Running a Project

A project can be platform that allows people to engage and experience your work. This section will outline some key tips on Planning, Promotion, Delivery and Documentation/Evaluation, which are the essential steps for any project.  There is no set way of running a project and in many ways the best approach is to 'learn by doing'. This is not a definitive guide on how to run a project, but a rough guide to the process of doing it yourself. 

Planning

To develop a project, consider the What, Who, How, Where and When:

Think about WHAT it is: an event, exhibition, festival or site-specific installation. Give it a name or title. Try to write a statement of the project explaining what it is and who is involved. This can be used later in promotion and can help people understand your project when you invite them to join.

Think about WHO is involved: artists, partners and collaborators, whether there are any fees involved and how it will be curated. Make a list of people you want to involve and start contacting them. It may take a bit of coordination to get everyone on the same schedule. Be prepared for last-minute changes. Try to have a back-up plan if someone drops out.

Think about HOW to fund the project. Will you sell tickets or seek sponsorship? Will you need any technical equipment, eg. a PA system, lights, projector. Consider methods of promotion, who will attend and how you will get the word out about the project. You will also need to think about how the artists will arrive (if they need to travel), set up or create their work.

Think about WHERE the project will take place. Visit venues, galleries and spaces and enquire about hiring fees and technical support. Look for a venue that supports and understands the work you are doing. They are more likely to be equipped to support the project and will be more helpful in making the project a success. (See: Venues)

Think about WHEN the project will happen and the duration. Work out a timeline of when you plan to do everything and set deadlines. Scheduling is important to ensure you have enough time to do everything. Often it is good to have everything confirmed (venue, artists, date, time) at least a month in advance, which allows ample time for promotion. Projects always take longer than you expect, so make sure you allow yourself enough time to work everything out. Planning also involves arranging the set times and flow of the event and whether there will be breaks or intervals, which should be coordinated with the venue.

Words of Advice

I'd say the two major stumbling blocks in producing commissions are funding and a venue. They are mutually related. If you have funding in place, a venue is more likely to be interested; likewise, if you have a really appropriate venue behind you, then funders are more likely to fund you. So it's a matter of tackling those things first. It's a bit like the chicken or egg, often.

– Irene Revell, Electra

If you are a small group, such as a quartet or trio, decide to split the workload between you. All too often one person ends up taking on too much and this can end in tears.

Carefully consider who your audience is. There are so many competing concerts and events these days you simply must know that one element of your performance is going to attract an audience. This could be the venue (eg. St Martin-in-the-Fields), repertoire or the fame of a performer. If you're not well known and decide to perform music by an obscure composer in a venue that nobody really knows – you'll need a huge marketing budget to even get close to a good audience size.

In terms of planning and organisation, think about the repertoire FIRST as this will affect every single area of planning. Think backwards. After the last bout of tremendous applause has faded, the venue been packed away and the lights switched off, what must have happened to get there?

– Tom Hammond, Sound Collective

Promotion

Once you have confirmed the artists, venue, date and time of the project, you can start to develop a promotion plan. There are a number of methods of promotion and there is no limit to how much you can exploit each one of them. Be aware that people tend to be wary of people who promote too much. Keep in mind that people may not appreciate constant spamming.

[See: Promoting Yourself section]

Online

These days, most promotion happens online. It is the cheapest and easiest way to spread the word about your project. This section will help you write a press release and get the word out quickly and effectively.

Email

Getting the notice about your project into as many mailboxes as possible will help spread the word. Build a database of contacts that can be used for future projects. Try making a simple email, press release and flyer for the project and keep it clear and short. People receive countless invitations daily and often only have time to have a quick glance. A key image or flyer will help people gain an immediate understanding of your project.

You can create a separate PDF for the press release that can be sent to the press and VIPs. Create a shortened email no longer than a paragraph and include all important details at the top, ie. time, date, venue, map/location, artists, title and description.

People want to know what it is and what will happen, when and where. In the flyer or email it is helpful to include how people can get to the venue via train, bus or other transportation, or include a map of the location and any necessary instructions.

