What Is A Concert Promoter And How Do I Become One?
Concert promoters do not have easy jobs. They are cat wranglers in the middle of a three-ring circus. Connecting exciting artists to hot venues to create a fantastic event sounds awfully glamorous and exciting. It is. But it’s also a ton of work for concert promoters who have hundreds of tasks to get done, thousands of details to attend to, and a lot of egos to manage.
The concert promoter is responsible for every detail from connecting the right act to the right venue and negotiating a financially-viable event contract, to managing transportation, to getting tickets sold, to making sure the stage and equipment is properly set up. Being a concert promoter is not a role for those who can’t focus on the details.
Through all the project management and marketing activities, it’s also the concert promoter’s responsibility to put together a budget and stick to it. This is where contract negotiations become so important, especially since some artists can ask for some pretty crazy stuff. As the concert promoter, you want a buzz-worthy event where everyone has an amazing time. But it’s also your job to make sure everyone (including you) has made money on the event. With all the details and minutiae of planning, promoting and executing a concert – it’s easy to bleed money if you’re not on top of what’s being spent on what. So add business management to the concert promoter’s duties.
At the center of it all it is making sure the artist(s) are taken care of. This doesn’t just mean stocking the green room with a musician’s favorite bottled water. It means making sure the venue is ready to provide the right environment for their type of performance. It means promoting and marketing the event to the right people so there’s a full house with an enthusiastic crowd. Never forget your own days performing before a live audience, whether it was a school recital or local night club. Performing live is an exciting, nerve-wracking proposition for even the most experienced and professional musicians. Take care of the talent.
The Three R's: Readin’ Writin’ and ‘Rithmatic
To succeed at concert promotion, you need to master the education basics.
Reading: Concert promoters need to read a lot. Read about the music industry, marketing, and business. Reading (on whatever topic) is also a necessary skill to mastering the next skill.
Writing: Concert promoters have to do a lot of writing. Copywriting promotional materials, from press releases to media kits to social media content, is a huge part of the job. While going to college isn’t necessary to start down the concert promoter track, taking some writing and communications courses is definitely recommended. If you can’t use your writing to persuade people to attend events, you can’t promote.
Arithmetic: Those budgets aren’t going to resolve themselves. During contract negotiations, contract promoters need to run numbers, under costs, and whether there’s sufficient profit forecast based on the terms being discussed. You don’t need to do the math in your head. Any good spreadsheet application can do the math for you. You just need to get proficient in using them to run numbers and budgets, and let the application do the heavy lifting.
A few more valuable, practical skills:
- Learn about graphic design and how to use a program like Photoshop. When you’re starting out, you won’t just be writing promotional materials, you’ll probably doing the graphics as well.
- Get some technical experience in the process of setting up and striking events, instruments, DJ booths, anything related to a concert staging.
Like so many music-related professions, there’s no college degree or bright line career path to getting there. Because so much of the job has to be learned on the job, getting practical experience in any skill or task demanded by a concert promoter is valuable.
Getting an internship with a concert promoter, talent manager, venue or booking manager is one way to start. Of course, being an attractive candidate as an intern will require having some degree of experience already. Since promotional writing is such a big part of the job, start finding blogs and sites where you can publish some writing to hone your skills and build a portfolio. Develop your own social media presence as someone in the know of great music events.
Network with fellow students or peers who are musicians or performers so you can start your learning process and gaining practical experience with people who can’t afford to pay professional concert promoters.
If you want to make sure you’re positioning yourself well to get an internship or entry level position with a concert promotion company, check out these common concert promoter interview questions. They’ll give you a good idea of what these companies are looking for in candidates.
Manage your expectations
Everyone with an Instagram account and an interest in billing themselves as a “concert promoter” is out there hustling. If you’re genuinely interested in being a successful concert promoter, being willing to show some patience. That means starting at the bottom with small events and venues. It also means finding ways to earn money in addition to any concert promoting work. Ideally, your other work is helping you develop the same kinds of skills and contacts that will be useful in concert promoting.
Listen to this interview with concert promoter-extraordinaire Graham Williams to get his perspective.