1.1 Setting Up and Planning
To demonstrate how producing a project works, let’s go with the following premise. You are a composer, who has recently written a new work. The 20 minute work, scored for oboe, violin, piano and live electronics, was inspired by your love for wildlife in general and the British Newt in particular. You have thought long and hard about which other works complement your composition and have come up with an evening-filling programme of works, all relating in various ways to wildlife. You passionately feel that your work and the full programme should be heard by the public and would like to set up several concerts. What do you do now?
Right at the start, it is vital to define the scope of the project and the aims you are trying to achieve. Ask yourself what you want to do (the scope) and why you want to do it (your aims). Answers will depend on the nature of each project, but, in the case of the Newt Project, you might define the scope as:
Clarity about the scope of your project means that you will neither be tempted to go astray (you are not aiming to set up a stadium tour or gigs in Europe) nor compromise on matters important to you (you want performances by professional musicians, not by an amateur ensemble).
Your aims are just as important to define. What do you want to get out of the project? This, too, will vary depending on the nature of the project, but as the Composer/Producer of the Newt Project it might be:
The aims might vary in importance, for example, earning money through the project might not be as important as your work getting great exposure. Do keep your aims to hand throughout the project, as reminding yourself of why you are producing the project will help you make the right decisions and keep you motivated.
Once you have defined scope and aims, it’s time to move on to the who (your partners), when (the timeframe) and how (platforms and finance).
The partners you choose will work with you throughout the project, so it’s wise to choose them with care. Having high regard for your partners’ artistic talent and skills is vital, but if you also get on with them on a personal level, you will navigate through possible complications along the way more smoothly.
As the Composer/Producer of the Newt Project you are on good terms with an ensemble of ex-university friends called Sounds of the Earth. Sounds of the Earth are keen on your work as a composer and happy to perform the extended programme, too. Although you are still in the initial stage of the project and it is not yet certain that the project will actually take off, it would nevertheless be helpful to have preliminary discussions about the conditions of the engagement as well as each other’s responsibilities.
Does the ensemble have an administrator, who will do the fixing (i.e. checking of individual musician’s availability)? What is the ideal fee the ensemble would like to be paid for each concert or the tour in total, and what is the minimum fee? Are they expecting a separate fee for rehearsals or would that be covered within the concert fee? Are all ensemble members based in the same town or will some have to be brought in from further afield, which might have an impact on logistics and expense? Do they have a rehearsal venue they can use for free or would one have to be hired?
For the Newt Project, the second collaborator would be a sound designer, who will mix the sounds of the newts you recorded live into the composition. You could establish what their technical requirements for the project are, and if they would be able to provide some of the required technical gear themselves or if it would have to be hired by you or each venue.
Be open and honest in your discussions with partners, as this builds trust and prevents unrealistic expectations on either side. With most projects there is a holding phase – until funds and performance opportunities have been found, you are working on a hypothetical basis and it’s important that collaborators are aware of this.
Another stage in the planning process is to establish when to tour your project. Most venues have a lead-in time of at least 6 months (sometimes as long as 18 months), but others fix their programme only a few weeks in advance. Your balancing act will be to find a time frame suitable to the venues as well as the performers, while bearing in mind that you might need a few weeks or even months before the tour takes place, to raise extra funds (e.g. through grant applications) and to ensure the project is financially viable.
Lastly, you need to address the question of how to make your project possible. Your main challenges will be finding venues/promoters interested in having your project and raising the funds to make your project possible. Start by creating a budget, which will show all estimated and confirmed income and expenditure. You will be working with several assumptions, but during the process of the project, when more and more aspects get confirmed, the budget will become increasingly accurate. For more details on Finance, Budgets and Fundraising, see Section 2.
The setting up and planning phase of a project doesn’t need to take long, certainly not more than a couple of days. At the end of it you should have a single sheet of A4, outlining the scope of the project as well as your aims, and a preliminary budget (see Section 2, Budgeting and Fundraising).