How to be a Promoter

March 26, 2003 By Glenn Turner
Sick of your nights out looking like this?

Some of you may be aware that I live in a tiny little town named Chicago, buried up in the Northeastern corner of Illinois. Not too many shows or events come around here, and those that do are at the local county fair and that just is not my scene. Around three years ago unitdaisy, myself and a few other friends decided to become grass-root promoters and start wrangling our own events, pretentious electronic acts and club nights that we could complain about, instead of bitching about someone else's event. In the interest of a shared community, thenewsite has agreed to post this article to allow people like you to get your foot in the promotions door, your name up in lights and become a pariah in your own little town.

Change them into this!

Starting Off The first thing you need are partners. Promoting is hard work, and you will not want to do most of it. Get some friends (the more the merrier) to share the load. Chances are they will not do it either, but when blame time rolls around at least you can point your finger at someone else.

Next up is a name for your crew. Make sure that it is either unpronounceable and/or is an inside joke that only you know of. You and your buddies will probably spend more time on this part than any other, as everyone will want to throw in their two cents. Ignore them. You started this group and as such, it is your sole opinion which counts.

You have your crew and now you need to get your name out there. The fastest and easiest way is to accomplish this is by putting up a website. I'm sure you have a friend with a copy of Microsoft FrontPage who is always talking about how many hits their Geocities site is getting - they will be more than happy to help out. Give them your group's name and they can fill in the rest.

Getting Off the Ground
So now you are completely organized - you have your troop and are ready to start working out the fine details. First up: What event do you want to throw? Is there a local band that would make record bucks, if only someone would book them? Does your favorite Japanese noise band never get to play in your town? Then you probably want to start off booking shows. Do you like smoking and drinking yourself into a coma, but the DJs at your favorite boozing grounds give you a headache? Is your favorite activity sitting at home and complaining about any music released in the last five years? Then start your own club night! There are other options, but for the purposes of this article we will stick with these two.

With your objective all wrapped up, you need to set a date and land a space. Planning a night for your event is easy - any date will do (even if you are booking a band - they are usually quite flexible.) Make sure it does not conflict with any of your favorite television shows and you should be all right. If later on someone else is planning an event on the same night you booked, just say they just want you to fail and they are ripping the scene apart, even if they booked their night before you did.

Signing a contract with a bar is signing your soul to Satan. See how happy these two are when they 'collect'?

There are two things that you should bear in mind every time you are looking a spot for your show/club night: it should be two blocks or less from where you live (no matter where you live) and it should be quasi-legal (to add more street cred to your name.) You can usually saunter into just about any local bar and book a night pretty easily. Be wary though if they want you to draw up and/or sign a contact - these guys are what we call hustlers and typically try to sneak in something like rental fees or loading times at the last minute.

If you are booking a band, now would be the time to get in contact with the band. Don't have their phone number? No problem. Send an email out to several internet newsgroups that share their interests requesting their address and phone number and you should have a response within hours. Contacting them directly will give you an aura of professionalism. Once you confirm the date with them, they may want to send you what is known as a 'rider' - a list of suggestions the band would like when they arrive there. Don't fret too much over it even if there are specific requests, the band will bring all that they need.

If you are throwing a club night you will probably need DJs. Again, this is another time when your friends come in handy. With technology the way it is nowadays, just about any monkey can operate a turntable and mixer. If your friends refuse, woo a hot DJ you read off of a flyer and tell them they will get paid handsomely if you break even. It works every time. Make sure to tell all your DJs to supply their own equipment. DJs treat their audio equipment like a loved one and they hate to be ripped away from their babies so for them, this is an advantage. As far as a P.A., lights, etc. the venue you booked has all of that equipment in the back room, and will set it up free of charge when you arrive.

Promoting Your Event By now word of your night should be sweeping through the town! Promoting your event at this point in time is a minor detail, but you should take great care not to neglect it. First off, you want to establish your dominance as the head promoter in the music scene. Remember - any promoter other than yourself is the enemy, so you will want to start by undermining the credibility of the opposition. Anything from idle gossip to straight-out sabotage is highly encouraged. If you have done your job properly you should be at the top of the promotions mountain and your strong presence will be known and feared throughout the scene.

Do not aspire to make this flyer ...

Flyering and putting up posters is an important part of getting word out about your event. First and foremost you need to focus on the design of the flyer. The more striking the design, the more likely people are to pick up and look at it. Even if you have to chop off a few minor details like the opening band or the age limit of the club, it will be worth it to get the flyer in their hand. You should have your flyers printed up and start distributing them a week before your event - that will give your potential audience plenty of time to read and circulate them. Drop off a handful (around 10-15) flyers at two record stores relatively close to each other for the best results - if one person doesn't go to the first store, they will certainly go to the second.

...when this flyer will jump into their hands!

Lastly, you should talk to potential audience members out there about your event and try to woo them out. Try striking up conversations with those you normally wouldn't touch with a 50ft pole. Who cares, you just want their money and respect, right? You want to get your point across and make sure that they remember the time and place so instead of mumbling, try shouting. You will also have to remember these four little words whenever a bouncer threatens to kick you out for promoting a conflicting event: "I didn't do it."

The Big Night If all has went according to plan, tonight is the big night of your event. If you booked a band and they flew in for the night, you probably have already told them to take a cab to the venue and that there will be some Taco Bell waiting for them. If it is the premiere of your big club night your DJs are probably sitting outside of the bar just waiting to be let in. Now, tell the last member of your group that they need to watch the door, take money from customers, id them, stamp them and remember their faces for re-entry. Give them five singles so they will have some change to work with, proceed to the main room and watch all of your hard workers (or band members, if it's a show) scatter around in a flurry of activity. Makes you feel proud, doesn't it? Your work is not finished yet though - not by a long shot. You still need to get a drink and find a seat. For the first drink on your initial promoter gig, I highly recommend a shot of whiskey followed by a Schlitz chaser. You want to be energized tonight and nothing gets the blood going like a smooth shot of Bushmill.

The rest of the night should go smoothly. DJs and bands have an innate tendency to gather in packs and sort out the playing order and set duration ahead of time. The only snag in your otherwise perfect night might be if your crowd gets a bit rowdy or starts a fight. In those cases, never ever try to break it up. You will just end up getting hurt and besides, they will just tire themselves out in the long run.

If you have followed all of this advice to a 'T', your night has went off without a hitch! It's time to collect your money (make sure that everyone else gets a 3% cut of the action otherwise heads will roll) and take off home, dreaming of the next fabulous event you will be throwing.

Puke on the floor, beer in your hair - another success story!
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