9 Business Skills You Develop as a Club/Festival Promoter

We will be the first one to admit it: there is a negative connotation attached to the word “promoter” when it comes to the nightlife and electronic music industry. A promoter can be a number of things, but is essentially the person behind planning, marketing and executing an event of any size, be it at a small local lounge, big city nightclub or even a festival.

The stigma attached to the job title of “promoter” is one that we feel is unfair and often overlooks the true skills and activities that a promoter does to pull off a successful event. Career Cast listed “Event Coordinator” as the 5th most stressful job of 2017, behind such industries as firefighters, police officers, enlisted military personnel and airline pilot. Whereas the first four are directly concerned with matters of life or death, an event coordinator, which essentially is the same thing as a promoter, is constantly dealing with a million moving particles at once and more often-than-not having to combine a wide array of critical skills to ensure multi-scale productions go smoothly despite the high risk of anything out of their immediate control going wrong. A promoter executing events in the nightlife industry faces these struggles constantly, and perhaps even at a higher frequency due to the nature of the events they are handling and all the elements that come into play when putting together club nights, live shows or multi-stage festival production.

6AM has been working tirelessly for almost a decade producing and promoting hundreds of events of all sorts of sizes and scope. From small intimate lounges to organizing Electric Island Festival — a festival on the island of Guam that is turning 5 years old this year— and everything in between, 6AM’s team has done it all, learning invaluable and critical skills along the way.

Being a promoter is much more than “spamming Facebook with event invites and flyers,” and has essentially become one of the self-starter entrepreneurial careers of our time. We are sharing what we have learned, and are constantly still learning, with you today, in recognition of the hard work and skills it takes to be a promoter in the electronic music industry today:

1) Social Media & Marketing

This is a skill that gets naturally developed over the years. Good promoters often understand that being knowledgeable in social media and marketing today is a crucial aspect that dictates the success or failure of an event. Many promoters believe that a solid booking in itself is enough to build momentum for a successful event, and while that may sometimes be true, more often than not that is never the case. By developing ninja skills in this area, you will have profound advantage over competitors who may have booked similar talent to yours. The unique angle you choose to adopt in marketing your event will dictate who comes out on top. Be sure your event delivers or all the talk that doesn’t live up to its hype will eventually come back and hurt your brand down the line. Social media and marketing is only effective when the value of your event and the expectations of your guests align.

2) Communication

Communication is an integral part of how your team executes, often times the most overlooked aspect of running your event. Simply put, you will not survive without having professional and honed-in communication skills. You need to not only communicate with your team but also with your staff, vendors, venue/club managers, sound guy etc. and being able to align all this together will require a strenuous effort to communicate and confirm everything to each minute detail. How well your event operates and flows will depend on how well you communicate before the event, during the event, and after the event. It’s a central part of everything you do when promoting any show, and the bigger the event the more you will be required to communicate. Failure to communicate is recipe for disaster: do not overlook this aspect when promoting your next event.

3) Time Management

Time is finite. We’re always in a battle against deadlines and event dates so being able to time manage your daily work schedule is crucial, and especially so because most event promoters (unless you work corporate) have day gigs or side gigs to attend to. Being able to manage your daily priorities and schedule will allow for maximum productivity when planning or promoting your next show. Time block or set routine schedules (weekends or evenings) to focus on things that are on your priority bucket. These are things our team have come to manage and master over the years and have been the foundation of how we run our daily operation and make time for meetings during the evening.

4) Logistics and Operations

When and where and who? Depending on the type and scale of your events, some of your work with festivals will require a large amount of operational planning. Gathering artist arrival/departure, coordinating hotel bookings, ground transportation schedule, and hospitality are just a fraction of all the moving things happening simultaneously. Coordinating with your production staff, security, and venue managers will dictate the success of how well your event operates. Regardless of the size of your event, these are all skills you develop over time as an event promoter. Your event runs easier when your logistics and operations are done accordingly.

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5) Working Under Pressure

What will you do if the venue’s bathroom breaks at a sold-out show? What if the ticket scanner loses wi-fi signal and now no one can get scanned in? Working under pressure is to be expected on the job, and dealing with uncertainties is inevitably part of the grind of promoting an event. By allowing yourself to go in with a mindset that anything can happen, you will not freak out because you realize that it’s not the end of the world and a solution has to be found. Reacting with fire will only cause a bigger fire, we have learned this the hard way and one thing we recommend is to always react calmly and take care of the matter swiftly with as little commotion as possible. If it’s a technology issue, our best advice is to prepare for situations where things like wi-fi won’t be available. Preparing for technology failure will allow you to find quick resolutions for “under pressure” scenarios that could otherwise throw your entire organization into disarray. While we hate to look at things on the pessimistic end, preparing for the worst can actually save you from some unnecessary blood, sweats and tears further down the line. Many times, all it takes to avoid these situations is adding extra preventative measures. 

6) Organizational Skills

This is one of the more under-looked skill sets an event promoter eventually develops, and that is to prioritize the actions that the team needs to take in order to accomplish the goal. It may sound simple but it’s important to simply put your thoughts onto paper and from paper onto actual execution. Being able to organize and sequence the communication flow and priorities of tasks is a heavily underrated skill in the industry. This is where last minute stuff goes wrong every time, and we have not only experienced it ourselves but have also witnessed other organizations suffer through this due to extreme disorganization. Truth be told, this is also the toughest position to hire as well in the industry due to the surmounting pressure and responsibilities involved. This is an area where there’s simply no room for procrastination: if it’s not done with care, passion, and priority the poor work and execution really shows. Staying organized is something not to be overlooked and one area our team continues to develop and improve on everyday.  

7) Research

Whether it’s looking for the right artists to book, your competitor’s dates, the best hotel, the right vendors, the best airfare, the perfect venue location or the best sound system for your event, research is an important skill to hone in when organizing events of any scale. This is a skill that eventually develops over time, ultimately becoming one of the key factors in keeping your overhead costs low. If research is done early enough and meticulously, it will enable you to save costs and improve your bottom line drastically.

8) Leadership

Being able to lead your team both on the ground and remotely during the planning process while keeping them motivated along the journey is crucial in determining on successful your event is. A surefire way to get your team fired up is showing them that you’re not scared to put in the dirty work and roll your sleeves up when it comes down to it. When head promoters lead by action and empower their members, the team will naturally fall into their roles and responsibilities with high self-accountability to get things done. Letting members handle their business also shows you’re a leader that trusts that they will get the work done with little to no supervision.

9) Building Industry Relationships

Gaining access into any industry requires a great deal of relationship building. Being a promoter that deals with all aspects of an event will naturally require you to serve as the face of the event or organization behind the event. You cannot control that aspect of the industry but you can control how you react to the situation and it is always in our best belief to show mutual respect and appreciation for our industry peers and loyal supporters. Coming into this industry with a pure intention allows you to build better industry and peer relationships. There’s a person behind every artist, music label, festival, venue/club, PR agency or media site, and you just never know who you may come across that can help you push forward in this journey. Never be afraid to seek other industry peers for help and always be willing to help your industry peers when given the opportunity. Building business relationship requires you to be personable, and while the thought of that might make some people anxious, you will soon realize that those who share your passion will allow you to have conversations and discussions that naturally flow and align. We previously covered how vital it is to collaborate and work with one another in the underground dance music industry, a factor that is often overshadowed by ego, jealousy and competition rather than underscored by the value of what matters most: the music.

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