How to organize a successful music event for cafebabel London

Article published on Aug. 29, 2007
Article published on Aug. 29, 2007

I joined the London Team of in January 2007 and after the Festival of Europe the next big thing was the Celebration of the Europe Day, on the 9th of May. For it we decided to put on a different kind of event, a music party, with bands from different parts of Europe to spread the word about

Also to show how different European music influences meeting in London are reinventing and constantly shaping contemporary music.

So, how to stage something like that with no budget? First of all find good friends who are willing to help and are well placed in the field.

The venue is the first problem; when you have no founds a usually successful way to secure a good place is to promise you'll bring lots of people which means the venue will get extra revenues generated from the extra people drinking from the bar. That was how we got hold of one of the best venues in East London, the Spitz Gallery. The Spitz is a bistro-gallery-music venue well knows in London for promoting and presenting the most interesting underground bands coming from all over the world. It is also based in a great location, the Old Spitafield market, or simply 'Spitalfields' which ‘lives’ between Liverpool street, the heart of the ‘City of London’, financial capital of London and Brick Lane, one of the most vibrant and innovative parts of the town, home of a flourishing creative community . Instead of being in the main music venue, the party was staged in the Gallery, a spacious room facing on one side the busy Commercial road and on the other the interiors of the Spitafields with its old market style wooden and steel structure. On the day the gallery was also hosting an exhibition of Graffiti pictures which added to the melting pot of arts and styles in which we were diving.

Once you have the venue you have to find bands which, of course, will be willing to play for free. London has a great website called where, if you post an ad, you can be quite sure that you’ll have tens of answers in a couple of days for any kind of request. Gumtree is international but if you don’t have it in your city try to any young community websites, preferably on music. I posted an add saying exactly what I was looking for: band with European members who wanted to play for free but in one of the most famous venues of East London (the name Spitz, I have to say, really help). In less than a week I was overloaded with mails from bands of any provenience and genre and my job was to check their myspace page and decided the ones that I liked more. With the approbation of the other members of the London team I selected 2 bands (the other two where friends of mine). I meet the bands showed them the venue and talked about equipment requirements. That’s a very important part of the job as well. In our case, what we needed was quite minimal because the event was acoustic, but when organizing something like this, always ask what the bands need.

Here comes one the worst problem: the PA, for those who have no clue what that is ( I discover it only when I was organising the party), is the technical equipment you need for the gig such as the mixer, speakers, various leads, microphones, amplifiers, monitors etc. Unless you have a friend who can lend you one you have to rent it. That’s of course what we did, but we paid for it. It usually doesn’t cost an arm and a leg (we paid 50 pounds) but when you have no budget you need to invest yourself. There are places that rent it, but I suggest you to ask around and see if you can find somebody through friend that owns a PA and can rent it to you. That might be cheaper.

Then you need a sound engineer which you have to pay as well. Likely one of my friends, who is a sound engineer, agreed to do it for us for free.

Once all those things are sorted out you need to start with publicity. Write a catchy press release and contact International Cultural Institute who can put a notice on their websites for free. Is quite useful to put notices also on universities websites or propose interviews or articles for communities (one of our target were minority communities’ media) and students’ newspaper and radios. We designed a flyer and printed some black and white copies in house (or from work) and distributed those in bars and universities’ unions and we e-mailed it to all our contacts which then send it around to all their contacts and so on.

Then the day comes, the venue is ready, sound check’s done, you just have to wait and hope that everything will turn out right, which in our case did, we had a great party, the bands were fantastic and we had a good number of people. I have to say that something like this involves a great degree of stress and work for at least couple of months before the event and you won’t see a penny for you, on the contrary you will have to put some money in, but I can promise you that it is also lots of fun and a chance to learn lots of things about managing and organizing events… and you will want to do it again.

by Maira Fj