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10 of the best tips for promoters

  • By MisterCharlie Author Avatar
  • 12 April 2012

I’ve promoted nights with varying degrees of success for over a decade now. There’s been some total highlights, I’ve been lucky enough to work with some musical heroes, and put on early gigs from Arctic Monkeys and Diplo, as well as had some truly great personal moments - last year a gig with Wu Tang Killer B’s saw me having to DJ for Clan member Beratta 9, so technically I was IN THE WU TANG CLAN - even if it was only for half an hour... Equally, there’s been a fair amount of balls ups along the way, though the less said about them the better. Ahem. Now I’m going to try and share some of the crumbs of knowledge I’ve gleaned. Before I do, I can categorically state that I’ve broken every single one of these rules in my career as a promoter, and every time I have it’s been because I’m an idiot. And no one likes an idiot.

Anyway TO THE RULES::::::::::::::::::::::::

1.    PROMOTE!

Look, this is the most basic rule and the one you have to follow til your finger pads turn into hardened keyboard shaped scabs. It doesn’t matter how good your line up is if no one knows the night is happening. Really it doesn’t mean shit. You could have the ghost of Fela Kuti performing a complete afrobeat reimagining of Pink Floyd’s The Wall whilst Megan Fox performed a startlingly explicit burlesque show and, still, if you hadn’t told the world and it’s mum for weeks beforehand the place would be d.e.a.d.  Conversely, you can have what is to- all extents and purposes- a piece of shit line up and yet if you push it hard enough some fool is bound to show up. This rule is the biggie. Pay attention.


So I know I suggested that the line up is less important than how much you push it, and that really is true, but still- if you want to make something decent happen, show some initiative! Try and get good acts! Look at your line up- do you honestly give a shit about going to this? If the answers no then  either a) you’ve gone wrong or b) you’re a soulless freak who wants to stack cash from crap as quick as possible. If the latter’s true, no worries, there’s loads of other fuckers like you out there in showbiz. Roll with it, embrace the inner Cowell and with any luck you’ll probably make it to the top of that particularly shitty tree in time for Christmas. When you’ll kill yourself.  

you should have followed the rules.


This ties in with Rules 1 & 2. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got great acts and you want to tell everyone if you’ve got no one to tell. Network hard sucker. You’ve got to be out there relentlessly, finding out who’s big right now and finding out who goes out all the time. Cravenly make friends with fit and/or cool people. Every sexy person you have at your night equals about 6 – 10 paying punters. So if your serious about this, do anything to get the hotties there. Pay them, massage their insane egos, slip a finger up there botty, whatever. Once you’ve got ‘the beautiful people’ sorted at your Angolan dubstep themed baby shower toga party, I guarantee Joe Schmoe and his mates will be selling their kidneys to get inside. FACT.


There’s no point booking someone who was once great and a massive draw but is now less popular than a booty call from Ian Huntley.  I’m going to use a specific example here. I know a guy who put on Electric Six around 3 years after their (pretty much only) big hit Gay Bar had come out. He paid them an INSANE fee, produced loads of promo, pushed it as hard as he could blah di blah and lost a phenomenal amount of cash because in the 3 years since they’d had a hit everyone realised they were useless. I asked the promoter afterwards what had possessed him to put them on and he told me (sheepishly mind) that he’d seen 2000 odd punters at Gay Pride going nuts to them that summer so thought he was onto a winner. He hadn’t clocked that those same 2000 punters were probably going mental to literally anything that was put onstage. The mumbling junkie who busks outside my local Sainsbury’s could have got an encore by pissing himself whilst playing All Along the Watchtower. Man should have done his homework.


OK, this is less important, but c’mon, for posterity make something that looks nice. The world is full of ugly rubbish. Why add to it?

I can'r work out iof this flyer is shit or amazing. Probably shit.


This is good for 2 reasons. 1) If you DJ it cuts your budget loads, and makes sure that you control what goes on between acts. 2) It makes you look a lot sexier than just claiming to be the promoter. Win- Win!  


This is really, really important, and probably the rule that I’ve ballsed up the most times. When the end of the night comes, and the bouncer tells you to stop playing, remember, you are not fucking Tiesto. Your not even Jedward. You aren’t that big a deal. The staff have been listening to whatever you’ve been banging out for the last 6 or so hours and THEY WANT TO GO HOME. RESPECT THAT. There is no need to sneak on Ignition by R Kelly in a last ditch attempt to keep the room jumping. It will only increase the likelihood that someone working the bar will gob in your drink next time you play there. The longer you keep taking the piss, the more they hate you. Never forget that.


This again, is from personal experience. Nothing like the sinking feeling of waking up two days after a total smash hit of a night to discover you’ve spent every penny you earned on taxis to shit house parties, laxatives masquerading as drugs, a scabby THUG LIFE tattoo, foul inedible take aways, massive bottles of overpriced after hours vodka, and a hilarious novelty hat, simply because you got too mashed to stay in control and went proper fucking AWOL. And that's all before you realise that at some point in the last 24 hours you almost definitely shagged Mad Staring Al. Having a big bar tab in a venue does not make you obliged to drink everything on that tab. There's no shame in sober, but trust me, there's plenty in pissed.

You were drunk. Now you've got a willy drawn on your face. Well done.


This isn’t a war. No one dies if you decide not to do the event. If a month or so in advance you can see the whole thing is going to be a grotesque humiliating disaster of behemoth proportions then BAIL BEFORE ITS TOO LATE. Sonisphere got loads of grief for pulling the plug on this years festival, but to me it looks like the right decision- whilst, alternatively, deciding to have a Queen tribute act headline was very much the wrong decsion. They must have known that ticket sales were poor and that they were heading on course to lose literally millions. Sometimes the show musn’t go on, and one real stinker of an event can destroy a rep way more than a cancellation ever could. Think of it like this. You spend years helping old ladies over roads, donating to charity and being an all round swell guy. Then you go teabag one measly goat and what are you gonna be remembered for? HINT> ITS NOT THE OLD LADIES.


Pretty explanatory really. It’s meant to be a party you miserable sod! Have a dance! Soon enough you’ll be old and the idea of trying to make a living from this sort of thing will be as appealing as a shit & leper finger sandwich. Best have fun whilst it lasts amigo!
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