Send the press release and flyer to:

  • Friends / Family
  • Press and Media (radio, newspapers, television, blogs) eg. Time Out, the Wire, Guardian, BBC, ResonanceFM etc.
  • Individuals and Professionals (artists, producers, curators, writers, academics, industry people)
  • Organisations / Institutions (art institutions, universities, galleries, funders etc.)

If you know people working in the media, try to find out and get the contact details for people who may be interested in writing about your project.

Create a mailing list and keep it for future use. Once you have done one project, promoting becomes easier since you already have the contacts.

If you are involving other artists, tell them to send it out through their network as well. The people you involve in the project play a key role in promoting since they can draw people from their network and help to bring a range of people together. Most artists will have an existing network of followers from doing projects themselves. Collect bios and descriptions from the artists and make sure they agree and proofread the release before you send it out.

Press release checklist—what to include in a press release:

  • Project title / subtitle
  • Date / Time of event or opening hours
  • Venue and Address
  • Ticket prices / Where to buy tickets (if any)
  • Project Description
  • Map / Directions to venue
  • Artists and Artist bio (keep it short)
  • Links / Websites
  • Contact for more information
  • Sponsor logos or any other crediting
  • Attach any key images or flyer

Social media

Social media is a fast and easy way of getting the notice out about your project. It is easy for those in your network to share with others and has the potential to become viral. When considering social media, think about how you will use it and when it is effective or necessary before subscribing to every third-party application out there. Keep up with what people are using and subscribe to the ones that are best for connecting with your network and community. Facebook, Myspace and Twitter are the most commonly used for promoting events, but be aware that some people may be on your lists more than once and may not appreciate being bombarded from various media. Use social media tastefully and moderately, and consider how just a little effort can sometimes go a long way.

You can also promote your project on online community networks such as Art Rabbit or New Work Network or other online forums.

[See: Promoting Yourself – 'Online channels']

Postcards and leaflets

In addition to an e-flyer and press release you can also print out postcards or leaflets to distribute. Design is important to not only allow people to get the information to attend your project, but also to communicate what the project is about. Printing can be done cheaply. It can be as simple as photocopying and cutting A4 paper into four hand-size flyers. If you have a bit of a budget, you can print postcards though costs can vary depending on the paper, size, number of cards, colour, and whether you want extra features eg. matt or glossy. Postcards and leaflets can be left in shops, cafés, schools, galleries and venues. You can also distribute them at other similar events or projects and hand them out directly to people. This way you can also talk to people and tell them what your project is about.

[See: ‘Printed Matter’ in the Promoting Yourself section]

Word-of-Mouth

Most promoting happens online these days since it is the cheapest and fastest way to reach a large number of people, but do not underestimate the power of word-of-mouth promotion. Go to events and speak to people. This is the best way to reach your community and make a direct connection rather than hiding behind the computer screen. Through social engagement, people can gain an immediate understanding of who you are and can get a direct connection to your work. They will perhaps even pass the word along to a friend.

Cross-promoting

For some, self-promoting can be a draining and endless task. Promoting, however, can be made extremely easy when you have the right network that can allow the word to spread on its own. Share networks with others by promoting the work of your friends and peers along with your own. They will return the favour. Additionally, you can ask to have a link on each other's web pages. People gain a better understanding of your work through your network and affiliations.

PR Agencies

If are looking to become more professionalised, consider hiring a designer for your press material and working with PR agencies. They will have direct connections to people in the media and can help to build a story around your project and secure article features or reviews in the press. Allow at least three months for serious press campaigns, to ensure advertisements and articles are published prior to the launch of your project.

