How To Put On A Student Rock Concert (Part 2)
If you really want to set your music school apart from your competition and become the go to place for music lessons in your community, you really need to put on tour-like rock concert recitals.
Are they a lot of work.
But you’ll never go back to just putting on recitals and the memories you’ll create will be some of the best of your life.
Listen, although this list is lengthy, if you start early and follow deadlines this is all quite attainable.
You need a venue (Theatre), have to decorate (stage design), invitations (Posters, Advertising), food to plan out (Back stage menu), music (set list), efficient (MC and minister), photography, etc. Hey! Come to think of it, there are even costumes (Wedding dress, Tuxedos)!
Following a time line is Key to staying organized when putting on a student concert or event. Like a wedding, the more organized you are and the more time you have, the stressful it will be.
Keep in mind I organized each of these productions on my own with only a minimal amount of help from our teachers.
Using A Concert As A Marketing Strategy
When it comes to advertising your music school and lessons, a big student rock concert is the best bang for your buck.
Over 15 years we generated well over a half a million dollars in traditional Advertising and got our name mentioned in the media for 8 months of the year. We grew to the target music school per capital in the country and performed with a handful of veteran musicians who are still on the radio today,
What’s The First Thing I Should Do To Organize A Student Concert
The first thing to do is book a date with a local venue or theatre.
In my experience, you have to look into a venue at least a year in advance to get a date you want.
You can try for less time but the best dates are often taken by other artists and acts.
Let’s consider that every student on stage on average will bring 4 people to see the show (Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Siblings).
100 students means you will need at least 500 seats if students don’t have a green room or second area to hang out in before and after their performance.
The first theatre we rented was 350 seats and we had 104 students. We had to do a matinee and evening show just to accommodate everyone coming to see the show.
The second venue was 860 seats. That meant we could do everything in one evening concert. At that point we were up to about 115 students in the show, and we sold 648 seats because of promotion (see below).
What’s The Best Theatre To Choose For A Student Rock Concert?
Ideally finding a theatre with an inventory of at least eight 4X8 stage platforms with various riser legs, professional light inventory, Hazer and forward/rear projector will save you money on additional rental costs.
Using the theatres sound and lighting staff is very helpful too. They know the equipment and the room better than anyone. You need to look and sound the best you can!
How Do You Design A Stage For A Rock Concert?
Here are two Stage designs we used using 4X8 Sheets of stage platforms.
One had two drum kits in a diamond shape which looks very cool from the audience.
The other was more “traditional” accommodated more students and made use of the stage.
Choosing A Rock Concert Theme Is Important
Ongoing Time Frame
I would pick 4-5 Themes in advance so I had a direction in case one didn’t work out.
The Theme can be anything but should incorporate all the instruments you teach and
be able to create a visual of the show in someones mind in two sentences.
The Theme is important because it also gives a direction and is way easier to promote than just saying “we’re doing a rock show”.
Here are a few example of what Concert themes we did.
- The Love Concert [songs mentioning the word Love]
- The Beatles Vs. The Rolling Stones
- Movie Rock [Hit Songs from the Movies]
- No Alternative [A tribute to the 90’s]
- Shout it out loud [a Tribute to KISS]
Choosing Your Setlist
Do a Google search for songs that cover your rock concert theme. This takes a few hours of research.
I also keep a running list of themes on my phone and write down songs whenever one pops up on the radio that fits a theme I picked.
Test Listen To The Setlist
You’re listening to songs to see if you can duplicate the performance and production. If the song is too hard, you’ll need to find something the students can do.
Put the songs on your phone as a playlist and drive around in your car and listen to them while running errands, grocery shopping, exercising or going for a walk.
Check For Inappropriate Lyrics
Think about who you’ll be performing for. Songs with Inappropriate lyrics or racial slurs are not Grandma friendly. Go the safe route and pick songs that are rated rated PG. If it’s only a few words consider a rewrite.
The world has changed a lot. What was one overlooked with some lyrics is now a very sensitive topic. Read the lyrics before deciding on the song for the set list.
Hire A Photographer
With all the moving lights and students on stage, it’s the perfect opportunity to take pictures. A professional photographer is more expensive but keep in mind you can use these photos for promotion, website, social media to set yourself apart.
Line up a photographer at least 5-6 month in advance of the show.
Write Out Song Parts
If you have multiple people writing out parts that would be best. With just me writing out 2-3 Keyboard, Sax, Trumpet, Trombone, Ukulele, Bass, Violin and some Guitar Tabs, it took about 6-7 months. But the end result sounded incredible!
Try approaching a Keyboard/Piano Teachers to see if they can help. Alternatively, you can reach out to people on Fiverr https://www.fiverr.com for help with Music Transcription.
One of Wentworth’s amazing sold out Rock Concerts
Pick A Local Charity To Give Proceeds To
Some Music Schools would view a rock concert as a money making opportunity. I viewed them as a student retention, marketing/advertising strategy. Plus, by doing things for charity, it will open the doors for new partnerships and even discounted rates on rentals and your venue.
More information on donating concert proceeds here
VERY important! Read the full post here
In my opinion, promoting a rock concert is more about marketing and advertising your music lessons than it is about getting people out to see the show.
I would start with these
- 250 11×17 Posters to give each student in the show and hang around your city
- Social media posts
- Event Listings
- Press Releases
- TV Interview (community event story)
Sponsors And Community Partners
After we finished our first show, I decided we would give all the proceeds after expenses to help children locally.
I contacted our Local Hospital’s Foundation Office to line up a meeting and explain what I was planning.
