Eric Wätke

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My journey of organizing events and concerts

Being a member of Technica Light & Sound from 2015 until 2020, I experienced some very diverse event-experiences.

The failures

The first year I was there, we were planning the "Bandabend". That roughly translates to an evening of or with bands. This would be the 10th year in a row it happened, but we faced difficulties. We didn't have enough personnel, planning went very slowly and at some point, my boss said: "Let's just not do it this year". In hindsight, that was probably the right call.

The next year, new boss, we did it. We had a bit of luck, or so we thought, that 2 events would fall in the same week. So we only had to set up everything once. Stage, Sound, Lighting, etc. The problem was, our gig was the later one. And the first one, for which we only did the technical things, to say it bluntly, sucked. So the big day comes, "Bandabend 10 (2017)". 30 guests. 30. Most of the time, the whole crew of ours were in the audience so the bands wouldn't feel so bad.

The economics of the 10th Bandabend

So you already know the Bandabend was everything but a success. But to get a full grasp of what that meant, you have to see the whole picture.
So you see, Technica Light & Sound is a school company. We were all students. But that doesn't mean we got any money from the school, no. We only got one room. In summary, our bank account wasn't that full.
But there isn't necessarily a problem with that, is there?
Normally, you'd be right. But for the Bandabend, we rented truckloads of gear and two bands. I don't know the exact numbers anymore, but I do know that one band wanted more than a thousand euros.
So we went into the reds. Deep.
The next year, we couldn't do much. Because we had no money. Just a small number of small events.

Now was my turn as the leader

After all this, we climbed back up to ~ 0 €. I was now in the lead of the group. What did I do to get over this situation?

Correct, more concerts!

But why would I do that if the last one failed so badly?
I recognized the problems. We did the last one in our school gym, so many probably thought it'd be a school-event, which it was not.
We did very little marketing. How can people come to an event they don't even know it exists?
And lastly, we rented expensive gear.

80s Blade (2018)

I felt like, the rock band era isn't nearly as big as it once was. So we brainstormed, what music does everyone like? Music from the 1980s. We don't have a lot of venues in our area, so I picked a small one in a village ~5km from the city.

We also did a ton of marketing. On the internet, on the streets, everywhere we were able to. The poster design wasn't the best one looking back. But at least we had a poster people would see. I made small teaser clips we distributed in people's Instagram stories.

The most important part, we didn't rent any gear. We only used what we had. We also didn't invite any bands, we DJed ourselves.
In conclusion, that means even if no one comes, the most we can lose is our time and the hundred bucks for the venue.
Needless to say, it was a huge success. We were sold out. To be fair, the ticket prices weren't high, but at five bucks each with a hundred people, that's already five times our investment.
In addition to that, we also sold drinks. And if you ever worked in the event branch or something close, you know, that's where the real money is. I don't know any exact numbers anymore, but it was more than a thousand bucks.

And by the end of it: we knew we could do better.

Mute 2019

At the 80s Blade, we placed tables all along the sides of the not too big venue. "Maybe someone would like to sit", we thought. But no. Almost no one did. We also hired some hobby DJs. Last time, I'd DJ myself for half of the time. And I never did it before. I didn't do it perfectly, it was tiring as hell. So we just asked some DJs we knew, and they were happy to do it.

Remember the Posters from the 80s Blade? We hung them on lampposts along the streets. It's expensive and we didn't notice that big of a difference. To be fair, the target audience was way younger this time as Mute is a Techno event. We bought new gear from the earnings of the 80s Blade and everything went along way smoother.
(By the way, this image was taken during soundcheck. I'm not lying about being sold out :D)

Final thoughts

What impressed me personally, we saw a huge growth in brand trust. This probably has something to do with the rebranding as we were more recognizable, but also because people liked our events.
The first event, we were sold out a day before I think.
Mute 2019, we were sold out probably a week or two before.
This year we wanted to do Mute 2020, but then this Corona thing happened. But the event would've been in the first quarantine week, so we already have the numbers.
If I remember correctly, we were sold out just a couple of weeks after announcing the event. And we increased our capacity.
That shows how much consistency and therefore a valuable brand is worth.