So you’re thinking about a Light Switch on show to kick off Christmas this year? You can either take on a production company to organise this for you or you can do it yourself. Whichever route you take, bear in mind that it’s a labour intensive, time consuming exercise and, as most Light Switch on shows take place during the same 2 weeks in November, to get your pick of artists and suppliers, you need to start thinking about it now.
What Are Your Objectives?
It’s a good idea to identify these before you start as your objectives will determine other key elements – show headliner and content for example. Is it to drive footfall to your centre? To add weight to your Christmas marketing messages? To get PR coverage? A Christmas Light Switch on show will do all of the above, especially drive footfall, but the typical family and teenage audience that this type of event attracts is not necessarily going to spend. Plus the safety facilities that you put into place on the night and the volume of people that come might render shopping impossible. Nevertheless, a switch on show is a great way to kick off Christmas at your centre and will give your audience the Christmas feel good factor.
Know Your Audience
The type of audience that an event of this type attracts is teenagers and families so bear this in mind when thinking about your show content, show timings and location within your centre.
Licensing and Local Authority Liaison
Does your premises licence cover this type of show? If so, what’s your audience capacity in different areas of your centre? Notify your local police contact as you’ll need them on board to deal with traffic/crowd management on the night. Thinking about fireworks? Let the Civil Aviation Authority know as soon as possible. Does your local authority have an events team? If so, let them know your plans too.
The Cheshire Oaks Tree Lighting Event is bigger than the Liverpool and Manchester city centre switch on events. We work in partnership with the local authorities and the police to ensure that we have a very high profile, safe event.
Shaun Rhodes, Marketing Manager, Cheshire Oaks
Consider the following when looking at areas to hold your show:
Audience capacity and safety, how many people & buggies will fit safely in the area and can they get in and more importantly, out in an emergency quickly and safely. Most show set ups can be adapted to fit but there needs to be room for a stage, security barriers, backstage area and preferably a screen. Also, is there a room nearby that can be used as a Green Room to house your acts and more importantly, your headliner securely? Is there a private route from this room to the backstage area?
Making your show free ticket only means that you’ll have to think about how you’re going to give your tickets away but enables you to manage your audience attendance numbers successfully. It does mean you’ll have to put a stringent entry plan into place – is it possible to limit entry to the event space? You’ll need to factor in security costs to man closed entrances. If you don’t go down the ticket only route, consider how you’ll monitor audience numbers at each point of entry and how you’ll close entry points when you’re at capacity.
When apportioning spend this will take up the bulk of your budget. The likelihood is that many of your female customers may have seen Take That in concert last year, so production expectations of live shows are high and besides, most artists have specific staging pre-requisites so a bit of steel deck surrounded by a pleated skirt just won’t cut it. Even the smallest production needs a decent size stage, a small backstage or holding area, a sufficient lighting and audio package and a screen so that everyone can see. Crush barriers are recommended, and often requested by headliners, to surround the stage and covered Herras or storm fencing to secure the perimeter of the back stage area. Ideally your Green Room will be close to the stage area and a secure route from Green Room to stage can be facilitated again using covered Herras or storm fencing. For bigger budget, bigger location events, artist trailers can be positioned backstage. Also make sure that can you supply power to the area, ideally a minimum of 32 amp 3-phase otherwise you’ll need to consider generators which wouldn’t be suitable for an indoor location.
Headliner & Show Content
This will be your second main cost outlay. Your headliner is a tricky one. You want an act that fits your budget, that will appeal to and be suitable for all members of your audience, that will look great on your marketing material and that won’t attract more people than your centre can safely accommodate. You want an act that’s current and that will put on a good performance, so music acts such as boy bands and singers tick the boxes.
We had Peter Andre as our headliner last year. He was incredibly popular and we were full to capacity. He was the perfect celebrity fit for our family audience.
Ian Cox, Centre Manager, Golden Square, Warrington
Whichever act you go for make sure that they’ll get involved in the switching-on of your lights and will be prepared to meet your competition winners and fulfil your press and PR requirements. Don’t forget to have details like this written in to your contract as well as exactly what you’re getting for your money – how many tracks they’ll perform, what time they’ll arrive on site. Don’t assume anything, if it’s not in their contract, they won’t do it!
Talking of contracts, make sure you are speaking to and negotiating with the artists’ actual agent or management and not a general booking agency that acts as a third party and can add up to 30% in addition to the official agent’s fees. You can get the contact details for your chosen artist’s official representation in The Red Pages www.redpages.co.uk.
90-minutes is a good show length and can feature some local talent as well as headline acts.
Your Christmas Light Switch-on Show is a live show without a rehearsal so Maynineteen always employs an experienced stage presenter who is able to hold the show together, keep the pace and fill where necessary. Plus they give the show a relaxed, professional flow without having to be scripted. Local radio presenters don’t necessarily make good live show presenters!
Show Production Team
Experienced live show staff are also a must, in particular a stage manager/show caller whose job it is to make sure that all artists and performers are on stage at the right time doing the right thing with the right equipment – a responsibility that really needs to be given to a professional with nerves of steel! You’ll also need at least a Green Room manager and a couple of runners if you don’t want to be doing all of the leg work yourself.
Finally getting into bed with your local radio station to produce your Light Switch-on show has its pros and cons. Yes, they may be able be able to get you a good headliner as part of an airtime package but be warned, they may just book the headliners the same way you can and add a premium. Radio stations handle lots of shopping centre switch-ons to the point where they can start to look like a radio station road show covered with their branding. You’re paying for it so keep ownership of it!