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How I Organised My Very 1st Event (and made it a huge success)

By August 6, 2019June 23rd, 2022No Comments

Hungry Pigeon Festival – not our 1st event, but what happened years later for our events

In 2004 I ran my very 1st event and looking back it was a brave move that set me up for where I am today

It also makes me feel very very old

As we launch our “How To Run Successful Events That People Talk About” workshop I thought it would be useful to talk about the scary experience of putting on my very 1st event

I know if you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking of putting on your very 1st event

I know that this will help you learn from someone who had been there

1. Collaborated & Learnt from Someone Doing It
Back in 2004 I’d never ever put on an event

I was a freelance music journalist running my own music website and I wanted to celebrate 5 years of the website’s existence

I could write about music and I knew lots of local talent we’d covered on the website, but in terms of the logistics of running events I literally didn’t have a clue

The only way to really do this was to learn from people who’d been there and done it before and learn from then

I reached out to a local gig promoter called Matt who’d I’d known from covering gigs as a journalist and explained what I wanted to do and asked could we co-promote it together

Luckily he said yes or it could have been an expensive learning process fumbling my way through putting on an event

I literally asked question after question like an eager beaver keen to soak up all this information

2. Costed It Up
When you’re young money is something you equally care about massively and are absolutely careless about

What I learnt over 10 years of putting on events in the music industry is that all the bands thing you’re walking around carrying bags of gold and driving flash cars

What I didn’t know when I thinking of putting on my first event is how much everything would cost

Looking back by the time you’d added venue hire, printing costs, riders and paying performers I think the break-even point was in the region of 80-90 people attending to cover the costs

And we were doing this on a Tuesday Night in the middle of Manchester where it rains a lot and the “big coat” jokes you see around Twitter nowadays don’t actually ring true. People stay in.

I took the risk and thought even if it covers it’s costs it will be a great event regardless

3. Aimed High
The venue is important on any event you organise

It can make or break an event

When it came to music for the very 1st event I wanted to put it on at the best venue of it’s size at the time

Nowadays all the cool kids go to Deaf Institute or Gorilla – at the time it was Night & Day on Oldham Street

It was a venue steeped in history. It was a venue bands loved. It was a venue music fans loved

It was also more expensive at the time than any of the other venues in town to hire

But I wanted to aim high and go for the best

4. Took A Risk
Whenever you do an event – it’s a risk

Not just financial, but the risk that absolutely no one could turn up

I think all these years on, yes 15 years later, I still get the nerves on the morning of an event

But I also look at what is the upside of running the event

When I took the risk to do my 1st event in 2004 it kick-started 10 years of music events that I wouldn’t have changed for the world

It’s unlikely I would have been running Altrincham HQ if it wasn’t for the marketing adventure it took me on

When you take a risk think of the upsides

5. Analysed and Repeated
In rock & roll the analysis often takes place after 10 or 11am the next morning. In business I analyse everything about 20 minutes after event when I’m walking home

In 2004 I was drinking. I was partying. And I had a hangover the next day

And then I started to piece together all the amazing things that happened

That 1st event we really couldn’t have done anything better as it sold out on a Tuesday Night with 250 people in attendance and ending up turning people away

It was a number of years later when the recession hit that I analysed every single event over and over again and tried to make each event work better than the last

But as you can see, we repeated what worked

At the end of my tenure in music I was putting on 6 events a month and events from 250 capacity venues to 15,000 capacity arts festival

It was a blast and set me up for business events with Altrincham HQ that blew the competition away


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Alex McCann

Author Alex McCann

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