Gig to event – what works and what doesn’t

There’s an old adage that holds true: you can do anything you want to in life, but you can’t do everything you want. When you try to do it all, something is going to suffer…proper execution, quality control, perhaps your physical health – but something is likely to suffer so consider your capabilities carefully.

What works 🙂
When turning your gig into an event, first take an inventory of your most accessible resources. These are friends or existing partners that can add extra elements without a major hassle. For example, you may have a girlfriend that already dances in a burlesque troupe. Lucky you…

Dave Matthews' stage presence...
Dave Matthews’ stage presence…
Start with the stage and ripple out from there. Obviously the stage is the centerpiece of your show so think about working on all of these basic elements first: attire, backdrop, lighting and props. Any additional performers will also want to have some quality stage presence, including the caged go-go dancers.

Next, think about how the stage interacts with the audience. Are you launching balls into the crowd? Very simple and affordable to do, just be mindful of liability issues. Filming the audience is a very good thing to do in this multi-media age. Allowing guests to come onstage for one exhilarating moment is also simple to arrange.

You may be playing a venue that already has its own atmosphere (colored lights, decoration, secret passageways). But if it’s a generic locale, it’s not too hard to change the vibe. Make it fit with your theme. Even appropriately colored craypaper can set a nice mood. Band banners can also shape up the stage and walls. With the low cost of full color printing, there’s no reason not to have a banner that doubles as scenery.

Don’t forget raffles, games and miscellaneous ways to engage the audience. A costume contest? Best dancers? Shortest skirt? It might as well double as a crowd pleaser and photo op…

But speaking of photo ops, any chance to give the audience a colorful, vivid experience is always welcome. Everyone has a camera phone – that could even be turned into a contest…best live shot of the night gets VIP treatment at your next show. Most Facebook tags gets some free band merch. Best YouTube posted gets (insert your imagination here).

What doesn’t work 😦
Never attempt or instigate anything that could jeopardize the safety of the audience or the structural integrity of the venue. Pyrotechnics are usually a bad idea. Fog has been known to affect people with asthma. Powerful strobe lights could induce seizures. And remember that stages, like any other construction, do have weight limits.

You can be held libel for anything that is liable to break the law. This includes bringing your own liquor onto the premises, vandalism, inciting a mob, arson, assault, and the list goes on. This is also the right time to mention that event insurance is a very good thing to consider; checking with the venue about their own liability insurance isn’t a bad idea either.

Generally, simply trying to do too much is a common recipe for failure. If you don’t have the personnel available to work the fog machine, forget about it, or get a foot pedal. If you’re already spending money on models and midgets, maybe you should forego the trapeze artist and the drum circle – after all, most of these extras will want to be paid.

How much liability insurance do you carry?
How much liability insurance do you carry?

Do what is within your budget and your basic competence. Ideally, you are trying things that you already have a natural knack to handle. In the next installment, we’ll talk about ways to develop an event on a shoestring budget.

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