Rock of Ages

How to organize an all-ages show.

4. Promote!

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 ♦


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  • July 30th, 2012 7:17 PM

    I hate when bands shows that I want to go to are “21 and older.” There are two ways to solve this problem 1. don’t sell alcohol at concerts (my personal favorite) and 2. watch over people who are younger then 21 and make sure they don’t drink anything, honestlly it’s pretty simple. Thanks for writing this article :)

  • EvaLavender July 30th, 2012 7:19 PM

    Such an awesome idea!! This is so exciting, I actually kind of want to try doing this!!

  • all_ages July 30th, 2012 7:34 PM

    This is awesome!

    Folks should also know about this cool resource:

    It’s a rad book that we put together with tons of info on how to make all-ages music venues and youth-run music organizations happen in your town!

    • faithdarwin July 30th, 2012 10:25 PM

      I like how I wrote a comment completely independently recommending this book, and also used the word “rad.”

  • arabellasfireflies July 30th, 2012 8:32 PM

    WHO IS THIS RACHEL?? ARE YOU STILL AT BING? (probably not since your 22…) But I’ve heard that the underground is awesome I was just a dumb freshman who didn’t go but I plan to make the most of campus this year!

  • runningfilm July 30th, 2012 9:01 PM

    I work very closely with my area’s music scene, both with booking agents/ect and a few of the bands themselves. If there’s already any kind of scene in your town, GET INVOLVED. Even if they book mostly 21+ shows, showing that there is indeed interest in the younger ages can get the ball rolling.

    If there isn’t one specific group putting on all the shows, talk to local bands and see who they are working with. Offer to promote for them (by means of flyers, selling tickets, ect). The more interest people have in a band, the more likely they will get noticed for such and the more likely an all ages show will be.

  • faithdarwin July 30th, 2012 10:06 PM

    This is such a rad article! As someone who went to high school in a town where I felt like there was no culture and no good bands ever came, I wish I’d figured out earlier to channel my boredom into planning my own events!

    Another resource to check out is a book called In Every Town: An All-Ages Music Manifesto, and the website

  • faithdarwin July 30th, 2012 10:08 PM

    This is such a rad article! I went to high school in a town where I felt like there was no culture, nothing to do, and no good bands ever came. I wish I’d figured out earlier to channel my boredom into planning my own events!

    Another resource to check out is a book called In Every Town: An All-Ages Music Manifesto.

  • unicorn-rhapsody July 30th, 2012 10:10 PM

    This came to me at a PERFECT time. Sometimes I feel that I ask a question to the air and Rookie replies it. Thank you!

  • teenidle July 31st, 2012 12:35 AM

    The world would be a better place if run by the philosophy of Ian Mackaye.
    All Ages shows, 5 dollar entry fee, No fighting.
    Now if only Fugazi would get back together then everything would be perfect.

    • sonicy0uth July 31st, 2012 3:57 AM

      This, so much! If only we could go back to the goldern age of punk/ hardcore.

  • LeatherStuddedFae July 31st, 2012 12:37 AM

    It really is so frustrating to have the “21 and above only” rule. It’s also frustrating that I live in a city where people think band music is not the best thing ever. No gigs, independent concerts whatsoever. Just concerts of random dubstep DJs, J.lo and other people. My life sucks. :P

    Oh well, I do hope I get to do what’s in this article someday and hold the events myself. =[ I think it’s pretty hard here. :))

  • streaked lights July 31st, 2012 2:22 AM

    Hah, if I can’t go to any +21′s THEN I’LL MAKE MY OWN CONCERT.
    Thanks for the info!

  • sonicy0uth July 31st, 2012 3:56 AM

    This is one reason Englands cool, most gigs are 14+, even in pubs and tiny clubs. They just ID for drinks. Can’t imagine how horrible 21+ shows must be.

  • moonflower July 31st, 2012 9:33 AM

    This is so taylored to me! I’ve been wanting to organise a gig for ages. This is really exciting stuff ^^

  • christinachristina July 31st, 2012 12:38 PM

    Independent bookstores are usually really cool about hosting bands, especially when the bands involve literature? I’ve seen Harry & the Potters and other Wizard Rock bands at my local feminist book store (featured in Portlandia!)

  • PrettyRiot July 31st, 2012 1:37 PM

    I live in england and ive never had that problem. Most shows are 14+ and even then its not strict. You just get a underage wristband or they ID at the bar. Its only at festivals you have to be 16+. Plus being drunk at gigs isnt that fun. you dont get to appreciate the music as much

  • AnguaMarten July 31st, 2012 5:06 PM

    i live in a tiny townhouse, in a dull and isolated suburb. i don’t think we even have bars here. or local bands.

    well, shoot.

  • Lucille August 1st, 2012 4:53 AM

    That article is awesome!

  • jadeharley August 1st, 2012 3:11 PM

    if i could give anyone a word of advice, it’d be to join your local music scene. my life has has gotten so much better ever since i started going to shows. i met my best friend there, and you feel like a part of something great. it even makes that awkward high school stage less awkward. it might seem intimidating at first, but the people there are so welcoming. seriously, go to a show. you’ll find cool new bands, and you might even see that band that you secretly listened to on tumblr. support local music guise.