mad Mimi because they have a lot of features that simplify the process of creating great looking newsletters.
In your newsletter, you can include all of your upcoming events, exclusive email-campaign-only deals, event announcements, lineup drops, DJ mixes for headliners, and more. Get creative with it. High quality email content will make users less likely to unsubscribe.
Paid website advertising and Google Adwords should only be reserved for massive events like EDC Las Vegas, Ultra Music Festival, and other events that draw crowds from all across the world.
It’s more difficult than Facebook to target specific locations and user interests, so these other advertising platforms will eat up a lot of your small budget. My advice would be to stay away from this until you’re ready to move up to throwing large festivals.
This is mini-guide is going to cover the basics of these areas. There are professionals who specialize in each of them who I would recommend hiring whenever necessary.
It’s normally cheaper to hire professionals to do it because they own their own gear, but use it enough to pass some savings onto you and more than likely can do a better job of doing it than you.
If you’re only throwing a party once every month, by the time you get your money’s worth out of a $10,000 sound system, all the gear will be busted and need to be replaced. You could hire a professional to bring it in for a couple hundred dollars and it should always be in good conditions and constantly upgraded.
I would only suggest buying your own gear if you plan on doing this long term and can afford decent quality products. If you buy cheap gear, there’s a good chance you’ll be buying more very shortly after to upgrade or replace broken parts.
I'll be writing a separate guide to cover these in more depth. For now, here's a general overview of some of the terms you'll see so you know who to hire.
If your venue doesn't have a stage, I would recommend building one. If you have the space to store them, they're very inexpensive to build and you can use them for years.
Here's a quick guide on how to build one: https://www.pioneerdrama.com/Newsletter/Articles/Stage_Platform.asp
For the DJ booth that will hold all the equipment, I would recommend that you just use a sturdy table to start. If you use a weak table, it could collapse from all the gear on top of it.
We've built booths that you can disassemble and take to different shows and they're a hassle to take around. If you're going to build one, it needs to be almost 8 feet long to hold 4 CDJs and a mixer. You need a truck or large van to carry it around and if you don't build it sturdy enough, it will collapse if a DJ jumps on top of it.
Truss is the metal bars holds the lights. It's typically hung over the stage and over the crowd in multiple areas. The lights are attached to the truss with O-clamps and couplers. For added safety, make sure you use safety cables so your lights don't fall on to someone in the crowd. You could be held liable for injuries incurred from negligence if something like that were to happen.
When setting up truss, don't hang it from anything that's not designed to carry a load. Your best options are holding the truss on tripods or hanging it from a load supporting I-beam. Use straps that are designed to hold enough load if you hang it from a ceiling beam and make sure it is completely secured.
Here's a guide on lasers until I can make one: http://www.laserist.org/guide-to-laser-shows.htm
Fog is a great way to add some ambiance to the room. It allows light to become more visible in the air. Usually, you're going to want a fog that isn't too dense that will lay near the ground. You want your fog to fill the entire room and disperse evenly.
If you want to use lasers, then you need to have fog for the beams to be more visible. You don't need a lot in the air. The lasers just need some kind of small particles in the air to bounce off of.
CO2 can be fairly expensive and doesn't last very long. One tank might last a couple blasts into the crowd. Large crowds love it and it can add a lot of hype to a headliner's set.
Confetti cannons and CO2 go hand in hand, because confetti cannons are typically powered by CO2. If you use confetti, be prepared for several hours of cleanup work after the party because it gets everywhere. Many venues don't allow confetti because it get stuck up in the lights and could potentially cause a fire.
The number of speakers you need will depend on the shape and size of the room. I've seen the estimate "5 watts for each 1 person on the dancefloor" which is probably about accurate, but on the low-side. For a small 300 person party, we'll bring 8 200-watt subwoofers and 2 double high wattage tops. You can scale that up to whatever the capacity of your room size is.
Stage Sound / Monitors
On the stage, you will need monitors for the DJs. The reason you need the monitor is because the sound system will be pointing towards the sound, and you will be hearing a delayed version of the sound on stage after it reverberates around the room. The monitor will be louder than the reverberation so the DJ can mix accurately.
All you really need is a PA speaker. Some DJs will prefer a monitor on both sides, but it’s not necessary unless specified in the rider.
The size of the monitors will depend on the size of the main sound system. There’s no magic formula for it, but you need to be able to hear that monitor over the rest of the sound when you’re in the DJ booth.
Sometimes, riders will specify a certain type of stage sound for the artists. Read the technical rider carefully to see if they need any extra bass or a specific make and model of monitor speakers.
The modern minimum that you need is 2 CDJ-900s and a DJM-800. This will run you anywhere from $50 to $200 to rent, but I wouldn’t suggest paying anywhere near the high end.
Unless a DJ on the lineup has it on their rider, there’s no need to rent 4 CDJs. We will usually have a 3rd on hand in case one of them goes bad during the night, which happens more often than we like.
The suggested setup is 3 CJD-2000s and a DJM-900.
If a DJ wants to use a controller or some alternative set up, they are usually supposed to supply it, but confirm with them to make sure. I've had gigs where I would show up and need to play on CDJs, but the promoter assumed I would bring my own controller like the other DJs on the lineup.
The best way to get the DJ gear is to get a DJ to bring it and pay them a little extra to rent their gear for the night.
Some riders will have specific setups that the headliner will need. Sometimes they will need 4 CDJ-2000s, a DJM-2000, extra power outlets, a specific kind of microphone, or anything else. As with the other sections, read the rider carefully to see what the artists need.
