Work In Progress: Benefit Gig Guide

3 posts / 0 new
Last post
Joined: 14-10-03
Nov 28 2006 03:45
Work In Progress: Benefit Gig Guide

I'm posting this here as there's been a thread somewhere else about gigs (it's a bit rougher than I had planned it would be when I posted it up). all the same, comments are very welcome. This isn't high on my to do list, but should be finished in next month or so.

Thanks in advance for your comments!

Organising Benefit Gigs

So, you’ve got a cause that needs money. You’ve asked your musical friends if they’re up for organising a benefit gig and they keep on forgetting. Yes, you are going to have to organise it if it’s going to happen. This guide should be all you’ll need to put on a successful gig.

Gigs are a lot of work. Don’t rush into it expecting it to be easy.

Before You Get Carried Away

* It’s best to start small. It’s easy to lose money on benefit gigs. Until you’ve got into the swing of things, operate as cheaply as you can.

* Organise your first gig well in advance if you can.

* If you’re not going to publicise your gig, don’t bother putting it on.


Without a venue, there can be no benefit gig. Find a suitable venue for the music you want to put on. If you’re unsure about venues ask on a local internet music forum. If you are even an occasional gig goer/punter you should have an idea of what’s going on where. There will be times in some areas where there are no obvious venues. Pubs can apply for temporary entertainment licenses to put on live music: if they think you’re going to pack out their place they’ll often let you have their venue for free, though most venues of this sort will want some sort of deposit.

Venue Checklist

How much will it cost?
Can you charge on the door?
What are the age restrictions?
Does it have its own PA?
Are you not just pencilled in, but fully confirmed?
Does it have a sound limiter?
When does the music have to stop?


Now: the important part!

You need to get some bands to play for you. Don’t expect to be able to get Radiohead or Metallica. If you’re following my advice, best to start with local bands or ones from pretty close by. Musical ability is not the most important issue. You need bands that are going to bring the punters in, and thereby raise funds and awareness about for whatever cause you are promoting.

At the time of going to press (Nov 2006) the best and easiest way to contact bands is through Myspace, possibly in conjunction with any local music websites. If you’re not familiar with Myspace it’s worth getting familiar with it purely for organising gigs. It’s also worth talking to bands at gigs locally: just approach them after the gig and ask them if they’re up for playing a benefit gig for your cause. However, if you’re doing this make sure you get phone numbers and contact details because they’ll have lots of similar conversations and probably forget.

The most important thing to do is get as popular a headliner as you can. A lot of people go to gigs not for the music but to hang around, about half only bother to watch the last band. So make sure it’s a popular one! The other thing to watch at this point is how much money the band wants. For benefit gigs, they’ll generally only want expenses, but this could still end up being a lot of money. So be upfront about it. I feel quite strongly that bands should not be out of pocket for playing benefit gigs: so offer expenses upfront and ask what they’re going to be.

Once you’ve got your headliner, approach other bands as support slots. You can make an open offer in a forum local bands use: you’ll more often than not get quite a lot of offers. Also ask about their expenses up front.

Questions for Bands Checklist Pt 1

Is the gig confirmed? (Listed on their myspace and any other webpages)

Once the bands are confirmed you can start doing some promotion for the gig. (Or at least the headliner and one of the supports).

If expenses are high you can offer the bands “door share” a proportion of the takings on the door. Also you can offer to guarantee a certain amount, and then offer more if the gig raises a lot of money.

In general you’re best off going for the average gig price in the area. In Norwich, gigs with a touring band and local support are in the region of £2 to £4. Our gigs are normally £3. £3 seems to be the upper limit of “cheap” for a gig. Obviously if expenses are high you’ll need a higher price. Factor in the capacity of the venue, how big crowds normally are for bands of similar stature in your area.

Other Fundraising
You can make money on other things besides the door! If you’re renting a community centre/church hall, you can make a lot of money selling drinks/cakes/food. It’s also worth having a donations pot.


For your average band you’ll need a guitar amp, a bass amp, a drum kit, a PA and some microphones. More likely than not, you’ll have to hire a PA*, some (generally larger and more expensive) venues have their own. The other equipment in most cases you’ll be able to borrow from bands.

When borrowing equipment, it’s the norm to ask the headliner for their equipment first, then work your way down the line-up.

Each guitar will need an amp, and each bass will need a bass amp.

The PA is the massive set of speakers normally used for vocals as well as the mixing desk. Ask whoever you’re hiring it off what they recommend for the venue you’re using.

You’ll need a drumkit. Expect each drummer to bring their own “disposables” meaning bass kick pedal and snare. Some drummers are precious about their cymbals as well.

Questions for Bands Checklist Pt 2

Set length?
A telephone number?
What equipment do they need?
What equipment do they have that they don’t mind other bands using? (Amps & drum kits)
(Optional) Is there anyone who’s good with setting up PAs?

Running Times
Once you know how long each band wants you can plan the running times for the night. If a band offers you a vague length i.e. “30-45 minutes”, go for the shorter length in most cases apart from the headliner. Better to get the best material than the filler.

Most bands will need 10 minutes at the most to change over between sets. The most important thing to establish is when a band needs to get off the stage. Once the next band on is up their and fiddling around, it’s their problem if they waste time because it’s eating their set.

Next you need to allow time for getting the PA set up, sound checking and furniture rearranging. Allow as long as is feasible so that if something goes wrong you’ve got time to sort it out. I normally allow at least an hour, more like an hour and half in practice.


