How To Start Your Own Club Night
How To Start Your Own Club Night
Creating your own club night is a powerful way to further your DJ career and immerse yourself within the music business. Having your own organisation or enterprise can help open door and forge connections in the industry. Club nights offer a strategical power move DJs can make use of. It's not easy to create a successful club night but if you follow our advice here you'll be off to an easy start. If you want to start your own night please read on!
What is a club night?
A club night is an event held in a nightclub. People often refer to DJ events as raves, club nights, parties, gatherings or just events. Club nights can also have more than just DJs and may have live acts including bands. Some club nights are just regular local events and some become brands in their own right touring the world.
The main financial model for a club night business is to make money from selling tickets. You book the DJs, promote the party and sell the tickets in the hope that you break even or make a profit. If you don't promote the night properly or fail to sell the tickets you could be left with burnt fingers and a large hole in your wallet. Like with any business, there is risk. Manage the risk by following this advice designed for DJs who are at the initial stages of thinking about starting their own club night.
How can a club night help me?
Other than being a fun and creative process, starting your own club night has other rewards for DJs. Firstly, if your night is successful it will help you build a second income that might one day lead to being full-time work. This income can supplement your DJ career and give you more time in the day to focus on DJing and production. Secondly having your own club night will give you one of the biggest bargaining tools when it comes to negotiating for more DJ gigs. Having a big following will make other promoters want to book you as a DJ in the hope that some of your crowd will then buy a ticket to see you perform at their event. Having your own club night makes you a more valuable booking. Thirdly, you can book other DJs for your night creating a golden-handshake opportunity for you to network. One of the best ways to enact that third benefit is to reach out to DJs in other countries and organise a gig swap. You can play in their home country in exchange for them playing at your event. This is the best shortcut to international DJ status!
1. Create a club night concept
Before you start ringing around trying to find a venue to host your club night you must first create a solid concept. Make sure you spend some time brainstorming what your event is all about and how you want to communicate that message. The initial concept has to be water-tight, so come up with some ideas and then ask some friends who are into the same style of music what they think. Some parties turn into huge multinational brands so make sure you're thinking long-term. Here's some questions you should be answering with your concept:
What is your club night called?
What's the genre of music?
What is the target audience?
What is your unique selling point?
Why is there a need for a club night like this?
How can I be better than what is already out there?
2. Create a business plan for your club night
A dream without a plan is just fantasy. Now you have your concept, put it into action with a short business plan. Creating a business plan will help you get your ideas onto paper and help you identify flaws that you can work to fix. It's an essential part of the process so do not skip this part. Here are some things you can address in your business plan:
Summarise your club night, name, genre, audience etc.
Who is involved in running this event. Who will make your graphics, who will help you with advertising, who will help you keep your artists happy, who will manage the sound etc.
This paragraph outlines your creative and business goals, core purpose and core values. Think of it as an elevator pitch, short and to the point but inspirational.
Research who your target market is going to be. What are the key demographics? What is your ideal customer profile? Where do they live and where do they party? How large is your potential audience in relation to the geographical area you intend to run the event in?
Where is the events industry now? How do you fit in and how will you create space in the ecosystem? Research your market.
Your competitive overview will identify your direct competitors or similar events that your target audience are already attending. You should identify their strengths and weaknesses. What can do you do better or differently to make space for yourself in the market?
How will you use branding to help you achieve the goals set out in your mission statement? Who will help you develop a brand and how will you promote your brand?
Who do you want to book for the event, how are you going to book them and how much can you spend? How will your potential DJ bookings fulfil demand from your demographic?
How will you promote your event to your target audience? How long will you need to successfully promote and what promotions channels will you use? Will you use paid advertising and what platforms will allow you to reach your audience?
What days and times will you schedule your events and how will these dates help you attract your target audience. What are the important dates to avoid and important dates to book? What would your ideal schedule of events look like for the following calendar year?
Who will be your ticket partner? What platform will you use to sell tickets online and why? Will you also print physical tickets and if so, how will you distribute them?
How will you garner the attention of the media? Is there a story or narrative that will get the attention of any journalists?
Detail how you will run the event on the night itself. Who will be in control of managing artists, sound, door etc?
Describe your financial plan and budget. Do you have some investment and what will you spend it on?
How will you retain happy customers and market your following events to them at less cost?
PLAN OF ACTION
Once you have completed your business plan create a list of tasks that you need to complete in order to realise your plan.
