At 11 years of age, in the seat of a local performing arts center, I intently watched Peter Furler of the Newsboys belt out “Shine” from just a few feet in front of me. I was hooked, and would never again be content to just sit in the audience. Fast-forwarding from those days as an 11-year-old boy, I have been privileged to be involved in many aspects of live event production—from traveling with bands as a road manager to working in the church, hosting concerts.
The task of executing a three-hour show can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. While preparing for this article, I had the privilege of connecting with a fellow technical director, David Leuschner, at Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas. He and his team know a little something about producing events—on average they support over 700 gatherings a month across their campuses. We’ve assembled five points for you to consider if your church is looking forward to live event planning.
Plan accordingly. Leuschner estimates it takes a member of his team 25-30 hours of planning and prep work in the weeks before a band arrives at the church. That is time spent coordinating volunteers, and working with tour personnel and outside vendors to ensure a well-executed event. If your church is like mine, it doesn’t have a dedicated concert hall, and the show will share space with your weekend service. It is not uncommon for us to set the stage for a rehearsal or internal event Wednesday night, then strike that set to put on a concert Thursday, only to find ourselves setting up for weekend services on Friday. Making sure to plan within the capabilities of your team will go a long way to making it a great show.
Understanding the contract
When inquiring about hosting a particular event, a band’s booking representative will send you a “rider”—this is essentially a contract between you and the band. The document will lay out detailed requirements for hosting the event. Now, everyone has heard stories from great rock legends about how they will only eat certain colored M&Ms and drink water chilled to an exact temperature. The rider is where you will find that information. It contains instructions on essential technical equipment, how tickets will be sold, what promotions will be done, and types of food the tour requires. This document can make the band seem quite needy or diva-like, but as someone with touring experience, I can assure you it is not at all intended to be that way.
The rider is designed to ensure a perfect show for the audience, night after night.
It is also imperative to realize that this document is not set in stone. Leuschner offers some insight: “As with any contract, it can be negotiated … these initial conversations with the booking agent and production managers are the time to communicate your facility’s limitations.” Most agents and managers are willing to work within your constraints.
Don’t go it alone
If your church would like to provide live events for the community, but you don’t know where to start, you’re not alone. Many churches work with an event promoter to help line up acts. Doing this can help reduce the financial risk and makes it easier to bring in big names in the music industry. With a seasoned promoter handling radio promotion, print promotion, and ticketing, a huge burden is removed from the church staff.
If you’re bringing in a band that isn’t traveling with its own production, they will rely on you to provide the necessary equipment. This is where hiring a local production company can end up being the best decision you’ve ever made. Working with a local company that produces live events, day in and day out, can drastically reduce the stress level for you and your team. It also reduces the risk of damage to your church’s personal equipment. Just remember, it is imperative to be in touch with a production company prior to signing the rider, to ensure the acquisition of adequate equipment.
Another outside resource that can help in a big way is catering. Depending upon when the band plans on arriving, you may be required to provide up to four meals per day for the tour. With different forms of food allergies and personal preferences, it’s a great idea to utilize a local catering company to provide the best form of nourishment for everyone. The band’s food needs should all be laid out in the catering section of the rider. Another benefit to hiring out responsibility for the food is that the catering company handles cleanup.
In the past, I’ve even partnered with home furniture rental companies for green room and dressing room furniture. It prevents my team from having to pillage couches from lobby spaces, children’s ministry lounges, and pastors’ offices throughout the church.
Load-in and load-out
The band has arrived: Now what? Oftentimes, bands will ask for load-in and load-out help, and, depending on the size of the tour, they may strongly urge against volunteer labor. Generally, this is requested when a tight deadline is looming and they need people who have experience. I have read riders that allow for volunteer labor but require more hands than if hired professionals are involved. Work with your local production company if hired loaders are required. Typically, a rider will specify ten volunteers for each loading, although Leuschner suggests that you always have at least fifteen available.
Volunteers will need to be properly dressed, with no open-toed shoes. Also, if any rigging is needed, this must be handled by a professional, which most production rental houses can provide.
The last piece of advice is arguably the most important: Communicate with the road manager or tour manager well in advance of the show. Much trouble and headache can be avoided by staying upfront and honest about limitations of the venue or changes that arise. For example, our building was under construction recently and, like many building projects, there was a delay in completion. The situation put us into a predicament with dressing rooms. By working with the production manager, we figured out a viable solution. This wasn’t new to them: most church buildings aren’t designed with large concerts in mind. After all, the primary focus for your building is your own services. I recall one time on the road when I was advancing a show with a church and, while going over their sound system, they gave me specifications for a newer system they were hoping to have. Upon arrival at the venue, we found out the system had not been upgraded and was not capable of producing the sound required for our show. It made for some awkward moments between the band and the church staff that could have easily been avoided if the information had been provided up front. That is why it is critical to give the band’s management team an accurate representation of your set up before a contract is signed.
Leuschner suggests establishing a main point person for the entire event—someone that the tour manager, catering provider, and production company all know how to get in touch with. This single point of contact helps reduce confusion the day of the show and in the planning leading up to it.
Keep in mind—these guys are in a different place every night, sleeping on a bus that is traveling down the highway to the next show. How your team greets them when they arrive can set the tone for the entire day. Leuschner’s best advice, in my opinion, is to be professional. Whether you have a large team of volunteers or have hired out help, how you present yourself will make or break an event. From my own experience, coming into a venue and immediately feeling welcomed is the perfect motivation to give an event my all.
Concert planning isn’t for the faint of heart, but by applying these simple steps, you can pull off a phenomenal live event.
As originally posted by Worship Facilities. Re-posted with permission.