How to Promote a Club or Band in Your Town
One of two thoughts may have crossed your mind as you are left standing out in the cold. The first is who does he or she think they are? I’m by far better looking then that one.” Or you may have thought; “Now it must be awesome to be that promoter.” If you’re stuck on the first thought, you have more issues then this article can cover.
I’ve been a club promoter for over 4 years now. I don’t promote at any one club. Why limit yourself? If you promote for one club, you are basically their employee. I’m going to show you how to work your own hours, have fun and for the most part determine your own income.
When I started out there was no one who was willing to help me out by showing me the ropes. I wasn’t looking for any super secret insider scoops; I just wanted to know the basics. I finally got a gig as a street promoter, passing out fliers, for a cabaret show. I did what most street promoters fail to do. I closed my mouth and opened my eyes. The biggest mistake most street promoters make is over selling themselves. They spend countless hours trying to so the promoter that they can run the entire shows them selves.
Promoters are very secretive creatures, and for good reason. Our job is super easy. The street promoter does half the work. However, as a promoter you assume all of the risk. A failed event can cost a promoter anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. However a sucessful event can bring in up to $3,000.00 at the door. I’ll show you how to minimize you losses latter in this article.
The first thing you need to do is set aside time to promote. Most club owners work nights. So as a promoter you will have to set aside a few hours a week to pitch your event to the club owner or manager. You will also need to set aside time to actually promote your event. I’ll show you how to get the bulk of your promotions with very little to no out of pocket expense.
Next you will have to decide what type of event you want to put on. Don’t try to spot trends at this point. You are learning and you need for this to be fun, or you will fail. Do you like 70s music? What about jazz or country? Or maybe you just want to play some CDs and give people a chance to dance and unwind for the weekend. What ever your event is, make sure it’s something you would go to. I say this because you will be there the entire time. As promoter you can’t just up and leave. So you better like the DJ or the band you selected.
Now that you have an idea, you have to go and do some leg-work. Go to local bars, clubs and restaurants. See what type of entertainment they have. See how large their weekend and most important their mid-week crowd is like. If the club is packed, go down the street and look at the next one. If the club is totally dead on a weekend, I’d take a pass on that one also, unless they have a huge dance floor and an area where a DJ or band can hook up. Most DJs and bands have their own sound equipment that they can bring if the club has no sound system. You don’t need a stage, just an area large enough for the DJ or band to play.
Now that you have five or six good locations in mind, call the club owner or manager and tell them the type of event you want to put in their club. Make sure your event fit the club’s venue. For example don’t try to play hip-hop in a country bar. Give yourself at least a month to plan your first event. Don’t commit to having an event in one week on your first time out. You may want to plan for six weeks out if possible. You have a lot of work ahead.
Here is what you want in your first agreement. You want control of the door. This mean that you get 100% of what the door bring in and you get to set the price. The club gets 100% of what the bar take in. Some owners will try to get you to commit to a bar guarantee. A bar guarantee is where you either put up a deposit or guarantee the club will make a certain amount of money from bar sales. Don’t do that for now. You can get into a club in your town without guaranteeing a bar. I can get into most Hollywood clubs without giving a bar guarantee. For future note the average bar guarantee range from $300.00 to $500.00.
Now that you have a venue, you need a band or DJ. This is the easy part. The easiest way to do this is to place an ad online. The best place to start is at Craig’s List. Go to http://www.craigslist.org/ and from the list on the right, select your town or a town close to you and click on it. Go to the Post an Ad section and select “Gigs”. You can post an ad for a band or DJ there, free of charge. There are other sites you can go to. Another way to find a band or DJ is when you are out scouting for a venue, check out the entertainment and introduce yourself. They will almost always have a demo for you.
Now that you have a date, a venue and a band/DJ you’re ready to start promoting. Not so fast. You need to make sure everything is in writing. Make sure you have the venue dates and time in writing and the fact that you are in control of and get 100% of the door.
Now we get to promotions. This is where the bulk of your time will be spent. This is also why you want 100% control over your door. First you must set a price for the cover charge. Keep it small for the first time. I suggest $5.00 – $10.00 if you are just doing a DJ. No more then $15.00 if you are featuring a live band. By keeping your cover charge low you can draw a larger crowd. You will most likely get a weekday your first few times out. To get people out on a weeknight keep your cover charge below $10.00.
You ever wonder why promoters let women in free and make men pay. Men spend more money buying drinks for women. Keep this in mind for when you are getting a percentage of the bar. For now you may want to think about letting women in free before 10:00pm. Where the women are the guys will follow or maybe letting women in for half price.