Best meeting ever!
I showed the Foundation Office CEO a hard cover coffee table book of some of our concert pictures and she said “we need to find you a Sponsor”.
I remembered taking a picture of myself with one of our local bank mascots and said how about _”that Bank”_. By the next day, I had an appointment to meet with the Bank and their team of community specialists to explain what we were doing with help from the Hospitals CEO and how much advertising we were creating from the shows.
They agreed and provided a lump sum amount that would be donated to the hospital directly.
Any money we had left over from our show would be added to this amount.
Within 13 years we collectively raised over $264,000 to help sick children!
Next I needed to find a media partner…
I approached a local classic Rock radio station and explained what we were doing and that we were performing a lot of music that they play on the radio.
They agreed to provide high rotation Ad’s, jock talk, interview for 2-3 weeks before the show and an MC to come out and announce students names before each song.
All I had to do for both businesses is mention their name in each social media post, press release, poster and in return we improved our brand recognition associating our businesses.
We also got to make the donation we gave a much larger amount and got over $10,000 in radio advertising each show we did.
When Do Students Find Out About The Concert Theme
This is kept secret for months.
After a couple of shows students will start asking almost immediately. “What’s the next theme going to be?”
Don’t let it slip!
This is all about building anticipation and is an important part of the excitement and culture you have at your school.
Tell them “I can’t tell you yet. But it’s going to be AWESOME!”
Here’s an example of a show that’s done at the end of Feb:
July/Aug: Drop a hint on social media once every 2 weeks that the next theme has been picked and you’re excited.
Sept: Announce Concert date
Oct: Announce the theme, when sign up forms are going out
Nov: Hand out song assignments
Dec/Jan: Students learn songs, social media, event listings
Feb: Press release (one at the beginning of the month and one the week of the show
March: Thank you’s to teachers and sponsors, next concert announcement, Concert sign up forms go out and charity cheque presentation
May: Grand total Cheque picture
June: Concert #2
July: Thank you’s to teachers and sponsors
Aug: Charity Cheque presentation
Sept: Grand total cheque picture
As you can see it’s year round but if done correctly you can can create a tonne of advertising and top of mind awareness for your business.
What Do I Need From The Teachers To Put On A Concert?
Some teachers will complain but others completely get it. The amount of equivalent dollars and advertising they will get far outweighs the perception of volunteered time.
Here’s what we found work the best:
- You need teachers to pick and assign song parts (2 hours)
- Come to a “paid” rehearsal shift of 3-4 hours for a couple of weekends
- Help load up equipment (approx 30 min)
- Help set up stage (1 hour)
- Be there for sound check (4 hours if you do it the night before)
- Be there for the show (6 hours)
That’s 20-26 hours over 3 months per teacher (the majority being the last 2 weekends before the show). Also keep in mind rehearsals are paid time.
In return, Teachers and your business will get around $20,000 in traditional advertising for their time show, 8 months of social media and event listing advertising and an immeasurable amount of word of mouth advertising that will last for years.
This is why we grew to over 1200 weekly private students.
When Should I Reserve A Moving Van Or Truck
You’re going to need a truck with enough room to fit a lot of equipment for the stage.
I would reserve the Truck 5 months in advance to be safe. (Uhaul was the least expensive).
A 15’ truck works really well.
As a part of your event, it’s important to get adequate insurance to make sure you’re covered in case someone get injured.
If you own a business, chances are you’ve got liability insurance. Call or email your insurance provider and ask for an insurance certificate to be covered. There isn’t any addiction charge. The insurance you have for your business is carried forward to your event.
Often, the venue and sponsors will ask you to add them as additionally insured.
How Much Time Do You Need To Book At A Theatre Or Venue?
For our shows, we rent a theatre for 2 days.
- Load Up 12:20pm pm (with 8 people this takes 25 min)
- Drive to Theatre (10 min)
- Load in and stage set up at the Theatre 1pm (1 hour with all teachers helping)
- Line Checks and Basic stage level 3-5pm
- Do a sound check with each band 5-9pm
- Arrive for 7pm evening show at 4pm
- Bring dinner in for 4:45pm (pizza and drinks is least expensive)
- Students arrive at 6pm for band line up (organizing students into their groups)
- 6:45 Liaise with Sponsors or community partners 15 minutes before show time
- Show time 7pm sharp
- Show 7-9pm
- 9-10pm Teardown, clean up, sign out at theatre and load back
- Finished at 10:30pm, Take teachers out for dinner
If we were doing a 2pm matinee as well, we would arrive at 11:30am to set up for lunch and turn equipment on. After the matinee there would be a 2 hour break before band line up started again.
Do I Need To Pay Licensing Fees To Perform Other Peoples Music
Music Licensing Fees
As a part of doing concerts, it’s important to pay a license to have permission to play artists works or songs.
In Canada, we work with SOCAN https://www.socan.com/what-socan-does/licensing/license-finder/4b1/
In the US it’s ASCAP https://www.ascap.com/help/ascap-licensing or BMI https://www.bmi.com/licensing/entry/promoters_presenters
How To Put On A Student Rock Concert
I know it looks like a lot but honestly, once you do a couple of shows and everyone understands the benefits and sees the Joy and excitement in the students and parents you’ll never go back to only putting on recitals.
Hey! Check out Part One of this series to have a little more of an idea of how to put on a student rock concert.
Contact Noel Wentworth
Noel Wentworth is the former Vice President of Education of the multi award winning Wentworth Music Education and is available available for consultation. You can reach him below.