Late nights and hard work: an insight into events management
Reported by Maxine
Submitted 01-09-06 18:02
Club nights and events: we go to so many that some of us can take for granted how much work really goes into them. Behind all the strobes, djs and sound is months and months of planning preparation and hard work.
Event Manager is not necessarily a title people would associate with a club night but as events get more and more complicated to feed the ever demanding consumer, the role has become more technical and important then ever before. It is a title that although understood is so varied and all encompassing that it can mean anything from looking after artist on the event itself to drawing up a health and safety assessment 1 year prior to the event.
Events require a lot of hard work late nights and of course money. DJ line ups are not the only thing that requires payment. Lighting, sound, technicians, security, venue, event staff, flyers, designers, office staff, photographers, the list is not exhaustible.
Grant Smith from Slammin Vinyl explains that the role includes, “Dealing with the logistics of an event, the nitty gritty, making sure everything is going to work with the minimum of fuss, and of course making sure everything is safe.”
The role of event or production manager is now as important, if not more. then that of the promoter. It’s all well and good selling tickets for an event but if the ‘product’ itself is not of a high calibre then no amount of promotion will get people to come back. Gone are the days when clubbers just wanted a good line up and a place to dance; nowadays they want more. Therefore event/production managers are employed to help create the ‘experience’ of the event as well as stay onsite to make sure everything technically goes to plan.
“Everything from ensuring we have staff, drivers, security and medics to fencing, security lighting and even ensuring we have enough toilets,” says Kieron Gallagher from tidy. “I would have said that the role is all about having eyes in the back of your head and being able to stay 2 steps ahead of the game and to definitely expect the unexpected!”
Events are planned far more in advance then some people may realise. With so many factors that need considering, the bigger the event the longer you need. As Damian Gelle from South West Four explains: “ For a festival like South West Four we start talking about it the minute the last event is over. It can take a year to co-ordinate something of that size successfully.
Some planning is more obvious then others. Some details people never associate with the events themselves, such as the tidy Weekender, can include “Working out people movements, where signage is needed, how much fencing is needed, what staff are going to work, how the djs are going to get there, where all your event staff, production crew, security are going to sleep and so on.” The job seems to never end, and you can’t sit back and just let things happen. A good event manager knows almost everything that is going on and what should be happening at any point. Or if they don’t then their team certainly will.
Without a good team an event can be difficult get off the ground. A strong support network is needed, but usually this network can be made up of less people then it appears. With Damian and Anton being the main driving force behind SW4 and Heat, and Grant and Michael been the main men behind Slammin Vinyl, the perception of the clubbers might not always be the reality. With only a few full timers and a handful of part timers involved in an event, you have to be sure you have the right team. Put bluntly “After a while you identify who the great people are to work with and how to avoid the time wasters. I call it business by default. Great workers are everything.” (Damian Gelle)
With all large outdoor events you have to appease councils and local authorities: not the most glamorous part of the job, but one of the biggest parts. Not too long ago the council that govern Clapham Common were rethinking outdoor events due to it being a residential area. Luckily the Council allows events to continue there, but at the end of the day they and the local authorities have the overall say on whether something can go ahead. And this all has to happen 6 months ahead of the event itself. Ever noticed the part on some posters and flyers where it says “subject to licence”?
“We have to submit a full licensing document which contains information on who we expect to come, how they are expected to get there, health and safety information, emergency vehicle routes around the site, plans of what we intend to do, capacity calculations, toilet provisions, security and medical provisions and much more.” Explains Kieron from tidy, “This has to be submitted to the council well in advance of your event to allow for time where the general public, the police, the fire or the council can object to your plans.”
This leads onto the Health and Safety of an event. In the modern age of libel cases and lawsuits the role of a Health and Safety Inspectors is increasingly more important. Go to any club or venue and they will have one that works with the building consistently. But put on an event somewhere else and you then have to start incorporating them into your plans. “They are there to protect the public from any harm, although it is easy to label them as Killjoys! A lot of the madder ideas we have cannot go ahead due to the H&S regulations in this country.” says Grant from Slammin Vinyl. Everything has to be checked and has to adhere to EU regulations and laws.
So how do promoters and event managers ensure you are completely safe but still make sure you have a great time? A good security team always goes down well with clubbers, as they then feel that they are being looked after by the promoters, and that’s one of the ways tidy and SW4 ensure this. “We also prepare for the worst case scenario and employ a number of fully trained paramedics far in excess of what is recommended. Friendly and helpful staff that listen to what the clubber has to say I feel also has a massive positive effect with peoples perception at your event.” (Kieron Gallagher)
Of course the line up has to be good. Line ups can be chosen up to 18 months in advance. Early? Promoters have to be able to sense trends in djs and live acts so they can chose the right headliners. Seems easy, but when you realise that some headliners can impact greatly on whether clubbers buy tickets or not, the task can seem more daunting then originally thought. “South West Four line-up was pretty much done by November/December. You have to have a vision for the next year.” (Damian Gelle)
You can’t ignore the pull of a good marketing campaign on an event. Marketing usually starts 6 months+ prior to the event taking place. Whilst the clubber will see the effects of marketing, be it a flyer or a press release, what they don’t see is the planning of where each bit will happen. And of course people put a lot of faith in the brand these days. So how do companies keep people coming back? Grant from Slammin Vinyl explains; “By giving them the something that no one else is offering — massive parties at a reasonable ticket price. With both the big and small events, we like to do venues that aren’t ‘rinsed out’ by all and sundry. But as the writer has proven in the past marketing and branding is a whole different article.
People will be cynical about anything these days. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much hard work promoters put into an event, clubbers will still find something they don’t like. This is to be expected, as consumers in general are more demanding then ever before. Long gone are the days were people went to a field with a sound system and partied until the police came. Nowadays they expect so much more; from clean toilets and polite security, to plenty of bar staff and clean venues.
“It is absolutely impossible to be able to please 100% of your clubbers 100% of the time, there is always going to be someone who for whatever reason had a poor experience. It is human nature. If that experience is down to something that we didn’t do right then we have to do something about it.” (Kieron Gallagher)
Due to the internet it has become easier for people to relay their bad experiences of an event, but these forums also help the promoter fine tune their events. Promoters can no longer hide behind their logos but have to address all issues that could arise. This begs the questions then — why do it? Damian from SW4 and Heat answers that perfectly “It’s the buzz of seeing a mass of people going off to electronica. Nothing compares when all the elements like the music and production are spot on. People would say I do it for the money; they couldn’t be any further from the truth. You can make money doing loads of things these days, but how many people have sold out a festival?”
Many thanks to the following people:
Damian Gelle — South West four and Heat Events
Next event: SW4, Clapham Common 26th August 2006,
For info: www.southwestfour.com/
Kieron Gallagher — tidy
Next event: Tidy Weekender 10, Prestatyn Holiday Camp 6th, 7th, 8th October
For info: www.tidy.com
Grant Smith — Slammin Vinyl
Next event: Hardcore Heaven, Carling Academy, Liverpool – Saturday 16th September 2006 For info: www.slamminvinyl.com
And thanks to Daf, Slammin Vinyl and Tidy for the photos. Not to be reproduced without permission.
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The views and opinions expressed in this review are strictly those of the author only for which HarderFaster will not be held responsible or liable.