Performing an advance is the single most important thing you can do to make sure that your event runs successfully. A good advance will make your party, and not advancing your show can break it.
What exactly is an advance? It’s an action taken by the production manager anywhere between five and ten days prior to the day of a show. The production manager approaches each vendor, each tour manager, and anyone else with responsibility for an element of the performance and confirms everything that has been previously established.
You may wonder why it’s necessary to go over agreements that have already been made. The simple answer is that things change. If you booked an artist two to six months out, even a slight alteration could have a profound effect.
For example, perhaps you learned recently that the curfew at your fraternity house is 11:00 p.m. instead of midnight. Have you conveyed that to everyone involved in the show, or will they be arriving thinking that the curfew is midnight?
Maybe you’ve been planning an outside event, but the weather forecast a week out tells you that there’s a hurricane coming in, rendering an outdoor event senseless. Have you communicated that to everyone with a stake in the party?
You probably brokered the show with the artist’s agent. That’s fine, but when the artist arrives, the agent will be nowhere to be seen. You’ll be dealing with the artist’s tour manager. It’s the agent’s job to pass on all necessary information to the artist’s manager, by way of the contract. It’s the manager’s job to pass necessary information to the tour manager. Has everyone done his or her job? You won’t know unless you establish a line of communication with the tour manager.
The tour manager’s job is to be the jerk on the ground and raise hell if there’s anything not to his or the band’s liking. You really don’t want to give him ammunition to do that by springing surprises on him at the last moment.
You also need to connect with your sound engineer, lighting director, and stage guy. You may have spoken to them months ago and assumed that they could set up on the day of the show. What happens when they all show up at the same time on the morning of the party?
Your lighting guy and your sound guy can’t set up until they have a stage to set up on, so they will have nothing to do but cool their heels for two hours. This is exactly the kind of detail that should be addressed in the advance.
Imagine that your band shows up, and they want seven bottles of filtered water and a case of organic cigarettes. When you read their hospitality rider three months before the gig, those items weren’t mentioned. You can stand on your rights and refuse to provide them what they want, but that’s creating needless conflict with a group of people who will be performing for you in a few hours. Again, the advance is the time to catch this, before it becomes a major issue.
If your lighting designer needs more power than they originally anticipated, you want to find out during the advance, not on the day of the show. With a few days’ notice, you can still make adjustments and call in some extra power. With only hours to work with, you’re instantly in panic mode.
A thorough advance will relieve you of 99.9 percent of the nasty surprises that could otherwise trip you up at the last moment. There will always be an element of uncertainty. With live entertainment, that simply cannot be avoided, but it can be vastly reduced with an effective advance.
There’s no value in performing an advance more than ten days before your event, because it won’t be useful. There will still be too much time between the advance and the show for new problems to arise. By the same token, you need enough time between the advance and the show to address any new information that comes to light. Five to ten days before the event is an appropriate time for the advance.
If you were a soldier, you wouldn’t go into battle with a dirty, rusty gun. Your life could depend upon making sure that all the components look and operate the way they’re intended to. As a social chair, the stakes aren’t quite as high, but the quality of your party depends upon executing an advance.
You may have had a game plan four months ago when you were planning this event, but now you need to knock the dust off. Now it’s time to make sure all the moving parts are clean and ready to function. Don’t go into battle without conducting an advance.
Unless you have delegated the production of your party to a turnkey company or a production company, no one else will handle the advance for you.
On the day of the show, a lot of things need to happen in a very specific sequence and within a tight timescale. If the sequence and the schedule are not adhered to, problems will arise.
For example, you need to settle your bill with the artist. This should not be a particularly complicated process, because no tickets were sold. There are no percentages to be calculated or expenses to be deducted.
Even here, however, you can find yourself in unexpected situations. Maybe you agreed months ago that you would pay the artist with a check, but since then they’ve decided they want cash. What will you do at 11:00 p.m. on a Saturday night, when your entertainers want $5,000 in cash and you have an $800 limit on your ATM card?
Alternatively, perhaps they’re happy with a check, but your treasurer is passed out upstairs with the door locked. What will you do?
When you advance your event, make sure that you include your own personal advance. Ensure that you know how and when you’ll pay your artist, who is handling ground transportation and hospitality, and what happens to the stage when the show is over.
