PLANNING IS CRUCIAL
A good party requires a plan. At my most recent party, we decided on a potluck barbeque with an outdoor stage for performances and jamming, and in-studio gear demonstrations. A potluck helps reduce costs, and encourages everyone to participate. But you will still need to provide the location, plan the activities, prepare your place, set a date that doesn’t conflict with other events, and do all the usual prep work that goes into any successful undertaking. Here are some additional tips:
-Some (or even all) of the expenses may be tax-deductible as legitimate promotional expenses; discuss this with your accountant.
-I used a lot of my own gear for the party, such as guitars, amps, drums, and basses, which makes life easier for those who attend and reduces confusion about “what belongs to who” afterwards.
-Mark your gear and lock up anything that isn’t in use or actively being shown off so that it doesn’t disappear during the party.
n Invite your neighbors. If they’re at the party, they won’t complain about the noise.
THE GEAR: LOANS AND PROMOS
In order to have some new gear on hand for people to check out, I called a couple of local companies and arranged for some equipment loans. When approaching companies, remember that they don’t loan gear just to be nice (even if they are): You need to provide detailed feedback, like a consultant would, that can help them in designing future products.
Unless you have a “name,” you may not be able to convince manufacturers to send demo gear. However, if approached in the right way, your local music store may be willing to partner with you. This can be a great opportunity for them to get some exposure for their store and the products they carry. It’s a nice gesture to have some of their flyers handy, or business cards of particularly knowledgeable salespeople.
For any jam you’ll need a PA system; as I’ve bought a lot of Yamaha gear over the years, I contacted them about a loaner. They hooked us up with one of their new EMX5016CF rack mountable compact live boards (with two built-in 500W power amps, two built-in SPX class effects units, a one-knob compressor on each of the first 8 channels, feedback eliminator, digital EQs, etc.), along with a pair of MSR400 powered monitors and a pair of prototype mains speakers. A mixer like this is really all you’ll need to handle a band and provide a decent amount of power.
I also took advantage of the fact that ADAM was launching their A7 near field monitors and wanted to get the word out. These proved to be a big hit with practically everyone who heard them; having them in my studio also gave people a chance to audition them in a real control room, and as I use the ADAM S3-As, attendees could make a direct comparison between the A7s and the more expensive ADAM speakers.
GETTING THE WORD OUT
Contact all of your current and previous clients and invite them. Ask them for the names of any musician friends that they know who might also be interested in attending; let them know about the event too. You can also post flyers at any music stores with which you have partnered. Don’t forget the internet — many of the attendees at my latest party were people I met online.
You can also use the internet to research and make contact with popular local bands in your area. Don’t forget to invite your industry and support service contacts: videographers and photographers, music store personnel, manufacturer’s reps, A&R scouts, local radio personalities, club owners, and the like. Make good use of your existing contacts, and expand outwards from there.
Have some of your work on hand and ready to play for people. Chances are some people will not have worked with you, so be ready to show them what you and your studio can do. You can even duplicate some “handout” CDs with excerpts of your best work (with permission of the artists, of course). Similarly, spend plenty of time meeting and mingling with people you haven’t met before, or not seen in a while. If people are comfortable with you as a person and like your work, the chances of them using your services increase significantly.
BIGGER IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER
We do a big party once a year, but also consider doing smaller, more frequent events. A weekly or monthly studio “open house” can be a great way to show off your studio and encourage meetings and collaborations between yourself and local musicians.
You never know which person you meet may become important to your career or lead to that next project, so networking and meeting new people, and spending time with people whom you’ve previously met, is very important. Besides, if all else fails, at least you will have had some fun!
Phil O’Keefe is a producer/engineer, and the owner of Sound Sanctuary Recording in Riverside, California. He can be contacted at www.philokeefe.com, or via the Studio Trenches forum at www.harmony-central.com.