Last Updated on October 5, 2020
Becoming an event promoter is another potential biz you can start on a shoestring and turn into a very serious money maker.
You promote “Events.” You are best off promoting events or happenings that you yourself would be interested in.
I personally know a dozen people who are earning significant incomes. How? By thinking up ways for others to spend an enjoyable educational evening or weekend.
The concept of promoting a musical evening is simple. Let’s say you go to a night club and you hear a great little band playing music that is new and cool. You go to the guys, get a date two or three months in the future when the artistes are free to perform at your Big Bop Hop Night.
You make a deal something like this:
They get one-quarter of the gate receipts if they sell at least 100 tickets to their friends, fans, and attendees at their gigs coming up before the Big Bop Hop Night.
All tickets are stamped with the price of $50, but the artists can sell these tickets at any price they want just as long as they pay you $5 per ticket.
I don’t want to spell out every word you say and every move you make. Improvising is the essence of every successful promotion. The object is to get a signed contract with the group. Let them feel they are getting a $5,000 advance in the form of tickets, and to make sure at least 100 of their hardcore fans, friends and relatives show up at your concert.
Your product is the “EVENT.” You’ll need a venue, acts to promote, and you need financial and crowd controls. You need temporary staff.
Many individuals will volunteer just to hear the show free. They will be good for non-strategic jobs. But for bouncers and money handlers, you must have a tried and true, personally vetted, paid staff that will show up sober, stay sober during the show, and do their jobs properly.
Extra money can be earned from souvenirs of the event such as T-shirts or posters, and whatever snacks and novelties you can think of.
Usually, you can collect fees from licensed and authorized vendors at your show. You sell them the license and give them the authorization. These vendors can either “pay” you for being a vendor at your event or they create and supply the merchandise to sell, and pay you a percentage of the sales at the end of the night.
Marketing & Promotion
How do you get people to buy tickets and come? You promote the happening by talking about your upcoming show on radio, TV, and of course online.
It’s not hard to get interviewed on stations listened to by your target audience. Naturally, you bring music made by your band if they are any good. Just talk about them if the music doesn’t make it. You confide that everyone who’s of any importance in the music business will be there.
Whisper that ten years from now, people will still be talking about and remembering this historic debut of seven new songs by Tom Drum and the Fore Skins, plus the first local appearance of Zulu Kazoo from Namibia.
Next, you give away tickets to disc jockeys and other performing artists. Then you drop names mentioning that these people “already have their tickets.” You get your own artists, who will be there at the event, to talk up the concert on other shows and to help you sell all the tickets you can.
When you go on an interview program you announce that the official list price of tickets is $50 but the first 50 listeners who send in just $10 each for their tickets get in at a $40 discount.
Then regardless of how many calls, they all get $10 tickets! You get the name and address of all ticket buyers so they become your customer list for future events.
Contact every radio and TV station in town, especially call-in and talk radio shows, and have the stations “give away” free tickets to every seventh caller, every hour on the hour.
This works like crazy. A.J. Hunnicutt, an event promoter, did this very successfully for years, and through these give-away ticket, promotions received free publicity worth far more than the retail value of the tickets.
Tricks of the Trade
You ask everyone you come in contact with if they can think of other tricks of the trade to help promote and sell tickets.
Naturally, you get free articles in the press by calling on the reporters who handle the entertainment beat. You place free ads, paid ads. Maybe you hire a good public relations expert to help you with a contingent fee to get more free exposure.
Where possible, you trade $50 tickets for the things you need, such as artwork, printing, posters, billboards, T-Shirts, staff to do preliminary clean-up, and posting of posters on every wall in town.
Once upon a time, Nevada White held an “event” in Dallas, Texas. He had nearly all the TV and radio stations in town there to cover the story, because White had told the media, “I’m going to give money away, at 5 o’clock on Friday, in front of the Dallas Hilton Hotel.”
It just so happened that not much was going on in Dallas at the time. With no other stories to cover, the media really picked up on this. They started reporting as “news” to their listeners and viewers that at 5 pm on Friday in front of the Hilton Hotel in downtown Dallas, a Mr. White was supposedly going to be “giving money away.”
