How To Throw Your Own Event/Show [Mini course]
Before you get booked for shows, it’s highly recommended that you throw your own. Throwing your own events can help you build leverage to get booked for more shows in the future (as you can get footage of the event and use that video to send to venues that can potentially book you). You’ll get a feel for exactly what goes into it which will allow you to easier negotiate with venues and promoters in the future.
But how do you throw your own event?
Where do you even start?
It’s actually not that hard. A bit annoying at times but not impossible by any means. Plus, we’re here to help.
Let’s dig right in shall we?
There are a lot of little things that go into putting on an event. Great events are properly planned. Before digging into the rest of this guide, take out a pen and paper (or open up a google doc in a new tab if that’s more your thing) and start writing out the plan as you’re reading.
Where will the event take place? Who will be your opening acts? How much will the ticket prices be?
Great events keep people entertained.
Throwing an event costs money. From venues costs to hiring a photographer and everything in between, you’ll want to map out your expected expenses and potential profits in advance.
If the event is successful it will have paid for itself and you’ll make a profit. However you also take the chance on losing money if things aren’t properly planned out.
Sometimes you can work it out where mosts of your expenses will get paid on the back end (after the event) while some costs may have to be paid up front. It’s not uncommon for venues to want their money in advance (unless you already have a track record of selling out shows) and it’s not uncommon for DJ’s and talent to want their money in advance as well.
To get an idea of how much money you can potentially make, let’s start by calculating ticket prices.
How many tickets can you sell? And how much money will you make if you sell out? Will you sell advanced tickets at a cheaper price than buying at the door? Will you be giving away any tickets? You’ll want to decide on these things before going much further. If you know how much you can potentially make, you’ll be able to come up with a reasonable budget to spend on things such as the venue and other featured talent.
Let’s say you plan on selling 250 tickets.
At $10/ticket that’s a potential $2500 revenue.
If you want to try and make more money, you can sell advance tickets for $10 and door tickets at $15. In order to make a profit, you’ll want to keep your costs below $1,250-1500.
Check the venue's average ticket prices for shows similar to the size that you'll be throwing and see what makes sense for your event.
Booking the Venue
Determining the venue will depend on a few things:
How many tickets can you sell? It’s better to book a smaller venue and sell it out vs booking a venue that’s too big and not packing it out. You want to book smaller venues to pack those and build relationships with the promoters, booking managers, and of course build your show reports. So it’s best to be realistic when it comes to the amount of tickets you’re confident in selling and probably start with a smaller venue. Plus if you can pack it out it’ll look good on video.
How much can you afford? The bigger the venue, the bigger the price tag. If you’re reading this article we’re assuming you’re pretty new to this and you’re looking at venues that hold between 150-1000 people. These venues tend to range from $200-$2500 to book.
Finding the right venue
If you live in a big city, you’ve probably been to a few cool venues to see other artists. When scouting venues you should start with what you’re familiar with and see if any of those venues would make sense for your event.
If you’re not familiar with any venues in your home town that would fit for your event, there’s a really cool resource called Indie On the Move that has an entire database of venues that you can search through by area. There’s also Pollstar which has a database of venues and can be used as another means to grab promoter, manager, booking manager, etc. contacts.
If house parties and very intimate events are more your thing, you can use AirBnB to find spaces that allow parties and go that route instead of booking a venue.
Contacting the venue
Securing the venue is as easy as finding their website, looking for the contact info and either filling out a contact form on their website or emailing the booking email.
Make sure that you’re professional and that you include the necessary information such as event overview/details and prospective dates that you’re looking to book. You should try to book the venue few months in advance so that you’ll have time for the rest of your planning and promoting.
The venue will fill you in on booking costs and other details needed to solidify the date.
While you should already have an idea of how much you want to sell tickets for, you should speak with the venue about it to see what their feedback is. They may tell you that you have to sell tickets at $10, they may tell you that they typically sell tickets for a big higher. Talk to the venue about ticket prices to avoid any misunderstandings that could have been avoided.
Some venues are 21+ whereas other venues allow 18+ and on some rare occasions you’ll find a family friendly venue that welcomes all ages. You should have a conversation with the venue about this and make sure that they can accommodate for the age group of your fans.
Checking the Sound and Equipment
You should check in with the venue to see what equipment they have on hand and if there’s any equipment you’ll need to provide. Most venues have their own sound system so you usually don’t have to worry about speakers, however you should check to see that the venue provides a basic back line set up that consists of at least
(2) Turntables (Technics 1200 or Equivalent)
(1) DJ Mixer (Rane TTM57 or Equivalent)
(1) Serato Scratch Live Box
(1) 6’8’ DJ Table
You should speak with the venue to make sure that you set a time not just for the event itself but also for sound check. The venue may charge you for every hour that you plan on being at the venue (not just for the few hours that the event takes place) so make sure this is discussed in advance as you’ll need to tell everyone else what time you plan on having soundcheck (it’s typically 2-3 hours before the event starts).
Sealing the deal
Once all event details are mapped out, be sure that you get everything in writing and re-confirm details with the venue so that there’s no confusion and everything runs smoothly.