Finish: 10:45
Headliner: 10:05
Changeover: 9:55
Band 9:25
Changeover 9:15
Band 8:45
Changeover 8:35
Band 8:05
Bands arrive 6:30

“Let The Bands Know” Checklist

When to get there
Where to get fliers/posters


You’ll need to design a poster. If you’ve got a mate who can do it, that’s great: but to be honest, cut out all unnecessary reliance on other people. Get a DTP program (desktop publishing such as Microsoft Publisher, Indesign, Quark or Scribus) and just do it. You can also do it by hand, but unless you’ve got some style it could end up looking crap. DTP is the no talent option that works.

Poster and Flier Checklist (Make sure these things are on your poster - it’s easy to forget)

Date and Time
Age Restrictions
* Description of Genre
* Description of each band
* What the benefit gig is for

General Design Tip
Contrast: Use it. It stands out.

Give posters to people who already go out putting up posters. In some areas Councils will prosecute for flyposting, so in general it’s a lot easier just to post where others have done. Stapled posters are easy to put up, but even easier to take down. You’ll need to keep putting them back up on public poster boards. Getting posters into shops, chippies etc. is good as they’ll most likely stay there for quite a while. Put up posters for your gig in the venue where it’ll take place.

There is no “too early” for putting up posters. However, getting a few up a month before the gig, and then blitzing the area in the two weeks before is a pretty standard strategy.

Most of the time a smaller version of your poster will do as a flier - especially if you design it with this in mind.

Give out fliers at any gigs, club nights whatever you go to. You can also sellotape/wheatpaste them to lampposts with good effect.

You can do limitless publicity online. Do the essentials first, before you embark on a week long spamming of myspace ad campaign. Crucial is any local listings sites – especially if you have popular local forums. (In Norwich we have Norwich Darkside, which is a pretty much essential stop off for the metal/punk/ska/rock scene.) Then there are places like “Don’t Stay In” Also, messageboards for nearby universities and their music societies if they have them.

Events Listings
If there are local events listings in the papers, or as independent publications, then get your gig in there. Also local papers will have events listings.

Word of Mouth
Tell people about the gig. Tell all your mates. Tell them to tell their mates.

Text Messages
Get all the gig details and fit them into one text message. At the bottom, put “please forward”. Then text it to as many people as you can afford.

On the Night
Having done all this preparation, it would be nice if you could sit and enjoy the gig you’ve organised. But you won’t be able to.

People You’ll Need
Most of the organising (and even publicising) of the gig can quite easily be done by one person. On the night however, you’ll need a few more.

People on door
Collecting money and stamping hands (and checking hands).
You don’t need people with “security” on their shirts but it’s worth having some people there you can rely on to deal with any trouble. I normally deal with people myself, but I’m 17 stone of beefcake.
Sound Engineer
Someone who can set up PAs. If you don’t know anyone, you can ask the bands. Sometimes they’ll have someone who is pretty skilled, and sometimes they won’t. Don’t rely on the bands having a sound expert unless you’ve ascertained this well before the gig. If you don’t know anyone you can offer free tickets for a sound person and a friend if they do sound.
A Moral Support
Putting on gigs is stressful (especially starting out), particularly on the night. Make sure you bring a mate!
Someone with transport
For last minute emergencies, if you can get it, try and convince one of your friends with a car to not drink until everything is under way.

Things For The Night Checklist
A float (money for change) and money box
A stamp for hands (bring a marker pen as back up)
Your running times (several copies a good idea)
Money for emergencies
A mobile phone with the numbers for all the bands
A clock so you can keep it on schedule
Information on the campaign/petitions (people will be interested)
* Gaffer tape
* Fliers and posters for the next gig

What You’ll Be Doing On The Night
Dealing With Bands
Be polite. The bands are playing for the cause not for money. Treat the venue with respect: forget all the rock and roll bullshit – you need to be able to use the venue again. Don’t try and blag drinks off the venue or hassle the staff. It’s better to maintain a dialogue.

Help bands move their equipment. Introduce yourself and your sound person/people.

Hassle bands to make sure they get on stage on time. Tell them when they’re on in advance if possible. Hassle them before it’s time for them to go on. If they’re queuing to buy drinks, getting them for them can save time.

Ask them what kind of warning they want towards the end of their set. (Ten minutes, five minutes, one song, two songs). Then don’t forget to give it.

Watch all the bands. Note which ones get a good response, which ones are nice to work with etc.

Offer the bands their expenses after the gig. Don’t make the bands feel like they have to beg off you: it’ll stop them wanting to work with you. Remember, they may play for love of music, for the cause or both, but you need to make them feel appreciated. Congratulate them on their set.

Aside from the fact that it’s polite, getting to know the bands can get you contacts for other bands, help with publicity and all kinds of benefits.

NOTES (stuff to be added that's not yet covered)
Myspace Pitfalls
Problems – bands pulling out, phones
Sound Limiters

Joined: 14-10-03
Jan 17 2007 06:03

I've put off completing this til Nov 07! If you're desperate for advice on this kind of thing then post here. Cheers

Joined: 9-01-06
Jan 17 2007 20:59

this is really cool so far, practical, just what one needs. i was thinking of doing a general 'short events management' guide/workshop at some point, but thats a bit massive isnt it? i suppose a very basic one might be possible. from the looks of the above, its a bit mammoth when you look at details of anything.