Can you imagine the response? Over 50,000 people showed up as White started throwing 1000 one-dollar bills into the streets. The people went crazy. They loved it. There was nearly a riot. Because of this publicity stunt, White had over 10,000 people attend his “free money” seminar in Dallas that weekend. He made a million bucks profit on the sale of a $499 course called “How to Make Enough Money to be Able to Throw It Away.”
If you can think of stunts to get free publicity or clever promotional gimmicks, your event will be a major success. Marketing and, in particular, favorable media exposure is the single factor that will make or break your event.
You need a physical spot to stage your event. As an efficient event promoter try to spend little or no money, consider a derelict warehouse with parking, not too far from public transport.
A free spot in the park is even better for some events but you are at the mercy of the weather when trying to stage something outdoors.
The best bet for a dance party is an old private warehouse. In New York and Paris interesting parties have been given in abandoned subways and underground catacombs. No point in renting an expensive hotel ballroom for $2,000 when you can get a warehouse in trade for five tickets or maybe $100 cash.
Once again, you must try to pay little or nothing. If the sweet talk doesn’t work, trade tickets that cost you nothing! Treat those tickets with respect. Never give them away without receiving something worth $50 in exchange. They are worth $50 each because you are going to put on a good show. If you are a good event promoter you end up with virtually no cash outlay for anything having bartered tickets for rent, advertising, and paying your acts. What you collect at the door is pure profit.
Probably one of the best and easiest ways to promote an event is to contact a nightclub owner. Make a deal for the use of his club and facilities on his off (closed) night.
He/she puts up your posters, sells tickets, and gets half of the action on all tickets he sells at the “advance discount price” of $40.
This same offer works nicely with various halls belonging to organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, Veterans of Foreign Wars, etc. They have the facilities already set in place.
If your band doesn’t own good lights and sound equipment most of these halls have all the bells, whistles, and props you’d need. Generally, Lodge Halls can be rented cheaply as they are under-utilized. Depending on the type of event you are sponsoring, they may well bite on a deal exchanging their space for free tickets to their members.
Another friend once cut a deal with a nightclub owner for the free use of her club facilities. What did the club owner get? She got to sell booze and keep 50 percent of the take on the drinks. The event promoter got the other 50 percent. The club owner loved the deal because the three-night event brought in 1,000 people on nights that the club owner would otherwise be closed.
The club owner pocketed $10,000 extra profit. The event promoter did even better because he kept the $2 a head door charge.
The Main Attraction & Other Acts
Just in case the main attraction doesn’t show up or is drastically late, you need several good warm-up acts and at least two good stand-in main attractions that will alternate.
You will need all day’s use of the warehouse or club for the musicians to set up and test their lights and sound equipment.
The facility must be guarded by hired armed guards once the expensive equipment is in place. Using uniformed members of a motorcycle gang to keep order usually works out. They may work free in exchange for a chance to see the show and hit on the chicks in attendance.
You normally negotiate with the gang leader in advance. If he personally guarantees that his boys will not sell dope at your concert and will be on good behavior, it is a done deal. For the evening, your hall and everyone in attendance is on neutral ground and will be protected.
A dozen Hells Angels or similar thugs who will keep order also lend a little color to the scene with their tattoos and embroidered black leather jackets.
If there is a problem with a few stoned or disorderly guests they must be quietly ejected. Bikers are good at ejections. You should also have at least one group of off-duty medics around to administer first aid and oxygen if needed.
It is best to have a rehearsal for all the acts from say 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Then the guys can go home or to a local hotel and rest till the show starts at midnight or whenever.
You must know where your lead acts are hanging out before the show. It’s not a bad idea to send a few Hells Angels over to wake your rock-stars up and escort them in through the crowds.
After you have put on even one successful concert, little known bands will offer to pay you to perform at your next event.
For instance, at the Rocky Night Club in Hollywood, a once-famous rock and roll night club on the strip, bands often paid the owner for the privilege of performing at his noted club.
You may think that a really good group would never in a thousand years pay to perform. Just remember that the next time your kid brings home a bestselling album with the “hottest” groups in town playing. It’s more than likely that they or their agent once paid for them to get on the same stage as an established band, or at a concert where the turnout was expected to be big-time.
