Organiser Spotlight: Steve Mcmillan of SMC Events

Update: Since chatting to Steve, his first event using Helm Tickets (Decades of Dance with Rozalla & K-Klass) has sold out! Great news for Steve & for those who were lucky enough to get tickets – enjoy the show in March!

S teve Mcmillan is an events organiser based in Ellesmere Port, who organises a variety of events around the area. After migrating over to Helm Tickets, we caught up with Steve to give him the opportunity to chat about his experience in event management and using Helm.

Can you tell us about your event and how you came to run it?

My events started a couple of years ago as intimate, local live music gigs.  It was essentially me providing a platform for the local bands who were either too young, or not really hitting the criteria of being “pub friendly” and wanting a platform to perform on.  We ran a couple of “battle of the bands” style events and really pushed original music in our town.  We of course chose the ‘so bad it’s good’ setting of a very run down function room for our first few events!

Steve of SMC Events with a minion

My background is/was as a mobile & bar DJ so in some aspects it was a completely new scene for me, however I’d been developing an understanding of the technical side of running the show so developing how the shows looked and sounded was an exciting prospect.  I soon realised that meant very little when it came to running a show to schedule and sorting logistics though!  Lesson learned!

As the competition finished, there was a demand for the events to carry on so it was up to me to try and reach out for new ideas, genres and thankfully, venues!

It has been a slow, steady progression in terms of getting the capacity consistently to where it needs to be – however in the last 18 months we’ve tripled average attendance, expanded to three festivals and attracted national artists to come to our (small!) town which seemed almost impossible previously.  Booking these acts without having prior experience of working with the names is seemingly impossible – agencies want to know that you can “look after” an artist and secure the right fee and deposit on time. Once you find the right agency who’ll give you that opportunity and prove to be trustworthy, this certainly gets a lot easier!

Your first old school event sold out in 24 hours.  What do you attribute to the success & how will you build on this?

We used to have our own night club in town which unfortunately ceased trading in 2012.  The club really excelled with club classics and there was an absolute gap in my local market for bringing that back in a realistic, accessible way.

We decided to book a night celebrating all things dance music from 1990-2000 and the response was unbelievable!  All online tickets flew out in 24 hours of their individual releases.  We’ve ensured we’ve given it that “club” feel by really putting in the ground work with transforming the venue to feel like the customer can “experience” it and not just attend it!

We’ve got two return old school themed events with guest DJ’s and live P.A’s for 2018 which we’re excited to show our town.  None of the DJ’s or P.A’s have been here before so it’s always nice to get that “exclusivity!”.

SMC Events flyer

“…in the last 18 months we’ve tripled average attendance, expanded to three festivals and attracted national artists to come to our (small!) town which seemed almost impossible previously.”

How were you managing your tickets before you began using Helm?

For my initial first year of shows, we didn’t have any ticketing!  Although we were fortunate to get the attendance on the day, this can cause pre-show stress as you just cannot anticipate attendance of an event like this!  I wouldn’t dream of running any event this way now as several factors such as security, general staffing and in some cases stock can be gauged on those advance ticket sales.

We then moved over to commissioned physical ticket sales – this is OK if there are a small amount of sellers with close contact, however chasing up floats, sales and leads proves an added stress!

We have also used a few well known ticket operators such as SeeTickets, Eventbrite and Skiddle.  I was looking for a new provider as the combination of lengthy forms, hidden fee’s and in some cases not being able to receive ticket funds until a week or so after the event wasn’t proving useful at all.  The lack of personal touch that these large providers come with is also a reason I was looking for a new option for 2018!

“Having access to funds before the event takes place is extremely useful for budgeting and getting those important deposits paid for the event.”

Band at SMC Events festival

What made you switch to Helm Tickets?

I was very politely approached – and appreciated the honest, un-robotic feel to the approach. During the initial communication I was happy with how swift the communication was and in my position that is just as important as the cost.  I have had all of my questions answered very efficiently and I have been assisted with website implementation which was not an option with my previous providers.

How has Helm changed the way you manage your events?

Having access to funds before the event takes place is extremely useful for budgeting and getting those important deposits paid for the event.  The Helm dashboard is superb and you can really trace how much extra traffic and sales are being brought in from your own promotional efforts.  The weekly/daily/monthly sales breakdown is very handy for noticing trends.  

SMC Events main stage

What are your top tips for event management?

Strong relationships with venue managers, landlords, and where necessary your local authorities is a start.  I always think of a realistic, best case, and worst case scenario and then start my planning with costs from there.

Depending on the nature of the event we’re doing it’s always worth following the artists previous and upcoming events to garner what admission the public are (happy to be) paying and also how well attended these events have been!  I always try and keep a rapport with other promoters to ensure I’m not treading on anyone’s toes!  As a safe measure I’d always try and make sure the artist isn’t spreading themselves too thinly on our shoes or in the local vicinity to keep the “draw” as strong as it can be.

Thanks to Steve speaking to us and choosing Helm Tickets! Check out his upcoming events over at the SMC Events site.

If you’d like to be featured in Organiser Spotlight or you’d like more information about Helm Tickets, get in touch and check out our other blogs in the meantime!


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