Enlist an aspiring artist friend to make some visually interesting fliers, and post them everywhere: independent record and clothing stores, community bulletin boards, lamp posts, etc. Don’t vandalize or litter, but don’t be afraid to get sneaky—for example, when promoting parties for the indie fashion magazine I work for, I like to go to bookstores and hide fliers inside related books and magazines.
Use the internet to your advantage. Make a special Twitter, blog, and Facebook event page for the show, and include the links on the fliers. Invite all of your friends, and have them invite their friends. Send an email to local blogs and websites you think might be interested. Make sure the band is promoting the show on their own website and to their own friends.
There are online communities dedicated to helping promote shows as well. Kate, 27, has been organizing shows since she was 18, and co-created Girl Gang Gig Volume to help other female and queer show promoters. Permanent Wave, a feminist collective started by Amy Klein (formerly of Titus Andronicus), is also an excellent resource not only for promoting your show, but also for meeting more women with experience organizing events.
5. Don’t rule out house shows.
Krissy, 21, grew up in an isolated suburb with almost no venues that played good music. She had to get creative. She soon discovered that “house shows are sacred spaces” and “totally worth the work.” They are also a good idea when you’re on a really tight budget.
Obviously, the rules are really different when planning a show in somebody’s home, especially when it’s your own. To prevent pissed-off parents (or neighbors), think about keeping the set acoustic. Be careful when promoting: avoid putting your address on fliers around the neighborhood. Tell your friends about the show, but anticipate that the word will get out, and prepare to have more people show up. Obviously, you cannot serve alcohol at an all-ages show. If someone shows up with booze, kick them out, or have a massive friend do so if you’re shy.
You can create a mock stage in the corner of your living room or basement with a cheap lamp or some clamp lights. Roll up rugs and move furniture out of the way. If you get permission from your parents and neighbors to have the show plugged in, make sure you’ve got lots of power strips and extension cords on hand.
Get comfortable being assertive about enforcing boundaries in your own home. Stay sober. Keep people from loitering out front, and be as clear as possible about which parts of the house are off limits—Krissy suggests putting signs everywhere, since they can make things look legit. Don’t be shy about kicking people out or shutting things down if they get out of hand. Enlist a few older and responsible siblings or friends to help you staff the event so it’s not just you alone facing off against a bunch of unruly partiers; your safety is key (and besides, you don’t want to risk getting your place trashed and/or pissing off your parents).
6. Some final words of advice:
“Don’t be afraid to approach people and ask for things and get your hands dirty.” —Amy Oden, producer, From the Back of the Room
“Community is essential to survival. If you’re trying to make stuff happen—be it booking a show, tagging a protest, writing a zine, throwing a dance party—it helps to know that others have done it before you, and that you can tap them for knowledge.” —Kate, Girl Gang Gig Volume
“Most likely, the suburb you live in sucks like mine and any place where people can engage in art and music is extremely rare! Everyone should be having house shows!” —Krissy
“Plan early! It’s better to have everything figured out months in advance than have it be too late. Also, when you’re under 21, you have to be mature so that venues and bands will take you seriously and not brush you off as some crazy kids. If it doesn’t work out you can try again later!” —Erica, Jurassic Shark and Cat Butts
“Build a community. Get help from your friends. I’ve met some really wonderful people involved with music. Even if you don’t have sound equipment or a budget, just get some people together and have an acoustic show. It’s the most rewarding thing to put on shows of music that you love and hopefully inspire the people who come out to shows. Just start building something, and it will grow.” —Rachel, BUMP ♦