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Holding a Rock Concert

After years of diminishing attendance at deejay dances, athletic boosters at Neenah (Wisc.) High School needed another source of revenue. Taking a chance, they opted to host the school's first rock concert--and started a tradition.


By Michelle Bachaus
President, Girls' Athletics in Neenah (GAIN)
Neenah (Wisc.) High School


Our town has one high school, which is a cross-section of the whole community. We have over 2,100 students, and because the Wisconsin drinking age is 21, they rarely have the opportunity to hear live music. So we started wondering, "What would happen if we hosted a rock concert with a really good band?"


To start, we bounced ideas off Athletic Director Jon Joch, who promised his complete support and offered to let us hold the concert in the cafeteria. Next, we talked with our kids, who were very clear about their likes and dislikes. They didn't want a small-time outfit where a guy plugged in his guitar and walked onstage. They wanted a big production with lights, speakers, and a real stage.


Two months later, that's exactly what they got, with a performance by an Oshkosh band that knocked everybody's socks off. It was a top-notch event, and in the process, we learned the key ingredients of organizing a rock concert:


When you're choosing a band, go with a known commodity. Pick musicians who are young enough to relate to your audience and old enough to put on a professional show. These days, every band has a Web site, which makes it easy to hear and see them before you make a commitment. Boxkar, the band we picked, understood exactly what we wanted. They play covers that are recognized by lots of people, plus their own originals, which kids hear on the radio. We wanted a band that rocked, and Boxkar really did. The kids were standing in front of the stage, screaming and waving their arms in the air--you would have thought they were listening to the Beatles.


Involve your coaches and student-athletes. The students are going to benefit directly from the event, and by getting them involved early on, you're asking them to help spread the word. If coaches are willing, give each team one day to staff the ticket table, with the team that sells the most getting something special from the coach's wish list. The more athletes you have selling tickets, the greater buy-in you'll get and the more tickets you'll sell.


Take every opportunity to market your event directly to students. Leading up to the concert, play PA announcements that include the band's music, with a different song every day. Talk to your local radio stations to make sure they're giving the band and the event some airplay. Play the band's videos at your ticket tables. Hang posters of the band around your school. On the afternoon before the concert, have band members set up their equipment where everyone can see. That way, anybody who walks by gets a taste of what the show is going to be like.


Make your event affordable. Position the tickets at a price most kids can afford--and if they can't, make sure it's not too high for them to ask their parents. Our tickets were $12 apiece, which is a long way from a $40 ticket to see a band with a "parental discretion" sticker on its album. Parents understood it was a fundraiser, and at that price, they were willing to buy tickets even if their kids weren't able to go to the concert.


Enlist the support of parents. Before parents let their children attend, they need to know you're planning a safe event. Send e-mails to reassure them you're hosting an alcohol- and drug-free event with school security officers at the door along with coaches inside the room. Explain that it's a benefit for athletics, and by allowing their kids to attend, there will be money for new uniforms--without them having to sell candy bars door-to-door.


Use your first year's event to promote your second year's event. Build on your first year. Document the event. A professional photographer, who's the parent of one of our student-athletes, took about 1,500 pictures of the concert. They're now online, and next year, we'll have her photos on our ticket table so people can see exactly what the event will be like.


By hosting a rock concert at your school, you're not asking parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles to buy something they don't really need. Their kids get to have a party in a safe, controlled environment, with the proceeds going to high school athletics. It's a great combination.


Michelle Bachaus is the President of Girls' Athletics in Neenah (GAIN).



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