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7 tips from a pro on how to organize a great party

Interview with Silvio Müller, event organizer and publisher of the music and club culture magazine PARTYSAN Berlin

You’ve prepared everything for a great party and the drinks and music are ready to be mixed. If the evening nevertheless turns out to be flop, you’ll either run out of drinks or guests and those who stay will be left stranded. To prevent this from happening, you should go by a few rules, especially if you’re planning larger parties like milestones birthdays or graduation parties. We’ll find out what to look out for from an expert I interviewed. Silvio Müller has been organizing parties in Berlin & Brandenburg (in clubs such as Tresor) for over 15 years, including Partysan magazine events. Silvio is also the magazine’s editor and the owner of two renowned Berlin record labels.

Now, let’s get to the questions:

The parties you organize are undoubtedly in a different league from small private parties. But there are certain occasions where even private parties will draw a large crowd or at least that’s what you hope for. I’m sure as someone who organizes parties professionally there are some tips you can give us.

Definitely! Whether a private party or a mega event, the workflow for organizing a successful party is similar in many ways. You have to send out invitations, prepare the venue, buy drinks and organize the music and DJs. You’ll find differences in the details and that’s also where the problem lies. Many people think it’s easy to organize a party, not realizing that you need to have a knack for organizing, know the market well and be able to absorb financial risk. It always helps to calculate the costs precisely and have realistic goals.

organize a party1. Let’s take a look at the preparations: When should you start preparing a party?

That depends on the size of the party. Mega raves require a one-year preparation period, while smaller club events require up to six months. Spontaneous private parties or open air events, on the other hand, can be organized in as little as 48 hours. Much of what’s happening takes place in the club scene. If you want to hire a good DJ, for example, you should make sure to make your request well in advance and look for some inexpensive flights/connections and accommodation. But before you start, don’t forget to calculate the costs. And do so long before you start with your first preparations.

2. What should you pay attention to when choosing the location?

Most venues are offered on the basis of a so-called door/bar deal, which means that the organizer gets all of the money made at the door, while the club owner gets whatever money is made at the bar. The venue should have a good reputation and therefore regulars. However, the more regulars a venue has, the less likely the owner is to cease both door and bar. If you’ve found an unknown venue, besides the well-known ones, it’s up to the organizer to draw attention to this new location. This means more work, but may pay off better in the end, because new venues tend to attract more guests. The venue’s location as well transportation to and from the venue are important as well, because you want your guests to get to the party and back home conveniently. Once you’ve found the right venue, contracts are drawn up and a date for the event is decided upon. This is where rent, costs for security, cleaning, sound and lighting system as well as license fees are put down in writing. How long a party lasts depends on the guests and the quality of the music. Electronic events require a good sound system. Without powerful sound any electronic party is bound be a failure. The same holds true for a good lighting system. Good locations usually include both in their standard equipment. This also includes basic DJ equipment such as a mixing desk, CD and record player. If you plan to rent an additional high-quality sound system, you should get professional advice and make sure to check the price.

3. How do I find a good DJ if I don’t know anyone? How expensive will it be to organize a party?

That would be a fundamentally wrong approach. If you don’t know the scene well, you should keep away from organizing any event at all. You shouldn’t think of only your own favorite artists and songs, but be a bit more open-minded and have an idea about where the market is heading. Artists come and go, but only few manage to stick around and maintain a long-term status. That’s how the costs are calculated. Hip, internationally sought after DJs will cost you several thousands of dollars, plus traveling and accommodation costs as well as booking fees. But there are also several local artists whom you can count on just as much. Simply follow their development and make sure they don’t have too many gigs.

4. When and how should you start sending out invitations? What’s too early, what’s too late?

A good rule of thumb is to start promoting an event 4-8 weeks in advance. Some organizers, on the other hand, try to create a certain appeal and “surprise factor” by doing no promotion at all until 24 hours before the event. Depending on the target group, there are several promotion methods that should be considered carefully. Many organizers use a mix of flyers, posters, ads in hot magazines, online newsletter mailing lists and announcements in online portals to promote their events. A theme and a suitable motto for the party are also very important. If your event is taking place in a new venue, you should also give directions. Many organizers also use the full range of social network portals such as Facebook or myspace.

5. What about the party itself? Which drinks should you offer? How much should you estimate per person? How much should you take for the drinks to keep guests from getting angry…?

I’ve been to parties where the drinks where sold out in no time at all. Guests become bored and check out the next party. Re-stocking the bar at the convenience store around the corner can be quite expensive. Money made at the bar is one of the main income sources of any party, therefore you should plan this aspect very carefully. Buy goods on commission and order too much rather than too little. Try to research beforehand which drinks will produce the most turnover. Also pay attention to the buying price, as there are great differences.

6. What should you pay attention to when it comes to decorating and lighting?

That’s in the eye of the beholder. Depending on the type of party, you’ll need a lighting system. There are parties that get by with nothing more than a stroboscope and a fog machine, but that also depends on the music and style of the party. For others, nothing is too extravagant and they invest in expensive LED systems. As far as decorating is concerned, there’s nothing too over the top. Just make sure that everything works well together, the club, the motto and the guests you’re expecting.

7. Where should the dance floor be located and what about the volume of the music?

You have different options. The location of the dance floor, if it can be changed at all, depends on the venue’s layout. Once you’ve decided on the location of the dance floor and installed the sound system, you should hire a sound engineer to measure the volume in order to guarantee optimal sound. Sound engineers can level out the legal dB level. It’s important to make sure the residents living in the area aren’t disturbed by the party, because that can lead to it being called off just as quickly. It can be useful to communicate with the local police. At the end of the day, people go to a party to experience good sound, enjoy the company of great people, listen to good music, feel good about themselves, have fun and go to bed with a smile on their faces. Organizing a party isn’t easy and should be left up to experts.

Or you can save yourself the trouble and simply go to one of the many great parties of Berlin’s nightlife. Check out Partysan Berlin to find out what’s happening where.

Exactly! Every weekend there are up to 60 clubs and party locations in Berlin (on a weekend day alone).

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