Like a popular prostitute who picks and chooses her customers, as an event promoter you’ll be saying “To play at my concerts you not only have to pay, you have to be good as well.”
If collecting money from your acts to play for free is too crass for you, then just let them buy tickets at a discount. For a decent yet unknown group, they can pay you $2000 upfront cash for $10,000 face value worth of tickets.
They sell the tickets, and they get to keep the $8000 profit as their fee. This is a great motivator for them to hustle, do interviews, and sell out all of their tickets. That’s how they will get paid well for their performances.
Organizer & Master of Ceremonies
Normally the event promoter himself or herself takes on this role. That’s YOU! One of the many reasons for this is for you to become known in the trade. After you have done one event, the others that follow are always easier and more profitable. You avoid prior mistakes and learn how to better appeal to your audience or market.
If you want to remain unknown, you can become someone different at your shows. Do your promotional activities under an assumed name “Ronald Raver”, wearing a trademark red wig, chartreuse makeup, and Buddy Holly style horn-rimmed glasses.
People won’t recognize you on the street if you adopt a show-biz name and new persona. Or you can hire a frontman. Maybe you’ll have a local partner. But no one will do the job as well as you can! Do it yourself, especially when there’s a lot of money at stake.
It won’t hurt to hire, for a small piece of the action, a well-known TV or radio personality to be your master of ceremonies. Two brothers, who were my former students, used this technique when they first started giving real estate investment seminars. The TV personality lent credibility and prestige to the new act of the unknown brothers. They did a one-hour free seminar that was the come-on or bait for a weekend pay seminar costing $500.
By giving the TV news commentator a percentage of the take for introducing the brothers, and telling a couple of jokes for five minutes, the presenter will plug the event like crazy on his TV news show.
Obviously, the more people who attended the free intro show, the more money the presenter would make.
These same two brothers then started placing 30-second ad spots on this same personality’s early morning call-in show at a minimal cost. This worked so well with a local personality that one of the brothers tried it on national TV with a home study course as the product. He hired a well-known national TV personality for $5000 to interview him for a 30-minute TV “infomercial” to be broadcast in different cities promoting his seminars and home study courses.
The program looked like a regular TV interview program with this famous TV personality, but in fact, it was the first “infomercial” in the world. He made mucho dinero from this idea. These days sunglasses, exercise equipment, and many other products are sold via infomercials. No reason that concerts and records couldn’t be promoted this way on the music cable network
The beauty of promoting an event is that when the ticket money starts rolling in, the event becomes self-financing. Even before you have sold a single ticket, if you have printed up 2,000 tickets, each stamped $50, it is a little like printing $100,000 in funny money. You’ll find if you make the offer to exchange a few tickets for what you want, you can buy a lot of things with the tickets!
You hope to sell 500 to 2000 tickets before the event at discount prices. But tickets at the gate, on the night of the event, are at full price, $50. You can normally expect from 10 percent to 20 percent of the tickets to be sold, and the majority of your cash income to materialize at the gate.
Training for the Job
Most people in the promotions end of show business started early.
Obviously, you should have studied the promotion of and attended a few events in big towns like London or New York so you know what makes a successful happening, and why many would-be event promoter(s) are one show flops.
It doesn’t hurt to volunteer as unpaid staff. After you become known as an effective something-or-other you will be on the paid staff. You can learn by making your first mistakes on other people’s promotions.
You may find that promoting concerts lead you into making live recordings of your own events and also promoting records and videos. It is also a natural tie-in to become the manager or agent for your most promising acts.
What is generally not known to the fans is that most pop stars are named, created and 99 percent invented and owned by promoters who have trained them how to sing, how to dress, and how to present themselves to the public.
The event promoter who handles the business end may get more than 50 percent of the gross earnings of a group or single performer for managing every detail of their career.
Agent Julie Stein, our old acquaintance at MCA, started with the Ice Capades before World War Two. By the end of his career, he had a staff of thousands handling hundreds of acts, actors, musicians, filmmakers, and other show-biz types.
The next step after producing rock concerts is for you to become an entertainment company, managing artists, producing movies, video games, records, and everything else that makes people happy.
And then one day you will sit back and say:
“All I wanted was a quiet life. Now I have this albatross taking up all my time and earning me a million bucks a week.”
