Organising a Rave

OK, so what follows is a practical guide to organising your own rave! But before we start there are a few issues which I need to address. I'm not sure how it works in the US but in the UK we have something called the Criminal Justice Act of 1988. This was introduced as a direct response to the booming rave culture of the late 80s. What this act did was give the Police power to shut down any gathering that they believed to be dangerous or anti-social.

You need to be aware that any organised gathering on public land or on land that you do not have permission to use can be shut down by the plod and all the equipment can be confiscated. I've been to several raves that have ended in this way and quite often the involvement of Police turns to chaos, fighting, riots and arrests. I remember one rave a friend organised under the M6. The police blocked about 200 of us under this bridge and proceeded to arrest people left right and centre. In the chaos I saw a young lad get bottled and several other people get a right good kicking! So watch yourselves out there!


The Venue

You've got various options for the venue and some very important decisions to make which could make or break your rave:

1. Do you want to rave outside?

The first problem you have is permission. Do you have permission to use the land you've got your eye on? Do you care !? Most outdoor rave worthy land is owned by a farmer. Farmers are notoriously odd when it comes to these sort of events; some of them will be accommodating and some will shoot at you if you step foot on anything they own so play it cool! The majority of farmers understand one language – money! Get your hand in your pocket and pay the man for the privilege. Or come to an arrangement where you charge per car (but charging for entry is another area where you want to be careful and you'll need to find trust worthy people who do not mind missing the party to take responsibility of this).

Some of the best raves I've been to have been in the Lake District under a clear sky and when you hit that sunrise at 3 or 4 in the morning it can be a great place to be. But there are obvious caveats – the main one being rain! If it's going to be wet (and it usually is when you do not want it to be) then you need to protect your gear. So that means covers, tarpaulins and some sort of scaffold type rig to hold those covers in place.

Wind as well can be an issue so if you're going to be raving outside think about using the natural relief of the land to shelter your set-up from the worst of it.

You should also check out the entrance and exits; especially if you are going to have lots of cars involved. What looks like a sound piece of ground can quickly turn into a quagmire after a bit of rain and a few cars are thrown into the mix.

2. Do you want to rave inside?

If you've got an indoor venue sorted then you've already removed at lot of the issues which are associated with the bloody awful British weather. But you have opened another box of issues!

If you have a proper venue available for hire then all licensing, entry control, security and staging is made a lot simpler but you may have rules laid down by the cops and the venue owners. Because of this I would not recommend using a proper venue for anything other than a proper club night. But were talking about proper raves here so …

3. What are the other options?

The best option is a privately owned building … Not a house! I'm thinking more of a barn or disused storage space like a warehouse. If you can get permission to use something like this then you're onto a winner! As long as it's weather proof you can protect your ravers and your sound system from the elements; but you do not have the usual red tape associated with using a proper venue.

The best rave I organised was in an old church! It was completely empty except for a few hymn books. It still had the huge stained glass windows in place and it gave the whole night a gothic feel.

Whatever venue you choose you face a brush with the law if you do not have permission to be there, and even if you do have permission to be there, then you still have to be concerned with several other issues. If there are neighbours near by then they have rights and they can be the biggest issue you'll face as most people will pick up the phone and call the old bill straight away. Do not forget that the Police have the right to break up the party whatever the circumstances. Thank Margaret Thatcher for that one!

The Music and the Lighting

Once you've got the venue sorted you need to fill it full of stuff that makes people rave! It's completely up to you how far you go with this but there is no limit. Some raves I've been to have had huge marquees full of dangling fluorescent decorations and crazy characters walking round on stilts! The only limits are budget and imagination. However there are essentials which you will not be able to rave without.

1. The Sound System

The most important bit of kit is the sound system. Without that there is no party! If you do not have one then you're going to have to hire it. The best way to go about hiring a sound system is through word of mouth. There will be people who have organised raves before you – the same as there will be people who organise raves after you've gone! So ask around, where do you get your sound systems from? What size do you go for? Are they reliable?

You'll have to dip into the piggy bank but there are often sound system owners out there who are sympathetic to your cause and will rent you a sound system at a decent rate. If you're lucky you can hire a guy who'll sort all that out for you. If not then you're going to have to hire the system yourself, set it up and get it running. If you do not know what you're doing then do not bother! Pay someone else!

2. The Music

You need DJs! This is the easiest AND the hardest part of the night to organise! You need to decide what music is going to make people rave their tits off and you need to plan a night of perfect musical balance, flow and style for the night to be a rip roaring success. You also need to make sure you have enough DJs to cover the whole night, but not too many DJs or you'll have a conflict on your hands!

When people hear you're organising a rave the word soon gets about and before you know it you'll have people you've never heard of asking for sets. It really is up to you who and what gets played but you may have to tread on some toes in the process.

Once the DJs all turn up you have the added pain in the arse of organising their set times and what order they play. Someone will not be happy playing first, someone will try and play for longer, someone will get too pissed to play and someone will turn up with a box of records claiming that his uncle's milk man told him he could play for half an hour. My advice … treat DJs like animals! Be strict but not aggressive. Tell them all what the script is and if they do not like it they're not playing. Try not to change set times and keep everything running as planned; but remember … this is your night! Do not let the DJ dictate to you!

You might need to hire decks and a mixer if the sound system dude has not supplied them. Try and borrow them primarily (it may require giving a DJ the prime set but that's the way it goes!). If a DJ wants any specific gear other than two high quality turntables and a decent mixer, then they'll have to bring their own!

3. The Lights

The lights are also very important and some people go to town in this department. As with the sound system you need to know what you're doing or it could turn messy! If you've got the budget then go crazy! Get lasers, traffic lights, strobes, beams – the whole nine yards! It all helps create the rave experience.

If you're holding the rave in a venue which has no street or natural lighting then you will need flood lights for certain areas, such as the main entrance and socialising areas. These are not essential but they do improve the experience for all.

If you feel that you do not have enough knowledge of the above area and you would like to know more then check out: [no affiliation].

The Other Bits

1. The Generator

The generator is one of the easiest things to sort out. Most people know someone with a generator of some description; however make sure it has the power to do the job! If you do not know of anyone who'll lend you a generator then every town, city or village has somewhere nearby that will rent you a generator. If you can not find anywhere then try [no affiliation]. They allow you to order and pick up at a fairly reasonable rate.

The size of generator needed will depend on the size of the sound system, the lighting rig and anything else you are planning that needs power. You should be able to get a good indication of the size needed from the parties involved in these various areas. It may make more sense to hire several generators for different needs. That way if one goes wrong not everything is affected!

Another generator tip: go for diesel, its cheaper! And get plenty of it on standby.

1. Air Conditioning and Heating

Depending on the venue, you may need to hire heater or air conditioners to improve the experience for your ravers. If then venue is small and cramped then air conditioning hire is essential and will prevent anyone passing out from too much hardcore raving!

Likewise, if you're planning a rave in winter then the venue may need extra heat and heater hire might be another necessity.


As well as the lights and the sound system if you've got the budget then why not get all the extras which improve the rave experience? You can go for smoke machines, fireworks, jugglers, magicians, MCs etc … The sky is the limit really!


Hhhm. Now this can be an area where things go wrong! Too much marketing and you may get overrun. If the venue can not cope then you're in a whole world of trouble. Decide what you're trying to achieve and then decide your level of marketing from there. If you want a low key event with friends only then just put the word about and let everyone else do the rest. If you want your even to be huge then print some fliers and do some internet marketing on sites such as Facebook and MySpace.

But never under estimate the power of the grapevine! Do not over do it or you may end up in a whole world of trouble!