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This is a collection of experiences, lessons learnt from the past. Failures become stepping stones to success only if learning goes along with failing. We hope that this document will be a bare bones instruction list for AID chapters organizing their maiden event, and a check list for the experienced chapters.
What does a concert involve
Prior to deciding a concert
Finding the artist
Catering to the artist needs
Estimating the audience
Identifying the MC and the presenter
Signs to the concert
Collecting feedback and pledges
Gift for artists
what does a concert involve
Finding the right artist
Catering to the needs of the artist (before, on the day of and during the concert)
Estimating the size of the audience
Auditorium, Sound and Light Arrangements. Parking arrangements at the venue.
Publicity (Designing and printing posters, flyers, ads, banners and choosing the right locations to distribute / place the same and creating web sites)
Ticketing (printing tickets and sale of tickets before the event date, and box office on the day)
Making a Brochure (Getting the content ready, and handling the technical aspect of making a brochure)
Identifying the MC for the concert
Organizing the AID presentation for the concert
Putting up signs to the concert location on the day of the concert
Sale of AID Merchandise
Collecting and Analyzing feedback from the Audience
Talking to people about AID during the intermission
Book Keeping for the concert
Gifts for the artist
Prior to deciding on a concert
Now that you know what a concert entails, before you decide to organize a concert or any other event in a large scale, conduct a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat) Analysis. A SWOT Analysis will reveal any glaring loopholes, which can affect the success of your concert.
Strengths and Weaknesses are internal to your chapter, and Opportunities and Threats are factors that are external your chapter. Make a list of these and classify them either as a S,W,O, or T. Ideally, you should take on a concert when your strengths are far greater than your weaknesses, and there are more opportunities than threats.
Strengths and Weaknesses:
Number of regular volunteers (based on CSH attendance)
Number of friends of volunteers who will help out on the day of the event or with special tasks
Name recognition of the chapter within the local community
Skill sets of volunteers (the more diverse the better). A concert demands a wide variety of tasks to be completed and it is important that you have someone who has done this before or has the capacity and confidence to pick it up soon.
Schedules of regular volunteers for the period under consideration
Volunteers who are known across AID and can easily communicate with other chapters and provide relevant information
Availability of a convenient venue for volunteers to meet and work on concert related activities.
Does the group comprise predominantly of students or of working folks? If the concert is to be scheduled during school vacations ¿½ keep in mind that students are free during the day, but also understand that a number of students might be away on internships or vacation. If the volunteers are working, then you have access to corporations for sponsorships and ticket sales, although they might be tied up during the day.
Opportunities and Threats:
General economic situation (this will be a good indicator for sponsorships and average price of ticket)
Community of Indians (How big? What is their economic status? What is the relationship? How aware are they about AID?)
Check with the local community (at the Mandir) to see if any auspicious event falls on the same day you are planning for the concert. Also check for national holidays and any other events (a Blockbuster Hindi movie release could also steer your audience away!)
Does AID have contacts with key members of the Indian community?
Is the non-Indian community familiar with Indian arts and culture?
Benchmark your event against any other similar event (preferably your last year event, or a similar event conducted by another non profit group) for estimating the audience you can expect
Finding the artist
Choose an artist who has certain level of name recognition, who can communicate with the audience, who has an identification with AID¿½s cause, who understands that the concert is for a non-profit group, whose agent is easy to deal with and most importantly someone who is affordable for your chapter and your local community
Catering to the artist¿½s needs
While it is important to treat the artist with utmost respect and offer him/her the best hospitality and convenience, you should not lose sight of the cause. Make sure you offer the artist only what you can afford and communicate the same. Try to explain to the artist what AID is about, so that he/she can also identify with AID and make a few comments about the organization during interviews or during the concert. Try to get in advance a list of what the artist absolutely needs (including, in the green room) and work at meeting all those needs if affordable, else explain to the artist well in advance about any changes. Make sure the artist has enough time to do a sound check before the concert begins. Have one person dedicated to stay with the artist and taking care of all travel arrangements
Estimating the audience
This is done by analyzing the opportunities and threats which you have previously identified. Caution: Note that this is only an estimate, so be flexible enough to respond to changes
Decide on a venue which can accommodate your expected audience. Too big an auditorium might leave empty pockets giving an appearance of poor turnout and also make ushering very difficult. Choose the right size and make sure that there will be sufficient technical help from the auditorium. Also verify, if space is available for food stalls and AID merchandise tables. Identify if parking lots are sufficient for the audience you are expecting. Auditorium should be in a convenient location.
Put together a sponsorship packet. Spend some time on designing the packet, as you can reuse some of the material for the concert brochure. Get a list of all companies, Indian restaurants and groceries, and other personal contacts and assign volunteers for follow up. Remember that sponsorship can be the ¿½make or break¿½ factor for your event. Not all sponsors will identify with the cause, so make sure you communicate what would be the benefits to the sponsor for placing an ad in the concert brochure. Carry samples of previous brochures to show to a prospective sponsor.
This is the key piece of the puzzle. If you have this done right, you are almost there! What are some of the key issues in publicity?
Segment your audience. 3 categories are generally applicable, the Indian Music/Art loving crowd, the Indian who has no specific interest in Art but identifies with the cause, the non-indians.