Booking the Talent + DJ
While you’re most likely planning on being the headliner for your show, you may want to team up with a few other artists and add them to the bill as well in order to sell more tickets.
Finding the talent
If you have other artist friends who are in your circle, you can ask them if they’d want to perform. If you don’t already know any potential performers, hop on social media and start searching for other artists in your area (and surrounding areas) that have a similar target audience as you and reach out to them.
Paying the talent
If you already know what your budget is for your show then you already know how much money you can spend on booking talent. Another way to go about it would be to have the artists sell their own tickets to make a profit (instead of paying them a flat fee regardless of how many tickets they sell). You can then take a % of each of their ticket sales (or give them a certain amount of tickets that they can keep all of the profit from). If this is your first event, try to keep your talent booking costs to a minimum.
Solidifying details in writing
Once each artist agrees to do the show, you should send them an agreement in writing that lays out the details of the event including: venue, date, performance time, performance length, payment details, time of sound check, and any other specific details (for instance, will they have a place to sell their merch?). Having things in writing helps things run smoother and it also holds both parties accountable.
Finding the right DJ
Aside from booking the artists, you may need to book a DJ to both play the tracks for the artists sets as well as keep the party going in between sets. You may already be familiar with a few of your local DJ’s. If not, social media is your best friend. Some of the artists on the bill might have their own DJ so you may want to inquire with them and see if their DJ would mind DJ’ing the entire show. A local DJ is most likely going to cost you anywhere from $125-500 for the night.
Getting Sound/Equipment Requirements
Making sure everyone’s set sounds perfect is one of the keys to having a great show. You should already know the backline set up that the venue provides so you should send this to the DJ and each of the artists and make sure they don’t need any added equipment (if they do, you should let them know that it’s their responsibility to provide it). You should also see how the DJ prefers to handle the artists music (for instance, do they prefer to get the music emailed to them in advance? or is it okay for artists to bring their songs on a flash drive the night of the event?). Get this information and relay it to all of the artists in advance ( and in writing).
Promoting Your Event + Selling Tickets
Now that the venue and the talent are booked, how the hell are you going to get people in the door?
Don’t panic as there are many ways to do this and we’re about to lay them all out for you now:
Design a flyer + promo video: In order to promote your event you’ll want to create a flyer and some other cool content that you can use to promote the event (like a promo video). If you have multiple artists performing you can create a different flyer for each of them to use when promoting (maybe their flyer has just their photo on it and lists the other performers). You can also create animated event flyers and even grab video snippets from past performances to use when promoting the event. Whatever you do, make sure your flyer and promo content is eye catching and doesn’t look sloppy (as a horrible event flyer doesn’t make people want to come out). You can hire a professional graphic designer to create the flyers or you can use a program like Canva or a phone app like Over or Adobe Spark Post.
Create the RSVP page: In order to keep track of how many tickets you’re selling, you should create an RSVP page where fans can purchase tickets for the event. The easiest and most popular ways to do this is by using EventBrite or SplashThat. Eventbrite is simple and has a cool feature that lets people choose what artist they’re purchasing tickets for (which is very helpful if you’re paying the artists a percentage based on how many tickets they sell in advance). Splashthat is more aesthetically pleasing however. Both get the job done.
Add the RSVP Link to Your Social Media Bios so fans can access it easily. If you have a Linktree, add the link to the top of it and make it say “grab your tickets for [insert show title, venue and date].
Share the Event On Social Media first to announce the event, then consistently leading up to the event.
Announce the Event to Your Newsletter: You should send out a newsletter to your mailing list letting them know about the event and asking them to RSVP. You can even offer them discounted tickets (since they are subscribed to your newsletter so they get the goodies).
Promote the event with a targeted ad: In order to make people aware of the event who may not be following you, you’ll want to create an ad for the event (you can promote the flyer or a promotional video). You can target the venue and zip codes for the surrounding areas. Run the ad for a few weeks leading up to the event.
Get other artists to share the flyer and content,
Hold a contest for people to win tickets,
Event Day checklist
You’ve done all that planning and promoting and the big day is finally here! While you should plan on having lots of fun, event day can also be a bit stressful as you’ll need to make sure everything is in order and running smoothly before the fun starts. This is your event so you’ll be the person that everyone will come to with questions and you’re the one in charge of making sure the event runs smoothly.
Check in with the venue and all of the artists the morning of the event. Make sure everyone’s all set and prepared for the event this evening and make sure everyone has your cell phone number so they can contact you if they need to.
Send out one last email reminder to your newsletter and make sure you post the event one last time on all of your social media channels. Let everyone know that now’s the last chance to purchase advance tickets.
Show up early for sound check and try to link with the sound guy and the venue’s event manager before everyone shows up. Thank the venue for allowing you to throw the event and give a bright thankful smile to the sound guy (maybe toss him a $20 tip up front as they usually ensures that he’ll be on your side throughout the night).
Greet each of the artists and have them do soundcheck in the order they they show up to the venue. If an artist gets there early, don’t have them waiting around for sound check. Introduce them to the sound guy, make sure their set up is on point and see if they need anything or if they’re good to go for tonight’s event.