You may be thinking that you know at least five or ten people, but how are you going to get 250 to 500 people to show up for your event. You start by having the band self-promote. This is how you pay your band or DJ with zero out of pocket expense. You pay the band or DJ 25 – 50% of the cover charge for everyone they bring to the event. This is where the “VIP Lists” come into play. Each band and DJ will have a VIP list. Every paying person on their list you give them half of the cover charge. Be certain to keep track of who gets in free and who gets in at a reduced rate.
Remember I told you I started as a street promoter? Well here is where you can give someone in your town a break. Go to the local colleges and post an ad in the college paper for street promoters. You can also place an ad on Craig’s List. You pay the promoter at the same rate you pay the band. 25 – 50% of the cover charge. 50% for lower cover charges and 25% for cover chares over $20.00. There is less overhead in the smaller events.
Now you need fliers to promote you event. You can create a flier on your computer and walk it down to the local printer and run off 500 to 1,000 copies at .03 to .05 cents a copy. This will work well for your first few events. Try to get 4 fliers per a page. It saves you money in printing and it’s a lot easier to pass out. It can fit into a wallet or purse with very little effort. Remember to leave a place for the promoter or band to place their name. You need to track who to pay at the end of the event. Print some fliers for yourself. You get 100% of any work you do.
Once you get going you can go online and have color fliers printed out for about $150.00 per five thousand, plus the cost of design. This is an unneeded expense for your first event. You can copy 250 fliers, with four fliers per a page at .05 cents a copy for $12.50 and pass out the same 1,000 fliers. You will spend $62.50 for the same number of fliers, if you design them yourself. That’s a savings of $87.50. Remember to leave fliers at the venue, so the regular customers can hear about your event. If you have really good computer skills you can create an 11 x 17 poster and have it printed out at FedEx Kinko’s for a few bucks. Have the club hang a poster or two up. Depending on your budget you may want to print a few extra and have the local record shop or barber shop hang a poster in exchange for a couple of free passes to your event.
Now you need to go online and promote your event. Go back to Craig’s List and post there. Also go to http://www.evite.com and create an announcement there. You can then email it to everyone you know. I’ve gotten 50 people sign up for an event just from me posting there. As a general rule you are lucky if 1 out of every 4 persons that agree to come to your event shows up, so over book. Remember you want that long line outside your venue. In reality you will not get it in the beginning, but in time you just might. Your goal is to pass out 1,000 fliers a week. You will want to double that in the final week.
Now that you’ve done all of the leg work you are ready to host your event. Make sure your promoters and band have their lists into you the day before the event or no later then 3 hours before the event. Anyone not on the list and don’t have a flier with the promoter’s or band’s name on it, you keep 100% of those cover charges. You will need a locking cash box to keep your money in. You will need a trusted friend to work the front door for you. Have them turn in a VIP list also and pay them $25.00 to $50.00 for the evening and the same percentage you are paying the promoters for the people on their list. The person at the door will keep track of who is on whose list. Most clubs have their own security. If you need to hire your own go to Craig’s list or put out a local ad and pay $50.00 for the night to someone with a valid guard card. Don’t keep too much money up front. Bring another cash box. I wouldn’t keep more then $50.00 up front.
During the evening of your event, you want to get to know your guest. You want them to like you, you want your promoters, the band/DJ and club owner to like you also. You want to make sure everyone is having a great time.
Now that you’ve had a great event it’s time to pay everyone. Hopefully you’ve kept track of who was on whose list. I prefer to pay everyone that evening. Some promoters wait until the next day. Here’s what you can make from a typical event with 200 people at $5.00 per cover charge. The door will bring in $1,000.00. If the promoters and band has done 100% of the promotions for you, you will end up with $500.00 (less printing cost) for the evening, if you paid out 50% commission. Then you pay the door person $50.00 and $50.00 if you have security. So you are left with $400.00 to $450.00 (less printing cost). If you held the same event on a weekend and had the same turnout you could charge $10.00 and would have walked away with anything from $800.00 to $900.00 (less expense).
For a first event this is very good. The more events you put on the better you will become at it. I can put on a cabaret show, on a weeknight, and can walk away with $1,500.00 for the evening after expenses. Now you are ready to start planning your next event. By this time you will have more demos from DJs and bands then you can listen to.
Now would you rather be standing in a line waiting to get into the local hot spot? Or would you rather create your own hot spot and make a few dollars while having fun?