Choice of vehicle depends on your local community and your budget. TV, Radio, Newspaper ads, Web Sites, Newsgroups, Flyers, Posters, Banners, Mailing lists. Do not restrict yourself to one or two and try to use as many vehicles as possible within your budget. Assign one volunteer to look into free listings. Take the help of other non profit organizations in your area.
temples / mosques, Indian grocery stores, restaurants, movie halls. While posters and ads have to be put a month and a half before the concert, the last 2 weeks can be spent handing out flyers and talking to people at these locations personally (preferably during Friday evenings and the weekends)
Non- Indian community:
Art museums, Yoga centers, International grocery shops, Music departments in schools, Music shops, web sites, coffee shops
If the artist requires it, get his/her approval for the flyers and ads. Try to have a uniform ¿½look and feel¿½, although glossy paper is not required, color certainly helps. Make sure all relevant information are on the flyer (artist, date, venue, time, ticket information, if possible directions, AID information, contact). Have a write up ready (in PDF format preferably) about the event, artist and AID and send it out to local newspapers, or put it up on web sites event listings well in advance. Creating the publicity material requires people who are creative, technically competent and good in writing. Make sure all these 3 are represented in your team.
Try to arrange for online ticketing as it is convenient. When making the tickets make sure to color code them according to price and have all relevant information printed (Artist, date and time, venue, directions, ticket number, price). Assign one or two volunteers to co-ordinate all ticketing arrangements. Keep track of complimentary tickets. Decide on a cut off time after which tickets will not be available in any of the locations except at the gate and communicate it. Maintain an account book for ticketing. For credit cards, make sure you have enough pads and pens for people to fill up the form.
Try to start your brochure work a month before the concert. Get the content ready and approved by the group (or a small team within the group). Use information from other chapters and information provided by the artist. Do not try to do everything from scratch, except those particular to your chapter. Team for the brochure should comprise of people who know AID well, who can write well, creative, technical people, and people whose grammar is close to perfect. Always err on the lower side when printing brochures. Remember to include a feedback form as part of your brochure (it can be a free standing insert)
Identifying the MC and the presenter:
When choosing a MC, make sure it is someone who has done public speaking before and is someone who is flexible to guide the day¿½s event according to unexpected situations. Let the MC meet with the artist before the concert to make sure that the artist is also comfortable with the proceedings for the day.
The AID presenter has to be someone who has been with AID for a considerable time and knows AID well, is passionate and can communicate his/her passion to the audience. Remember it is an impatient audience wanting to get to the event. So the speaker must be able to capture the audience¿½s attention in a short time and still communicate all relevant facts about AID. Verify if the facts are accurate, and have at least one practice session. Keep in mind that the purpose of the presentation is not only to introduce AID to the audience, but also secure pledges from them. So the presentation should have a good balance of philosophy, AID projects and request for donations and pledges.
Signs to the concert:
Never underestimate the importance of signs. Clear, visible signs must be pasted around the auditorium area from the exits from major freeways and main roads. Make sure that signs are visible to people driving on the left and right lanes as well. Signs should be in place a good 4 to 5 hours before the concert. After placing the signs have people drive around to check if signs are visible and sufficient.
It is important to create a good atmosphere on the stage, do not get too carried away by the decoration. Simple, elegant and inexpensive decorations should be used. Try to reuse decors from previous concerts and use easily available materials. Be creative, but avoid complicated arrangements so that everyone can participate in making the decorations. Make sure you have a good visible banner and that everything fits well with the stage.
Ushering requires a considerable number of volunteers. Some of the key issues here are, to identify the rows for the various ticket levels (can color code them based on the tickets¿½ color code), to spread people around the hall so that no large empty pockets are visible from the stage, ensure people with kids are given aisle seats, help people to their seats in the dark (make sure you have sufficient number of torches)
Have 2 varieties of food items. Decide on the menu such that non Indians are also familiar with the items. Taste the items prior to ordering. The caterer can serve themselves or have volunteers do it (depending on what you can afford). Make sure you do not have too many combinations which people can order. Give people food coupons so that those who serve do not have to handle money. Remember you typically have 20 to 30 minutes to cater to about 400 people. So have that many lines open. It is better to sell out food than have excess ¿½ this should be your golden rule when ordering food. Pre packing the food will also save you time.
Display your merchandise well, so as to attract attention. Remember to have the stall set up well in advance before the concert starts as most people will browse the merchandise when waiting for the gates to open.
Collecting feedback and pledges:
Request the audience to complete feedback forms once at the beginning of the concert and once before you announce the intermission. Have clearly marked drop boxes for the same. Ensure you have a number of pledge forms available. It is important to secure donation pledges when the audience¿½s mind is fresh with facts about AID.
Have 2 to 3 experienced volunteers roaming the food area during the intermission to talk to people about AID.
Gifts for the artist:
Decide on simple, inexpensive elegant gifts, preferably some merchandise from AID projects.
Assign well defined roles for volunteers. Have teams working on activities and assign a coordinator for each activity.
Do not waste too much paper. Try to use flyers in as effective way as possible (until the last week, at which point go all out)
Do not spend too much time on trivial issues (like color of flowers on the stage, kind of bouquet for artist).
Ensure accurate book keeping. Separate ticket sales, merchandise sales and food accounts.
Create an egroups for the concert and get everyone familiar with using the e-groups.
Network with other non profit groups.
Look to build long term relationships with Indian grocery stores and restaurants.
Have a firm but courteous person handle back stage artist co-ordination and green room activities
Start and end the concert on time.
Talk to other AID chapters to get some advice.
Share your wisdom with others.