“Bad club night? Blame a promoter”
We all know it, and a quick google search of “I hate nightlife promoters” confirms that this feeling is common: most people want to run away when they hear a promoter is around. The complaints range from those about annoying flyers to inaccurate price information to blatant lies to both club-goers and musicians. Yet no major club can hope to cope without promoters (whether for putting together music nights, deals, campaigning, guest list management – you name it, promoters are involved), so they must be doing something right as a profession!
Why do so many people despise promoters? And what should promoters do to avoid the bad reputation?
There are a couple good articles out there (e.g., “6 Ways Nightclub Promoters Kill Their Credibility Online”, and lots of good stuff on Nighlife Marketing Resource in general), but for real-life information, it’s best to talk to real people. We’ve interviewed a London-based musician and live music promoter Elena, and an upcoming DJ whose real name is James S. They agreed that in an ideal world, the relationships between promoters and other parties in the game would thrive if there was more mutual respect around.
We asked James about the DJ’s position in the equation of a great club night. He had a dragging bad experience with hosting a night at one of London’s busy youthful clubs, until he finally got fed up and quit collaborating with the promoter who was responsible for the deal. The guy shamelessly exploited ‘his’ DJs – James says they “never could track down the money we did make on the guest-list as the promoter never picked up his phone…”. The promoter tried to use DJs as self-promoters for their nights, to the point where “it was like we were hired as ticket reps not DJs!” and he never informed them of any changes – a true nuisance if you’re a DJ who wants to do his job and do it well. James finishes on a constructive note: “So a good promoter should be organised, fair and respectful to the DJs they hire out and not put lots of pressure on the DJs to promote the night themselves – they are DJs who want to do their job. Get ticket reps and marketing people to do all the advertising bit of it!”
Elena gives a special insight as a versatile person who knows very well what it means to be a musician, a promoter of her own shows, and ultimately a professional promoter working on events for clubs all over London. I asked her whether this complicated role created a dilemma for her in any way.
“Funny you should ask this, as I just had a conversation about it with a friend who’s a venue manager, and he is convinced it’s impossible to do both. I think it’s just a bad perception, in reality yes, it is possible, and it’s very much more enjoyable for me personally than just the creative side of things… It means I use both sides of my brain, logic and creativity!”
Then the conversation returned to her memorable experiences as a promoter and Elena concludes that the key is to know one’s role well, and those of the others involved. “With the lack of appreciation all sorts of complications follow unfortunately. Again, this is sometimes just lack of knowledge from the venue’s side about the differences between someone who just wants to put on an event, organise a party or actually works as a promoter.” And their life sure isn’t easy!
‘The club-goers’ opinion’
The picture flips again when we think back to our last night out. The sheer amount of times a promoter literally tries to drag you towards the club door, the scarcity of occasions on which information about the entry charge, for example, was anything near correct, and the regularity with which you think, “Ah I REALLY hope I don’t end up like the poor bunch in front of me who got randomly turned down” (more about door people to come in a future article!) – all of these factors pile up into one big dislike. Some people just pour their hearts out on bad-grammar blogs; sometimes you see pretty decent forums where DJs share their stories of DJ-promoter disasters; and there are even sophisticated lists such as “10 most annoying promoter types”..
I mean, we just want to party, right? But it is not that simple. What about the other side of the coin?
The importance of being promoted
Obviously, very few clubgoers will think about the hardships of nightlife promoters. But people in the business know that “promoting has become a dirty and competitive game”, as an ex-NYC club promoter describes it, and these guys sometimes find themselves in pretty dire situations. Hunting down their hard earned money from not-so-hot clubs, hard-edged managers or even fellow promoters can get near-impossible. A full article on that can be found here; and this is another honest story from an NYC promoter.
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To complete the picture, we must note the obvious: clubs simply cannot do it without professional promoters. They rely on the lot to get people to party at their establishment, and in many cases it absolutely has to be not just a crowd, but the right crowd. Knowing this, it isn’t hard to imagine how quickly the job gets old, and pretty much any interview with a promoter, current or former, confirms this: they will almost always tell you that it is a lot of stress, a lot of fun, a lot of quick money (if you’re any good) – and that it’s impossible to do for more than a couple years.
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Our experience in how nightlife works tells us that promoters will not cease to be essential to the clubbing scene any time soon, and that’s good – smart interaction with people ‘on the street’ is just something irreplaceable. The way it works, however, could change – in fact, it might have to, since important changes are happening in all parts of the urban night world. Promoters represent the human contact between the party and the guests. With GateMe, we’re aiming to make this process smoother, more efficient, less messy and overall more pleasant. GateMe integrates all the promoters into an efficient event and guest list management system, provides a simple, synchronized communication route and allows the club managers to be on top of things. The coming changes are definitely for the better!