3. Create a brand
Your brand is the visual identity of your club night including the name, logo and any associated visuals or themes. Your brand identity can also include associated concepts like luxury, unique, hardcore, fun, industrial etc. What is the brand identity of your club night and how does that work for your target audience? Researching what your competitors are doing will help give you some inspiration but remember it's better to be original!
At this stage, it's wise to come up with a few possible names for your club night and then ask some close friends their thoughts. Even better, ask someone who is in the industry what their thoughts are.
Now you have a shortlist of possible names you should check online to see if anyone else is already running a club night with that name or an events company. If someone is already using that name you'll have to go back to the drawing board. If you are very serious about this new club night you might want to register the trademark.
Once you have the name and your brand identity concept you can ask a graphic designer to create a logo and look for the brand. You might want to consider asking the designer to create the logo, fonts, colour pallet and anything else that might be useful in the long run. Good graphic design does cost money but if the cornerstone of your new enterprise is its identity it's money well spent!
4. Launch your platforms
Now you have decided on the name and created a brand for your club night it's time to secure all the online platforms you will be using to promote your night. Common platforms for events include Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, Resident Advisor (RA) and any other online platform where your target market might be browsing. Make sure your brand is consistent across all the platforms with the same look.
5. Find a venue
Finding the perfect venue for your club night is often the hardest step but having a good concept, brand and business plan can help you win over the venue booker. Venues often already have events taking up the best nights, namely Fridays and Saturdays, so new promoters often have to start on other nights like mid-week, Sundays or bank holidays. You might be lucky and find a slot where there has been a change of promoters recently. Try and get a Friday or Saturday night if you can.
Make sure that the venue is the right size and cost your business plan. Start with a small venue and work your way up. Most new events will fail, be prepared for that by not putting too much risk into your venue booking.
"The number one mistake new promoters make is booking a really expensive large venue and then struggling to fill it."
Venues might ask for a hire fee but where possible try and avoid this. It's better to have a split where the venue takes the bar (drinks sales) and you take the door (ticket sales). Venues might also ask you for a minimum bar spend, for example £1000 to cover the staff expenses like door staff and bar staff. Try and avoid this if you can because it's highly risky for new promoters. Some other venues won't want you to charge entry and will instead offer you either a budget to run your event or a percentage of the bar take. This is a good option for new promoters as there is no financial risk.
Just remember, new promoters are always over optimistic about how easy it is to run a club night and sell tickets. It's hard, and it takes a long time to build an audience. Far better to keep the risk level low and not stress over your first events!
6. Promote your event
Now you have scheduled your first club night make sure you promote, promote, promote! You need to reach your audience and encourage them to buy a ticket. It's harder than it sounds because there is a lot of competition. The earlier you start to promote the better. Clubbers often go to events their friends are already going to, so with this in mind, if you secure some early sales you're more likely to have a knock-on effect with sales. If your promotion is not working adapt, and adapt fast as time is of the essence. One of the best ways to promote an event is get lots of people involved in running the event in one way or another and get them to spread the word to their friends. This can include DJs, hosts, sub-promoters, designers, photographers, live acts, flyers. The more people involved the better in terms of promotion.
7. Manage the event
Now the big night has arrived you need to manage the event effectively. You'll need to be on hand to keep the DJs happy, venue managers, sound techs, door staff and of course your customers! Make sure you're a gracious host, warm and welcoming so people want to come back to the next event. You might consider getting help running the night, perhaps hire someone to run the door or to be artist liaison. This way, you can spend more time hosting.
8. Build a following
Promoting your first event is tough, you'll have to put a lot of effort into just pulling a small number of people. As you've spent so much time (and money) on reaching these people you need to make sure you retain them. You want to them become a true regular and come back to future events and help spread the word. How can you retain them? How can you encourage them to spread the word? A mailing list is often the first thing but sometimes a more personal touch is better. Why not get their phone number and permission to text them updates? What other ideas can you come up to help engage past ticket buyers?
If you're struggling to get repeat customers back to future events, ask yourself why, or ask them direct. People vote with their feet so pay attention to anyone dropping off the radar, it could be the first sign that rot has set in. A change of concept might be needed. Don't be afraid to fail fast and go back to the drawing board multiple times.
Running a club night of your own is one of the best ways to help promote yourself as a DJ and earn a second income. As the promoter of the event you can book other DJs and also be on the lineup yourself. You'll have more control over what time you play and how your name is promoted on the artwork. You'll be able to build up a following not just for your DJ career but for the club night itself. Some club nights become international brands and tour the world. Who knows where your new venture will take you!