At 2:00 a.m., everybody will be exhausted, and probably hammered. The guys who have been working have been on duty for eleven hours. Do you have a plan for breaking down the stage? If not, you’re potentially leaving $100,000 worth of gear outside to be rained on or stolen.
Make sure that you recap both your own responsibilities on the day of the show and the responsibilities of others. Hiring a turnkey company, of course, will make handling the advance their job instead of yours, although you will still need to make sure that it happens.
Compile a day sheet that details the responsibilities of each individual, and be so thorough that the people to whom you’re delegating get annoyed with you. That way, they’ll know that if they screw up, it’s not from ignorance. It’s on them. An ounce of prevention here is worth a pound of cure.
Do this with your sound engineer, lighting director, stage guy, stage manager, and security team. Now do the same with any of your fraternity brothers who have agreed to take on responsibilities. It’s your job to make sure that they know what they’re doing. By the day of the show, any details that were ironed out in the advance should be totally clear.
Some changes, however, are too important to be covered in the advance. If you plan to hold a party at your house, and then you realize that you need to move it to a different venue, you need to communicate this to your talent and your production team as soon as possible. Keeping it until the advance won’t give them enough time to adapt.
In this situation, there could be issues that you’re not even aware of, such as radius clauses. Your advance is a safety net, but it shouldn’t prevent you from handling major issues when they emerge. Putting them off won’t improve the situation—quite the reverse. They will come to a head at some point, so be a man and address them.
There are many small details that could change during an advance and that you’ll want to catch before they escalate into big problems.
For example, the band’s load-in time could change. Maybe they were originally planning to drive in and set up their gear, but they had a nearby show canceled close to the date of the show. Now, instead of driving in with their own backline, they’re flying in, and they want you to provide the backline (they should offer to let you deduct the cost of the backline from their total fee, or you can ask them to do so).
Previously, they needed two hours to set up their gear. Now, you’ll have it all set up for them, so they only need to arrive forty-five minutes before the show kicks off.
If you used the phrase “per advance” when you made a formal offer, now is the time to revisit those aspects of the agreement and confirm them. You may encounter questions about what constitutes mutually agreeable hospitality, and the advance is the perfect time to hash those out. Per- haps one of the band members doesn’t eat meat, so he needs a vegetarian option on the hospitality rider.
In case you struggle to reach an agreement, offer them a buyout and let them spend the money on whatever they choose. It’s a lot easier, and simpler, than haggling over an acceptable quantity of red M&Ms and bottles of tequila. You can save money, because you will offer them half of what it would have cost you to meet their demands, and they’ll have cash that they can spend however they choose.
When conducting an advance, make sure that you don’t focus on advancing your artists to the exclusion of your production crew. You don’t understand the terminology well enough to perform these advances yourself, but you need to make sure that they are connecting with the band’s tour manager.
You can address this when you speak to the tour manager. Ask him whether he’s spoken to the sound engineer and the lighting designer. If he tells you that he has, you’ve done your job. If he says he’s been emailing for weeks and can’t get a response, you need to step in.
To reiterate, the advance is an incredibly important part of your role, and it’s the greatest service you can do to everyone involved: the performers, the production guys, your fraternity brothers, and every other attendee.
Even if you won’t be able to enjoy the party as a participant, you will have the incredible satisfaction of knowing that you’ve created something beautiful. The advance is your ticket to a successful, smooth show, with an absolute minimum of unexpected last minute struggles.
You can reach the end of your show as a hero, knowing that you’ve exceeded the expectations of every person who was a part of it, or as a villain who messed up something crucial and turned it into a disaster. Don’t walk into the lion’s den without a solid advance.
TREY MYERS is the president and founder of Turnipblood Entertainment, a full-service private events company specializing in Greek life.
Over the course of 7 years in the entertainment industry, Trey has worked in various capacities at leading agencies, including the Agency For ThePerforming Arts (APA), The Agency Group (now owned by United Talent Agency), and Nimbleslick Entertainment.
Trey’s other experiences include artist management, tour management, event production, and promotions.
He wrote the definitive book that this content comes from, The Perfect Southern Fraternity Party.
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