1. How did you become involved in Boston Pizza Idol Competition? What is your role?
5 years ago Boston Pizza (Square One) in Mississauga had a new event coordinator named Kym Taal who reached out to Metalworks to see if they could work together on some events. The call was passed on to me as events are my specialty. I was having a lot of success hosting open mics around the GTA so I decided to start with open mics at BP SQ1 so I could prove that I could fill a venue.
The open mics were a huge success from the very start with over 50 performers a night and hitting the 330 person capacity consistently. Having proved myself, they asked if I could start hosting their Boston Pizza Idol karaoke competition. I believe it had been running for a year or two before I took over. Over the last 5 years I’ve been able to grow it to a 9 week competition with over 120 singers, 27 music industry professional judges, 10 sponsors, thousands in prizes and over 3000 people in attendance.
My responsibilities include securing all the singers, judges and sponsors. I promote the event and run all the social media campaigns to ensure a capacity crowd. I’m the point of contact for all the singers, judges and sponsors and I’m also the host each week at the event.
2. What were your goals for the competition?
My goal was to take their competition in its current form and super size it to become the biggest karaoke competition in the GTA. My vision was to give hundreds of talented singers the opportunity to perform in front of big crowds while fulfilling my obligation to BP of filling their venue and giving them a solid return on their investment to justify running the competition every year.
3. What was the experience like?
It’s an extremely satisfying experience aiming big and delivering on those promises. I’m not going to lie, those 9 weeks are very time consuming and stressful. I have to organize the schedules of around 150 people for 2 months. There are so many moving pieces that if I’m not constantly in communication with everyone, the whole thing will fall apart. I feel a tremendous amount of pressure and responsibility. If any part of the experience were to fall short whether it’s the venue not being at capacity or the event running behind schedule or the venue not generating enough income…I would feel like it was my shortcoming. I suppose it’s that pressure that I put on myself that ensures I work hard enough to keep the competition running at the highest level week after week and year after year.
4. How has it exceeded your expectations?
This last year I expanded from 7 weeks to 9 weeks and from 100 singers to 120 singers. The more weeks and singers added, the more room there is for error. Despite going bigger with the competition, all 9 weeks were at capacity, the level of talent from the singers has never been higher and the competition has never run more smoothly. The amount of support from the community has been incredible and I couldn’t be more grateful!
5. What have you learned? Would you change anything?
The first few years was a lot of trial and error as I had never hosted a karaoke competition before. I figured out what worked and what didn’t work and made those corrections for the following year. After 5 years, I feel like I’ve tweaked the system enough that I’ve now got a winning formula moving forward. I can now just focus on taking the competition to the next level with more singers, more sponsors and more epic prizing!
6. Do you have any advice for those looking to start something similar?
For most things in life I’d recommend going big but not when it comes to events. It’s very difficult to fill a venue and most people don’t understand that until they organize their first event. I see lots of people with good intentions booking a 300 person venue for their first event and then they’re disappointed when only 40 people show up. They’ve essentially set themselves up for failure. I recommend starting small. Book a 50 person venue and figure out how to fill it. Once you’ve figured out how to hit that capacity every time, move up to a 75 or 100 person venue and restart the process. It’s always better to book small and have a lineup outside the venue than to book big and have an empty room.
7. What’s next? any new projects you’re working on?
I’ve got lots of projects on the go in the next 8 months before we start up the 2017 edition of Boston Pizza Idol! I’ll be hosting open mics at Boston Pizza Square One in Mississauga, the Cock and Pheasant in Streetsville and St. Louis Bar & Grill in Oakville.
I start hosting a monthly networking event at Marco Polo in Mississauga in November. If anyone would like to participate in the karaoke competition, the open mics or the networking event, they can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
I’ve started an acoustic duo with super talented singer/songwriter Matt Zaddy. We have interest from some booking agents so we’re currently getting our sets together and then we’ll start booking shows.
I’ve recently released a music video for my new single “The Notebook Song” which you can watch at www.joelmartin.ca.
I’ve got new songs written so I’m planning on recording a new album at Metalworks in 2017.
Last but not least, I’m currently writing a book called “How To Run A Successful Open Mic Night” to help out others that are looking start their own open mics!
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