A career in culture?

Working in the music industry is serious business

12 August 2015

Not all parents are happy when their son or daughters announces (s)he wants to study music management, media & entertainment, hospitality & music or other so-called 'fun studies'. It is all quite new, but statistics show that the amount of jobs in the creative industry is growing. Studying law or accountancy is seen as a safe choice, but there are many people with law and accountancy degrees around, so competition is steep which makes it hard to find a job. I have been teaching about media, communication, music and event management for years and I can assure you, it is not an easy study! And there are many good opportunities to find work, especially if you also do some (volunatry) work next to your study.

Do you like organising parties? Are you always the one who comes up with creative ideas for your nieces and nephews birthday parties? Do you enjoy working behind the bar in your sports club, would you like to get involved in organising your friend's wedding or are you a member of the social committee at your school? Perhaps a career in event management might be something for you. Events come in different shapes and forms; from acadmic conferences to weddings, arts festivals to product launches and exhibitions. It takes a special person to deal with the demands for organising an event; you need to have good communication and 'people' skills. You will need to be good at problem-solving, have lots of determination and a positive attitude. You will have to like planning, organising and meeting people.

Event managers control the whole project, from planning at the start to running the event on the day, from conception through to completion. It starts with the client; someone wants to organise an event, and they want to do that for a reason. They probably have a budget and date in mind as well. It is up to you to listen to the client and come up with a creative idea to get the message of the client across. This creative idea has to suit the wishes and needs of the client, so it is important that you listen carefully and that you keep communicating with the client to see if you are on the right track. Together with the client you set SMART objectives; they have to be specific (you to make it concrete), measurable (so you can measure succes afterwards, check whether you have reached the goals), achievable (within the given budget and given time), realistic (it is good to be ambitious, but make sure it can be done!), and timebound (planning and deadlines are very important when you organise events).

Once you know what the client wants and you agreed on the objectives and a theme, you start researching venues and suppliers. You have to be able to negotiate, as you will be negotiating prices with suppliers and contractors such as caterers and security. All the time you stay in touch with the client. If it is a public event, it needs to be promoted, especially if you depend on ticket sales for income. On behalf of the client you liaise with marketing & PR specialists and designers to create a brand for the event and organise the production of tickets, posters, catalogues and sales brochures, plus social media coverage to promote the event. As you might have a tight budget, you might have to sell sponsorship/stand/exhibition space to potential exhibitors/partners and try to find media partners.

There is a lot to think of, which is why a lot of event managers use project management as an approach. Project management works in phases

  • initiative phase> put the ideas for the event in a project proposal
  • preparation phase> the design and plan becomes more concrete and is written down in a project plan
  • development phase> the plan becomes a script (production programme) with details who does what at what time during the event
  • performance phase> the event takes place, the script is being executed and you manage the team
  • evaluation phase> wrap up, talk to the client (what went well and what could be better) and research whether the objectives were met. Write that down in an evaluation report with advice for a follow (if applicable).

After every phase, you go back to the client to see if you are on the right track. You write a so-called decision document and the client approves or asks you to change things. Always look at Quality, Organisation, Facilities, Time, Information & Money and make sure the client is happy. Most of the times better quality (for example a state-of-the-art sound system, famous artists, lots of flushing lavatories, short queues at the bar, etc.) wll cost more money. Facilities also (dressing rooms, decorations, what kind of lunch/dinner, etc.) have a big impact on the money spent. So keep an eye on the budget!

Marketing is very important. Who is your target group? Who will be coming to your event? Are you inviting people personally or do you have to advertise? Where does your target group get information from? From magazines, Facebook or through word of mouth? How old are they? How much money do they have to spend? If you have no people at the party, exhibition or conference, the client is not going to be amused.. So you think about PEOPLE, PROMOTION, PRICE, PLACE and PRODUCT: the 5Ps of marketing.

To be an event manager you need to have people skills, be an excellent communicator and negotiator, be good at planning, understand finance & budgets, deal with legal issues (contracts, licenses, copyrights and permits), have the ability to negotiate, understand the importance of SMART objectives and good knowledge about your target group, make sure health & safety are well organised, that all technology works, that staff is motivated and doing their job, get everybody at the event on time (logistics/transport), keep keynote everybody (speakers, artists and the client) happy, etc.

Relevant experience is very important! Employers will want to see evidence of organisational and events experience. It is advised that prospective events managers get as much experience as possible and to gain some voluntary work experience or organise your own events. Working as an events manager can be a hugely demanding and stressful job, particularly in the immediate run-up to the event. Events managers typically work standard office hours, although the actual events often happen in the evenings or at weekends. In the run-up to an event overtime is usually required. The role of event organiser is hands-on and often involves working as part of a team. Event organisers must be able to complete a wide range of activities requiring clear communication, excellent organisational skills and attention to detail. They must work well under pressure, ensuring the smooth and efficient running of an event. Not an easy job, not an easy subject to study, but a fun thing to do! You either love it or hate, as you have to be able to deal with the stress. I you can, you'll have the best job in the world!