Types of Events
- Rock Concerts
- Rave Parties
- Slow Retro Dances
- Hip Hops
- Hootenanny Sing Along
- Singles Meet Singles
- Touchy-Feely Experimental “Group Therapy”
- New Age Encounter Groups
- Self Improvement Seminars
- Making Money
- Assertiveness Training
- Judo and Self-Defence
- Young Concert Artists (Classical) with the aid of government cultural grants
- Lectures at Universities or Ladies Clubs, Fringe (Off Broadway) Theatre Productions
- Magic Shows
- Religious Revival Sessions
- Flea Markets
- Coin & Stamp Shows
- Pet Shows
- Film Festival
- Beauty Contest
- Cooking Competition
- Circus Act Festival
- Franchises For Sale & Small Business Exhibition
- Cockroach Races
- Dog Fights
- Cock Fights
- Prize Fights
- Fighting Fish
- Turtle Races
- Drag Races
- Demolition Derbies
- Shakespeare Play Readings
- Mother-Infant Fun Days in the Park
- World’s Best Buskers Festival
- International PT Conference
- International Tax Haven & Tax Planning Day
- Investor’s Conference
- How to Be A Successful Author Seminar, How to Write Ads For Seminars That Pull $20,000 per ticket.
This list is by no means complete. What you can do these days is limited only by your imagination and ambition.
An affluent population and the fact that TV/internet is such a powerful medium means that with the right TV/ internet exposure, any event or any product you promote can make you an instant millionaire.
Another method of getting customers is via direct or junk mail. Mailing lists can be rented. Normally rock concert fans can’t read, and this mode of communication is not effective for them. TV/internet is their medium.
But for education and self-improvement junkies, direct mail, Internet Newsletters & Blogs, and articles in the non-tabloid press seem to be the best way to communicate. Why? Those who read know better than to stare at the boob tube. Or to put it another way, people who read books are not great TV watchers. Many do not even have TV sets. These are my people!
In our life, we have personally bought one or more tickets to each of the events described above. We always felt they were an interesting experience, almost always worth the ticket prices.
I have also promoted several different seminars of my own at different stages of my life. One of the first was to meet women. It was called “How to Be a Lady Tycoon.”
The topic was making serious money in general. After I saw my own wife taking notes from the audience, she suggested that I give another on making money in real estate. Due to the imitators stealing all of my seminar material, I got more specialized every season with more and more material about a narrower subject.
The next one was on Distress Property. Finally, I retired for the fifth time when I was around 45.
What Kind of Money Do You Shoot For?
I’ve personally taken in up to $250,000 profit for a single weekend appearance. I know people who have pulled in ten times more, on seminars, rock concerts, and other “events.”
You probably won’t do this well on your first venture, but eventually, you can do just as well. Many people reach what I call a “comfort zone.” Then they start treading water and quit trying to expand their horizons, or make more money.
Especially when what they are doing becomes more like work, and less like fun, many people will say “I’ve got enough now, why am I knocking myself out?”
Hey, if you feel that way after you have socked away a million or two, don’t feel bad. I have retired about 8 times. When I get bored, I try and do something new or something old, but with a new twist.
Like now, I am doing some writing and editing, plus consulting on a one-to-one basis, but only with clients that I enjoy seeing and can relate to.
Is it better to be a star in the Ziegfeld Follies or to be Ziegfeld himself? Answer: It is better to be both! But if you have to make a choice, be Ziegfeld. A producer-impresario will do better long term than any “star.”
The organizer always makes as much or more than his performers. When the organizer can promote himself, there is neither act nor outside performing star to pay.
If you can educate, amuse, or entertain people with your own talents, or if you can spot and hire talent, you can be a producer and packager of live shows.
But as always, don’t limit yourself. You may be able to take a live event, put it online, and peddle it internationally for a thousand times more profit than the live show itself yielded.
It is well known that a successful movie, for instance, will earn far more money than any successful play it was based upon.
Providing education or entertainment is, in my opinion, the most profitable and enjoyable thing. I did seminars in Vienna, Sacramento, London, Switzerland, Cayman Islands, and on cruise ships.
Many of my friends have done it all over the world. You can be an event promoter too. All it takes is the desire to do it. There are also good books on the subject to further your “education.”