It has never been easier to start your own club night. Tools like wegottickets.com for ticket sales and Mail Chimp to manage mailing lists eliminate a large part of the faff leaving you to concentrate on sorting out a venue, lining up your artists and running a fabulous raffle on the night. Building your website can be a faff if you’re starting from scratch, but there are free tools out there for generating excellent static websites that need almost no maintenance. We’re using just such a tool to build this website and, once we’ve got it knocked into shape we plan to release our templates and instructions on how to build your own website using them.
If your town or village is anything like Doncaster, you can probably find a pub locally that has a quiet night or two and would be glad of a bunch of singers filling the place up and buying their beer. To minimise the faff, you don’t want to be messing with a PA (it comes between artist and audience and it takes up valuable space that could hold seats) so you want a small room where your artists can be heard from the back row, assuming there are no braying conversations going on at the bar.
We strongly advocate holding your club nights in the main room of your pub. There are any number of folk and jazz clubs around the country that take place in back and upstairs rooms of pubs that nobody ever hears of. If you’re singing in the public bar you’re doing part of your marketing right there and you’re helping to spread the idea that singing together is a great way to spend an evening and anyone can do it. Everybody wins.
Once you’ve found the right room, talk to the landlord or manager and see if they’re interested. Assuming they are, sort out a night for your club nights and get on with…
Again, the modern world makes getting in touch with the kind of artists that would go well and be comfortable in a purely acoustic setting. You know your local scene better than I do, but when we started the Singing Together club we had 6 months’ worth of guests lined up within a week just by approaching them directly through facebook and twitter. We charge £7 for seats with a suggested hat donation of £5 in a room with at most 30 seats. If room is completely full, the artist will be lucky to see £250 and even relatively well known names on the UK folk scene were happy to work for that. Remember that many of your artists are doing this because they love it and the idea of singing for a small group of people in a totally acoustic setting is appealing to them as well as to your audience. We don’t offer a guaranteed minimum fee, but will aim to cover reasonable expenses if the money from the door doesn’t even cover the cost of getting to and from the gig – that’s why there’s a raffle.
If all the money from the door is going to the artist, then how are you going to pay for printing flyers, covering expenses if the door falls short, any print advertising in your local papers and generally covering your admin costs?
You resort to the universal British fundraiser – the raffle! Buy a CD from the artist (they may donate one, but be prepared to pay) if they have one, cadge a couple of beer tokens from the pub, reserve a free seat at the next gig. Boom! You’ve got your raffle prizes. You know what to do. A pound a ticket, two pounds for two tickets, stick all the stubs in a hat and draw out three winners in the interval.
Even if you’re planning to fund the club out of your own pocket or with a grant or something, hold a raffle – it’s traditional. And it’s a good deal easier than organising a mummers’ play or some such fundraising diversion.