Photos and videos are a great way to recap your event and get everyone who went to get involved with tagging their friends. Photographers and videographers should be booked several weeks ahead of the event.
Photographers are pretty easy to find on the scene because they are usually used repeatedly by many production companies in the same area. If you have a friend who does photography, it's worth asking them to do it.
The typical pay rate for photographers can be anywhere between just a comp and $250 depending on quality. Agree on a payment amount and when it will be paid ahead of time. Some like to be paid on their way into the party, some don't mind being paid until the end.
Not all events require videographers, but they are useful if you're trying to build a solid brand. You can archive the footage to make promo videos or make an aftermovie if your party is a huge success. The price of videographers can vary greatly and so can the quality, so do some research or find a friend with a solid video reputation.
You can’t run the event by yourself. You’re going to need a small team of people to help you out. While you can organize the staff’s positions however you would like, my recommended list of staff would include:
- Ticket salesman
- Stage manager
- Sound tech
- Lighting tech
- Other production tech and stagehands if necessary
- Merchandise vendor
I’ve excluded bartender because I’m under the assumption that you’ll be using a venue that will take care of the bar. Most of the positions are self-explanatory, so I’m only going to cover a couple off the list.
Whoever runs your ticket sales should be a trusted friend, someone that you can trust, or yourself. This person is handling pretty much all the cash the comes through the door, which can add up to tens of thousands of dollars on a great night.
If we expect to do a lot of sales at the door, I like to stop by the door every once in a while to do a money drop. That is where we take almost all the money out of the cash box, count it, then put in in a safe spot. If you choose to do this, your safe spot would preferably a safe in a backroom of the venue or locked in the trunk of your car.
A stage manager is job that is necessary for slightly larger events. As your events get bigger, you will have other things to manage during the event and many different issues will be fighting for your attention at once. By delegating the task of managing the production, you will be able to keep better focus during the event and everything will run smoothly.
Your stage manager should be someone who has at least a little bit of experience running events, because this is position may require many different skill sets. You should supply the stage manager with the riders to review before the event so the stage manager has an idea of what they need to do during the event.
The primary job of the stage manager is to be the first line of defense that will take care of any issues that may interrupt the event. If any of the gear breaks on stage, they need to either be able to fix it, quickly set up a new piece of equipment, or know who to contact to get it fixed. CDJ’s break or fault all the time during events, so the stage manager needs to be prepared to change them out on the fly.
If an artist needs something from their rider, it’s the stage manager’s job to either get what the artist needs, or call on someone quickly to get what’s needed. This is why it’s important for the stage manager to review the riders before the event.
I usually contact the headliners before the event to see what time the artist wants to arrive at the party. I then hand that information off to the stage manager to coordinate rides for various artists.
A couple days before the event, you should confirm all your rentals, confirm artist transportation, confirm artist riders are taken care of, and make a checklist of all the details you need to remember are taken care of. It's easy to forget small details in the craziness of the day of the event. If you have other people handling jobs (like getting items that are needed, giving rides to artists, etc), make sure they know exactly what their role is and what they need to take care of.
Set a time to load into the venue the day of the event. Depending how large your event is, this could take anywhere between 1 to 8 hours. Make sure your visuals, sound, and equipment people know the load in time and agree to it.
If you have payments to make for artists, photographers, or other staff, put their payments in envelopes and have them ready at the door when they walk in. This is to ensure everyone gets paid in a timely fashion.
Expect to be running around and making phone calls the entire day of your event. There's always issues with rentals showing up late, gear missing, DJs not being able to make it, venue owners showing up late to unlock for load in, and other problems. You need to be able to think on your feet and come up with alternative solutions in a heartbeat.
After the party starts and everything is running smoothly, you can relax a little bit. Talk to people, keep an eye on everything going on around you, deal with any issues at security, help run the doors, make sure the artists are taken care of, and buy some drinks for your VIP guests.
If you haven’t already paid the DJs, photographer and other staff that need to be paid, now is the time to do it. I like to have all the payments in envelopes beforehand to make it faster and make sure that everyone gets paid.
Expect to take a couple hours cleaning up after the party. Load-out is normally much quicker than load-in for your rentals and equipment.
The venue is normally a mess after the event. I always try to have a couple of my staff help clean up after the event. Even if venue owner has people who they pay to clean it up, it looks good on you if you have your staff help clean up.
Close out with the venue if you made a bar guarantee to see if you owe them money or they owe you money.
The next day, contact your photographers to see when they plan on releasing the photos. Help your photographers promote them after they are released.
Another small stream of revenue you can take advantage of is selling merchandise. To do this, you need to make sure you have a logo and design that are good enough to sell. If you make a bunch of merchandise that looks like garbage because you have an amateur logo, you’re wasting a ton of money that you’ll never recoup.
I could probably write an entire guide on product merchandising, but here are some item ideas to get you started:
- USB drives
There’s a science behind what stock to keep for shirt sizes, but I’ve generally found that the ratio is something like:
- XS: 1
- S: 1
- M: 2
- L: 2
- XL: 1
- XXL: 0.5
So if you’re ordering a shipment, you would want:
- XS: 10
- S: 10
- M: 20
- L: 20
- XL: 10
- XXL: 5
My preferred way of selling the merchandise is to give a trusted vendor free vending space if they run of our booth too. It’s cheaper than paying someone to run the merch booth all night and easier to organize than taking volunteers.