Delivery

By this time, you have already confirmed all the details for the project including artists, materials, technical equipment, venue and transportation (if necessary). Running an event or project requires a lot of multi-tasking and making sure all the components come together. Wherever you can, try to find some runners or helpers who can assist in coordination. It is good to have extra people who can nip to the shop if necessary. As a producer, it is important to be present at the venue and to keep watch over the entire project. Try to delegate work to others, such as technical setup, ticket handling/guest list, artist support and security. Make a contact sheet including all phone numbers for the artists, venue and helpers and distribute it to every party involved. Communication is key to having a project run smoothly. Make sure everyone understands their role and the times they are expected to be at the venue. Make sure you understand what is going to happen every step of the way and try to think one step ahead. Be flexible and prepared to for any issues that may arise.

Words of Advice

Remember that good production values will build your reputation as a producer more than anything else. Most gripes are caused by mismatched expectations and a lot of this boils down to bad communication. Be patient, be thorough, show understanding, be humble and pay attention to the expertise of others, listen and communicate clearly. Visualise the end that you want to achieve and the steps you will need to take to get there. If you can do these things you have a future; if not the only future you have is a bad reputation and very few people wanting to work with you.

- Richard Whitelaw, Sound and Music

Tips

  • Find helpers where possible
  • Make a contact list of all parties involved (venue, artists, producers, tech support, helpers)
  • Plan ahead and be flexible
  • Ensure clear communication and that everyone understands their role

Documentation

Documentation is how your project will continue to exist after it is completed. It is integral to any project as it provides evidence of what you have done. It can be used to contribute to your portfolio to promote yourself for future opportunities. Documentation can equally become a part of the project itself and can be approached creatively or as a continuation of the project in multiple forms. Documentation can be as simple as photos, videos, audio recordings and even the flyers, press releases, statements and press clippings from your project.

During a project, it may be useful to get a helper to take care of the documentation. Ask a friend or hire a photographer to get proper documentation, as there may be only one chance to do it. Some venues require permission to film on-site – particularly large concert halls or museum spaces. Be sure to clear permissions to film or photograph inside the venue beforehand.

Photos can also be a great way to share the event online with those who attended and those who missed out. They can be shared online through Flickr or Facebook or be sent in a 'thank you' email to the artists, audience, venue and funders.

Words of Advice

Documentation is as important to a career artist as production and it’s twice as painful. I wouldn’t have won my awards without the documentation and the personal production of the finished media. With documentation, I can then send evidence to the jury to convince them that it’s a strong piece of work. If you send a few snapshots and a little recording on a CD, you’re not going to get anywhere. It has got to be well presented, produced and promoted. We can all make our own videos on a laptop now. I just use iMovie and I make short 5-minute films about my work. It’s very easy to do.

– Janek Schaefer, Artist

Did it Work?

To start evaluating whether your project was successful, work out your final budget and expenses and see whether it balances. Make sure there are not any outstanding expenses and follow up with the artists and their payment. Follow up with the venue and make sure everything was properly cleaned up. Get feedback and if it is positive, perhaps you can work with them again in the future. Do the same with the funders and ask their opinions on the project. Evaluate your project by writing a short report, which you can also send to your funders or partners.

If possible, arrange an evaluation meeting with all project stakeholders as it's a good way forward. Not only does the group dynamic allow for a free and direct sharing of thoughts and responses, but the meeting can serve as a useful what-happens-next session. Be sure to chair this meeting carefully so it doesn't descend into a congratulatory back-slapping session or an excuse for excessive moaning over minor hiccups during the project's lifespan.

Ways to evaluate the success of your project can include:

The number of audiences

The final budget and expenditure (check if any money was lost or gained)

Feedback from the audience and artist

Feedback from the venue, partners and funders

A review of your thoughts on the quality of the work, the experience for the audience, the running of the project, the experience of working with venues and funders and the overall result. Assess what you thought was successful and what could have been done better according to your personal intentions. Take the project as a learning experience and consider all the connections and reA project can be platform that allows people to engage and experience your work. This section will outline some key tips on Planning, Promotion, Delivery and Documentation/Evaluation, which are the essential steps for any project.  There is no set way of running a project and in many ways the best approach is to 'learn by doing'. This is not a definitive guide on how to run a project, but a rough guide to the process of doing it yourself.

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